/karen/

Peanut (at around 31 weeks)

Monday, 14 June, 2010

Time for another Peanut update, methinks! They seem to be growing further and further apart. But now is an appropriate time for one as we have just finished ante-natal classes (more about them later). Also, I'm sitting in the waiting room at the OBGYN, so now is as good a time as any to write about what's been happening since.

Physical things

I continue to grow and grow. I'm not one for measuring my stomach, but sometimes it seems to me when I get out of bed, I'm bigger than what I was the night before. One morning I looked at myself in the mirror and commented to Ben that my shape was like one of those starving kids in Africa whose stomachs swell up due to malnutrition. He gave me this really puzzled look! (Well, it wasn't really an apt comparison ...) Anyway, the point is, it's weird being this shape. (Perhaps a better comparison would be Mr Greedy's silhouette ... Okay, perhaps not.)

I'm still adjusting to the fact that it's bleedingly obvious that I'm pregnant—bleedingly obvious. I guess I'm not very aware of myself physically—generally speaking anyway. So it sometimes surprises me that people notice, and then I think, “Why wouldn't they notice?” Sometimes, however, people don't notice but it's more if I'm sitting down and there's something in the way of my torso. Sometimes I catch people looking at me in the street, and I think, “I hope they realise I'm pregnant and not fat!” and then wonder why it matters to me. I guess I'm not used to being a large person. Hopefully the walk gives it away too: I definitely have the waddle down pat! My co-workers have even told me they think it's “cute”. (No it's not! No it's not!)

Anyway, of course, I'm getting slower and slower. I thought I was slow before; ha! Peanut is putting more pressure on my lungs, and I weigh more. So stairs are a challenge! So is the PGP, which got worse a week or two ago, just as my physio said it would. (One thing I forgot to mention under the “Money” heading in my last post is some of the things I bought to cope with PGP—two plastic stools from the discount shop [one I can sit on to put on and take off my shoes; one I can put in the shower so I can sit down and wash my feet and legs, and then I dry it off afterwards so I can sit on it to dry my feet and legs] and a laundry trolley so I don't have to carry heavy laundry baskets.) I think I might have to make it a rule that I do not leave the house more than once—or perhaps twice maximum—a day because the stairs are such a challenge and really leave me quite bushed (three flights!) This isn't surprising as I weigh at least 10 kg more than I used to. If you were steadily gaining weight because of diet and lack of exercise, would you gain weight that fast? Surely you'd have time to get used to it.

Sleep varies. I think I am averaging about 7-8 hours a night—more on weekends, of course. If I am having a good night, I'll only wake up once to roll over (remember, PGP makes rolling over more challenging), and I'll fall asleep again relatively quickly. If am not, I'll wake up several times during the night—sometimes to empty my bladder (though to avoid that, they say that you should consume no fluids for two hours before you go to bed; that doesn't always work, unfortunately! It was okay for a while, but I'm sure Peanut is putting more pressure on that area of my body these days). It may take me up to an hour to get back to sleep again. Sometimes I'll just get up. Fortunately work is very understanding, and also fortunately, I haven't had to say to my bosses, “Bad night; I'm working at home today” very often. Even more fortunately, I've never had to say to them, “Sorry, not well; can't work at all.”

Another thing that makes sleep challenging is the amount of time it takes to prepare for bed. It's seriously half an hour for me now, which involves brushing teeth, washing my face as per the dermatologist's instructions, heating up the heat pack (2 minutes), then applying it to my lower back for 10 minutes, then getting Ben to do the combatant pain massage (which helps the PGP and which is not the relaxing sort of massage your masseuse does; it can be quite painful). I keep procrastinating about the whole thing, and then end up going to bed later than I should.

Strangely, one thing that has helped with sleep (and, I suspect, visits to the bathroom) is the pelvic floor exercises pregnant women are supposed to do. They told us about them in ante-natal class, and the reason why they encourage pregnant women (well, all women, and men too) to do them is because that muscle is generally quite weak. The thinking is that, evolution-wise, parts of the human body are quite unsuited for being upright, and the pelvic floor is one of them. It has to carry the weight of all your insides, so it's a good idea to keep it strong so that it will keep on doing that for the rest of your life.

Childbirth puts enormous strain on the pelvic floor. I don't mean to be icky, but there is the danger that it could seriously tear during labour, and it often tears in small ways in most women's labours. So they tell you to exercise it because it will help you during labour and because it will help it heal quicker after labour. Also, the exercises help with incontinence, which does affect some women after birth.

They recommend you do three sets of pelvic floor exercises throughout the day. I've found it best to do two sets in the morning before I get up and then one in the evening just as I'm about to go to sleep. Strangely, they can be quite relaxing, and I find myself falling asleep while doing them. So sometimes if I'm awake in the middle of the night and can't drop off again, I'll try doing a set and see if that helps.

But apart from the pain and sleep troubles, everything else has been fine.

Later ...

I didn't quite finish this post on that day. I probably won't finish it today either. Oh well. Let's keep going.

I've got two more things to talk about under this heading. Firstly, I had a second glucose test, which was done at 28 weeks. This is when most pregnant women have it; I only had the first one because there was a higher risk of gestational diabetes for me, given my family history. Fortunately the second test also revealed no problems. Furthermore, my thyroid function is normal. I'm just a bit anaemic, which apparently is also normal at this stage of the pregnancy as I'm sharing my iron with Peanut. So I'm on iron pills, but fortunately they're the non-constipating kind.

Secondly, Peanut being larger means that I feel him/her more—moving around, twitching, doing whatever in utero babies do. I can't remember when it started; somewhere in the 20-week periods, I think. At first, only I could feel Peanut, but now if Ben puts his hand on my stomach, he can feel Peanut too. Peanut is quite an active baby. I can't quite predict when he/she will be particularly restless, but certain circumstances have surprised me—for example, during ante-natal class, when we went to see the Babies movie (because it was a mums and bubs session, there were heaps of crying babies around us, as well as on screen, and I think Peanut was reacting to all of that), sometimes at work, and so on.

(One last thing about Peanut: as I said in my last post, we know whether Peanut is a boy or a girl, but we decided to keep that information restricted to close family only. However, Ben and I seem to have differing views on when to divulge: he revealed that information to a restaurant waiter the other night, and when I protested [out of earshot of the waiter], he said, “We're never going to see him again!” I maintain, however, it's a matter of equality: why does some random waiter get to know [or my hairdresser, for that matter] when none of our close friends know?)

Knowing whether Peanut is a boy or a girl has obviously caused us to focus more on one list of names than another. We still do not agree, but we're closer to agreeing than before. In true geek fashion, we're using a Google Doc spreadsheet to track the possibilities and whether we like them or not. Of course, we are still waiting until we meet Peanut before making a final decision.

Ante-natal classes

Since my last update, we started ante-natal classes at the beginning of May when I was 26 weeks. The classes were booked through the parent education centre at RPA. The course is normally seven weeks long, but they booked us into one that ran for six weeks because of the Queen's birthday public holiday. In a way, I was a little relieved; they really pack in the info during those classes! (Or maybe each week was packed because they were squeezing seven weeks into six.)

Our classes were on Monday nights at the rather awkward time of 6-8 pm. I understand why they had them at that time; you wouldn't want them finishing any later than that, and any earlier would interfere with work time. But it required an extra level of organization because I would have to make sure we had leftovers, or I was able to work from home and then start cooking at 4 pm, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to eat dinner beforehand. Sometimes Ben ate afterwards, but generally I liked to eat beforehand; I reckon it helped me concentrate.

I'm not going to go through the content of the classes in any detail; it will just gross most of you out. But I'll give you an idea of the sorts of things they cover. Basically half of the course is on labour and the other half on how to look after your baby. For us, it went like this:

  1. Labour overview. They showed us a video pitched at American teen mums, which was very weird. But it was quite an informative video, even if they left out no detail associated with labour.
  2. Stage 1 labour: pain management (natural pain relief), contractions, and more birth videos (including water births and home births). (Stage 1 is the longest part of labour. It's basically when the cervix is contracting large enough to let the baby out.)
  3. Stage 2 labour. (Stage 2 is relatively short: it's when the baby comes out. Once the head is out, the rest comes pretty quickly!) Also, Caesarean births (another video!)
  4. Labour ward tour (very helpful because now I have a picture of where we'll end up when all that starts happening! Plus I know what to expect). Medical pain relief (epidurals, etc.) Episiotomies (if you don't know what that is, look it up but prepared to be grossed out). Post-birth stuff (also yucky). Plus a DVD on how to settle babies.
  5. Breastfeeding (and all the benefits of breastfeeding). Wrapping. How to do up nappies.
  6. How babies communicate. Fathers and babies. Life with a baby (sleep time, etc.). Baby equipment (prams, car seats, etc.) SIDS. Support networks. Post-natal depression.

The first four classes were taken by my physio, who used to be the head physio at King George V. Then the former head midwife of the RPA labour word came along for part of week four and took all subsequent weeks. The class started out with about seven to 10 couples (from memory)—many of them farther along in their pregnancies than me—but by the last week, we were down to just four couples. One girl suffered from PGP, same as me, but she insisted on using the stairs instead of the lift because she gets claustrophobic (poor thing!) We didn't run into anyone we knew.

Apart from the information overload, the thing that freaked us out the most was the acoustic guitar soundtracks to some of the videos we watched. *Shudder*. More seriously, I know I'm going to have to review a lot of that information to do with labour as I wrote lots of notes but didn't really take it in when they were explaining it to us.

Oh, there was one additional ante-natal class we did outside of that time—one on changing shape and the different thing you can do to protect your back and stuff.

The Marriage Course

Around the same time as the ante-natal classes, we started The Marriage Course, which my church (Wild Street) is running this term. When I first heard about it, I was a bit sceptical as to its value. But Guan gave it a good review, and we figured that this was probably the optimum time to do it together as when Peanut comes, it will be much harder. In addition, if we work on stuff now, hopefully it will prevent problems later.

The course is designed so it can be done by any married couple—Christian or non-Christian. There is a bit of Christian content, but it's not obtrusive, and you can take it or leave it. We're only five weeks into the course, but so far we have found that we already know and worked through a lot of the content because of all the counselling sessions we've done over the years. This is not a bad thing; it's made us realise that we're not that terrible at being married. (I must admit I get a bit paranoid because of all the negative feedback we've received over the years from people who really don't know any better. And like I said in an earlier post, certain things have been said in the past that keep threatening to overshadow our marriage, and sometimes it's hard to fend those things off. I guess I for one haven't always felt like we've been supported as a married couple by others.) All things considered, we're pretty good at being married because depression has forced us to work at certain things.

The most helpful thing about the course, however, is the time (and the emphasis on the time) that we get to spend together. We turn up to this church family's home, have drinks, and then they serve us a delicious dinner by candlelight. Once we've finished mains, they start the video sessions—which, so far, have covered things like communication, resolving conflict, being aware of your family background, understanding each other's differences, and so on. Occasionally the video gets paused so we can do the exercises. But throughout the entire course, we don't talk to the people taking us through it; we just talk to each other, which makes it a much less threatening environment as we don't have to reveal things about ourselves to other people. It's also good to be able to talk about certain areas of our lives that we don't normally get to talk about—things that are raised naturally by the course.

The other helpful thing is the emphasis on setting aside time every week to have fun together. Ben and I aren't always very good at that; we don't have a regular “date night” because sometimes it's too hard. It's a bit harder now too because of PGP, which really restricts what we can do together. But so far, we've managed to do at least one little thing together every week.

Mourning

This leads into the next topic I want to cover—one I touched on a bit in my last post. A friend said to me upon reading that that she spent a lot of time during her pregnancy mourning her old life because she knew it was going to change, and it was the most helpful thing she could have done because it was one of the things that prepared her for life with her baby. I think she's right: it's good to deal with these things now, rather than later. So instead of jumping straight to “Oh, but you'll be overjoyed when Peanut comes, and Peanut's arrival will blot out all the sadness from before!”, I've tried to make the time and give myself permission to grieve these things and the way life will change.

Take church band, for example: I've been playing in church bands since 1994, at least. But in May, I decided to finish up. Wild Street has a system of one month on, one month off (but with flexibility, so if you can't make it for one week, there are usually ways around it). I knew that I wouldn't be able to cope with band in July because I'll be a lot of bigger, slower and more tired. In addition, Peanut will be exerting more pressure on my lungs, which will make singing really hard. So I let Bec know (as she coordinates all the music) and prepared myself for those final weeks, knowing that it will probably be a while before I can pick up band again. I know it's not forever; my mum points out that she and my father were performing in that Chinese orchestra they were a part of when I was two; they used to bring me to rehearsals and performances. It's just for a time. Still, things like this still need to be mourned; band brings me a lot of joy, and it's one of the few times when I actually make music (we don't tend to touch the keyboard much at home, and of course our piano as my dad's), so I'm going to miss that.

I mentioned attending my last gig in the last post as well: My Brightest Diamond at the Sydney Opera House. Remember I rang to check that there would be some sort of seats because I knew I would be around 30 weeks and unable to stand for that long? Well, we rocked up last Sunday, looking forward to the concert (though it was me who was looking forward to it more than Ben was; Ben does like Shara Worden, but he was more coming along for my sake—so I would have company). I even parked in the Opera House carpark, which charges a flat rate of $32 on Sunday nights—expensive, but worth it, considering the PGP. But when I picked up my tickets at the box office, I asked casually about the seating, expecting to be reassured that the information I had received back in April was still correct. Instead I was told that there was absolutely no seating whatsoever. I expressed my puzzlement, given the phone conversation I had had with box office staff in April. The girl I was talking to very kindly checked with the front-of-house manager. A queue started forming behind me, as she was the only one servicing the box office for the Studio. She returned and said there was absolutely nothing they could do for me; the place where there were seats did not have a view of the stage. I had two choices: I could still attend the concert or I could get a full refund.

Understandably, I was quite upset; I had been looking forward to this for three months. And I had missed My Brightest Diamond the last time she was here, supporting Sufjan Stevens, because I had been unfamiliar with her music then. (I still regret not going to that particular concert.) I said I would go talk to my husband and think about it. Then I went to meet Ben and explained the situation to him. He had to talk me out of trying to stand for 80 minutes (I know, I know; what a bad idea. Remember, I was upset). In the end, I went back to the box office and got our tickets refunded. The front-of-house manager (a lady named Anna who has been doing that job for a long time, she told us) was quite lovely: she walked down to the parking station with us and made sure we weren't charged the $32 for parking since we'd only been there for half an hour. After that, Ben and I drove to Leichhardt and had a very lovely dinner together at Castel Mola (which I recommend). So that cushioned the blow somewhat, but I still felt sad about the whole thing for days afterwards, and even wrote an email of complaint to the box office manager. (They pre-empted that by giving me a feedback form when they processed my refund.)

I know that as time goes on, there will always be other things that I will miss, and some of them will mean more than others. For example, Scott Pilgrim vs the World gets released two days after Peanut is due (which makes me wonder, if Peanut is late, it's worth risking going to the cinema; what if my waters break during the film?) I can always see Scott Pilgrim on DVD though; much worse than missing Scott Pilgrim is missing the GRAPHIC! festival at the Sydney Opera House, which is just before Peanut is due. GRAPHIC! is a festival of comics, illustration and animation, featuring the likes of Neil Gaiman, Shaun Tan, Eddie Campbell and more. One of the founders of Fantagraphics (comics publisher) will even be there! Also, they're running workshops and panels on how to make comics, how to get published, how to generate ideas, collaboration, and so on. *Sigh*! This too needs to be mourned ...

Another thing I am mourning is the lessening of my independence. It began with PGP; it's only going to get worse. There are things I can't carry, can't lift, can't do; I have to rely on others to do those things for me. I know it's a pride thing; we like being independent, having to rely on no one. So I suppose it's a good lesson for me. It's certainly helped me to see what the world is like from the point of view of someone with a disability (and disabilities worse than mine).

Resources

I'm a bit behind on my reading and haven't really done much of it. (I suppose it's not surprising, given everything else that's been going on.) I'm probably behind now in Up the Duff, I've barely read ahead in What to Expect When You're Expecting and the other books I plan on reading (e.g. The Divided Heart: Art and motherhood) I've barely started. (Or rather, I started it not long after I bought the book while in Brisbane with Kathleen—which was two years ago—but got slightly frustrated with it and its feminist insistence on equality and apparent unwillingness to negotiate with spouses [or so it seemed to me] that I put it down again.)

I have, however, been drawing on friends for advice and stuff. You should have seen the amount of responses I got to a Facebook question about prams—really helpful stuff! (Particularly from friends who also struggle with PGP; I must admit I didn't even think about that in relation to prams!)

Another thing I had been meaning to do for a while is talk to a friend and his wife about post-natal depression. He mentioned it early on, and offered to chat if we ever wanted to. I figured it was a good idea to find out more about it before birth, rather than after. So after remembering and then forgetting to talk to him about a time for about a month or more, I finally got my act together, and Ben and I went to visit them one afternoon following work. We took the wife out for coffee so she could tell us her story. That was really helpful as she was very frank with us about her circumstances—what was hard, what helped, what services are available (did you know, for example, that if a child is in danger of being harmed because of PND, the government will pay for up to two months' full-time childcare? I did not!) She also shared some of the impact having PND had on the family, and gave us some advice about things we could do (e.g. put the child's name down at childcare centres; even if you never use the service, it's good to know it's there if you need it).

The next couple of months

I stop work on Friday 9th July—a month in advance of Peanut's due date (after all, Peanut may come early). Already I've started doing things for the last time—sending The Briefing to layout, cuts and fills, preparing it for the printer, and so on. I've still got a heap of stuff to do for future issues, but the July/August issue is the last one I will oversee in its entirety.

I've decided to have a bit of a break upon finishing work. I'm rather tired and haven't had any time off since January (not that working 3.5 days a week is very strenuous, but it does seem harder when you're pregnant and your husband is also struggling with his own things). So the following two weeks after quitting, I'm hoping Ben and I can have a bit of a holiday—not go away but take life a little slower. I would like to do nothing for a while—well, I'd like to knit, read books, watch DVDs and go eat yummy things in nice places (we have our eye on Brasserie Bread as Kel and Bec rave about it!) And prepare for Peanut's arrival too (I know there are things we still need to get.)

What I'm looking forward to when Peanut comes:

What I'm going to miss when Peanut comes:

All right, that's enough for now. Though I should really get onto those parenting posts sometime; I've got a couple in draft form already ...

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These posts are fascinating, Karen, and I’m happy/sad for you.

Thanks Kathleen! Glad you’re finding them interesting!

lol! Karen, you’re so frank and I love it. “the non-constipating kind” of iron pills. hahaha.

i know how hard it is to not tell people the sex of your baby.  I am tempted to tell strangers or acquaintances what you’re having because, as Ben reasoned with the waiter, I’ll either never see them again or it’s not like their going to tell anyone of consequence.

Posted by Lizz B. on 23 June, 2010 5:29 PM


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