Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Push my buttons

We were over at the mothers' yesterday, and before long I sat on the couch to put my feet up because the Time of the Great Swelling has come. I had to shove my rings on yesterday morning, and my wedding ring (slightly smaller than the engagement ring) didn't fit at all today. We'll see if I can remember I'm married.

"My ankles are memory foam!" I exclaimed shortly thereafter. The medical term is "pitting edema," but I prefer "memory foam." It means that when I pressed a finger into my puffy flesh, the dent stayed, and then very slowly filled in. It was fairly creepy. Eric seemed amused, though--and more amused when L.E.O. started moving around a little and I poked at her through the top of my belly and remarked, "Hmm. Whenever I press up here, I have to use the bathroom." I'm not just a baby's life support, I'm a baby's toy. Push this button for interesting textures! Push this button to make it move!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Childbirth class IV: Death or Serious Injury May Result

The last childbirth class was mainly on safety and postpartum issues. Not much instruction on how to actually take care of a newborn, though we got handouts. I was slightly disappointed, but I admit that the title of the class doesn't specify anything about what to do once the kid is out and we've got other resources for that.

We started out with a ridiculously boring video on carseat safety. There were a couple of good points in it, but most of the video was shots of various kinds of carseats and booster seats and how they should be installed in various kinds of vehicles, with some crash test scenes for variety and scaremongering, and I've forgotten most of the information already. We did get a handout for a program at Toledo Hospital for free checks of our carseats.

We went over CPR and poisoning briefly (biggest poisoning incidence of children in the US: iron poisoning from children's vitamins) and general baby-proofing. Then we moved into what babies will look like when they come out. The answer is apparently Bill Cosby's assessment, "like a lizard." They'll have coneheads and puffy faces, tiny squinty eyes, covered with acne and vernix (cheesy "cream" on the skin) and lanugo (body hair), cross-eyed, with blue hands and feet, swollen breast tissue (male or female), and birthmarks and rashes everywhere. Supposedly we will think they're cute anyway.

We went over post-birth procedures for the baby: erythromycin in the eyes, shots of vitamin K and potentially hepatitis B vaccine, measuring weight and circumference and height, taking footprints, checking reflexes to assess gestational age, Apgars. We discussed things to expect for new mothers: looking pregnant still, engorgement, pain and bleeding, hemorrhoids, potential PPD, urination and sweating like you wouldn't believe. Jackie was enthusiastic about the products used to treat most of these issues, particularly witch hazel and Dermaplast, and dressed up in a hospital gown, wig, and hospital-issue underwear to demonstrate how they were used.

She discussed breastfeeding for a bit, enumerating all the benefits (not only will it make the baby healthier and smarter and the mother thinner and happier, it will rotate your tires and keep your cat from vomiting on the carpet) and dispensing advice on pumps. She also discussed "babyland," the magical realm in which you spend hours gazing at your newborn while visitors drop by and clean your house for you. She also said that the average mother is interrupted 84 times in a two-day hospital stay, including nurse and doctor visits.

The class ended with review in the form of Jeopardy! with some Family Feud thrown in, the expectant mothers versus the support people. Eric is in Columbus, so I was assiduously taking notes the entire class, but I put them aside for the game. Even so I managed to steal the winning 20 points with "lochia." (Probably the support people had blocked this out of their memories, even though Jackie had been telling us about it a scant twenty minutes ago. I'd like to block it out of mine, but sadly that will not be possible for long.)

One of our classmates hadn't made it because she delivered last Monday, but she brought her baby in for the last few minutes. She wouldn’t say much about how labor went, which seems like a bad sign, but then she'd had to have a C-section and she did seem happy about having the baby out of her (she was very uncomfortable at the previous sessions). She also volunteered (without knowing what we'd been discussing that session) that "breastfeeding slims you down" and Jackie was pleased.

We filled out class evaluations in exchange for our last two handouts ("What to Bring to the Hospital" and "What to Do if the Laboring Mother Panics"), and when I turned mine in Jackie said, "Was your husband not able to come because I cancelled last week? I'm so sorry! I always really liked his comments. Tell him he can call me if he has any questions." This may or may not have been wise of her, but I appreciated it. I think the class was a good idea, overall. We learned some things and got to ask questions, and the breathing exercises were actually useful (and for this last class we tried out labor positions first, which was kind of interesting and kind of appalling). We'll see in approximately five weeks how useful it turns out to have been.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Childbirth class was canceled this week, rescheduled for next. This is annoying because Eric will be out of town that day. I guess I'll have to take notes and breathe by myself. I wonder whether the girl who was thirty-eight weeks pregnant at our last class will be there.

In the meantime, this is what the crib looks like in the nursery:

The blankets hide all the clothes and towels and sheets inside. We're figuring on waiting a couple of weeks before we wash and put everything away. (Also, it's nice to have it all out while we're writing thank-you notes.) We'll also start thinking about packing a hospital bag then. I went through a few websites during lunch at work yesterday and compiled a list of everything (reasonable) they suggested. It's a long, long list, and that's without including things like a video recorder or a "focus" (a meaningful or desirable object for concentrating on during labor). My friend Courtney decided her two top options for a focus were a huge ice cream sundae or Johnny Depp doing a striptease. Sadly, neither would be very easy to procure or keep around for as long as she'd need them. For me, I don't think "sleeping on my back" would be an easy thing to represent as a tangible object.

I'm not definitely tired of being pregnant yet--though the back pain is getting old, fast--but I do think I'm starting to get to the point where I'm letting go of the old life and anticipating the new. I'm not really feeling like I need more time to myself before the baby comes, which was not the case a month ago. I'm glad to be in this state--though of course it makes the next several weeks seem longer. But that's probably okay, since while I may not need the alone time, I do need time to wash clothes and put things away and make the bumper (which Eric keeps making suggestions for which make it more complicated) and the quilt and finish this baby jacket that may or may not be any use...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Our second baby shower was Sunday, out at Side Cut Metropark, which must be a great place to go to be alone because it's so hard to find hardly anyone ever makes it there. Several of our guests almost didn't. But everyone showed up eventually, and the site and the party were lovely. We got lots of very nice gifts and cards, including one reading "A humble offering to the most exalted little Evil Overlord. May your conquest be swift and absolute. --Your Most Loyal Minions." I think L.E.O. will be pleased.

She will also be very warm. She now owns twelve blankets, not including, you know, my uterus. It's really making me reconsider the quilt I'm making for her, or any quilt I plan to make in the future for other babies.

Yesterday we went to Babies R Us to spend our gift cards and store money and get the things that I was going to feel slightly insecure until we got: a crib mattress, a changing pad, a diaper pail, and so on. (We also got things like a Boppy cover and car mirrors and a Pack 'N Play, which are not as essential to my mental well-being but are still quite nice.) If we get a box of size 1 diapers, and maybe the diaper bag that Mom keeps saying she'll get us, I think we're pretty much set.

And I went for another checkup today and everything is still looking good, which made me especially happy since I've been a bit stressed out about other things and presumably my stress isn't affecting L.E.O. all that much. After getting it straight with the midwife that Yasmin was the name of my old birth control, not my baby (apparently the student midwife I talked to last time wrote cryptic notes), I asked her something I'd been meaning to ask in childbirth class: what determines whether they'll let me stay at the hospital when labor comes.

"Labor is actually defined by change in the cervix," she explained. "If you're at three centimeters but you're not really progressing and you're having irregular contractions, they're probably going to send you home. If you're at three centimeters but things are really changing, they'll want you to stay." She looked down at my chart. "However," she added, sounding almost reproachful, "you've been doing everything else perfectly, so you probably won't have a problem with that either." Maybe I'm too boring a patient.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Childbirth Class III: Addenda

DHA. Apparently they put this stuff in everything, especially formula but also dietary supplements for pregnant and nursing women, and I'm sure it will eventually show up in all multivitamin supplements much like other omega-3 fatty acids and lycopene. It was mentioned as a supplement last night and I asked in whisper why--it's a direct product (OK, intermediary) of glycolysis! What purpose could it serve that adding sugar couldn't?

Oh. The DHA we're talking about here is all-cis-docosa-4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19-hexaenoic acid, as it turns out, and not the much simpler dihydroxyacetone. But of course, putting that name on a bottle is just asking for sales to plummet. Presumably acronyms with three letters are automatically OK? Well, except for BPA. And BHT. And PVC. SDS? It's the reason you're not supposed to swallow toothpaste, and possibly the main ingredient in your shampoo (after water). But DHA and ARA are A-OK.

See? This is why we have IUPAC nomenclature! TLA is officially a four-letter word!

Meantime, apparently placental abruptions are correlated with nicotine use and cocaine use. So we're going to be laying off the crack from here on out.

Also, stock in the producers of Nubain seems to be off the table, as the patent has long since run out. Probably the original company has been purchased several times by now.

OK, enough about chemicals for now.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Childbirth class III: It Cuts Both Ways

Eric eyed the rising slopes of Mount Baby the other day. "You're playing Risk with L.E.O.," he said. "And L.E.O. is winning."

Jackie appears to think so too. "Hi! How are you?" she said this evening when I arrived for class. I said, "Fine, how are you?" but she didn't hear me because she was saying "Oh, look at you, you're so cute with your bump!"

Tonight's childbirth class was mainly on C-sections. "Don't zone out!" Jackie told us. "I know you're all thinking you're going to have vaginal births, but three out of ten couples have c-sections these days." She described legitimate indications for C-sections, and indirectly described what she considered illegitimate ones--convenience, extreme caution due to fear of malpractice lawsuits, media influence. We watched a video on C-sections, planned and unplanned. She discussed inductions, and how they work, and potential natural alternatives. She passed out a handout on eating well, saying "Is eating junk all the time bad for the baby? Well, no, it probably isn't, but the mothers who say 'I feel terrible' are always the ones who say 'Oh, I had some doughnuts for breakfast...and a Code Red Mountain Dew and a bag of chips for lunch...'" And we did a relaxation/visualization exercise. Our snarkiness during this last got a little much for me, but otherwise it really was relaxing. The session went pretty quickly overall, despite my being hungry. One more to go, and then we'll be ready to be parents! Ha!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Potential consequences

My coworkers have just suggested a truly excellent idea for getting enough sleep on maternity leave: once L.E.O. has reached six weeks, send her to daycare and stay home by myself the rest of the time.

This may be the major problem of planning for a child we fully expect to take over the world and order our execution along the way. We don't really have to worry about whether L.E.O. will turn against us as a teenager or abandon us in our old age. We're never going to get the bill if she needs therapy. No matter what we do, she's going to kill us anyway.

Monday, June 8, 2009

32 weeks

Here we are at seven and a half (approximately) months, and I am definitely looking pregnant.

(Sorry for the blurriness. Blame Eric.)

Apparently I look pregnant enough now that strangers don't hesitate to identify me as such. I went to Joann yesterday to get fabric to make L.E.O.'s quilt and "bumper," and the clerk looked at my selections and said, "Is this a quilt for the new little one?" Later, I went to Andersons for fruit and cheese and a basil plant (since none of the seeds I planted came up) and slipped on a raspberry in the produce section and fell flat on the floor. There was this horrified collective gasp by the people around me; a couple of people rushed to help me up, and a woman walked up to say "Are you here with anyone? Did you slip, or did you faint?" (I fell on my side, and L.E.O. didn't seem to be hurt. In fact she seemed to have slept through the entire thing. Before long she was bouncing around as usual. Apparently she thinks the way to get out of me is by punching a hole through, like a chick in an egg.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Childbirth class II: Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll

The second class consisted of a couple of videos, a long lecture on medications, pelvic exercises, visualization/breathing exercises, and some wicked props. First, Jackie (the instructor) announced, she would be eating strawberry shortcake while we watched a video on natural versus medicated childbirth. At least she did it quietly. The video included graphic, explicit depictions and explanations of how epidurals work. "I loved mine," said one of the coaches when Jackie asked us afterward if we'd had or known anyone who had had an epidural.

"You've already seen the video, so you know most of the stuff on this poster," she said afterward, holding up a poster on the potential risks and side effects of epidurals. "So I'm not going to beat you over the head with it." She proceeded to describe each one in loving detail: lowered blood pressure, itching, fever, restricted movement, lack of sensation, failure to progress, inability to push, stoned-seeming baby, spinal headaches, and (rarely) seizures, paralysis, and death.

"Then there are the narcotics," she said. "If you could buy stock in a drug, Nubain would be a good one, because we go through so much of this stuff. The narcotics will tend to mess with your head; you'll feel the contractions, but you won't care." The one second-time mother in our class said, "I loved Nubain."

After the medication briefing we saw another video, this one on natural birth, and listed all of the various techniques the couple used. "The thing is, even if you choose to use medications, you still need to know this stuff," Jackie said. "You're still going to have some pain, you're still going to have to labor a little."

During the break we looked at the epidural kits and the forceps and suction equipment she'd brought along to show us. Eric went up to her and asked after the drugs put in the epidural. "Are you the chemistry person?" she said when she'd answered him. "I must be boring you to death." He laughed and disclaimed, saying he'd never be a childbirth expert and expertise in one area didn't translate to another. "It's like the people who think a nurse is a nurse," she agreed. "My family members will come up to me to say, 'I have some chest pain, what should I do?' and I'll say, 'Well, how many centimeters dilated are you?'"

After the break she had us practice pelvic tilts (even the men--Eric said, "I need a white suit and some rhinestones for this") and Kegels. This, she said, would make pushing much easier. "You can do this whenever you want, no one's going to know," she said brightly, "and you should practice it as much as you can. Just do five reps here, five reps there, and no one will be able to tell. Another good place to practice," she lowered her voice, "is during intercourse." The men perked up.

Finally, we scattered around the room with our blankets and pillows and were told to try visualization while Jackie played a tape of beach sounds. "Coaches, I've put something in a paper towel next to you," she said after a while. "Place it in your partner's hand and close your hand over it."

She guided us through breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth--we don't know why, but yoga teaches the same thing) and said, "Now a contraction is starting. Visualize yourself in your happy place and breathe through the pain." The thing in the paper towel turned out to be an ice cube, and after a bit it really did provide a simulacrum of pain that had to be endured, since Eric's hand was closed over mine so I couldn't just drop it. "A masochist would love this exercise," I whispered to Eric.

After the class we toured the maternity ward--which Eric and I had already done, of course, but I wanted to look again. We packed six pregnant women, six coaches, Jackie, and Jackie's cart of props into the elevator. "Are we over the weight limit?" someone said.

"We're going to get stuck," said someone else.

"I've actually delivered someone in an elevator," Jackie said.

"Yes, but did you have more room that time?" I said, trying to keep someone's elbow out of my face.

We looked through the ward and toured one of the two jacuzzi rooms, and Jackie described how she had only once in eight years seen both rooms (out of sixteen) full when another woman wanted one, and when it happened she went into one of the rooms and begged the mother to let Jackie move her to another room so the new patient could have that one. "Of course!" the mother said, and started packing her things immediately. Apparently the jacuzzis are hot stuff. Our due dates are fairly spread out, so with luck any of us who want one won't be competing with the others when the time comes.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Drug week

"Have you decided on what medication you'll use, if any?" said the student midwife who saw me at the office today. "Are you going all-natural, doing IV medications, something else...?"

"I didn't know I had to decide already," I said, a bit taken aback by her seriousness.

She said, "Mmm," and continued to look intently at me, so I went on. "I'm taking a childbirth class and the next session is on medications, so I figure I'll wait until I get more details then to decide."

"All right," she said and went on to something else, what contraception I planned to use, I think. It struck me as a bit odd that in any other situation, the medical practitioner would be the one telling me what was best, but here I'm expected not only to choose myself, based on no prior experience (but then, they have no prior experience with me either), but to do my own research--they haven't given me any information on medications other than a bit on the side effects of epidurals.

Besides, I rather suspect she was going off a checklist in her head of "What to Ask a Patient at Seven Months."

Otherwise, the visit was very boring; I've only gained half a pound since I was there last ("Have you been eating better?" asked the nurse, looking at me suspiciously as I got off the scale; I said, "No, but I took a vacation and we walked everywhere," and she was satisfied) and L.E.O. is very squirmy but very healthy. "She's head-down right now," reported the student midwife, "though she may not stay that way. It's early yet."

I asked her when L.E.O. might be expected to settle into her final position and stay there and she gave me a vague answer that suggested she didn't know. I also asked her whether my mother delivering early meant I might deliver early, and she said that was a myth, but that the length of the labor might be correlated. I wasn't totally confident in her information (especially since she followed it up with anecdotes about her mother and sister) but when the real midwife came by to check on her and asked me if I had any questions, I decided not to embarrass the student midwife by asking them again. I'll ask again next visit, or in class on Thursday.