/karen/

Peanut (at around 18 weeks)

Saturday, 13 March, 2010

I've been meaning to write an update for a while—not just because I know people like Little Rachel are actually interested in what I have to say about pregnancy stuff, but also for my own sake because I'm sure I'll forget this later. However, finding the time and the energy to do it (sometimes I have one but not the other) has been challenging. I realise that more of my time these days has been spent catching up on Twitter, which gives me neverending joy, and I know that I am slower and more sluggish. Anyway, fortunately auspicious circumstances have come together today to allow me to commit to pixels what I've been meaning to say over the past month.

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

First of all, the reaction to our news has been absolutely wonderful (so thank you!) That people are as overjoyed as we are is really touching—touching, I think, because it's something that only happens to us once in a blue moon. It's a massive contrast to when we decided to get married: because of the circumstances, not many were pleased for us on an occasion that should have also elicited great joy. There were some who thought that we shouldn't get married and were quite vocal about it. Some things were said that haunt me and hurt me to this day, and it's now 10 years on. It's hard to not let those things overshadow our marriage, but if you find me getting overly defensive or protective of our relationship, chances are, that's the reason. (That's also the reason I am overly sensitive to criticism of our marriage.)

So it's lovely that people are so happy for us! I know that some of them (especially family) privately think, “Well, it's about time!”, but that does not diminish from the overall good vibes, congratulations and prayers that we've received so far. I think it must be so sad if you were pregnant and no one was happy for you; the coming of another human into the world ought to be cause for celebration because of what it is, no matter what the circumstances.

The wonderful Elsie has even put her hand up already to organize my baby shower. (She's going to co-opt some others to help, but it will be mostly her running the show.) I can't express how much her gesture meant to me. You see, when I got married, I didn't really have a kitchen tea (I didn't understand what they were), and I didn't really have a hen's night (I kind of decided the week before the wedding that I would, so it was held the night before the wedding and I was rather shocked at the number of people who came. We ate takeaway and ice cream at my mum's house.) So it's just so nice to have a baby shower and to have someone I love and trust take care of it for me. We sat down on Monday and planned what would be involved. It's not that I'm fussy—if anything, I probably don't care enough—but there were certain things I knew I definitely did not want to do (e.g. games involving baby food, melted chocolate and nappies) and there were a few things that I definitely did want to see happen.

Physical stuff

In terms of all the physical stuff, things have been going pretty well. The morning sickness is mostly gone (though it surfaces at odd times—particularly when I'm talking about it). After the first blood and urine test the OBGYN sent me for, it was flagged that my thyroid was high so she sent me to the endocrinologist. The endocrinologist said that it might be because of the pregnancy and the levels of pregnancy hormone in my bloodstream, but it might also be because of this benign lump I've got on my neck. (Got that checked out in 2003 or 2004 and it's fine.) She just ordered more tests for the day of my next OBGYN appointment. Oh, and she also told me to take Vitamin D (yeah—sunlight; so now my dermatologist and endocrinologist are sort of contradicting each other!)

My second OBGYN appointment was very short. She checked Peanut via her little ultrasound machine, weighed me and answered a few of my questions. I was all set to go get the tests done for the endocrinologist but she said she wanted me to take the glucose test and I might as well do both at the same time.

So this Tuesday just gone, I had the glucose test. I've been told they do this with all pregnant women now, but for me, because of a possible risk of diabetes, they do an extra bit or test for something extra (sorry, I'm a bit vague on the details!) You have to book yourself in at the medical centre/pathology clinic place, they fax you a sheet of instructions and then you have to go on this special high carbohydrate diet for three days before the test. So each day, I had to eat

If there is something in the list you don't like, you swap it for something equivalent (1 slice of bread = 1 serving of fruit/fruit juice = 2 biscuits = 1 serving of cereal = 1 serving of spaghetti = 1 serving of rice = 1 medium potato). For me, this wasn't too difficult as, these days, I tend to have most of that anyway. It was just the counting and making sure I'd had enough at the end of the day. I certainly noticed I felt a lot more full! (Maybe Sarah can enlighten us as to what you do when you can't have gluten.)

Then the day before the test, I had to stop eating at 7 pm because you're supposed to fast for 12 hours. On the day of the test, I went to the medical centre at 7:30 am (got a really good park too—well, good for Newtown!) They had just opened so there was hardly anyone else there. When they got me in the chair, they took four vials of my blood (presumably two for whatever tests the endocrinologist had ordered and two for the glucose test), then they got me to drink this really sweet lemony slightly fizzy drink (about 500 ml of the stuff).

I had to sit for an hour there; I wasn't allowed to leave the centre. Fortunately they had these very comfortable chairs in the same area as where they take the blood. So the nurse set the timer and I went and sat in the chair and read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll) and half-watched Sunrise's coverage of the Oscars. (Side note: it was rather amusing monitoring Twitter while the Oscars were on. As usual, Empire Magazine were my favourite commentators.)

After one hour, the timer went off and another nurse took more blood from me (from the other arm this time). (NB: Fortunately I have no problems giving blood.) Then she set the timer again and I went back to my seat, finished Alice and took up my knitting.

After another hour, the timer went off and another nurse took more blood out of me (just one vial), and then I was free to go. I know it doesn't sound particularly pleasant, but it was a rather relaxing morning.

Next week, we will have our 18-week ultrasound. The OBGYN said we'd get a DVD at that one. (Wow, technology!) So I'm looking forward to seeing Peanut again. (NB: Regarding questions about whether or not we will find out whether Peanut is a boy or a girl, please see the FAQ below.) I also need to book antenatal classes, but the dates/times (or rather lack of them) is confusing me.

What else? Yes, as I said, I'm slower and more ungainly. I'm working at the exercise thing but it's hard because sometimes I am really tired after work, or I get pain in odd places (and they say stop if you feel pain). Although I'm not getting up as much in the night to visit the bathroom (thank goodness!), I know I have to be more disciplined about my sleep otherwise I tend to feel sicker the following day. (Not a good thing at work ...) Unfortunately I'm still rather bad at the sleep thing ...

(Guys can tune out for this paragraph.) I've also bought my first maternity bras. Apparently your breasts go up a whole size when you're pregnant—both in cups and, um, whatever you call the other size. (Obviously husbands really like this part of the pregnancy!) This means you can't keep wearing the same bras you were wearing before. Not only do they become incredibly uncomfortable, they also harm breast development (as your breasts are getting ready to be feeding machines). According to the info my OBGYN gave me, it's best to go out and get a maternity bra around about 16 weeks, so I squashed my discomfort and went down to Bras N Things, where they give you good advice and check the fit. Unfortunately bras are expensive ($45 each!) so I didn't buy very many: I just got two, then later went to Target to get some cheap non-maternity ones in the same size to tide me through the rest of the pregnancy. There's no point in getting lots because your bra size may change again after the baby comes. (See: this is how the fashion industry makes so much money out of us women. Our shape keeps changing, which means we have to keep getting new things to accommodate our bodies. I guess in previous centuries, they would just do alterations, or maybe it wasn't so much of a problem because clothes weren't as close-fitting as they are now.)

I haven't started shopping for maternity clothes yet; so far, I've managed to get by with what I have. The skirts I have are fairly accommodating (particularly the wrap-arounds!) and I haven't grown out of my tops yet. When the weather gets colder, I'll definitely have to do something about getting some pants that fit, but so far, everything's okay. I think it's because I used to be on the smaller size of medium; now I just fill medium out.

Advice (solicited and unsolicited)

Of course, being pregnant, everyone talks to you about pregnancy and baby stuff. This has been both helpful and unhelpful. The helpful stuff is hearing about everyone else's experiences because no two are the same, and it gives you a picture of what it's like when it's not going so well, it's hard, when it's really really hard (and why—e.g. things like post-natal depression). It's also helped that I've heard from both husbands and wives about their experiences. I've also talked to people who have had just one child, couples who are onto their second, and parents who have raised five or six and for whom new parenthood was a good 10 years ago. The best advice I've been given is to do what works for us and not feel guilty about it (which is good for me: I'm actually not very good at the guilt thing when it comes to certain matters). Makes sense: we're individuals and our baby is an unique individual, so why follow someone's arbitrary rules if they're not going to do the trick?

The unhelpful stuff is usually prescriptive: you must do this, you must do that. Some of the advice I've received has been downright strange. (Example: “If you're getting work done in your apartment, just get out of there and go for a walk. It's because the soul of your baby hangs around you and will be disturbed by the hammering and noise.”) That might be because of cultural differences. Some of the advice is just alarmist; I'm more inclined to listen to my OBGYN.

The other unhelpful thing is the pessimism and the “You don't know what you're in for” attitude. Ben thinks other parents do it because it's fun for them to watch the “newbies” squirm. For me, I really don't need it and I really don't appreciate it, thank you very much. (I also haven't figured out how to respond to it graciously either. If you have some ideas, please share.)

Then every now and then, I hit my limits and really don't want to talk about baby/pregnancy stuff anymore. Fortunately this doesn't happen very often, but I've come close once or twice.

Reading material

There's no shortage of books on babies and parenting. Aside from What to Expect When You're Expecting (which I'm only dipping into and not reading properly), there's Kaz Cooke's Up the Duff (which Dave and Kellie very generously bought me because it helped them) and Robin Barker's Baby Love (which Haydn and Ji-Hyun gave me when we caught up for lunch last week, and which I haven't even opened yet.)

The Second Nine Months

There was one that I wanted to get as soon as I found out I was pregnant: The Second Nine Months by Vicki Glembocki. I'd wanted it ever since I'd read the excerpt on Salon.com several years ago. I remember thinking, “This is exactly what I need to read” because, at the time, it seemed to me that all my friends tended to sort of “disappear” following the birth of their babies, and I wanted to understand why. Well, Glembocki certainly shed some light on the situation. The book isn't an information or reference work; it's a memoir of the first nine months or so of Glembocki's life following the birth of her first daughter Blair. She is brutally honest about how it was then—her problems with breastfeeding, Blair not putting on weight and crying all the time, her feelings towards Blair (which were often less than affectionate, to put it mildly), her intense guilt at feeling what she was feeling, her anger at parenting books and attitudes to motherhood (which made her feel like she was doing a terrible job), her envy of other mothers whose children weren't so hard, her loneliness and isolation, her desire to go back to work (an her guilt about wanting to go back to work), her relationship with her husband, and so on. Even though Glembocki is nothing like me (and it doesn't seem like she knew a lot of people who were having kids, or maybe she did and didn't hang out with them) and even though it seems to me that her expectations were wildly different to mine, I found reading her book extremely helpful. I'd even say it's the most helpful thing I've read so far—well, most helpful thing on the nature of what parenting is like during that difficult period when everything is new, you're sleep-deprived and you're trying to learn how to care for another little human other than yourself.

I also learned from Glembocki that it seems that the most difficult period is those first six months when the baby is still breastfeeding and you have to feed him/her every x hours (I forget how many hours it is). Unlike adults who can demolish their dinner in ten minutes, babies take longer to feed, so often no sooner have you finished feeding him/her than you have to start again. I imagine how tedious that can get—especially if you're having trouble, which, from the sounds of things, many women do. So it's made me start thinking about those first six months after Peanut joins us in the world and what I can do to survive. I know that having realistic expectations helps (and Glembocki is helping me have them). Friends and family who can bring meals, babysit or even keep you company for a spell when you're totally sleep-deprived or can't stand the thought of talking or even thinking about baby-related things anymore must also be helpful. I also thought I should get the Bible on audio so I can still be “reading” it—even if it's in short bursts (given that I don't know how realistic it is that I'll still be getting along to church during this period). Thoughts?

As for parenting more generally, I do have a whole stack of ideas on the subject (not surprising, hey; I'm sure parents, expectant parents and even grandparents have all sorts of ideas on the subject!) not derived from baby books (yes, one of them comes from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers). But I think I'll save those for another post.

One last thought: there doesn't seem to be much out there for fathers—preparing fathers for their impending offspring. Dave and Kel said there was a little bit in Up the Duff for partners, and Dave had a book on fatherhood generally (plus, of course, there's Tony Payne's most excellent Fatherhood: What it is and what it's for, which I highly recommend and not just because he's my boss and a good writer). I just kind of wish I had The Second Nine Months from the father's perspective because, no doubt, it was also very hard on him too.

The Official FAQ

I keep getting asked the same questions, but I'm lazy and quickly tire of repeating myself. So here are the answers.

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Disqus comments

Other comments

re: gluten: no idea!! I didn’t have to go on that diet - it was probably related to the test I didn’t do.

At the risk of adding to your list of advice:

Re: maternity bras - because I’m big I had to look hard for something nice in my size and discovered the Australian Breastfeeding Association. They have a massive range online and most are (dare I say it) sexy. smile

Re: maternity clothes - Kmart have a nice range of basic stuff.. I only found out towards the end of pregnancy and I would have liked to know earlier!

Re: Parenting classes - if you’re at RPA you can just ring the midwives section (they’ll put you through) and ask directly.

I loved reading your pregnancy update! I am glad to hear that things are all going pretty well, and I hope the rest of your 2nd trimester is as good.

I just wanted to add, that some other blokes decided that there was not much for the fathers-t0-be, and made a couple of DVD’s just for expectant dads. They are called ‘Being Dad’and i think they are available at big W. I have both though, if you would like me to send them!

Just wanted to wish you all the best!
Love
Rae

Posted by Rae Green on 13 March, 2010 1:03 PM

Hello! Thanks for sharing smile

Thanks so much for writing more! I love hearing how you’re going and all your thoughts.

After watching my sister I agree with you that it seems the first six months are perhaps the hardest. She got quite lonely at home all day; weekends were all right because then her husband was around but it’s just as you say… one feed ends then the next begins! If you are accepting visitors during this period then I hope to use some RDOs to come have grown-up conversations! smile

The book review of The Second Nine Months makes me want to read it now!

Names: We have one girl name that we both like and no boy names that we agree on. But they are also top-secret… so if anyone else uses them we can’t accuse them of theft! wink

Yay Peanut, keep on growing, can’t wait to meet you!

Hi!

I’m so excited for you reading your blog about being pregnant smile  I am 13 weeks pregnant with #2. 

You’re so right about all the pessimism “advice” that you get.  I got so mad about it but never found a good response.  I’ve had such joy right from day one with E that I just don’t want to buy into the negativity (I’m sure kids pick up on it too!).

My philosophy was/is to be a relaxed mum and from that figure out what was best for my baby/child.  Get advice when you’re not sure on things or want to know how other people approached things, read books (loved Outliers!) that aren’t all about parenting… but just enjoy. 

In a sample size of one to date, I’ve had such a happy, chilled out son right from day one.  People say all the craziest advice… glad you don’t do guilt smile

With love,
R

Another book from the dad’s perspective I found helpful was From here to paternity - it’s an Australian book, and was followed up with a blog.

Congratulations to you both. I know you will be such wonderful parents. You sound WAY too sensible! grin
(Sorry to read that there were some unusual comments made about your marriage! We thought it was exciting. We still have a lovely photo of you & Ben in our lovely box of special memories. (I was only 22 when married & I was 30 when we had Bonnie…)
Everyone is different! I nodded through your post. SO many people feel the curious need to share their “horror stories” which is just dreadful. I remember complaining to David who said - go find people who are positive & listen to them. Great advice, which I did. Those people still have a big place in my heart because their advice was honest & gentle.
Bless you & Ben & the little Peanut. We pray all goes smoothly over the coming weeks/months ahead. We sometimes forget what a precious little miracle life really is…

Posted by Elissa on 14 March, 2010 11:10 AM

Aww…thanks for the lovely things you said about me! I enjoyed reading this post (as I do with all yours). xo

@Sarah: Thanks for the tip RE Australian Breastfeeding Association! I never would have thought to look there. Ditto KMart: I was wondering if they did since Target don’t.

@Rae: Thanks for the tip! I’ll check it out.

@Little Rachel: Oh, I’ll definitely be up for visitors! I may not be very good company (brain-dead, etc.) but I’ll certainly appreciate visits!

@Rachel C: CONGRATS!!! So excited for you smile Yours sounds like a good philosophy. One day I shall have to blog about Outliers!

@CafeDave: Thanks for the tip!

@Elissa: Thanks for your kind words! It makes me happy that you and Dave were excited we were getting married! Thanks also for the prayers!

@Elsie: There are lots of other lovely things I could have said about you, but let’s not overload my readers, shall we? ;P

Congratulations again - and it is very interesting to hear what happens!



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