Milestones

I feel like I’ve hit some major milestones in the past few days. Let’s take a look:

+I finally figured out how to get home from the hospital without getting lost and having to whip out my iPhone. This is a big deal because it’s in downtown Waukesha, which is the most maddeningly designed city (think: all roads curve, are on an angle and lead you in every which direction. You can feel like you’re going in the right direction when you’re actually going the opposite way).

+I made it to 34 weeks! Today the doctor said from this point on if I go into labor, they won’t try to stop it. But we’re all really hoping I won’t for 5-6 more weeks.

+I know all about breastfeeding, thanks to my class last night (which I could not convince Peter to join me for, so he had to listen to me relay everything I learned to him after class). This really boosted my confidence in this arena, although it is kind of daunting that the baby will need to nurse for about 45 minutes every 1 to 3 hours (8 to 12 times a day) for the first few weeks. Makes me tired just thinking about it. Maybe I’ll do a separate post on some tips and things I learned during class.

+I finally decided on what I’d like to do for maternity leave and went over it with my editor, the newsroom’s administrative editor and someone from HR. Just need to make a couple calls to the company that handles unpaid leaves to make it official. I’ll elaborate more on my plan in another post.

+I saw a different doctor within the practice today (my doctor was out with the flu) and was refreshed by the new perspective. I really like my regular doctor, but it was just nice to hear from someone else. He was very thorough in going over my chart with me and explaining little things like how at my next appointment my doc will check for dilation(!) I know that sounds creepy, but it’s another milestone. I’m also relieved to have met and liked one of the other docs who could possibly deliver my baby if mine is on vacay (we’ve got a holiday child, after all).

+We bought our first diapers on Sunday. This involved Peter scoping out the diaper aisle at Target while I wandered around, then him showing me which were the best deal (Luvs were on sale), us staring at them blankly for a few minutes, us staring up and down the aisle blankly for a few minutes, then Peter grabbing two packs of 8-12 pound infant diapers and tossing them in the cart. It’s one of those things, like toilet paper, in which there are WAY too many options and no way to tell while standing in the store which are the best. Thank you, Peter, for making a decision for me. We originally had planned to try cloth diapering, but once it sunk in how much laundry we’d have to do and how much trial and error cloth diapering involves, it no longer seemed worth the $$ savings (which were minimal anyway). Our decision to use disposable diapers has removed a layer of stress from my life (and our life after Baby arrives) and that alone makes it the best decision for us.

+We also set up our Diaper Genie II on Sunday. Peter got amusingly frustrated, claiming it was stupidly designed and impossible to set up (if you ask him about it he’ll probably get hilariously worked up). Meanwhile, I cursed the refill dispensers as I attempted to get them ready. In the end, I figured out the refills and the Genie just needed my tender touch to make it cooperate.

+I (think I) had my first Braxton-Hicks contraction, which actually has a semi-funny (looking back) story to go along with it. Will explain more in a separate post.

Now I just need to make it to Missouri and back this weekend without going into labor!

The final ultrasound

When I first started going to the doctor after becoming pregnant, I was told that we would get two ultrasounds: one at 8 weeks to check for a heartbeat and get a measurement for a more accurate due date and one at 20 weeks to find out the sex (which we didn’t) and check for limbs and heart chambers and things like that.

At our 20-week ultrasound everything looked good, except one little thing: the placenta was low in the uterus, closer than it should be to the cervix. This can be a problem come delivery time because the placenta cannot be delivered before the baby. If the placenta is blocking the cervix at the end of the pregnancy, it’s called placenta previa and it requires a C-section, no ifs, ands or buts.

My doctor said not to worry because it was still early, and nine times out of ten it will move up to where it belongs and all will be well. But she needed to schedule an ultrasound in the third trimester to check and make sure it had moved.

Of course when I heard this at 20 weeks I was actually kind of happy – another ultrasound! A peek at our baby’s face later on in the pregnancy!

But as the date drew nearer and we learned more about placenta previa in our childbirth class, I started to worry. What if it hasn’t moved and I need a C-section? I don’t want one! Of course, healthy baby is the #1 goal, and if that requires a C-section there’s nothing I can do about it. But I really would prefer not to have a C-section. I want to go through every stage of labor, no matter how long and painful, and have a baby the old-fashioned way.

After I had worried sufficiently, I switched gears and began to prepare myself for the possibility of a C-section. There are a few pluses to it, and though they aren’t enough to make me want one, I tried to focus on the good. Like knowing exactly when the baby would come, or even being able to choose his/her birthday. A 2011 baby or a 2012 baby? We would (possibly) get to decide. And I would get two extra weeks of paid leave from work. And I could stop practicing breathing techniques and relaxation exercises. And I’d avoid the scary unknown of childbirth (granted, a C-section is a scary unknown in itself and the recovery is harder).

Then I just tried to stop thinking about it and instead pray.

Tuesday was the day. I would finally find out and put the big question mark behind me.

As I hopped up on the table for the ultrasound, I forgot all about placenta previa and just got excited to see the baby. I reminded my doctor that we didn’t want to know the sex.

“Hi, Baby!” she said as the picture came into the frame. There was the face, with chubby little cheeks (as far as I could tell on the grainy image). There was a leg, an arm, etc.

“Looks good,” my doctor told me. I remained fixated on the sonogram. “Yep,” she continued. “Head is up here, placenta is in the right spot, everything’s good.”

Sigh of relief. “Yay!” I said, partially in reaction to the news but mostly because it was so exciting to see the baby’s image. “Can I have a picture?”

Funny how that abstract image on the screen made me stop caring about placenta previa or anything else. I got the good news I was praying for, but by then I was more interested in those chubby cheeks.

I guess it’s just another reminder that the baby is all that really matters. Labor and deliver, whether C-section or not, is just the means to an end – or rather, a beginning. Of life.

Shots shots shots shots shots!

No, not those kind of shots. (Side note: that’s from my 21st birthday, in case you can’t tell from the crown. If you know me in a more professional sense you might just want to forget that picture exists.)

Right now, I’m thinking more about vaccines than SoCo and lime.

And not even about baby vaccines yet. First, anyone who will be caring for the baby needs to make sure they’re vaccinated with a few things so they don’t get the baby sick.

Since our baby will be born during flu season, that’s the obvious vaccine that my doctor said Peter and I, and our parents and anyone who will be taking care of the baby this winter, should get. Peter and I got ours (for free at my work – yay for freebies, even if they’re free needle sticks) at the end of October. This may actually transfer some protection to the baby too.

Then in our final childbirth class last night, someone asked about getting vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough), and the pediatrician who came in to answer our questions recommended it for anyone who isn’t up to date on their boosters and will be caring for baby.

Pertussis is included in tetanus shots these days (TdaP) and should be administered to adults age 19 and older every 10 years.

I am NOT a fan of getting shots. It’s not the needle that I dislike – in fact, I regularly donate blood and don’t mind that needle at all – it’s the feeling of something being injected into my muscle that squirms me out. Luckily, I got a TdaP booster during a particularly uncomfortable afternoon before studying abroad in 2006, when I went to the student health center and got 6 or 7 shots for all the various diseases I could possibly be exposed to in Argentina.

So no extra shot for me this year! But I think Peter will be getting one, and I kindly requested that my family consider getting vaccinated. It’s probably a good idea to evaluate how up-to-date you are on these things every so often anyway. One of my roommates sophomore year of college got pertussis, or as we called it, “The Whoop,” and it was not a pleasant experience for her.

But even though whooping cough isn’t always serious enough to even diagnose in adults, it can be very dangerous to babies 6 months and younger, so I think it’s best to play it safe.

Other vaccines recommended for parents

The conversation in our childbirth class led me to do a little further research (none scientific) on the topic of vaccines for parents.

Hepatitis A and B vaccines are recommended for some women before they get pregnant to protect the baby during pregnancy. Too late for that one, but it doesn’t matter because I already had Hep B vaccine from when I was a kid and Hep A from that horrible vaccine palooza in 2006.

Other immunizations that are recommended before pregnancy or right after giving birth include varicella (chicken pox), which most of us are immune to because we HAD chicken pox as kids, and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), which is a standard vaccine for kids so most of us should have it.

Requesting others get vaccinated

It’s kind of an awkward topic to bring up with someone. Requesting that they get a shot before coming into contact with your baby? Seems extreme. But I think for people who will be around the baby fairly often, like close family or other caregivers, it’s perfectly reasonable to at least inquire if they’re up to date with their immunizations and encourage them to get vaccinated. I don’t think I’d be comfortable bringing it up with someone I’m not close with or someone who will only be seeing the baby every so often, but for those who will be babysitting or visiting a lot it’s worth it to save your baby from a possible ER trip down the road. And, of course, it’s always smart to keep your baby away from anyone who’s coughing up a storm or otherwise looking sick too.

Thoughts on this? Do you think it’s insane to ask your family to get vaccinated?

The wrong side of the bed

Shortly after I announced I was pregnant and it started to trickle through the grapevine at work, I had a quick chat with one of my coworkers, Crocker, who is entrenched in a yearlong series for the paper on infant mortality.

Side note: This reminds me that last winter when I was on the team helping to develop the series’ focus and online presence, he jokingly asked me if I planned on getting pregnant so he could follow my pregnancy as a case study of some sort. At the time, we had no immediate plans, but obviously things changed! haha.

Anyway, Crocker mentioned that he had just written a blog post about how it’s best for pregnant women to sleep on their left side. It helps maximize blood flow to the uterus, he said. Immediately I took stock of my usual sleeping position and freaked out. I normally sleep on my right! Crisis!

This is easily remedied though. I decided to give left-side sleeping a shot.

The only problem was that I like snuggling up to Peter and pretty much using him as a pillow when I sleep, so in order for me to do that and sleep on my left, we would have to switch sides of the bed. No biggie, right?

Um, whoa. Switching sides of the bed ended up being an ordeal for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night and be completely confused as to where I was. I also was waking up to go to the bathroom, which is closer to my usual side of the bed, so the new arrangement required me stumbling around the bed to get to the bathroom.

I continued to persevere though. Surely I could adapt to this new side of the bed. And for a while it did get easier. I would awake several times during the night, but don’t all pregnant women? I was determined to do whatever was best for the baby.

Problems started to arise again when I kept hearing from other pregnant bloggers about how it’s unsafe to lie on your back while pregnant. Suddenly the forbidden back sleeping position, which had never been comfortable for me in the past, seemed more appealing than ever. I had it in my mind that right was bad, so when left wasn’t comfortable I would find myself on my back. Then I would wake up, promptly freak out that I was going to induce labor by lying on my back, attempt to fall asleep on my left, not be able to, so eventually give up and turn onto my right or repeat the process and get an extremely restless night of sleep worrying that I was hurting the baby.

Finally I decided to ask my doctor about it. She immediately told me to sleep however I’m comfortable. The “don’t lie on your back” rule, she said, only applies to women who are full term. When I seemed skeptical, she made it abundantly clear by telling me all the studies on the subject involved full-term pregnancies, and if I was comfortable on my back then that meant the baby was fine. Basically, if your uterus isn’t getting enough blood, that means your head isn’t either. So you’ll know. And if you feel lightheaded, then you should change positions. The “sleep on your left” rule, she said, is not a big deal. Yes, your left side theoretically aligns your body the best for bloodflow to the uterus, but that doesn’t mean your baby will suffer if you sleep on your right.

Phew! That night, Peter and I switched back to our normal sides of the bed, and all was right with the world again. I got a restful night’s sleep, and learned that you can sleep through the night while pregnant.

This shows how the mental can really affect the physical. Just the thought that I was hurting the baby by sleeping a certain way ended up making me not comfortable enough to sleep at all. I’m so glad my doctor was able to put to rest (pun intended) my fears.

Orange drink and the heartbeat

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I’ve been dreading this afternoon for weeks. Four weeks, to be exact. At my last appointment I was handed this little orange elixer and told to drink it 1 hour before my next appointment so they could test me for gestational diabetes. The nurse also recommended refrigerating it so it wouldn’t taste as horrible.

So for the past four weeks, every time I’ve opened the fridge and come face-to-face with that little bottle I’ve grown more and more apprehensive about consuming it. I imagined it tasting like cough syrup and me gagging and not being able to keep it down.

Fortunately, all my dread and worry made the drink taste like candy in comparison to what I was imagining. It just tasted like orange drink (you know, that old school drink you used to get at McDonalds. Is that still around?) not something I would voluntarily drink, but certainly not worth gagging over. Now that that’s done I’m just praying for normal results.

The highlight of my visit was, of course, hearing the baby’s heartbeat. 153 beats per minute! That’s faster than the past two visits, probably from all the sugar I had just chugged.

Click to listen: Baby’s heartbeat at 24 weeks*

That little fuzzy part at the end is a kick! It is always so amazing to hear the heartbeat. I’ll never forget that feeling of surprise, happiness and awe that came over me the very first time we heard it.

*I shake my fist at WordPress for not letting me embed a simple audio player.

The ultrasound

This morning was our big 20-week ultrasound! For some reason I was nervous for it. Nervous-excited I guess.

Unfortunately, about 15 minutes after our scheduled appointment time, my doctor came running out through the waiting area and told us she had to go do a delivery. Obviously, you can’t plan these things, so we patiently waited for another hour or so, and before we knew it, it was time for the big show.

It’s always so incredibly exciting just to hear the heartbeat, so seeing the baby and hearing the heartbeat at the same time was such a treat. How strange to learn exactly what position the baby is in, and where his or her head and legs are positioned inside me. It makes it so much more real.

My favorite picture from the ultrasound is probably this one, of a tiny foot.

I also love how in this one you can see the little fists positioned above the head like a boxer.

Overall, I was surprised by how… abstract the images on the screen were. It took some pretty tough concentration from us and detailed explanation from our doctor for us to have any idea what we were looking at. I wouldn’t say it was disappointing, because it still was an amazing experience, but it was a bit less clear than I was expecting.

Of course I realized as we were walking out that I forgot to ask her to turn on the 3D capabilities! That would have been exciting to see.

We will actually be getting one more ultrasound, because my doctor wants to check and see if the placenta has moved away from the cervix later on in the pregnancy (she is confident that it will move). That will be a quick and easy one, but still something to look forward to.

We did not, as I mentioned before, find out whether we’re having a boy or a girl. I was warned that sometimes the doctor still looks to see the sex, but ours didn’t (or if she by any slim chance did, she didn’t tell us and we couldn’t tell), so it kind of makes me happy that we’ll all be surprised at the same time (and we aren’t missing out on some secret that anyone who looks at my file will know).

On the way back from the doctor, we spotted a baby rummage sale, which brings me to my next milestone of the day: I bought my first baby items! The sale was all very pink and girly clothing, so I only found a few gender-neutral items, but it was still quite fun and exciting (plus, I love a good deal). I’ll share some pictures tomorrow.