Tag Archives: INTJ pregnancy

The INTJ Pregnancy: 4th Trimester

AKA New Motherhood

My baby is now pushing 2 months old. An eternity in a blink.

Becoming “Mama” has come a lot more naturally than I thought. I have never really wanted kids for the sake of babies but rather KIDS, so I expected infancy to be something I would suffer through to get to the good stuff. Instead I have found a shocking amount of joy and sentiment in having a baby…holding him, cuddling him, learning to understand what he’s trying to communicate, watching him grow and change on a daily basis with this internal clock ticking down the moments we will have like this, sifting away one by one in the hourglass of life spent vs. life yet to come. I have always, even as a child, been aware of the finite nature of life and any given circumstance within it, but never has the poignancy of that riven me with this kind of acuteness. I’m crying sitting here typing this, with him asleep on my chest in his wrap. I don’t even know if I can still blame it on hormonally driven emotional intensity.

But just because I am enjoying my baby doesn’t mean there have been no challenges.

The worst among them was learning how to breastfeed. Is, I should say, as we still sometimes have issues. I went into breastfeeding unprepared. I thought it was something that would be pretty simple to do, simple for the baby to pick up – after all, baby horses are on their feet nursing within minutes of birth. Surely the only difference with a human was having to be held? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Ha.

I understand now why so many new moms give up on it. You’re sitting there in a hospital bed having not slept for two days, with your arms trembling from spending 2 1/2 hours pulling your torso up into a McRoberts’ Maneuver and so weak from exhaustion you’re afraid you’ll drop the baby, and he’s 9 pounds and squirming and came out strong enough to push himself up your chest with his arms or his legs so you have to use both hands to hold him in the feeding position, and the lactation consultant grabs your boob and holds it in his mouth and he starts sucking like a starving lamprey, and you think, I got this. Then you get home, and you realize you don’t have three hands, and how the fuck are you supposed to hold his head with one hand and his body with the other and still have a hand to shape your boob with? And then your tits swell up so much that for a few days you have no nipples at all – side effect of all the shit they pump into you with Pitocin and an epidural, and when they mentioned the edema it would cause they never thought to include your breasts in the list of places when clearly that just happened – so now it’s impossible to latch him without breast compression, which you can’t do because you have both hands holding him in place, and he’s frustrated and biting your nipples to bruising with his little gums until any pressure is enough to draw tears, and he’s screaming for hours because he hasn’t had a proper feed since the night before, and you’re crying and he’s crying and your husband is standing there saying “Why don’t I go get some formula?” I can see why people give up.

Luckily my husband is supportive enough of breastfeeding for the baby’s immune system health that he was willing to try one more tactic, so right then, the morning after our first night at home, he went and bought me a breast pump and some nipple shields, and to hell with all the La Leche League fascism about no bottles for 4 weeks and no nipple shields ever because the only problem they recognize is a latch issue which shields won’t solve. At that point I couldn’t feed my baby from the breast – he couldn’t find it most of the time, and even when he did it hurt so much I knew I was on borrowed time. My husband was only going to tolerate me sitting their with tears streaming down my face while the baby fed so many times before he insisted we switch. So for us the pumping/bottle-feeding early was the best thing we could have done. My husband and I both felt better after the baby got a feeding that we knew went down, and I felt better knowing that I could feed my baby without crying (pumping hurt way less than his frantic sucking). It took the pressure off getting him on the boob. When we tried a breast-feed with the prosthetic nipple over my flattened lumps, he sucked and slurped happily until milk was leaking out the side of his mouth because he had finally got his fill.

Yeah. That first 24 hours at home was a nursing nightmare.

It also started an ongoing beef with the overall attitude of lactation advice online. Same shit, different topic, as all the insufferable mommy blogs I gagged over while pregnant. I get that they feel like they’re part of a movement to re-normalize breast-feeding in American culture and well-intentioned with their advice, but I find a certain…rigidity to the articles that is both off-putting and unhelpful.

For example, the first few weeks after we got home, even after resolving the worst of the latching issues, my nipples hurt. At first it was because they were bruised from the baby’s first couple days (he even made one open up and bleed a bit that first night home) and then I spent several weeks gettting vasospasms after every feed so that my nipples were in a constant state of pain. I think some of it was residual damage from what he had initially done, and some of it may have been continuing latch/pinching issues, but I think I might tend toward Raynaud’s of the nipple (I have vivid memories of winters in high school spent with constantly aching breasts because of the cold air in my parents’ non-insulated drafty old country house). Whatever it was, I hit a point where if I read one more time that “breastfeeding isn’t painful if you’re doing it right” that I was just going to give up. It’s such an obnoxious thing to say, and the last thing a new mom who’s sitting there in pain needs to hear when she’s on the verge of giving up.

Other edicts of the breastfeeding fascists go against reality, such as not using any kind of artificial nipple (bottle or pacifier) for four weeks. Sorry, kiddo, I wasn’t mom enough for that…I would pump a bottle and let his daddy take one of the overnight feeds so I could get at least six hours of sleep in a row, and we caved on the pacifier thing about two weeks in because sometimes the baby was just inconsolable except with my boob in his mouth, and there was no way I could nurse him 24/7. I wasn’t even mom enough to nurse him 18/7. Giving him one bottle-feeding a day and something to suck on besides me for an hour or two of the day was helpful and necessary for our peace of mind, but all the pro-breast literature makes it out like that’s some horrific mistake that will ruin your baby’s willingness to breastfeed. Again, not helpful to the new parents with a baby who screams like the world is ending when he is taken off the tit no matter how long he just nursed or how much he ate. Then there’s my current question, which I can’t find an answer for and will just discuss with his doctor – at what point can I wean him of breastmilk and not need to replace with formula? According to my mom I started refusing the breast around 9 months and they just went to a full solids diet from there…is 9 months an appropirate age for that? Is 12 months really better or is that just the LLL agenda? I am not in a hurry to get him off the breast, but I don’t want to do extended breastfeeding (over 1 year), and my husband would like his favorite toys back sooner than that, and I’m not insensitive to his perspective. But everything out there is 1 year or longer! As long as you want! Until he goes off to school! Which, again, not helpful to someone interested in breastfeeding for the health benefits of the child rather than as a lifestyle.

Another: the lock-step condemnation of nipple shields. I don’t know if they are over-used in some hospitals, or too often pushed as a first resort instead of a last, but for me they saved breastfeeding. Without them, the best I could have managed for those first days after we came home, when my breasts were essentially razed and had to recover from pretty serious trauma, would have been to pump and bottle-feed every time he needed to eat…and who knows how hard it would have been to get him on the breast after that. We are still using the shields, and I feel no guilt about it. It’s inconvenient, but that’s about it for drawbacks. Periodically I try to latch him without a shield, and he will just start screaming. I can’t deal with it. And considering the only potential problem with using the shields long-term is supply, and my body tends toward over-supply (which has been its own challenge), I just don’t care enough to spend the energy weaning him from the shields. Either he’ll do it on his own or he won’t. Either way at least we’re still breastfeeding exclusively. Good enough for me.

In fact, I think my tendency to hyper-lactate might be part of why he still likes the shields. I have both a fast let-down and a fierce spray. I’ll hand express in the shower sometimes and shoot nearly a yard out of multiple ducts. No wonder the poor little guy chokes and sputters and says “oh hell no” sometimes even with the shield! Without one that fire hydrant spray is hitting the back of his throat instead of just flooding his mouth.

So, in all, breastfeeding has been a challenge, and at first it pretty much sucked and was hard to stay committed to. No one warned me about that.

We also have had some sleep struggles. Never at night, thank god – he has been a good night sleeper since day 1, going down between 8 and 10, logging 4-5 hours, then a feed and down for another 2-3. Lately we’ve added another 1-2 hours after that early-morning feed, so I am consistently getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night in 3 segments. Our sleep struggle is in the daytime. For the first, god, 5 or 6 weeks I could hardly get him to sleep at all during the day. The only times would be if he fell asleep on the boob and I didn’t move, or if one of his grandmas was rocking and singing to him. For me he would not soothe like that, which was bizarrely hurtful…I thought Mama was supposed to be the best! How come everyone BUT me can soothe my baby? I could soothe him, of course, but only with a feeding. I still can’t really put him down to nap during the day. He loves being in the wrap and will sleep for hours against me; he loves being held after a feeding and will sleep for hours while I read or watch TV. He’ll sleep if we take a walk with the stroller, or go for a drive, or if I rock and bounce him. But if I put him in his crib or his bouncer to try and get something done, he’ll wake up within 10 minutes and be upset. So I’ve given up trying, at least for now, and he is sleeping more now at 2 months than he ever has, and cries less than he ever has. I finally feel like I’ve got a handle on what he needs. Whew! Just in time for everything to change again as he makes the moves toward independent exploration….

The other new-mom challenge I’m noticing is on me, not the baby – I am just withdrawing deeply into my own head. There are ways I reach out of myself…texts, emails, blogging. Those are easy, probably because they are (or at least can be) accomplished on my phone, one-handed, while I’ve got the baby held between body and knees and only need one hand under his head. And in-person visits are easy, because whoever I’m with can just see how things are. I don’t have to explain. But phone calls have become prohibitive. It’s just impossible to explain verbally and spontaneously how things are with me. I’m fine, no post-partum blues, getting decent sleep, love my baby, what more is there to say? But of course it sounds so pat and rehearsed to say that; there’s no meat there, no real sense of what my life is. How do you say that my life is now spending 15 hours a day in my own head? I don’t know what I do in there all day. What I think about. I read a lot. Watch TV and movies sometimes. Read news articles online. Sometimes I even try and write. It’s rich in there, but how do you say it in a way someone who isn’t in here with me can understand?

I am slowly adding parts of my old life back in. I am cooking dinner again most nights (vs. just doing things like frozen pizza or Hamburger Helper). I  have taken the grocery shopping back from my husband – the baby goes in his wrap and has a most excellent nap while I go about the store. I am starting to jog in the mornings, stroller in tow…next week I can finally start trying to lose weight again without fear it will affect my milk supply as long as I’m careful not to undereat too much. I am getting annoyed when the house stays dirty and wanting to tackle some of the organizational projects I know need to be done to make room for the indefinite presence of this little guy in our house. (That I would have started on earlier except for that needing to hold him all day thing.)

I have stopped getting the feeling of “when does my life go back to normal?” and internalized my new reality. I am still trying to find the right equilibrium within it, but at least I no longer feel like everything is upside down.

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Newborns, Visitors, and Downtime

I am sitting here with my son asleep on my chest. For once the house is quiet: my husband is asleep after the ghost watch, and my mother is walking the dog. It’s just me and the soft sloughs of his breaths. And I think: this is what it should be. My psychological need for space is beginning to assert itself. I want time to myself. My infant apparently does not intrude upon that bubble, probably because he makes no demands upon me beyond the physical, and that only every 2-3 hours. And the current slate of stay-in visitations is a few more days with my mother, then husband’s mother, then both my parents, then husband’s mother and sister, and sometime in there at least one set of my husband’s friends. My mother made a comment today that perhaps she should come back yet again when my husband goes back to work. I just smiled but inside I thought, “at some point he and I need to be left to figure out our lives from here.” Sigh. I knew having a baby would draw the family closer…I just didn’t expect it to be stranglingly tight. I also thought, as we sit here in such peace, that post-feeding naptime feels like such an optimal writing time. I am not quite ready yet; I can feel that the words aren’t really there. But the desire is budding, and at least for now I can see moments in which writing can resume. Once my house is my own again.

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The INTJ Birth Story

As my regular readers (or those following my pregnancy posts) know, I was planning on an intervention-free birth, if possible, in part for the aesthetic/philosophical reason of wanting to experience all of childbirth, and in part because I believe the safest birth and the one least likely to end in a c-section is the one with the fewest interventions. That is not to say I disregard actual medical need/emergency situations; interventions certainly have their place in some labors and deliveries as necessity, and some women may balance the risks of interventions against the discomfort of childbirth and come to a different conclusion than I did. I simply wanted to avoid the intervention super-highway and take a scenic byway instead. I chose an OB and a hospital who understand that point of view and are accommodating to it whenever possible.

This is the story of my son’s birth (in full and rambling details so I can preserve them for myself): what happens when labor stops being polite and starts getting real.

I want to start with a reminder that I was diagnosed at about 32 weeks with gestational diabetes. Most OB’s like to induce GD patients on or before their 40-week due date because GD mothers are a “high risk” category. First, there is a link between GD and oversized babies (specifically macrosomic babies, that is, babies that are big from excess body fat), which is “risky” because a very large baby can have trouble being born vaginally (at least, on the timetable demanded by most hospitals and OB’s). Second, there is a heightened risk of placental degradation before labor begins. My GD was controlled via diet, which made me feel like I didn’t have much of risk for a fat baby (how could I, if my blood sugars were like a normal mom’s?) nor a failing placenta (the cases of early degradation, from my research, were linked to women who had to take insulin). So I was very resistant to the idea of inducing labor rather than going into labor spontaneously, and I had let my OB know that I wasn’t comfortable with induction, period, and certainly not before I hit the 41 week mark. We had an uneasy truce on that, where she would remind me at appointments that she didn’t want me going over but would never actually schedule an induction date because she knew I was unlikely to agree to it.

On Sunday night a week ago, sometime between 11 and midnight, I got up to pee and had a gush of amniotic fluid while I was on the toilet. Not enough to be a complete emptying of my water bag, just enough to make me certain of what it was. I nearly cried with relief that I would not have to fight my OB about inducing. I was 40 weeks and 3 days, and  spontaneous labor had started.

I contacted my friend who is a midwife, and she suggested that unless I was feeling strong labor pains in the regular pattern of 5 minutes apart for 1 minute each for 1 hour, to just stay at home and rest. My OB had given me a 6-hour time frame to go to the hospital if my water broke and I hadn’t started labor, but the midwife, my husband, and I all agreed that was pretty arbitrary and short a time, and that I’d be more comfortable staying at home longer. Maybe 20 minutes after that initial rupture, I had my first labor contraction. It was not really any stronger than the Braxton Hicks/prodromal labor cramps I’d been having for weeks, but it was a clearly defined contraction rather than being an amorphous period cramp type of feeling. When the next didn’t come for 15 minutes, I went back to bed. (My poor husband was too nervous to sleep, so he stayed up.)

Throughout the night I continued having small gushes of fluid and the same type of labor pain. They weren’t really establishing a strong pattern; the closest I got was about an hour where they were 7-8 minutes apart. I got up around dawn and found my husband still wide awake and nervous about my safety and the baby’s; I reassured him there was nothing wrong, that early labor can go on for a while. We made breakfast. We watched a movie on the couch. We took the dog on a walk. I did crabsteps on the curb. We waited as long as my husband could stand it, which was about noon, and then slowly got everything together to go to the hospital. We arrived around 1:30, lying about when my water had ruptured so as to not seem totally irresponsible to the staff at the hospital (we said 4:30 that morning not pre-midnight).

They took me back to evaluation and tested that I was, in fact, leaking amniotic fluid (which was still slowly leaking and definitely not completely gone), strapped me to a fetal monitor for a non-stress test to make sure baby was handling labor well, and did a cervix check: about 1 cm and 60% effaced, or barely more than I had been on my last OB appointment (1 cm and 50%). This was disappointing to hear but not really surprising, as I was still in very early labor. Baby’s heart rate and movement were fine; my blood pressure was fine; everything was fine.

I was moved to a labor and delivery room at around 3:30, and my husband left to go pick up the friend who was going to be my birth partner. While they were gone the nurse told me I was not allowed to eat anything but clear liquids (despite my birth plan stating that I was to be allowed to eat as I liked) and that my doctor wanted to start me on Pitocin to try and get my labor kicked into gear. This was very upsetting to me, because the doctor was just making this arbitrary medicalized choice without really talking to me about it or explaining why it was necessary. Basically, the nurse said, doctors don’t like to have babies undelivered more than 24 hours after the water breaks. Thank God, I thought, that I had been smart enough to lie about when I started leaking! And to stay home longer than the 6 hours. Otherwise I’d have been on Pitocin since 6 a.m.

I asked that my husband and birth partner be back in the room before they started the Pitocin drip, and the nurse agreed to that compromise. I texted my husband to dawdle on the way back and tried to avoid an emotional breakdown. The nurse saw my tears and asked what was wrong; it was impossible for me to articulate to her that I felt abandoned by my doctor and tricked into a medical path that terrified me (a friend reacted badly to Pitocin, and by badly I mean not at all to two entire bags of it, and ended up in a section cum hysterectomy to avoid hemorrhaging to death; plus everything I had read about augmented labor said it’s much more intense and hard to deal with sans pain medication). Not to mention how annoying I found the nurse’s attitude of nonchalance about what was happening. So she sees 10 births a day, 9 of them involving Pitocin; so what? This was my first and potentially only pregnancy, and it was already going a way I did not intend! But she was clearly of the “I see nothing wrong in interventions” school of L&D thought, so, again, I could not explain my upset to her, nor did I feel like I needed to.

My husband and friend (let’s call her Robin, for narrative ease) came back around 5:00. They hadn’t been in the room more than two minutes before the nurse was back in and hitting go on the Pitocin drip. My husband, bless him, did offer to raise hell and physically prevent anyone from touching me; to remove my IV lock and “break me out,” not to return until I was in full labor naturally even if that meant going to the ER and delivering with whoever was on call because my OB had washed her hands of me. By this point I had resigned myself to at least partial concession to the system. Perhaps my body would, as the nurse suggested, pick up a good labor pattern with just a little push and take over very quickly. And I had anecdotal stories of women going through a Pitocin-started labor without further interventions. I could do it, I was sure.

I did start to get stronger contractions within a few minutes on the Pitocin. That was a positive. There were more negatives than that one positive, however. First, I was told that I had to be on constant fetal monitoring (rather than intermittent, which is normal for women planning to forego an epidural) because of the Pitocin. They had to be certain baby was able to tolerate an accelerated labor – so I had to stay on the bed for now, until they could get the portable hooked up. Second, the nurse casually said they wanted to see contractions 2-3 minutes apart.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, I thought. Back the FUCK up.

Early labor is basically until contractions are 5 minutes apart. Active labor is 5 minutes apart until you hit about 2 minutes apart. Late active labor/transition is where you get contractions coming about 2 minutes apart. They wanted me to go from not even a regular pattern to a late stage active labor contraction pattern? What the fucking fuck. I honestly don’t know if that is the standard goal for any augmented labor, or if my doctor wanted me to labor quickly because of that 24-hour time clock ticking away due to amniotic rupture; if the latter, perhaps in retrospect not going in sooner (even with my adjusted timeline) had been a mistake…perhaps I would have been left on the low-dose of Pitocin longer, and would have been given the chance to move from early labor into active labor more slowly. Or perhaps not. Perhaps Pitocin is merely a blunt instrument used to jackhammer a baby out of one’s body, and the only speed it knows is late-stage active.

Either way, after about an hour the nurse came back in and adjusted the drip up. My contractions started to show up, according to Robin, about every 3-4 minutes at this point. I was getting a lot of pain in between them, fairly low-level but enough that it was hard for me to tell when a contraction was really coming on and when I was “resting.”

Robin and I were having a decent time (my husband left fairly soon after the Pitocin was started). The Pitocin had made me loopy; I felt like I was tweaking, and my ADD went out of control. During this time we decorated my room with my motivational posters (“Fire cannot kill a dragon”; “Life IS pain”; “So it’s to be torture, then? I can cope with torture”; etc.), I put a sheet on like a cape on over my hospital gown because it wouldn’t stay up and then swooped about Snape-like, we joked about Robin running home for some of my cosplay (particularly my death mask) to see what reaction the nurse would have, etc. I was in some pain but not more than I could handle, even knowing it would get worse from there, and the main annoyance was that I couldn’t move about a whole lot because they wanted that constant fetal monitoring. But if I had to pee we’d disconnect me and then I’d move around till the nurse came back in to reconnect. So that part was actually kind of fun.

My OB stopped in around 6:30 for a cervical check. 3 centimeters now, and 80 or 90% effaced. Yay! It was working. Then she did some math and said that she wanted the baby out by 10:30 or they’d have to put me on antibiotics to be proactive in preventing sepsis, due to time lapse since (alleged) amniotic rupture. Robin was not impressed with her bedside manner, which was very much making rounds, we’re on a timeline, make that happen OR ELSE, pregger. No personal touch, no asking me how I was beyond the clinical status, and she didn’t really explore my comment that my pain was constant rather than restricted to my contractions (which is the main thing I am annoyed by, looking back, because if she had looked into it more it would, I think, have saved me a lot of pain later).

Anyway, the OB left after like 2 minutes, and, according to Robin, at this point my contractions just stopped. Between the pain of the cervical check (the doctor was not gentle in her checks: they always hurt enough to make me bite my lip near to bleeding – and the one I’d been assessed with coming in hadn’t hurt at all, if that gives you a comparison), my doctor’s attitude, and knowing I was being pushed to speed things up when I had thought things were moving adequately, I got hit with one of those anxiety-induced stalls in labor. It’s where fight or flight instincts work against a woman giving birth in a hospital setting; my anxiety told me I was not “safe,” so labor stopped until I could get safe again. In nature that’s a good instinct. In a hospital it’s a disaster.

The nurse came back in within a couple minutes of my OB’s departure and hit up again on the Pitocin. I remember asking her with a sort of horror, “More?” because, again, I had thought at this point things were moving along well. She reminded me that their goal was 2-3 minutes-apart contractions.

And so on we went for another few hours. At the 7 o’clock shift change we got a new nurse who had a much better sense of humor and a bit more sympathy, so that was a positive. The contractions started up again shortly after that third increase and got steadily worse. They got the portable fetal monitors working, but every time I actually moved, be it to stand up or even shift position on the bed, the baby would slip off the monitor, so they wanted me as still as possible.

This took away almost every comfort measure I had counted on being able to use to endure the pain of labor, ESPECIALLY a Pitocin-driven labor. I could not move around to “walk through” a contraction. I couldn’t do stair-steps to try and help the baby’s head descend. I couldn’t get in the shower or the tub to use hot water therapy. I couldn’t get into a position where Robin could offer me useful counter-pressure on my back, much less any of the other moves our birth class instructor had gone over. Literally all that I had were breathing/focusing through a contraction and causing myself physical pain from a different source to distract me. I did both but it was mostly the latter that worked, digging my nails into my thighs as hard as I could…hard enough to leave claw marks, not quite hard enough to draw blood. Barely, I’m sure. There was a point where I was tearing up through every contraction. The pain and pressure were constant, just intensifying with the contractions. It felt horribly unnatural, and I don’t mean in a psychological sense. In a literal physical sense it felt unnatural to be in constant pain, to be given no break from it, and to have my contractions coming as close together as they were with such a minuscule ramping up to that frequency.

During this time it got harder and harder for me to pee. There was a point when I couldn’t pee at all, even though I felt like I needed to. I tried to tell this to the nurse; either she didn’t hear me or she didn’t think it was anything abnormal, because she didn’t say anything about it and certainly didn’t do anything about it. In retrospect, I should have been pushier about saying, “This is wrong.” But for all I knew it was just part of how labor feels, and I didn’t actually have to go. I thought my not having anything to pee was quite possible, as the nurses seemed to glare at me every time I drank on my coconut water because “women often throw up in labor.” Well, excuse me for preferring not to dehydrate and to have something to throw up in that event rather than just dry-heaving. So when the nurse didn’t think it was weird or wrong that I couldn’t urinate, I dismissed my instinct.

That was the second worst mistake of the night.

The worst came when my OB stopped in around 10 and did another cervical check – I had not progressed at all. I had an emotional collapse at that point. Here I had been in constant pain, some of it tear-raising, for the last 4 hours, and NOTHING had moved? I realized there was simply no way I could physically endure the rest of labor without help, when all I could do was sit or lie on the bed and, essentially, cut myself to get through the contractions already happening…that were bound to get worse because they hit up again on the Pitocin. They asked if I wanted something for the pain, and I asked what my options were. An epidural (which I was resistant to because of wanting to be able to birth in a non-prone position) or “something to take the edge off.” The way it was described, the way it sounded to both Robin and myself, was that the latter would essentially do what aspirin does for a migraine: take the pain to a dull roar. You know, take the edge off. The epidural would still be there if it didn’t work. I made what, given that information, was a logical choice and said “let’s take the edge off.”

Worst. Choice. Ever. The second that shit hit me, I knew it was the wrong decision. “I don’t want this,” I said. “Turn it off.” Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t like an IV drip they could just unplug from me but a one-time, all at once shot of a dirty downer drug. I don’t know what it was, probably morphine, or if not morphine something similar. I have never been a fan of the opiate-based painkillers (one addiction I never have to worry about is that type of pill-popping!). I HATE the loss of control (which should be no surprise given my greatest fear). I can’t stand not to be able to command my mind and my body, and I fight very, very hard against that type of narcotic. “Just relax and go with it,” the nurse told me. I couldn’t. I can’t.

I told Robin to get my husband. In that moment I just knew I needed him. In retrospect, I can pinpoint exactly why I needed him: in order to feel safe. I do not feel safe when I am not in command of my faculties, and I know that no one will watch over me like he does. When I knew I would be slipping into a place where I was out of control, I needed his presence beside me in order to not fear what would happen to me during my mental leave of absence.

That was the first moment of fear that I felt throughout the labor process to that point. The idea of labor, of physical pain, of what my body was attempting to do, didn’t frighten me in the least. But not being able to keep a clear head and be cognizant of what was happening? THAT terrified me.

Things get a little blurry here. Robin stayed with me holding my hand or back or something so I knew I wasn’t alone until my husband got there. The fuzzy-head shit did nothing to dull the pain. All it did was leave me unable to do anything except lie in the bed, dizzy and hardly able to speak because I was slurring my words so badly, and suffer through it. Robin stepped out for a little break when my husband came in. I wanted him to hold me on the bed but all he could really do was sit next to me and put his hands where I told him to. On my back. No, lower…yes, there. More pressure. No, less pressure. Perfect.

The contractions grew excruciating shortly after my husband arrived. The best I can describe them is a soldering iron being shoved through the front of my abdomen all the way to my back. I wanted my husband’s hands at the exit point for that imaginary burning impalement. I was crying through contractions, moaning and sometimes screaming like a dying animal without any control of my breathing or my focus. At points the nurse, Robin, husband, the OB…someone….would try and breath me through a contraction. The best I could do was a shift in vocalization to the “sex moan” but it wasn’t much help to me to do that. It felt better to simply scream. The OB apparently heard me and came in to see what the problem was; my husband said I wanted an epidural, and by that point I knew I needed it. The other stuff hadn’t helped my pain at all; I was at a point mentally where I just wanted the pain to stop, even if it meant a section.

Before an epidural can be placed you have to take I think 2 bags of saline fluid, to be sure you are properly hydrated. That usually takes 20 minutes. The epi team was placing one next door, so it would be more like 30-40 before they could get to me. I think that was probably the worst half hour of my husband’s life. I barely remember it, except that I pretty much spent it screaming and having full-body spasms with each contraction. Finally someone asked me where it was hurting and when I said it was all front and center thought to check if my bladder was swollen. Very. Apparently that was the source of all the in-between contractions pain and possibly some of the contraction pain, as well. I begged to have the catheter placed as soon as possible, even if it was before the normal timeline on placing an epidural, and that gave me some relief. Enough that I could moan through contractions rather than scream.

The OB checked me around the time she placed it; I had gone from 3 centimeters to 8 in the space of an hour and a half. Small wonder the discomfort was so acute. She asked me if I really wanted the epi, since by the time it was placed I would probably be fully dilated. My husband said yes, she does, and I let him speak for me.

The catheter had finally done its job, and either the relief from that pain helped put me back in control or by then (2 hours after it hit me) the nasty drug was wearing off. Whatever the cause, I was mostly clear-headed again by the time the epi team came in. My husband tried to tell me afterward, when we talked about what had happened while he was there, that my clear head came after the epi was placed, that it was a “candy-flipping” effect of using an upper to counteract a downer, but I specifically remember very lucid and rational thoughts from the point when the anesthesiologist came in. Medical protocol is that no one but staff are in the room while an epi is placed, so Robin and my husband had to leave. I asked the OB to give me one more check before they placed it, because if I was fully dilated then I thought I would be able to get through delivery without it, now that my head was my own again. I was still only 8 or 9 centimeters – almost there, but not quite. I weighed my choices. I could suffer through another who-knew how many contractions, exhausting my body and my mind that much more before the hard part came, potentially with the result of not having the reserves I would need to deliver my baby vaginally, or I could get relief from the pain and rest until it was time to push. I made a very clear and conscious choice to take the relief. I felt like it was the only way to be sure I had enough left to push. Had I been 10 centimeters and ready to go, I could have soldiered into it. I couldn’t lay there in pain for another 5 or 10 or 30 minutes waiting and still be certain I’d be able to do anything when my body was finally ready to deliver.

So they placed the epidural. The relief was almost instantaneous. By the time my husband and Robin were allowed back into the room (pretty much as soon as they laid me back down) I was calm, clear-headed, and relaxed. I could tell when I was having a contraction because my inner thighs, where the leg connects to the pelvis, would grow tense and then shake, quivering my thigh fat like I had epilepsy in only my upper legs.

The staff began prepping the room for delivery, as we all knew there wouldn’t be much time before I was ready to push. I dozed for most of it, I think, because it feels like it was only about 5 minutes before the doctor was moving the bed configuration to get me into delivery position. Maybe it was only 5 minutes; maybe that’s how close I had been when they placed the epi. My husband, who had thought he might stay through delivery, decided to go back outside, after first making sure that I was fine with just Robin beside me. (According to Robin he asked me if he could go right after the first drop of blood hit the floor….)

The bed was laid flat, and my feet were hoisted into stirrups. The OB told the nurses that with every push they were to pull my legs back toward my chest and told me to curl up my shoulders.  We were basically going to have me do a mild McRoberts Maneuver every contraction, which made sense to me since the OB had concerns about baby’s size (and possibly my stamina).

And so we pushed. And pushed. And pushed.

Almost right away came the comment that the baby had a full head of long hair. They asked if I wanted a mirror. “No!” I was quite happy feeling the baby low in my pelvis; I didn’t need to see anything and didn’t really want to. I was fading in and out of consciousness between bouts of pushing, and when I was pushing I was pretty far in my own head. I didn’t need the distraction of a visual.

I had half-expected not to really feel anything, despite the anesthesiologist’s claim that I would be able to feel the pressure of contractions, just not the pain, but I definitely felt the pushing urge. It would start for me about 2 1/2 breaths before the OB, who was watching my contraction monitor, would say “Push, push, push,” but after I figured that out I had time to get a couple deep breaths in advance.

Coordinating my body to pushing was surprisingly hard. I was pulling my upper body up  with hands either behind my legs or on the handle-holds on the bed, trying not to release my breath until the end of the push, trying not to put pressure in my face and abs but rather in my sphinctal muscles…all while half-asleep and exhausted. It took a while for me to get any kind of physical handle on what I needed to do. It actually got easier the more tired I got; once I gave up on pulling myself up into the curl I pushed more effectively. That was like…2 hours into the process. Apparently no one realized how long we’d been at it at first, and then someone looked up at the clock. We’d started just after midnight, and now 2 a.m. had come and gone. All the while the OB had apparently been lubing me up and stretching things as much as possible to help. I could feel what she was doing as a pressure that slowly built until it was pushing time. I could feel the baby squeezing me from the inside.

Robin said it was at the point when the OB seemed like she was starting to worry that I seemed to finally have figured out how best to push. The baby was stuck just behind my vaginal opening for several good pushing sessions, and the OB said she wanted to try an episiotomy. I said “Okay,” and then I could hear the snips of scissors (or whatever the instrument was) and hear/feel the rasp of tension being cut through. It was my body’s muscle fibers, being cut like a rope. Bizarre.

The OB made a good call on the episiotomy. On the next set of pushes I could feel his head emerging, and instead of doing 3 or 4 pushes we did six, and he was delivered. Three for the head, one for the face, one for the shoulders, and one for the rest of him.

This kicking, squalling, mucous-covered little thing was lifted away from the area between my feet. It was the most surreal moment of my life, to see this amorphous abstraction in my belly suddenly actualize into a unique being, separate from me and undeniably real. And alive. And tangible, when he was laid on my chest a few seconds later.

My reaction surprised me, to be honest. I had expected that, despite my clinical INTJ detachment from things, that I would feel the overwhelming burst of love and wonder and it’s a fucking miracle, etc., that every new parent I’ve ever heard from harps on. I didn’t. It was this insane dreamlike sequence where I was witnessing something that I couldn’t really believe but yet I was there, I was seeing it, so it must be true. That is not to say that I didn’t feel an immediate love for my son; I did. But the primary reaction was…I don’t even know how to say it. Existential crisis as something impossible happened in front of me, so that I could not deny it even though I simultaneously could not believe it?

Everything was smooth from there. Baby was healthy and fit (Robin called to me from the observation station things like “10 fingers, 10 toes!”). The doctor carefully sewed me up (Robin assures me it was all very straight!). I did not tear beyond the episiotomy, not that I gave a shit at that point, but it does prove that the doctor knew what I needed and chose her placement well. I thanked her for coaching me through what I knew then had been a long and more-difficult-than-anticipated delivery; she might have upset me and pissed me off a lot of times along the course of my pregnancy and that labor, but in the end, at the delivery, she showed me why she is so highly regarded amongst the local natural birth community. She was patient and calm throughout delivery, and never once caused me any anxiety about whether she would whisk me off into a section or use forceps or a suction cup to move things along: she let labor happen.

In the end, labor did not go as I had wanted it to but it went a way that I can look back on without upset or regret. The two main things I wanted to avoid were an induced labor and a c-section, and neither of those happened. I came out healthy with a healthy little boy, and in the end the interventions that happened did not interfere with that outcome. I am sad I was unable to experience a natural labor, but that was always a secondary consideration to the desired outcome.

***

Addendum

Oh, and as a postscript on the whole GD front…my son WAS over 9 pounds, but he was not at all fat. He just came out a big, strong baby, the way both my family and my husband’s family grow ’em. So, in conclusion, I am glad that I didn’t spend too much time fretting over the GD even if the 36-week ultrasound that put him in the 80th percentile was right. Yes…but not because of any condition besides his genetics!

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I Myself Am Often Surprised at Life’s Little Quirks

One more post about pregnancy, LOL. Thought I was done until birth…not quite.

I was just thinking today, in light of reaching 40 weeks and getting another prod from my doctor about considering induction because I shouldn’t go “overdue” with GD (which, to the medical contradictions I discussed in the trimester 3 post…how can the range of normal full-term extend to 42 weeks and I still be “past due” if I go past 40?), about how easily I could have missed out on this diagnosis. See, the only number I’ve had an issue with is my fasting blood sugar. When I did my 1-hour test, it was an accident that I went in on an actual 10-12 hour fast. I had meant to eat breakfast beforehand and just didn’t get up in time. Had I gone for that test after getting up early enough for breakfast, or at any point in the day other than 8 a.m., and 2 hours since my last meal, I would not have had an elevated fasting number, and would therefore not have been tagged to go in for the 3-hour test. Looking back, I can’t regret that I was sent for the 3-hour test; for all my skepticism and eye-rolling about my diagnosis, I would always rather have more information than less, and I do believe that having been diagnosed (however borderline my condition) provoked me to be healthier in the last trimester than I might otherwise have been. But it was sheer accident I didn’t slip through the cracks as part of the 15% that the 1-hour test DOESN’T flag even though they have GD.

So it just goes to show…even diligence doesn’t actually catch everything. Sometimes luck or coincidence or whatever you want to call it really does play a role in how things play out.

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The INTJ Birth Class

Or, The Social Aspects of an INTJ in Late Pregnancy

The (very awesome) friend who is going to be my “birth partner” at the hospital when I go to deliver and I decided that we ought to learn about the stages of labor and practical measures for coping with them. You know, like a responsible pair of birth partners. Rather than buying books we wouldn’t make time to read, we paid to take a class with a birth educator since money up front = something we’ll show up for. We opted for the weekend class because, seriously, who the hell has time to do a class a week for 12 weeks?! We walked into the meeting room laughing about how we were going to look like the cutest pregnant lesbian couple ever…only to get into the room and find the actual cutest pregnant lesbian couple already there! The room ended up being an interesting mix of people between the 7 couples attending – a lot of the women expressed that their goal was an unmedicated birth, but some of them seemed like they just wanted to have more information on birth either from ignorance of the process or fear of it – and ran the gamut from hippies to yuppies to suburbanites to trailer park libertarians. (I leave it to you to decide where I fit. 🙂 )

We enjoyed the class and got out of it what we hoped for – what the different processes of labor entail and some great suggestions for getting through it. One of the  most interesting aspects of it to me was an exercise we did with different coping mechanisms to try and figure out what works for us, which amounted to a “how well do you know yourself?” quiz. I, as I expected, know myself quite well. The instructor had us hold ice for the length of contractions and do various things – walking, partner massage, humming, visualization, breathing, etc., to try and make our perception of the time seem shorter. The things that worked for me were exactly what I expected to work for me based on what worked for me back in high school when I was a long-distance runner (focusing on the discomfort until it becomes unrecognizable as discomfort, the same way a curve becomes a straight line if you zoom in close enough to it; music (the humming was insufferable until I made it a melody and then it worked pretty well); distraction via a stronger physical sensation than the discomfort…I don’t expect that one will actually work against a labor contraction, though!). The variance of reactions to each type of coping strategy was fascinating. No two people had the same set of likes/dislikes, and different people seemed to like and dislike (or at least be indifferent to) each exercise. I was the only woman in the room who liked the focusing one, but several of the men did. INTJ in action (because we “think like men”), or an introvert/extrovert thing? (Or just a coincidence?)

Also, Baby Shower

The same friend threw me a baby shower. It was fun, in part because I insisted it have booze and non-standard games (because typical baby shower games are L-A-M-E), but probably mostly because the group of various friends from various parts of my life actually clicked really well. I was honestly surprised at how many people I found to invite, who live nearby and I am genuinely fond of (not to mention extended-area friends and family!). My impending motherhood being the focus of the occasion did bring out this weird dynamic in my personality, though, which is that I hate being fussed over and made the center of attention unless I am actively engaged in exhibitionist behavior. Like…Stage Lily loves having everyone paying attention to her; real Lily finds it awkward and uncomfortable, even when the attention is an honest outpouring of good will and love. I was truly touched by the time and effort the gals put into gifts for me and my little one (seriously, I teared up afterward going back through the stuff to put it up), and I think I accepted all of it gracefully in the moment, but inside I was squirming. One of the lessons I had to learn as a younger woman was that ceremonies are often not about the person being honored but rather about everyone in attendance. Or, as the Captain likes to say, “It ain’t about you. It’s about them, and what they need.”

firefly-jaynestown-jayne-mal-about-what-they-need

If I had not done a shower on my own, one would have been done for me, at least at work, so the better solution seemed to me to be having one on my own terms. And the best part of all of it? I got a ton of adorable stuff for my kid without having to shop for any of it!

Otherwise, things have been quieter than I expected, socially speaking. I definitely made the right choice to be vague about my due date, because while I get a lot of remarks, no one is hassling me about what if I go “overdue” or anything. Only two people at work have tried to touch my belly without permission, and only one stranger has. The work people were easier to deal with, because it was just a matter of saying “Nope, you don’t know me like that, ask before you touch!” while the stranger at the grocery store was this sweet little old lady who just kept praising Jesus for the gift of life. Very hard for me to be rude to someone like that so I just smiled and thanked her for the blessing and that was that. Now pray Jesus it doesn’t happen again….

That’s the news from Lake Lilybegone.

Or, And Now We Wait

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The INTJ Pregnancy: Trimester 3

I am officially full-term in my pregnancy (the clinical definition of full-term is now 37-42 weeks gestational age) so I thought I might as well go ahead and write about trimester three. Partly because it could end essentially at any time now, and partly because I have more aggravations I need to vent.

Myths and Expectations?

I don’t know that I have any tri-3 myths to bust. Pretty much everything that I was warned about has happened:

  • my back hurts all the time no matter what I do or what position I am in.
  • I sprout cankles if I wear the wrong pants, wear the wrong shoes, or stand or sit for too long. (I thought I might be one of the lucky 30% who dodges that bullet since I got to 36 weeks without foot swelling, but no. Weirdly–OR IS IT?–the only thing that seems to make it go away is a cocktail or two. Maybe it’s coincidence, because a tittle is timed with putting my feet up at the end of the day…but putting my feet up alone doesn’t seem to work. My guess is it’s a relaxation of the blood vessels/my nerves thing, but what do I know? I’m no doctor. And the only thing the internet says on the matter is to avoid alcohol because it will dehydrate you, and dehydration makes edema worse).
  • My heartburn is out of control.
  • My stomach has hit the point of diminishing capacity, where what used to be a normal meal feels like Thanksgiving gluttony and what used to be a snack is now a meal.
  • I have started waddling rather than walking, that charming rolling step you do like you’re on the deck of a ship, only it turns out the ship is you.
  • At least the only time I feel miserably huge is getting out of bed. That’s hard and, perhaps oddly, the time I most feel the extra weight I am carrying (in the mirror I have done a good job of not putting on much weight but baby and perhaps even losing some fat, but by the scale I am 10+ pounds over what I “should” have put on at the end, much less with 2-4 weeks to go).
  • I am exhausted all the time again, almost as badly as I was during the first trimester
  • I feel nauseated on a regular basis…like the thought of eating turns my stomach, even when I’m hungry. It’s a different sort of nausea than the first trimester brought, and just feeling “off my feed” is better than feeling carsick all the time, plus this comes and goes.
  • Everything south of my waist hurts all the time. If you’ve heard about the “punched in the pussy” feeling…it’s real. Apparently it’s the pubic bone shifting apart/loosening up. I have been blessed with either progressively stronger Braxton Hicks contractions or an extended podromal labor because I’ve had what amount to period cramps for hours on end every day for the last week or more. They aren’t labor pains – I can sleep, talk, work through them, and they are neither occurring in a regular pattern nor getting worse – but they are noticeable enough to make me irritable and distracted.
  • I never thought I would be one of “those women” who talks about just being ready for pregnancy to be over, but…I am. Sleep is torture, because there are no comfortable positions, but so is being awake because I have to go about my normal life in mild pain and physical exhaustion. Yeah. Baby can come any time. I’m ready.

Doctor’s Orders

The worst part about the end of pregnancy is the insufferable number of visits to the OB and, if you have any sort of “complication,” other support centers. The regular pattern is every 2 weeks from 28-34 weeks and then every week from 35 to the end of pregnancy. For me, having the “high risk” diagnosis of gestational diabetes, the added fun of twice-weekly fetal non-stress-tests (NSTs) was added around week 36. (In a way I have to count myself lucky – some OBs want NST’s done twice weekly from 32 weeks on with GD, or as soon as the condition is diagnosed. God forbid.) The NST center wanted to do an ultrasound every week, as well, which I declined. I am not comfortable having 8+ ultrasounds in one pregnancy, for no good reason (because I am already being monitored so often for fetal movements). IF the NST shows something is abnormal, then an ultrasound is medically indicated and appropriate. I don’t consider multiple precautionary ultrasounds an appropriate course of treatment…especially since they would also tell me (and the doctor) weight estimates of the baby.

The problem I have with the weight estimates is this: they are off by up to 2 pounds in BOTH directions. The u/s estimate is more or less right about a third of the time – AKA the same statistic the doctor would get if s/he were to just guess “small, regular, or big” for each baby. The reason this is problematic is that doctor’s perception of a baby’s size influences their risk assessment/decision-making process in delivery. A woman who is suspected of having a large baby (even when it turns out the baby was not large at all) is more likely to be diagnosed with failure to progress or a too-narrow pelvis and whisked off for an “emergency” c-section than a woman who is assumed to have a normal sized baby (even when it turns out the baby was very large). Since one of my goals is avoiding a section, obviously, I also want to avoid any fodder for the doctor’s fears that my baby will be macrosomic.

This avoidance stems directly from a series of appointments in which my doctor harped on the dangers of delivering big babies and stressed me out to the point of tears over it, because I felt like she was assuming that JUST because I have GD I would automatically have a big baby and that, by her emphasis on it, she would react poorly to any hiccup or stall in labor. While the reality is that I have a higher chance of a big baby because of my GD (apparently even seemingly controlled GD can result in a fat baby), it’s not a guarantee and statistically unlikely. Even with a big baby the chance of shoulder dystocia during birth is, again, statistically unlikely. I brought her a family history from my mother’s side, showing where she and her many sisters delivered all their many babies – a good third of them pushing 9 pounds – vaginally and with no complications. This was also the appointment where we went over my birth plan and I included a note about  being familiar with the maneuvers to get a baby unstuck, and after that appointment the OB hasn’t really brought up the big baby thing again. Maybe it’s because that list was a reminder that she assessed me in the beginning as having “birthing hips” (very wide pelvic opening) and that women in my family have no problems with bigger babies, maybe it’s that she is certain I understand the potential risk now, or maybe she just remembers we’ve talked about it now whereas for some of those appointments she forgot that she’d already brought it up. I do feel like, based on our conversation around my birth plan, that we are on the same page and she will not be one of those doctors who panics if the baby seems “stuck” so that is also reassuring.

Anyway, all of this stress and worry and emphasis on my GD has led me to some interesting places in terms of how I view obstetric care. Basically, it seems to me that there is a very real attempt on the part of the medical establishment to pathologize pregnancy – to take it from the realm of a natural process with countless and not-always-understood effects on the mother to a clinical chart, any deviation from which constitutes a problem that must be addressed medically.

For example: There is an interplay between anemia and gestational diabetes. Specifically, mild anemia can sometimes help keep blood sugars in check. So perhaps some explanation for the rising rates of GD is that women are now routinely given (or told to take) prenatal vitamins with iron, and prescribed extra iron if their blood iron level slips below the non-pregnant clinical definition of “normal.” Perhaps during pregnancy women are supposed to be a little bit anemic to help offset some of the effects of the placenta on insulin and blood sugar. If iron levels are artificially boosted back to non-pregnant levels, then the pregnant mother loses the protection afforded by her natural body chemistry. Therefore, treating the lowered iron level as a problem that needs to be addressed actually creates more problems by interfering in the natural bodily processes of gestation.

Obviously the above is just my own speculation, but it makes sense to me that interventions create more problems than they solve…especially when it’s not clear that what’s being “solved” is a problem in the first place. I’ve talked to my mom about when she was pregnant, and they had never HEARD of all the conditions that are routinely diagnosed now, nor was pregnancy monitored so closely, nor was any deviation from “normal” AKA non-pregnant body chemistry considered some sort of fucking crisis. How did the human race survive without all these tests? Oh, what’s that? Because it’s a natural goddamned process that even now most doctors don’t really understand all the effects and intricacies of? What needs to be observed and then treated from are normal pregnancy parameters, not pregnant vs. non-pregnant parameters.

But, hey, the doctors are doing a booming business, and so are the testing services that monitor all these “problems” and so are the pharmacology companies that sell the pills to correct the problems, so who cares if any of it’s truly necessary? If it saves one child it’s worth all the expense and stress and fear that are paid out by the mothers-to-be…right? RIGHT?

Another interesting aspect of GD I have found is who is more at risk for getting it (aside from women who already have diabetes before pregnancy): Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Eskimos, and Hispanics (presumably many/most of whom are descended from some of the native peoples of Central/South America). Basically…any ethnic group that is more closely associated with the Mongoloid subgroup of humans. The reason this is interesting to me is because of a book my husband read (and told me all about) that discussed genomic differences between population groups across the globe. One point he made was to posit that the book of Genesis wasn’t actually wrong to say that childbirth became harder for women as a result of knowledge…that changing from a hunter-gatherer wandering society to permanent establishments with farming and a grain-based diet actually changed human physiology. Many of the women who have easier labors and deliveries tend to come from the groups that did NOT experience that physical structural change – AKA all the “native” nomadic peoples like the American Indians and the Mongols, and subsequently the parts of the general populations who descend from them. My mother is from Finnish Laplander stock (basically the Finnish Eskimos) so perhaps that explains why her family make such excellent birthers. It would also put me in a category of elevated risk for GD…that is easily mitigated by ignoring the Western grain-based diet in favor of meat and plants.

I also want to touch on the ridiculous and contradictory advice that gets distributed to pregnant women by the medical establishment. The one that got to me was the weight thing. One of the most common things pregnant women are told is not to try to lose weight while pregnant. BUT when you are told that you should only put on X number of pound – a number that is sometimes lower than the actual physical weight of baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, etc., how are you NOT supposed to lose weight even if the aggregate is a gain? Or, in my case, the diabetes center told me when I was first diagnosed that based on my pre-pregnancy weight and where I was then (32 weeks) that I shouldn’t put on any more pounds for the rest of my pregnancy. You know, during the third trimester when the baby is putting on approximately 1/2 pound per week. So…how was I supposed to avoid putting on weight if I was not also losing weight off my own body to balance what my baby was putting on? How is that not contraindicated? Do you think I am innumerate? Do you think I do not know how to do math, and how to balance equations? Do you think I do not consider these things when examining the medical advice given to me? I am sure every woman gets told equally asinine things to do/not do that, in conjunction with other medical edicts, become completely contradictory. So which are you supposed to follow?

I’ve chosen to do what feels right for me, which is to continue to eat normally, for the most part avoid junk and overeating, and let my body put on what it will. I actually think I look small for 8 1/2 months based on my overall frame and how big I THOUGHT I would get, so even if the scale says I’m a fat pregnant cow, the mirror exposes the lie.

I also want to get into the social aspects of late pregnancy, but this has rambled on long enough so that will be a separate post….

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Associative Memory

I woke up this morning thinking about the night my godmother died. Her passing was the first of two events for which I have spent significant time in a hospital (not as a patient in either case), and my subconscious dredged up memories of that time probably because I am nearing the clinical definition of full-term with my pregnancy and could thus be making my own hospital stay at any point in the next 5 or so weeks.

The power of a single moment, or series of moments, to echo with what feels like near-perfect reverberation years to decades later is amazing. It unleashes the same feelings, if a muted version of what you felt in that moment.

What I woke up thinking about what the last time she woke up. She had been in a comatose state on and off for about a day and a half; her initial admission to the hospital allowed some hope that the end was not imminent but that disappeared when she slipped into the sleeping state. Her cancer was too aggressive, and she was too tired to fight. My godmother was my mother’s best friend – they had been best friends since childhood. I had my own friendship with her, and in a lot of ways at the time of her death I was closer with her than my mom was. My godmother’s husband had called my mom to drive him to and from the hospital because he was, at that point, pretty foxed. My godmother woke up the last time while my mom was in transit one way or the other (at this point I don’t remember which). It left me and here brother and nephew in the room with her. She woke up, or at least her eyes opened enough to see that she was not alone, and she simply said “I’m dying. I’m dying.” And the three of us said, in our various ways, that we know, and it’s okay, and we love you. She said “See you sometime, somewhere” and slipped back under the waves for a few more hours before passing in her sleep.

What I have never known and will never know is if, in that last moment of waking, she saw me or my mother. (I have been told my whole life that I look like my mom, and when I see pictures of us together now that I am an adult I understand why people say it.) I don’t care which of us she saw standing there; I hope it was whichever of us would have been more of a comfort to her in that moment.

It’s been a long time since I thought about that night in much detail. Probably part of what brings it up now is my impending transition to motherhood with all its tangled connections (such as the above me/my mom thing, although with my son it is more likely to be a him/my husband thing) and also just that I haven’t seen much of hospitals and that was if not my very first memory of one certainly my most formative memory of one.

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