Month: April 2013

Things no one told you

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are so many things they NEVER tell you about being pregnant.  People and books are full of advice, but it’s typically of the general sort.  As in, “You’ll be tired” rather than, “You’ll be so exhausted that you might fall asleep sitting up in the middle of a presentation by a potential new faculty member.”  I feel I benefit most from real-life examples, which is probably why I simply thrived in organic chemistry.  I think a lot of women feel it’s better to give that general advice as just because they had a certain experience doesn’t mean anyone else will.  The way I take it, though, is that if it happened to you, something along those lines could happen to me, too.  So here is my ever expanding list of things I wish I had known might happen while in the throes of pregnancy:

  1. Nausea.  Everyone knows to expect nausea and possibly vomiting during the first trimester (and beyond if you’re Kate Middleton).  However, I wouldn’t exactly characterize this sensation as nausea.  For me it started as upper epigastric pain (bloating, which I’ll get to, contributed to this too).  That was the first day of my stomachy symptoms, and by the next day it was straight up nausea. The only other day I could straightforwardly identify my stomachy feelings on was when I was at my parents and I just felt downright queasy (my mom said I was green).  The rest of the time I experienced something completely new every day.  I couldn’t say if it was nausea or queasiness–it was like a whole new realm of stomach upset.  Even though I never actually threw up, I think I really struggled with this part of being pregnant because I have rarely had stomach bugs.  Even as a kid, when I got the rare stomach bug I would bargain to have it switch over to strep throat because that was so much more bearable.
  2. Fatigue.  Fatigue is another symptom everyone knows to expect. After all, there is a future human inside of you who is currently forming all of his vital parts.  I had no idea that I would literally just fall asleep with no warning.  I wasn’t working yet my first I think week and a half of being pregnant and I don’t know how women who are working do it without tipping their coworkers off because I would hit a certain point of the day and just have to go to bed.  I was barely functional because of the nausea, and then on top of it I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I didn’t know how bad it was until I started work and fell asleep sitting up.  Three times.  Once during a presentation by a potential new faculty member.  And it’s this whole new kind of exhaustion where if you need to be paying attention to something you just go completely cross-eyed and start bobbing and swaying uncontrollably.  I would try and shift around a lot if I was in a meeting to keep from taking a nose dive (literally–if I stayed in one position for more than a few seconds my head would start to take a nose dive).  But for real, I would love to know what all you working women did do hide this from your bosses.
  3. Running.  I expected running would be difficult after I was huge.  I also expected it would be difficult due to exhaustion for a bit during the first trimester.  However, I never really thought about how being dizzy would effect it.  I had a few runs on which I really felt like I might fall over.  Worse though was, through week eight, the stomach issues.  I was “nauseous” 24-7, and running made this so much worse.  It would make me incredibly bloated and caused not pain (because I would have stopped right there) but rather a great deal of discomfort.  I stopped running for a while because for the rest of the afternoon or evening I just couldn’t do anything but pray I would fall asleep so I didn’t have to feel this anymore.  All this stomach stuff was exhausting in itself–it literally makes you tired.  Also, I had a lot of trouble breathing on my runs the first few weeks.  I have mild asthma so always use an inhaler before running, so I’m not sure if this had something to do with it but it is a lot better now.  I started feeling better on my runs around week ten, and now I can go for 45 minutes with no problem (I would go longer but I don’t have time).
  4. Constipation.  Okay, you probably don’t want to read about this, but if there was anything I wish I had been more prepared for it would have been constipation.  I did read in some book or online that it can make you tired (like everything else in pregnancy), so I expected that.  What I did not expect was how incredibly uncomfortable this would be.  You’re giving up your daily coffee, and all of your organs are trying to shift around to accommodate your expanding uterus, so obviously there are going to be some disturbances.  However, I was completely unprepared to clog my future in-laws’ toilet.  Let’s just say I take no bowel movement for granted these days.
  5. Bloating.  I kind of mentioned it before, but bloating has been pretty problematic for me.  I used to be super thin but after college gained some weight (bringing me up to a still completely normal BMI of 18-19) so my pants were already kind of small.  With the bloating, however, I couldn’t even look at a pair of jeans.  I got a lot of upper abdominal bloating which is pretty uncomfortable and also looked so bizarre because it went right up to under my boobs.  I really don’t know how I could have prevented this because I wasn’t exactly eating a lot at the time.
  6. Eating.  Speaking of eating, it was really weird to realize that though eating was the last thing I wanted to do when “nauseous,” it was the only thing that helped to alleviate the problem.  Also, while ginger ale and saltines were incredibly helpful the first week I knew I was pregnant, just typing those words right now makes me gag.  Into the second week grapefruit juice helped.  Now I can’t drink that either.  While I used to be a strictly water or coffee drinker, I’ve had to reconcile that drinking juice–which I would never have touched before–is going to have to be okay because I need to get some sort of hydration and water is no longer appetizing.  Also, early on in pregnancy I could only eat little bits at a time, much like what occurs late in pregnancy when your baby takes up all the space into which your stomach used to be able to expand.  And lastly, I used to be obsessed with ice cream.  Now, I can’t even think about it.  For the most part, sweets are completely unappetizing where before I couldn’t skip dessert after dinner.  There are still a number of things that were staples in my diet that I just can’t touch anymore (including hummus wraps).
  7. Belly button.  I just want to end on a good note.  I didn’t know your belly button could start popping out as early as week twelve.  Because a lot of my symptoms had subsided, I was worried that my fetus wasn’t doing so hot in there.  When I noticed my belly button had started to push out, this so helped alleviate my fears.  I thought I might have been imagining or exaggerating how much different it was, but then I showed Ryan, his mom, and his sister and they all said the same thing–“WOAH!”
  8. My butt.  Oh, and one last thing.  I grew a butt.

And then I became a statistic

I’ve basically been wanting to start this blog since the day I found out I was pregnant, which was a whopping 5 weeks after conception.  Actually, that’s a lie.  The day I found out I was pregnant, all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and not wake up until my first trimester was over.  This had nothing to do with the whole being in grad school, closing on a house, planning a wedding, and just having had an interview for my first real job thing, and everything to do with the fact that every single smell made me want to wretch, and I had all day sickness.  Enough with the morning sickness shenanigans, btw.  All.  Day.  Sickness.  Get used to it.  PS I never even threw up.  I just got to experience a different kind of nausea or stomach upset every day for like three weeks.  The best part was realizing I had a sober 5 when my future mother in law stopped by one day after I had just spent like four hours in bed, but that this time instead of pretending not to be drunk I was pretending not to have an embryo swimming around inside of me.

Anyway.

I really wanted to start a blog because NO ONE TELLS YOU THE TRUTH ABOUT BEING PREGNANT.  I am going to give way too much TMI on her, so if you hate the idea of pregnant women or just want to keep thinking all they do is get fat and glow, just stop reading.

Okay, I’m going to start at the beginning.  As in when I was 14.  I had to start taking birth control because I was way too skinny and it messed up all my hormonal stuff (you know what I mean).  Fast forward 8 years and my primary care physician(s) and OB/GYN had no idea what was going on because I weighed enough.  They outright told me I would have to use fertility drugs to get pregnant (yeah right–there are plenty of babies needing adopting out there and I wasn’t about to put on 50 pounds while jabbing myself in the butt with a needle every day for years).  Also, I decided to get an IUD because they’re the best ever.

When I was in Colorado, I made an appointment with an endocrinologist on the recommendation of my primary back home.  She had no idea what was going on with me and said I probably had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  I had every single symptom except for being obese.  When I was getting an ultrasound so they could check for what would look like a string of pearls around my ovaries, they discovered only a few “pearls” (so potentially no PCOS) and that my IUD had slipped back so I just needed to get a new one.  My endocrinologist said I should think about adoption (which both my then-boyfriend-now-fiance and I had established would be fine), and that I might have a pituitary tumor.  WTF.

Fast forward a few months and I got my IUD replaced (by this ridiculous OB/GYN who decided I needed three different local anisthetics when they pulled the thing out and put a new one in, while meanwhile the first one I got placed felt like nothing–seriously, it’s not painful and if you think it is you are a baby.  Oh, also, she forgot to tell me that one of them was a freaking lidocaine-epi cocktail.  Just imagine having a giant needle all up in your business when you discover for the first time that you don’t exactly react well to these drugs.)  So I was back in business with a brand new IUD (and a boyfriend who lived across the country) and then…I became a woman.  No but for real, all of a sudden I was a totally normal menstruating (ew) human.  This was October.

I moved home (yay NY!) just in time for Christmas.  We had our engagement party January 19th, I said yes to the dress February 2nd, we found an awesome new house we’ll eventually get to move into a few weeks later, and then…I almost passed out.  I’ve always had orthostatic hypo-tension (when you stand up and you’re dizzy for a sec), but this one morning I had already been out of bed and all of a sudden I was like crap, I’m going to hit the floor (actually I said “I’m going to fall” so Ryan just held me up). I had a terrible run that day, but ate a steak salad for lunch and figured I was all set.  Then a week later I got what I thought was that norovirus that was helping everyone lose that extra five pounds.  I never get stomach bugs but was pretty sure I was going to start projectile vomiting a-la Christmas 2010 and Ryan said he felt sick, too.  Also, everything smelled.  We were staying at Ryan’s grandparent’s with his cousin, and all her food made me want to wretch (I had stopped cooking altogether but I’m pretty sure my cooking would have sent me running too).  At this point I was slathering my hands in lotion and using them to cover my nose at all times while sprinting across the house.

So the day after I thought I had the norovirus I woke up and realized there was no way in hell I could face my two giant cups of morning coffee upon which I relied (PS I now hate coffee.  The thought of it is almost as bad as the smell.).  After Ryan left for work I realized I really felt like shit.  I was dizzy, everything smelled, I was tired, my stomach was so distended it felt like a rock (that is no baby bump your first trimester of pregnancy–it’s called being bloated).  I had this nagging feeling I could be pregnant, and after Googling my symptoms endlessly and getting nowhere with my public health informatics paper I decided I wasn’t going to empty my now incredibly full bladder but rather rush out and buy a pregnancy test.  I knew–knew–there was no way in hell I was pregnant, but like I had several times before figured the test was worth the piece of mind (btw, there is no way to know if you’re pregnant if you never get your period so I visited more than one random pharmacy off of 17 when I was in college).   Of course the Rite AId in East Aurora was full of girls within a few years of my age so I ran out of there and drove all the way to another Rite Aid like 15 minutes away and bought the most expensive test on the shelf (which was only like $16–this must have been a ghetto Rite Aid).  I barely made it to the bathroom when I got home, ripped that thing out of the package, and set my watch for 3 minutes.  I had gotten one of those digital ones because I didn’t want to deal with any “you might be pregnant” kind of blue lines or whatever, so when I looked at it and it said “PREGNANT” I was in complete shock.  I dropped about 50 f-bombs before calling my best friend who I have sat on the phone with while she peed on a stick.  She was like “Heyyy, no big deal.  You guys’ll be fine.  Go pee on another stick.” and stayed on the phone with me while the second “PREGNANT” appeared.  She’s basically awesome.  Then I called my mom.  I was basically terrified and for no good reason because she was just like “Don’t worry! You’ll be fine!  No one will think you’re a social pariah and hate you for getting pregnant with their Catholic son/grandson/nephew’s child!  And grandma isn’t uptight anymore so she’ll take it just fine.  Now go get that IUD taken out.”

Everything online is like “If you have an IUD and you get pregnant you will die.”  All this stuff about ectopic pregnancies and such.  So I decided to see what real live people said and they were all “I got pregnant with an IUD and my doctor said I would most likely miscarry but now I have a beautiful 3 year old!”  So I felt better but was of course TERRIFIED to tell Ryan.  I made an appointment with a doctor for that Monday (it was Friday) and insisted he come home that night instead of staying with friends in Rochester.  I insisted there was something I couldn’t tell him on the phone, so he of course thought someone died (okay, so you might be thinking I could have waited until the next day to tell him, but there is no way I would have been able to sleep.  The night before he proposed I knew it was coming, and I slept all of like 2 hours.  It was like Christmas Eve times a thousand).  So of course he came home all “Who died” and I started crying because I was all pregnant but when I finally got it out he just had this huge grin on his face and tackled me with a giant hug.  And ever since then he has been the cutest ever.  I won’t embarrass him any more than that.

We were obviously in utter disbelief as I had just become a statistic.  I had 2 failed IUDs, got pregnant with one of them, and somehow managed to hatch an egg after being told I would never get pregnant without fertility treatments and “being a woman” for four whole months.  At the doctor on Monday they took out the IUD and said I had a high chance of miscarriage and oh, by the way, we don’t see a fetal pole on the ultrasound so it’s probably not a viable pregnancy.  My mom, who was an OB nurse, had no idea what a fetal pole was, and come to find out you can’t see one until like week 8.  When they scheduled another ultrasound for a week later (which would put me at like 6.5 weeks, which is way too early to see jack), I decided it was time to get a new OB/GYN.  Fast forward a few weeks and Ryan and I get to see our little guy up there on the ultrasound monitor (actually it was projected on a big screen TV because my doctors are apparently awesome).

There are a lot of things about being pregnant that I was never prepared for and that you don’t read about in any books, but I’m going to save those for next time because this is the longest post ever.  I decided to start writing though because I’m now in my second trimester and got to hear the heartbeat yesterday (170bpm–I’m banking on a girl).  I’m just going to say that I was completely unprepared to be so anxious (in the full-of-anxiety sense of the word) about what was going on in there.  Until you can feel it moving, you have no idea if your fetus is still alive.  This is the most terrifying thing ever.  At least now I have my increasingly protruding navel to help alleviate my fears.

Here are some professional baby-bump glamour shots.

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I look gorgeous first thing in the morning, ob-v.  Also, I know I’m facing different directions–I seem to have forgotten my right side is my good side in that first one.

Disclaimer: I am a staunch supporter of IUDs.  IUDs are the most effective form of birth control (please don’t give me any of that abstinence nonsense), and the Paraguard doesn’t contain any hormones.  Honestly, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t get an IUD.  It’s cheap (mine cost $100…for 10 years of protection.  That’s what 10 months of birth control cost me before, and I had excellent health insurance), and you don’t have to think about it.  Also, if you’re scared it’s going to hurt when they put it in, I repeat my former sentiment: you are a baby.