Products I’ve Found Indispensible During Pregnancy

Belly Band

At my 16th week of pregnancy, I stopped in at my local maternity and baby shoppe, preloaded with dissatisfaction at the prospect of buying a whole maternity wardrobe, and found the Bella Band. This turned out to be the best $27 I’ve spent throughout pregnancy. And that includes the case of coconut water I bought to have something caloric and electrolytic to kickstart me on my way to work in second trimester.

This simple circle of stretchy fabric works exactly as advertised: it lets you get away with wearing pants that don’t even zip up for you anymore, well past a reasonable point of still wearing them.

One pleasant surprise for me was its belly support, especially around the 4th and 5th months where I was pulling my round ligaments left and right upon merely sneezing. I haven’t worn it every day — in fact, I believe I shouldn’t, because by letting my belly out and engaging my core muscles to “hold” my belly at least 50% of the time, I’m protecting my abdominal functionality and allowing my ligaments to the work they’re designed for. But for long, ill-advised hikes up and down SF’s Chinatown, the Bella Band has been indispensible.

Pineapple

RAW PINEAPPLE (not canned!)
Right: just fresh, raw pineapple. Around 5 months of pregnancy, I started getting heartburn fairly regularly. I tried Tums, which just made me nauseous. My enzymes just plain didn’t work.

Fresh pineapple is the only cure I’ve found for my heartburn. I eat roughly half a cup of good pineapple, which I’ve been fortunate to find at local markets here in the Mission whenever I’ve needed it, and it pretty much just goes away.

The only problem with pineapple is having a guy around who sees fresh pineapple — my medicine — as a treat. Well, at least that means he’ll volunteer to cut it up for us.

Stretchpants and Tunics

Leggings Plus Tunics = WIN

These Linen Maternity Pants… which look like they’re being phased out of the store. It’s a shame; the 2 different pairs of yoga pants I ordered from this place lose their stretch within 1 hour of wearing them, but these linen pants stay solid. I mean, better than solid: they make it so that I don’t have to wear the Bella Band to get that lovely feeling of belly support.

These pants look excellent under tunics and regular shirts alike, and because the waist is high, they’ve effectively extended my wardrobe to shirts I wouldn’t otherwise be getting away with.

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Sleep-Splitting Side Aches

Yes, here we go again: another post about what’s happening with my pregnant body.

The Ninth Month’s exciting new pregnancy side-effect, if you’ll pardon the pun, is this crazy sharp ache along the side of my ribs when I sleep on either side.

Both sides experience equivalent pain; it’s the side I’m laying on that ends up sore when I wake up. Sometimes the soreness itself wakes me up and it’s surprisingly painful. It goes away quickly if I’ve only been sleeping for a few hours, but after a whole night’s sleep (or whatever semblance I can get thereof), I have lingering soreness straight through the morning, as I do right now as I write this.

It seems as though the weight of my midsection is pressing my ribs down into the mattress pretty hard.

I haven’t seen any other symptoms, e.g. muscle aches, soreness in any other areas, etc, that might lead me to believe that there’s a misalignment going on. I’ve taken great pains (hah) to use cushions to arrange my body in a good posture, and until 2 weeks ago, my back and sides and hips all felt pretty good.

It was suggested to me that I try sleeping on my back but supported in a nearly-upright position. I can’t really do this — I start to feel the beginnings of dizziness almost immediately even from simply lying back in a sofa or chair. Besides that, I’ve never been able to fall asleep that way, except in instances of extreme fatigue.

It’s interesting that I haven’t had any hip pain whatsoever, which is what most women are complaining of from sleeping on their sides. I haven’t even been able to Google this problem of mine successfully — “side pain” leads to hip pain, and “rib pain” leads to discussions of how the uterus is pushing up into the front of the ribs.

My only relief so far has come from sleeping on the couch, which is very squishy. I have a hard time falling asleep on the couch, though. And it doesn’t relieve the problem completely; it merely delays the onset of the pain. I still wake up twice a night from this soreness — and that’s in addition to the mandatory bathroom breaks once or twice an night.

Oh well. It’s getting to the point where I’m thinking less about how to solve any problems and more about “just four more weeks!”

It’s hard for me to simply accept a problem without trying a solution, however. So I’ve added a hefty portion of side-strengthening exercises to see if I can pack on some of my own built-in cushioning.

Tangentially, I have an acupuncture appointment today, with the purpose of possibly relieving the night-time itching. I’m excited!

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Trenchlust

I love this coat.

Lido Trench

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Fundal Blooms

One thing I’ve liked about pregnancy is the way it’s taught me to see myself as a Whole Body, rather than an Identity-and-Meat. This is something I thought I already got, but I didn’t realize how far afield of it I really was.

An Identity forms a concept first, and seeks to mold the Meat to that concept, or at least to hold Meat up to the standards of that concept. An Identity can’t be content with the Meat’s reactions and adaptations to its conditions unless the two are in perfect alignment — which can never happen, as Identity and Meat, as separate entities, constantly shift and change at different rates.

A Whole Body is subject to and (most importantly) accepting of the forces within it that are responding to the forces outside of it. A Whole Body realizes the purposes it’s fulfilling and their context in the grander scheme, and forms a concept of itself on those parameters — not the other way around.

That may not sound all too positive — who wants to feel like they’re being led around by the whims of genetics and biochemistry? But it’s not as simple as that.

In fact, I find it rather liberating. Some things are going to happen with your body no matter how you may think your Identity matches or doesn’t match up to it. Pregnancy just puts a huge, bright spotlight on this reality whilst it knocks you on your ass and flips your brain inside out.

In the past, and like countless others in this culture, my self-talk has often been critical of perceived substandard Meaty qualities. These days, I am apt to look at myself in the mirror and perhaps giggle at some of the changes I’ve undergone (yes, even the varicose veins) while realizing that I am physically becoming a reflection of a lovely purpose.

Well. On to the real topic of this blog post.

My Fundus

According to the midwife I saw at St Luke’s before I got my Rhogam shot at the beginning of the week and the homebirth midwife I saw toward the end of this week, my belly is indeed on the smaller side (33 inches or so)… AND my fundus is growing underneath my ribs.

Yes! It certainly is! I don’t know that I’ve ever had more upright, brigadier-general-like posture in my entire life.

The baby made a bruise under my ribs a couple of weeks ago. This seems not to have healed entirely, but instead has continued to be abused by the encroachment of the fundus and the roving kicks of a growing boy.

Sleep for the past 2 weeks has been extremely difficult, as I need to maintain that elongation in my torso to keep my fundus from choking its own blood supply and going numb like a big squashed muscle would reasonably be expected to do.

So between the bruise and the pins-and-needles, AND the night-time itching, AND the fact that I can’t sleep on one side for longer than an hour… it looks like the next few weeks of pregnancy are going to make all these previous months look like swimming the backstroke.

I am very much looking forward to going into labor.

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George in the Abstract: Two Dreams

Dream 1

New Year’s Eve. I’m at the top of a black-and-glass office building, all reflections and no intrigue, in an anonymous city. I’m with “a friend” whose face I never see and whose identity doesn’t concern me. George has already been born — he’s with my mom (his grandmom) in another building, safe.

Suddenly I become aware that the world isn’t stable, and something disastrous has just happened. The city reacts by sending emergency workers. They have to turn the entire building around, some number of times, while we’re in it. The turning upsets people. We wait through five or six full rotations, which go quickly, until I can’t stand it anymore. I have to go find George.

I parkour my way down the building, something like 15 stories, reaching pavement in a flash. My mom is in the next building over, a building with something of a stately Edwardian feel, and it’s then I come to the knowledge that it’s a hotel.

I burst through a maze of hallways on the first floor, wallpaper in mauve between elaborate mouldings, coming to several false stops when I open doors that lead to cleaning closets and bathrooms. Along the way, I realize I am pregnant with my second child.

I finally reach the room where my mom and some other relative are sitting on a red plush Louis XIV chaise longe, breathless and full of inner reckoning and deliberation regarding the sudden “remembering” of this second pregnancy, and come to look at my mom. She is bouncing a little baby girl on her lap.

Dream 2

[Background: George has been kicking me quite often in the exact same spot, a chunk of lung and other meaty stuff which I've taken to calling my "squeedlyspooch". The morning this dream ran, he'd kicked me at least 30 or 40 times in that spot, turning a dull "ow" into a sharp "ouch!!"]

“Our” bathroom, but a random bathroom. The layout puts the porcelain sink in front of but perpendicular to the large white wooden door, which when it swings open, hits the

I’m brushing my teeth when I hear boisterous footsteps followed quickly by the sight of Josh in a monster mask (or perhaps makeup), looking incredibly goofy. He is obviously intent on terrorizing me in a goofy way.

Josh opens the door into the bathroom with this goofy monster look on his face, and I stop and grimace in anticipation of the door hitting my head. The door indeed hits my head — HARD — and I yelp “owwwww!” with more than a little drama to emphasize the point.

[I wake up. Josh runs to the bed from the other room, having heard my audible yelp. I have to explain to him, I'm fine, I've just sustained yet another wicked kick in the squeedlyspooch from YOUR SON.]

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But You’re So Small!

I’m reaching the end of my 8th month of pregnancy and slipping into the last 4 or 5 weeks before birth.

“How can that be???” exclaims many people. “You’re so small!”

Well first off, gee thanks! It’s not for lack of trying! Today I had half an avocado on top of my 3 poached eggs doused in hollandaise sauce, accompanied by 2 tablespoons of honey in my tea, followed by a can of sugary soda (bleh).

But yes, I agree. I look at all the ladies in my prenatal yoga class around the 35 week mark, like me, and they’re much bigger and rounder. And then I look at the 39- and 40-week pregnancies in that class, and the bellies there have all not only increased quite a bit past those “normal” 35 week sizes, but many have also taken on a bullet-like shape.

My weight, according to the digital scale I keep using, is at 144.4 (and I’ve been looking at it three times a day so I can see fluctuations — today, it’s been pegged at 144.4 lbs). I looked in the mirror tonight and saw that the fat on my arms has decreased, and people for months have been telling me that my face is so much leaner.

To boot, my partner just tonight said, “your butt’s disappearing.” I don’t know that I can see it, but I’ll trust him on that one.

Holding

Something came to mind as I was mulling this over tonight: in my yoga classes, the teachers remind us to hold the belly in.

And on one of my better prenatal exercise DVDs, the instructor, who bases the routine on a combination of step aerobics and pilates moves, chatters mid-squats about how “we all” like to just let our bellies hang out, so we have to remind ourselves to hold it in.

We do?

And I realized that I’m always holding my belly in. It’s the way I’ve trained myself since I started taking karate when I was 14. In fact it feels weird not to, and it surprises me to hear the instruction to do so.

Now, I’m sure growth and size have more to do with genetics and nutrition than any other factors. I’m sure as hell not starving myself here, so genetics likely plays the biggest role.

However, I can’t help but wonder if my ingrained habit of “holding” has restrained the growth of my belly quite a bit.

So as I look ahead at how much growing the baby and I have to do in the next 4 weeks, and how small my belly is compared to other women, I can’t help but imagine some impending, unearthly growth spurt that makes mincemeat of my rectus abdominus (so much for holding it all in!) and a mockery of my perfect “no stretch marks” record.

I am upping my abdominal stretching and cocoa butter-slathering regimes accordingly.

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Contractions!

Early in pregnancy, I’d read about Braxton-Hicks contractions, real contractions, false labor, and all that kind of thing. Some women reported pain, some reported cramping, and others seemed not to have any contraction-y type feelings at all until actual labor. Reading about them didn’t help — I had no idea how to imagine how they felt.

Well, for the past week or so, I’ve been getting some really “interesting” and effortful feelings in and around my belly.

A week ago, I woke up and my entire belly was HARD. No pain, but it was nearly impossible to maneuver myself in that state, as my abdominal muscles seemed totally inaccessible and not under voluntary control. And because I was on my back, it had me feeling a lot like an upturned turtle, except with the shell on the belly. It lasted probably 10 (long) minutes and finally softened on its own accord.

(It occurs to me while I’m writing about sudden uncontrollable hardness that many men would probably sympathize.)

Thursday night, standing around at Noisebridge after Five Minutes of Fame and talking with people for like 3 hours (you know, like you do, because you can’t escape the scene even by looking uncomfortable, because everybody there is a nerd and ALWAYS looks uncomfortable), I got a hardness just in my lower abdomen that developed over the course of 15 minutes into some obnoxious and gut-wrenching cramps. I had to sit down and breathe deep for 5 minutes before they’d pass.

And finally, today, I’ve had full-belly hardness accompanied by occasional shooting pains down through my cervix. The top of my belly got so hard and uncomfortable that when I lay down for a nap this afternoon, I had to keep myself elongated just to keep from choking on my fundum.

Naturally, I’m curious about the meaning of these three different experiences. So I ask the interweb [a word just yesterday ratified into the OED], and I find my way through myriad horrible discussion forums full of paranoia and ignorance to this oasis of wisdom on franklypregnant.com. A woman asks,

Q. I am eight months pregnant and sometimes my stomach feels as hard as a rock. There are other times when I can feel the different parts of the baby, but then it feels as if the fluid and the baby are one solid rock. Is this normal?
-Jennifer, Pennsylvania

A. Yep The rock-hard times are probably when you are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. Sometimes you may feel cramping or pain with these contractions and sometimes you won’t. They can last anywhere from a few seconds to a several minutes.

When you experience real contractions, your uterus will be rock-hard all over, unlike Braxton Hicks, where the fundus remains soft. To check to see if your fundus is hard, press down on the top of your uterus, just below the top of your rib cage.

Oh.

But wait, wait. I’m getting full-on fundus hardness, no mistake about it. So… am I having REAL contractions or what?

Not that I’m worried. They’ve only happened as singletons. But I don’t feel as though the whole Braxton-Hicks-versus-”real”-contractions issue has been elucidated.

(For the record, I’m at 35 weeks of pregnancy as of yesterday. Tangentially, STILL at 145 pounds!)


Update: the morning after I wrote this (Saturday), I woke up to a rather crampy contraction all over my abdomen, which subsided as I fell back asleep. Then yet another such contraction happened the next hour. I was exhausted, or the contraction was exhausting me, so I went back to sleep again. There was a third contraction in there somewhere whose quality was rather different, occurring mostly in the lower abdomen and accompanied by a shooting pain in the cervix.

When I finally got up around 2pm, Josh suggested, “stop drinking that damn chai,” in his delightfully gruff way. Checking, I saw that the first ingredient of my beloved Divine Chai mix is ginger. And I’ve been drinking a LOT of chai… like 3 cups of mix per day.

So, I gave that up (went back on the tonic and lime drinks, just in time for the weather to get nice and hot too). I haven’t gotten any contractions like that since then, but it’s only been a few days.

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Meet George

George is the name of the baby in my womb. I don’t think that’s going to be his name when he’s born. We just like to call him that.

George is about 18 inches long and probably about 4 pounds. He’s been growing inside me for eight and a half months now.

Project Peanut

I first saw an image of George on an ultrasound when we went to the hospital to see if he was growing alright. That was on March 3, 2010. He was 3 cm long and quite squirmy.

Since then, he’s gone through a whole bunch of changes, and of course I have, too. Our bodies together have made me feel at times nauseous and preternaturally tired (first trimester). Sometimes he’s been so quiet and my body’s been so happy that I wondered if I was still pregnant (16 weeks).

But George has been moving around and going through interesting phases the whole time. I couldn’t feel him “for sure” until about 22 weeks, when I woke up and felt a bit of fluttering in the middle of my belly. I left for work on my bike that morning, getting on a train at 9am. When I relaxed in my seat, the feeling started again. It had to be George because I hadn’t had anything to eat that day, and anyway, mid-belly is a strange place to feel a gurgle.

I sent a text message to George’s father when I was sure that’s what it was. Reply: “!!!”

It wasn’t long before it was evident that George responded to the warmth of hands, the sound of familiar voices, and the rocking of my body. Sometimes his daddy would try to interact with him when we felt him move around, but George seems to like to listen and he’d go quiet and stop moving when he heard the big voice.

Around 5 months, he started favoring my left side — maybe because his father sleeps on the left side of me, and he’s warm and his voice is interesting. Back then, there was much less George and much more of me, and his whole 2 pound body would sometimes be balled up and pushing my belly out in a pouch to the left when I woke up. I would have to grab his mass and gently push it back into the center of my abdominal cavity. It wasn’t painful, and the discomfort was greatly overshadowed by the bizarreness and comedy of the situation.

George starting getting the hiccups between 5 and 6 months. I thought it was a muscle spasm in my own body, but it grew more evident that this rhythmic twitch against my insides always happened right where the baby’s head should be. Hiccups are pretty normal and they help the fetal lungs develop.

At 6 and 7 months, George started to really explore the boundaries of his space and the coordination of his limbs. He’d do little kicks throughout the day, but it was when I got really relaxed and comfy that he would kick and push with every extremity at once. Sometimes I would look down and see three distinct little mounds undulating on my belly, often for ten minutes at a time.

In the 6th month George seemed to be all over the place, but by 28 weeks he’d chosen a favorite spot on my left side, upside-down, with his head facing my spine. His legs are almost always positioned — if you imagine my belly as a clock face — at 1 o’clock and 9 o’clock.

These days, George likes to take up all the space he can get. He doesn’t kick with as much frequency in one session as before; now he kicks with pressure and force, often leaving his legs extended and stretching my uterus. He’s also not so discriminating about time and place; whereas before he rarely kicked while I was out and about, now he’ll stretch and flex whenever he likes.

A few nights ago, he decided he liked the feeling of my right lung so much that he probably kicked it 30 or 40 times in the same spot over the course of 12 hours, leaving me with an internal bruise and several startled awakenings. He means well but I’m glad I was able to coax his foot out of that spot the next day.

Only 6 weeks or so before George becomes a real baby, and we both have some serious growing to do. We should probably gain at least 6 pounds together, 3 for him and 3 for me.

It’s hard to believe we still have growing to do, as even simple movements like walking more than a few blocks have become major undertakings. The basket of muscles that hold up this weighty uterus, the pelvic floor and groin muscles, have begun complaining at the end of an upright day; it feels like weight training, and the weight is steadily increasing.

George’s grandmom, mother of 5 including me, says that with children, each phase lasts just slightly longer than you think is reasonable for it to last. “Just when you think, alright, if this goes on any longer, I’m going to scream, that’s when it all changes again.” I can really feel the truth of that right now.

George is a good baby though. I’m happy to carry him inside me, even when it’s made life difficult, and I’ll be really happy when I get to see his face and carry him on the outside, no matter what.

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Insufficient Gravity

On the eve of 34 weeks of pregnancy, I only weigh about 10 pounds more than I did before I conceived. (If you must know, I weighed 135 pounds at the beginning. IDEAL for 5 foot 7, thankyouverymuch.)

I swear I am eating plenty! I keep myself absolutely stuffed with high-calorie foods. And my exercise regimen for the past 5 months (I didn’t do much of anything in first trimester) has consisted of 1.5 hours of non-strenuous yoga 2-3 times a week, 2 to 4 miles of walking or biking a day, and the occasional 30-minute cardiovascular workout DVD.

Right now I am feeling all roly poly, having had three or four coconut date rolls and washing it down with 1/4 cup of MimicCreme stirred into my all-herbal chai (a drink that tricks me into thinking I’m getting caffeine). That’s nearly 500 calories.

Prior to pregnancy, 500 calories all densely packed like that wouldn’t necessarily have registered as “OMG so full.” But the baby’s making it well known to me and anyone within my surprised-yelping radius (“ack!”) that when it comes to my stomach, there just ain’t room enough in my abdominal cavity for the two of them.

What “worries” me (for lack of a better word) is that I know I’m going to have some growing to do, and probably rapid at that, before coming to full term. Most people at UnEphemerisle commented that I looked pretty small for almost-8-months pregnant. Judging by the sizes I see at my prenatal yoga class, I kinda agree.

Well, my midwife doesn’t seem tremendously concerned. (Of course, it’s not her belly skin on the line. Yes, I fret over stretch marks a little.)


Hmm. 34 weeks pregnant, and I still haven’t written even half of what I think I should write before Pregnancy Amnesia sets in.

Well, I’ve been busy.

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Me, On a Boat, In a Bikini




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Originally uploaded by crasch

…at 31 weeks pregnant.

Add that to the List of Things I Thought I’d Never Do. It’s getting big this year.

This was taken by the fantastic photo talent of Chris Rasch at this past weekend’s NotEphemerisle (or NeoEphemerisle, or UnEphemerisle, or Floating Festival…)