Monday, March 31, 2008

What Not To Do While Pregnant

Some friendly advice for you other ladies out there, straight from me to you. I had to learn the hard way, and I'm here to save you the discomfort of finding out for yourself.

1. Don't go to a planetarium. I know, this probably comes up all the time. I, myself, go to planetariums constantly. Why, before this weekend, I was at a planetarium just ... 20 years ago. So, when a group of coworkers planned a trip to a space museum / observatory / planetarium, I joined them, because it sounded like fun. (Also, they planned this particular outing specifically for me, since they originally planned to go rock climbing, but changed their plans to something more pregnant-woman-friendly. Oh, the irony.) The museum and observatory were fun. Then we sat down for the planetarium show. About black holes. Complete with animations on imax film dramatizing an imagined fall through a black hole.

Let me say at this point that I watch imax movies all the time, and they never make me ill. I can normally watch shaky-cam movies with no problem at all. But wow, leaning back in that planetarium watching stars and planets zoom past me... I haven't felt that sick in a long time. Nauseous, pounding headache, dizzy, you name it. I had to sit there for several minutes after the show before I felt stable enough to walk out. Blech.

2. If you're already feeling sick from an ill-advised planetarium show, don't get in the car immediately afterwards with a nutsy driver who likes to purposely skid around mountain switchbacks and speed around corners to show off the handling of his new BMW. Trust me on this one.

Friday, March 28, 2008


After several nights of barely sleeping at all, I asked S. if he would research "pregnancy pillows." He cares deeply about my comfort, so he looked into solving the problem. Also, I'm keeping him up at night, so solving the problem will also prevent him from going stark raving mad from lack of sleep himself. But, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and let him have the non-selfish reason first.

Basically, I've suddenly been finding it impossible to get comfortable. I'm used to sleeping on my stomach, but my uterus has reached a stage where it's uncomfortable to lay on it. Also, my new (and still growing) porn-star breasts are kind of getting in the way. And sleeping on my side was hurting my lower back, hurting my hips, and seemed somehow "unstable." Piling normal pillows around me and under me was of limited help, since S. has a tendency to steal them all for himself in the middle of the night. Hence, the need for some sort of supportive pillow, hopefully big enough that it would stay out of S.'s unconscious grasp.

Being the thorough (and more than a bit nerdy) guy that he is, S. did quite a bit of research. Once he was sufficiently overwhelmed by the options, he also emailed several of our recently-pregnant friends. This resulted, most notably, in two things. First, friend E. loaned us her pregnancy pillow, after being (unhelpfully) surprised that I would need one this early; note that this comment left me feeling like the weakest woman in the world, totally unprepared for the rigors of pregnancy, much less the physical trials of actual labor and delivery. Second, friend L., upon learning that I didn't already have a pregnancy pillow by now, and fearing that S.'s careful research would take too long, went on-line and bought me the one that she loved; she followed this up with wonderment that I had survived 16 weeks without a pregnancy pillow, since she got hers somewhere around week 13. Thank you thank you thank you for putting my mind back at ease, L.!

The gift pillow from L. has not arrived yet, but I have been using the loaned pillow from E. for a few nights now. Ahhhh, sweet sleep. I'm still waking up several times each night, but I am now miraculously able to fall back asleep again. I'm still getting the occasional mild backache, but the headaches are definitely easing up, so life is good.

We've also been warned by many, many couples that, by the third trimester, the bed became too small for husband, pregnant wife, and pillow to comfortably occupy at the same time. Every couple we know that's been pregnant in the last 2 years apparently sent dear husband (or, in one case, dear pregnant wife) to sleep on the couch for the last few weeks. Since S. and I both generally sleep much better (and happier!) when we are together in bed, we have pinky-promised to try to avoid separate sleeping arrangements if at all possible. Check back in July and see how we're doing....

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Today is 16 weeks. Two things of note:

1. I am showing. Not a lot. Not enough that a stranger on the street would notice. But enough that I can tell, and that S. can put his hands on my abdomen and say, "Huh... that's different." I am now wearing only maternity pants. I have one pair. They are the shortest pair that I could find, after going to 5 stores. I still had to cut 3 inches off the bottom and then hem them (finally putting that sewing machine to good use). Most pairs of maternity pants, when held up to my body such that the length hits my ankles correctly, come up well past my breasts. (As my friend C. said on seeing this, "Cool! Strapless pants! Jeans and a tube top, all in one!") Now admittedly, I'm a little on the short side (5' 4") but I'm not that short. I don't have this problem finding normal pants. What's up with maternity pants? I ordered two more pairs on-line this week, and I am just accepting the fact that I'll need to pull out the sewing machine again before I can wear them.

2. I think that I'm starting to feel the baby move. I didn't expect to feel anything for another 2 weeks or more, but on Friday we were watching a DVD and I felt a weird ... fluttering ... on the left side of my abdomen. I only half believed it, but last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I felt it again, for longer, in about the same place. So there you have it. There's something moving around in there. We watched two movies this weekend, and I only felt the baby moving around excitedly during one of them, so we also now know something about little Barack's movie preferences. Disney musicals are good. Zombie horror movies, not so much.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


We had our Week 15 appointment today, and finally got to hear the heartbeat on Doppler. Woosh woosh woosh woosh woosh ..... I also found out that I lost two pounds since the last appointment, which is the opposite direction than I'm supposed to be going in at this point, but nothing to worry about. That brings my total pregnancy weight gain to: negative 2 pounds. I was, admittedly, a bit paranoid about gaining too much weight during pregnancy, since I started off overweight, but I kind of expected to have gained something by now. Especially since my sweet tooth has returned, and I've been craving ice cream.

This weekend, one of my fellow students was asking me questions about my pregnancy. She asked how far along I was before I realized that I was pregnant. I told her that, since we'd been trying (no need to tell her all the gory details...), I tested myself pretty much as early as I possibly could. Her response, in an absolutely incredulous tone of voice: "Wait -- you did this on purpose?!?" Ah, to be young.

Friday, March 14, 2008

All systems (still) go

We finally got the full results of the NT scan today. Based on some mysterious calculation involving my age, my weight, my ethnicity, my bloodwork, and my ultrasound measurements, the risk of Barack having Downs or Trisomy 8/13 are each less than 1 in >10,000, which is the lowest possible risk that they calculate. Woo hoo! (By the way, why that calculation takes more than a week to do is still beyond me. They say that they need the time to "crunch the numbers" but I'm getting a PhD in computer science, so I can say with a bit of authority: the formula can't possibly be that complicated. Seriously.)

Our next appointment is this coming Tuesday, when I'll be at 15 weeks. I think that Dr. M. will try again to hear the heartbeat over Doppler, but other than that, this appointment should be pretty dull.

Did I mention that my lower back has been bothering me lately? Everyone recommended sleeping with an extra pillow between my knees. I tried that this week. I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to find the pillow. S had curled up with it in his arms on the other side of the bed. I couldn't wrestle it away from him to save my life. So now we have to go get even more pillows, so that he gets one, too.

We received our first baby gifts in the mail this week. S's parents and sister sent us a box with two "onesies," one outfit, a sleeper, a blanket, and a CD of lullabyes. Also, some homemade chocolate chip cookies, to help me "keep up my energy." It was all very sweet of them, and shows how excited they are, that they ran out immediately and bought stuff for us, but it affected me in a way that I didn't see coming. We had been trying to get pregnant for a very long time, and I'm more than 3 months into the pregnancy now, so I've had a fair amount of time to think about things and process what's happening. Already at several points in the pregnancy, I've had moments where I've said that things suddenly felt more real: when we first saw a heartbeat; when the ultrasound looked noticeably human; when we saw Barack moving around. But for some reason, holding the baby clothes brought everything to a new level. I think that all of those earlier moments made me truly realize that I was pregnant, but they didn't make me feel that we were really going to be bringing home a baby.

Of course, I understood that part on an intellectual level, but it still seemed much less real. And, of course, it's not like I'd never held baby clothes before. But until that box arrived, we didn't own a single thing baby-related. I'm not one of those people that bought baby stuff years ago for when this eventually happened. Before that box arrived, we literally owned nothing for a baby. But when I went through the gifts in that box, I just sat there holding one of the onesies in front of me, thinking, "Oh my G-d. These baby clothes belong to us, because we're going to need to clothe our baby. In 6 months, something we created is going to be wearing this." I actually turned to S. and incredulously asked, "Do you realize that we need to own baby clothes?" I'm pretty sure that he thought I was a little nutsy, but he understood what I meant. All that stuff that we've bought over the years for other people's children... we need to get all that stuff now. For our baby. Maybe I've just been incredibly slow in really internalizing things, but wow, holding that onesie brought the whole "feeling more real" thing to a different level entirely.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Today is 14 weeks. By all possible measures, I am into my second trimester, more than a third of the way there. To celebrate, I've been feeling nauseous again.

We've told most of our friends about the pregnancy, and have started to get tons of advice (books, purchases, hospitals, etc). The most disturbing thing that I found out today: a friend of mine had the same insurance as us when she had her son. She was really pleased with the coverage until she got the bill after her delivery, to find out that only one thing wasn't covered: she had to pay for her epidural out of pocket, because her insurance deemed it as "optional." If a patient has any other type of procedure, pain medication is considered a normal, necessary part of proper care, but for labor, apparently pain medication is beyond the normal scope. What the hell?! That really pissed me off. My friend said that she would have called to argue, but she was too busy caring for a newborn, so she just paid the bill. Which makes me think that it's a total scam, because they know that new parents are probably easy targets. But me? I'm gearing up for a fight.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spreadin' the News

We are back from visiting family and, as S. likes to say, we are officially out of "stealth mode." A few fun reactions when we told people:

S's parents: As predicted, S's mom screamed. She also said something like, "We've been wanting this for such a long time, but we would never have said so to you, because we didn't want to pressure you." Considering she was one of the worst offenders in the pressure department, that reaction was kind of ridiculous. I wonder if she actually believes it.

S's sister: S. told her "You're going to be an aunt!" Her reaction: "You guys are getting a dog?" Thanks for the vote of confidence, sis.

My parents: We taped an ultrasound photo to the inside of my mom's birthday card, then told her that her present wasn't ready yet so we only had a picture (and that she had to share it with Dad). She was speechless and crying. My dad saw it and said, "Is this what I think it is?" We laughed because, honestly, what else could it be? Or so I thought. Until...

My grandfather: We showed him the same ultrasound and card that we gave to my parents. He stared and stared, then said, "What is this? It looks like an x-ray of a pair of shorts." I'm still not quite sure where he got that from. We eventually had to come right out and tell him.

We got back home last night, and this morning, I told both of my advisors at school. They both had the same reaction, which included commending me on my excellent timing (getting most of my graduation requirements out of the way first, and being due between quarters). As if I carefully planned the timing. I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. At least they're both being extremely supportive.

Overall, it has been less than 1 week since we started widely telling people. We have already had the following cliched comments:
  • One person (my aunt) has already said, "Surely you're dropping out of school and quitting your job now, right? You have to do what's best for the baby. What kind of priorities do you have?" That didn't take long. Let the guilt trips begin!
  • One person (S's father) already made reference to our second child. We had heard that the pressure for #2 often starts pretty quickly after #1, but we thought that we'd at least have until the birth.
  • One person (my mom) has already used the phrase "delicate condition" to explain why I really shouldn't be doing something. In this particular case, it was walking to a neighbor's house, because it was icy and I might slip. Instead, she wanted me to drive. Next door. I had to remind her that I've been walking pretty good for the past 30 years or so.
  • Two people (S's mom and my parents' neighbor) have already made decisive predictions about the baby's gender, based on my symptoms (dizzy spells and desire for pickles, respectively). The bad news: the two of them came to opposite conclusions. The good news: one of them must be right!
Fun stuff. Six more months to go!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Today I hit 13 weeks, so more of the books now agree that I'm in my second trimester. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling optimistic, risk of pregnancy problems has dropped, things are great. Today is also my birthday. So you would think that I would have had a good day, right? But then Brett Favre had to step in and ruin it for me. All day, I was fielding emails and calls from family and friends in Wisconsin, saying things like, "Did you hear that Favre is retiring?!? Oh yeah, and happy birthday."

So, once and for all, here is my status: Yes, I heard about Brett Favre's announcement. Yes, the guy's been "my" adored quarterback since I was in high school in Wisconsin, where the Packers are the state religion. Yes, I'm sad that he won't be playing any more. What makes me even more sad is that, just as I'm feeling more confident that we're actually truly going to have a baby in 6 months, it hit me that our baby will never see Brett Favre play football. I actually shed tears over this fact today. And then I felt really stupid, because seriously? I'm crying over football? I have heard that pregnant women are often irrationally emotional, so I could just chalk it up to bizarre hormonal sentimentality. But honestly, this is the first time that I've cried since becoming pregnant, so I feel really foolish that I've kept things in check only to lose it over the Green Bay Packers. But there you have it. Little Barack will never get to see Brett Favre play football. And for whatever reason, that makes me really sad.

Monday, March 3, 2008

More reassurance

Our nuchal translucency exam was this morning, and things are looking good. We won't know anything for sure for about a week (not that any of the results from these things are "for sure") because they need to wait for the blood test results from the lab, but just based on the ultrasound measurements, things look normal.

This was by far the longest ultrasound we've had, and little Barack put on quite a show for us. ("Barack" is our temp name for the in-utero baby... there is a story, but it's not really worth going into. And no, there's zero chance that we'll actually name the baby Barack.) The first several measurements were easy to do, and we got to watch Barack kick its legs around a little and wave its hands. We even got a cool close-up of its foot. For the last few measurements, the baby absolutely refused to cooperate (though the tech did, eventually, manage to get them done). The ultrasound picture was almost where it needed to be when suddenly Barack flipped completely away in the wrong direction. I swear I saw it stick its tongue out at us over its shoulder as it turned away. The tech kept stopping to randomly prod my abdomen with the wand in an attempt to get the baby to move, and after the first few times, Barack honestly just seemed pissed off. I didn't think that you could recognize annoyance over ultrasound, but there it was. I believe that I had my first protective mother instinct right then, too, as I had to keep myself from turning to the tech and saying, "Dude! Leave him alone already!" For the rest of the time, the baby kept its hands protectively around its face, I believe in a fetus's attempt to stick its thumbs in its ears, wiggle its fingers, and say "Nah nah nah nah! Can't catch me!"

We have a friend who found out the sex of the baby at their NT scan, so we asked the tech if he could tell. My heart skipped a beat when he replied, "Yes, it's a boy" but he rather quickly followed it up with, "... or a girl. It's usually one or the other" and then told us it was too early to tell. So, we'll have to wait for the normal Level 2 ultrasound at 19 weeks. I don't think that I particularly want one gender over the other, but I have been having a strong feeling that it's a girl.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Second trimester really is better

It occurred to me last night that I haven't been nauseous for a few days. Woo hoo! I've been having more indigestion and heartburn, mainly in the evenings, but a small glass of milk has been helping immensely, so it is not as bothersome as the nausea. I'm not as disgusted by most food anymore, though my appetite is still tiny (and chicken is still disgusting). And I still feel like I'm having trouble concentrating. I'm particularly bad at stringing together sentences; I keep getting stuck mid-sentence, hunting for the right word, and my attempt to finish an important document for work this week was completely stymied by my inability to write coherently. I feel particularly cheated that I'm still so exhausted. I was promised a second-trimester energy boost! Where's my boost?

Today is 12w4d. NT scan is Monday. We'll hopefully be calling up S's family on Wednesday to tell them the news. Then we fly to visit my family on Thursday. The end of the secrecy is in sight!