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29 July, 2009

Some Things They Don't Mention About Pregnancy

In honor of me now being officially past my official due date and also past my personally calculated because dammit I know when I ovulated due date, my long-pondered "Things they don't tell you about pregnancy" post.

May not apply to all pregnancies. Some assembly required. Contents may settle during shipping.

(Next time I do this, I totally want a t-shirt that says 'Contents may settle during shipping.')

* I seem to have swallowed my spare change.

First-trimester symptom: everything tastes like metal. Everything. Breathing tastes like metal. Faded out a bit after a while, but still has reappearances, like right at the moment as I'm typing this.

* Where did my seasonal allergies go?

This, this is wonderful. The horrible head cold I had during the worst of the morning sickness was the most miserably sick I've been in my life, but an entire better part of a year in which the tree sex didn't make me feel like crap is amazing.

* My joint pain went away too.

For someone who lives with chronic low-level ache and what my midwife elegantly referred to as "loose hips", the six or so months free of that was really nice. Of course my bad hip started popping again at the end of month eight, as if to make sure I didn't get my hopes up too high, but one can't have everything.

* Pregnancy update websites are probably not written with me in mind.

I first realised this when every single one of them I read one week saw fit to inform me that really, the major body change I was likely to notice around here was my breasts getting bigger, and that this was the best and most thrilling part of being pregnant.

The one that said something about my pregnancy now having lasted longer than any of my high school relationships was a nice garnish. (Gods, I hope not. Legalhusband and I have been together since I was sixteen.)

On the other hand, the Vegetable of the Week game was an excellent way to pass time. How to play Vegetable of the Week: Google "pregnancy week #" and see what article of produce the fetus is the same size as now.

* It turns out that 95% of the weird shit that happens and freaks me out is a normal pregnancy symptom.

Increased rate of heart flutters, say.

Skin tags, too.

* Your hair and nails will grow like whoa.

The nails thing is the part that throws me - as someone who had low thyroxin most of her life and is barely used to fingernails growing at a particularly noticeable rate, having to cut my nails all the time is almost upsetting in its "this is not normal" way. And it's even more fun now that I can't reach my feet.

Also, "Hair grows like whoa"? Includes pubic.

* Pregnancy is weirdly and subtly racialised.

Being someone who's in lefty-natural childrearing circumstances, I'm occasionally struck by how white things are.

By going to baby supply stores and having, on the wall, images of lots of babies and toddlers - all white, most blue-eyed.

By having people seriously suggest that the nipple-darkening during pregnancy is so babies can visually track the food source better, never mind that sight doesn't develop that clearly for a bit, mammals track by scent, and dude, where are you getting this bonus contrast concept from if you can't think of anyone other than a white person as human?

I just wow.

* Trying to get a ballpark figure for an appropriate amount of weight gain during pregnancy from the internet is not a good idea.

Take all of the crazy, interfering, I-know-better-than-you stuff that gets directed at pregnant women.

Take all of the crazy, interfering, I-know-better-than-you stuff that gets thrown around about weight and health issues.


Or hit yourself in the head with a brick a few times. It's faster, and just as informative.

* Moods are not unstable. Moods are turned up to eleven.

Instead of "cranky" I was achieving "kill it and devour its heart that its lifeblood might sustain my offspring."

Instead of "I don't want to deal with this" I was achieving "I need to go live in a cave and contemplate the hopelessness of human interaction."

* Childbirth classes with any sort of natural bent will spend at least a quarter of the time in class talking about how to protect yourself from hospitals.

This is epically fucked up. Completely, totally, epically fucked up. Legalhusband and I would leave our childbirth class every time, exchange glances, and then he'd say, "I'm so glad we're not planning on a hospital birth. I'm so glad we don't have to go through that."

And this ranges from stuff like the friend of mine who went in for a post-term ultrasound to doublecheck that everything was okay and had the administering nurse lie to her in an attempt to panic her into admitting herself to be induced immediately to horrifying shit like a woman having her baby taken away because she refused a C-section.

They will lie. They will not talk about the risks of epidurals. They will insist on putting an IV shunt into your vein "just in case" and not mention that it's possible to refuse. They will pressure. This is why people hire doulas - when they can afford them - to help protect their families from the crushing stress and pressure. This is insane.

* Hospitals are insane. Did I mention?

If you had to go to a hospital to get a special blood test done to confirm that you were healthy enough to not have to go to a hospital for your delivery - consider the stressiness in the context of previous point please - what would you like to be hearing in the lab waiting room?

There was a television there, turned up too loud, of course, because this culture is sucktastic.

But what was playing on the television?

Medical programming, of course, it was the hospital.

What medical programming?

What would you put on?

What would you put on if you were a complete idiot?

How about a special on medical mysteries in which a family could not get treatment for their newborn's skeletal abnormality because the medical community wouldn't believe that it existed?

(Present in the waiting room: receptionist, three third-trimester women, and my liege, who had brought me there, looked at the television, and put in earplugs so he could study.)

* Heartburn can be bad enough to make you throw up.

'Nuff said.

* You will become a D&D dwarf.

The ability to detect the slightest of grades will suddenly appear. "This is an upslope." "Is it?" "Yes."

* Water is the best thing in the universe.

Go swimming. Take a bath. Get an inflatable tub that's deep enough to float the belly. It doesn't matter. Bathliness is next to godliness. I am totally composing this post in the tub.

I get in the water and all the pain and strain go away. And when I get out, I don't hurt for a while, because my muscles have had a chance to relax and unwind and rest a little, because water is totally supportive.

I am completely and totally convinced of the water ape period theory of human evolution. I found it convincing because of the whole, dude, where did our fur go thing, but experiencing pregnancy, and then experiencing pregnancy and water? Completely conclusive.

* How debilitating pregnancy is depends not merely on who you are, but random unknown factors that for all I know include the phase of the moon.

I went around and around on "Why can I climb the stairs without a problem today when I couldn't yesterday?" Damned if I know.

Pregnancy is hard physical labor, and the hard physical labor of it is completely invisible, so it's like an invisible disability only of course there's the giant belly so it's not invisible-invisible, it's just that it's implausible to people who haven't been there.

* No matter how crazy the experience makes you, everyone around you is crazier.

I've been in and out of tears. I've muttered about needing to be off my depression meds because of complications on SSRIs in the third trimester. I've wrestled with the fact that gestation takes all of my energy except enough to run the braingremlin that thinks I should be getting more done.

This is nothing compared to people around me.

In the birth class, the teacher told us that we should think about delegating someone to field all the "Is the baby there yet?" phone calls. To which one of my classmates said something to the effect of, "Who would do that?" I said, "Pregnancy makes people crazy. Not you. The people around you."

I went to a baseball game last Friday, minor league game 20 minutes from my house and probably 10 at the outside from the backup hospital. Was chatting with a woman with a toddler-in-stroller in the elevator back to the car.

"So when are you due?" she asked me.


My deadpan made her laugh nervously, and she said, "... cutting it a little close there, eh?"

Cutting it close? Is the baby going to erupt from me in a splash of drama during the seventh inning stretch? What?

* Relaxin feels so weird.

My pelvis is in, I think, four pieces, and every so often when I move it feels like it nearly falls apart. The muscles that are, of course, completely unused to holding my hips on are exhausted from the effort.

On the one hand, I'm glad it's all loose because it'll make it easier to expel the fishie. On the other hand, having my pubic bone pop near-audibly weirds me the fuck out.

* The belly is gyroscopic.

It does not like to change orientation. Rolling over in bed while nine months pregnant is a feat of athleticism worthy of a medal. The belly objects. If the process involves rolling over onto the back, there will be the moment of hazy, dizzy fatigue in which the vena cava is compressed which leaves one feeling like an upended box turtle. Begging for assistance at rolling over is embarassing but sometimes necessary.

* Sharp tearing pain in the foot is something that happens to a certain fraction of women in the third trimester.

It's caused by the normal pregnancy edema, and trying to talk to medical professionals about it appears to lead to flailing panic and lack of any clue of what to do. Also, it hurts like fucking hell.

* There will come a point at which the belly gets in the way of everything.

By everything, I mean everything.

I mean I can't pee without the belly getting in the way, it wants to exist in the same space as my thighs unless I take my clothes off so I can move the thighs out of the way. (Lately I've been taking my clothes off a lot.) And trying to pee on the diagnostic stick at my regular medical checkups? HAH. It took me a couple of sessions to be able to consistently find the piss.

For a while getting places by crawling worked better (especially steep staircases, like the one at my liege's house). Now ... the belly is in the way.

I'm sure I'm missing a few things, but that will do for a nice overview.


Lissy said...

Reading this I was shunted back into memories of pregnancy... thank god my son came early! One more thing I found when pregnant: You realise just how a-holeish white men in their 20's and 30's are "what do you mean you couldn't see the gigantic stomach squeezed in front of your face on the bus?" Amazing how frail old blokes would happily stand but healthy young ones? Turn their iPods up and pretend not to see your ankles doubling in size every five seconds...

Suzanne said...

I love you so fucking much. *hygges*

(Note that I'm not calling to ask, but everytime Kevin calls unexpectedly I answer with a hopeful "yes?")

mamacrow said...

Hey, loved this post - I'm 5 months pregnant with number 6, and am so with you on the 'OTHER PEOPLE become crazy'. My mother-in-law has rung me up TELLING ME OFF when I was ONE DAY over due! I mean, WTF?! And she had 6 so should know better!

What REALLY F***s me off is how parenting books/sites are pretty much all geared towards first time parents, with the odd grudging bit about introducing no2 baby to no1 child, and if they do any birth order stuff it's only for three kids (Eldest, middle, youngest) so what does that mean for my (currently five) kid's psychological profile then?!

Also not all hospitals and anti natel services are aholes. Really. I've had four births at home in the bath, totally supported by my GP and midwife service, in fact the midwife service down here is very home birth supportive and anti unecessary intervention.

Sage said...

You didn't mention the horror stories others will tell - especially once it's out that you're having a home birth. People DIE doing that, you know. And here's some details yadda yadda yadda.

I had three healthy home births just to spite the riffraff. And my first was two weeks overdue. I tried a cod liver oil and OJ in the freezer smoothy. And lots of sex helps too.

RMJ said...

A+, will add to RSS feed. (I wrote on my fear of pregnancy here, so this is nice, hearing from someone who tells it like it is (for her at least) and doesn't romanticize or police.)

mamacrow said...

Sage - people die giving birth in the hospital too. in the end, people die giving/just after giving birth. MUCH less then they used to, but it can and does still happen.. whats that great saying, a pregnant mother stands with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin?!

In the end, I see the problem as the general sweeping under the carpet and hiding away of any kind of birth and death that seems to be part of society now, rather than birth and death being part of life, which is of course what it is.

Sage said...

Mamacrow - to clarify - the "die" comment was an example of things people barked at me, not me at them. I felt very safe at home, but it sure gets annoying when others aren't so comfortable.

mamacrow said...

sage - i totally get what you mean. After all, you think it over, take all the pregnancy and past do das into considereation and make the desicion with your dr and midwife who surely are more qualified to advise/agree than your random 'people die you know!' person!

Daisy Deadhead said...

You gotta listen to the song! (here)


violet said...

This post is brilliant.