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Archive for the ‘pregnancy’ Category

I was inspired by Michelle’s (at Big Blueberry Eyes) wee belly to answer this question from Mommy Talk:

How much weight did you gain (w/picture if you are you brave enough!)
What did you like MOST about pregnancy?
What did you like the LEAST?

I gained 50 lbs with Maya. I was miserable and swore I would never make such a huge mistake again. So I only gained 60 lbs with Asher. It dropped easily off after Maya, so I wasn’t as panicked the next time and, of course, it didn’t go away quite so easily the next time. That is why, when I gained a mere 55 lbs with Boo, I also got to my all-time heaviest. And have had the hardest time losing that weight. I don’t think I can call it pregnancy weight any more. Now I’m just fat. Interestingly, Asher was the heaviest, Boo was in the middle and Maya was the lightest.

What did I like about pregnancy? Having a baby. Loved the baby. I didn’t even mind labour, since it got me out of the state of pregnancy and into the state of mommyhood. Other than that, I liked the movement. I liked knowing the baby before everyone else did. Having been pregnant, I for ever after found it weird to hear people say things like, “When the baby gets here,” because for me, the baby already was here. Right in there – I knew what got her moving and got her sleeping, where her feet were, etc.

What I didn’t like – the long wait to meet the baby, stressing over whether the baby was okay whenever it stopped moving, the outrageous tailbone pain and back pain, not being able to curve my spine forward at all, my belly resting on my thighs, wildly restless legs, being unable to take a deep breath, being unable to sleep for longer than 2 hours at a time, cervical head-butts, peeing every two hours, wicked ‘morning sickness’ that got worse at the day went on, skin tags popping up all over, people who told me they knew the baby was going to be a boy because it was so active when I already had decided I was having a girl (and I was right), crying over absolutely nothing, pre-term contractions …

Okay, so I didn’t much like pregnancy. A couple of friends of mine told me once that in the same way some people are ‘mean drunks’ I was a mean pregnant. And they were right.

Nevertheless, I managed to find a photo of a very pregnant me (8 months with Boo – still another month of growing!) managing to smile. This is half a photo. The other half is my equally pregnant SIL. We wer due within a week of each other, but I decided not to just toss up a photo of her huge self without warning.

me-8-months-pregnant.jpg

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I realize I never followed up on my weaning post with my breastfeeding post. Given the response to my list of places I’ve nursed babies, and the weaning post, clearly I should have started blogging when I was still nursing a baby. Truth is, I nursed for so long, I can’t quite believe my breasts wouldn’t still work that way. I weaned Maya when I was 3 months pregnant with Asher, and Asher when I was 3 months pregnant with Boo. I was in a constant state of maternal functions controlling my body for a decade. It is still a bit hard to believe that is all over with. I feel like a breastfeeder, even though there is no one left to breastfeed.

Boo was also the easiest infant to teach to nurse. The midwife laid her on my belly and she literally crawled up my stomach and latched on, just like in a famous sociology video I’ve seen. And nursed for an hour. It was a good thing she was such an instant pro, because I developed a wicked uterine infection that spread to my blood and was hospitalized at 2 days after her birth for a week, and only released with a PICC line and serious antibiotics being delivered from a fanny pack I wore everywhere. She was the baby J held to my breast to nurse when I was semi-conscious. I can’t imagine breastfeeding surviving such an experience if I’d been a first-time mom, but we were both pros and, despite the deep, deep scepticism of the doctors and nurses, my extremely ill body kept producing the milk and Boo kept efficiently taking it.

Upon realizing how hideously ill I was (strep A and B, and then a suspected blood clot in my lungs), somebody decided that Boo wasn’t growing fast enough and that even though I thought my milk had come in, it hadn’t. They ordered the dreaded top-up – I could nurse, but every 3 hours, they wanted her to have a couple ounces from the bottle.

Of course, when they ordered that, they assumed the top up would come from formula, because I wasn’t producing enough milk. J, who trusted that I knew how much milk I had, pointed out that they hadn’t actually ordered formula, merely a bottle. He brought in my little electric breastpump from home. When Boo nursed, I put the pump on the other breast and expressed (plenty). He then poured it into a bottle and delivered the ordered top up. Trooper that she was, Boo drank that down too, then promptly spit it all up, every time. After a day of watching that, the nurses revoked the order.

The copious milk production with Boo also lead to my first and only visit to a lactation consultant (although, if I hadn’t been so stubborn and naive, I should have gone in the first painful weeks with Maya too). At a few months old, she kept pulling back and clicking her tongue, which hurt. Despite my own training (I’m a doula) and experience, I couldn’t figure it out and finally realized: this is what lactation consultants are for! One visit fixed us right up.

With Maya, I just kept determinedly hacking away at it and finally got it right. I never considered quiting and since the pain wasn’t completely unbearable, I figured the problem wasn’t bad enough to see someone. I was always in denial with Maya. I also refused to admit she had colic until she was older and past it.

I was convinced, during the colic phase, that there was something wrong with my milk – it must be something I was eating. I had myself down to only rice cakes at one point, such was my desperation to figure it out. I even went down to the basement to get that container of formula we had stashed away – just in case – but when I read the ingredients, I couldn’t do it. No matter what I was eating, my milk had to be better than that. I stopped all that nonsense when I stumbled across William Sears’ The Fussy Baby. It is unclear whether we would have survived her infancy without it.

Maya was also obsessed with nursing, but at least she responded to some sort of structure. I weaned her the earliest, at just past two,-years-old, because Asher was coming along and I’d had concerns about pre-term contractions with my first pregnancy. Breastfeeding (which can product contractions) while pregnant seemed a bad idea.

When Maya was just over a 18-months old, we went to a resort in the Dominican Republic for a little winter vacation. Before babies, J and I had been to Mexico and Jamaica, but we just showed up with backpacks and wandered around. The inclusive resort was our nod to responsible parenting, but was also so lame we never did something similar again – well, that and the fact that we could never again afford it.

While there, Maya came down with a hideous intestinal virus. She had a raging fever, was semi-comatose, had the runs and refused to eat or drink anything. She would only nurse. After a day of this (and one very traumatic night that I will never forget, because I was actually afraid the fever was so high it would cause permanent damage), we took her to the resort’s doctor. He gave her an antibiotic, starting her off with an injection – more trauma, since they wanted to take her away to give it and I refused to let her go because she was screaming. When we asked about dehydration, he indicated to her as she nursed and said, “Is she nursing frequently?” When we said yes, he said, “Then you don’t need to worry.”

When we returned home, we discovered that good friends who had a sons 3 months’ younger than Maya had also been struck with the evil virus. Because of a cleft palete, he was a formula baby, but he also refused to eat or drink and ended up hospitalized for dehydration, where he contracted RSV (a respiratory virus) and ended up using a puffer for years whenever he got a cold. That experience gave both of us a deep appreciation for the wonders of breastfeeding.

Asher was the dream nurser. He learned easily and wasn’t obsessive. He also weaned easily. I could never come up with some cute nickname for it, so I always just said to my babies, “Nurse? Do you want to nurse?” But it was nice when Asher’s bad pronunciation came up with a convenient code word which sounded like “Ursh.” (Maya spoke early and clearly, and I remember having her picture done at Sears when she was about 15 months old. She got tired of the process and starting saying, “Nurse, mama. Nurse.” I responded, “In a minute,” or “As soon as we are done here,” until finally the photographer said, “I swear she’s saying ‘nurse.’ Are you a nurse?” I explained and she actually turned bright red, poor young thing.)

As I think the list demonstrates, I was willing and able to nurse anywhere. Small breasts certainly helped with discretion. I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed – after that many years of having your boobs yanked, poked, bitten, and adored by babies as the best food source ever, you tend to lose any feeling of privacy. Or most of it. I remember sitting with Boo when she was small, watching Asher at gymnastics, when another watching mom started nursing her toddler. She undid her buttons, freed her very large breast from her bra and then just hauled the entire thing out and sat, calm as anything, as the kid did the toddler nursing dance, which involves jumping around in mom’s lap while popping on and off the boob. She clearly was way more comfortable with public nursing than I’d ever been.

Boo asked (loudly, of course), “Why did that lady take her breast out?” I responded, “She’s nursing her baby.” “Yeah, but why did she have to take her whole big breast out? Doesn’t he just need to nurse from the little brown circle in the centre?” I just said, “I guess that’s the way she likes to nurse.” I was torn between being impressed at her refusal to be ashamed of her nursing breasts, and the concern that she was just giving those who thought extended nursing is gross more fodder for their beliefs.

Thanks to three young kids and a busy husband with wild work hours, I haven’t been able to practice as a doula the way I would like to (I’ve attended about 10 births, mostly of friends). But I’ve realized recently that perhaps an easier way to be involved would be as a lactation consultant. I have helped a number of women get their breastfeeding going properly and felt enormous satisfaction.

I may not be nursing any more babies myself, but I don’t think my relationship with breastfeeding is over yet.

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I just stumbled across George Will’s column in Newsweek. Never heard of the guy, but I read it thanks to the topic, which is prenatal screening and Down Syndrome. I suspect I wouldn’t much like Will, based on his line: “this era of the casual destruction of pre-born babies.” As someone who is strongly pro-choice, the term ‘pre-born’ raises flags. And yet, I can understand his distress over the abortion of children with Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21.

I was 35 when I became prengnat with Boo, which automatically put me in the category of recommended screening. Everyone just assumed that, as I’d hit that magical number, I’d have an amnio to check for genetic abnormalities, Down Sydrome being the main one. But with Maya and Asher, I’d had pre-term contractions. They never actually turned into pre-term labour, thankfully, but my doctor and subsequently midwife, told me I had an ‘irritable uterus’. (Made sense really – the rest of me was damn irritable during pregnancy, why not my uterus as well?)

What no one could tell me was if my irritable uterus was more likely to eject it’s contents if someone stuck a needle in there. As it is, amnios carry a small but not insignificant risk of miscarriage, which completely freaked me out. Boo was a surprise, but once she was on her way, I was desperate to keep her (I was completely, irriationally convinced she was a girl).

Prenatal screening is a stressful game. There are blood tests that can tell you your odds of a problem, but nothing absolute. And, to make it more fun for the already hormonal mom-to-be, the blood tests are often wrong. So you get the blood test, it indicates a possible problem and you have the choice of living with that extra stress until the child arrives, or going on to an amnio. The only absolute tests involve needles and an increased risk of miscarriage. Most people with a false positive (of problems), as far as I can tell, go on to an amnio that tells them everything is fine. All that stress for nothing, really. Some end up with the news of a problem and some end up miscarrying a perfectly healthy baby.

I was terrified of the tests. I’d done nothing in my previous pregnancies, electing for the head-in-sand approach to the whole issue, but suddenly, having reached the magic 35, it was assumed that I’d have the tests. If the blood test came back with a bad result, it was assumed I’d have an amnio. If that came back with a bad result, then what? Was it assumed I’d have an abortion?

I felt my babies really, really early. By about 14 weeks, I had little low flutters. I remember Boo’s clearly, as she liked to hang out in the lower right of my belly. I remember lying on my bed, feeling those tiny tickles and realizing that the part I didn’t get in this whole equation is that Down Syndrome is supposed to be worse than miscarriage. I realized that I didn’t care if the baby had DS. I could feel her. She was there, and that was where I wanted her to stay, no matter what.

I did some research into Down’s and a lot of research into what my odds really were, at my advanced age (which really wasn’t, statistically-speaking, that advanced after all). I decided that if I balanced all those odds out, it really wasn’t worth the risk. J agreed, thankfully, and we did no tests. That decision lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I was convinced the baby was fine, even if she did have DS.

When Boo turned 2.5 and moved up to the preschool room at her marvellous daycare, which she attended twice a week, she soon began to talk about her friend Olivia. She loved Olivia. I heard lots about the two from the caregivers too, how close they were and how they fell over with exuberance when they hugged each other. It took me ages to actually meet this new friend, but finally one day, as I walked in to pick up Boo, I was greeted by a lovely little girl with jet black hair, bright red lips and snowy white skin. I swear, the first thing I thought when I saw this child was: it’s Snow White! The second thing I noticed was that she had DS. This was Boo’s best friend.

I feel as though Olivia is some sort of confirmation of the choice I made then, that even though Boo is completely healthy Olivia is proof that I made the right choice. I know that is crazy, but there it is.

I am too pro-choice to suggest those pre-natal tests aimed at detection genetic problems be disallowed, as some people are apparently suggesting. I also think that every woman, every family, has a right to decide for themselves what their family will look like, as much as they can. Only they know what they can cope with.

But I can also completely understand why people like Will and others who are related to people with DS are angry at the prenatal testing aimed right at detecting the syndrome, because it seems to come with the assumption that a diagnosis of DS means terminating the pregnancy.

I think the answer lies in education. Much of the time, it seems that prenatal screening is just presented to pregnant women as a given, without much discussion about what real information the results will provide and what her options are after that. The results come with assumptions too, and that also is not fair. It is only truly a choice when women know exactly what they are chosing.

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