Category Archives: Pregnancy

Q&A: How do you know when you’re about to have a baby?

I thought this one was too silly, but then realized it might be kind of interesting. I was asked by a random pregnant stranger on public transportation how you know when you're going to have the baby soon.

The obvious answer is "when contractions start," but she was looking for the signs before that. She was within a week of her due date, so it could happen anytime.

I was thinking about it, and came up with the following:

* bloody show or releasing the mucus plug

* manic energy

* nesting/cleaning

But I couldn't really come up with anything else myself. Are there other things that you have experienced (or that you've heard) are signs that you're going to go into labor within the next few days?

With me personally, I lost all fear of labor because I was just so done with the whole process. I don't know if that's common, though.

I'd be interested to see if this is something that's common across cultures, or if it's got some cultural specificity.

So. What would you say if someone asked you if there's any way to know? Conversely, are there signs that you're *not* going to go into labor any time soon?

Q&A: husband not into pregnancy yet

Maria B. writes:

"I am pregnant for the first time.  I am married to a great guy and amtotally in love with him.  I am ready to have a baby, and he's warming
up and very supportive.  It was my idea to start trying, and I got
pregnant right away which was a little overwhelming.  My concern comes
here.  My husband isn't yet excited as this is still abstract and he
hasn't really been around babies a lot.  It's early as well, I'm 16
weeks.  I'm ok with this, he's ok with this.  When I tell people I'm
pregnant, they usually press me for details about how excited my
husband is.  He is not telling his friends/co-workers because it makes
him uncomfortable.  I feel a little bit lost about how I can best
support him right now.  We have had conversations so he knows I'm not
pushing him to feel more than he does right now.  But I feel like he
needs me to do more.  Any ideas?"

Well, I figured I'd check with my Roundtable of Dad Advisers, aka the guys I work with. I'd say these guys are about as diverse as a group of all-white, college-educated, middle class New Yorkers can be. Seriously, though, for the most part I'd say they're at least as involved as the average, and a few of them are incredibly hands-on.

To a man, they all said that there's basically no way a guy can conceptualize of a pregnancy or a baby being real until they hear or see the heartbeat, and it's probably not going to seem truly real until they see your belly growing or realize that the profile in the sonogram looks like a person's face and not just a blob.

I wanted to see if it was just Americans that felt that way, so I checked with a Canadian friend, who said that for him it was really when his wife's belly started getting huge. Before that it was intellectual, but the radical change in her body started to make it real for him.

It seems to me that people who expect a male partner to be really excited about things before there's anything tangible (for him) to be excited about have some unrealistic expectations. It's not that there's anything wrong or outlying about your husband. It's just that women tend to live in a baby-worshipping world in which we get excited even passing the pregnancy test aisle in the drugstore. So we forget that men are living in a parallel world in which they aren't thinking much about a baby until they see the whites of the baby's eyes. <insert your own poopsplosion joke here>

Let's also not forget that there are some men who just don't do that well with infants. (That certainly doesn't mean that they get off the hook for doing baby care. At the very least they need to be doing everything–cooking, laundry, cleaning–if the mother's the one doing all the feeding and night waking.) But some guys just don't seem to connect so much with kids in the baby stage as they do with toddlers and older kids. So even if your husband still doesn't seem that excited when the baby's six weeks old, it doesn't mean he won't eventually be completely smitten by the baby and end up being a wonderful dad. It may just be that he does his best work playing horsey or throwing balls or showing the kid how to code or teaching your adult child to mix a mean margarita. If it's OK for moms to do the baby stage without really liking it (and it is OK), then it's fine for dads. As long as they're completing the required tasks, they don't have to love it.

So I would say not to worry about it. If people ask you about how he's feeling, just make a joke like, "Oh, he says he won't believe it's real until the baby poops on his pants." Everyone will laugh and you can start talking about which breast pump you're going to buy, or whether you like the new Winnie the Pooh or the old one, and how you secretly hope someone gets you one of those butt cakes they always have on CakeWrecks.com for your shower even though you know they're frightening.

It will become real for him at some point. And if it doesn't, you can always get him a baby carrot jockey cake to try to scare it into him.

Confirmation or denial? Men? Women who talked about it with your partners (male or female)? And I'd be really interested in knowing what the experience is for female partners of pregnant women. How far along was your partner before you started feeling like it was real?

Q&A: hiding early pregnancy on family vacation

I realized I've been dodging writing about negotiating things with your parents for awhile, but it's time to bite the bullet and write about it. And that it's really more like 3 days' worth. So the whole adult kids/adult parents thing is going to start Tuesday, after I've had the holiday weekend (here in the US) to work on it.

For today, though, a time-sensitive question from Rachel:

"I am going to [American region famous for wineries] for an extended Memorial Day weekend family vacation
with my in-laws! And, I will be almost 7 weeks pregnant at that time, and don't want to tell them!

Help!

My husband and I don't drink, so we are already out of the wine tasting events, but we have reservations for almost every meal (Sunday through Wed morning) at amazing restaurants. Under normal circumstances I would be *very* excited about these restaurants, however for the past week I have been having major food/smell aversions and my diet has consisted of things like plain chicken breast, white rice and mini stoned wheat thin crackers. Don't think I'll be finding these items on the menus of the foodie restaurants in [American region famous for wineries]. I am assuming my morning sickness/aversions will be getting worse before they get better…Another problem is that my in-laws are late eaters, so all of our dinner reservations are at 8pm and I know I'm going to need to eat before then, especially the first day when I will be on east coast time and 8 will be 11pm for me.

We are also all staying in a "family lodge" which has separate bedrooms, but a common living area, so it may be hard to sneak off for naps, go eat on my own,  to go throw up, etc.

We may end up having to tell them, but really don't want to tell people quite so early as I haven't even had a prenatal appointment or ultrasound yet (just a confirming blood test).

I thought about faking sick, but my MIL is a nurse, and so any mention of illness will actually bring more attention from her, not less. we don't want the pregnancy to be the focus of the vacation, as the intended purpose of the family vacation is to celebrate my inlaws anniversary and birthdays.

If your readers
have any advice I would appreciate it! Would also recommend easily
portable snacks that can go through airport security for the plane —
my old standby of a turkey sandwich is out due to the pregnancy ban on
deli meats…"

Rats. My old standby, faking sick, is out.

Unless… Can your husband fake sick? And you can stay with him to "take care" of him?

My other suggestion is to choose one or two people you would be OK with knowing if you do miscarry, and have them run interference for you.

But you guys are sneaky, too. What do you have for Rachel?

Reader help for pregnancy qualms

Heather writes:

"During
your Christmas to New Years open thread I tossed out a little whimper
of an "OMG, I’m pregnant" and got a few very nice responses for which I
am grateful.
In the last year I have gotten engaged and married,
quit one job, moved 800 miles away from my family, didn’t work for
awhile, got a GREAT, CRAZY, HUGE job which I love{!!!}
and am only just now figuring out how to do. So … there has been a lot of change. I’m still not really dealing with the fact that I am pregnant very well.
Still, I’m eating right, taking the vitamins & fish
oil, went to the doctor yesterday and saw the heartbeat {I broke into
heartbroken tears, and now feel bad that this magical moment just felt
… ugh … awful} and asked the doctor for help finding a therapist
{because BOY HOWDY do I need one apparently}.

So, first,
thank you for saying at some point awhile back that it was ok to find a
therapist because that helped me find the guts to do it. Second,
right now I am trapped in the things that are changing and going away
{perhaps, I recognize, being a little overly dramatic about those
things even} and I know that I don’t understand the good things that it
will be replaced by.
Can you and the lovely ladies in the computer articulate the good stuff and help a woman find her way out of the dark?"

Boy have I been there.

Not with the job I love and marriage and move all happening at the same time. But with the "What have I done??" and "My life has hardly even begun–how can I have a baby now?"

Personally, I think it’s counterproductive to try to force yourself to think it’s all normal and happy and the best thing that’ll ever happen to you. Being uncomfortable with the change and transition, now that’s normal. I think it’s important to let yourself mourn your old life, and to explore the fears you’re feeling, and to know that it’s not all going to be great right away and that it will take a lot of time and energy and lost sleep to get to the new normal. But that the new normal is thousands of shades richer than the one you have now. The highs are higher and the lows are lower.

I could go on about this for pages, but I think it’s better just to turn it over to the commenters, who will do a better job in fewer words. Please work your magic, friends.

DVD Review: Bedrest Fitness

Bedrest Fitness is an exercise DVD by Darline Turner-Lee, a Physician Assistant and ACSM Exercise Specialist in Austin, TX who specializes in women’s health.

I’ve never been on bedrest, so I can only imagine how frightening, boring, enervating, and disempowering it must be for a pregnant woman. Worrying about the baby constantly, and being stuck in one place and unable to do all your normal things must be just hideous. Then add in the fact that you know your body is weakening because you can’t move your muscles like you usually do. How are you supposed to recover from birth and take care of your new baby if you don’t have good muscle tone?

That’s the problem that Darline addresses with this workout DVD.

The DVD overall is just lovely. Even the menu screen is soothing. Darline has a calming, reassuring manner and explains every exercise as she goes through it. She points out a few moves that may not be safe for women on the strictest bedrest so they can avoid them, while women who can move around a little more can do the entire sequence. She works on arms and shoulder, legs, back, and core, using an exercise band to provide resistance.

My favorite part about the DVD is that Darline is a real woman. She’s not a perky exercise instructor. She’s big and pregnant in the video, and when she scoots around on the bed to get into position for the next exercise you recognize the effort it’s taking her to haul another person with her.

The pace is gentle and easy. I think real type As would get impatient with the pace, but for women stuck in bed anyway, the pace makes sure they’re not overexerting or doing anything they shouldn’t be doing.

I’m so thankful someone’s done an exercise video for women on bedrest during pregnancy, and so pleased that this one is so thorough and encouraging. It would be a stellar gift for a friend on bedrest, as it is truly useful and will help the mom-to-be maintain her physical health so her recovery from delivery is faster and her first few months of caring for her baby are easier on her body. You can order the DVD here on Darline’s website for US$29, which includes domestic shipping and a rubber exercise band (the only equipment you need to do the exercises).

Q&A: pregnancy blues–when to see a therapist

Fran writes:

"I’m almost eight weeks into my second pregnancy (first ended in miscarriage) and have been feeling horrible both physically and emotionally. I know that anxiety and mood swings are par for the course, especially in the first trimester, but am wondering at what point you draw the line and say, "This is not just pregnancy," and seek outside help. I don’t mean this to sound scary–I’m not suicidal, by any means. But I do get very black sometimes, and (on top of feeling horrible) spend a lot of time wondering if this is okay, or if crying all afternoon and feeling hopeless warrants a discussion with the doctor."

I think if you’re wondering if you should see a therapist, you should see a therapist.

And I mean that for pretty much all of life, not just pregnancy. Because if you’re feeling like you think you might need professional help, or even just an objective paid listener, you should find one. I think it’s easy to feel like going to a therapist means admitting that there’s something really wrong, but it doesn’t mean that at all. It just means that you need someone to give you some feedback or help you formulate a plan to deal with whatever it is that’s stressing you.

It’s not even that big a commitment. You can go see a therapist just once even, and for some situations that’s all it takes. When I was very depressed during my first pregnancy, I saw a therapist who specialized in women’s issues around pregnancy and mothering. I don’t remember if I had two sessions with her or three, but that was all it took to get me to a better place so I could get through the rest of the pregnancy. (The September 11th attacks happened when I was almost four months along, and I really credit those sessions with the therapist and the things she had said to me about pregnancy with helping me deal with the event and my grief and that whole ball of wax.) And deciding to see the therapist was a big step in deciding to take myself and my own feelings seriously for a change. That was a big thing for me.

So to me it sounds like you definitely need to see a therapist. Whether or not it’s "just pregnancy," it doesn’t matter. You should go see someone who can help you through this time and all the conflicting emotions and the bad physical sensations and the fear and guilt and all of that. You should decide that your feelings are important, and you can take yourself seriously. You can ask your OB for a recommendation, or call a midwifery practice or birth center and ask for one. If you know any childbirth educators, they’ll have good recommendations, too. You definitely want someone who’s worked with pregnant women before and who understands those special issues.

Did anyone else see a therapist during pregnancy? Or did you tough it out and now wish you’d seen someone? It was only when my therapist sent me a newspaper clipping about prenatal depression that I realized it wasn’t just me, that there are tons of us who get depressed during pregnancy.

Q&A: weaning questions

Rachel writes:

"My daughter is 13 months and loves to nurse. I recently found out I am pregnant and due at the end of January. I began to wean her and during the day it has been great, she loves milk and eating just about anything. The problem is our 5:00 am feeding because I can’t distract her with the things that work during the day. I’ve heard horror stories about trying to night wean and thought maybe your readers would have some practical advice. I just need a break before I start this whole process over with another baby – am I crazy or can it be done?"

Congratulations on your pregnancy.

Plenty of us have weaned while pregnant, so it definitely can be done. Before you buckle down for a tough struggle, though, consider these two items:

  • Some women experience a drop in milk supply as the pregnancy hormones change, so the baby ends up weaning just because the milk dwindles.
  • After the first trimester sometimes the milk tastes salty and some babies will stop nursing because they don’t like the taste.

So it’s possible that your daughter will just wean herself in the next couple of weeks/months if you have one of these issues.

If she doesn’t, though (and my son didn’t wean himself, despite my fervent hopes that he would), you can still cut out that last feeding, although you’ll need help. Get down to that one feeding for long enough that she’s basically forgotten that she used to nurse any other time during the day. Then get your partner to go to her at the last feeding time (5 am-ouch!) for a week or two until she forgets about nursing entirely. The first few days are likely to be pretty rough for your partner. You may have to play the pregnancy card to get him or her to do it, but it’ll totally be worth it for all of you when you can get the extra sleep and can conserve some of your energy that would otherwise go into nursing. (I remember feeling like even one nursing session a day was sucking out all my life force during pregnancy.)

Does anyone else have any good suggestions for cutting out the last feeding? Bearing in mind that Rachel doesn’t have much energy to expend right now to do the actual weaning.

Q&A: out of sync with sex schedule during pregnancy

M writes:

"I’m 6+ months pregnant with baby #2 and have zero sex drive.  Generally uncomfortable (the baby is big and very active), and very tired (have started getting extra iron to combat anemia, so I’m hoping that will help).  Husband’s libido is still intact, maybe even in overdrive due how much he likes how I look pregnant.

Our compromise has been to try to go to bed early once or twice a week to have sex or whatever we decide to do.  Trouble is, my definition of early is way earlier than his.  I’m usually drooling on the couch in front of the TV by 10, and he’s a nightowl, working late or unwinding (he does come home for lunch and dinner/bath/bedtime for our son).  I’ve tried staying up later to accommodate his schedule, but I’m too tired to enjoy anything, and I can’t sleep in because I have to get up with our 3 yo in the morning.  He thinks I "rush off to bed" when he works late and comes home at 10:30 or 11, trying to avoid him.

The few times sex has been enjoyable during this pregnancy are when our son is in daycare and we both take the morning off and spend the time talking and cuddling for a long time first.  Not so practical in the evening.

Any suggestions?"

I love a softball on a Monday morning.

Throughout history, people (mostly men) have gone to incredible lengths to have sex. They’ve worked out with Charles Atlas, amassed huge fortunes, gotten a big-nosed friend to write love poetry that they’d pretend was theirs, stuffed their pants with potatoes, spied on Phoebe Cates through the window, pretended to be their own twin sister, worked 7 years for her father after being given the wrong sister to marry, done crazy amounts of manual labor to get someone to teach them how to play bass so they could be in a band, lied, cheated, stolen, and done all sorts of other Herculean tasks, both moral and immoral, to have sex.

All your husband has to do is come home at 9 pm.

This doesn’t seem like a particularly complicated logic puzzle to me. You are growing another human being inside your body, which makes your body shut off at 10 pm. There’s nothing you can do about that. Your husband can control when he comes home. He wants to have sex. You don’t care one way or the other. Therefore, the onus is on him to be ready at 9 pm for sex.

You probably don’t want to present it to him this way, but you should definitely point out that you are GROWING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING INSIDE YOUR BODY and that’s a little taxing. You love having sex with him, but you just physically can’t stay awake, so you need to have sex at 9 pm or not at all. It’s absolutely nothing to do with him. (At this point give him a kiss that will shoot straight down to his groin.) You don’t care if he stays to snuggle afterward, but you can’t stay awake to have sex if he comes home at 10. Thank you for being so understanding. (Another kiss.)

 

He definitely gets points for liking the way you look pregnant. But he really needs to understand how physically exhausting it is to be pregnant. (Did I mention that you’re growing another human being inside your body?) And, yes, at this point in your lives, you get to dictate the sex schedule. It’s just the way it is right now.

Anyone else? (If you want to comment anonymously, put a fake name in the name space, fake email address in the email space, and an obviously fake URL like www.fake.com or www.google.com in the URL space.)

Q&A: why can’t I love this? (Edited)

(Hey, I just realized that I forgot to add the word "all" in my sentence about not being able to do it all without anti-depressants. Ha! I meant to write that no one can do it all without anti-depressants. Certainly you can do some of it without anti-depressants. If you can cut yourself some slack. But again, another sign of depression is not being to cut yourself some slack. Just be gentle with yourself, OK? If you need to go anti-depressants, please do so. If you don’t need them, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that all mom are on them–that would be as much of a fallacy as the idea that all moms are happy all the time. I’d like to banish any statements starting with "all moms are" anyway.

Now I’m going to go read the comments. I hope no one got alarmed or had her feelings hurt by my leaving out the word "all.")

Sorry about that. All the rain did something to the cable connection to our building,and I couldn’t get on the internet to post anything. (I’m about to post my comment on Monday’s work question at the end of that post. I agreed with all of you, of course.)

Here’s one I’ll also need your support  with. Lucy writes:

"This a pretty vague question: but how can I relax and enjoy motherhood more? I had a great pregnancy but a difficult birth with my daughter who is now 8 months. Tough recovery and breastfeeding problems followed and now, though she sleeps and eats well, I’m always worrying about something or beating myself up. I know that I need to let go of expectations and be more zen, but keep finding that so difficult as an erstwhile professional who is used to having everything under control. I don’t want to look back and realise I’ve missed out on the good times. I think part of the problem is that I forgot I was going to have a baby and was looking forward to being mum to an independent 3 year old!"

I think basically all mothers are victims of propaganda. We’re allowed to think that pregnancy is all positive, wonderful rainbows and sunshine, but a huge percentage of us have hormone-related depression that makes us feel horrible and sold out. Let’s not even talk about the delivery and birth, which have so much baggage attached to them even before we get to the tough painful part. (Let’s think about it–labor and delivery hurts like hell coming or going already. Isn’t that enough? Why add all this strange mythology to it, too to give all of us a nice case of pre-post traumatic stress disorder?) And if you adiopt, well, we don’t even know how to think about that, et alone talk about it. Then we get to the actual motherhood, and it’s really hard and there’s no real reward for weeks and weeks, and then the reward is just a smile.

And yet everyone, at every stage of the game, keeps saying, "But it’s sooooo worth it."

Well, duh. Yes, it’s worth it. Your children are the joys of your life. But. It still sucks at all stages of the game, either a little or a lot.

People give sympathy for the first few months, because they’re like being captured by aliens. But by the time your baby is 8 or 9 months old you’re supposed to ahve a handle on it. The baby is plumped up and sweet-looking, like a magazine baby. Everyone in your mother’s group is lying and saying their baby is "sleeping through the night " (5 measly hours! Is it even a worthy goal?).

But it’s still really hard emotionally. I kind of think that that’s about the age when it starts to sink in that this IS the New Normal. Whether you’re at home or at work all day, the baby exhausts you. And then there’s the whole nighttime routine, and middle-of-the-night stuff. And thinking about the food all the time. But you’re also supposed to have lost all of the baby weight, and having an amazing sex life with your husband, and  be up on current events, and either totally present at your job or gleefully happy about being at home.

Honestly, it’s just too freaking much. No one can do it [all] without the help of anti-depressants.

So, Lucy, my advice to you is to cut yourself some slack. All those moms who look so zen (and people tell me I’m one of them–apparently I look calm all the time) are really just fantasizing about having a night alone in a hotel with nice sheets and no one else there wanting something from them. It’s not like everyone else is totally in the moment and you’re not. Everyone’s dropping the ball in one way or another. It’s just that some of us are forcing ourselves to be OK with dropping those balls.

It does not pay to be perfect. Even if it was possible, it’s a crappy way to live. 8 months is hard. You’ll like 3 years better. If you can accept that now isn’t your favorite time and see your daughter as equally captive to her normal developmental stages, it might be easier on you emotionally.

Anyone else? Did you have any big "I don’t have to be perfect" moments you’d like to share? Any "I hated this stage but ended up loving the next one" times? Freestyle bitching about feeling sold out by our culture is also welcome.

Hey–once again I’m late for work! No time to spellcheck.

Book Review: The Big Book of Birth

Review of The Big Book of Birth

Full disclosure: I know Erica Lyon, author of The Big Book of Birth,
personally. She taught the newborn care class I took before the birth
of my older son, and the sibling preparation class we took before the
birth of my younger son. I know her to be a funny, sympathetic, and
super-knowledgable woman.

Which is why it’s no surprise to me that The Big Book of Birth
is such a stellar book. Seriously, this is the book I’ve been wishing
for years had been written about birth. I wish I’d been able to read it
before I had my first, and you can bet that this is the book I’ll be
recommending here on Ask Moxie and giving to all my pregnant friends as
a shower gift. Here’s what I love about it:

It’s unbiased. Erica
covers all the current options for birth–location, pain management,
interventions. She gives positives and negatives of each option
(including some stuff I’d never heard of) and includes stories from
women who experienced the things she discusses.

It’s practical. She
acknowledges that birth doesn’t go the way we plan, so we need to be
informed so we can make the best decisions possible within the
available options. And no judgments about what options you choose.

It’s inclusive. This
is the only book about birth that I’ve seen that gives both practical
and emotional tips for both the mother and the partner. It’s not just a pat on the head for the partner, but a real resource. The sections on
counterpressure/massage during labor alone are worth the price of the
book. And it’s all written in an accessible (but not patronizing) way.

It’s smart. I haven’t
read any other analysis of the increase in the number of c-sections
performed in the US that looks at so many different factors
and–surprise!–doesn’t lay it all at the feet of ignorant women or
money-grubbing doctors. She’s really looked at the total landscape of
health care, the birth industry, societal attitudes, and women’s
choices and illusions of choice to do an analysis that ultimately helps
the reader prioritize a number of different factors.

It’s encouraging.
Rather than scaring you about how dangerous birth is or patronizing you
about how easy it is, Erica emphasizes that it’s hard and long and can
be scary, but you can do it and the baby will come out one way or
another. I mean, you know it, but reading it throughout the book really
helps it sink in that this is a job you can and will do.

Of all
these positives of the book, the one I think is most important is the
lack of bias. Anyone who’s read two books from the
pregnancy/birth/parenting section knows that everyone’s pushing an
agenda. It would be silly to say that Erica has no agenda–she does.
It’s just that her agenda is to make sure every woman is as
well-informed as possible to make the choices that are right for her
and her baby (and partner, if any) within her own circumstances. And
that’s an agenda I wish more birth professionals would embrace.

If you haven’t had your baby yet, I highly recommend buying
this book. And I found it interesting even after having given birth to
two babies.