Dear 36-Weeks-Pregnant-Me

Dear 36-Weeks-Pregnant-Me,

36 weeks pregnant

You’re busily wrapping up your final week of work before your planned 3-week, preparing-for-baby extravaganza.

What you don’t know is that you won’t get those 3 weeks of resting, organizing, and eager anticipation.

At 36 weeks + 6 days, you’ll get up at 4:30 am for a routine “wee hour” pee, and hear a “pop.” Your mind will start racing, and since I know you’re wondering, I’ll go ahead and tell you: that was, in fact, your water breaking.

By the time you call your midwife at 6:00 am, those contractions will already be just a few minutes apart. You’ll tell her that they’re “right on top of each other,” and she’ll tell you to get packed and start the 45-minute drive to the hospital. Your husband will hastily set up the crib in the bedroom and install the carseat, things are currently putting off because you’re sure that you have more time.

You’ll unceremoniously leave the house for the last time as a family of two.

I know this part worries you, but the drive really won’t be that bad. You’ll watch the sun come up through a hazy, dreary fog, and you’ll be able to close your eyes and breathe through each contraction. Though they are double-peaking and only 1-2 minutes apart, the pain is not unfamiliar. At this stage, contractions will feel like really severe cramps.

You’ll arrive at the hospital at 7:30 am, and opt for a wheelchair so you can get to the room as quickly as possible. You’ll manage to hold your composure in front of the reception-desk lady and the nurse who gets you set up in the L&D room, but that control won’t last long. I can’t sugar-coat this: you’re in for a wild ride.

I know you feel prepared for the pain, since you’ve taken a lot of time to prepare yourself for natural childbirth. But you’re headed straight for the deep end of the pool, and you’ll quickly question your ability to see it through.

Between 8:00 and 9:00 you’ll be 4cm dilated, and you’ll believe that you can’t do it – that you’re not strong enough – because this is only the beginning of labor and it’s already unbearable.

Listen to me: these thoughts don’t mean you are weak. Remember your birth class? Those thoughts are a very good sign. Forget the dilation, and forget the clock. You’re in transition – yes, already – and what takes most women 8+ hours, your body will do in an hour and a half. You’re not weak…you’re just sprinting toward the finish line.

It will be intense. Your best coping mechanism will be yelling (but don’t worry, you’re the only patient there).

You’ll know in your heart that everything is okay, but your baby is borderline premature, so prepare for a little more interference than expected. You’ll want to cry when the nurse repeatedly interrupts the only slight comfort you have – sitting on a stool in a hot shower – to be hooked up to monitors on that dreaded bed. But you won’t be alone.

Your husband will be strong when you feel weak. He’ll see your agony and hear your pleas of “I can’t do this,” and he’ll keep you on course for a medication-free birth, even though he wants nothing more than to take your pain away. He’ll tell you not to listen to that little voice saying “I can’t do it”…and you’ll snap back that it’s not a little voice, it’s a giant throbbing uterus! All the benefits of a natural birth won’t seem worth it at this point, but stick it out just a little bit longer, and you’ll be so glad you did.

Because between 10:30 and 11:00am, you’ll already feel the urge to push. And no, the nurses won’t believe that you’re ready, but the urge will be so overwhelming that you can’t stop it. A quick check will confirm that you’re fully dilated, and you’ll be so grateful to see that big blue tub filling up with warm water. Your midwife won’t even wait until it’s done filling up before telling you you can get in. You’ll collapse over the edge and feel relief as the warm water surrounds you. The contractions will keep coming, but you can finally be able to relax in between.

Water birth

The most beautiful thing about natural labor is that you can listen to your body and know exactly what position to get in to help the baby move down. You’ll be most comfortable in a squatting/kneeling position, so gravity will work in your favor.

What follows will be an inner tug-of-war. Your body (and midwife) urge you to push, and it feels good figuratively to be able to do something productive, but pushing…well, it hurts. It’s like your body is telling you to do it to stop doing it all at once. A few times, you’ll even contemplate not pushing at all and staying pregnant forever.

But only a few pushes in, and your midwife will have you reaching down to feel your baby’s head. Up until this point, it hasn’t completely registered that a baby will result from all of this. One minute, you were busy closing one chapter of your life, thinking you had a few more weeks to mentally prepare for the next one. The next minute, you’re surrounded by nurses, grasping your husband’s legs for dear life as said baby is threatening to split you in two.

“But it hurts!” You’ll whine, as if the midwife will say “Oh! Okay! Well in that case, don’t push.” Instead, she (along with a chorus of nurses) will say “Yep, it does!” And after 20 minutes of pushing, when you feel that baby’s head crowning, I really wish you would take your time. Yes, there are a lot of voices encouraging you along, but you don’t have to rush this.

Instead, you’ll take your midwife seriously when she says “one more push,” and give it everything you’ve got. Meanwhile, you’ll arch your back to try and escape the pain – please don’t. Your midwife will push you back into place, and that baby will shoot out of you like a torpedo, literally splitting you in two. It’s the most intense pain you’ll ever feel, followed by the most intense relief.

.

.

.

Here’s the part you’ve been wondering the most about. I can’t prepare you for this, it’s simply too surreal. You’ll look down, and through the dancing surface of the water, a tiny little body will take shape. As if it’s materializing right before your eyes. Up, into your arms, comes a baby…your baby.

Water birth

You won’t even think to check…somehow, you already know. But your husband will laugh in disbelief as he announces it:

It’s a boy.

I dearly wish you could just hold him against you and enjoy him. But instead, you immediately stand up and pass him off to the waiting arms of a nurse to be evaluated. I can tell you now that your baby is as healthy as can be, despite his early arrival, but you won’t know that, and they won’t know that.

Thinking back on this day makes me emotional, 3 months later. But you won’t feel that emotion right away. It takes a bit of time for you to process what just happened and bond with that precious little boy. When you lay down in a heap of exhaustion one night, at 36 weeks + 5 days pregnant, you’ll have no idea that you will be holding your baby before noon the next day.

But then it will happen. In the early hours of your first misty sunrise together, you’ll fall asleep with him on your chest, and everything will be right in the world. He’ll be yours, and you’ll be his. And nothing will ever be the same.

First morning as a mother

34 Weeks: More Dates!

…not the romantic kind, though that’s certainly not a bad idea if you can find time between feeling tired, nesting, and peeing your pants.

I’m talking about the sweet, edible kind that are conveniently in abundance around the holidays (but can be found any time of the year). I never really ate dates until I started trying refined sugar-less recipes; one of my favorites being Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Larabars by Oh She Glows.

I haven’t been doing a lot of baking these days, but I learned of an interesting study that investigated the effect of date fruit on labor and delivery outcomes. Why someone chose dates to study is beyond me, but the results of said study convinced me that adding dates to my everyday diet would be worth a shot.

celery-dates

So, this is what I’ve been eating…dates on a log. I buy whole Medjool dates and chop them up myself, because I haven’t been able to find unsweetened chopped dates (and really, aren’t dates sweet enough on their own?). Also, chopping them myself ensures I know how many I’m eating.

What’s the study say? Women who consumed six dates per day, beginning 4 weeks ahead of their estimated due dates, had the following results:

  • 96% went into spontaneous labor (vs. 79% of women who consumed no dates)
  • Only 28% used prostin/oxytocin (vs. 47% of women who consumed no dates)
  • Were dilated, on average, a centimeter and a half more upon admission to the hospital
  • Had “significantly higher” proportion of intact membranes – 83% (vs. 60% of women who consumed no dates)

In essence, the group who consumed 6 dates per day required less labor augmentation; and the differences seem pretty substantial. The “intact membranes” part was of particular interest to me because, as I learned in my Bradley classes, an intact bag of waters is ideal as it cushions the pain of contractions. Some believe that breaking the waters leads to faster labor (though if you look at the actual studies, the average difference is marginal), it seems that the group who ate dates were also requiring less intervention to move labor along – so it’s really a win-win.

Here’s the study itself for those inquiring minds: The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery

Have a favorite date recipe to share? You know, in case “dates on a log” gets old…I’d love to hear your suggestions!

33 Weeks: Baby Laundry + A Few Words

I’ve been working on the same dang post (very slowly) for about a week and a half. And it just dawned on me that if making time for writing is hard now, there’s no way I’ll be able to keep this up with a baby in the mix. So it’s time to adjust my expectations a bit.

When I sit down to write, it’s usually a several-hour ordeal. I was one of those kids in school who turned in a 20-page paper when the assignment said 10. The problem with this habit of mine is it costs a lot of time, and I don’t feel free to write unless I have several hours to spare.

So today I’m going to try something different – I’m just going to write a few words and share a few pictures. Something short is better than nothing at all, right?

Belly – Now and Then

32 Weeks Belly Growth

This is from last week – and yes, that’s the same tank top. Baby B is seriously running out of room! I love the contrast between the seasons – it’s hard to believe over half a year has gone by since we found out we were adding to our family.

Baby Laundry – The Cutest Kind!

Baby Laundry

I also washed and put away the majority of Baby B’s adorable miniature laundry last night. Boy, do we have a lot of 0-3 Month clothes! Our stash is mostly footed sleepers, since actual coordinated outfits are usually gender-specific. But, I imagine PJ’s will suffice for both me and baby for those first few drowsy months anyway.

And, of course, we have a hefty collection of receiving blankets, bibs, and baby washcloths. Things I hear you can never have too many of, but we’re going to give that theory a run for its money!

Up next is prepping the cloth diapers – now that I’ve finally decided on a detergent (one of those decisions that was way more complicated than it needed to be!)

Till next time!

30 Weeks Pregnant + Preterm Contractions Update

30 Weeks Pregnant

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

I had a pretty busy work week, but have been feeling more normal since our excitement last week, so it wasn’t too much to handle.

My followup appointment after our hospital visit was pretty uneventful; nothing has changed (that I’m aware of), which seems to be good enough for them. They’re just going to watch me a little more closely, and advised that I drink lots of water, take frequent breaks, and no hanky-panky for awhile (or as fellow blogger Caitlin calls it, “The Horizontal Polka”).

I always heard that sex can encourage labor to start, but I figured it was kind of a wive’s tale. Well, those in the medical profession take that little “fun fact” very seriously, as evidenced by the number of times I had to answer questions about my…history. Anyway, it was my midwife who explained why. Apparently, proglastin, a hormone found in semen, is so effective at getting things going, they use it medically to stimulate labor (proglastins, not semen…gross).

Anyway, I’m done talking about sex and its associated products, and am struggling to find a way to segue into this next bit. I’ll just get right into it: 30 weeks is a big milestone (in my mind anyway), as it kicks off the “single digits” week countdown. Here are a few interesting tidbits about my 30th week of pregnancy:

  • Hiccups. All the little kicks, stretches, and jabs are fun (if not a wee bit uncomfortable), but I can never really tell what’s going on. Hiccups, though, are undeniable. I love knowing something specific about what he/she’s up to. More than “the baby’s awake,” or “the baby’s fiesty.” There’s just something so sweet about being able to say “the baby has hiccups!” and seeing the look on my husband’s face as he feels them, too. And when the baby is positioned just right, it almost looks like I have the hiccups because my belly shakes with each one!
  • Inflation. These past few weeks, my body’s started packing on the “baby fat.” Mostly in my butt and thighs. I’m thankful to know that this is not only normal, but a biological necessity as my body gears up to become a food source for a hungry little human. I just try to look at as an awesome work of nature, and not just getting fat.
  • Appetite. Prrrrobably has some connection to the point above. But I can’t get enough to eat lately! I have to say that this is well-timed with the holidays. I’m been dreaming of tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast (which lasts all day long) the same way children dream of opening presents on Christmas morning. I’ve been craving turkey for weeks, so let’s just say I hope Grandma got a big bird this year!
  • Alright kids, it’s time for me to go to bed. I’ve got to be rested for the marathon of eating (and socializing, of course) that will be happening tomorrow! Happy Thanksgiving!

29 Weeks – Our Hospital Adventures

Update on the low-lying placenta: it moved up by 6 centimeters, so there’s plenty of clearance for Baby B! Hurrah!

It’s the type of dignified question every pregnant woman asks at some point, I’m sure of it: “Is my bag of waters leaking, or did I just pee myself?”

I’m guessing (hoping) that most women encounter this predicament a little later in their pregnancies than I did. However, on the afternoon of 28 weeks 6 days, I was pretty concerned that I had sprung a leak of the non-urine variety.

I’m not trying to brag, but I’d say I’m quite adept at recognizing which channel fluid is exiting my body from. Especially when I am literally in the process of pulling up my pantaloons after emptying my bladder. So, trust me when I say that whatever was soaking my trousers at a grotesque rate really, really didn’t seem to be pee.

I’d had a pact with myself not to call the doctor’s office over every little thing – if I wasn’t in pain or bleeding, I just tried to ride it out. Maybe it was all the talk of pre-term labor I had endured that week (“Here’s a pamphlet on recognizing signs of early labor.” “Get this Rhogam shot no later than 28 weeks, just in case…”) but I was pretty concerned, so I called.

Within 5 minutes, we were out the door and on the interstate. Our hospital is 45 minutes away, and I was still leaking slowly (not the gush I had seen before). I noticed tightening and pressure in my lower abdomen, but thought it was just the baby’s movement. I noticed that road bumps were more noticeable and painful than before. We made a note to try and find a smoother route to the hospital.

Soon after we arrived, an ultrasound was ordered and we trekked through the oddly quiet hallways to the familiar room (I had just had an ultrasound a few days prior). We discovered that the baby, who was breech days before, had flipped to a head-down position – possibly explaining some of the pressure I was feeling. Baby B looked great – he/she was making the breathing movements that are expected at this point in gestation, and fluid levels were exactly the same as they had been a few days prior. We even got to see this sweet face:

Back in our room, I changed into a gown and they fit me with monitors. They swabbed me to test for amniotic fluid, and gave me a little clicker to push every time I felt movement. Then, we waited. Kasey went off in search for vending machines while I clicked the clicker and listened to the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of my baby’s heartbeat. While he was gone, a nurse came in with one of those infamous 32-oz hospital mugs, filled to the brim with ice water. “Your fluid test came back negative,” she said, “But you’re having a lot of contractions. You don’t feel them?”

No, I didn’t. She showed me the strip of paper printing. “That bottom line is supposed to be flat,” she said, but it clearly wasn’t. It appeared I had been contracting every 2 minutes.

My instructions were to drink lots of water, since dehydration can cause contractions. Kasey returned to me sheepishly holding the mug. “We might be here awhile.”

The next step was an IV to get fluids in me a little faster. I can’t recall ever having had an IV, but it was not an experience I’m keen to repeat. I’m so thankful that this hospital doesn’t require a hep-lock for labor and delivery, because that feeling is not something I’d like to add to my pains (whenever I do feel them!).

Though, I must admit, I quickly forgot about it when I had my cervix checked the first time – holy cats, that was uncomfortable! I wasn’t dilated at all, which was good news, but it also made the checks pretty painful (supposedly it’s not so bad once everything’s in motion for delivery).

As they monitored me, I was given the green light to eat (I was starving!), so Kasey went on a food run (the cafeteria was closed by this point). I sat on my phone emailing clients who were expecting projects, explaining that I was little tied up (literally).

Food choices are few in that podunk town, so Kasey returned with my requested healthy spread:

Hospital McDonalds

It felt ironic to be eating McDonald’s and Twix in a hospital as I’m experiencing complications – not exactly optimal health food. I ate as much as I could, but quickly became too tired to eat.

I was monitored a little longer, had another cervix check (Ouch!) then they decided to release me to go home and rest. My contractions hadn’t stopped, but I wasn’t dilating.

After a weekend spent resting and guzzling water, I eased back into work yesterday. Today is my followup appointment with my midwife, and I’m interested to hear her thoughts on what’s going on. I’ll keep you posted!