Monday, February 26, 2007

Freak of Nature

I had what is probably my last ultrasound (and a half) last week, at nearly 35 weeks. It was an eventful one (and a half). Tuesday morning, my in-laws were heading out of town after spending a weekend, and I had invited them to come to my appointment, as they'd never seen more than the crummy black-and-white alien photos from ultrasounds. They got quite a show.

It turns out that my son's 2-vessel cord looks like a 2/3 vessel cord in spots. The ultrasound tech got a shot of the cord close to the baby, where there appeared to be 2 arteries and 1 vein, all in normal proportions. But much of the cord still shows only 2 vessels. She brought in my OB, who said that he'd never heard of or seen such a thing before. Both of them were a bit giddy--and talked about possibly publishing what they were seeing. Also, she noted that the baby's estimated weight was 6lbs 4oz, putting him in the 80th percentile based on gestational age....he was 40th 2 months ago, and 56th 3 weeks ago. Apparently, however many blood vessels he has, he's getting plenty of nutrients....

When I returned on Friday afternoon for my regular NST, the ultrasound tech grabbed me for some additional photos of the cord. She'd started doing a little research already and had found few or no references to umbilical cords where a vessel is either collapsed or forked or something. She did double-check the cord entry point to the bladder, and there it appears to be a true 2-vessel cord.

In any case, this doesn't really change much. I'm still on the 2x a week plan for NST's. My birth plan still hasn't changed (though the possibility of a 9lb baby does make the whole VBAC thing sound After the baby is born, they will be examining his cord in a lab setting. I have no problems with any sort of publishing in medical journals...I'll have to remember to ask the OB to send me a copy of anything they do write, for the scrapbook :)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Gestational grumblings

I am finally developing new stretch marks. Until this morning, I had hoped that my 50-pound weight gain from last time had stretched all my belly skin out enough that I could avoid the irritation and itching this time around. Apparently not. Just to be clear here, I'm not really complaining--I only have 2 or 3 new small, reddish stripes around my midsection, and I'm past 34 weeks. Not complaining, just pouting. At least I'm not yet ripping a new 6" stretch mark every day or two--that was really uncomfortable last time.

Speaking of 34 weeks, apparently the way I count weeks and the way my doctor counts them are a little different. My appointment last Tuesday, he noted that I was 34 weeks, 5 days...My count was 33 weeks 6 days at that point. Not a large difference, I guess, and hopefully one that will be insiginificant for the birth. My preferences for birth at this point are (in order of preference) 1) natural, VBAC (no augmentation, no induction etc...pain relief minimal or none to help avoid problems positioning the baby) or 2) repeat C-section, but only in the case that #1 failed or there is an emergency condition where the baby needs to be out *now* (in other words, not for the convenience of the doctor).

Up until recently I hadn't really considered that dates would play a possible role in the process--everything I've read about the 2-vessel umbilical cord suggests that these babies are frequently early and/or small. But then, according to my last ultrasound, this baby is in the 56th percentile for size by gestational age. In other words, he's not going to be that small. I'm starting to suspect that the little joker has been ignoring the "high risk" part of this pregnancy and is planning to languish past his due date so he can continue to enjoy his little bachelor pad. With my luck, he'll arrive on April fool's day and weigh 9+ pounds.

My last whine of the day is about my wardrobe. Despite having access to the combined pregnancy wardrobes of like 4 or 5 women, I'm running out of things to wear. Most things are too small--I'm a size or two bigger than a couple of the contributing members to start, and they only build so much extra room into the shoulders, sleeves, and legs of maternity clothes. But then, some of the clothes are actually too big, but in strange ways (like pants that are huge on my hips, but don't quite fit around my belly...go figure that one out). The ones that fit are either in constant rotation in my closet (I'm doing laundry 2x a week to stay dressed for work--which is not even a dressy place), or are completely the wrong season. I keep praying for those mid-February 70-degree days that we seem to get almost every year, so I can dig into a large stash of capris, sundresses, and short-sleeved tops that I *know* will fit (because I wore them when carrying Charlotte, and weighed more than I do now). Instead, I'm borrowing an A-line wool coat from my sister in law so I have something that will button over my belly, to fight against single-digit temperatures and 3" of snow on the sidewalk.

Speaking of snow, shoes are also a dilemma. At this stage or pregnancy, putting on socks or tying shoe laces requires an advanced degree of flexibility and contortionism, because there is no way to simply bend over and touch your toes. But most of my slip-on shoes don't cover the back of my heels, which can make for cold (and wet) feet in this weather.

The day I went into labor with Charlotte, I was not ready. I still had another month of pregnancy left ahead of me, and lots of things to do. I'd heard women complain about how anxious they are in the last weeks, just wanting to get things over with, and I just could not relate. *sigh* I guess every pregnancy really is different.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Thoughts on childbirth

I read the birth story recently of an acqaintance, call her L., who had a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). The birth of her first child went somewhat similarly to my experience with Charlotte, in that her water broke early, and she was asked to labor in a bed instead of being able to walk and move freely. From this, the baby's head got to a bad position, and at some point they decided that she would need a C-section. Apparently the hours after delivery were more stressful for her than mine were--including a lenghty separation from her son after birth (a couple of hours, from what I read). I, on the other hand, was in the same room with my daughter while they finished with me (and she was mostly being held by my husband and mother, who were there with me). I held her in my own arms as we were wheeled to the recovery room, and I was able to attempt to nurse her as soon as we arrived there (maybe 1-1.5 hours after she was born? Maybe more--I was a little drugged and tired at that point to remember the time). L. and I gave birth at different hospitals, which may well account for some of the differences in our experiences.

I think the bigger way that our first childbirth experiences differed was in how we recovered from the birth--emotionally, not necessarily physically. At a LLL meeting, another mom gave me information about a group called ICAN (or ICANN)--"international caesarean awareness something or other", but when I looked at the group's website, I was immediately turned off. Though there was some information there about recovery, implications for future births, tips for attempting VBAC's, etc, mostly what I found was anger and distrust--distrust of the medical profession, hospitals, etc. Many of the women who contributed to what I read sounded like abuse victims who had been forcibly robbed of something important. In one short conversation I had with L after congratulating her on her second pregancy, she mentioned that she had found this same group, which apparently clicked with her. Early on, she was already planning a home birth with child #2, complete with birthing tub--determined to avoid a second C-section. It sounds as though she mostly succeeded--she got the VBAC, but ended up driving to the hospital at the last minute in hopes of an epidural for the pain that she had trouble dealing with (she was too late for the epidural as it turns out).

Somehow, I did not end up with the same hang-ups about having a C-section. It was painful, and the recovery was long--I couldn't sleep on my stomach for 3 months after the birth, and it took longer than that before I was comfortable enough to attempt much abdominal strengthening again. But my daughter and I emerged from the hospital alive and well, and my body did heal. I don't think I ever really felt like a failure, and I found pride in the beautiful baby that my body was able to grow (and continue to sustain after birth with milk). I also realized that had I had a similar labor 100 years ago, one of us (or both of us) may not have survived--women used to die in childbirth. A lot more often than they do now. Maybe today's interventions (the epidural that keeps you from feeling your feet, keeping the mother from walking much after the water is broken to prevent cord prolapse, etc) are adding to the number of C-sections that are performed. And maybe some number of those C-sections would have been still births or brain-damaged babies otherwise. Personally, I'll take the intervention and good outcome over the gamble of the alternative.

Some women have a fantasy built up in their mind of the ultimate, blissful childbirth experience, starring themselves as powerful Earth Mother types whose bodies magically produce perfect children. I don't think they prepare for the pain that will come, because they are sure that everything will be perfect and the pain will be tolerable. They don't prepare mentally for the recovery, which for some women is less than pleasant (as any experience that can cause incontinence is going to be less than pleasant). Childbirth is messy, painful, and frought with problems. While I do believe that Mother Nature provides us with everything possible to help childbirth go smoothly, we sometimes forget that part of our source of empowerment comes from the fact that humans are social creatures. We are meant to live together in family and society groups, and we must rely on our fellow humans for help during our most vulnerable times. And childbirth is definitely one of our most vulnerable times. I am not advocating that women are somehow helpless and must submit to anything the all-knowing Medical Profession dictates to us. I am saying that we have to listen to our bodies, and trust what they're saying--especially when they're calling for help--and that it is not a sign of weakness to accept help from the doctors and nurses (who are real people with minds and hearts who generally care quite a bit for their patient's wellbeing).

I, too, am hoping for a VBAC with my second child. I remember the pain from Charlotte's birth, and remember how I was able to deal with it (and not--I did need an epidural when the back labor was at its worst). I also know that I may need help, or my baby may need help, and I may not get the birth experience that I would prefer. I remember the pain and recovery time from my C-section, and I know that I may be facing that a second time, if things don't go exactly according to plan. But, I know that I will have help around me during and after the birth, and that time heals many things. I should trust my body to know it's job, and trust those around me that they know thiers.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Pregnancy Cravings

Pregnancy cravings are a little strange. No, I'm not eating pickles and ice cream. Actually, my cravings have been less strange with this baby than they were with Charlotte. This baby actually lets me eat chocolate (though it's finally starting to give me heartburn). Still, I found myself nuking marshmallows in the office microwave earlier for some quick smores. Mmm (I'm trying to ignore the heartburn part just now).

With Charlotte, I swear I was eating my husband's diet. All I wanted was meat, meat, meat, with a few sides of fries and occaisional ice cream (ok the ice cream isn't his thing, but the meat sure was). I hardly touched chocolate the entire time because it just didn't taste good to me. Well, there were a couple of weeks where I wanted those chcoloate-covered little donuts--apparently that's one of his few occaisional sweet indulgences. I found myself searching a bowl of M&M's one day for skittles. The M&M's I had at easter time ended up going stale before I felt like eating them again. Every time I would have some strange, specific food craving, my husband would just laugh at me, and remind me that it's one of his favorite things also.

This time, my tastes are much more my own. I am in the mood for salad on a fairly regular basis. I mentioned the smores thing. I've been eating plain (big) marshmallows a lot lately too. I'm quite looking forward to the end of Valentine's candy in the stores, and the advent of the Easter candy...jelly beans and peeps have been calling to me from the store warehouses where they're currently hidden. While steak is good, I don't need it every night to prevent the monster in my belly from devouring me instead (or so it can feel like).

Even though my diet seems to be my own, I am definitely looking forward to the post-natal, breastfeeding-induced appetite that comes with a super-high metabolism and without the nasty heartburn. Then again, this pregnancy has been so mild, maybe I *won't* be able to eat a bag of double-stuffed oreos a week and still lose weight just by nursing this baby. That would be a real bummer.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Miscellaneous updates

Blogger and I have not been getting along recently. There have been several times over the last week where I've had something to post, and have been unable to login--probably more to do with internet security settings on the computers that I'm using than anything else. It's still annoying. So, instead of a couple of posts, I've got a summary for ya'll. Lucky you.

Last weekend, we started real preparations on the new baby's room. The bedroom has been a guest room since we moved into the house, with the walls still the 1-coat builder-grade-flat-offwhite color they were when the house was built. The closet had become a catch-all, full of everything from guest sheets to my husband's cassette tape collection to random bathroom accessories that we don't need (some that I don't remember purchasing or ever using....gotta love those thoughtful gifts from people). So far, we've cleaned out the closet, and relocated all non-baby items to more appropriate locations--including Goodwill, who is now the proud owner of sevaral sets of twin-sized sheets (we don't actually own a twin-sized bed...). The closet was then emptied compeletely into our bedroom (including the existing closet shelving) so it could get a coat of paint. My husband and brother-in-law began painting, and the room and closet have a coat each. My husband also got 1.5 walls covered with a brushed, glaze finish (like sponging, but with brushes). My husband gets to do the work--I get to spend the money: I hit Home Depot and Target for additional closet shelves and organizers to make better use of the space. Of course, until the painting is finished, they're piled in the living room and our bedroom.

Tuesday I had an ultrasound, a NST, and a prenatal visit with my OB. Baby boy is still exactly on target for size. They estimate he's in the 56 percentile for gestational age (32 weeks)--roughly 4lbs 5oz. Ultrasound size estimates are just that--estimates, but it still seems as though lacking an umbilical artery isn't hurting him any. His kidneys are still dilated, but no worse than before, and the amniotic fluid still looks good. So at this point, I'm expecting extra visits to the pediatrician after he's born, but not much else to worry about while still pregnant. All the NST's have been fine--I get to sit and read a book or magazine, and baby boy does his aerobics routine, showing nice heartrate accelerations just like he should.

Tuesday night was a bad night. First, Charlotte woke up crying at about 3am and climbed into bed with us. She was fast asleep almost as soon as my husband hoisted her up for a cuddle, though she apparently spent the rest of the night breathing in his ear--doing her Darth Vadar impression, thanks to a stuffed up nose. Then at 4:30, the phone rang. My husband did not answer it right away (i wasn't being lazy--it's on his side of the bed), but then got out of bed as he heard the message beign left on the answering machine--it was a policeman outside the house! A couple of the lights on the front of our house have been acting funny lately--we're using those little flourescent bulbs that are supposed to last a long time (but that dont' work with dimmer switches), and also have photosensitive switches to turn them on automatically at night. Apparently the combination sometimes leads to a bulb or two flashing on and off like a strobe light. As we learned early that morning, some home alarm systems are wired to make the outdoor lights flash when the alarm is triggered, thereby alerting passersby that someone has broken into the house. Our h ouse is not wired that way, but the cop making his rounds stopped to check out aroudn the house just in case. It's hard to be mad, given that he was working for our safety. It's also hard to stay awake at work the next day when you've gotten half the sleep that you otherwise intended. We are replacing all of those bulbs.

The other fun event of the week has been my hubby's car. He took it to a shop on Monday to have the brakes checked, and ended up with a $2000 repair bill for various and sundry items that needed fixing. His car is at 60k miles, but yikes, that was expensive (and unexpected). Yesterday he got a notice in the mail about a class action lawsuit pending over one of the repairs that he just had done--I guess he's not the only one with that problem (I don't remember what it was..some part that was cracked...goes to show how much I know about cars I guess). So there might eventually be some relief for the expense. Then again, if it's like any of the other lawsuit settlements, we'll likely get a coupon for something we never intend to buy, and a pat on the head. Such is life.