A 4 month post-pregnancy update

I write mostly about Avery now, but there are some things about my changing body that I wanted to record.

Weight:

I gained 35 pounds during my pregnancy, and somehow I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight already. I still have a loose, pudgy post-partum belly, but I really do feel respect for it and I’m not clamoring to get rid of it. I deem myself super lucky that my baby weight has fallen off on its own over time, although I credit a lot of the weight loss to breastfeeding, carrying a colicky baby around for hours (my arms have seriously never been so toned), and eating carefully because of my baby’s dairy protein allergy. Exercise should definitely be a goal just for the purpose of taking better care of myself, but knowing me, I don’t see that happening. Being a mom is exercise enough.

Stretch marks:

I didn’t get any stretch marks during pregnancy, but after breastfeeding for a couple of months I noticed intense stretch marks all over my boobs. They have also changed shape and are still quite unrecognizable as my own.

Skin:

I was one of the lucky ones to get the pregnancy glow. I’ve always had terrible skin, with cystic acne for half my life. Pregnancy fixed all that. Now, 4 months later, I am getting acne in all the old hormonal patches again. Super bummer. Hopefully I don’t get more than one or two pimples at a time this time around so I can avoid going on medication.

Healing:

My torn vagina is technically healed, but it is still sore sometimes and I absolutely cannot imagine having penetrative sex right now. Some days it’s painful to squat and even rock the baby back and forth, but most of the time I’m not aware of it.

Mental Capacity:

Uh, what was I going to say? Memory is pretty awful, and my emotions still bubble over sometimes with more extreme highs and lows. I think this all comes with the territory of being overtired.

Overall:

I feel like myself again – or rather, a new version of myself. I like this me better anyway. I’m more compassionate, patient, understanding, and loving than before. I feel like this “mom” persona fits me like a glove.

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Birth Story

My home water birth plan turned into a hospital birth. I made the decision that would be safest for everyone. But now that I have my baby home with me, I don’t even get sad seeing the birth pool and all the home birth supplies still sitting in my dining room. I got my healthy baby without too much trauma or medical concern, and that turned out to be all I needed to love my birth experience.
So here’s the story. On Aug 23rd I went in to the hospital for monitoring following another blood pressure spike, and found myself needing to make a decision – be induced that day or to go on blood pressure meds and likely end up with more of a dire need for an induction a few days to week later if labour didn’t come spontaneously early. With the help of an amazing midwife, I confidently made the choice to have an induction that day. I think my natural induction strategies (acupuncture, labour tincture) had really worked to ready my body. At 38 weeks and 3 days, I was already 3 cm dilated and fully effaced. I was a prime candidate for a medical induction. My body was expected to respond well to pitocin, and it did.

I did go through about an hour of regret when I was first hooked up to the IV and the monitors and was told I unfortunately couldn’t get up and move around, but once my midwife arrived I felt advocated for again and we were able to set up a peaceful environment. We dimmed the lights, I was able to eat, and the midwife suggested ways for me to move around on and beside the bed.

Early labour was quite boring. Pitocin was started at 1pm, and labour stayed pretty mild until around 8pm. During early labour my hypnobirthing came in handy – I was in the zone, totally relaxed, listening to guided meditations, and easily breathing through contractions. My wife sat beside me playing bejeweled on her phone because there was really nothing for either of us to do but relax and try to conserve our energy.

The pitocin drip was very slowly increased to attempt to mimic the natural progression of oxytocin. When active labour started and my contractions got more intense, I had to concentrate really hard to keep my relaxed, meditative composure. I had in my birth plan that I didn’t want my dilation to be checked unless absolutely necessary, and I didn’t want to hear how dilated I was (or wasn’t). That was working for me until the consulting OB, whom I hadn’t seen at all yet, came in and decided to break my water. When he did it he announced “she’s 5cm”. I immediately lost my composure. I broke down crying and panicked through the next half hour of contractions, saying there was no way I could make it through another 5 cm. However, as badly as I wanted to end the sensations, I wanted to avoid an epidural more. Respecting my birth plan, I was never offered an epidural, even when I was panicking about not being able to go on. My birthing team was right – I could totally do it.

When I finally calmed down and accepted that I couldn’t just give up and go home without completing labour, I got back in the zone. From 5 cm to full dilation my contractions were back to back. I had some trouble staying in the zone of relaxation and breathing near the end, and had moments of being scared and of losing confidence in my ability to make it. During the transition phase I used a loud gutteral screaming to release the tension. I kept apologizing for how loud I was being and felt terrible that I would scare other labouring women in the ward. The sensations were intense, and the way I got through it was to remind myself that they weren’t stronger than me; they were me.

I went from 5 cm to fully open in about 4 or 5 hours, but it went by in a blur. Even my wife, who was standing beside me constantly replacing ice compresses on my forehead, said the time flew and the hours bled into one another. By 12:30am my uterus had started to push the baby out. The contractions had changed, and the strength of them literally heaved my upper body up off the bed. The midwife asked if she could check me, and lo and behold, I was fully dilated. My body knew what to do.

Pushing lasted for an hour and a half, which again, went by in a timeless way. Between contractions I went into deep relaxation to conserve energy and relax the muscles of the birth canal. My wife watched as the buldge that was her head moved down, under the skin, and eventually crowned. She had flipped around during labour and was posterior, so her forehead had been squeezed into a big bump that emerged first. The midwives called her a special unicorn baby because of the big swollen bump on her head. When her whole head came out, her body slipped out in the same push. I was so shocked that I had actually just pushed a baby out of me that I think I stared at her stunned for the entire first 2 hours of skin to skin. I didn’t even notice that her head was swollen until much later. After the first 24 hours of life, though, all the swelling went down and we could finally see what she actually looked like.

Ever since we got pregnant I wondered what it would be like to have two moms, and therefore two maternal instincts, receiving their baby at the same time. I wondered if there would be jealousy over bonding time. But when she came out I kept asking the midwives if my wife could hold her yet. I couldn’t wait for her to feel the amazingness that was holding and bonding with our little bug. They were adamant that the baby stay on my chest for a full 2 hours though, which was great for baby’s breastfeeding abilities. She latched right away and went to town replenishing her energy from such an awkwardly positioned emergence into the world.

We spent the rest of the night in the delivery room bonding, getting stitches, getting baby checked out, and trying to pee. By 5 am we got a new room where we spent the morning. We were home by 4 in the afternoon on the day of her birth.

Everything went as well as it could have (although I might be sitting a little easier right now if I hadn’t needed stitches). Our baby is so fucking beautiful it hurts my heart. I had an amazing birth experience.

The Big Decision – Let’s Have This Baby

I had another blood pressure spike at my midwife appointment again today, and went into the hospital. The OB on call checked my cervix and said I was already 3cm dilated, fully effaced, baby’s head in the best position for go time.

The OB surprisingly offered me two options and wouldn’t say which he recommended. Either I get induced today, or I get blood pressure meds and go home for a week to wait and hope for a natural birth.

The midwife, who is an extreme advocate for natural home births, gave me advice that I was not expecting, and because I trust that she would give me the birth I want if at all possible, her advice is helping me to make a decision I never thought I would willingly make… She said that as much as she advocates for home births, my blood pressure is not safe for me, and she has seen many times where a woman chooses to wait it out and ends up with a dire emergency at the end of the waiting – like a C section because the blood pressure is leading to seizures. She helped me to see how I could still have a peaceful, present birth experience with drugs.

So that’s it… I am going in for an induction today. My wife is madly rushing home from work, and I am trying not to get nervous about all the drugs.

My very serious attempt at natural induction (and lowering blood pressure)

I have turned to a naturopath for the first time in my life. In an effort to make my birthing experience as natural and synthetic-drug-free as possible, I wanted to naturally reduce my on-again off-again high blood pressure that was putting me at risk of needing a medical induction, and I wanted to naturally induce labour before blood pressure became a problem again.

My naturopath is the same person who led the hypnobirthing classes I took. She specializes in pregnancy, and is also a doula. I saw her today for acupuncture, and she also gave me more recommendations to add to my list of natural induction techniques. She treated for both induction and hypertension today. The induction needle points felt like a light prick and a momentary throbbing. But as soon as the first needle went into a blood pressure point (I think it was the one between my toes), my blood pressure dropped dramatically and I almost fainted. When she saw me go white and sweaty, she took my blood pressure reading at 105/60. My (pregnant) normal is 160/85. This was a huge drop for me, and she took the needles out and tried acupressure instead until my body acclimated. Eventually I was able to handle the needles again and the session felt like a success. I immediately went from skeptical to a believer in the power of acupuncture.

For blood pressure regulation

The naturopath recommended:

  • eat one clove of garlic per day, in food
  • take 500 mg of magnesium (twice what I am already taking for restless legs) along with 1000 mg of calcium daily
  • walk for 30 minutes per day
  • drink nettle tea
  • take a warm bath daily, with 1/4 cup epsom salt and 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil

I also researched on my own and have added beet juice to my routine. New research has shown that drinking a glass of pure beet juice a day significantly lowers blood pressure at the same rate as prescription medication (albeit among mostly male samples, because medical research is androcentric). Beet juice is disgusting though. This one is much less enjoyable than the prescription for nightly relaxing baths…

For labour induction

The naturopath first assessed whether or not my body appeared ready for labour. Based on the pre labour symptoms I had experienced, the fact that I am currently 38 weeks and 3 days (in the safe zone), and the fact that I am facing a possible medical induction any day now, she went ahead and treated me like she would someone who was past due. Here is what she recommended:

  • an herbal tincture with black and blue cohosh and ginger. I am to drink it 3 times a day and try to make it coincide with nipple stimulation.
  • nipple stimulation – since my pumping experience so far has elicited some mild cramps, she suggested I keep at it, but for a longer duration. I am to use the pump for 10 minutes each side, then rest for 10 minutes, and repeat this pattern twice more.
  • squatting for 1 minute 10 times per day
  • Evening Primrose Oil – 1000 mg orally 3 times per day, and vaginally once per day
  • continue hypnobirthing scripts with focus on opening and softening visualizations

Other things I have been doing:

  • Walking. I became a mall walker (and a Walmart walker, and an any-box-store-with-air-conditioning walker).
  • Climbing the stairs sideways. The pelvic tilting is supposed to help get baby’s head to stimulate the cervix.
  • Bouncing on the yoga ball. Same logic as above.
  • Daily orgasms. Can’t complain about this one.

Pregnancy Update Week 38

Pre labour is a frustrating phase. Here are the pre labour signs I have been experiencing on and off all week:

  • Bloody show
  • Mild period-like cramps along with a lower back ache 
  • Contractions that are irregular – short and infrequent. My wife kept telling me to time them, but sometimes I couldn’t even be certain if I felt a cramp/surge/contraction, a digestion pain/stomach cramp, or just a sharp jab from baby. So timing them was a futile exercise. And they disappear completely for entire days.
  • Strong and frequent Braxton Hicks
  • Diarrhea
  • Nauseous on an off. I cracked out the stale old soda crackers from the first trimester nausea…

After 5 days of very clear pre-labour signs, I still feel like baby is going nowhere soon. 

The way I feel today makes me think I will definitely get to use my acupuncture appointment on Monday and maybe even my stretch and sweep appointment on Tuesday. 

I am thinking of sending my wife to the cottage 2 hours away this weekend in case Murphy’s law is just waiting for us to NOT be prepared in some way.

Breast Pumping Experience

I’ve been pumping to try to induce labour. The breast pump wasn’t as scary as I’d built it up to be. Kinda weird, but not painful. After just a couple of minutes on the lowest setting I started getting colostrum. Even though production wasn’t my goal, it feels really reassuring to know that my body is capable in that arena. 

I also attended a Le Leche League breastfeeding support group meeting to get to know everyone and to ask some first timer questions. 

Bodily Experiences This Week

  • My blood pressure has been holding steady (high for most people but not pre-eclampsia high).
  • Still peeing every couple of hours during the night
  • Besides frustration with lengthy pre labour, I have been feeling relaxed and confident. 

Baby This Week

  • 6-3/4 to 7 lbs, 19-20″
  • Still lots of movement, despite her tight living quarters.
  • Ready to come out and be cuddled by her mamas!!!

Pregnancy Update Week 37.5

I am so impatient to get this labour started! I can’t even wait until Friday to write my update. My blood pressure has stayed labile – up and down, up and down. I want to get this baby out before it gets too consistently high… I had protein in my urine today and panicked for a while that it meant I had pre-eclampsia, but the midwife reassured me that the levels were low enough to not be a concern, and that in fact a low level of protein can be a sign that labour is near.

On Monday evening I had the bloody show… There was no record-breaking chunk of mucous like I read about online, but I think I had been losing my mucous plug a little at a time over the last little while. Then all of a sudden there was blood. A couple clot-like globs in the toilet, and pink tinged discharge for the rest of the evening. My midwife said it was a good sign, and should reassure us that labour will likely start on its own before I need to be induced for blood pressure reasons. Another sign that labour is near.

I have also had a few mild period-like cramps, but only a couple of instances per day for the last few days. Braxton hicks have increased in frequency, but I still barely notice them so they’re not very intense. My body has also been… *ahem*… emptying itself out. Another sign that labour is near.

We had our home visit today, where the midwife came and toured the house and gave us advice on where to labour at home (we are at least going to try for a home birth, while being fully prepared for a transfer of care mid-way through). We have planned to set up the birthing tub in the kitchen and put an air mattress in the dining room. I am going to pick up the tub today. The midwife has given us the go-ahead to try to induce labour naturally. She recommended that I get a stretch and sweep at my next in-clinic appointment (Tuesday morning), but in the meantime I will do lots of walking, load up on the orgasms, and perhaps crack out the breast pump. By the way, the breast pump freaks me out and I am more nervous to try it than I am nervous about labour. I have this irrational fear that my nipple will get stuck in it and cause me some serious damage. Anyway…

Let’s get this show on the road!

 

What I Love About Being Pregnant

As I near the end and discomfort is rising, I want to make note of all the things I have loved about being pregnant. I’m happy and excited to be meeting my baby so soon, and super excited to soon be able to bend over, sleep on my back, and not have to pee every hour. But I still cherish this time of being pregnant. I feel so thankful that my body was able to grow this tiny human safely and effectively. I’m thankful that I got to experience pregnancy, if only once. So here are the things I have really loved about being pregnant.

1. Feels like my wife and I are sharing an exclusive adventure together (and shared an exclusive secret in the early weeks)

2. I feel justified in buying cute baby things, and I have bonded with the baby while washing baby clothes and organizing the nursery while carrying her around inside me.

3. I love how my body has changed, from the first little bump that only my wife and I could see (naked) to the big, beautiful, fertile belly that gets comments from passers-by.

4. Maternity clothes! I love the soft, stretchy, forgiving dresses and long shirts, and the elastic waistbands.

5. People always comment on my appearance, but it is always something nice: “wow, you look amazing!” “You are really pulling pregnancy off!” I think my social circle has been trained that pregnant people need constant compliments 😉

5. People are so nice to me. They bring me shopping carts at the grocery store, hold doors for me, pick up things I’ve dropped, call me sweety and honey and darling…

6. Reason to prioritize self-care – and it feels good. I don’t let myself stress out too much, I don’t overwork myself, I enjoy naps and meditation. I also feel healthier now eating right and not drinking booz.

7. I never feel guilty about having that extra serving of fro-yo, or really heaping my plate up with dinner. Baby needs the nutrients, and I’m supposed to gain weight.

8. THE BOOBS! Just another part of the improved body confidence that came with being pregnant. I was an A cup and always wanted bigger boobs. Now I’m a C cup and haven’t even filled with milk yet.

9. Feeling the baby move around in the belly. Surreal. Even now that she is punching me hard in the bladder all night, I am so thankful to be able to experience it.

10. When my wife falls asleep with her hand on my belly and baby is kicking away. They are connecting and bonding just like I get to connect with the baby.

11. Getting ultrasounds and trying to imagine what baby will look like when she is born and as she grows.

12. Coming up with baby names, and finding that perfect one (and writing it everywhere like I used to do with “Mrs. Backstreet Boy” when I was 10).

13. Blogging about pregnancy, being mindful of the whole experience.

14. Making plans and preparations with my wife. Discussing how we will parent and having my wife’s caring input in mine and baby’s medical care.

15. No period!!!

16. I have my baby with me everywhere I go and don’t have to worry about diaper changes or entertaining her.