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Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Being Pregnant

So there are a few things you expect, and a few things that are never mentioned, and a few things that are not as advertised.

Yeah, morning sickness. The week before I got a positive pregnancy test, I was uncontrollably burpy. And a bit gassy. And certain things started sounding less good to eat. But mostly burpy, like I felt like I was belching every 20 minutes. By the end of that week, it was definitely cresting into vague nausea, but nothing that would keep me from doing my normal daily routine. Just a "hmmm, I feel a tad off today." Then we did the pregnancy test on Friday, May 20th. My temperature had not dropped that morning. My period was due that afternoon. And well, the test was positive. So we did a second one. Yes, still positive. Okay then. Project BorG has officially launched! Now what?

So I had a birthday party planned at Forbidden Island two days later. I figured this would either be terribly inconvenient or just the thing. Turns out, definitely slightly inconvenient. We grabbed Subway sandwiches before the Pirates movie, went to see Pirates 4, then headed to Forbidden Island. I was served my traditional birthday mai tai, which Erik surreptitiously drank for me. I enjoyed a virgin Missionary's Downfall and a virgin Painkiller. There were noshy bits and hanging out and getting massages from friends and generally a lovely day.

The next day, the morning sickness monster had me in its grips. I don't know if it was the Subway (which it turns out you're not supposed to eat deli meat when pregnant), or some noshy bit at FI, or just not staying sufficiently hydrated (most likely!), but I started my day feeling a bit off, sat down with my morning cup of joe and sipped it, reading email and waiting for the nausea to pass. Then I got up and went to the bathroom. Not feeling better. I figured if I sat very still and drank some water I'd be okay. Maybe a couple of nice pretzel thins. That didn't work, so I thought I'd take a little walk. Once outside, I decided to go lie down in the car for a bit. After being there a few minutes, I called Kaiser for suggestions. They suggested pretty much everything I'd tried that hadn't worked, so that wasn't good. I thought of going home, but didn't think I could drive. I called Erik to see if he could come pick me up. He did. I was in agony the whole way home. I tried lying in bed. I tried throwing up. It just kept getting worse rather than better. Finally, we called Kaiser back and they wanted me to come in to check for 1. ectopic pregnancy or 2. dehydration. Finally, after throwing up again, it started to ease off and Erik put some ginger ale in a glass and we shuffled off to Kaiser. Turns out, yes, I was really rather dehydrated. What isn't mentioned in a lot of stuff about morning sickness is that if you get dehydrated, it's going to be worse. Lots worse. And the trouble with that is, it's what you do the day before that really determines how dehydrated you get the next day after a long night's rest. Go to bed well hydrated and yes, you may wake up and pee three times in the night, but you'll likely feel better in the morning. After this little episode, my reusable cup/lid/straw combo became my constant companion. I took it to every meeting and out to most events. Virgin mojitos with Hansen's ginger ale, mint leaves, and lime became a nightly treat. And by and large, I weathered the first trimester nausea pretty darned well. I know it was also that I was just plain lucky. By week 9, I was feeling mostly back to normal and ready to get on with the rest of this adventure. There was one notable evening where I planned to make chicken and string beans for dinner, but opened the bag of string beans to find they'd gone moldy in the fridge and well... dinner was off. Eventually, I told Erik he could make whatever he wanted for dinner but that I wasn't having any. He said, "Well you have to eat something!" and I said, "I really don't." I spent the rest of the night curled up on the sofa and he eventually talked me into a couple of potstickers several hours later. But, all in all, two notable days of total tummy fail is just not bad at all. My recommendation: drink plenty of fluids. Lots and lots. Whatever it takes. It will probably save you.

However, there are several pregnancy weirdnesses no one ever mentions. Number one on that list is round ligament pain. I'd never heard of it, and then around 11 weeks in, I suddenly got a stabbing pain in my belly. Now, everyone knows, the first trimester is dicey. At any moment the body can say, "Oops, too many mistakes. Let's start over." and the game is off and you're back to ground zero. Getting stabbing pains seems like a bad sign. Turns out, it's perfectly normal, but rarely discussed. As the uterus starts it's truly bizarre growth, it pushes stuff out of the way and tips out and this ligament stretches and grows. This is one of those you're fine... you're fine... you're fine... wait, Ow! What the heck was that?! things. This isn't supposed to start until the second trimester, but I suppose I'm just lucky that way. Also, there are weird days where my belly button just aches. This is also apparently completely normal.

Really, the whole first trimester kind of sucks. First, you pee a lot. What's more, every time you pee for 90 days straight, you get to check the toilet paper to see if you're bleeding, to check if the whole thing has gone wrong. It's a tad nerve wracking. There you are, 20 times a day, checking, thinking, "Nope, still good." But every time, I wondered, is this the time? And then one morning I woke up and there was some spotting. I spent the day a wreck wondering if this was it. I scoured the web and found some things saying that this might be normal, but best to get it checked. I called Kaiser and got the "unless it moves from spotting to really bleeding, it's probably normal. Just don't have sex for the next 3 days." Still, all day, and the next, and the next, I wondered and waited. And it sucked. But then it was fine and we had our next prenatal appointment on July 18th, and sure enough, there was still a proto-human in there paddling around.

Another thing is that as your breasts get ready to be more than merely decorative, they hurt ALL THE TIME. I'm one of those people who get sore breasts when I'm about to start my period. It usually lasts two to four days, then things are back to normal. This time, that all started at the normal time, but then it didn't go away. It didn't go away for four months. For those playing along at home, that means instead of four days of discomfort, we're talking 110 days of discomfort. And what I learned here is that I hug a lot of people. And each time, for four months straight, it hurt like heck. Folks casually bumping into you is jaw clenchingly painful rather than "oops". Meanwhile, they're sore because they're growing. I went from a nice tidy little 34B to a 34D in the course of 90 days. Things have mellowed out for now, but there was a bit of fear about whether or not this was actually going to do this for the whole 9 or 10 months. Turns out, nope, it eased off starting with the second trimester. But yikes!

And remember the part about being burpy back at the beginning? Well that mild burpy, tootiness translated into full scale constipation a week later. The digestive system went on holiday and left me to figure out what to do next. Luckily, about this time, my usual lunch stopped appealing and I was driven to go visit an old favorite on campus - the Beckman Bistro. Turns out, the little space alien growing inside had pretty strong opinions about food, and she loves Mexican food. It's a rare day I go without it. My daily lunch became a chicken taco with a side of whole pinto beans. Luckily, the bistro serves that up for just $4, and I can build in a daily exercise routine to go with that. I climb all the stairs in the Clark Center - 8 stairwells, 3 stories up apiece - on my way to lunch. This means I get a least a 20 minute walk and stairs workout before lunch every day. It has done wonders for getting the system up and moving again, but early on, there were some desperate moments where all I wanted out of life was to move last week's food to the outside of my body by any means possible. Luckily, the space alien and I can agree on our love of pinto beans and all is better now.

On the subject of food, this is definitely different for everyone, but I have to say, I want nothing to do with a hamburger anytime in the near future. The siren call of the In-n-Out is dead to me for now. In the first month, we had several things spoil in the fridge - chicken breasts, sausages, ground beef - all because it never looked like the right thing to put together for dinner. Prior to this, we'd routinely had chicken breast with a thin slice of ham and a slice of swiss on top, broiled together for a few minutes with a side of broccoli for dinner. It was a satisfying, low calorie dinner. I haven't eaten that in 20 weeks. In general, any big hunk of meat appeals less than nearly anything else. I'd much sooner have pasta with veggies or a nice Indian dish than a steak. On the other hand, the traditional pickles and ice cream also holds no appeal and shows no sign of becoming interesting. Fish seems more interesting, but not shellfish. But Mexican food I could eat for two meals a day and never grow weary. There were a lot of taco nights at home in the first three months. Soy chorizo is also awesome for tacos - all the flavor with none of that pesky meat. Overall though, it's been remarkably easy to feed me, all things considered.

So speaking of Subway, the whole admonition to avoid deli meat (and a host of other things) is pretty much par for the course. It seems like every week comes with a new thing you're supposed to avoid doing for the remainder of the pregnancy. The list started with: foods (soft-serve ice cream, sushi, deli meat, unpasteurized cheese, some fish, smoked seafood, ceviche, raw meat, raw eggs, etc.), alcohol, ibuprofen (or any other NSAID), Sudafed (or any other decongestant), and more the 100-200 mg of caffeine per day (which varied by source). Then add in things you're not allowed to do: roller coasters (or other amusement rides), soak in a hot tub, get a massage in the first trimester, dye your hair in the first trimester, sleep on your back after the first trimester, do sit-ups after the first 8 weeks, scoop the kitty litter (um, okay, that one isn't so bad), dig in the garden, wash the fruits and vegetables (as in, get someone else to do it, not just skip it), and the list just keeps getting longer as time goes on and depending on how excitable the resource you're looking at is. Some say no artificial sweeteners at all. Some say they're fine. Some say no more bouncy exercise after the first trimester. Others say game on until you don't feel good doing it. Some say to give up the underwire in your bra. Others say that there's nothing that bears that out. You could go crazy trying to sort through all the freaky crap. Or you could go crazy with worry if you found out you're not supposed to do something right after you did it. Like, y'know, eat a Subway sandwich because it could lead to certain doom!

I'm personally trying to refrain from the crazy, but I'll be darned if it isn't lurking around every corner. I mean really, my breasts finally started giving me a little relief three weeks ago, and rather than thinking, "Whew! Glad that's over." I first thought, "Oh no! Is everything okay? Has something gone wrong and my breasts are the first sign?" And then after smacking myself in the head and dragging myself back to the land of sanity, I thought, "No wonder people go completely nuts during this process!" Every inch of the world is to be second-guessed and every action checked against a reference. I myself enjoyed reading Pregnant Chicken more than most other things. This was the snarky resource I wanted that would tell me it was fine to exercise and if I really wanted to jump in the bouncy castle, then go right ahead with your bad self.

Now we're about halfway through the second trimester (21 weeks today!) and I've been feeling the wee miss kicking away for about three weeks now. This is remarkably reassuring. In the first trimester, there's a whole lot of things you can do wrong, and a whole lot of things that can just go wrong, nothing you can do about it, and no way to tell until things have gone sideways. We had prenatal appointments at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and amniocentesis at 15 weeks. Each time, we got to check and make sure that there really was a fairly healthy looking person in there. But about 3 weeks after each visit, I'd start wondering again. Was this really happening? Is everything okay? I'd talk myself down with just waiting a week if need be and chilling the hell out. I was just starting to get a little itchy again when it suddenly became very clear that that sensation was not just gas (which is still alarmingly common at the moment), but instead it is definitely someone kicking me from inside my body. Last week, this reached a new level when I was in a meeting and she landed a kick squarely on my over-full bladder. Yes, I know that needs emptying, and thank you for the not-so-gentle reminder. Apparently I got a look, because the project manager stopped by later to check on me. All signs point to that just continuing to get weirder for the next 4 1/2 months. At Pacificon, Rob told stories of being kicked in the back by his daughter while sleeping next to his wife, months before she was born. That is some creepy shit there, let me tell you. But for right now, it's nice to get notice several times a day that the space alien is alive and well and feeling quite at home.


  • Virgin mojitos with Hansen's ginger ale, mint leaves, and lime became a nightly treat. That sounds tasty even if one is not pregnant.

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 2:04 AM  

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