September 30, 2012

Week by Week: 31

31 weeks

This week, I've tried to accept that my mobility is increasingly compromised by pregnancy. I took some breaks while teaching to sit down. Lecturing from a stool is unfamiliar terrain for me, as someone who likes to move around the classroom freely. But I was able to still gesture and move a bit while seated. I've found that the tricky part is getting up and down from the stool or a seated position, gracefully. Grace has never been my strong suit but right now I feel especially ungraceful. And with the occasional inadvertent sounds I make while moving, I feel self-conscious.

I also decided that it is ok if I occasionally need to take an elevator rather than the stairs, especially while lugging my course materials. It took me a while to get to this point but I become short of breath more readily and don't want to show up to class huffing and puffing.

I also advocated for my comfort at the Little Italy Days festival by letting friends and loved ones know when/if I needed to take a rest. This is all new for me, as a fairly prideful person who doesn't like being fussed over or being a bother. I hate disrupting a social setting to say to Chris that I need to find a place to take a load off. But he understands and so does everyone else. In terms of stamina I have to acknowledge that my body has changed. It's carrying a lot more weight than usual and its center of gravity is completely off. Even when I am minding my posture to save myself from back pain, it is hard not to arch due to the weight of my belly. Also, it's impossible to be conscious of it all the time.

Anyway, my mom got to feel the fetus move and kick yesterday which was thrilling for us both. We met up to shop and hang for her birthday. I took her to lunch but she generously treated me by buying me some comfy shoes and a cute dress. She also bought so many clothes and odds and ends for the baby. Can a fetus be spoiled? :)

I hope my dad will be able to feel her kick tonight at my mom's and Katie's birthday dinner! I tried on the above dress this afternoon because I knew it would really showcase the belly. Admittedly, I didn't wear it anywhere yet.

Outfit Details:
Bailey 44 Tiered Stripes dress from Anthro
Zanotti flats

September 23, 2012

Week by week: 30

30 weeks

Gah time is flying! I have so much to do. So much to plan. So much to finish. So much to organize. But I also am excited to meet this little one who has been moshing and poking and prodding me from the inside for so long.

I had a few appointments on Friday, including an ultrasound that was supposed to have a 3d component. Sadly (though not truly sad, and in fact good!) the fetus is positioned head down and low enough in my pelvis that she was basically not 3d-photographable. The tech and the OB even considered prodding and pushing me from the outside to urge her to move into a better spot. But she's comfy down there and frankly, I'd rather her get used to being in a good spot for birth than get an unnecessary preview of her face. We did learn that she already has hair! And although I'm measuring right on track according to my midwife who checked my fundal height, from the ultrasound she is measuring to be in the upper range of percentiles. I blame her dad who has long limbs. Because of her position, they couldn't truly measure her because of where her head was, so they looked at the femur and belly to calculate an estimation (that the OB said is not very accurate, even if it is what they use). Anyway, it was a long but exciting day and everything continues to look healthy and good.

I began a new series on Consume or Consumed about teaching college students while pregnant. Check it out!

Outfit details:
Target sweater (gift from my mom)
Gap maternity t-shirt underneath
Gap maternity jeans
ChloƩ flats

September 16, 2012

Week by week: 29

29 weeks

Chris and I attended day two of our condensed Lamaze class at Magee and much like the first week, it was really wonderful. We practiced positions, slow breathing through contractions, and spontaneous pushing. We went on a hospital tour so I feel much more able to visualize my birth setting. And I even felt like we began to make friends with other couples. If there was one more class meeting I know we would have walked out of there with email addresses. Sadly, there isn't. But I did feel a strong bond with the couples in the class and with the instructor. More than anything else, I felt more bonded to Chris. I know from this experience that he is better equipped to be the supportive, confident, and attentive birth partner that he wants to be.

I cannot say enough great things about the instructor that we had for the class. I cried a little when it was time to say goodbye to her because I felt so much gratitude over the knowledge she imparted and the confidence that comes with it. She works as a volunteer doula in the hospital sporadically and I am now hoping the stars align for her to be on the floor during my birth. We'll see.

Since learning I was pregnant, it has been difficult to envision what birth will be like since so many variables are unknowns and so many birth stories differ. But talking to my parents about birth has helped me a lot. Together they share so many memories and it is interesting to see who remembers what with more vivid detail. Last night my mom remembered that my dad's mother was tearing up when they were leaving for the hospital to have me, which was a pretty quick birth, especially for a first time mom! She said that she realized she was in first stage labor around 11pm, they left for the hospital around 2am, and I was born at 8:06 am. Although I've always felt close with my parents, sharing the process of becoming a parent with them and having them retell stories about pregnancy, birth, and early family life has been really incredible. 

Today I blew up my exercise/birth ball and plan to try to get some writing done while sitting on it. I also am setting a goal for Chris and I to practice at least two positions through timed, simulated contractions per day. If we only manage to do it every other day, that is ok too. I aim to do two per practice session so that we can also practice the transition from one position to the next. Most of my favorite practice positions involved the birth ball so I am glad to have it for our preparation.

Outfit details:
Maternal America dress (from Amazon clearance)
Wolford tights (which incidentally, are quite comfortable with a belly!)
Guiseppi Zanotti flats
Amber pendant necklace from St. Lucia (gift from Chris)

September 13, 2012

On exceptionalism and test anxieties

Especially for first time moms-to-be, a wanted pregnancy can still be fraught with worry and anxiety. Many of the wise "been there, done that" moms in my life have tried their best to comfort me with the reminder that statistics are usually in one's favor and to trust in the pregnant body. But in so many ways the experience of being pregnant has been one lesson in surrender after another. Lacking agency in determining so many of the outcomes can leave a person feeling disempowered and fearful. And often, prenatal tests can stimulate as much concern as they do relief.

The wealth of information available online can become another venue through which to stir anxieties. Dr. Google may have some helpful answers, (and of course I am grateful to live in this age of information) but not all information is created equal. And the ability to work oneself into a nervous mess is almost too easy now.

One of the subjects I teach about in a few of my courses concerns American ideology. And one powerful, shaping notion that permeates American culture is "exceptionalism." Exceptionalism is a (conscious or unconscious) belief in one's uniqueness and individuality... that you will be the exception to the rule.* For example, the belief that statistically you will beat the odds and ascend in socio-economic status through a combination of hard work and good luck is both a familiar narrative found in the stories we tell and retell, and for many Americans, a powerful motivating force in life.

There's a fantastic book titled, A Nation of Outsiders that unpacks this notion... the idea that we prop up rebel "outsiders" and/or believe ourselves to be "outside" of the crowd or even perhaps above the statistics. This might seem like a tangent, but I'm bringing it up because exceptionalism isn't always positive or motivating. It can also encourage irrational feelings that venture toward "worst case scenario" territories. And because pregnancy is at once entirely normal and yet completely miraculous, it can be easy to believe that "despite all odds" things might go very wrong. That statistics will not be in your favor. That in fact, yours will be the cautionary tale... Dr. Google corroborates this irrationality, as there are infinite spaces through which to read cautionary tale after cautionary tale, giving an impression that such tales aren't so exceptional after all.

But this isn't all bad either... when faced with adversity during pregnancy, finding commiseration and empathetic comfort is that much easier thanks to the wealth of crowd sourced information and virtual community support. This would be impossible without Dr. Google.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying that I know my worries are normal. My fears might become amplified because of all the available information. I might fear that I will be the exception to the rule. But the odds are in my favor (as they are in the overwhelming majority of individual circumstances) and that is what I strive to make my takeaway.

My partner and I decided to have a number of prenatal tests done throughout my pregnancy. We wanted all the information available to us at every turn. While all signs have pointed to a healthy, normal pregnancy with appropriate embryonic and fetal development, that doesn't mean that there is never any worry. I trust science. I trust my healthcare providers. And I am learning with every day and every kick that I feel to trust my body. I trust it to continue to do what it needs to do. After all, it has so far.

So far, so good.

*Actually, it's a bit more complex than that but for the purposes of this post my above definition is sufficient.

September 9, 2012

Birth Class and Week by week: 28

Week 28

Holy cow I'm in my third trimester! I'm both terrified and excited that things are moving along so fast. I feel good, although my movements are definitely slower out of necessity. They're also occasionally more audible than I intend (as in I make funny guttural sounds if I am getting up from the floor or something... lol). My heartburn has worsened and I seem to have the same tiny bladder issues I had during the first trimester. My stomach fills up faster than before, too.

Yesterday, Chris and I began a condensed Lamaze class at our hospital (Magee Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh) and it was so wonderful. I know a lot of people remark that reading books will offer the same impact of taking a class but that seemed less desirable to me. Although I have been reading about pregnancy and birth avidly, I still wanted to take a class. Reading is often solitary and the experience of taking a class is shared. Plus, as phd candidates, Chris and I are no strangers to schooling. We basically thrive in a classroom environment. So for us, it only made sense to sign up for something. My insurance will cover half of the class cost but even if it didn't, I view it as a good investment in memory-making.

32 years later, my parents still talk about the birth class they took when they were pregnant with their first born (me). They made lasting friendships from it. Sadly, the condensed class sessions that fit our work schedules will be less likely to yield much in the way of bonding with other couples. But I enjoy the metaphoric connection I share with the people in the room, even if we don't get to know each other during our short time together.

Also, the instructor is fantastic and incredibly engaging. I had no problem staying alert the entire day, listening to her explain things, share anecdotes, offer clever metaphors, and demonstrate with course materials. I even found myself tearing up at moments during which she described with enthusiasm and sincerity the remarkable things that occur in the pregnant body. I do have extra feelings right now thanks to all the hormones but in general, I am moved by the notion that my body is doing things that are miraculous, natural, and also in so many ways, entirely mundane. I can't wait for our next class!

I'm curious about the experiences of others in this regard. Did you take a birthing class? Our instructor said around 20% or less of pregnant women take classes. I don't have a lot of friends who have had children so I can't do any informal social polls. But I imagine that Dr. Google in conjunction with youtube videos (and traditional books) have created an environment of learning in which taking birth classes seem less necessary than ever before? Or perhaps the stats have always been low due to the time and money involved in enrolling?

Outfit details:
Ancient Myths maxi skirt from Anthropologie (stoked this still fits for now)
Banana Republic tee
Havaniana flip flops

September 5, 2012

On timing

at Chris's brother's graduation (week 22)

One of the questions asked by closer friends (who are still deciding whether kids will be in the scope of their lives) has been with regard to "timing." Above everything else, the question of timing plagued us most in the process of our own family planning. Chris and I agreed a long time ago that we'd like to have children "someday." Barring the potential for fertility challenges, that agreement made our discussion as a couple less about "if" and more about "when." While the changes resultant from this decision remained firmly in the realm of the abstract, it was easy to speak of the future with confidence. "When we have a family... When you're a mom/dad... etc. etc."

This hypothetical notion of "when" orbited our lives over the last few years without any definitive reason to set deadlines or rush. "When" continued to feel slightly out of immediate reach and therefore, still a hypothetical idea rather than a reality. Hypotheticals brim with possibility and idealized future projections. They are wonderful in that regard. Realities can bring with them fears over uncontrollables and unknowns. Now, rather than speaking of "when" I become a mother with no sense of self-consciousness, I feel pangs of performance anxiety over "how" to be a mother.

As I enter my third trimester of a very wanted pregnancy, I am still not certain that the timing question was answered "correctly." I don't know that there are perfect answers to that question, particularly once a pregnancy (that has been determined to be wanted) progresses. Hypotheticals morph into imminents that are accepted with fewer theories and philosophies. Change becomes your new normal, out of necessity. But this type of acceptance isn't without its own transition pains.

Not so long ago, I was on the other end of this conversation. I asked an experienced and wise friend about the question of timing. She assured me as she snuggled her own little one that although there is never a "perfect" time, it always becomes the "right" time to have your baby. I have held onto that notion since it was articulated to me. And to this day it brings me great comfort. A wanted, healthy pregnancy and a wanted child are life circumstances around which variables seem to adapt and make room with little fanfare.

As I mentioned above, when it comes to my pregnancy I am not certain of the "perfection" of my own life's timing. I don't feel regret about the shape of things to come and I don't doubt the capacity for the love that already fills our household to grow exponentially upon the arrival of our little one. I just also happen to believe that we could have had incredibly happy, fulfilled lives as a duo. Our lives were and are very full. And on some level, the biggest barrier to our "when" was in risking the significant disruption of circumstances that have been so good for so long. But this is a decision we made, on which we were lucky enough to be able to follow through. I imagine once the dust from these major transitions settles I will think back to the anxiety I felt over both "when" and "how" with some sense of rear view amusement.

Logistically, there were a few puzzle pieces we wanted to have in place, in advance of our "when." 

We weighed our personal financial circumstances, our ages, our time together thus far, our access to health care coverage, my options for maternity leave, child care arrangements, the proximity of our families right now, our housing situation, our vehicle situation, our job situations, our life insurance policies, our desires/hopes/fears,... I could go on.

Even with all of our forethought, who can say whether the timing is perfect to go from 2 to 3? I don't know that being "perfect" matters to us as much as it used to. And something about that makes it feel really right.

September 4, 2012

Pregnancy Hair and Drugstore Thrills

Like many women, in my life I have spent exorbitant amounts of money on hair products. On Consume or Consumed, I've written about my hair and how it has taken time to accept its natural waves and texture when the current gold standard for hair seems to be as straight as a pencil. But at this point I have grown to love its curl potential. Being pregnant has made my hair thicker and grow faster, but until recently my roots were a mess. I finally got a cut and color which helped immensely. But the processing left my hair dry, which was already an issue thanks to other drying summertime activities. When I was offered the opportunity to review Dove Intensive Repair Daily Treatment Conditioner, I was happy to give it a try.

The instructions were simple: To lather it into hair after shampooing, and leave it on for 60 seconds. I combed it through and put it up with a clip while I finished grooming. The smell was refreshing and feminine, without being cloying or overly floral. And the conditioner itself was thick and substantial. My hair felt soft and looked shiny afterwards.

I have to be honest. I am not a "wash your hair every night" kind of person. It is too drying. And my problem with some deep conditioners is that they weigh down the volume at my roots making it so I have to wash my hair sooner than usual. This conditioner did not weigh me down, despite its richness. It rinsed well and afterwards the curl pattern was not disrupted. I was even so bold as to let it air dry, rather than hair drying the roots for volume. My hair feels softer and because of the cut and color, looks better than it has in months. I am happy to put this drugstore thrill into my rotation of hair products.

Promotion prompt: Do you condition your hair every day?

Below the cut is info on how to get $1.50 off coupon as well as a giveaway opportunity that readers can enter by answering the above question via BlogHer.

September 1, 2012

Week by Week: 27


So this is the last week of my second trimester and I cannot believe how the time has flown. I have so much more to do before birth and feelings of panic are beginning to hit me.

This week I started back to school and it was wild to be in the classroom with a visible bump. It felt so bizarre to have to explain the contingency plan options to my young adult students, many of who were very adorable and kind in their reactions to my news. I also noticed for the first time that if I watch my stomach while the fetus is moshing (cause it seems like that's what she does in there), I can SEE IT FROM THE OUTSIDE! So weird. Chris caught it too. It makes me giddy to see it bouncing around, making room.

This weekend, Chris and I were scheduled to be in New Orleans for a conference and to have one last out of town trip before I become too pregnant to fly safely. It promised to be a babymoon of sorts. Sadly, the conference was canceled and we wound up staying in town. Although I am disappointed to miss out on any opportunity to travel (especially to a place I love so much), I am grateful to not burden further the city of New Orleans as it cleans up the mess left by Hurricane Isaac. My thoughts are with the Gulf Coast state residents as they recover and rebuild.

We are making the best of things by spending time together at home. Yesterday, Chris brightened our morning with French pastries from La Gourmandine. After doing some work from home, we went to the gym together where I actually used the elliptical for the first time in at least a month! (I had been taking it easy due to some sciata and/or pelvic girdle pain).  It felt good to be active even though I did tone down my intensity, just in case. We rounded out the night with dinner reservations at Cure in Lawrenceville. The meal was delicious and fun. It made for an excellent consolation for the reservation we couldn't keep at Herbsaint. The rest of the weekend will be spent catching up with family so that will be great. And I'm sure we'll make it back to New Orleans, soon enough. The little one will surely love its sights and sounds.

Outfit details:
Anthropologie's Sideways Seascape Tee
Gap Maternity jeans
Coach flats