Monday, November 21, 2016

3 weeks err... 4 we--- 6 wee--- ah, fuck it, why not make it 8?

**Thanks to the quirks of blogger this post was briefly deleted. This is the same post originally published on Nov. 21st**

Right, so it has taken me eight weeks to sit down and write this blog. Or, rather it has taken me eight weeks to sit down and finish a blog post for this blog. To be fair, I've started this blog post at least three or four times in the past two months, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Today though, today I'm making this shit happen.

But where to start with eight weeks of parenting behind me? I'm sure to have forgotten things, after all I can barely remember my own name some days. 

Ah well, I suppose I'll start with why I've finally got this blog post written: I'm starting to reclaim the lost parts of myself. 

Last week I went climbing for the first time in over a year. Then, the next day, I went for a run. Then I went for another run on Sunday. I have plans to go for more runs this week and to go climbing again on Thursday night. I've gone out a few times with visiting friends and family, and just to have a beer with local buddies. I've gotten some writing done, some cover design work done, I'm getting back to my revision work, and I've been way more consistent about getting the dog out for a walk in the middle of the day.

Today, getting outside required bundling up a bit, but we did it anyway. The dog got her 4km walk and Cedar and I enjoyed some late fall sunshine. 

I also managed to book Cedar's vaccination appointment, do some laundry, do the dishes, and have the inlaws stop by for tea and baby snuggles. Today felt like winning. 

And, as is often the case when one is on an upswing, it's contagious. So, I am SURE that I have the time and energy to write this blog post along with all the other work I have to get done, because -- damn it -- I'm on fire!

These days happen periodically. They are interspersed with days of cluster feeding, spitting up ALL THE MILK AND THEN SOME (seriously, where did all this milk come from, your stomach is not this big?!?!?), and curling up in a ball on the couch playing stupid video games on my phone because I CANNOT ADULT ANYMORE. I IS DONE. THERE IZ NO ADULTS LEFT HERE. GOES AWAY!!

Those days happen too. Many variations on days like today and days where I just want to cry and never move again happen as well as everything in between. Yet mostly, it's adorable baby snuggles, and smiles, and holy crap you are growing so fast I can barely fathom what your body must be going through!, and diaper changes, and spit up, and sleep, and feeding, and more smiles and baby snuggles.

There's not a huge amount of variance, but it's all pretty good because this little bundle of new human is the most adorable thing I have ever known and I love her with a part of my soul I wasn't aware existed until the day she was born. 

So, even on the days when I curl up in the fetal position on the couch I still count myself incredibly lucky. 

And when it comes down to it we have been incredibly lucky. Cedar has her fussy days, leaps and growth spurts, days when she just wont stop eating and my nipples feel like they're going to fall off... but, generally speaking she's a very mellow baby, and we get lots of time where she is happy and playful, or entertains herself in her bassinet. She is happy to be wrapped in a stretch wrap and carried everywhere. She falls asleep when you walk her around and then stays asleep through entire meals, conversations with friends and even concerts. 

We are damned lucky, and I know it might not last, so I am trying to enjoy the hell out of it while I can. 

Case in point, as I write this post Cedar is lying in her bassinet practicing moving her legs and arms, having a case of the hiccoughs, and making small grunts and coos as she sorts out what sounds she's capable of, but for the moment (and there is a countdown going on this) she is not crying and I can have both hands free to type this post. 

Let's see... eight weeks... what else do you want to know?

Recovery from c-section, you ask? Well, it has gone pretty well so far. I am back to running and climbing, as mentioned before. My scar is healing well, and I mostly feel like my old self, just out of shape. Slowly getting back into it though, and feeling so much better for the start. Every little step makes me feel that much better. Overall I was amazed with how quickly my uterus resumed its former size. I think I have a few pictures to share. After all, we watched me slowly get bigger over the course of nine months, why not watch the reverse? 

October 5th

October 6th (yes, I felt like everything shrank overnight)

October 18th

November 21st

For those wondering, I'm not that concerned with "getting my body back" a notion I find rather unfair to mothers unless we are simply talking about reclaiming your body for yourself after it has spent nine months as the incubator for another human. In that sense I agree with the notion. However, I'm not worried about looking the same as I did before pregnancy. I am, after all, not the same person that I was before, so why should I look the same.

Mostly I'm simply amazed by the human body and what it's capable of. Hence the photos of my uterus shrinking back to normal.

Beyond that, I am concerned with feeling more like myself. Granted it is a new self that I am trying to feel like, but it is a self to whom many pieces of my former identity are still important. I still think of myself as an athlete, so I wish to feel like one again. I think of myself as an outdoorswoman, so I wish to feel like one again. I think of myself as a beer snob, rock climber, runner, adventurer, writer, backpacker, dog lover, world traveler... you get the idea.

And now, in addition to all of that, I'm a mom. That still hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm working on it. I'm working on settling into all my identities, both new and old.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Week 42 - The Birth Story

Well, I won't pretend I'm not a sleep deprived still recovering mess, but the truth is, I think I need to write this all down to sort through it all, and I want to do it while it's all still pretty clear in my head. So, here's the full (and I mean full, this will probably be pretty long, go grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and maybe a snack) story on how Speck became a newborn with a name instead of a nondescript alien living inside my abdomen. Please forgive the typos, errata, and disjointedness that I'm sure will follow as I'm not exactly at my best right now. Also, there are pictures of the new human, and details like weight name and sex, but you'll have to at least scroll past the rest of this to get there. After all, what have we been working towards for the past 42 weeks if not this moment.

To start with, things didn't go as planned/hoped for. This may not surprise you. It shouldn't surprise anyone, and in its way it didn't even surprise me. I was mentally prepared for things to turn out differently than I had hoped, and in the moments where it really mattered I was fine with how everything turned out, but there were some low points along the way.

Everything started late Saturday night (technically Sunday morning). Corey and I had enjoyed a nice Saturday and done as much as possible to induce labor naturally. Apparently, it worked, because by 2am I was having contractions that were already over one minute long every four minutes. That lasted for one hour pretty quickly and I called my doula to ask if she thought I should call the midwife as that is the time pattern one is looking for when labor goes from early to active. My doula said it wouldn't hurt to let my midwife know that things were progressing. I called the midwife and she told me that the pattern was good but that the intensity didn't seem sufficient for active labor. So I should try to sleep, keep going and let her know how things progressed the next day. Sure enough, I managed to get some sleep (with the help of tylenol and gravol). Some, in this case, meaning an hour and a half or so. When I woke up contractions resumed their earlier pace but still hadn't gotten intense enough for me to call the midwife. They continued that way until 8am when they started to get farther apart but a bit more intense. They remained farther apart for most of the day and I was becoming convinced that I would be in "early labor" for days. Did I mention yet that all of these contractions heavily involved my back? Yep, that's right. I had back labor for the entire duration of this story. For the first 24 hours I managed to breath, sway and dance my way through the sensation, though around Sunday at midnight I added the use of the TENS machine to help with the back pain. It worked. I was surprised that it did, but it really did take the edge off of that part of the sensation. $64 well spent.

(In retrospect I remember that when I was debating renting the TENS machine I said to Corey, "Well, if nothing else, it will probably be good to have it if I wind up with 36 hours of back labor." Curse me and my prophetic (albeit overly optimistic with the 36 hours part) quips.)

At 2am on Monday, I finally hit a pattern that was short, (under 4 minutes apart) long (over 1.5 minutes each) and intense (I couldn't talk or do anything else but focus on the sensation when they happened). After that had lasted an hour, I called the midwife again and she agreed to meet me at the birth center. So at 4am Corey and I met our doula in the birth center parking lot and headed inside.

So, up to this point in the story the timing is pretty clear to me because I was timing my contractions with an app on my phone and I was very aware of the time. However, as soon as we got to the birth center I stopped timing them and started focussing solely on getting through each one. My timing becomes hazy but luckily I had lots of people around me who were aware of the time and I have since gone over the story with them a bit to fill in some blanks.

We arrived at the birth center and the midwife did a check to see what my cervix was doing. I was a bit disappointed to be told that I was only two centimeters dilated, though happy to hear that I was almost fully effaced. She said that she couldn't admit me until I was 4cm. That made me very sad, not because I thought I would be further along but simply because I didn't want to labor at home any more, and I didn't want to get back in the car while having contractions. I wanted to settle in somewhere and get ready to focus on having a baby. Luckily, the midwife told me that we could stay in the birth center and walk around we just couldn't be admitted to a room. There was no one else in the birth center at that time, so we had the run of the hallways and that was fine with me. I just didn't want to go home, as that would feel like losing progress to me. So we wandered the halls of the birth center and had access to a birthing ball and an exercise mat, and I walked around and sat on the ball and leaned against chairs and got on all fours on the mat and just generally did what one does when one is in labor which is focus ways to let your body do the work it needs to do and get you closer to meeting the new human you've been growing for the past nine months or more.

At 6am the midwife did another check and reported that I was now 3cm dilated. The good news was, my body was making natural progress, the bad news was, I still wasn't at the magical 4cm and she couldn't admit me. I forget what my reaction was, but disappointment would have been an understatement. I can't remember if I cried or not, I might have, as I didn't want to be told that I would have to go home and that's what I was dreading. She surprised me though, by saying, "there's no one else here and you did make steady progress, so I can admit you anyway, but you won't be allowed to use the tub until you've progressed farther."

I almost laughed. Certainly I had originally been drawn to the birth center because I wanted to use a birthing tub, but at that moment I didn't care about anything but having a place to settle into and focus. I didn't want to be told I'd have to leave again. I wanted to have the options that those rooms provided (which included an amazing hot shower) and I wanted to feel like I was being taken seriously. Admitting me to a room took care of all of that. Fuck the tub. It would be there when I needed it. I just didn't want to be moaning in the halls anymore like a stranded cow.

So I was admitted and allowed use of everything the room had to offer aside from the tub. I went right back to what I had been doing before and continued with no sense of time, living from one contraction to the next. They had, of course, been getting progressively more intense and the back labor was getting particularly more noticeable the longer I had it and the TENS machine was becoming less and less of a balm.

At around 8am my primary midwife came on call and the midwife who had admitted me (who was part of my team but not my primary) went home. My primary midwife is awesome. The other midwife was lovely, she's very professional, has a good bedside manner and is very matter of fact. I like her. But my primary midwife is a freaking rock star, and when she finally came to check me (not until 10am) I felt like everything shifted into high gear. At 10am I was finally at 4cm, but that meant that I'd only gained 2cm in six hours. You have to get to 10cm to push a baby out, you can do math on that one yourself, but if things progressed as they were I was looking at a very long time before pushing was going to even start let alone finish (first time moms often push for at least 2 hours before baby arrives). So, my primary midwife decided we were going to try every trick in the book to speed things up. Her theory was that Speck was posterior (Speck's spine lined up with mine and facing the same way) and that was what was slowing everything down. The answer was to make Speck rotate if possible. So we started doing everything we could to get Speck to rotate. That meant weird positions on furniture, raising my ass above my head, bouncing on a ball in the shower, having people pull on me and push on me during contractions and all kinds of other stuff. It meant doing even more work between and through each contraction and it was exhausting both mentally and physically. When left to my own devices all I wanted to do was try to position myself and breathe in a way that minimized the intensity of what I was feeling with every contraction. Trying to convince myself that it wasn't pain, but only pressure that I was feeling. I remain convinced that I would have been able to do that if it hadn't involved back labor, but I was personally unable to overcome the sensation of back labor and separate it from pain. It fucking hurt, and the more it hurt the more I was told that was good, that's what was making progress on my cervix. I tried to remind myself of that and was successful at times, but that was only so helpful. Part of me kept thinking, this isn't even the worst of it and I'm already close to the edge.

Of course by that time it was already 6 or 7pm. Maybe later. I don't know. I had no clear idea of time and certain thoughts can't be pinned down. I remember it was still light out when I was allowed to get into the tub for the first time. I remember that it was dark out when I understood I wouldn't be allowed back into the tub until it was time to push because my body wasn't progressing well enough in the tub and we needed me to make more progress.

I'm sure that in my midwife's head there was a timer ticking down on how much longer I could go before things fell apart, but she never let that show. I really appreciate that.

Labor is a very inward focused process, focusing on me and on the unborn human, I felt I had virtually no attention to put anywhere else, hence the lack of time. But I have to take a moment to point out how amazing my support people were during the whole thing. Corey was amazing, doing everything everyone asked of him. My doula was also a rock star, and she and Corey worked together to do everything they could to help me make from one contraction to the next and through each one. They helped provide pressure for my hips (something that takes a lot of energy from them especially over time and that works to greatly reduce some of the more negative sensations of back labor) they offered me drinks and snacks, they reminded me to breathe, they reminded me why we were doing this, they told me I was doing great and they never ever ever mentioned how long it was taking or that they were tired, or let a single negative stray thought so much as show in their eyes let alone slip their tongues. In other words those three people (midwife, doula and husband) kept me going in ways that were critical and I truly don't know what I would have done without them.

Yet still, by 10pm, after twelve hours of official "active labor" at more than 4cm (though more than nineteen hours if we go by intensity and frequency alone) and around 43 hours of labor total starting with "established early labor" I was still only at 8cm. After some discussion we decided the midwife would break my water for me and we would hope that would trigger a big jump in progress. The other choice was to head to the hospital for an oxytocin drip in hopes that it would speed things up. Wanting to put off changing locations for as long as possible (that was seriously my main motivation at that point, anything not to have to sit in the car while going through contractions) I decided to have the midwife break my water. Which is something we would have done as soon as we'd gotten to the hospital anyway.

A quick lesson on birthing, and birthing in Manitoba specifically. Meconium is a baby's first fecal matter, it has been built up and stored since months before a baby is born and it generally isn't released before birth unless the baby is in distress. Though it could be released for no reason, the chance of distress is high enough that if you are in Manitoba under the care of a midwife and laboring at home or in the birth center finding meconium in the amniotic fluid when your water breaks (or is broken) means heading to the hospital. It doesn't mean that your midwife is no longer your care provider, or that you've reached an emergency (it's a non urgent transfer, you drive yourself) it just means that they want you to have hospital access in case anything escalates and so you can no longer birth in the birth center or at home. I knew all of this in advance, so the second the mid-wife said, "Oh no," after breaking my water. I asked, "is it meconium?" She said, "yes." And I said, "Well let's get to the hospital then."

So, she left to call the hospitals in Winnipeg and find us a room. It took longer than I would have thought for her to do this and it turned out that was because the first hospital that she called was completely full and they were no longer admitting births. So we headed to the other main hospital in Winnipeg which is actually much closer to where we live as well as closer to the birth center, so that worked out in terms of shortening the car ride, at least. It was also where Speck was going to be born if we hadn't gotten midwifery care. All in all, we weren't too upset to wind up there.

On the way to the hospital I decided quietly that I would be asking for an epidural as soon as we arrived. I had honestly been thinking about asking for one ever since we started talking about going to the hospital at all. I was so exhausted, the TENS machine was doing nothing for my back labor anymore and hadn't been for a while, and I knew that if I was ever going to have the energy to actually push Speck out I needed to rest. I had simply been at it for too long. I was mentally and physically spent in a way that I had never been before. The car ride, in the meantime, was short but full of all the same pain and desperation of the previous hours. And I no longer had the energy to channel the pain into something else, it was simply pain. I had lost my hold on it and it was consuming me.

We checked in and I was barely aware of my surroundings, I remember quick flashes of hallways, reception desks and the room I was wheeled into. I do remember being thankful for the wheelchair. Walking wasn't impossible but it was slow and much interrupted by contractions and would have been far worse than being wheeled around. As soon as we stood up in the room I remember clinging to Corey I was vaguely aware of the nurses in the background giving my midwife a hard time about checking in properly. She had gone to triage to check in and they had told her to head straight to L&D and then when she got there they were giving her crap about not going through triage. It's odd but I remember hearing all of this and I remember it pissing me off. I'm sure they were just very busy and having a bad night, but I was angered on my midwife's behalf. In addition it seems that they were making it take as long as possible for us to be admitted which was not what my pain wracked body and mind were in the mood for. I wanted to rest so desperately.

I can't remember when I announced to the room that I wanted an epidural, but it was not long after we'd walked in. I was sure my midwife would be disappointed but I think I was probably projecting. I was NOT disappointed in myself. I had come to terms with it on the car ride over or even before that. I had worked so hard for so long, and I was going to wind up doing damage to myself if I didn't let myself rest. I knew that resting without medication would be impossible. I knew that even narcotics alone wouldn't do the job, I needed to be disconnected from the sensation of my lower half. It was the only way I would be able to rest. I had done enough. I deserved to rest. (Not that anyone has to earn the right to rest, or to need/want an epidural, just that for the particular mindset I brought to this birth I would have felt differently if I hadn't gone through what I already had first.) I knew It was the right choice and I was sure of that.

I heard my midwife tell the same nurse who was in the process of giving us a hard time checking in that I wanted an epidural and I remember that woman laughing. I wanted to punch her. It was probably a good thing she wasn't standing anywhere near me. I'm sure she only laughed because they were so over booked and everyone probably wanted an epidural. I'm sure the anesthesiologists were being run ragged in a totally booked labor ward. I remember my midwife saying "she's been in back labor for 46 hours" and I didn't hear the reply of the nurse, because I was too distracted with the next contraction.

It took the anesthesiologist about an hour to arrive. I don't remember how much time it took at all, but that's what Corey told me. I had gone back to focussing on each contraction as it happened and trying to turn it into something other than pain, I wasn't having much success. I was just fighting to make it through to the next contraction and kept telling myself that soon I would get to stop fighting.

Of course, epidurals aren't immediate things. The anesthesiologist had to deliver his spiel about epidurals, risks, and consent. Then he had to set up an IV for me...

Oh the IV struggles. I failed to mention this earlier but as I tested positive for GBS in the week leading up to my due date I was given an antibiotic as soon as I reached active labor. Of course, as soon as, is an exaggeration because apparently I have very valvey veins, which means they are difficult to run an IV tube into. It took the midwives three tries to get my port in and then, when we got to the hospital, because the port had been exposed to air for the duration of the car ride the hospital decided they had to remove it and start over, and then none of the nurses in L&D could do it. Three more tries (all while I was going through contractions) and no one succeeded. They finally waited for the anesthesiologist to do it. One, because anesthesiologists are quite good at putting in IVs and two because they have extra special tools for doing so. Meanwhile I had been without fluids while we waited for the anesthesiologist. So first he got my basic port in, and then he got my back prepared for the epidural. He warned me about the pain of the numbing agent etc. and all the attempts at getting the IV port into me had been painful too, but none of that touched what I was going through otherwise, unless it coincided well enough to magnify things, which only happened with one of the IV port attempts.

Finally the epidural was up and running, of course, it takes about 20 minutes to set in properly. I was happy though, as I could feel it slowly starting to work. Then I was worried, as after what I thought was 20 minutes had passed and I could still feel enough of my contractions to keep me from sleeping. Then I was told I had a top up button that I could hit at will and had a maximum safe dosage that I couldn't exceed. I hit the button a few times and then I started to drift off to sleep.

Except I kept getting woken up because of... well lots of things. For one thing I was getting a dose of oxytocin in order to get my cervix to finish doing its job. That was happening through the IV so it's not as though it was distracting, but I was getting checked every hour to see what my cervix was doing in response and... well cervical checks are not things one can sleep through. I remember commenting as a brand new person performed a check that the number of people who had shoved their hand into my vagina without introducing themselves had grown exponentially in the past 24 hours. (Of course they actually did introduce themselves first, I just thought it was funnier without that part.) One of the nurses laughed at my joke most everyone else ignored it.

The news wasn't great. My cervix was responding but slowly and somehow between leaving the birth center and arriving at the hospital my cervix had closed a bit and swollen. The midwives had described it as very soft and thin for the entire time I'd been with them, but something about breaking my water had changed things and it was now swollen and was only at 6cm when we arrived. The oxytocin was working but slowly. More bad news, Speck's heart rate was dropping and rising in a disconcerting pattern and the staff were concerned that Speck wouldn't react well to pushing when we finally got there and that was still hours away.

All of this developed over a spread of time that I was unaware of, I would fall asleep between each announcement and to me they almost seemed to happen back to back. But we had arrived at the hospital at close to 11pm and by 5am things weren't looking great. Then we had our panic movie moment.

As soon as we arrived Speck and I had both been put on heart rate monitors. That's standard procedure for showing up with meconium in your amniotic fluid. But once Speck's heart rate started dropping unexpectedly they suggested putting Speck on a scalp clip heart rate monitor. It's exactly what it sounds like, they run a cord up to Speck's head via my vagina and clip it to Speck's scalp and it monitors Speck's heart rate. We consented because we wanted to be damned sure that Speck was ok.

The fluctuations continued even with the better monitor attached, and then, at one terrifying moment, they dropped dangerously low and then stopped. The nursing staff performed the incredibly professional calm panic that is their job and ran us (me still in bed and Corey and the doula running behind) down the hall to high risk section of Labor and Delivery where we were right next door to the OR. As we arrived it became apparent that somehow the heart rate clip had come undone. Speck had not flatlined. As soon as the monitors were reattached Speck had a normal heart rate. For a while. Then it continued to dip and raise disconcertingly.

The resident who had been monitoring us under the care of an OB since I asked for the epidural (epidurals require transfer of care away from midwifery care and into OB care, and my midwife had gone home in order to rest before we called her in for pushing whenever the time came) came in to talk to us about a cesarean section.

When we first arrived at the hospital this moment had occurred to me as a possibility and I had dreaded it. Then we had been there for so long, and we'd run down the hall because we'd been worried Speck was flatlining and suddenly all I wanted was to be safely holding a child in my arms. I didn't care that it was major abdominal surgery anymore, I didn't care that it had its own risks, I didn't care that I had really wanted a vaginal delivery back before all of this started. I wanted a healthy baby, and honestly, when I really thought about the prospect of pushing for two hours after everything else, I wasn't sure I could do it. And the doctors were telling me that they weren't sure that Speck could do it.

I agreed to the emergency c-section with a feeling of relief and sudden calm. We now knew exactly what was happening and the waiting would be over shortly. There were risks, of course there were risks, but we had a very competent surgical team, a functioning epidural already in place, and I am a very good prospect for recovering well from major abdominal surgery. Once again it was the right choice, and by the time it came down to making it I had no reservations.

What would I have said if you'd told that would happen three days prior to going into labor? Well to be honest if you could tell me all the details as I am telling them to you now I think the me of three days prior would have said, GET THE FUCKING C-SECTION! And that's why I am at peace with the situation. There is no iteration of me, who, given all the information, would have made a different choice.

So, now the anesthesiologist returns to talk to me about how things will go with the epidural during surgery and to test how established it is at the moment and make sure it's distributed evenly. I am lucky and it seems to have taken effect in all the right places. He leaves and some nurses show up to disconnect me from all the machines in my room switch beds and wheel me to the OR, Corey is taken to a place to put on scrubs and told he'll be shown to the OR in about 20 minutes when they're ready to start.

The OR is a smaller room than I expect it to be, but otherwise it looks exactly as I would have imagined. I am placed on the operating table, but actually I'm still mobile enough to help with the upper half of my body. I'm given an A by the nurses for being able to help move myself. A screen is placed so that I can't see past my chest. The anesthesiologist comes in again and does a lot to make sure that my epidural is topped way up and that I'm truly numb from the chest down. It's a much different sensation to how I felt up until I helped transfer myself to the operating table and I'm glad it has been put off until the last second. I don't enjoy not feeling this much of my body, it makes me feel like I'm entombed in my own flesh.  I'm pleased to see that the anesthesiologist is same one from before. This guy has been wonderful the whole time. He has a great bedside manner, is friendly and just the right amount of talkative. I know that it's part of his job to make sure that I'm responsive and thus chatting to me is probably an easy way to do that, but he does it naturally and in such a way that I feel like he's just being friendly not clinically checking boxes for my LOR. I find out he and his wife just had a baby seven months ago, and the baby is a girl. I decide I like him. Also, he's there to tell me what's happening on the other side of the curtain without giving me too much information. Things like, "they're starting now." Then he's kind enough to remind everyone that my husband isn't in the room. I like him more. Someone must have been sent to get Corey because he arrives shortly after. He's dressed in scrubs and I have time to think it's a good look on him before I go back to focussing on the incredibly strange sensation of feeling a surgery happen without feeling any of the pain attached to it. I can feel tugging and pulling, things being moved, but no pain, and no direct sensation. The whole thing is surreal. It's also very fast. Corey keeps eye contact with me and we say silly things to each other. We also say nothing at all. I expected to be terrified the whole time but I feel surprisingly confident in the team that's working on me and their ability to do this well. I feel like I'm in good hands. I do worry about Speck though. Speck's heart rate was really freaking everyone out before we started and I'm scared that we waited to long or didn't do the right thing or... one large pull. "They've got him, they're pulling him out," says the anesthesiologist. Instantly a strong baby cry fills the air and I feel immense relief. "He's crying." "He is a she," someone corrects. "It's a girl."

I still don't know who announced it and I don't really care, but I remember being happy. She is whisked under the lamp and massaged and wiped and checked for all the responsiveness tests they run babies through. She passes with flying colors. "Would you like her on your chest?" someone asks. YES! They bring her over and push my gown out of the way and lay her on me. I can move one of my arms well enough to hold her. The name Cedar pops into my head. It was one at the top of our list. Corey is there and we get to be a family for a few minutes while I feel them put everything back together on the other side of the curtain. Then they tell me it's time to head to post op, I'm told Corey will go with Cedar and we'll all meet in the recovery room. They disappear and I am left under the lights with my friend the anesthesiologist who is explaining how long it will take the epidural to wear off and what my pain options will be, also the nursing staff are cleaning up and putting things away and then they're all moving me in a dead lift to the gurney and wheeling me to post op.

I think it was in post op that Corey and I made a decision about the name. He had thought of one of our other top picks when he'd seen her come out, but when I told him Cedar he said he liked it just as much. The more he thought about it the more he liked it until he finally decided he liked it better. So we decided on Cedar. Ashmead as a middle name had pretty much been decided on when Speck was still Speck, so that was an easy choice. Then it was just a question of how the last names were to flow. Which sounded better? McClain Ticknor or Ticknor McClain? In the case of Cedar Ashmead we thought McClain Ticknor sounded best.

There are many other details, but none of them seem that important now. Cedar was waiting for us in post op and was given to us as soon as she'd been weighed and measured and had her foot poked etc. She cried plenty, but also had moments of quiet. The nurses all said she was beautiful, but I think they say that to everyone. I thought she was beautiful, but I also thought she looked like the weird squished beings that all newborns are, only slightly less squished for having been pulled out by cesarean instead of being pushed through the birth canal. Our nurses were all lovely. There was one largish snafu. Our midwife hadn't been called by the nursing staff and told to come to the OR. I had told our doula to call her and tell her to meet us in post op. The nurses had told us she didn't have OR privileges. I thought I remembered her saying she did have them, but that had been weeks ago and I was in no state of mind to argue about it. When my midwife arrived and asked about why she hadn't been called the nurse repeated what she'd told me, that she didn't have OR privileges. That's not true, apparently and it's kind of a big deal that they messed that up. Luckily, I had Corey with me, and felt like I was in good hands, but imagine if I hadn't liked the anesthesiologist or they'd forgot to bring Corey in at all... Anyway, that was the only thing that was wrong. Everything else was great. Our staff was wonderful, knowledgeable and helpful. We felt very well taken care of, and we were too busy falling in love with our daughter to be bothered by anything else anyway.

My midwife asked if I wanted to try breast feeding and I said yes, but told her I had no idea what I was doing. She gave me a lesson, helped me position Cedar properly and we were away. Lucky again, Cedar had a good natural latch that only needed a bit of help on my part. Yay! I felt like it was the first thing that had gone right in three days.

For the next 48 hours we were poked and prodded at various intervals and moved to a couple different rooms. The staff was always kind and helpful. The hospital food was half decent, and eventually we got a private room where we felt we could get some kind of rest. The three of us were all exhausted, and Corey and I were both pretty emotional after everything we'd gone through, but the prevailing emotion was love.

We were discharged on Thursday afternoon and finally got to take our girl home. It was sad to come back to a house without Artemis, but Corey's parents had very kindly been watching her since the night before and a neighbor of ours had come by to take her out a few times on Monday.

We're slowly figuring out our normal, a process made more challenging due to recovering from major abdominal surgery, but so far we've been managing and Cedar is still alive. That's five days now that we've managed not to kill the new human, and I'm feeling carefully optimistic.

So now, I present to you, the light at the end of our tunnel:

Cedar Ashmead McClain Ticknor
Born on September 27th at 7:10am via emergency c-section
weighing in at 6lbs 5.5 oz
20.4 inches long

Friday, September 23, 2016

Week 41 - Still Pregnant...

Well, here we are, week 41 all done and still no new human on the outside. For those who are concerned, I can't stress enough how normal this is. One of the many things I appreciate about the health care I have received throughout this pregnancy is that from the very first time I saw a health professional about this pregnancy it was made clear to me that it's perfectly normal for first time moms to go to 41 or 42 weeks. So, I basically had nine months to wrap my head around the idea that having a mid-September due date really meant that the entire month of September was game.

What surprises me is how calm I feel (today) about the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, part of me secretly wished that Speck would arrive a bit early, and I had a day or two this week where I was feeling pretty damned done with the whole pregnancy piece (more on that in a bit), but for the most part, I'm surprisingly ok with the idea that this kiddo will choose to arrive sometime in the next week or so and I have no control over when that is.

The one thing I'd like to avoid is being medically induced (if possible, and only because I've heard it makes labor far more intense and increases the chances of a c-section - not that there's anything wrong c-sections, but I would simply like to avoid a major surgery if at all possible) so there are a few things I'm doing to try to kickstart things before we reach that point. However, for the most part, I've reached a point of calm about this kid choosing her/his time.

However, earlier this week I was not feeling so zen, and my due date buddy and I were texting each other madly comparing notes on what was happening to our bodies and whether or not it meant we were going into labor soon. The funny thing about waiting to go into labor is that suddenly, everything seems like it could be a sign that you're going into labor. From cramping (actually a labor sign), to backaches (also a labor sign), to bitchiness (probably not a labor sign, but we decided it could be), to the position and phase of the moon, stars, and intensity of solar flares (definitely not signs), once one is past one's due date, all things point to OMG I'M GOING TO HAVE MY BABY IMMEDIATELY. In other words everything seems like it CAN be a sign of imminent labor, and many things are, but the same list of things that are can also be... wait for it... just third trimester pregnancy symptoms.

Damn you, pregnancy; you're a misleading asshole sometimes.

So, with the terrible I-word looming at the 42 week mark, one of the games one plays in week 41 is: what are all the ways to naturally induce labor and HOW DO I FIT THEM ALL INTO THE SAME HOUR?

The answers to that question could fill an entire book, and virtually none of them have been scientifically backed by a small thing known as evidence. However, the most popular highlights include (but are not limited to): sex, spicy food, evening primrose oil, raspberry leaf tea, bouncing on an exercise ball, walking a lot, and also sex (yep, it's in there twice). So, many ladies who are ready to meet their newborn try to combine as many of these things into as short a period of time as possible in order to attempt to speed things up. The funny thing is, they've only been proven to work if your body is ready for labor anyway (in other words, you're probably not speeding the process up by much, just triggering what was already about to happen anyway). Still, as a number of those things aren't exactly unpleasant in their own right, lots of women like to see if they'll bring about labor. My due date buddy and I were no exceptions this past week. We tried them all.

In an odd mathematical coincidence I've walked a total of 37km this week and 37km last week, totaling 74km over the weeks leading up to and away from my due date. If you hadn't guessed it yet, walking is my favorite of the "how to induce labor naturally" tips. I won't give you stats on the other activities, but there have been plenty of those too.

A new thing I learned in the past week or two is that when you are due date buddies with someone you were already good friends with, TMI ceases to be a thing. You talk about bodily fluids and functions with such detail and candor that there's nothing left to wonder about. It's nice to know you're not alone in all the gross shit that your body is doing and when every new tingle or gush could be the sign of labor starting you get into the oversharing really fast. Or maybe that's just us, but hey, I found it fascinating and excellent bonding experience.

So along with the excitement/frenzy of trying to induce labor naturally, the first half of week 41 (before I found my zen) was also full of some post-due date angst, and even now that I'm ok with waiting, there's still a feeling of being in limbo at this point. I have projects that I'd like to work on, that I don't necessarily want to start because I know it might be a while before I pick them up again. I just finished the full length novel translation that I had been working on since August and I feel like I deserve a break after that, but I also feel like I should take advantage of the last few newbornless days in order to get some work done. And then I think that I should enjoy some time to relax before the newborn arrives instead, but then I feel guilty if I go through a day without working on any of my writing projects. Yep. It's a strange kind of purgatory.

In the meantime, I started fantasizing a bit about what it would be like to not be pregnant any more... To be able to wait hours between trips to the bathroom... to be able to stand up from the couch without sounding like a bear wrestling a greased up beach ball... to have a glass of wine or a beer*... to be able to go for a run without feeling like my belly is going to fall off or like an infant is going to fall out of my vagina, and to stop retaining so much damned water.

Oh yeah, water retention is a thing that started up in the past two weeks. I managed to miss out on it for most of this pregnancy. I've been super conscientious about staying hydrated, as well as just plain lucky in that regard, but now my hands and feet are swollen all the time (enough to make it a struggle to get my rings on and off) and get worse with certain activities and I feel like my whole body is just a bit bigger and softer. Since I haven't changed my eating habits here at the end of pregnancy (and if anything I'm eating a bit less than I was earlier in the third trimester) I think it's safe to say that this is water retention, but regardless, I am looking forward to it stopping.

Finally, for this week's bump photo I am going to showcase a few highlights from our late, impromptu maternity photo shoot with the incomparable Sam Baardman. Sam is a good friend of ours who happens to be a great photographer, and also happened to have just acquired a new camera that he wanted to play with, and thus a maternity photo shoot was born. He took over 700 pictures, sent us 28 of them, and I will only feature a handful of them here, but we were so happy with the results. Many of them are goofy because we are goofy people. They are all from the 39 week mark, but I figure you won't mind.

*and for anyone who wants to warn me off having a drink with dinner while breastfeeding, please go find some real research about it (and not just a web search that confirms your bias) before you get all up in arms 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Week 40

This is the end... beautiful friends, the end...

Ok, well, Doors references aside, it may or may not be the end. My due date is today, but of course, that doesn't mean that much when it comes to what Speck wants to do. It's also a full moon, so who knows. Perhaps Speck will feel the pull and things will start up.

My friend who is due the same day I am and I are texting each other back and forth with symptoms we think might be the onset of labor. Sadly, many of these symptoms are also just the symptoms of pregnancy, so it's really just an excuse to text each other.

Either way I figure I should get this post written now just so that no one will get their hopes up about Speck arriving simply because I was late posting to the blog this week. This is the post. If I produce a new human anytime soon I'll post about it here sometime next week. If I don't produce a new human I'll post normal week 41 post discussing just how common it is for first time pregnant ladies to go a week or two past their due dates. (And seriously, it's really common, so don't be too surprised if I get through weeks 41 and 42 before you see a new human on here.)

For now though, this week was largely an experience in doing a ton of last minute preparation for having a baby, being tired, walking a lot, and experiencing lots of practice labor.

Also, Speck rolled back over to LOA for my last midwife appointment (on Tuesday) and seems to be there at the moment, but I am fairly certain that Speck has been ROA at least once since Tuesday and is shifting back and forth at her/his leisure. I'm spending a lot of time sitting on my exercise ball and lying on my left side in order increase the odds of Speck being LOA when it comes time for this whole process to start, but the ease with which Speck changes things up has me a little bit disconcerted. (And since I started writing this post Speck now appears to be ROA again. What gives little one? Why you rotate so much?)

In the meantime, Speck is otherwise doing quite well. Heart rate was totally normal at our last appointment and Speck seems to be "a good size" according to the latest midwife assessment. My blood pressure is in my normal range and I'm feeling pretty good, so I guess we're ready for this kiddo to show up any time.

I repacked my hospital (read: birth center) bag today, and yesterday I repacked Speck's diaper bag, because the first time I packed them was pretty half hearted. This time I did it a bit more carefully, though to be fair, knowing that we'll get sent home from the birth center 4-6 hours post Speck arrival makes me not worry about it too much. My needs are pretty minimal, but we do need to do a snack related grocery run.

And, in other news, we finally got a dresser (which we will be using as a changing table also) for Speck. This is fabulous because I was finally able to put away all the wonderful hand me down clothes we've been sent, as well as the cloth diapering supplies. YAY! So our basement feels a little more like a place to hang out with a newborn a little less like the random place we shoved all of our crap.

So we're starting to feel ready as we tick off the long list of things that need to be done and we're pretty excited to meet this new human out in the open. So fingers crossed that when the time comes all goes smoothly.

Speaking of which, today I acquired a (rental) TENS machine which, for those who have never heard of one, or only know of them for PhysioTherapy purposes, are devices that send an electric impulse through the skin of your lower back during labor in order to raise endorphin levels in order to combat pain. Some women swear by them, some women say they don't work at all. Apparently results vary. But renting one was pretty cheap, so I figured it can't hurt to try it. Or, rather, it might be nice to know I have one on hand in case my meditative practice doesn't seem to be cutting it. To be honest, I don't like the idea of relying on something external for pain relief, so I'm rather hoping I don't need to use it, but I do like the idea of having a back up plan that doesn't require drugs... So I have it, and now I hope I won't need it.

On that note, I'd just like to point out, because I'm not sure when the last time I said it here was, that I don't think there's anything wrong with women using all the joys of modern medicine to get themselves through labor if they choose to/need to, etc. You do whatever you have to do in order to have a safe, healthy, delivery and it's not up to me to decide what safe or healthy is, that's between you and your healthcare provider. Seriously, no judgement.

What I do feel judgmental about is how as a society we've made it seem like going for the least medical birth possible is somehow irresponsible, or crazy, when it's what women have been doing for as long as there have been humans. We have quite literally evolved with this purpose in mind, and the species would not have succeeded as well as it has were we not pretty good at it, overall. Of course, modern medicine has made a lot of births that would normally have resulted in the death of the mother or child or both, quite a bit safer and more survivable, and that's a wonderful thing. Yet that doesn't mean that the majority of women and their babies can't get through labor and birth without any medical intervention. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that there will be a hospital within a five minute ambulance ride of where I will be giving birth, but I also love that unless it becomes medically necessary I won't have to set foot in a hospital in order to deliver this kiddo.

It's funny, one of the things that bothered me most about my care before I was able to get a midwife was the (completely understandable) feeling that my doctors were shooing me out the door because I was perfectly healthy, I was just pregnant. It bothered me not because it's wrong, pregnant women are indeed perfectly healthy and I appreciate that attitude, but because it left me with unanswered questions about the process my body was undertaking. It makes total sense for people whose job it is to cure the sick, to tell the healthy pregnant woman that she's fine and send her on her way. But the feeling is mutual, and hospitals are for people who aren't well, not perfectly healthy ones, and as a "perfectly healthy" pregnant lady I see no reason for me to be in the hospital unless shit turns south. (Which is a real possibility, so I'm extremely grateful, again, that there will be a hospital within easy reach.)

Anyway, those are just my feelings on the matter, and I maintain that women should be able to labor wherever they are most comfortable. If being in the hospital gives a woman a sense of comfort because she knows the medical staff is right there, then she should do that. If she prefers a birth center where the medical staff is only a stone's throw away, she should do that. If she wants to labor at home where she is the most relaxed and comfortable, she should do that. Do whatever you need to do, my fellow pregnant ladies! My point is, we should all have a choice, be informed, and be given the chance to have whatever kind of birth we want, but I don't feel like north american society does that particularly well.

I, certainly, had never heard any useful information about giving birth anywhere but in a hospital right up until I got pregnant. Until then I had heard some random comments, offhand remarks, and useless stereotypes, but that's about it. I had to do some serious digging to get any objective information (until I wound up in midwifery care, where they handed me lots of information about all three birth location options) and the only reason I considered digging up extra info on birthing outside of a hospital at all was because of references in the hypnobirthing books, and also in one of the pregnancy groups I'm a member of. And, the only reason I even looked into hypnobirthing was because of my general curiosity as a human. I heard the name and thought, that sounds stupid, but what is it actually? So I did a bit of research and then thought, well the name is terrible but that sounds completely sensible. So, yeah. Points for curiosity, but why doesn't anyone tell young women about this stuff? Why aren't we provided with more information about our options and why does the media portray non-hospital births as wacky?

Ok. Rant over.

Anyway, it is now past midnight, so officially my due date, and I'm going to go lie on my left side for a while to try to get Speck into LOA just in case Speck decides to join us tomorrow. In the meantime here is a bumpie from today. Not very glamorous, and I seem to have given myself an extra chin thanks to body angling, but hey that's the truth of the third trimester I'm afraid.

Will it be the last bump picture???? We shall see... Come on, SUPERMOON!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Week 39

Just so you don't think I've gone into labor already, I figure I should get this up and out into the world.

Speck is still on the inside.

Week 39 was busy with work, but still dotted with lots of napping and included my first pregnancy 'freak out over nothing but get checked anyway just to be sure.'

So, to start with last weekend involved some weekend festivities in which I got a lot of weird looks from people because my non-alcoholic beers looked a lot like real beer. Part of me wants to wear a t-shirt in that situation that reads "no, it's not real beer" and part of me just wants to tell everyone to fuck off for their judgmental stares. The part of me that wins is the third part that actually just doesn't give a crap. In related news, I found two new fake beers that are pretty tasty! (Why oh why did I only find them when I've got 1-3 weeks of this left?!?) Anyway, it turns out the same company that makes the delicious non-alcoholic radler that I enjoy so much also makes a fake heffeweizen and a fake pilsner that are both pretty good (though I prefer the heffe personally). Krombacher for the win! So for any pregnant ladies reading this who are still in need of some good fake beer, go check those options out and see what you think.

Sunday involved driving three hours away to go visit a friend who is in the hospital (on the mend, thankfully) which brought up an interesting question that made the imminence of this whole thing resulting in a baby strangely real: What do we do if I go into labor while we're three hours from home? Well, the short answer was we bring the carseat, the hospital bag, and the baby bag and deal with it as it comes up. If there's time to get back to Winnipeg, great. If not, hey, we're already at a hospital!

As I've already told you that Speck is still on the inside, it's obvious that nothing happened, but it was a bit unsettling to have to acknowledge that this is close enough to happening that we needed to have all of our gear with us, just in case.

Anyway, there and back no problem, no labor, and Monday I went straight back to work on translation stuff (yes, I know it was labor day, no that doesn't mean I gave myself the day off). So, I've been squeezing work in wherever I can these days, and the thing I am squeezing it into tends to be between naps and dog walks. I am not sleeping very well at night (hence why I'm writing this at 3am) and then I am taking multiple 2-3 hour naps during the day. I have to say, I'm happy that I'm able to get sleep at any point in the day, whether or not it's a night. I am getting enough sleep that I generally feel well through most of the day, but some days my brain doesn't feel like it kicks in properly and then I try to put off my contract work until I've got enough thinking power to do my job well. So, that's a thing.

Meanwhile, I spend lots of time on my exercise ball to save my back and hips and still try to walk the dog a long ways during the day to keep the body from seizing up.

On Wednesday I went to my midwife appointment and all was well. Speck seems to be doing fine and my blood pressure is normal etc. The only minorly troubling thing was that Speck, though still head down, had switched from what's known as LOA to what's known as ROA. I won't get too into the details of this one, but for those who don't know, babies can be in all kinds of positions before labor, and the position they are in when labor starts can greatly affect how long labor takes and how "comfortable" it is (or not) for the woman giving birth. LOA is considered optimal for a shorter, more efficient labor. ROA is not. If you would like more information on these positions the internet is full of it, please enjoy some online research.

Speck had been LOA for weeks prior to this last appointment, so I was disappointed to find out that Speck had moved to a position that was likely to draw labor out for me. But my midwife is awesome and had some great tips on how to encourage Speck to head back on over to LOA. So I went home being not too worried and excited to try some things out.

Fast forward to that same night and I explain to Corey what the different positions are and why I'm concerned and decide to demo the forward inversion (putting my ass in the air and my head on the ground in order to give Speck the freedom to move a bit - totally dignified, makes an excellent party trick) that my midwife has shown me. That all goes fine, but right afterwards Speck is moving a ton and suddenly feels like s/he is no longer engaged (head nestled cozily in my pelvis) and seems to be splaying out sideways and OH HOLY SHIT I'VE RUINED EVERYTHING MY BABY IS NOW TRANSVERSE. Ahem, or so I thought to myself.

I proceeded to freak out for most of Wednesday night and well into Thursday. So far into Thursday, actually, that I only finally called my midwife around 4pm after my doula convinced me it was a good idea and she wouldn't mind. My midwife was wonderful, calmed me down, and booked me in to see her on Friday to check and see where Speck was and make sure all was well. She also suggested I walk as much as possible to see if Speck settled back into my pelvis.

Sure enough, come Friday's appointment (which I walked to because it was 10km round trip and I thought it would be the easiest way to follow the midwife's advice) Speck is back in place, still head down, and engaged once more, and... still ROA. But the midwife answered all of my questions, and we talked through things enough that I am now confident that if Speck needs help turning I can do another inversion and not be worried that Speck will do somersaults and wind up breech or something. (Turns out there's just not enough room in there for Speck to easily turn into any of the really bad positions -- it wouldn't be impossible, but it's highly unlikely -- so even though Speck will likely move around a fair bit after being dislodged via an inversion, Speck will ultimately settle head down again and hopefully just turn to LOA first if I do things right and Speck isn't feeling too stubborn.)

So, that was my completely unnecessary freak out. I would feel embarrassed, but it's been my only one so far this pregnancy and I swear, if you had felt the way this kid was moving around after her/his head came free you would have been freaking out too. I figure I get at least one freak out pass and that was it.

Ok. That takes us to Friday, which was my changeover day finishing up week 39 so I think it's safe to call this post done. And now it's 3:24am and I am finally feeling tired enough to go to sleep, so I am going to do that. (In fact I'm tired enough that I question the coherence of the last part of this blog.) Here's this week's bump pic:

Bonus dog!

Next week could be a normal week on the blog or the bump pic could be on the outside! Only time will tell... 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Week 38

Well, I'm actually managing to get week 38 on time, which is surprising to me. I'm still working on my translation project, but I need breaks now and again, so I might as well get this post written. Also, week 38 has been a little bit crazy.

Speck has dropped, or is dropping, I'm not sure what counts as fully dropped but I'll ask my midwife at my next appointment. The first phase happened overnight. I went to bed on Monday night with Speck riding above my pelvis and woke up to this:

It may not be easy to tell from where you are, but my lower abs have turned into a funnel pointing straight towards my crotch. This was not happening before. 

As if to confirm my suspicions my cervix felt like it was getting twisted and pinched on and off all day Tuesday. My midwife informs me that it's not actually being twisted or pinched, but rather those feelings come from it preparing itself for labor (ie. working on effacing and dilating) so it's a good thing even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.

Since Tuesday I have felt... less comfortable than before. My lower back has started to ache, something I had been blissfully free of for most of this pregnancy. My hips are even less comfortable than they were and sleep is even harder to come by (almost impossible on many nights, but I did manage to get at least 6 hours last night). Apparently this is all normal especially once something the size of a baby has decided to bury its head in your pelvis. So, yeah, I am starting to think Speck could arrive any time (although Speck is still statistically likely to stay in til 40 weeks or later) and I would be ok with Speck arriving on the sooner side in terms of bodily comfort. (Although there are a number of things that will be less comfortable for a bit after Speck arrives.)

Which brings me to some of the fun adventures I've had this week:
  • Buying adult diapers

    Curious about this one? So, there are lots of things that people never tell you about pregnancy, but I've found that the largest number of surprises lie in what people don't talk about postpartum. For example, did you know that by the time a woman gives birth to a child her uterus is over 1000 times the size it is when not pregnant? Well, after you give birth, it starts shrinking, and also, as it shrinks, it sheds the lining that it's used to incubate the new human it was growing for the last 9 months. So... yeah... that's a period TIMES 1000. In other words, you bleed a lot for a while. So much so, that regular pads aren't going to do the job (tampons are off the table entirely) and adult diapers become a thing that you need before the age of 85. So, yeah, I bought adult diapers yesterday, so that I have some ready for the aftermath of this epic endurance event I will be participating in at some point in the next 4 weeks. Boy do I feel sexy now.

  • Making padcicles:

    In addition to the fun bleeding copious amounts via ones crotch, one also gets to experience the joys of having pushed a melon sized object out of a decidedly not melon sized hole. The results of this can be anything from bruising, to mild tearing, to having had a giant cut made and then sutured up, and are bound to be... tender no matter what version or combination of those results you experience (and the bruising is apparently guaranteed even if you're lucky enough to miss out on the rest). This is why I've been doing my perineal massage folks. I'm trying to reduce the likelihood of the more dire results here. But, still, no matter what I do to prepare, I'm going to be sore after this, so... padcicles are a thing. What thing are they? They are maxipads soaked in witch hazel and slathered in aloe and then put in the freezer for a good long time. It's like a freezy pop for your vagina.

    I had never heard of them before becoming pregnant, but they have now been recommended to me by many women, and I think they sound blissful for a beat up crotch. I'll let you know how they do after the fact, but I have a stack of them in my freezer ready to go. Very strange thing to have in one's freezer.
So yesterday was a weird day, as on top of buying adult diapers, and assembling a bunch of padcicles, I felt strange all day, and even though I was able to walk 5km with the dog and such, nothing ever felt comfortable, I had a few practice contractions, my back ached, my body cleared out my digestive track in a quick and impressive fashion, and I generally spent the day wondering if any of it was going to turn into early labor or if it was all just twinges. Seems like it was all just twinges, but today I feel the same. Also super tired and needing lots of naps which I am allowing myself to take because if I do go into labor any time soon I want to be as rested as possible before hand. It's making getting work done pretty difficult, but I'm trying anyway.

I am seriously considering going for a prenatal massage soon, just to help me relax and get more rest before Speck arrives. That might be on the docket for next week. Perhaps I will treat myself once I've finished this translation project.

Ok, enough about the discomfort. Onto other things!

Like how generous our friends and family are.

Honestly, thanks to the generosity of our family and friends over the past few months we have hardly had to buy anything at all for this kiddo. We are getting ALL THE HAND-ME-DOWNS and it is making life awesome. I cringe at the thought of buying a bunch of new stuff for an infant that will only use any of it for a few weeks or months max. I LOVE that so many people are willing to give us all the stuff that they've already used for their kids. On Tuesday night we got a huge haul of stuff from some local friends and could barely fit it all in the car. I think Speck now has everything Speck could possibly need until age 3 or so. 

I'm particularly happy that we have filled out our cloth diaper collection and have only put down $40 but thanks to friends and family who have handed along their old supplies we have ALL the cloth diapering supplies we'll need until Speck is using the toilet. Amazing. Many people spend between $200 and $400 outfitting themselves for cloth diapers. Between buying and receiving used supplies we have saved SOOO much money. Yay reusing! 

Ok. So, yeah, we're excited about that. We've even purchased supplies to make our own cloth wipes and cloth wipe solution. As two DIY nerds from way back, I think we're getting extra excited about all the DIY aspects of cloth diapering. 

Alright, I'm sure I'm forgetting something (I feel like I'm perpetually forgetting things at this stage), but my body is telling me that it's nap time, and I am inclined to let it have it's way. Then it'll be time for lunch, dog walking and an attempt to get more work done. 

Here is a bump photo from today! It honestly feels as though Speck is dropping a bit more every day, and today I woke up and felt like my bump was smaller. 

Or maybe I'm just losing my mind. I think either option is equally likely.

Anyway, that's all for week 38. See you in week 39! I might make Corey do another guest blog sometime soon, so that's something to look forward to. ;-)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Week 37

So week 37... I have been so buried in work I barely remember what week 37 was like.

I did a video for you (sorry it's 10 minutes long - I edited it, but super basic editing, nothing fancy) and if you have the time and really want to see what week 37 looks like it's probably a pretty good example, because boy do I seem tired and lackluster throughout. (Also, holy crap is my rack really that big?)

The details are within, and I apologize if you generally enjoy the blog at work and don't have time for a 10 minute video.

I worked all weekend, which is why this post is late to begin with, and I didn't have time to write out my usual spew of words. So you get a video and a week 37 bump pic taken by hubby.

And I'm going to get back to this project that has a deadline looming that I am just barely keeping up with.

Short version: I'm doing pretty well, all things considered.

And here's the bump picture:

And hopefully I'll have time to get the week 38 post done on time and in the more regular fashion. Until then, dear readers! Until then... 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Week 36

Well, it's after midnight so I suppose this is a Monday post, and thus, a few days late. However, after being so breathtakingly on time for the two weeks that I was road tripping, I feel... not terrible about this Monday post.

Week 36... where to start?

It has been a bit of a mixed bag, that's for sure. Though, again, I'm so grateful that I'm mostly doing quite well, and that all my symptoms seem to be mild compared to what many pregnant women experience.

That said, third trimester is getting real and... there's only one month of this left. Actually, crazily, at the end of this week I will be 37 weeks, which means that Speck will be full term, which means that it's totally fine for Speck to show up any time after Friday. So, basically any day between Friday and six weeks from now would be perfectly normal arrival dates for Speck. Holy shit. That's incredibly soon no matter which of those days it happens on.

So, things that I have experienced in the past week:

1. Practice labor - because practice makes perfect! For those unfamiliar with the joys of the third trimester, the fun can start super early, and a pregnant woman's body, while preparing for the whole birthing process, can start contractions just for funzies. It's sort of like a systems check. Your body is like, "Hey, are you aware that this is a thing that's going to happen? Are we prepared? Are all systems working properly? How about now? Or now?" And you're like, "WTF is this? Why do I feel like I'm getting period cramps while getting punched in the cervix from the inside? Is this labor? Is this what labor feels like?" And then you lie down and drink a bunch of water and it slowly goes away. Which is how you know it's NOT labor. Then you go about your business, read up on practice labor vs. real labor just to make sure that you're not losing your mind, and then wait for it to happen again, because it will. (And just to be safe you might download a contraction timer to your phone so that you can easily make sure that the contractions are going away and not getting closer together.)

2. Breathlessness - Speck doesn't seem to have dropped yet. (Something that may be in the process of happening - hence all the cervix punches I've been experiencing.) While Speck is still riding high, my lungs are super squished and on top of that all the extra blood etc, makes oxygenating the blood I've got extra work and I get out of breath for no reason at all, and it's frustrating.

I was watching the Olympics a lot last week, and while I was duly impressed with all the true athleticism I was witnessing in Rio there were times when I felt I deserved an Olympic gold simply for getting up from the couch by myself, or putting on a pair of pants without injury. Yep... and this is form someone who has actually completed an Olympic distance triathlon and two half marathons. Pregnancy takes a lot out of a person.

3. Exhaustion - much like the first trimester, I am back to having a very limited amount of energy in any given day, and I need to nap a lot. This is a combination of reacting to another huge surge in hormones that comes at the end of pregnancy, and the fact that sleep is fairly elusive at this point (I'll get to that in the next list point). So, getting my work done, walking the dog, and feeding myself successfully in one day can feel like an overwhelming set of tasks (especially since it can only be accomplished by way of a two hour nap in the middle of it all). I do manage to get all three done on most days though.

4. Insomnia - Ok. I'm hesitant to call it insomnia because I can fall asleep, I just can't stay that way for very long. Though, there are nights where I don't even feel tired until after 3am, which makes it feel more like actual insomnia. Last night I finally caved and took benadryl before bed (as a soporific) and was rewarded with a few 3-4 hour sessions of continuous sleep interrupted by only having to pee twice. It was blissful. Generally speaking, between having to pee and hip discomfort I'm waking up five times a night and never feeling like I've reached deep sleep. :-(

5. General discomfort - along with the breathlessness and the hips and back aching, I just generally feel like I'm about to pop. Speck moves lots (which is nicely reassuring) but as there gets to be less and less room available for speck I feel like I'm being beaten up on the inside a bit. It doesn't really hurt (except for the odd sharp twinge) but it feels deeply uncomfortable and when added to everything else, makes it difficult to rest.

6. EATING EVERYTHING - Speck is growing rapidly still and apparently it is now my job to EAT ALL THE THINGS in order to feed Speck's growth spurt. This is generally fine with me, except that my stomach fills to capacity pretty quickly and then my digestive system takes forever to process things and I feel uncomfortably full for hours at a time. (Note: My stomach doesn't fill so fast that I can't find a way to shove an entire large pizza in there... on a day when I've already eaten a fairly large salad a few hours before...)

Soooo delicious... I could order another one right now...

Delicious salad made even better by watching the Olympics (feels even healthier to watch others exercise while eating vegetables)

7. Hot flashes - Yep. More hormones, and I'm getting random hot flashes again. Not too many, but they still weird me out. Suddenly feeling the need to strip down to as little clothing as possible for reasons that don't involve jumping into a body of a water, or jumping someone's bones, throws me for a loop.

So, that's the list of symptoms. In other news, we finally bought a car seat, and at the same time discovered a baby store that did not make me want to vomit (if you're curious as to why that is, I'll give you a hint, a decided lack of pink was involved). However, everything in the store was incredibly high priced, except for the car seats, which appeared to be the same price as anywhere else. Feels good to finally have that done, although, again, holy crap, this baby is coming in no time. PANIC!

In fun-stuff-good-times news, Speck appeared to be head down at our last midwife appointment and the midwife said Speck seemed a good size. My uterus continues to measure normal for dates and my bp was normal (and no longer on the super low side of normal, which is apparently... wait for it... normal- yay for WORDS THAT MEAN VERY LITTLE!). :-) Long story short, Speck and I both appear to be in good health.

In the category of shit that you probably don't want to read unless you are pregnant yourself or planning to become so soon, or are really into the weird personal details of pregnancy... Perineal massage! Now there's something I never thought I'd have to do... (If you don't know what it is, please look it up, I... just don't have the right words.) Right, so I gave this a shot and found it to be extremely awkward in terms of contorting my body to get things done. I have not done it again since. However, Corey is now on my case about it because he read the part in the birthing books that said "DO THIS OR REGRET YOUR LIFE CHOICES FOREVER AFTERWARDS, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!" So, I need to do it, but I'm reluctant because it's a pain in the... vag? Anyway, it's annoying. I'm going to try to be better about it though, because I really don't want a. an episiotomy, b. serious vaginal tearing, or c. some terrible combination of the two. Of course, doing it doesn't guarantee that those things won't happen, but it does reduce the likelihood enough that it's worth doing, and I should really remind myself of that. Sigh... Coconut oil is going to ruined for me after this I can tell.

Well, that's about it from week 36 I think. Here's the bumpie from last Wednesday as Corey and I failed to take a weekend bump picture. I will try to bug him about it this week and see if we can get one because I think it's nice to have the same background comparison etc, but at least I have some photographic evidence of looking pregnant. Please enjoy forward facing and side facing angles!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Week 35

Well, I'm managing to post this on time because Corey and I busted our butts in order to make it all the way home last night. To be fair, Corey busted his butt in terms of driving (we were doing a very even split all day, but when it came to the final push I had to bow out) and I busted my butt in terms of trying not to go insane with discomfort in the passenger seat in the last two hours of a 15 hour drive. I'd say we put in equal effort really.

So, we're home, finally, and with two full days to recuperate before going back to work. Well, ok, Corey gets two days to recuperate, and I have to get back to work today, but whatever we still get to take it slow and hang out a bit without being in the car, so we're calling it a weekend.

The question you're all probably dying to have answered is: how did a two week road trip in the third trimester of pregnancy actually go?

The answer: pretty well, actually.

I mean look, it was still weeks 34 and 35 of pregnancy, so it was bound to have its downsides wasn't it? Just because I was traveling doesn't mean I got to leave behind pregnancy or any of the inconveniences that come with it. And I've never been pregnant before so I have no baseline for what weeks 34 and 35 would have been like without sitting in a car for hours at a time, sleeping on a thermarest in a tent, or staying in unfamiliar beds for two weeks. However, I do have a strong baseline for what those things are like outside of weeks 34 and 35 of pregnancy and I can tell you that they are not made in any way easier or more enjoyable by being pregnant. That said, they were still pretty fun.

Keep in mind I'm the kind of person who LOVES road trips when I'm not pregnant. If you were to walk up to non-pregnant me and say, "Hey, Virginia, I'm thinking about going on the road for a month, driving between 6 and 16 hours a day, and camping/sleeping in the car on my way across north america and I need a buddy to do it." I would reply, "Well, you have come to the right place, my friend. I am precisely the buddy for that kind of adventure." I might jump into your arms and hug you as well. I seriously love road trips and always have. My mom started me on them when I was young, and for many years it was a thing we did together. When I got old enough it was a thing I often did solo. I have driven across the US by myself a handful of times. I have been in all 48 contiguous states largely thanks to my road trips. I have traversed, alone and with friends/family, the east coast from north to south and back again. The west coast from south to north. Gone from coast to coast east to west and west to east, and many shorter trips in between. I've driven from just north of the Mexico border all the way into Canada. And from various spots in the US down into Mexico. I have now gone from Winnipeg to Toronto and back twice. I really desperately want to go coast to coast through Canada sometime in the not too distant future.

I think you get the idea. It's safe to say I love road trips.

So, I didn't think I was going to suddenly hate them while pregnant, and I was right. I was so happy to be road tripping, something that is a big piece of my identity pre-deciding to have a kid, that I was able to blissfully ignore most of the small discomforts that road tripping while pregnant brings with it.

But you folks are here precisely because of this whole pregnancy business, so while I may have ignored them or suppressed them to the best of my ability in order to do a thing that I love, I will still enumerate them here so that you don't get the wrong idea about smooth sailing through late pregnancy symptoms etc.

I could give you a play by play of the whole trip, but that would take forever, and I have bunch of work that I need to do, and you probably have places you need to be, so we'll just do two lists; one of lowlights, one of highlights, throw in a few pictures from the whole thing and call it a blog post. Shall we?

Lowlights (aka when pregnancy got the best of me on this trip):

  • sleep - funnily enough some of my best nights of sleep were in a tent, with benadryl to aid my slumber (and yes I did squeeze my pregnancy pillows into my sleeping bag with me, and yes it was totally worth it) but mostly sleep was elusive and shoddy for the whole two weeks. Naps helped a lot, and kept me functional and able to enjoy the rest of my time, but even my "best" nights of sleep were uncomfortable (holy crap! I didn't think my hips and lower back could hurt that much without pulling or dislocating something) and filled with far too many pee-breaks. Last night, our first night home in two weeks, was the best night of sleep I've gotten since we left and I still got up to pee 5 times. 
  • sitting in the car - normally, I love both my driving and non-driving car stints as I find them peaceful, scenic, and good excuses to get writing and reading done (I never get motion sickness and this may be one of the reasons that I'm such a fan of road trips). However, pregnancy has put a serious damper on this. I still don't get motion sickness, thank Gwen, but I find that I can't sit still for more than hour or so before my hips and back start to ache. I managed to stretch and shift enough in the car to make it through, but it was a challenge that it has never been before. I have never found myself so uncomfortable in a car. Last night, as we neared the end of our only 15 hour drive of the entire trip I was about ready to pull my own hair out to distract me from the pervasive discomfort in my hips and back. I stretched, I twitched, I pretzled myself, I did everything I could and I still felt like my hips were on fire. While my normal cut off for driving hours in a single day is around the 16-19 hour mark I would put my pregnant cut off at 10 (ideally 8 or fewer - really) or 12 if pushing things, but really no amount of car sitting was comfortable/enjoyable the way it usually is, it all came down to a question of how long I could suppress the discomfort. :-(
  • heartburn - I don't think this was road trip related except that heartburn is less likely to creep up when one is properly hydrated and staying properly hydrated when one is trying to make any forward progress in a car while pregnant is simply not possible unless one wishes to install a catheter system for the car. I had heartburn flare ups a few times on this trip and it appears that this is a fairly common symptom at this point in pregnancy. I hadn't had much yet in the third trimester and I now attribute that to staying hydrated. On a day when I am at home and have easy access to a toilet I drink between 3 and 5 liters of water easily every day. On a day when I am in a car for 8 hours or more I drink substantially less than that because to drink my normal amount would lead to needing to pull over 4 times an hour which is simply... not going to get you anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. I tried to drink a liter before we left camp in the morning, and then drink two more after we stopped for the night, with one more liter spread out slowly over the drive, but that generally wound up being too little too late in terms of my stomach acid deciding that it wanted to explore other regions of my body. When we were in civilization and restrooms abounded I managed to drink enough to not suffer heartburn too badly but there were two nights on the trip where it completely stopped me from sleeping. 
  • getting kicked in the crotch from the inside - a novel sensation to be sure, but some part of Speck making sudden and harsh contact with my cervix (best guess) hurt enough to double me over mid-stride, but at least had the decency to be a short lived experience. The first time this happened was on Wednesday of this week, and it has since happened a couple more times. I am not a fan. Speck has been warned that this is not acceptable behavior, but my guess is that Speck is bored and there's not much else to do in there aside from lash out at things and see what happens, there's also a chance this isn't Speck hitting me, but is something else entirely. I will mention it to my midwife at my next appointment, but I don't think it's anything too worrisome. 
  • the heat in Toronto - Ok, it was actually humidity in Toronto, since heat itself doesn't usually bother me (I'm a desert rat at heart), but 95 degrees with 95% humidity fucking sucks in the 35th week of pregnancy. It made sleep, and everything else, difficult and sticky. Thank goodness we were visiting some of our favorite people in the world, or it would have been easy to get down about the heat. As it was, it seemed like a mild nuisance in the midst of an otherwise lovely visit.
  • needing to pee a bajillion times a day/night -  I think this has been roundly covered in other points, but just in case anyone forgot about it between a few paragraphs ago and now... well, I haven't. I've already had to pee twice while writing this blog post. It's annoying even in the middle of a normal day working from home and on a road trip it's... well I think you understand. 
  • having to get up/down, bend over, get in/out of a car, or just roll over in bed with a 35 week pregnant belly - these simple motions are not only uncomfortable, they can often result in an uncomfortable kick fest from Speck, and make me alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) out of breath, nauseous, or feeling like all the blood in my body is made out of molasses. All I have to say is camping is a lot harder when bending over is hard and I am really fucking glad that I'm good at picking things up with my feet.
Ok, that's enough whinging about how my perfectly healthy pregnancy with minimal negative symptoms made my fabulous road trip harder than normal. Here are the highlights, along with some photos, so we can get back to the point where I said the whole thing was pretty good all in all. Because it really was a good trip and I don't want my attempt at keeping honest about pregnancy symptoms to make anyone think I didn't have a great time, or that I didn't appreciate just how lucky I was to be able to make the trip at all.

So here go the highlights - some are pretty general, others are very specific:
  • visiting awesome people - from our very first stop in Canyon Lake to our days in Ottawa and Toronto the best thing about this trip was getting to spend time with so many of our favorite humans. It is always nice to go out into the world and be reminded of how wonderful people are and to feel truly lucky in our friends and family. Speck is going to have a really great group of adults as role models and that's no small thing. 
  • eating amazing food - road trips for some people may mean cheap fast food eaten on the fly (and it has meant that for me many times too) but on this road trip we did food properly. Our first night of the trip we were treated to an amazing meal by our friends in Canyon Lake and we went out of our way to make/bring delicious road food so we weren't hurting for good meals even on the road. Then, at our various destinations our friends and family treated us to amazing meals at every turn. From fresh caught lake fish to delicious salads, fabulous curries to killer pizza, pan fried halloumi to pancakes with bacon in them, and gourmet burgers to specialty cheese stores, we did food right this entire trip. To cap things off I introduced Corey to the amazingness that is Tuco's Tacos in Sudbury on our way out of Toronto, a stop that he was dubious about at first, but quickly changed his tune when he put the first bite of taco into his mouth. (While I am sadly lacking in photos of most of our culinary adventures, I do have this one shot of our Taco experience. I ate most of them before I remembered to take a picture. That's how good they are.)

  • touristy things - I often skip the more touristy things that one can do in any given destination as I prefer to see what the locals are up to rather than tick of a list of "must sees," but it can be nice to do a bit of touristy sight seeing too, when one is in the Capital of a country for example. Here are some photo and video tidbits from our Ottawa days:

    You may have seen some of these from my last blog post, but fear not! There are new pictures coming in some of the next bullets.
  • camp/outdoorsy things - we didn't just tour around big cities with friends and family, we also camped with friends and family and went to the beach and stuff. These were honestly my favorite parts as I am very much a fan of spending time outdoors, and less interested in cities no matter how cool they are. Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures of the lovely camping we did with our Ottawa homies, which is too bad, because it was freaking wonderful part of the trip and produced many highlights for us both. Corey has some more photos on his phone, but they aren't easily accessible to me right now, so these two beach pics with dogs in them are all you get.

I do, however have a series of awesome photos of a beach day in Toronto with our good friends who are also 35 weeks along with their first baby.

These pictures lead nicely into my next highlight bullet point... 

  • visiting our good friends who are also 35 weeks into this whole first pregnancy thing - there is something particularly epic about sharing this adventure with two people that have been good friends of mine for 8 years and good friends of Corey's for... a whole lot longer than that. We've been in touch via the various wonders of technology throughout this crazy ride, but getting to hang out in person for five days was extra wonderful. This beach day was a highlight of a highlight and despite being a writer I cannot express to you in words how fabulous it was to be able to spend time with these two at this particular moment in our lives. We felt all the feels. 
  • the epic scenery that is the northern coast of Lake Superior and parts of northern Ontario - note that those are two pretty different locations, but they were both gorgeous and sadly... I did not get many pictures of the scenery as I was too busy soaking it all in. Corey snapped a few scenic shots and I might add them here later, but if not go ahead and do a google image search for Agawa Bay, Neys Provincial Park, and Algonquin Park, and you'll get an idea of how spectacular the scenery we enjoyed was. In the meantime, here's a shot of sunset in the Whiteshell that I managed to snap from inside the car last night on the way home (which is Manitoba, not Ontario, but hey you're stuck with what was on my phone camera instead of Corey's).

  • traveling with my partner - Corey and I travel very well together, it's one of the reasons we're still together after eight years. Our adventures together are a big part of why we work as a couple. After all we cut the teeth of our relationship on dropping everything and moving to Japan together, and traveling and exploring have always been mainstays in our life together. This was a small adventure when compared to many of our others, but was still an adventure, and something that we both needed and missed. It was also a good reminder that we make excellent adventure buddies, and that part of the reason we chose to try procreating was that we decided it would just be the next big adventure.
I'm certain that after two weeks of travel and not having even finished unpacking yet I am forgetting things. Pregnancy brain is great that way, and so is travel brain. But this post is sufficiently long, I'm now up to 5 pees and a lunch break since I started writing, and I'm going to go ahead and call it finished. Week 35 was wonderful and filled with lots of fabulous things.
Here is the week 35 bump pic! Taken just today, I think it shows off how swollen and tired I feel after so many days in the car, but hey, that's pregnancy for you. See you next week!