Monday, December 19, 2011

What to expect in nine months of creating a human being

Baby boy clearly has not gotten the message that it's time to move out. He is very warm, comfy and continuously held & fed inside thank you very much and he would like to extend his stay beyond his estimated day of eviction.

In waiting for baby boy to decide he wants to come out, I've been trying to constantly monitor my own "symptoms" to see if labor is imminent. Apparently, sometimes you can feel sick beforehand with flu-like symptoms. You can have a "bloody show" when the mucus plug comes out. You can have increasing Braxton-Hicks (practice) contractions. But it is more likely that you will have none of these! Anecdotal evidence from friends suggests that sometimes you feel more tired the day before - or that your face and fingers swell more in the week before. But that doesn't seem like much to go on since fatigue and swelling is common in all of late pregnancy.

In a nice parallel symmetry, this symptom-checking reminds me very much of the very first two weeks of this pregnancy - that period commonly know as the "two-week wait," when you could possibly be pregnant but can't yet get a positive pregnancy test result and every little abnormality is questioned and re-questioned. The problem with the 2 week wait is that it happens to also be that period of time when you get PMS if you aren't pregnant... and early pregnancy symptoms and PMS are remarkably alike. Go figure.

Given that, I thought I'd take a look back on the past 9 months. In particular, comparing what was I expecting and what was I questioning at the beginning, and how things actually panned out.

Early pregnancy symptoms
I am one of these lucky ones who doesn't really get any PMS, no cramps or anything.  I do tend to get a tad weepy and crave sweet, chocolatey things more than normal. So OF COURSE my early pregnancy symptoms included feeling a tad weepy and craving sweet, chocolatey things. But three things that I did have which I normally don't have (but which - again - some women will count among normal PMS symptoms) is feeling very tired, sore & tender breasts, and slight pain & pressure in my lower abdomen. I also, all of a sudden, had a strong aversion to tea & coffee in the morning, and beer & wine tasted so... weird and bad! (You will be happy to know that said aversions disappeared entirely by the third trimester. I chalk this up to my body's incredible ability to steer me away from substances that would have harmed baby boy's developing organs in the first and second trimesters - but I don't think this is such a common aversion to develop, so it probably won't happen to you.)
Basically, my advice for the two week wait is to just try not to symptom-check while waiting, and avoid all alcohol and reduce your caffeine consumption - just in case. First trimester is the most important time to not drink! 

"Morning" sickness
First of all, forget about the name. This is ALL DAY sickness. Well, for me it was all day. For others it strikes at particular times. But in no way delude yourself into thinking that it only happens in the morning. I suffered from almost constant nausea, and occasional bouts of actually being sick, from week 6 to week 18. I was unable to stomach most foods and particularly revolted by vegetables (go figure) and meat products (especially chicken - I couldn't walk by a KFC without wanting to vomit). My nausea was worse in the morning, and the only thing that made it better was if I ate something (cereal, crackers, or dried fruit) before getting up out of bed. And I mean, the only way it worked was if I ate something while still lying down, no getting up at all. Which means you need a co-operative husband, or the foresight to stack your nightstand.
If you also happen to suffer from nausea and sickness during your first trimester you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that your chances of having a miscarriage are lower than those who don't. Apparently the nausea is from all those good pregnancy hormones, and the creation of the placenta and your little guy or gal's major internal organs.
Given that, I've spoken with many other women who never suffered from any nausea at all. And no food aversions. At all. All I can say to them is GO AWAY, DON'T TALK TO ME, I DISLIKE YOU. If you think that is an extreme response then you clearly haven't ever had constant all-day nausea for 12 weeks in a row.

Other fun symptoms
Extreme fatigue and exhaustion in the first trimester. Really. Sleeping 10 hours at night AND taking a 2 hour nap. And then at week 16 when you're like, oh the pregnancy books say I should be energized since I'm in the fun second trimester stage, but oh I still feel like I got hit by a train, I must be iron-deficient! You're not! (Or at least I wasn't.) Your body is just beat from creating all major internal organs of a human being from scratch.
SPD or PGP - I won't talk about this here because it is NOT that common. The funny thing about pregnancy symptoms is, other than fatigue and weight gain, everyone's symptoms and experiences are going to be completely different and you will end up suffering from things no one's told you about. For example, I know a woman who has this extreme pregnancy rash that is so painful she has to take steroids to block the pain. And another who had such bad swelling her entire pregnancy that she won't get pregnant again. These are not "normal" but then again, nothing really is! The truth is, you can't know what to expect from your body until you've done it once. Not even your own mother's experience is a good indicator of what to expect. Expect the unexpected. But read that pregnancy bible "what to expect when you're expecting" anyway. At least that will give you a barometer of what KIND OF to expect.

Weight Gain
They say not to expect almost any gain in the first trimester, and then 1-2 lbs a week in the second and third trimesters. I gained a lot in the sixth and seventh months because I was SO HUNGRY, all the time. And I was kind of paranoid about not giving my baby the nutrients he needed. So I probably ate too much. Hmmm, scratch that, I DID eat too much. Add to that the fact that I couldn't exercise because of my SPD, and hello! you get a 50-lb pregnancy weight gain! But my friend gained 45 lbs, she gave birth in August, and she's already lost all of it except 5 lbs. SO. I have FAITH.

Baby bump
When will I show?? I must have googled that a milion times. The fact of the matter is that you most certainly will think you are showing long before you actually are showing. I thought I was showing at 17 weeks. I was kind of showing. I thought I was HUGE at 20 weeks. I was not. I was for sure showing at that point though. Although, I think most first-time women are not. I think the combination of my very short and narrow torso and loose abdominal muscles made me show earlier. For subsequent pregnancies you show much earlier.

See weight gain. Don't over-buy. Don't buy anything at all in your first trimester. Trust me. Just take a hair tie and loop it through your jean button and wear them AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. You will miss them. Also what fits you in the second trimester almost certainly will NOT still fit you in the third. Your belly, the same one that is swimming in this "so huge!" maternity top at 24 weeks, will be busting out of it by 34. Trust me on this one. Luckily, by 34 weeks you kind of stop caring what you look like anyway. You also stop caring about the condition of those shirts that are not maternity but "I don't want to stretch them out so I'm going to not wear them". You wear them. And dream about what clothing you will buy to replace them once you no longer resemble a beached whale.

So as you can see, pregnancy is FUN! And totally different for everyone.

But I am so ready to not be pregnant anymore. Just for the record.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

all I want for christmas.....

is baby! 

I'm in my 39th week of pregnancy this week (technically that's called 38 weeks pregnant here.) Either way it means only a few more days till my due date! If I make it there? Don't want to jinx it, but I feel like baby boy must be ready to meet the world. I just can't get any bigger! At the midwife appointment today she said I'm 3/5 engaged - which means baby's head is nestled nicely in the pelvis. Not that that means anything - first babies can engage a few weeks before birth or a few days, or even hours. We'll just have to wait and see! Waiting...

Friday, December 2, 2011

A look back...

Since the end of this pregnancy is now well in sight, I thought I'd take a look back... here's something I wrote before I found out I was pregnant...

March 30th 2011

So I told my mom and my dad I thought I might be pregnant yesterday afternoon. I don’t know what got into me. Maybe it was because C was so late coming home, and I hadn’t spoken a single word to anybody all day long, but I called my mom and said “I think I might be pregnant.” I called my dad an hour later and basically said the same thing to him but in a much different way. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. My mom’s reaction was priceless.

Me: “I think I’m pregnant.”
Mom: “I know.”
Me: “What?!?”
Mom: “The psychic told me last week you were pregnant.”
Me: “But I didn’t know I was pregnant last week – and I still don’t actually know,  I just think!”
Mom: silence
Me: “Okay.”
Mom: “She said you’re having a boy.”
Me: “Cool.”

After hanging up with the psychic queen, I realized I hadn’t called my other parental half to inquire after his home-sale. I couldn’t really get too involved or exciting about the sale because I kept on thinking about how I might, might, might be pregnant. And then he started talking about coming to visit in September, and my mind starts working over-drive. < If he comes in September then he’ll have to come again in December when the baby would be due, and won’t  I be going home in August for a baby shower? > All these thoughts – mind you – predicated on a supposition that was and is far from proven fact! Needless to say, I blurted out, “Well, you know, there may be a reason for you to come over in December because I might be pregnant!” My dad followed this announcement with congratulations, which I quickly stemmed, reminding him that it was a big maybe!

Dad: “Well, are your checks rosy?”
Me: “That’s so funny because actually my checks have been really flushed the past few days.”
Dad: “I can always tell when a woman is pregnant because her checks are rosy.”
Me: “Really?”
Dad: “Sure I can!”

So, you see, my dad is a pregnancy seer! He lives in New Hampshire though, so fellow wanna-be-mums, you should be prepared for a long journey to undergo his rosy-cheek analysis. 

I ended up getting a very faint second line on a pregnancy test on the morning of April 8th (Day 27 of what is usually a 29 day cycle.) It was so faint that I took another test on the 10th just to be sure - a digital one, that clearly said 1-2 weeks pregnant! (Which really means 3-4 weeks because in crazy pregnancy math, you are "pregnant" while you are still having your last period; your pregnancy is dated starting from the first day of your last period.) My pre-positive test symptoms that led me to believe I was pregnant without proof of the test included: cramping (I normally don't get cramps ever); a sudden aversion to beer, wine, coffee and tea; feeling very sad and tired for no reason; and a stabby pain in my boobs. And then the nausea and extreme exhaustion started at week 6 and didn't fully let up until week 18. FUN. STUFF.

But now I'm 16 days from my due date - what a long journey its been, and what an incredible one is in store....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Full term!

I forgot to say that today I am officially* full-term at 37 weeks*!! Yay! That means if I go into labor today I can go to the birth center as baby boy is, medically-speaking, already all set for life outside the womb.

Did you hear that baby boy? You're officially fully developed and ready to meet us! It's your cue to arrive.... we're waiting patiently...

Because my pelvic pain is getting worse by the day, I don't think I'll be waiting as patiently in a weeks' time. Then it will be the hour for please-tell-me-every-single-old-wives-tale-about-inducing-labor-pretty-please-I'll-try-anything. Eating entire pineapples & mouth-searing curries, drinking raspberry-leaf tea, even watching The Bourne Identity (really?! something about the camera shaking...) will all be commenced shortly if baby boy hasn't come by next week. (Which, er, I don't think he will. I don't feel any special premonitions about the next week or two... Are you supposed to?)

Me and my basketball belly above. Apologies for my disheveled appearance. My wardrobe is seriously limited these days and always includes the stylish white pelvic-support belt you can see at the bottom of the picture - so fashionable, I know!

*My EDD based on the first day of my last period is December 18th - I like the sound of this date a lot better than my revised, official EDD (based on my 12 week ultrasound) which is December 20th, so I've been saying the 18th is my due date whenever anyone who isn't a medical professional asks. So unofficially I was full-term two days ago...

** I'm 37 weeks pregnant, which means I'm in my 38th week of pregnancy.

birth plans

I went to the water birth workshop at my hospital's birthing centre yesterday. It was - to employ local parlance - absolutely brillant!!! So informative - and whereas before I thought I would only want to labor in the pool but not give birth in it - now I 100% want to give birth in water. I think it will be especially helpful for me to be in the water to take weight off my poor dysfunctioning pelvis, I just need to be careful about getting in and out of the pool. It also is no problem that I have GBS and will need to have intravenous antibiotics every four hours throughout labor - they just put a rubber glove over the hand that has the cannula... still not sure how that keeps the water out, but if I have to just keep one hand out of the water I think I can deal with that. They also addressed all my other worries about water births. They have telemetric fetal monitoring which is waterproof and thus can be used to continuously monitor baby's heart-beat if need be. (Although I would prefer that, if everything is going normally, that they only monitor baby's heart-beat every 15 minutes. Intermittent monitoring is just as effective and results in fewer false alarms of fetal distress.) Some more embarrassing aspects of giving birth were also addressed. (Er, you know, contact me if you want to know more.) You don't have to get out of the pool at all. They examine you with a flashlight and a mirror while you're in the pool. You can also use gas & air while in the pool, and there is a shower head for some water massage! All in all it sounds just exactly how I want to go through this powerful, painful, wonderful, empowering, life-changing, life-giving experience.

I am so lucky to be giving birth in the UK where birthing centers and water births are integral, accepted and encouraged within the medical establishment. Where midwives run the show, view birth as a natural process, and have experience and enthusiasm for natural, non-medicated births. I don't belittle or begrudge those who have a medicalized birth - I think that it is much safer for a woman to have an epidural if her experience of birth pain is excruciating and she is unable to cope. There are also many things that can go wrong in labor that require immediate medical intervention. There is a reason why getting pregnant used to be the most dangerous thing a woman could do!  Before modern medicine your chances of dying in labor were quite high. However, the medicalization of birth has been taken to an extreme in the US and I really dread having to give birth back home next time, unless I can find a birthing center! (I would have a home-birth next time, but our insurance wouldn't cover that.) I am also so lucky to be giving birth in the UK because all my care is completely 100% free. Even though our US insurance covers 100% of "wellness visits" - it only covers 80% of pregnancy and delivery related visits. Because apparently pregnancy is a "condition" and not a natural, normal part of life. So we are saving a lot of money by having this little guy in London at an NHS (National Health Service) hospital.

So I am so thankful to be giving birth here. So thankful that the following birth plan will raise ZERO eyebrows in the hospital birth center.

I AM SO EXCITED TO GIVE BIRTH. I know that sentiment makes many people cringe and innerly (or directly) call me crazy. Fine, think that I am crazy! But I just cannot wait for this empowering, emotional, most uplifting and dramatic moment of my life. Every time I watch a video of a baby being born I tear up. I just cannot wait to meet our baby boy.

Oh, and please excuse the British spelling in the following...

ta-da! here is my...

Birth Plan

Mother: Olivia Stevens
Birth Partner: husband, Chris Stevens

Key points:
-     natural birth, gas & air only
-     water birth
-     GBS positive, wants antibiotics asap
-     SPD
-     Spontaneous pushing
-     No episiotomy
-     delayed cord cutting
-     physiological third stage
-     immediate skin to skin contact
-     immediate breast-feeding

I am GBS positive – I would like antibiotics as soon as possible in labour.

I have SPD and am limited in the movements I can make. I would like to deliver in the water, or on all fours or on my side. If in case of an emergency I need to have an epidural, great care needs to be taken to ensure my legs are moved in parallel and not moved too far apart (my partner has a ribbon marked to how far I can move my legs without pain).

I do not want any medical pain relief, except gas & air. I plan on managing the pain through breathing, visualization, vocalization, massage, and water.

I want to push spontaneously – no directed pushing please.

Crowning – please remind me not to push through crowning. I want to avoid tearing and do not want an episiotomy.

I would like immediate skin to skin contact with my baby immediately after birth.

We want a delayed cord cutting, please wait until the cord has stopped pulsing before cutting the cord.

Physiological third stage of labour – I want to deliver the placenta naturally, please do not give any drugs, and do not use controlled cord traction. If the bleeding has become excessive or the placenta does not deliver naturally within 30 minutes, then we would like to re-evaluate.

I plan on breastfeeding immediately after birth.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time to start packing...

One of the girls in my NCT class (remember we all have due-dates within 15 days of each other, all in December) gave birth on Sunday. Sunday, November 27th - 3 and a half weeks before her due date!! A due date which is only four days before my own!

This slap in the face of reality reminded me that, hm, yes, my hospital bag is still not completely packed. If I went into labor today I would arrive at the hospital with half the allotted crap I wanted to have. Which would probably not have been the end of the world given my tendency to over-pack and all - but I most certainly would be laboring in the clothes I arrived at the hospital in. Which is not cool according to me, because I want to be laboring in clothes I can throw away afterwards if necessary. (Given the amounts of blood involved in delivery I'm banking on the, yes, it will be necessary. And no, hospitals in England don't give you disposable gowns like they do in fancy American hospitals.) I do already have disposable underwear in there. But I wanted some pairs of cheap black panties too, in case the thought of wearing plastic becomes untenable (it already is somewhat so.) I have straws for drinking, but no tennis balls for massage. I have slippers (cheap hotel ones I can throw out) and flip-flops for the shower, but no towel. I could go on and on. Basically I am unprepared. Except for the baby's bag. The baby's bag is completely set to go! Because his was the most fun to pack, obviously. All those cute little onesies and receiving blankets and hats - oh my! Can I un-pack and re-pack for the fifth time just to ooggle again?

My hospital bags 

*UK edition (in the US you wouldn't need clothes to labor in, or maternity pads, or diapers, because you pay your private hospital bill which includes all those freebies!)

Phone and charger
iPad + charger 
camera + charger
power convertor

Maternity notes
Many copies of birth plan
One (or two?) pillow(s) from home with not-so-great pillowcase w/ waterproof cover
Small coin purse for vending machines
Hairbands and headband
Back massager (tennis balls!, rolling pin?)
Chewing gum
Warm, comfortable socks that can be thrown out
Very old nightgown or t-shirt & shorts that can be thrown out
Bikini top for birthing pool
Big water bottle
Juice packs and snacks for hubby
Labor massage oil (rose, lavender)
Lavender essence (to dap on tissue)

Breast pads/ nursing pads
Nursing bras / tanks
Towel and washcloth
Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, body lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, face moisturizer)
Flip-flops for shower
Contact lenses and eyedrops
Sleeping mask
Zip-up fleece
Old PJ pants and button up shirt
Maternity pads
Disposable underwear AND cheap cotton underwear that can be thrown away if nec.
Baby book to record baby’s footprint and vital stats
Going home outfit for me

Receiving & swaddling blankets
Cotton wool (aka jumbo sized cotton balls, for cleaning baby's bum)
Going home outfit (a baseball sleeper! so cute, must assert American-ness from day 1)
Baby onesies and sleepers (3 of each)
Scratch mitts
Burp cloths
Snowsuit (one fleece for a warmer winter day, one intense fluffiness for a colder day)
Infant sleeping bag

Wasn't that a fun list?? Now I get to go finish packing... because seriously... in one week EXACTLY I will be full-term. FULL TERM! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS? THAT MEANS I COULD GO INTO LABOR ANY DAY! ANY. DAY. Phew. Fun, scary, exciting times. 

I can't wait to meet baby boy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

All About the Boobs... what I've learned about feeding my baby

This past month Chris and I have been taking a great antenatal class in our local neighborhood. (Antenatal is apparently a very British term, I'm thinking the American term equivalent would be birth class?) The classes are run by a national charity called the National Childbirth Trust, and though the classes were not free, or cheap, they were pretty informative, helpful, and most importantly, we met some great other new parents. There were eight other couples, all of us have due dates within 15 days of each other, and we all live within 1/2 hour of each other. (One of the couples lives literally right around the corner!) Class was also like a mini UN - Greek, Australian, Portuguese, New Zealander, Iranian, American, and only half British. And although I felt the coverage of labour and delivery was scanty and repetitive (there was no discussion of the third stage of delivery or perineal massage, much to my dismay), the information on breast-feeding was VERY helpful. This makes sense because our instructor - a middle-aged bourgeoise hippie who lay on the floor moaning in fake-labour pain at least once a class - is a lactation consultant.

Useful facts about breast-feeding:

 - Newborn babies need to feed at least once every three hours. You shouldn't try to schedule the baby's feedings, except you should set an alarm to go off every three hours in the night so that if your baby doesn't wake on his or her own to feed you can wake them.

- After baby is done feeding on one breast you should always offer the other. Then start with that breast the next feeding.

- A baby doesn't need to feed for a certain amount of time. But if your baby is at your breast for 45- 1 hour, he probably isn't latched properly. When babies don't latch properly they don't get as much milk, and your boobs get unnecessarily sore.

- Your nipples shouldn't hurt when baby is breast-feeding. If they do, he isn't latched on properly.

- Baby's head should always be tilted BACK when feeding. (Do this now. Put your chin to your chest and try to open your mouth and swallow. Go ahead, do it! How does that feel?)

- Don't support baby's head when feeding either, just hold them very snug and firm against your body.

- It is really important that baby's first experience with feeding be positive. Right after birth, let them lay against your chest and find your nipple on their own - don't force them on or let a midwife/nurse force them on. We watched a video of a newborn lying on his mom's chest immediately after birth and he just instinctively crawled his little head towards her nipple - it is amazing!

- If feeding your newborn every two hours (or more) seems excessive, think of it this way.... When was the last time you put anything in your mouth today? Even a sip of water? Because breast-milk is baby's everything... and with a stomach the size of a walnut in the first weeks, it makes sense they get hungry and thirsty at least every two hours!

- Crying is a last resort for hunger. Look for rooting with the mouth, putting hands in mouth, general restlessness - and try to feed before he cries.

- The WHO and all other major health groups recommend exclusive breast-feeding (no formula!) for 6 months. Only 1-2% of British women do this.

- Frequent feeding through the night is really important for establishing a good milk supply so that you can successfully feed for those six months (and beyond.)

- At six months, solids can start to be introduced but you should still be breast-feeding too.

I feel very lucky to be able to be unemployed through the first year of little boy's life. I don't know how I would cope with leaving him after 3 months' (or even 6 months!) maternity leave. I also don't know how I could possibly exclusively breast-feed if I had to go back to work after 3 months! I don't think it's possible, unless you pump and store your milk every couple of hours while at work. My mom swears she exclusively breast feed me when she started going back to work when I was 3 months old, but then I asked her, well didn't you supplement with formula? and she said she couldn't really remember. She didn't pump at work, but would run home during her lunch break to feed me, and then would race home every evening early. Sounds too hard! I'm so lucky, this I know.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chipmunk cheeks (aka weight gain during this pregnancy)

In the past two weeks I baked the following:

chocolate-chip sour-cream coffee cake (it's amazing!! - go bake it right now!)
pumpkin cookies
whole-wheat apple muffins
mango banana muffins
black-bottom cupcakes***

Now, remember that a) I naturally gain weight easily b) I live in a two-person household c) I am home all day long unable to move and d) I am pregnant and naturally craving sweets.

Should it be any surprise to me that I've gained 5 lbs in the past week and a half then?

Hm. No. It shouldn't.

I am currently on a full-stop baking hiatus.

(But I really want to make these.)

Anyways, I really have gained so much weight during this pregnancy. Now, I'll let you know that I have nothing but scorn for those women who care about their figure during pregnancy. I mean - HELLO! - you're PREGNANT! Your growing baby needs good food and your body needs some stored fat to make breast-milk after birth! (The making of which - btw - uses more energy than growing baby does.) But I really haven't been helping myself out by eating so many sweets while being unable to exercise.

Don't be misled by this picture of my ginaaarmous belly - that belly is ALL baby! (He is so squished in there, I feel his protest kicks and squiggles all day - and night - long.... he is one strong baby!) My fat deposits are pretty much all in my butt. The best was when my grandmother told me (repeatedly) that I was "carrying all in the back." Okay, thanks grandma! You know that's not physically possible right? Why don't you just call me fat and get it over with?? She regaled me with stories of her two pregnancies the whole visit - "I didn't go one pound over the 12 pound weight gain my doctor recommended!" Well... gee.... that sounds.... healthy?

My recommended weight gain (based on this calculator) was 25 lbs, given that I'm 5'4" and started at 120 lbs. Right now I weigh 160. Yes, you read that right! I've gained 40 lbs!

When thinking about that number my first reaction is utter revulsion and a steel-will resolution not to consume any baked product ever again. But the fact of the matter is, I don't sit at home stuffing my face with cake all day. I just can't MOVE, so that one piece of cake, or one cookie, does not get burned off, at. all. So unless I want to completely deprive myself of one of the only joys left to me in this pregnancy, then I'm going to gain more weight before this little guy's appearance.

Right now I'm leading towards the yes, you must deprive yourself of this last joy side of things. I can go four more weeks** without baking... right? right? 

* for the record, DH's co-workers have been benefiting from this baking spree and my freezer overfloweth with muffins!

** my NCT instructor last night told me she thinks I will deliver early, "there's not much room left in there!" were her exact words! As someone who has been seeing 8-month pregnant women every week for 30 years I think I can safely put some hope in her opinion. Because seriously, giving birth at 38 weeks (in one month's time) sounds so infinitely preferably to the dreaded 1-2 week's over-due that is common with many first births! (38-42 weeks is all within full-term. Doesn't that make the phrase "due-date" rather funny?) Here's for a birthday in the single digits of December!!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Does this baby come with a user manual?

I started a new pregnancy / mum to a very young baby group for my local expat women's club, called Bumps and Babies, and for this past month's meeting I had everyone send a title for a book they found particularly useful for pregnancy, labor, baby's 1st year and/or breastfeeding.

I then compiled the list (with a lot of my own titles thrown in there) and printed out copies for everyone at the meeting.

I also did a very insensitive thing and wrote an asterik and a disparaging comment by the name of a baby book I (and many, many others) feel very strongly against. "The Contented Little Baby Book" is written by a child-less woman who advocates having a very strict scheduling of feedings for baby from birth. This flies 100% in the face of all medical professional's advice that I've ever read about breastfeeding, most of whom say that - especially during the "fourth trimester" of the first three months of baby's life - that all feedings should be baby-led (aka - and this sounds so very intuitive to me that I feel silly saying it - feed baby when baby is hungry and not because - omg! it's 3pm and that is his scheduled time to feed!)

Granted I have never taken care of a new-born before (so who am I to judge whether this woman's, Gina Ford, advice is good or not?) BUT my NCT instructor has, and she went on a whole diatribe against this book, and ones like it, that advocate for strict schedules for newborns, saying she sees at her clinic all the time under-fed babies who are failing to thrive because their parents follow strict schedules like Ford advocates. Like my NCT instructor says, newborns just went from being continuously held and fed 100% of the time in the womb, to being in this cold new world where they must suck and digest their own food, and be left alone some of the time! Add to this the fact that newborns are not developmentally ready to be born yet (read "The Happiest Baby on the Block" or any other book that talks about the "fourth trimester") - and you have a poor, helpless infant who can only understand love, warmth and comfort - but certainly not that you cannot feed him right now because you must wait 3 hours between feeds or else! All babies are different and maybe Ford's schedule works for some but I do not think it is a good book for new mothers to read thinking that they must do what Ford says, especially when much of what she says can be detrimental to the establishment of a good milk supply.

So there are all these reasons why I wrote that comment, but I shouldn't have. It hurt the feelings of the woman who recommended it (who DID, btw, follow Ford's advice!) and I just should have kept my big mouth shut. Because I really liked this woman and would have liked to be friends but now I think she thinks I'm just a huge bitch. Ugh. Is one lost friendship worth my moral integrity? I feel so strongly against having pregnant women read this book that I feel highly like it WAS a question of moral integrity to put that warning there. But there were only 5 people at the meeting, and only 1 other first-time mom. So, so much for my moral integrity in saving 1 person from reading it. Why can't I leave well enough alone?

But without further ado, here is the list. I personally highly recommend "The Happiest Baby on the Block" (given with much praise to me by my cousin, a mother of two), "Fatherhood: The Truth" (laugh-out-loud hysterical, and the only book DH has read cover-to-cover all year long, and with no prompting by me!), and lastly "Birth Skills" by Juju Sundin (even if you do want an epidural, her skills are helpful for early labor!) 

Bumps and Babies - Book List

Baby’s first year:

The Baby Book, by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, MD
The Wonder Weeks, by Hetty Van de Rijt and Frans Plooij
The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, MD
Brain Rules for Baby, by John Medina
The Contented Little Baby Book, by Gina Ford **
The Yummy Mummy Survival Guide, by Liz Fraser
What to Expect during the First Year, by Murkoff, Eisenberg & Hathaway


What to Expect When You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff, MD
The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy, by Vicki Iovine


Birth Skills, by Juju Sundin with Sarah Murdoch
New Active Birth, by Janet Balaskas


So That's What They're For: Breastfeeding Basics, by Janet Tamaro
The Nursing Mother’s Companion, by Kathleen Huggins
The Breastfeeding Book, by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, MD

For dads:

Fatherhood: the Truth, by Marcus Berkman

Websites & blogs: - in particular the “Advice Smackdown” column

** A very controversial book: Medical professionals say following Ford’s advice can prevent the establishment of a good milk supply if you are breastfeeding. The National Childbirth Trust strongly advocates baby-led feeding and avoiding a strict schedule in the first three months. (My NCT instructor says she sees new babies in her practice all the time who are under-nourished because the parents are trying to adhere to a strict schedule of feedings instead of listening to their baby’s signals.) That being said many new parents find Ford’s book helpful, as evidenced by its appearance on this list, and Ford has many devoted followers.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pregnancy brain

I made pumpkin waffles today. (Yes, I found both canned Libby's pumpkin AND a waffle maker in this country!! yay Americana!)

So I made pumpkin waffles. I got out all the ingredients and put them on the counter. Put the little bit of butter in the microwave to melt. Mixed batter. Made waffles. Ate waffles. Cleaned up waffle-making mayhem. Did fifty billion loads of cloth diaper laundry. (Did you know you have to pre-wash hemp diapers FOUR to FIVE times? Bah.) Sent a million emails. Made, ate, and cleaned up LUNCH. Went to make afternoon tea and opened microwave. To find the butter from this morning's waffles. I completely forgot about it!

(Good news - the waffles were still delicious without it. I know you were worried about that.)

This forgetfulness is a really weird pregnancy symptom that I SO thought people were joking about / exaggerating. Surely - my first trimester self thought - surely you can't leave the house without your keys? I mean. That is just a WHOLE crazy level of forgetfulness. But yes, you can. I've left the house without my blackberry twice. Which is just about the same as leaving without your keys when you realize that you don't have it when you're 20 minutes from home.

You can also go to a gelato store, and pay for the gelato with a 10 pound note. Have the guy give you a loyalty card in return. Go to park and eat said gelato. Go BACK into gelato store and ask if they have toilets. Having received an answer in the negative you go to the Cosi coffee next door and kind baristas let your HUGE pregnant self (the omg is she gonna give birth here? look of terror on strangers' faces is priceless) use the restroom. You get your large, waddling self somehow down two flights of stairs and a long walkway to the tube. You get your large, omg I move like a turtle but look like an elephant self finally up your own stairs and into your flat. Which is precisely when you realize that the gelato guy NEVER GAVE YOU YOUR CHANGE! WTF? Dude, you just robbed a PREGNANT lady! Hope you feel good about your day. You probably do. You're four pounds richer. But maybe you feel a little sorry for me - like, hey, that lady is so dumb she probably needs that four pounds.

Keep your four stolen pounds, gelato guy, I just have pregnancy brain.

My mind will return.... hopefully.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some painful acronymns to ponder



SPD, symptomis pubic dysfunction, and PGP, pelvic girdle pain, previously thought to be two separate conditions, are now apparently the same thing. This pregnancy-induced pain (caused by the hormone relaxin relaxing the ligaments connecting the pelvic bones TOO much) has been recognized since the time of Hippocrates. But my favorite quote on it is this one from the 17th century:

The affection appears to consist of relaxation of the pelvic articulations, becoming apparent suddenly after parturition or gradually during pregnancy and permitting a degree of mobility of the pelvic bones which effectively hinders locomotion and gives rise to the most peculiar and alarming sensations.
—Snelling (1870)

Please excuse me, it's just that I have a peculiar and alarming sensation in my pelvis.

Personally, I don't care what they want to call it or what funny adjectives are used to describe it, it is what I have. Pelvic Pain. Imagine you got alternating sharp, stabby pains, and a dull, constant achy pain in a single spot directly at the top and center of your (low-rise) panty line. That is what I have. To prevent it I can only sit in very specific ways (no crossed legs, ankles or knees, back straight but not too straight, knees lower than hips, feet flat on the ground), I can only walk/shuffle at an honest-to-goodness-that-IS-an-old-lady-with-a-cane-passing-me speed,  I have to take stairs very gently and at very, very "excuse me ma'am are you alright?" speeds, I can't stand for longer than 5 minutes, I have to wear orthopedic inserts or Birkenstocks even at home (good bye to my collection of cute flats and boots!), I can't swim, do yoga or any kind of exercise, and I can't walk/shuffle for more than 10 minutes at time (which given my speed is about 100 feet.)

If there weren't a cute little bundle of joy at the base of all this I might be pretty mad.

Although apparently it doesn't help matters that said cute little bundle of joy is already sitting quite low with his head providing my very sore and tender and over-stretched pelvis with more pressure. But at least (knock on wood) he isn't breech!

Least I scare my friends into thinking that they want no part of pregnancy after reading my pelvic pain lament, rest assured, it usually happens only to those who are uber-flexible to begin with. (To give you some basis of comparison, I can go into a back-bend from standing. Without warming up or anything.) The horomone relaxin (which is SUPPOSED to loosen your pelvic joints so that baby's head can come out!) just loosens things up TOO much in those of us who are naturally already really, really flexible. But if you want to try and prevent it, then make sure you do lots of pilates BEFORE you get pregnant. That way you'll have a really strong core that can compensate for your failing pelvic ligaments and help keep your pelvis secure and in alignment. Regularly doing Kegel exercises would also help. But again, starting before pregnancy. I'm not a doctor but this is what my osteopath told me (who, errr, is also not a doctor.) But it makes good sense, and doing pilates regularly is a good thing for anybody! Yoga on the other hand.... not good for those who are already too flexible. Sad face for me because I loved yoga. Sad face. Oh well. I highly recommend yoga to everyone else though! Great for the mood and the body and the soul. Breathe in for five counts... one... two... three... four... five...

I imagine my pelvic pain floating away...

Ouch! Just tried to cross my legs... pelvic pain is definitely still a resident here. And probably will remain so until two weeks after the arrival of baby boy.

But I'm at 32 weeks! only 6-8 more to go!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bigger is not better

Bigger is not always better.

No, no, not by a long shot.

Now, those with itty bitty boobies might beg to disagree with me here, but big boobs have big drawbacks. These include but are not at all limited to: backache, posture problems, inability to sleep without some sort of support, inability to run without MASSIVE support, unwelcome staring, ill-fitting clothing and inability to find bras that actually FIT.

Now of all those drawbacks the last two actually have solutions. 1) Find a store that is well stocked with bras in ALL sizes and 2) find a store that tailors clothes specifically for women with large boobs. Say good-bye to Victoria Secret (what do you mean you only carry up to DDs?? BS!) and HELLO to the amazing UK store called Bravissimo! Which not only carries ALL cup sizes (seriously) but also has a relatively cute line of clothing tailored specifically to busty, very busty, and extremely busty women! (Not kidding, there are 3 sizes within each size!) This is just mind-boggling, amazing, wonderful. Why does Victoria Secret have such a stranglehold on the US lingerie market? Why does a country the size of CT and Rhode Island have it's own store specifically for big-breasted women of ALL sizes?

I would love to wax sociological about the various reasons why the UK caters better to women's boobs than the US but all my theories sound rather silly. Just another example of why bigger is not always better!

And it's not just this one store Bravissimo that has amazing selection. Check out this line of all wireless bras. (Wireless? Why would I even think about such an evil term? Well, when breast-feeding, wired bras can clog your ducts, or so they tell me. I'm not really sure what that means but it sounds scary.) This bra company even makes a nursing bra specifically for cup sizes F through (wait for it) L !! Which, given that I'm at a FF right now makes me happy. Yay, I can find bras that fit, at reasonable prices. Phew. I don't ever want to walk into a Victoria's Secret ever again. They don't even make nursing bras anyway. Super mom Heidi Klum should have a word with them about that one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Thank You to the Parisian People

Thank you, citizens of Paris, for immediately giving up your seat for me on the metro. I didn't even need to give a single one of you "that look." Nope, me and my baby bump standing by you for a millisecond was enough for you to jump out of your seat. Thank you.

Thank you also to all the museum guards who - the very moment I entered the line - dropped everything, waved frantically at me to get my attention, then motioned me immediately to the very front of the line. (Note to future pregnant friends: traveling at 7 and a half months pregnant - while not comfortable or convenient for many reasons - IS great for cutting long lines at museums.)

While I'm at it, I'd also like to thank you, Parisians, for your delightfully obsessive passion for good food. Your restaurants and cafes will be much missed by this pregnant patron.

A note to London - get better manners and better food and maybe I'll write a thank you to you too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

31 weeks... and baby's head is already engaged!?

Ignore the messy flat in the background.... five loads of baby laundry a day has slowed down my other housekeeping chores (err, as has a certain fantasy novel, The Wise Man's Fear, ahh so distractingly & absorbingly good).

But anyway... I'm huge! Right? Although I'm only going to get bigger!

AND I went to the osteopath the other day (for my increasing pelvic pain) and he was feeling where the baby's head was... and baby boy is already 2 - 3 cm engaged!! Now, the osteopath used to be a nurse, but he's not a midwife or OB, so I'm not sure exactly what he meant. I think it means baby's head is already 2-3 cm down into my pelvis - aka he's already "dropped." Which would explain why I haven't been experiencing the trademark breathlessness of the 3rd trimester (despite my very short torso.) It also explains the increasing pelvic pain. His head pressing down on my pelvis isn't helping my pelvis' stability issues.

I have a midwife appointment on Wednesday so hopefully I'll know more about the implications of his having already dropped by asking her. Although she's only a tad bit brighter than a ton of bricks sooooo I might not. I do have an appointment with an OB in mid-November though. Which is a real long ways away. I don't have any alarming symptoms (not even any Braxton-Hicks!) so I think baby boy is really just, as the osteopath put it, testing out his exit strategy - and everything is a-okay.

Sometimes I do think he's trying to bust out. He kicks and punches so hard! Last night he was kicking and punching - at. the. same. time. It feels like your belly is housing a seesaw instead of a cute little bitty baby. I always thought those little striped jail-bird baby onesies with the slogans about 9-months behind bars or whatnot were crass and very white-trashy. Well,  I still think they're crass and white-trashy, but I do see the relevance now. 

We're off to Paris this weekend! It will be a marathon of doing a lot of sitting and eating and absorbing the beauty that is Paris, by um, walking only 15 minutes at a time at a very, very, very, I-can't-believe-my-husband-isn't-going-stir-crazy-and-old-ladies-with-canes-are-passing-me pace. But there will be croissants. And other beautiful pastries. And chocolate. And crepes. And aren't you glad I don't have gestational diabetes?! Because I am!

Bon Weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby essentials

I've started a group for pregnant women in my area to meet up and chat - and one of the women in my group just sent me an email asking me for my advice on baby products. It was a pretty tactless email. There were no thank yous, or could you pleases involved. Actually I think it's worth while to quote it: "My mother in law offered to get me everything I need from NY & Vegas.  Since you have done all the research, I was wondering if you can send me a list of what you considered to be the essential for after birth & for the baby.  The only thing I got so far is the breast pumps. She have babies r us & all it's chain, pea in the pod, destination maternity & motherhood stores near here. If you know which store the product comes from that would be helpful too."

Okay, really lady? First of all, you either don't know how to write in English or are so uninterested in the impression you make on me that you don't proof-read. Second, really?? You want me to give you a list of essential baby products AND go to the trouble of figuring out which stores your MIL can find them in, in Vegas?? Are you kidding? Seriously, you must be.

Which is maybe why I haven't written her back yet. I'm not sure such an email even deserves the dignity of a "maybe it would be helpful for you to do a bit of your own research since you also don't work" response.

However, she did get me thinking about how much I DO know about baby products based on the obsessively extensive amount of research I've done on everything from swaddling blankets to baby baths. (With clearly the vast majority of it going into cloth diapers - a product which clearly would not appeal to Mrs. I-can't-spell-or-do-research-on-things-affecting-my-unborn-child.) (Me? Judging? Never...)

It will also be fun to go through this list after several months of actual product-testing and see which ones I still consider essential!

(drum roll please!)

Olivia's Essential Baby Product List

  • Swaddling blankets - the Miracle Blanket, and Aden + Anais muslim ones
  • Baby bouncer - Baby Bjorn babysitter, so cool, it folds up completely flat (I was able to put it in my suitcase) and the baby's own movements make it bounce!
  • Baby carrier - this is a three part answer: 1) Ergo Baby Carrier, can be used on the front, back and side, can be used from birth with an infant insert, can be adjusted to fit different people, is a great more traditional carrier but does not have the drawbacks of the BabyBjorn carrier (which can adversely affect baby's spinal development) 2) the Moby Wrap - basically a long piece of cloth you wrap around yourself, forming a pouch which you put baby into, baby is close to your skin and very comforted, but it's not bulky like the Ergo 3) The Peanut Shell - because it's beautiful and despite it's impracticality (since it's sized it can only be used by one person) some babies apparently like this pouch style sling the best
  • Travel crib - Baby Bjorn Travel crib, amazing! only 11 pounds (unlike the Graco pack and play which is 25!) and it's super easy to put together, just folds up, only drawback is it doesn't fit in a standard suitcase and is a bit too long for a standard carry-on but apparently airlines will let you bring it as part of your baby-paraphernalia carry-on allowance
  • Crib - obviously this depends on your living situation. If we had a real house, with a real nursery, we would have bought a nice big crib that would last for 2 years and a Moses basket on a stand or the Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper (a small crib with a drop down side that goes directly against your bed) that would go by our bed for the first three or four months. BUT we're short on space so we got the Bloom Alma mini crib, that will only last till baby boy is 1 year old, but folds up completely, is on wheels so it can be wheeled up to the side of the bed at night, and away in the morning, and means we only have to have one piece of furniture devoted to baby sleeping for at least a year. And it's super-duper beautiful and functional and I love it.
  • Baby swing - now there are lots out there, but as we were going for affordability and portability (how easily can we stash this in the closest given our flat is the size of a closet?) we choose the Fischer Price Take-Along Jungle Swing. But if space hadn't been an issue we would have gone same brand and jungle theme but the full-sized version, which swings side to side as well as back and forth. Apparently some babies only really like side-to-side. Also, apparently some babies hate all swings. So, we'll have to wait and see if baby boy approves of our choice.
  • Sophie the giraffe - uber-popular rubber squeaky teether which babies apparently adore
  • Lamaze toys - such as Olivia the Owl and Freddie the Firefly, apparently babies are faaaascinated by them (gotta admit that so am I)
  • Sleeping bags - HALO or Aden + Anais brands, it's much better for baby to be in a sleeping bag then covered with blankets. Blankets can suffocate, a sleeping bag cannot.
  • Fancy baby bath bucket - Prince Lionheart WashPod (or if you're in Europe, the Tummy Tub) - they're both basically fancy-pants buckets which, since they're for washing your precious baby in, the retailers feel justified price-gauging you for. The bucket enables you to wash your baby with your baby in the fetal position (instead of flat-on-back-and-flailing position) and is much more soothing and comforting to baby (again, anecdotally speaking).
  • Stroller - If I had money to burn, lived in an elevator building, and had spare square footage (Oh, if only) then I would have gotten the Bugaboo Bee for everyday from day one, and a Maclaren Quest or Triumph for when baby is older and we are traveling. As reality sits at the moment (no piles of hidden cash, one flight of stairs, and no room to breath) we got the Maclaren Techno XT, suitable from birth, folds like a dream with one hand (and a foot) is light, completely collapsible, very manouverable, and just lovely to behold. (We were debating on getting the City Mini, whose only appeal is that it folds with one tug of the hand - but it is ugly and takes up more space when folded and has less under-stroller basket storage.)

  • A breast pump - manual if you will only use it occasionally, electric if you plan on using it daily
  • Bottles - there are so many different kinds out there and each mom swears by a different brand, Dr. Browns and Born Free are probably the two most popular. I have yet to buy these, but do plan on getting a few of each
  • Level 1, slow flow nipples - apparently baby can develop a flow preference for a bottle over your breast, so using Level 1 or premmie nipples when you do give him a bottle will help prevent that from happening
  • Plain cotton prefold cloth diapers - for use as burp rags, general baby mess clean-up do-all
  • Layette - aka baby clothes, onesies, sleepers, cotton hats, bibs, fleece snowsuits for winter, socks
  • Scratch mitts - little thumb-less mittens so baby doesn't scratch himself!
  • Lanolin cream - for sore, dry, cracked nipples, and for prepping nipples in the months before you give birth (not supposed to be ordinary moisturizer on those puppies!)
  • Breast pads - disposable or washable, for leaky breasts (all breasts leak... apparently!) 
  • Changing pad and 2 covers - yes you want at least two, if you have to ask why then you should go give yourself some experience and babysit for a day, preferably for an 18-month old with tendencies to eat entire apples in a sitting (don't ask)
  • Crib sheets - must be tight fitting! also DON'T BUY CRIB BUMPERS! They increase the probability of SIDS, block air-flow to baby and are completely unnecessary flippery
  • Baby snot sucker - we were given the Frida, but apparently your mouth works just as well. (Gross, right? Well this is coming from DH's male co-workers!! Apparently, it's just really, really hard to get baby's teeeeeny tiiiny nostrils unclogged!)
  • Thermometer for baby's bath - maybe not essential? Just for paranoid new-moms like me who want their porridge just right?
  • Specially made thermometer for baby's butt - uhh yah, apparently the most accurate place to take baby's temperature is up their rear! But buy a special made-for-babies one so you don't accidentally rupture their rectum (ouch, cringe, eek!)
  • Rattles, baby books, and other mind-enriching toys - just wanted to end with you having a picture of a cute little baby boy rattling a rattle, or being read to, or watching his reflection in a mirror :) Aww, can't wait, really can't wait.

Woah there. I've written an essay. Already. AND I'm pretty sure I'm leaving something super important out. Will have to update later. Given my pregnancy brain (seriously there is such a thing - more on that later too) I most likely have forgotten a very important product. But I think I'm baby-product-ed-out right now. And sick of using the word "apparently." Actually don't want to see that word ever again. Can't wait till baby boy is out and I can give advice based on actual, active, direct experience!

And just in case you were wondering....

No, I'm not sending this list to her. Unless she brings me cookies. Then I might reconsider.