Labor and Delivery

I am in the last stretch of my pregnancy and will soon be experiencing that most horrible and wonderful experience of child birth. Be honest. Tell me your labor and delivery story–the good, the bad and the ugly.

Exercising Restraint

pregexercise

One of the things I found most challenging during my pregnancy and still find challenging post birth is having an exercise routine, or lack there of. 

Prior to becoming pregnant I was riding to work every day, getting up before dawn and doing three Step Into Life sessions a week as well as playing netball once a week.  I was the fittest I had ever been.

Being blessed with a trouble free pregnancy, I found that having to modify and reduce my exercise was one of the things that caused me constant frustration and worry.  Which advice should I follow or believe?  Was I over doing it?  Is my baby ok?

The pregnancy books only briefly covered exercise.  So I bought the book Fit Pregnancy for Dummies, but found it was primarily aimed at people wanting to start up a new fitness regime.  Apart from some general rules, there was not so much information for those wanting to adjust an existing routine.  I also heard different things from different people, for example I was told that it was advisable not to do any sit ups as these would cause my abdominal muscles to separate. Perhaps there was enough information around, it just did not give me the answers I wanted, it was all too restrictive.

In the end, the two pieces of advice I tried to stick to were:
1. Keep your heart rate below 140bpm
2. If you were doing it before it is okay to keep going with it (within reason)

For me, this meant that any running was at a very slow – almost walking – jog.  And that I had to look a little pathetic on the bike,  letting everyone pass me on my cycle home, as well as walking up any steep hills.  Keeping the heart rate down was very difficult when I was used to going at any pace I liked.  It is important to keep your heart rate down as it prevents the baby’s heartrate from going to fast and also prevents them from over heating.  My heart rate monitor became my best friend.

In the end I cycled to work until 7 months and kept up toning classes with Step Into Life until the end of 8 months.  In particular, toning classes using a fitball (Swiss ball) were good in the last couple of months (less getting down on the floor), and I continued doing stomach crunches for most of those classes.  A really supportive and well informed trainer also helps no end.  I only stopped because I moved house. 

In the last few weeks of my pregnancy Jade was in a posterior orientation as well as overdue.  To help things along I did a lot of walking and swam every second day.  I really enjoyed the swimming and wished I had started doing it earlier in the pregnancy.  Several people have told me walking helps with the delivery a lot as well.

I have no doubt that being fit beforehand allowed me to to continue exercising once pregnant, and contributed to having a healthy pregnancy and child.  At a guess, it probably helped with the 16 hour labour too.  Another one of those things that is helpful to think about way before getting pregnant.

Four months on now, I am still yet to get back to proper exercise.  I have tried to go for a walk most days, but it is not the same.  At the hospital they said no serious exercise until 6 weeks after birth.  Then later I heard 12 weeks to be sure.  It is advisable to be careful early on as high impact exercise can cause permanent damage while your pelvic muscles are still weak (Pilates is ideal to help with this). 

I am keen to get back to Step Into Life classes, but fitting it in with baby & dad’s work schedules is tricky.  So this Thursday I am going to give Bay City Strollers a go.  Exercise classes outdoors which specialise in pre and post natal women, plus you can bring your baby and tend to them if they need it… perfect!  Will let you know how it goes.

It Wasn’t Anything I Did . . . Or Ate.

It wasn’t anything I did or ate. My midwife was very upfront with me about that. As were the nurse and dietitian who conducted the class on gestational diabetes I had to attend. It still felt like it though. I wasn’t piling on the sweets like there was no tomorrow, but I did indulge more than I normally would have before I was pregnant. My main craving throughout my pregnancy has been sweets. In particular ice cream. And now I find myself in a position where I can’t have any of that. No sweets at all. No ice cream. No pasta (oh, how I love pasta!). I’m on a strict diet. When I was handed my food guide for the diabetic diet, they’d already gone through and crossed out pages and pages of foods that your average diabetic would be allowed to eat–only, I’m not allowed. Talking to friends who have suffered from gestational diabetes, my health care provider seems to be on the stricter side of strict. But what am I to do? My unborn baby’s health–even her life–is on the line.

I did not feel any symptoms before being diagnosed (nor after). I would have had no idea had I not failed the 1-hour and 3-hour glucose tests.

Gestational Diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman’s body is unable to process glucose properly. It’s a result of the change in hormone levels, much of which is normal during pregnancy. But in the case of gestational diabetes, it causes higher blood sugar levels which pose a serious risk to the health and life of the baby. The disorder often appears after the 24th week of pregnancy, sometimes before. Although anyone can get it, women with a family history of diabetes, who are overweight, of an older age, and race can increase a woman’s chance of having gestational diabetes. I fall into three of those risk categories (overweight, family history, and being of an advanced maternal age).

Complications for the mother include a higher risk of preeclampsia, urinary tract infections, and the possibility of developing diabetes later in life. Risks to a baby include excess growth, hypoglycemia which can lead to seizures, respiratory distress syndrome, jaundice, Type 2 Diabetes later in life, developmental problems, and, on the rare occasion, death. As you can tell, this is serious business. That said, gestational diabetes is treatable. If a pregnant woman can get her glucose levels under control, she can go on to have a healthy baby–even by natural birth in many cases.

There are a couple of different ways to treat gestational diabetes. One is through diet and exercise and the other is through taking insulin. My health care provider is a strong advocate for diet and exercise, which, frankly, is fine by me. Since my doctor prefers injections to pills, it’s even more of an incentive to stick to the diet. Some people believe that knocking carbs out of a diet is the only solution but the body needs those carbs, relies on them. And so, ultimately, the goal is to balance the carbs with proteins. Fiber also helps as it slows down the digestive system, allowing the glucose to break down more fully. So, the diet I am on is high in fiber and protein.  I don’t pretend to be an expert–this is only one lay person’s understanding of gestational diabetes and the treatment plan I am on. There are plenty of resources available out there for those wanting to know more:

American Diabetes Association
Mayo Clinic
Baby Center

Besides watching the food I eat, I also am required to eat six meals a day: three “big” meals and three snacks. Each meal is set for a designated time. There is some flexibility in the schedule, although the general rule is that I cannot let ten hours go between my bed-time snack and breakfast. I must eat every 2 to 3 1/2 hours during my waking hours. This can sometimes be a problem, especially at work. I’m also required to test my blood four times a day. The first time, in the morning when I first wake up (my fasting glucose level), and then again an hour after the three major meals. I’ve discovered that washing my hands in warm water before I take a test and massaging the finger I will be pricking help in getting enough blood flowing for testing purposes.

Of course, for some women, diet isn’t enough. Their hormones and bodies still don’t cooperate. And for those, insulin may become necessary. I hope that won’t be the case for me. While diet seems to have gotten my blood sugar levels under control for the time being, my hormone levels are constantly changing. As a result, my medical team and I have to stay on top of my progress to make sure nothing changes.

I have adjusted for the most part. It brings with it many inconveniences, but if my baby is healthy as a result, it will be worth it.

It’s a Secret!

When they say your breasts will feel tender but not sore beginning in that first trimester, they lied.  At least about mine.  I got a bit of a reprieve in the second trimester, but now that I’m in the third, I expect that to change again.  I was also plagued with nausea and extreme fatigue during those first few months.  I am not sure how I survived at work some days.  I kept expecting to vomit but never did.  It was both a relief and of concern. I read somewhere that women who have bad morning sickness have a lower risk of miscarriage.  I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it stuck in my head.  There are other symptoms, more minor ones, that I still contend with: acne all over and in strange places, leg cramps, ligament and muscle pain, limp and oily hair, congestion, and gas just to name a few.   That pregnancy glow we always hear about?  It’s not something I’m lucky enough to have.  We won’t even talk about how frequently I visit the restroom.  And I understand that particular regular fieldtrip will get worse in the coming months.  The second trimester otherwise was relatively easy going.  I’m not quite sure what to expect now that I’m in the third trimester.  All in all, I have my good days and bad days.  Some much worse than others.

The lightness of my symptoms early on worked out very well for me given that I didn’t want anyone to know I was pregnant initially.  I kept it a secret for the first 14 weeks from friends and coworkers.  Even now, seven months in, there are people who are just finding out.  I wasn’t too keen on making a big announcement about it.  I tend to be a very private person, and I feel uncomfortable with a lot of attention.

My husband and I told our families at 8 weeks, after my first prenatal appointment.  I told my boss when I was 13 weeks along.  I was so nervous.  I had rehearsed what I would tell her: walk in calmly and tell her I was going to request a long vacation starting in March.  Instead I walked into her office and blurted out, “I’m pregnant!”  She grinned and wished me congratulations.  I stood there, saying nothing.  “Congratulations, right?  This is a good thing?” She asked.  I finally relaxed after twenty minutes of conversation.  I really had no reason to be so nervous.  I had worked myself up though because of a comment she’d made regarding a coworker who was pregnant with twins.

My coworker is two years older than I am and my boss had said something to the effect of that being too old to be starting with children now.  I was sure she was going to think the same thing about me.  I am, after all, what the medical profession refers to as a pregnant woman of advanced maternal age.

I told my staff during an offsite unit meeting the following week.  On my birthday to be exact.  I should probably pause here to tell you that I have an odd sense of humor.  Subtlety dry at times while silly and off the wall the next.  I once went around the office telling people I was moving to Kentucky because of a job offer my husband received.  It had been April Fool’s Day, so you think they would have known it was a lie.  Anyway, I told my five staff I was pregnant and no one believed me.  Not one.  I hadn’t realized that little fact, however, until we were outside the restaurant and two staff had already left.  I remember being surprised they weren’t happier for me.  While I was sure my boss would not approve, I was certain my own staff would be ecstatic.

It wasn’t until I mentioned to one of my staff that I needed her help coming up with names that it became clear to her that I was serious.  Everyone still there at that point got out their cell phones and started texting away.  By the time I walked into the office the next day, everyone knew.  I was just relieved not to have to make another announcement.  I later learned that one of the staff who had left before knowing my news was true had actually called my boss after receiving the text from her friend to verify whether I was telling the truth or not.  My boss and this particular staff are friends–so it isn’t as strange as it may sound.

From there, the news started to come out, whether through word of mouth or my subtle comments here and there.  Everyone’s excitement was like my finding out I was pregnant for the first time–I loved it.  At the same time, I found it overwhelming.  There were moments, especially when I kept getting the same questions over and over again, I wished it was mine and my husband’s (and our parents) little secret again.

The fact that we’re pregnant and that we are having a girl is no longer a secret.  But we are keeping back our daughter’s name.  Only my husband and I know what we plan to call her.  And that particular secret, I won’t be sharing until the very end.

When did you first let the cat out of the bag that you were pregnant?  Did you keep it a secret or share the news as soon as you could?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the most wonderful times of your life. All the books and people say when you get over that horrible period of morning sickness, you come out the other side glowing, radiant, and happy. But what if you don’t? what if the vomiting doesn’t stop, you look like the living dead, and you are seriously considering changing your name to Marvin the robot because you feel that depressed. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) literally means “excessive vomiting in pregnancy”. It is debilitating and crippling on so many levels.

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The Moment I Found Out

This time around I waited the prerequisite days recommended on the instructions of the pregnancy test.  I kept telling myself it was just like last time.  My period was delayed.  It was stress.  Between months of trying to get pregnant, my then upcoming visit to my parents for my brother’s wedding, dealing with a sick cat, and the usual stressors that come with work . . . I had a lot on my plate.   It was anything but my actually being pregnant. Yet I still hoped.  When I took the test and it came back positive, I cried.  I thanked God.  I hugged the cats and dog.  I think I may have even squealed.

While some couples trying to conceive might prefer to share in the moment of taking the test, I was too impatient.  It was something I wanted to do on my own.  Maybe I thought it would cushion the blow if the answer that came back wasn’t the one I wanted to see.  I’m not sure.  Regardless, as soon as I got home from work  the evening of June 30th, I took the pregnancy test.  The little plus sign appeared almost immediately.  I ran out to the store to buy a card so I could surprise my husband with the news when he got home work later that night.  I will always remember his expression when he opened the card and saw my tiny note letting him know he was going to be a father.  My husband, who never cries, had tears in his eyes.  I don’t remember ever seeing him so happy.

Then the fear set in.  What were we thinking?!  Were we really ready for this?  We thought we were, but suddenly I felt anything but ready.  I wasn’t ready at all!  I dragged my husband to the bookstore where we bought two different pregnancy books, both of which I started that night.  I’m very much a process person and I have been devouring the books, wanting to know exactly what my body is going through and how the baby is developing.

The books have been wonderful.  They cover many of the questions I have had over the past few months, not to mention set the record straight on some of those old wives’ tales my friends and family have shared.  I’m sure my doctor and midwife would be happy too if they knew how often those books kept me from calling them over some trivial question or concern.  As a first time parent-to-be, every little symptom or concern can seem like a big deal, no matter how normal.  The forums for expectant mothers have been a blessing too, in their own way.  Since my husband and I chose to keep our pregnancy a secret for the first trimester, having that support and place to go to talk–or even just read–about our shared experiences proved a lifesaver.  I did learn, however, that sometimes things said on the forum need to be taken with a grain of salt.  It’s always best to consult with a doctor.  No two pregnancies are exactly alike and there are so many old wives’ tales out there.  If I listened to them all, there would be only two foods I could eat and I would have to live in a bubble.

So, if I have any tips for a person going through pregnancy for the first time, I would recommend getting a pregnancy book.  And actually read it.  They really do contain valuable information that is worth knowing.  It can ease your mind and help you understand what is going on with your body.  If you can talk your mate into reading it too, even better.  Or do what I do and read the important parts (or more interesting/funny parts)  to him or her.  Unfortunately the books don’t have all the answers.  There’s a lot I still do not know.  As I said before, every pregnancy is different and even with similar symptoms, what works for one person may not work for another.  Also, don’t feel silly for calling your doctor, nurse or midwife if you do have questions or concerns, no matter how small you may think it is.  That’s what they are there for and they often know best.

I am now in my six month of pregnancy, fast approaching my 7th, and I still do not feel ready.  No new parent ever does.  Not if they are completely honest.  You can have all the material items you need to get started but when it gets right down to it, you can’t even begin to imagine how much your life will change.  I am scared and excited, all rolled into one.

I feel a bit out of place on a blog for mothers.  This is my first pregnancy and the only other “children” I’ve raised are of the furry variety.  I am not due until the beginning of March and so feel like I fall somewhere in between being a mother and not being one.  I have no sage advice or helpful hints to offer.  I can only tell you about my own experience–and perhaps gain insight from yours if you’re willing to share.  Some days I may share part of my story while others I may ask for your advice or opinions.  Mostly, I hope to connect with other mothers to celebrate or commiserate over our experiences.

I would love to hear about your experience in discovering you were pregnant.  Please share!

Pregnancy Stuff Not Talked About

Pregnancy? What?!

I knew it all. I’d worked in childcare, with a variety of different kids of different ages. It helped. I read a lot. I read books on different parenting philosophies and finally settled on one that I agreed with. I talked to people, other mums, My mum. I googled. I asked questions. I was totally ready for parenthood. (Until the baby was born of course!).

But pregnancy? I had no idea. Even while I was experiencing it, I thought I was losing my mind.

Sore boobs? Bloating? Stretch marks? What is all this! What is this feeling, deep in my belly when I walk that feels like a leg is falling out? Why do I have the sudden need to cross my legs and grab myself before I sneeze? Panty liners, a daily exercise in futility. WHAT has happened to me?!

There are things in pregnancy that people simply do not talk about. It’s not taboo, I think it gets lost in all the conversations about names, nursery designs and all the other “fun” topics. But people need to know, that there are seriously GROSS parts of pregnancy. These were the ones I learned about the hard way!

– Farting. Expect the unexpected. At the most horrifying moment, you will at least once, find a smell so toxic that even dead stuff is trying to run away, has left your body. Usually In public. Expect it, and have a response ready. My personal favourites were “Well there ARE two of us!”, and “Eating for two, Farting for two”. Alternatively, be prepared to bail out of that aisle, or entire supermarket, fast.

– Excretions. Let’s use that word, because frankly saying “discharge” is right up there with the words “moist” and “froth” and make me want to sit in a padded room and twitch. Anticipate lots of them. Panty liners are your friend. And if you think your waters have broken, be prepared to find yourself sniffing around the evidence. Pregnant people do stupid things. But maybe shut the door first, or your partner or friend may find it strange that you have your nose buried in your underwear.

-Grooming – With the belly, comes the very high risk in the final weeks that you won’t be able to see your feet. Not being able to see your feet means you can’t see your knees, or your.. higher areas. Areas that you might once have liked to keep trimmed, shaved or waxed become the unknown and the unseen. Before you know it, bushfire season has rolled around (and if you’re anything like me no way is your darling partner getting any action anyway), and you find yourself having to “deal” with the situation. The only lesson I have for you here is vital. GET A MIRROR. Flying blind may work for underarms, or legs? But you do not want to be slipping and slicing THAT particular part of your anatomy. And if for whatever reason, choice or emergency circumstance you end up having a caesarean, your nurse will shave for you. I prefer to deal with it myself, its much more dignified!

-Boobs – They will get bigger. Significantly. And they may ache. But did you know they can actually leak colostrum, BEFORE the baby comes? Me either! Probably, we were too busy talking about names and nurseries! Whoops! My first pregnancy I went to the doctor worried I had breast cancer because something was oozing out of my left nipple. Not only was I mortified that I had to make the trip and pull out my boob for her to inspect, but when she got the giggles it didn’t help my cause. Boobs leak. Those breast pads you’re told to purchase? You might need them earlier than you expect.

It’s not all the glamorous belly shots, and gentle kicks and bumps I had envisaged. Some of it was downright disgusting. By the last days of my most recent pregnancy I was taking two – three showers a day, just to try and feel clean, and comfortable. Pregnancy can be tough. It can be sweaty, gooey, itchy, stretchy and just uncomfortable. The end result is worth it. But sometimes it helps to know some of what you might be getting into. You are allowed to feel horrible. You’re even allowed to voice that you “gasp” aren’t enjoying being pregnant. It’s normal.

But the baby at the end, sure makes up for the ick.

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