Hormonal Rage

Just to recap: I’m from Los Angeles, but I’m currently in the UK, two years into a very fish-out-of-water experience. Being an expat is no joke. I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost everything is different in England than it is in California, where in my homesick memory, even in the traffic is more tolerable.

I’m in England because I’m working on a PhD about childbirth intervention. Somehow, I managed to convince an academic department to fund my project, and now I actually have to DO this massive thing.

Finally, I’ve just had my first baby.

So: 5,000 miles from family + PhD student + new mom. I have no local family support, I’m working on a doctorate, I haven’t slept more than 4 consecutive hours in 7.5 months, I carry/cradle/pick up/put down/walk/dance/bounce my son all day long, I am still exclusively breastfeeding, I am ten pounds lighter than I was when I got divorced and stopped eating for three months, and until two days ago, when I passed my UK driving test, I couldn’t drive here and was walking/taking the train/catching buses with a child strapped to my body whenever I had to go anywhere. So, I’m fucking exhausted and sometimes I can’t think straight or make decisions or get through a driving lesson without coming home and losing my shit because everything is just DEMANDS CONSTANTLY.

Thus, I find it really offensive and dismissive when people tell new moms that it’s okay to feel upset because our “hormones are still settling.” As if not loving every second of our insane new lives could only be because us ladies are forever at the mercy of our hormones. We accept that a person who hasn’t slept well overnight or has a cold might be negatively impacted, but we feel the need to excuse mothers who feel bad. Don’t worry, Mom. You’re just hormonal. I understand that some women really do suffer from hormonal imbalances post-pregnancy, and I don’t at all mean to disparage them. However, patting a new mom on the the head and telling her that all her fears and anxieties and complete exhaustion are just by-products of her hormones does two things:

  1. Ignores that having a baby explodes a woman’s life
  2. Dismisses the very real and very visceral physical and emotional trauma of that explosion

I feel crazy sometimes because I’m sleep deprived and physically drained and walking around with eighteen pounds of squirming, grabbing baby attached to my skeletal frame all day long. I snap at my husband because as much as he loves us, he doesn’t understand what this is like for me. I am uncomfortable with the way I look because I look really different. I get angry or weepy or temporarily mean because I am tasked with something damn near impossible and I am just one human being and I am tired.

Being overwhelmed by a new baby is normal, because a new baby is overwhelming, not because women just can’t hang. I pushed a person out of my body and am now responsible for taking care of him. I think I’m entitled to have some real feelings about it.

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38 Weeks!

I am 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant today, which is just absolutely madness. A friend’s sister, who was due one week before me, had her baby a few nights ago, and even though I am very pregnant and living in a house full of baby things, it still boggles my mind that there could be a baby here at any moment.

For anyone even remotely interested, here’s the third trimester belly progress:
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(In addition to being photos of some random internet stranger’s belly, which are by nature not interesting, I know these pictures are boring because I’m wearing the same thing in all of them. However, that was intentional, because I figured it would be easier to track changes this way. So, sorry, everyone.)

To look at me, it would appear that not much has happened in the last week or so. However, I feel like I am suddenly enormous. That pelvic pain I bragged about not yet experiencing in my previous post is here in full force, making my lower back and inner thighs feel like I’ve spent several days riding a galloping horse. I always thinking about food, but too full to eat anything. I am also totally exhausted. I haven’t officially started maternity leave from my PhD program, because I figure I might as well wait until the baby is born, considering I can very easily do my work from home, but my brain is basically already on a time out. It took me two full days to write an embarrassingly short project proposal, even though I able to crib most of the material from other things I’d already written. Luckily, I’d managed to get a lot done before I became useless because useless I most certainly am.

My PhD project, when it eventually starts really happening and isn’t just a bunch of stuff I tell people I will be doing someday, will focus on childbirth intervention, so I’ve spent many, many months researching maternal health care and childbirth and all its various outcomes. What I’ve found, for the most part, is that as wonderful as modern medicine has been to women giving birth (like, say, in its insistence that people wash their hands before attending laboring mothers), in many ways, processes that might be better left to proceed on their own are often too actively managed. (As an example, there’s the “cascade of interventions,” which is labor induction -> electronic fetal monitoring to watch the effects of medically induced contractions -> mothers laying on their backs in bed -> more intense pain -> epidurals -> the slowing of labor -> fetal distress and/or failure to progress -> caesarean section.) I had a lot of big feelings about this overmedicalization of childbirth when I drafted my PhD proposal, long before I found myself pregnant. Doctors are too pushy, medicine is too incentivized, nature has been abandoned in an effort to keep schedules or avoid lawsuits. And I still think those things. (To be fair, this isn’t just some earth-mother hippie crap being howled at the moon. Statistically speaking, the cascade of intervention is very, very real.)

However, what has been really interesting about doing this research while facing my own childbirth experience is discovering that as a pregnant woman, I will do anything to ensure my baby is healthy. I can intellectualize the medicalization of nature as a product of hospital care as much as I want, but I’ve learned that if a professional with an ultrasound wand tells me something might be wrong, I will drive home in hysterics and spend the next three hours on Google, working myself into a panic and vowing to consent to anything to make it better.

Those aren’t two opposing thoughts – in fact, in most of the theory I’ve read, that’s how medicalization works. Doctors and hospitals apply techniques to make childbirth more efficient/more scheduled/ostensibly “safer,” and mothers trust their care providers and consent to them.

It’s just been very eye-opening to experience it myself.

For the first 32 weeks of the pregnancy, I saw the same midwife practicing out of a medical practice near my house. At each of my relatively rare and low-key visits, she would test my urine, take my blood pressure, and then do a fundal height measurement using a tape measure. For the uninitiated, the fundal height is the distance from the top of a pregnant woman’s uterus to her pubic bone. This measurement in centimeters should, conveniently, mirror the number of weeks pregnant a woman is – a woman who is 26 weeks pregnant should measure on (or around) 26 cm. At all of my appointments, I was measuring spot on. At 24 weeks, I was 24 cm. At 28 weeks, I was 27.75 cm. At 31 weeks, I was 31 cm.

And then I moved to another city and had to transfer to another midwife. In the five days between my last appointment with my previous midwife and my first appointment with my new one, the baby turned from head-down to transverse, meaning he was now laying horizontally across my belly as opposed to vertically along it.

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I went from the long belly on the left to the short, stubby belly on the right. I didn’t think much of it, until the new midwife whipped out her tape measure and measured my nearly-32-week-belly at 27 cm. She immediately made me an appointment for a growth ultrasound, because measuring five weeks behind (even by super high-tech tape measure) could be a sign of a growth-restricted baby without enough amniotic fluid.

Now, as a person who knows too much about pregnancy and childbirth due to having had my super dweeb face in journal articles and books for nearly a year, I completely flipped out. In addition to taking me out of a midwife’s low-risk care and placing me into higher-risk “consultant” (doctor) care, this new potential amniotic fluid issue put me at risk of being harangued into an induction, as fears about a baby’s size and amniotic fluid levels are one of the most common reasons labors are induced. Cue the crying in the car on the way home, the drinking of tons of liters of water a day in an attempt to up my fluid levels, and the crawling around on my hands and knees to try to turn the baby.

A week and a half later, when I had the growth scan, the baby was head down again and measured in the 60th percentile for growth, which was lovely. However, the total amount of amniotic fluid measured via ultrasound was 8.2cm, which was still cause for alarm, as the “normal” range is about 8-18cm. I was hovering right at the low range of normal. My new hospital consultant wrote “low AF at 5% at USS” (low amniotic fluid at the 5th percentile at ultrasound) under a giant “ALERT! Please indicate risk:” label on the inside of my maternity notes, and told me she wanted me back for another scan in two weeks. That was great.

Two panicky weeks later, at my second growth ultrasound, the amniotic fluid was up to 11.8cm, which was firmly normal. In addition, the baby now measured in the 90th percentile for growth. In fact, the ultrasound tech thought the baby might be growing too big – she took the femoral length measurement four times because she thought she was making mistakes. The baby that was once thought to be too small was now almost off the charts.

Despite the incredible hulking baby, I passed the growth scan with flying colors and am no longer high risk.

I hope it goes without saying that I am, of course, very happy and grateful that everything ended up being fine. It was, however, really bizarre to know that the difference in fundal height measurements between midwives was entirely due to the turning of the baby and the admittedly insanely subjective tape measure method, and still feel totally nuts when I was sent for extra ultrasounds. I thought that there was something horribly wrong with the pregnancy because of a tape measure.

On one hand, it’s nice to know that the people taking care of us are proactive. I have had nothing but wonderful interactions with everyone, and I don’t think any of the extra tests were done to make me nervous or take advantage. However, on the other hand, it was unnerving to find myself ready and willing to submit to any intervention possible (I would have been completely on board with an elective c section, for example, if it meant combating growth restriction, which shocked me, given what I know about pre-term caesareans), when the methods pointing me in those directions should be approached with caution.

The extra growth scans illuminated to me that childbirth interventions are notoriously difficult to manage and are more often than not used based on evidence that is subjective at best. For all the actual problems that are addressed by them, there are hundreds of others that are caused by them. (I lucked out because in my case, the only issues the extra scans caused were emotional.) At the risk of sounding super naive and having to eat these words after I have the baby, my WARNING ALERT SMALL BABY EXTRA SCAN experience has only solidified my desire to try to have as few interventions as possible during the birth.

We’ll see how that goes.

P.S.: I’ve been writing and editing this post for 24 hours and I still feel like it makes no sense. There was a point in here somewhere, guys, but like I said above, MY BRAIN IS ON VACATION AND I JUST CAN’T.

Third Trimester!

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In the last weeks, the bump got…pointier?

I’m 32 weeks and 3 days pregnant, meaning I’m a month into the third trimester, and about two months from having a baby. Eeeeep!

I’ve been relatively comfortable throughout the pregnancy so far – short of wearing terrible shoes and straining the top of my left foot (a feat I didn’t know was possible) several weeks ago and limping around in running shoes like a dummy for a month, I’ve managed to avoid things like sciatica, pelvic pain, swelling, back pain, and a bunch of other horrible pregnancy symptoms I don’t even want to type out for fear that the universe will curse me with them. Basically, besides being increasingly winded by stairs and needing to pee 100% of the time, I’ve made it to 32 weeks relatively unscathed. (Unscathed by the pregnancy. I have gotten more prone to being an idiot klutz, however, as evidenced by my burning a patch of skin off the top of my thigh with a curling iron yesterday. I don’t even know anymore.)

That being said, being 32 weeks pregnant is really uncomfortable. God bless the women who suffer terribly and go on to have more children. I’m pretty much only dealing with the physical ramifications of having half a watermelon in my abdomen, which makes eating, sitting, laying, putting on shoes, and walking really cumbersome, and it’s still enough to make me want to stop speaking to anyone who hasn’t been pregnant.

Things I’ve Learned in the Third Trimester:

1) I have freckles inside my belly button.

2) Toilet paper companies aren’t scamming me. They aren’t skimping on the TP. I am legitimately just in the bathroom all the damn time.

3) Lounging at a 45-degree angle is a thing of the past. I can either lay on my side with my head propped up or sit straight up like I’m Miss Manners. Super cozy.

4) It is possible to high-five a human being who isn’t born yet. I’ve done it several times.

5) Everyone has an opinion on the size of my belly. Intellectually, I know it’s because people want to be involved or show support, and that’s actually kinda cute. Emotionally, it weirds me out to have that be the only thing people want to talk to me about. I used to be interesting in a whole bunch of other ways, people! Hopefully, I still am!

6) I have very little body hair now – except for on my belly, which is ideal because that’s what everyone wants to see.

7) Despite having to roll out of bed because my core muscles don’t work anymore and getting sickly full on tiny meals, it is entirely possible for me to forget I’m pregnant, which occasionally leads me to totally panicking about some weird physical thing I just did that might have compromised the baby. (Read: in particular, the time I tried to stabilize our new washing machine when it was jumping all over the place by holding it down with my arms during the spin cycle, before remembering that there’s a person inside me who shouldn’t be vibrated super violently.)

8) I am very into smoothies. And avocados. And hummus. (And, let’s be real, also ice cream, chocolate, and cereal.)

9) People are really insanely generous. We have very nearly everything we need for the baby’s first few months, and haven’t actually purchased anything ourselves.

10) Having focused on being pregnant for the last eight months, it is both exciting and terrifying to start thinking about how there will be an actual baby here in a matter of weeks. As a former terrible baby who kept my parents up for several years in a row, I hope the baby is nothing like me and is kind to us.

Head down, butt up on his favorite side, like a good little boy.

Head down, butt up on his favorite side, like a good little boy.

Full of Hot Air.

Because I am currently in the beginning stages of crafting a PhD project about maternal health, with a focus on childbirth specifically, I’m reading tons about pregnancy and labor (for work, okay?). As my interest is in childbirth, I’m focusing my time on what leads to various kinds of childbirth experiences. One of the more interesting things I’ve read concerns the rise in the reporting of “back-to-back” labor in the later 20th century. A labor is said to be “back-to-back” when a baby starts its descent into the birth canal with its spine aligned with its mother’s spine and its face toward the front of her body. This means that the widest part of the baby’s head (the forehead and face) enters the cervix first, which has a lot of implications for the mechanics of childbirth (which I will spare you) and essentially means a slower, more painful labor (leading to higher rates of induction, epidural use, Pitocin, and eventually c-section).

An explanation for this rise in back-to-back labor is that as women moved out of mostly housekeeping roles and into office work, they stopped performing tasks that kept them leaning forward (cooking over a massive cauldron, washing clothes, scrubbing floors on their hands and knees, etc). Instead, women began spending their days leaning backward into office chairs, which can lull their children into the back-to-back position, as the babies aren’t being forced forward by gravity all the time. My opinion on this theory is: who knows. This sounds a little like all the evolutionary psychology theories I used to love as an anthropology undergraduate, and have now come to side-eye pretty hard all the time. However, because I am a crazy person, after reading the book a few weeks ago, I committed to spending more time leaning forward as the baby grew. Every little bit helps, right?

This means that I’ve been sitting like an idiot on my chair at work, legs on the sides of the chair with my knees bent, and my belly forward and under the desk. Essentially, I look like I need to fart all the time, which coincidentally, is now constantly the case.

In previous weeks, I could feel the baby at very proscribed times: in the morning just as I woke up, in the evening laying in bed, and, very occasionally, if I really focused during some quiet time during the day. However, now, it’s all over the place all the time. I woke up to a dance routine at 2 am the other night. I feel kicks when I’m sitting like a moron at my desk. I am punched in the guts while standing around grocery stores, deciding which foods I am not going to be able to stomach. I also saw it from the outside last night for the first time and then spent more time than I will admit taking videos of my stomach, trying to document it. (Did not happen.) The baby is super active, and I think my insides are now beginning to feel it.

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Why yes, I have nicknamed my baby Kickpuncher.

 

I made a super not great decision Friday night and ate Indian food, which haunted me for the rest of the weekend, because my digestive system can no longer handle foods that are not apples, avocado, or bread. In an ironic twist of fate, I finally found the time to spend hours on my hands and knees in Child’s Pose on my bedroom floor, my belly down, gravity pulling the baby into its proper position – at 3 in the morning, after frantically Googling remedies for what the English so delicately call “trapped wind.” Face down on the carpet in the middle of the night, sipping peppermint tea by the mugful, miserable and desperate for sleep, at least I was maybe preventing back-to-back labor.

It’s the little things.

Creature Feature: The Kick Came From INSIDE My Body.

I am now 19 and a half weeks pregnant! I am officially too enormous for my favorite jeans, which I have now shelved indefinitely. Before I was growing a human being, I used to despise that all denim is now 2% Lycra, because it meant that for the most part, I could wear a pair of jeans one time before they were all stretched out and falling off my ass. (And I’m disgusting and cannot be asked to wash my clothes often enough to keep up with that kind of demand.) However, now, those previously maligned, instantly-too-baggy, only-skinny-for-four-hours jeans are my saviors. They hang below my belly and are just stretchy enough. Plus, they still fall off my ass, which at this point in my life, I really appreciate. Thanks, 2% Lycra, for making 5 Month Pregnant Sarah still feel thin enough to have her pants falling off her. 2% Lycra is also allowing me to get through the weeks before my trip to California without paying tons of money for maternity jeans. Basically, a win-win at the moment.

In other news, we are days away from finding out what this little creep is, and I am very excited to pin one of the two names we’ve chosen on this little unsuspecting person. In addition to allowing us to define the rest of our child’s life by giving it a name, finding out what the sex is also means I will know what proscribed gender stereotypes I will be battling for all of Creep’s childhood. (No one is more humorless than me!) Yay!

In the cutest, most adorable development thus far (barring, of course, all the baby clothes I’m starting to collect): my mother has discovered the gender reveal party and is going to fold that into a baby shower she’s throwing for me when I go home in a few weeks. She’s also running full steam ahead with the “Mexican fiesta” theme I suggested initially as a joke, which is fabulous. I wanted to avoid the seemingly inevitable lean toward pink or blue, so I chose something that would force the use of every color in the rainbow. Inspiration:

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Who could care about pink for girls and blue for boys when there’s glitter in a Modelo bottle?

Also, I currently have a fiesta flag banner hanging in my bedroom in England as part of the normal, every day decor, so this is pretty much perfect.

Finally, while I’d felt tiny flutters and occasional “bubbling” before, just this week, I’ve started feeling actual baby movement. Last night, I drank a glass of cranberry juice from a hotel bar (as you do) and then laid down in my hotel bed at 9pm (again, as you do) and absent-mindedly put my hand on my belly, because I’d been catching little movements here and there and it’s reassuring to know that all is well in there. Seconds after I placed my hand on my skin, the baby kicked the hardest it has thus far and I felt it from both the inside and the outside and was immediately creeped out by my own body. It’s one thing to feel something that could be misconstrued as an upset, rumbling tummy and another thing entirely to feel something almost deliberate knocking around in your insides. Again, it’s comforting to know that the babes is okay and doing well and I’m actually loving the growing reminder that yes, there is a baby in there, because for weeks, I just felt fat and bloated and moody, but unable to drown my sorrows in wine. Now, I am pregnant. For reals. However, imagine for a moment that you are holding onto a small plastic bag full of water and someone drops a big fish in your bag and this big fish bops around in the too-small plastic bag, hitting its face and tail on the plastic lining and you can feel this fish if you put your hand on the outside of the bag. Imagine all of this, except now the bag is your guts and the fish is a baby person. That is what fetal movement is like.

Fish Baby: debuting July 2015.

16 Weeks.

Thursday morning was the first time I put on a pair of jeans and thought, “Oh God, no.” I thought that overnight, I’d totally outgrown all of my normal person clothing. Luckily, Thursday morning was just a particularly giant day, and I am still happily shoving myself into pre-pregnancy pants four days later. I have the incredible good fortune of owning a ton of baggy sweaters (for once in my life, I can thank the Gap for only selling shapeless sacks), and these are definitely helping keep me in my old clothes. If anyone was able to take a close look at what was happening at my waistband, I would probably never leave my house.

I think last year, I mentioned that I was venturing into Total Mess territory before my trip home in September, because I was too cheap to buy new clothes right before I went to back to the US, where everything costs half as much money. I am currently battling this same desire to spend as little money as possible. I have this delusion that if I can just make it five more weeks, I can buy a whole new maternity wardrobe in California for the price of one pair of maternity leggings here. In the meantime, I am just going to charge ahead, wearing various increasingly uncomfortable skinny jeans with oversize pillowcases as tops.

On a related, but even more embarrassing, note, I’ve started the requisite collection of belly photos. I’ve been taking photos occasionally and sending them to Fertile Myrtle, who is the only person in the world who cares (so therefore I am inspired to share them on the internet). I made the artistic decision to expose my belly in these photos, mostly because I would like to remember what my skin looked like when it wasn’t covered in stretch marks.

I would like to state for the record that I have very mixed feelings about bare belly pictures. On one hand, I find them a bit weird and invasive on social media. Like, does everyone I know need to see what my fat, bloated midsection looks like? On the other, I have an obsession with keeping track of things, which was basically the point of this blog in the first place, so they are happening and I am posting them (but only here. Sorry, high school acquaintance. You’ll have to get your disembodied torso photos from someone else.).

photo 1That week 6 photo was taken in my Birmingham hotel room the night I discovered I was pregnant. I had no ass. The week 14 picture was taken the day I crossed over into the second trimester, when I felt particularly enormous. I had no ass then either.

photo 2I took the week 16 photo right before I put the pair of jeans on that made me instantly nervous. I was admittedly totally pushing my stomach out and showing off in this photo. When it’s not insanely uncomfortable, it’s totally amazing to be what is essentially the most bloated you’ve ever been and to just be able to own it. I AM HUGE AND IT IS IMPORTANT. LOOK AT THESE PICTURES OF IT ALL. As ever, I still had no ass.

Most of the time, during the day, I hover right around that 14 week size. At night, after I’ve eaten and once my body is officially done with the day, I can look upwards of 1,000 years pregnant. So basically, my pregnancy experience has been a Groundhog’s Day of Thanksgiving Day for weeks. Each morning begins with the expectation that by evening, I will feel disgusting and sick, and that prophecy is fulfilled, every day. It’s exactly Thanksgiving, except with a little less pie.

I’ve also starting experiencing round ligament pain, which is effectively the fruitless screaming of the muscles attaching my pelvis to my torso. The other night, while lying in bed, I sneezed and then felt like my guts were exploding from my abdomen. Today, sitting at my desk, walking around, and stretching were all triggers. Basically, having muscles and being awake are both risk factors for shooting pains these days.

Finally, at the risk of sounding really vain, I am attempting not to gain a ton of weight and am therefore trying hard not to eat any differently than I would normally. I’ve read that you only need to increase your daily caloric intake by 300 more calories – in the third trimester. However, the important exception to not changing my eating habits is that I am trying to eat better than I usually do. As a vegetarian, I am eating more green, iron-rich vegetables and 100% more dairy. My appetite has been increasing in the last few weeks, so I’m trying to carry good snacks like cashews and blueberries, so I don’t feel like I’m just pumping my avocado-sized child full of mint chip ice cream and Frosted Flakes. (Full disclosure: I sometimes do that. And also, as I wrote this, I was eating a personal-sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.)

I’m not frightened by the idea of being bigger, because that will happen (hopefully on a small scale) regardless. I’m also obviously not restricting my eating in any way. I’ve never been someone who denied myself food and I’m certainly not doing that, especially now, when I am finally interested in food again after my pitiful Dry Toast December. I’m simply trying to reign in any intense weight gain because it’s not healthy (I’ve had my nose buried in articles about maternal obesity and adverse birth outcomes for weeks), and because I like my clothes and would like to fit into them again at some point.

And also because: stretchmarks.

Priorities.

Second Trimester.

Today marks the start of the the fourteenth week of this pregnancy, which means I am officially into the second trimester. Right on cue, as the first semester ended, I shook off the cloud of exhaustion and hazy thinking that kept me in bed for the entire month of December and have rejoined the land of the living, doing really impressive things like “the dishes,” “walking to work,” and “being upright for more than twenty minutes a day.” Right now, my PhD requires a ton of thinking, strategizing, and article reading, and I was very concerned two weeks ago, when peeling myself out of my jammies to take a shower seemed an insurmountable task. It’s nice to have my brain back. I guess I should enjoy this brief reprieve, because according to my (many) pregnancy apps, I’ve got a good 14 weeks before things get rough again.

So, I’m feeling much better, despite the fact that I am edging ever closer to not being able to wear to my favorite jeans anymore. Luckily, it’s winter and I can hide the fact that I’m busting out of my pants under lots of giant sweaters.

Now that I am briefly normalizing, you’d think I might not worry as much. If you thought that, you’d be mistaken (and I’d assume you were new around here). Do you want to know what the most terrifying thing about being pregnant is?

EVERYTHING.

I’ve only known for about two months, and I’ve already had enough emotional breakdowns to last for years. Apparently, perpetually being on high alert is something that never goes away. It’s from now to always. (Yay!) To paraphrase something Fertile Myrtle told me as I panicked by myself in a Cardiff hotel room (after I’d known for three days, but was still trapped on my work trip), “you spend your entire pregnancy hoping that your child will be born, and then the rest of their lives wishing you could have them back inside you.”

Because, I’m learning, making a person is a tremendously stressful journey into the unknown, where any myriad of things could go wrong. According to every parent I have ever spoken to ever, this is only amplifies when your child is born, because then it’s not just your body that you have to side-eye and worry about constantly – it’s everything in the whole world for the rest of your life. It is all out to get your child and you just have to accept that.

UGH.

In our family mythology, my mother is known for being an over-reactive hypochondriac who never let me touch the ground or eat dirt or walk barefoot in parks (because: germs, parasites, and used hypodermic needles). My brothers and I were made to wear water shoes (the kind with thick, grippy soles designed for hiking in rivers) into the ocean on beach days until we were teenagers. My grandparents and great aunts would tell, and continue to tell, stories of my mom’s seemingly incomprehensible desire to keep me, the first-born, and later my two brothers, hermetically sealed against the terrors of the world. SHE IS SO NUTTY, they would all say.

When I was 14 and wearing too-small, bright pink water booties to the beach, I wanted to tear her apart.

As an adult woman currently pregnant with my own child, I am buying stock in water booties. And helmets. And vaccines.

That is, assuming I make it through the next six months of panic and actually have the opportunity to raise the first baby in a bubble.

It’s A…Human!

On Monday January 12th, the one year anniversary of my move to England, I had my first ultrasound, which was firm confirmation that another huge life-changing event is on the horizon.

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IT’S A BABY.

I’m getting my health care through the NHS, so I have the benefit of not needing to pay for private insurance, which, as a US citizen, is a little bit like living in opposite land. However, because I’m not paying for the health care, the experience has been different than what it might have been if I were in the states. For example, I met with both a general practitioner and a midwife before the 12-week scan I had on Monday, and neither of those medical professionals confirmed the pregnancy (through urine or blood). I also wasn’t offered an early ultrasound (at around 8 weeks), like I might have been in I was back in California. So, for the first three months, until I saw the little babe kicking around on the ultrasound screen this week, I could have basically been making the entire thing up like a hysterical crazy person and no one would have been the wiser, myself included.

As a notoriously high-strung individual, it was really strange for me to have very little medical intervention during a time when all I wanted was as much reassurance as possible. Thankfully, I have my midwife’s cell phone number – that poor woman probably hates me.

As I understand it, because there is very little that can be done in the first three months of pregnancy, the ethos here is to just let it happen. It’s all very c’est la vie.

That was very, very difficult for me.

Additionally, the NHS keeps sending me totally vague and absolutely terrifying text messages as my various blood test results are received by my doctor’s office. Nothing says peace of mind like getting a text at 4:55pm that reads, “Your test results are now available. Contact your GP as soon as possible.” So fun trying to frantically contact a health center administrator in the last five minutes before the office closes. Fortunately, as of now, all results are normal.

In England, prenatal care – and often, birth itself – is managed by full trained, highly educated midwives, not OB/GYNs. I think this is excellent, because in theory, it should cut down on the amount of unnecessary intervention suggested to women as they prepare to have babies. That being said, the strangest thing that’s happened thus far occurred during my “booking in” appointment, the first time I met my midwife. We went through family ancestries and histories, I told her my height and weight, she took my blood pressure, and then after this extensive testing, she deemed me “low-risk” and advised me to have my baby at home.

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WHAT.

As an American, this casual suggestion was similar to hearing a nurse tell me that I look pretty competent so I should just handle the stitches myself. For years, I’ve harbored some obnoxious ideas about how medicalized pregnancy and birth can be in the United States, so I absolutely appreciate living in a place that treats this like a natural process, and not a terrible disease. However, having a midwife use 30 minutes of conversation to determine that I wouldn’t need any medical help was a teensy bit surprising, even for a liberal granola nutcase like me.

Luckily, the options are basically endless here, so as of now, I’ve decided to use a birth center inside a hospital, staffed with only midwives, but an elevator ride away from some serious surgeons, just in case. I’ve read that for a home birth to be truly effective as an experience (and also, I guess, as a way of getting an 8 pound human being out of your body), you have to be relaxed. I, queen of the tightly wound, would not fare well with a potentially life-threatening situation intentionally scheduled away from a hospital.

Luckily, I am slightly less anxious now, as I’ve got four photos of our tiny martial artist and I know it exists. However, now that I know this is for real, I am ramping up tons of anxiety about making sure I don’t screw it up.

I’m such a well-adjusted human being. It’s just amazing.

Surprise!

Inspired by the comments and emails I’ve received from people telling me that their lives would be empty, wasted shells if I were to stop blogging, I’ve decided to be brave and stick around. Thank you all for your kind words. I had no idea this blog gave all your lives so much meaning. (In all seriousness: thanks for the encouragement!)

The following is both a dramatic recreation of why I’ve been absent and a sign of things to come. I’ve struggled a lot with whether or not to publicize this, because it’s hard, fast proof that I am moving into a vastly different life than I ever could have imagined for myself when I started this blog two and a half years ago. However, I really do loving blogging, I love this space and the people I’ve connected with, and if I were to not share this, I might as well give up on writing here altogether. So, here goes:

On November 7th 2014, I left home for a four-week work trip around the UK. I was touring with an exhibition I’d spent the previous several months curating research for, and so I packed a month’s worth of underwear into a suitcase, said goodbye to my boyfriend, and flew out of Southampton. I was exhausted.

On November 16th 2014, I stayed up working until 3am and woke up five hours later with a vicious head cold, which was both terrible timing, because I was deep into my UK tour, and really surprising, because I hadn’t been sick for over a year. I was exhausted.

For dinner on November 27th 2014, nearly three weeks into my UK odyssey, I ate a “jacket potato,” which was basically a baked potato covered in Heinz baked beans and is essentially a totally justified way for me to eat as many carbs as possible in one sitting.

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Vomit.

 

Then I stayed up until midnight in my Birmingham hotel room and Skyped with my entire family for Thanksgiving – the first I’d ever missed. Seeing everyone (and the amazing Southern California weather and all the food) was both really wonderful and also super sad, and I ended up balled up in my rented bed, sobbing like a maniac. (I had the decency to end the Skype conversation first.) I was so emotional. I was exhausted.

On November 28th 2014, 24 hours after devouring my jacket potato, I glanced at the photo I’d taken and almost threw up. No exaggeration. A food I’d gleefully forked into my face on Thursday had become totally repulsive to me on Friday. Given my sudden, intense food aversions, my ever-present fatigue, my recent crippling head cold, and the fact that I had grown out of my bra, I figured something might be up. Feeling a little suspicious, and in an effort to shut up my boyfriend and Fertile Myrtle, who are both saints who tolerate nonstop text messages about my various (real and imagined) ailments, I took a cheap pregnancy test in my hotel bathroom. I left the test and went to eat an apple, content that the result would be exactly what every pregnancy test result had been for all the years I have frantically taken pregnancy tests.

Despite the symptoms that encouraged me to invest in some £3.85 pregnancy tests, I knew with absolute certainty that they were a waste of money. The tests always had been and always would be, because my insides were made of sourdough bread and dust. So, as you might imagine, I had a complete emotional breakdown when I went back into the bathroom and found this:

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And then later, this:

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On Black Friday, 5,000 miles away from my family, alone in Birmingham, England after being on the road for three weeks, in a hotel room that shared a very thin wall with my boss’s room, knowing there was still a full week before I could see my boyfriend again, I found myself holding a positive pregnancy test for the first time. The insanity of the situation was not lost on me. The Universe is nothing if not consistent.

Right this minute, I am thirteen weeks pregnant. I AM PREGNANT. I am pregnant and living in England and starting a PhD.

Never a dull moment.

False Alarm.

Today, I was supposed to post a brilliant piece I wrote called “How I Friend-Zone’d My Husband.”  It was going to be great.  However, today had other plans.  I thought it might be more interesting to share some of the hilarious hijinks from this day’s adventures.  And I’m making it a “tight-lipped Tuesday” because I cannot be asked to write full sentences right now.  THIS DAY, guys.  Enjoy!

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I began the day helping my great-aunt Carole, the former model, pack up her house, as it is now in escrow for the third time. She told me not to be nervous about my modeling debut tomorrow because “it sure beats getting up at 4 am to go examine shit.” And she’s right. It will be more fun than going on Coroner searches or digging excavation trenches in the pouring rain.

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This is the book she is currently reading. Cheery.

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“Just in case you have to identify me someday.”

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And THEN, Fertile Myrtle started having contractions every two minutes for an hour and I left Carole to meet FM, her mother and the Fiece at the hospital.

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I was supposed to be responsible for keeping the Fiece out of trouble and for eventually taking her home as the labor progressed, but mostly, I just encouraged her to play in the hospital room’s privacy curtain.  (She beckoned me over to her curtain-y hiding spot and asked me to squeeze in with her, telling me, “Shhhhh! You’ll fit!” with a finger to her lips to shut me up. Obviously I couldn’t say no.)  It ended up being false labor, so after two hours of waiting in the room and listening to heartbeat monitors and walking the halls, we all ended up going home.  Oh, it was such a cruel tease.  I don’t know how Myrtle is handling it.  I am too impatient for labor and delivery.  Perhaps it is for the best that I am not the one who is pregnant.

Oh, and also, a Whiny Baby Facebook page exists.  Here’s the link, so like it maybe?