Things that have happened in week 35:

I got my first stretch marks. Sigh. And they now seem to be everywhere. It was bound to happen, but can I get a communal booooo?

I went over my lunch blood sugar limits twice– on the same meal I had eaten within limits earlier in the week. This led to a type of in-depth analysis, that involved researching peaches, discovering that riper fruit has a higher glycemic index than unripe fruit (which would mean if you were to try to minimize GI, you would avoid ripe fruit, a fact which blew my sense of reason), and had a minor meltdown.

I went over my dinner blood sugar limits three times. Which led to some despair, discovering that chicken sausage has 11 grams of sugar, discovering exactly how much variation there can be in carbs in an ear of corn, a good moment of utter despair thinking that my nursing staff would require me to go on medication and then picture that in the worst light possible, and as you can imagine, a less-minor meltdown.

I tripped in front of a crowd of over a hundred– making a gasping noise that I have never before witnessed. I also learned there is very little ways to actually convince people that you are fine, and a bruised knee does not mean I am going into labor.

I went to my gestational diabetes appointment and remembered how kind and reasonable my nursing staff really is. In talking through, they were not as concerned about the over numbers as I was, and we came up with a plan for the next week. Win!

I went to a regular OB appointment. Because I now do that every week

I got an ultrasound that showed baby girl at a lovely 47th percentile for weight, which should mean that if I can manage GD these next few weeks, they shouldn’t be concerned about her being too big. Yay!

I got a little sick of doctors appointments.

All in all, a rather exhausting week. And for anyone with gestational diabetes out there, can I have a shout out for how tiring it is to have your psyche tied up with a number that you check four-five times a day? Yikes! I’m guessing pregnancy hormones also don’t help the “a high number is the end of the world” spiral I can work myself into.

Tomorrow starts week 36 which makes me:
1 week from “they don’t stop labor”
4 weeks from due date and
5 weeks from “baby will be here no matter what”

It’s getting real!

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I was thinking today: I should write a blog post! I’ve been out of town and busy and it’s been a while. Then I check and it’s been nearly a month. I take this as a sign that I really have been feeling surprisingly good.

When I started on this, I heard about pregnancy trimesters like a mountain: The first trimester sucks, things rise to a good level in the second trimester, and it’s all downhill from there. Now I will not argue with someone about the suckiness of the first trimester–really folks who are battling nausea and overall crappiness, along with uncertainty, all while not having societal acknowledgement of the major life change underway–ugh. Not fun.

For me the second trimester, I was so grateful not to be nauseous anymore, but by the end of it I was starting to struggle a bit. I was feeling pretty low energy a lot of the time. I was adjusting to my sudden lack of lung capacity which made everyday activities difficult. And not to be overlooked, I had this cloud over my head that “It’s only going to get worse!” so feeling not great seemed like the harbinger of many many months of crummy.

My third trimester so far, I think I’ve felt better just by beating my own expectations. Having gotten more used to not being able to walk long distances, I get really proud of myself for being able to walk without pain and without being completely exhausted. I call standing up from the floor on my own a victory! Look at me, kicking ass!

All this has culminated in some ways over the last month with two work-trips that have included quite a bit of physical activity for a pregnant lady. At 29 weeks, I was spending a lot of time in the woods, with things that I might call a “hike” (ahem, some might say “walk” but there were inclines! And tree roots!). At 33 weeks, I was on a trip in the heat–yes moving very slowly and wow I could get tired at times, but I was there!

So by my remarkably limited expectations, I actually now am feeling a lot of success. I feel good when I take my dog on trips around the block (it’s a big block). I can stand without pain. I stand for whole twenty minutes for presentations in which I kick ass–while being very pregnant. Take that patriarchy!

I also wonder if some of my bleh-ness of the late 2nd trimester had to do with gestational diabetes before it was diagnosed. I don’t think it accounts for everything–readjusting expectations for my “mild incline victories” wouldn’t have been easy in any case. But although I have been having my real frustrations and upsets with my restricted diet, I wonder if it is contributing to my overall energy level in positive directions.

All to say, I’m grateful to be healthy and well. I’m grateful that horror stories haven’t proven true so far (we’ll see how the next 5-6 weeks go!). And if someone happens to be reading this in the 2nd trimester- if you are feeling worse as time goes on, that’s ok, you are not alone, but it could also be that you feel ok within new limits. Take solidarity, but don’t let doom and gloom scare you.

That’s right! I’m officially in my third trimester, and I have to say, those miserable days of the first trimester seem long gone. Thankfully I have the posts to remember it, so that when I encounter some woman in her first trimester, I’ll hopefully show her more sympathy than I got.

What’s most amazing about this phase of my pregnancy is how much I’ve mentally and emotionally shifted over the last month. With my little girl kicking up a storm, my belly unmistakable in its baby bump shape, and October getting closer and closer, I’m beginning to think of myself as a mother, as a parent. 

I’m working on a book chapter and was asked to send in a bio. Presuming the publication date is months ago, I edited the one I had to include a sentence about having a daughter. It wasn’t the most profound moment of my pregnancy, but it was up there on the list. It felt bold and presumptuous and amazing to write that. Just a few more months and I’ll go from pregnant with a girl to the mother of a daughter. Wow. 

A couple of exciting things ahead: on Saturday we have our baby shower and we start our Hypnobabies class! I’ve already begun listening to the first few hypnosis scripts daily, and it’s amazing how peaceful and confident I feel afterward. Focusing on the birthing process as something natural and not something to be feared is so important for those of us living in a culture like the United States that teaches us that birth is something horrible (but that babies are great). I’ll share more about my experience with Hypnobabies as we learn and practice more. 

Third trimester, let’s do this! 

When I got married, I had a lot of expectations about how people would celebrate with us. I guess I hoped people would do what I would do when invited the wedding–attend the wedding if possible, but regardless of attending, pick out a nice card and send a gift. I used to think that this was just what people do. As it turns out, it’s what some people do, but others do not. This resulted in a lot of hurt feelings that I had to deal with in the months after. I had to tell myself that it wasn’t an indicator of how people felt about our friendship or my marriage. But still, it hurt. 

Fast forward to a few months ago when two good out-of-town friends said that they wanted to throw us a baby shower. Part of me felt extremely guilty about it. They wanted to travel to throw us a shower? It seemed too generous. But eventually I just moved to a place of deep gratitude that my friends would show up for me in this special way and tried to make it as easy on them as possible by not being demanding about any of the details. I just asked that the shower be a fun time and for the love of God, please have alcohol available to those who aren’t pregnant. 

With a baby shower (usually) comes a baby registry. My husband and I were clueless, so we turned to the good folks at Lucie’s List and the Amazon reviewers to guide our choices about car seats, strollers, and other baby gear. We opted for some high-ticket items, figuring we’d purchase them ourselves after the shower with the nice 15% Amazon Mom discount. But a few days ago when I went to send the registry link to a family member, I noticed that most of our big items weren’t showing up anymore. Like our two strollers. And our pack-and-play. And our fancy swing. And our baby monitor. 

Wait a sec. That meant all of these things had been purchased? Someone actually bought us these things? 

Suddenly I was filled with this overwhelming feeling of support and love. Never had it occurred to me that people would actually be able to, much less want to purchase these things for us and for our daughter. I guess I was too worried about being disappointed that I unfairly lowered my expectations about my family and friends.

For me having a shower is about more than baby gear, as nice as it is. It’s more about our community of support coming together and telling us, “We are so excited for you, and we want to participate in your new life as parents.”

What a tremendous, unexpected gift. 

I am finding it funny that my experience of pregnancy and gestational diabetes at this point involves a lot of counting. The numbers constantly bouncing around in my head include:

Current week of pregnancy: 31 week
Weeks until full term: 6 (ahhhh! I try to use this one as a motivator to actually make baby things happen)
Weeks until due date 9
Week until baby will be here no matter what: 10 (I don’t think they let folks with GD go too far over)

Time since I last ate: 30 minutes
Time until I need to test blood sugar: 30 minutes
What my blood sugar should be under at that point: 130
Time until I need to eat again: hour and a half to two and a half hours

Perpetually: ways to count up to 15 carbs.
How many carbs I’ve gotten up to this meal
How many carbs I need to eat still
What I need to be doing/having in the house/purchasing, in order to have the right number of carbs to eat at the right time.

It’s been a weird few weeks of both adjusting to this new way of looking at food while also volunteering at camp. Last week, it meant a lot of trying to calculate my “food schedule” next to the camp schedule, figuring out what I could eat or needed to add to meals, trying to find the least disruptive time to test blood sugar or eat something out of the kids view. Now I’ve returned to a semi-empty refrigerator and I’m trying to figure out how to eat while being very tired and soon head to the grocery store–I’m amazed how fast I can go through things when options are limited. It’s all going well (or we’ll see what the drs say tomorrow–I had a couple days where the weirdness of food and schedule got me over my limits, but not by too much). I’m looking forward to this getting a bit easier, so less of my brain needs to be devoted to this at any point in time.

When I think about what I miss most about life pre-pregnancy, there are a lot of things I miss: wine, my flat stomach, a relatively ache-and-pain-free life. But I don’t miss any of these as much as I miss being treated like a competent person. In other words, I miss my life that was fairly free of unsolicited advice.

I’m tired of smug parents who act like they invented having babies and that without their words of wisdom, you’re totally going to fail at this raising kids thing. If I hear one person say something along the lines of “just you wait…” I’m going to fucking lose it! 

This came to a head last night when we were celebrating the 4th with our friends who adopted a son last year and their church friends who have a 2-year-old daughter a newborn son. The adopted parents are the shit and are super cool about how they go about interacting with their son. But their friends? OM-fucking-G. I wanted to strangle them! The mother in particular kept bringing up all of the negative things about pregnancy and raising small kids. When I shared about my plans for a birthing center delivery sans drugs, she smugly said, “Oh yeah, that’s what I thought I’d have with my first…” 

After about the 14th or 15th negative comment of “just you wait” kind of bullshit, I finally said to her, “Yes, you keep warning me about all of the hard things to expect. Are there parts of parenting that you enjoy that I should look forward to?” Inside I was fuming, but my husband said my tone was actually very respectful but also communicated clearly, “I’m tired of hearing your whining.” The woman couldn’t answer me! She deflected my question completely. (Did I mention that her two-year-old was kind of an asshole? She was.) 

I’m not in the business of judging how people parent. But when you sit there and tell me exactly how things are going to go and how awful it’s going to be, I WILL assert my desire to change the subject and I WILL point out that everything you say is negative and unhelpful. In the nicest way possible of course. At least I’ll try.

What would I really like people to say? Something along the lines of, “Parenting is hard, but you’ll figure it out just like everyone else does. And while it’s a lot of work, it’s also a lot of fun.” DON’T tell me about how difficult your child is, especially when she’s sitting right there and can hear everything you’re saying about her. Tell me the things you LOVE about being a parent. Give me the benefit of the doubt that I am just as smart, capable, and loving as you are, and I will figure it out just like you did. 

What’s the worst unsolicited advice you’ve gotten about trying to get pregnant, pregnancy, birthing, or parenting? 

I’ve been pondering topics I could write about: exercise (telling y’all all about how I’ve kept up my activity and thus feeling better about myself); babymoon part 2 (having a grand time in Grand Cayman, yay); other nice, sweet sounding things that aren’t particularly emotionally charged. But then I thought, what would be the point of that? Making myself feel better? It would’ve just been filler.

What I really ought to write about is how I broke down in tears. On my birthday. Multiple times. Most notably in the dressing room while trying on maternity clothes.

Context is key here. My birthday was two days after a week in Grand Cayman celebrating my father-in-law turning 70. (Clearly that overshadowed my own birthday as it should have.) When we got home, the hubs and I were feeling pretty exhausted from travel and I just didn’t want to go out to eat anymore because we’d just spent a week doing that. A few weeks earlier the hubs had admitted that he was really struggling to come up with gifts for me, so I suggested that he take me shopping instead. What a fun idea–picking out whatever I want! Oh yeah, except for that pesky little fact that I’m pregnant and my clothing choices have been reduced to a 10’x 10′ section in a department store, hidden all the way in the back like they’re ashamed of it. 

Despite the limited selection, I did manage to find a few cute things I wanted to try on, but all went downhill once I actually started taking off my clothes and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. God, I hardly recognized myself. My legs were less defined than I’d ever seen them (despite the constant working out I’ve done). My breasts looked huge (for me, not a plus). But nothing prepared me for gazing at my full-on pregnant belly that seemed to have swollen overnight. I swear, to my eyes I looked like Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka (minus the blue skin). And I started to bawl.

None of this is rational. I get it–I’m pregnant. I’m gestating a human that’s growing everyday. I will gain weight. I will get bigger. I will have a huge belly. Yeah, I GET IT. That does not mean I feel any differently when I see a huge version of myself that I hardly recognize anymore. Is this that hard to understand? It makes perfect sense. I live in a culture that tells me to be thinner, thinner, thinner all the freaking time, and I know as soon as this little girl comes out, it’s going to be the same damn thing again. I can’t just block out those messages that I’ve heard everyday for 31 years as I watch the scale climb up, up, UP each week.

This pregnancy thing is no joke. It’s hard, especially on the heart.

It has been an exhausting week of doctors appointments. Two weeks ago, I took the 1 hour glucose screening and didn’t pass. Last week, I had the 3 hour test which can I say, was a profoundly unpleasant experience–make a pregnant lady eat nothing for 12 hours, and then drink pure sugar to watch her blood sugar spike and fall in a enclosed waiting room, while taking blood every hour? Ugh. I also didn’t get food quite soon enough afterwards and had a bad reaction of vision blurring and cold sweats. 

And after all that, as you might have guessed, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. 

Ugh.

I had my follow up appointment today, complete with my new meal plan for the rest of pregnancy and blood sugar meter lesson. I still have some to learn, because I have yet to successfully stick myself in one go–I have had to try 3-4 times each so far because I wasn’t able to get enough blood. I was feeling so much like a human pincushion that I nearly lost it when I learned I needed a TDap booster at the Ob’s office later. In retrospect, a completely different thing, but when you don’t like needles or blood in the first place, and have been spending a lot of energy honing your “out of body” needle skills, apparently things become hard.

My thoughts about Gestational Diabetes have been vacillating. I’ve been going between this plucky can-do, “It’s ok, you got this! You were already eating healthy and lots of snacks, so this is more of the same! It’s only for 11 more weeks, you will be great!” with occasional bouts of “What do you mean for 15 carbs you can only get half an apple!?! What on earth am I going to eat? My life is difficult despair!” 

I’m also trying to keep in perspective, that in the scheme of pregnancy complications, this isn’t that bad. It looks like they mostly are concerned, not about my health, but the baby’s weight and how that might affect birth and post-birth blood sugar. Which considering the wide range of things that can go wrong, this is ok and we have a plan. I am not in any of the risk categories for GD–which is odd in some ways, but also means that from here on out I can keep an eye on diabetes risk, when I might not have known to otherwise. 

That last paragraph is my rational brain talking. The other parts of my brain also chime in with things like “But why?,” “A summer with no ice cream?” and “How the hell am I going to eat a breakfast with only 30 g of carbs when eggs sound gross in the morning? Why do you take all of my cereal and toast?!?” and other whiny and despairing thoughts. 

I’ll keep you updated, and try to let you know if I actually do figure out what I’m going to eat. 

Being on the edge of the 3rd trimester, I had a moment of anxiety that we had bought nothing for this baby. Literally nothing. We have several baby blankets that folks have given us and an umbrella stroller hand-me-down, but other than that there really was no practical object in our apartment so far for an upcoming baby. I don’t know if it is a combination of “I hate making decisions,” “I am not very fond of shopping,” or some sort of not-being-sure-if-its too early, but we finally decided that being less than three calendar months from a due date was time to start getting serious.

The first purchase was angst-y, but went pretty well. I decided that purchasing a crib would make me feel like we had actually done something. So we ordered a subscription to Consumer Reports to try to learn what I should be looking for in a very-safe-crib. I am a professional woman: when in doubt, research! We didn’t really like any of the ones we had seen in our window shopping at a local baby-store, so we ended up ordering one of the ones CR liked, that conveniently we liked the look of and also got good reviews from short parents. Done! Over-researched purchase #1 complete and here’s hoping that we like it as much in person!

Ok, well what comes after a crib? A carseat. I figure if we have a place for whippersnapper to sleep, and a way to get her home, then we are starting to get real here. Like, in case of emergency, the fella could run out for diapers and some packs of onesies and we wouldn’t be totally negligent parents. Baby-steps.

So after consulting the trusty Consumer Reports, we went out to the baby store to see things in person. We knew exactly the one we wanted to look at, we located it in the store, and then we spent a lot of time feeling like idiots. There were so many buttons! We knew we wanted to remove the carrier to see how heavy the it was without the base, and there the two of us stood, three masters degrees between us, completely baffled by baby equipment. We kept pushing buttons and pulling levers that did something else: this one tilts the car seat, this one moves the handle. There’s straps that move and are tightened. We try looking around to see if someone else has made this work. We try pushing buttons at the same time while lifting. At one point, we start wondering if maybe they have connected the carrier to the base to prevent theft, and put the whole thing on the floor to see what it feels like, while making comments like “how much heavier can the base be than a baby?.” Finally we have returned the whole thing to the display shelf and are trying to look at the different models and covers, when a woman walks up and in a single fluid motion, removes the carrier to test it out on a stroller base. The fella and I exchange knowing glances. This clear baby-expert is here with two other friends, and is demonstrating for them the things they should care about in a stroller (“Because you aren’t going to want to lug something heavy around just to run in for something in Target”). We subtly try to mimic her magic on the adjacent carseat, while simultaneously listening in for any wisdom this guru is sharing. She wheels around the car-seat on the snap-n-go with ease (“I actually think I like the same brand name version better. These weren’t available when I was in the market.”) Lo and behold, we push the button that she had pushed while lifting and like magic the carrier releases. How is this possible? We had tried that several times before to no luck! One of her friends, at that moment, looks to us with pity and says “First baby?”

So this is what I have learned from shopping so far. Despite all attempts to play it cool, we are going to be ridiculous first-time parents. I will read all of the reviews and probably pay too much. I am going to be baffled by simple objects. I am some baby-producers dream because in my bafflement, I have very little way to judge what is necessary and not. And as much as I would like to use my research to cover my inadequacies, a pinch of experience trumps a pound of research any day. Sigh.

20 weeks, y’all.

Most of my reflections this week have been on how I’m forming my pregnancy team, which in addition to my husband, friends, and family includes:

  • A group of awesome midwives at the birthing center
  • A doula
  • A psychologist
  • A prenatal yoga teacher
  • A chiropractor
  • A prenatal masseuse (soon to be added)

I’m not one who generally reaches out for help. I tend to deal with things on my own, but with the pregnancy being such an intense experience, I’ve been working on reaching out to get the help I need. I just feel privileged to have the resources and finances to access all of these amazing people who specialize in caring for pregnant women. At this point I’m open to anything and anyone who might make this process easier for me.

Allowing all of these people into my pregnancy has me battling my own deep discomfort with vulnerability. My psychologist and I have been digging into why I have the anxiety I do about medical professionals, but that process will take months if not years to work through. In the meantime I’m just jumping in despite the anxiety in order to get the help I need, even if it makes me cringe inside initially. (Nothing like some sharp, stabbing lower back pain to get a person to the chiropractor asap.) It helps that all of these people are incredibly kind, caring, and understanding people.

So, whatever stage of this journey you’re on (TTC, pregnant, new mom), I’m curious: who’s on your team? Who’s supporting you?