24 August 2011

What Not To Say To Very Large Pregnant Women

Okay, so it's official. Our son did not arrive on his due date. Womp... womp... wommmmmmpppppp....  The Big Day came and went.  That morning there were no indicators we'd see any action, and by the time the evening rolled around, that was still the case.  Let's face it, most babies don't arrive on their "due date," and that date is a guess at best.

Let me say, just for the record, that there's a lot of pressure (both physical and metaphorical) at this point in any woman's gestation for the Pregnancy Chapter to end and the New Parent Chapter to begin.

In light of unpredictable responses that could come from an overly exhausted, hormonal woman who happens to be carrying around an overgrown watermelon behind her belly button, here are a few statements you'd be wise to avoid when speaking to said woman, especially when you know that her due date exists somewhere in the past. Oh, and for the love of God DON'T SHOUT THESE STATEMENTS!
"He's over-cooked!"
"He's late!"
"You're still here?"
"It's time to induce!" 
Spoken from true experience, the statements above are altogether unhelpful.  In fact, just since D-Day came and went, I have had a variety of progesterone-poisoning-induced daydreams of pinching off noses and mouthing off in uber-extra-smart-alecky ways.

I have refrained, only by the skin of my teeth.

Additionally, here's a common courtesy that I would never have imagined should be written until having lived through this myself.  When a baby's due date has passed, it's no fun for an exhausted mommy-to-be to answer the question, "When's your baby due?"  Please take my unsolicited advice and when you see a very large pregnant woman, and don't ask for a specific date.  Consider something innocuous like, "Looks like the baby could come any day now! Hang in there!"

Here are a few things to remember:

  1. At all times to be patient with the very pregnant women in your lives, and if you know what's good for you then you won't argue with her << read: ME >>. About anything. Period.  
  2. She's nearing the end of the era when she can get away with anything, so give her << read: ME >> the benefit of the doubt and don't take any of her << read: MY >> snippy remarks personally. It's not about you. It's all about her << read: ME >>. Keep in mind: she's been navel-gazing for 9 << read: 10 >> months and is entirely absorbed with her baby and ready to push the kid out.

22 August 2011

How to Feel Good 40 Weeks Pregnant

Okay, if you're anything like me << female; of child-bearing age; in a relationship where procreation is a viable option; attentive to your internal clock; um, awesome... just kidding, this isn't the proper forum to toot my own horn... >>, then you might have some ideas of what you think being pregnant will be like.

Just the other day I was looking at my round << read: GIANT >> watermelon of a belly thinking back to when I was a little girl and would push my tummy out as far as I could, imagining what it would be like to grow a baby.  What I *thought* years ago and what it's *really like* today are worlds apart from each other.

Even the movement of baby has transformed from one sensation to another entirely different one.  At first it was like a little fish swimming and squirming around inside me.  Then baby grew bigger and his movements did too. In the course of a week, he became a yogi and a pro-soccer player.  And now, at 40 weeks, the little guy is more, shall we say, limited in terms of his movement. His favorite move in his confined space involves releasing little earthquakes up one side and down the other side of my abdomen, often moving 3 out of 4 limbs simultaneously  << fortunately he *still* hasn't found my ribs... he's good at kicking the wind right out of my lungs, but he hasn't introduced himself to my ribs yet >>.

When I pass a storefront window or glimpse a reflection of myself, I still occasionally think to myself, "Holy moly! I'm HUGE!"  I think, simply put, I haven't spent enough time in front of the mirror to have an accurate self-image.  I just don't feel as big as I *occasionally* realize I look.

So being as big as a house and ready to pop out a baby any day now, how is it possible that when asked, I can still honestly say,"I'm feeling pretty good!"?  What's worked for me? I can think of 5 reasons.
  1. Walking
  2. Sleeping (with 5 pillows, minimum)
  3. Intellectually informed about labor and delivery
  4. Emotionally supported by my partner, friends, and family
  5. Sheer, Dumb Luck
First, I've stayed active.  There were days when getting up and moving around was THE LAST thing on the planet that I felt like doing. It helps tremendously to have a dog that needs regular walks and a husband who knows I'm happiest after I've exercised. My non-pregnant-self has to remind my pregnant-self all the time to not underestimate the resulting joy of endorphins.  At this point in my current size, walking, swimming, and yoga are the only things I'm still comfortable (and skilled) doing.

Second, I've worked long and hard to perfect the art of sleeping while preggs. I've always been a back sleeper, and earlier  I blogged about how sleeping was getting tricky... that is until I was told to quit losing sleep over the whole, "Don't sleep on your back" thing.  I have, however, gotten to a point where there's no longer a "baby bump" but  actually there's an over-grown watermelon hanging out behind my belly button squishing every organ I possess.  Strategic pillow placement makes all the difference.  Pillow #1 (a body pillow) is wedged behind my back so that I can achieve a hybrid back/side sleep pose as needed; Pillow #2 (another body pillow) goes between my knees and ankles to ensure hip alignment; Pillow #3 is much smaller, and, let's be honest folks, it hangs out between "the girls" (I blogged about this little jewel of a pillow early on); Pillow #4 is one of those Brookstone pillows that's shaped like a pill, and it's hangs out underneath the belly to keep it from stretching/sagging all the way down to the mattress; and Pillow #5 is my traditional head/neck pillow.  There is usually another pillow floating around the bed, but those 5 are the staples that I'm not sure how I'd actually fall asleep and stay asleep without.

Third, I've become my own advocate and learned a TON about labor and delivery. Let's face it, as soon as a chick finds out she's pregnant, if she's American and seen any TV or Hollywood movies depicting a woman in labor, she's already flipping out over "the pain of childbirth."  I've done my reading, I've watched a number of fascinating documentaries, and I've come to my own conclusions about what I expect and hope for in the birth process.  And I'm not scared of it << I'm starting to feel anxious to get the show on the road, sure; but fear about the birthing process? not so much >>.

Fourth, I've felt loved and cared for from the moment I peed on a stick and saw a plus.  Our friends and family have literally celebrated with us for 9 months. They've taken the time to listen to my concerns, rants, tirades, etc., which allowed me to let go of those to make room for the good stuff.  Personally, I find relief when I talk- out loud- about whatever it is that's bothering me. Having a few folks in my life to listen has made all the difference for me.

Fifth, maybe it's sheer, dumb luck that I've had such an easy pregnancy.  I don't know that there's anything I did or didn't do to set myself up for such a great 9 months.  I just continue to count my blessings for it.

We're so excited for our little
half-and-half to emerge!

04 August 2011

The BREAST: to feed or not to feed?

by Pablo Picasso
Let's talk boobies.  I've been intrigued by everyone's comments throughout pregnancy when it comes to the question, "Are you planning to breastfeed?" << I've long-since learned to keep my face neutral- as much as I'm able- and listen with open eyes, ears, and mind >>

There are extreme opinions on the matter, of course, but for the most part folks here in the southeast (and many of my friends who live all over) are proponents of The Boob.  I've heard stories of women who breastfeed in public and are subsequently judged harshly by receiving unwarranted "looks," unsolicited comments, or unfriendly snap judgments.  I've read articles and stories about women being denied services in public b/c of breast exposure all in the name of feeding their baby.

To be clear, YES, I plan to breastfeed.  Let me share a few reasons why.

With a spare diaper, baby and I can go ANYWHERE. Anytime.

What better, sweeter way to spend quality time with baby? 

  • Skin to skin contact
  • Eye contact 
  • The act of giving and receiving

Health (mommy)
I understand that breastfeeding can prevent some types of cancer later in life.  I also understand that breastfeeding is a great way to jump start a woman's return to her pre-pregnancy weight.

Health (baby)
In the amazing, miraculous way that women are made to grow babies, the miracle continues when the milk comes in.  Every woman's "breast milk cocktail" is nutrient-rich milk with *exactly* what baby needs, especially for their sweet little immune systems.

... prevents obesity...  On the news recently it was announced that the CDC has set up "The Baby- Friendly Hospital Initiative" after determining that most hospitals do not support breastfeeding << as an aside, in our breastfeeding class the instructor told us that the number one reason women have trouble and give up with breastfeeding is when the pediatrician suggests too quickly that baby isn't "growing fast enough" or isn't "getting enough to eat" >>.  Here's an excerpt from the CDC website, with the link to the page here.
Childhood obesity is an epidemic. In the US, 1 preschooler in 5 is at least overweight, and half of these are obese. Breastfeeding helps protect against childhood obesity. A baby's risk of becoming an overweight child goes down with each month of breastfeeding. In the US, most babies start breastfeeding, but within the first week, half have already been given formula, and by 9 months, only 31% of babies are breastfeeding at all.
One thing I don't think is mentioned in the study (and that was shared with us by a lactation consultant) is that by breastfeeding, baby learns portion control. Think about it.  When baby's done with the boob, baby detaches.  When Mom and Dad spent $24 on a can of formula and make a bottle with it, by golly that baby is not going to waste any of the expensive formula.

I mentioned in the last post why I'm so excited about delivering our baby here, and I left out the part about their lactation support. It's amazing! They have a separate phone number to call to speak with a lactation consultant. They won't let you leave the clinic postpartum until they're sure you and baby have figured out "the latch." They even come to your home the day after birth to check on mommy and baby.  It's an extraordinarily supportive environment, and I'm so thankful to have landed there.

Oh, and for any of  you that feel all squirmy at the idea of actually *seeing* a baby feed from the boob, early on I ordered what's call an Udder Cover.  For real.  Couldn't have made up the name if I'd tried.

02 August 2011

Anticipating Childbirth

Somewhat recently the hubs and I watched this documentary, and we both found it to be eye-opening << although we did watch it with a grain of salt >>.  Anytime you watch or are given anything that is one-sided, it's essential to have your eyes, ears, and mind wide open. I'm just sayin'.

As a result of the experience of the past 9 months of my life, I've come to believe a few very important things:  
Pregnancy is neither a disease nor a disability.
Rarely should labor and delivery require the expertise of a trained surgeon.
A woman's body will *almost never* grow a baby that is too big for her to birth.

Since we're planning to deliver our son at a local women's clinic where we'll be attended by nurses and midwives, I'm excited about all sorts of things that I'll get to do that are not permitted at most hospitals.  For example...

I've got a list of  foods that I can bring for me to eat, including popsicles, soup, and frozen yogurt.  Think about it like this: when I go on a 4 hour bike ride, I eat during the ride... power bars, high-protein snacks, etc.  When you're doing prolonged cardiovascular activity, like taking a day-long hike, it makes sense that you'd have to fuel your body, right?  And how long does a typical first time mom labor?  HOURS.  Like, between eight and twelve I think.  Most hospitals allow laboring women to "eat" ice chips and have an IV pump in some sugar water to avoid dehydration.  Not at the clinic! I can actually eat if I want to.  Of course I may not want to- what do I know?

I've got a playlist on my MP3 player cleverly titled, "Labor and Delivery."  Artists on the list include Jason Mraz, Sarah McLachlan, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Tori Amos, John Mayer, and Adele.  All of the songs are ones that I can sing along to (which relaxes me and is often entertaining for others), but they're not so fast-paced that I'll get amped up and ready to run a 5K.  Plus, most of this music is what I grew up to, and I'm stoked to have a soundtrack that keeps on growing in meaning and value.  For the record, some hospitals might allow you to bring your own music- again, what do I know?

Skin to skin for the 1st hour!
The staff at the clinic try as much as possible to keep baby with mommy during the first hour of life. There's no whisking away of baby for scrubbing, prodding, weighing, poking, measuring, etc. All of those things will take place; however, in all of our earthiness- rooted in the most beautiful and vulnerable of human miracles- we get to revel in the magical experience that is *new life* without being rushed past it.

Going home quick!
The typical postpartum stay at this clinic is a whopping 6 hours.  Six hours!  Typically at the hospital it's at least 24 hours, right? Longer if you've had a C-section.  Come to find out, hospitals keep moms and babies in the brig as long as they do more for the mom than for the baby to make sure that mom's body is working properly << read: she can pee and poop on her own >> after the medical intervention(s) she's had- epidural, episiotomy, c-section, etc.

Let me address a couple things that some of you may be thinking.

What about the pain?
I can't tell you how many women have looked me straight in the eye << obviously before asking where I'm planning to give birth >> and pleaded, "Take The Epidural!"  I typically will inform them that I do not plan to use any medication for the birth process, at which point I'm given "the look."  It's as if they want to say, "Hello... what's wrong with you? Why would you ever consider suffering through all that pain?"  Typically they bite their tongues and don't actually say it out loud; however, every now and then a brazen acquaintance will have their filter turned off and actually blurt it out.  It doesn't bother me!  We're all entitled to approach every aspect of our lives according to what works for us.  Numbing the pain of labor simply isn't my prerogative. I totally, absolutely, 100% respect every woman's choice when it comes to her L & D. 

Here's a little bit of insight into my stance on pain management: my mom and my husband's mom both pushed out 3 big babies naturally and without medical intervention of any kind (his mom at home and my mom in the hospital).  If you ask either of them to tell you about the most painful experience in their lives, neither of them will mention childbirth.  We come from tough stock, and I've been told I have a tendency of being both strong and stubborn.  I'm physically healthy, and I think I'm good at focusing my mind on the end goal.  Besides, the pain of childbirth is finite- it won't last forever.  I've never been afraid to work hard for something that I'm passionate about.

What if something goes wrong?
The clinic has a transfer hospital that is less than 5 minutes away, and they only work with low-risk preggo's who deliver between 37 and 41 weeks.  They also have warmers and resuscitation equipment if it's needed.