• A tale of two pregnancies

    A tale of two pregnancies

     

    A few years back, I found myself working with two pregnant women about my age.

    They had totally opposite experiences.

    One breezed right through pregnancy from start to finish. Her belly grew, but apparently literally nothing else changed for her. Zero physical symptoms. She didn’t think ‘baby brain’ was real. Basically, she had the dream experience.

    The other encountered pretty much every ailment possible. You name it, she suffered from it. She was the worst case scenario.

    “I would just like to know, really. I want to know,” I wrote in the first draft of this blog post a couple of years ago. “How bad will it be for me? And how will I feel once I’ve had it? Is my entire world view going to change?”

    So far it has been quite manageable. I mean, I can’t speak to the latter part, but pregnancy so far is tolerable.

    The first trimester

    I got a bad cold/flu early on that knocked me for six, and then the first trimester exhaustion kicked in. I did nothing but go to work, come home and collapse.

    Month three brought about indigestion and appetite changes, aches and pains, a dash of dizziness. No throwing up, thank god. (Though there was one occasion where I was about to dash to the bathroom to be sick, only then for a dizzy spell to set in that left me wondering; am I going to faint or vomit first? I made it to an armchair for a rest while the moment passed, without either passing out or puking. #winning)

    The second trimester

    The second trimester is meant to be easier for most but I’m not sure if that was true for me. Once I got noticeably bigger bang on at 12 weeks, indigestion became a near-constant in life and those post-dinner witching hours in particular (about 8-10pm) became a hurdle to be endured. The bump also started to make me feel like a lumbering elephant most of the time, particularly since I seemed to be showing quite a lot given how far along (not that far…) I actually was.

    The food aversions seemed to recede toward the end of month 4 and my appetite grew; I could once again eat a full sized meal! I had a few more dizzy/nauseous spells too – the worst happened on a crowded morning train – but they also stopped around this time and with any luck that’s the end of those for good.

    Pretty much bang on 20 weeks when I was starting to worry about not feeling any movement, I felt the first kicks. And now they’re constant! It’s bizarre, but I love it, and I think I’m going to miss it. Although the stronger they get, the more I suspect it’s going to get painful at some point. I think I had my first taste of lightning crotch recently, and while it was faint and short lived, I could do without any more twinges like that.

    Month six has been tough because we’re in the midst of winter. I’ve struggled with cold/flu twice pretty badly – but it beats having the flu AND having to look after a baby too. And they don’t kid about having a built-in heater, aside from the extra crappy immune system, winter pregnancy is brilliant!

    The third trimester

    Right now I’m just about to hit the third trimester and it’s really starting to hit me that this baby is gonna have to come out! Eeek. But most of all, I’m suddenly feeling supremely unprepared for life with a little human. Semi-last-minute jitters? I did have a dream that Spud arrived, and slept through the night, and barely made a peep – was basically just a doll in a diaper. Here’s hoping…

    In the meantime, I did my one-hour glucose test yesterday (fingers crossed…) and am going for a growth scan tomorrow (because my fundal height was at the low end of the range). I also have my first antenatal class this weekend. It looks like my baby shower will be just 2-3 weeks before I’m due, so potentially we may need to get a few things at the last minute to fill any gaps. We’ll see!

    Weirdly enough, two others in my team at work are in the same boat. We’re all due in the same month, though they’re each slightly ahead of me by a week and two weeks. We’re all in this crazy up-the-duff journey together, and given none of my friends are currently pregnant it’s nice to be sharing it with others!

     

  • The one question I hate being asked, as a pregnant woman…

    WIll you go back to work after the baby?

     

    I hate, hate, HATE conversations about last names. I have a LOT of feelings about name changing and anyone who asks me if I did (because it only inevitably leads to me having to justify keeping mine).

    But wow, my hate for that particular question has serious rivalry.

    “Will you go back to work?”

    I don’t get a choice in that, and it’s really irritating to get asked this.

    (See also: “Was it planned/expected?” Something about that also rubs me the wrong way.)

    I get that it’s probably still rare for her to earn the bulk of the household income and to not take a full year off. But that’s changing. Thankfully, one of my fellow preggo coworkers is also a breadwinner and gets what it’s like when your household relies on your income. The other one in our Knocked Up cohort is in a much more traditional setup but I appreciate that she acknowledges she’s fortunate her partner can more than support them all financially.

    It’s hard not to be defensive as my gut reaction, but I’m working on it. And  I’m reframing this for my own sake as an issue of equality.

    I want us to be equal coparents. And part of that involves sharing parental leave. It’s a great opportunity for us to split leave – and responsibilities – from early on.

    Not that this is necessarily uncontroversial either.

    “Why do you want things to be equal?” I was asked. (Yes, in 2018. By someone my age. Oh how I wish I was kidding right now.)

    I have to justify that too?! Even if we earned exactly equal incomes I would still want us to split leave. The only scenario in which this would change is if I was earning a significant amount less. Equality is both a financial and political issue in this case.

    On that note, at some point we’ll have to decide what to do about Spud’s last name. Neither of us care about passing our surnames down (and neither of us particularly like ours anyway. And no, that was not reason enough to change them then or now, though I love love love when couples make up a brand new name together). Definitely not interested in hyphenation or combining. And I suppose it’s insane to make up a random last name for zir. It might just come down to whichever last name sounds better with the first name we choose.

    Incidentally, I was stunned a couple of years ago to find out that my BIL’s kid has her mother’s last name. And funnily enough, T actually seems fairly keen on us possibly doing the same. It’s a far cry from years ago when we initially clashed over my intention to keep my name…

     

  • A couple frustrations with the NZ maternity system so far…

    I should probably preface this by saying: my complaints are fairly minor. They’re pretty First World. But it’s my blog, and I’ll complain if I want to…

    Finding a midwife

    There’s been a lot of news coverage about the shortage of midwives in NZ lately. About how our system functions, how midwives are paid, and what needs to change. (I like The Spinoff’s series on this.)

    And so pretty much the week I peed on a stick and got that positive result, I set about looking for a midwife in a suitable location (ideally close to home, but not too far off my commuting route, etc). At first, the choices seemed overwhelming! So many beaming headshots. And then I started to eliminate the ones who weren’t available in October. The ones who didn’t have birthing arrangements with both hospitals and Birthcare. And then it was about reading their profiles and getting a feel for their style and approach.

    In theory I think they say you should meet with a few, almost like interviewing them, and then make your decision. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

    I narrowed it down to a couple of midwives and fired off emails. No go on the first (she was only available in the first half of the month and I’m due at the end of the month). The second, thankfully, I got a great feeling about. I’d sensed a good vibe from the beginning (I swear) just from seeing her profile online. She responded with enthusiasm and emoji and basically welcoming me with open arms. I wasn’t able to get an appointment with her for a couple of weeks because she was travelling and I was on deadline at work, but she arranged some prescriptions for me and dropped them off in my letterbox, since she lives not far away. And so, I guess I landed myself a midwife before ever meeting her!

    You can change midwives at any time, but luckily I liked her in person as well. I feel good about it and their particular practice seems to have rave reviews from lots of other women.

    That worked out perfectly for me, and let’s face it … I don’t do well when faced with a lot of choices anyway.

    But what if your limited choices of midwives in your area aren’t great? Finding one available for your due date, one whose location works for you, one who you click with…. It’s a real possibility.

    Setting up scans

    Sonographers, man. They’re up there with property managers. Remember all the dramas I used to have trying to get to view rentals during the work day (because rental viewings are only ever held during business hours? Whilst open homes for sale are only ever on weekends?!) It’s like that, all over again.

    T can literally be anywhere in the city (or even beyond it on the outskirts) in any direction at any given time during the work week. He won’t know until the day of where he’ll be going. And so he just can’t commit to any appointments – not even at lunchtime – short of taking a leave day. Obviously, however, we want to save his leave for the birth so he can take time off then.

    I went to the dating scan alone, but we both wanted him to accompany me to subsequent scans. In order for that to happen though, we needed appointments after 4pm. Which I thought would be fine… surely there’d be plenty of slots available  between 4-5pm?

    How wrong I was!

    Clinics may be open to 5, 6, 7 or later – but that only seems to apply to X-rays. If you’re needing an ultrasound, you can only get those done up till around 2-3 at many places, at least the ones in areas that worked for our needs. I respect sonographers’ valuable time but as a patient, this SUCKS. I literally cried at work on the phone trying to book a scan and being unable to get a time that I knew T could make.

    After a lot of frantic emails/calls, I found that Auckland Radiology in Avondale offers evening scans on a Wednesday. That’s now our go-to, and if you need flexibility with your appointments, that’s one place you can definitely try.

     

  • The weirdness that is incubating a croissant (aka baby’s current size)

    Baby's a croissant!

    Baby’s a croissant! By: Neil Conway

    I was so impatient to grow a bump. Wanting something to show for all the stuff going on inside me. Proof, if you like! Validation. It’s part of that whole glowing thing, right?

    And now my body seems almost alien to me. My belly swelled up what seemed quite suddenly in week 13. For someone whose weight and shape doesn’t change, EVER … I’m still getting used to it.

    My work BFF is a couple weeks further along than me and is barely showing at all; although I tend to carry weight in my middle anyway (skinny apple shapes, holler at me) so I guess I’m not surprised that I’ve popped out already.

    It’s strange to feel your body is not quite your own. At the all-important 12 week scan, Spud was wriggling around like nobody’s business. All that movement, happening below the surface, and I had no idea! I’m looking forward to the time when I’ll actually start to feel zir move. At least I think I am, but that’s probably going to take me to a whole new level of wow-what-is-this-body-that-apparently-still-belongs-to-me-but-does-it-really?!

    And of course, it’s just the beginning. Apparently a healthy weight gain for me would be 12-16kg total. If I did put on as much as 16kg, that would be … oh, nearly a third of my normal weight?

    At that scan, I still hadn’t gained any weight yet, but given my new bulge I’m guessing that’s changed in the past few weeks. I don’t own a scale though, so I have no idea how much! My next midwife appointment is in a couple of days, so we’ll see then…

    How did you feel about all the physical changes, if you’ve been through a pregnancy?

  • Pregnancy on the cheap: what it’s cost so far

    People often ask me if I’ve been having any cravings – and the answer is always no!

    Aversions, on the other hand…

    I miss enjoying food; nothing ever sounds appealing 99% of the time but one has to eat nonetheless. These days I’m eating to live vs living to eat, and that’s so not me.

    Cravings aren’t costing me anything, but lemonade’s now a staple on the shopping list every week. It might be a placebo but quite frankly when the delightful pre-bed upset.indigestion sets in (usually peaks between 8-10pm) I don’t care.

    Fortunately, healthcare is mostly free here and my antenatal costs have been minimal. A few bucks here and there for prescriptions, and $50 a pop for scans (beyond the first free dating scan).

    I have health insurance through work, however the (small) obstetrics allowance only kicks in after a year – so would only cover costs in about the last month of pregnancy and beyond. As far as I can tell there should be no charges associated with labour/birth, apart from perhaps the fee they charge for partners to stay overnight with you at Birthcare.

    So far, I’m still fitting into my current bras (this was perfect timing actually, as this lot were all about to hit the end of their life, having stretched out over the past couple of years) and still squeezing into my pants with the help of a handy $20 extender though possibly not for much longer. So far I’ve spent about $25 on new (thrifted) clothing – two pairs of stretchy pants that I live in when I’m at home (surely now down to about 0.01 cents cost per wear) and a flowy skirt with stretchy waistband.

    In terms of baby stuff, we’re yet to actually begin shopping. I’m pretty set on avoiding mindless browsing and only buying the essentials, especially to start off with.

    We definitely seem to be in line for some hand me downs, and I’d like to buy secondhand stuff where possible and safe. From what I can tell, lots of baby stuff just doesn’t get used for long and winds up getting sold online for much less, lightly used. Savings aside, think of all the wastefulness! I’d so much prefer to reuse than to contribute to unnecessary waste.  And yes, I’m thinking about doing some cloth diapering too, but we’ll see how we go…

  • You don’t have to optimise EVERY minute of your life

    you dont have to optimise every minute

     

    First trimester exhaustion is no joke.

    Probably not helping was what I’m pretty sure was a light spell of flu or a terrible cold around the second month thrown in there.

    However much was due to my growing a human vs legit illness, I spent literally weeks out of action beyond making it to work and home again (and not even that, some days). Evenings and weekends, the only place you’d find me was flat on my back in bed. And even now, my (never great) energy levels aren’t what they used to be, so I need even more rest and sleep than normal. On top of that, the occasional dizzy spell likes to come out of  nowhere, relegating me to the nearest seat (or better, bed) to recover.

    I had to get over my guilt about doing nothing pretty quick smart, and embrace marathoning Jane the Virgin.

    A happiness hack

    Separately, I’d already been working for a while on reframing how I think about the nonproductive hours in my week.

    I guess you could even spin it as optimising my time, though maybe not in the traditional way.

    The things is, I hate waiting. Seriously hate it.

    But instead of resenting the commute, I’m starting to enjoy it (maybe even look forward to it sometimes) as it’s often the only time I can carve out to decompress and meditate.

    And now that the days are getting shorter and it’s dark earlier, I’m switching it up. Normally I bus to the train station in the morning, and walk home from the train in the evening; these days I’m walking in the morning (bonus: it warms me up for the day, gets the blood flowing on wintry mornings!) and bus back from the station home.

    The same with walking the dogs. It’s gotta be done. Sometimes it can be doubled up as a run for me, but not every walk can be a run – and these days I’m just not up for running at all, to be honest. Some walks need to be training walks, and some need to be relaxing sniffy walks where they can just be dogs – walks when I can let my mind roam free and work on visualisations and mantras.

    Rather than impatiently waiting for these ‘unproductive’ times to end, I’m trying to use them in better ways. Repurposing them from hours to be endured with the help of Spotify and podcasts, to precious flow and meditation time.