Thursday, December 29, 2011

penn and teller on anti-vaccination

i may have to have a rant about vaccination (and more importantly, the dangerous ignorance of anti-vaccers) at some point, but in the mean time, penn and teller have summed up my feelings pretty succinctly here:

week 36: crenshaw melon

this week fruiby should be the size of a crenshaw melon, but of course he isn't. he more like a small pumpkin. i am sticking with the fruit and veg comparisons anyway, because it seems silly to abandon the theme now...

we spent part of this week down at the beach with family, celebrating christmas. it was nice to get away, but even nicer to come home. we're at the stage of the pregnancy where i feel better being within a short drive of the hospital and our ob, just in case things happen early. not that i'm expecting them to. i still haven't had a single braxton hicks contraction (though i know not everyone experiences them), and as far as i can tell fruiby hasn't dropped yet (though again, not all babies do until the last minute). there are no signs that he's coming early, but you never know!

this week i have developed a funny numb patch on my belly, right around my belly button. i wan't sure whether it was something to be concerned about so i called one of our midwives, and she said it's something that can happen when things get really stretched out, and is nothing to worry about. it feels funny, though. and i'm quite aware of it because i am rubbing my tummy a lot. i can't help it, it's so round! and it's fun to pat fruiby's lumpy bits and have him kick back at me.

i've had a sore back for a while now, especially when i wake up in the mornings, but it got particularly bad while we were away. i got hardly any sleep, and felt like a bit of a zombie for most of the time. in retrospect, think it may have been the fact that the bed we were sleeping on was a lot softer than our bed at home. since we've been back i have slept better. i have also been using he belly wedge that our friend l gave me, and i think that has been helping too (i forgot to pack it when we left). i'm still getting up to wee at least 4 or 5 times a night, but at least i don't have to pace about until my muscles loosen up!

s and i are now starting to take stock of what we have and still need. we are well set up with the big stuff - we've got our cot, a baby hammock, the pram, etc., we even have some luxuries like this amazing gliding nursing chair that s's mum bought us, so now we are just making sure that we have enough nappies (we're going cloth), pul covers, and sufficient clothes in appropriate sizes. thus far i have just kind of been buying stuff i've liked, and trying to mix the sizes up so we have cool things to dress him in at different ages up to about 18 months, but now we are making sure we have enough basics too. i think we're relatively well sorted for the first little while at least, depending on how large he actually ends up being, and how quickly he grows in his first few weeks. it's so hard to guess these things!

along with the stock-taking and sorting, we have also begun pre-washing nappies, wraps, and clothes. seeing all those gorgeous little things hanging on the line has been pretty exciting. it makes everything seem that little bit closer and more real.

three weeks to go!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

parenting by heart by pinky mckay

pinky mckay's books were recommended to me by a friend, so when i saw this in the book shop i picked it up. i'm really glad i did. it covers all the essential topics that new parents want to know about including bonding, feeding, sleeping, and play.

her writing style is clear, conversational, and in no way patronizing (like so many parenting books can be). she manages to make a great many useful suggestions without ever being prescriptive, or asking you to take her word for something without giving a reason. she promotes an attachment parenting approach (breastfeeding, babywearing, etc.), but isn't evangelical about this, and makes a point of acknowledging that everyone's different. the mantra throughout is always: "here's an idea, but remember that you know yourself, your family, and your baby best, so always follow your instincts and do what works for you."

the book is broken up into clearly defined sections, and while i read it cover to cover, it's designed in such a way as to make it easy to flick through to information on specific issues (e.g. sleep, reflux, mastitis, play) as you need to. i think this is a feature i'll be grateful for when the baby is here and i need a quick reference.

one little niggle i had was that in the introduction she acknowledges that families come in all shapes and sizes, but then goes on to use the basic mother/father structure in almost all her language and examples...
"families come in more than one form too - not just the traditional nuclear family. i would like to acknowledge this, but apologise in advance if i haven't used the perfect terms to describe your unique family structure, whatever this may be for you and your child - single parent, blended, two mummies, two daddies and so on."
... i feel like this is a bit of a cop out - it's not actually that hard to use more inclusive language, and an apology at the beginning isn't as good as making a real effort to do so.

that aside, this is one of the most useful parenting books i have read so far. so much so that i bought a copy for our brother and sister-in-law for christmas (they're expecting in june!), and will be recommending it to other pregnant friends too.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas

merry christmas, everyone!
i am keeping my feet up as much as possible, to keep the swelling down, and we're enjoying a lovely relaxing day.

bring on january - i'm ready to meet this kid!

Friday, December 23, 2011

week 35: honeydew melon

this week, the average baby is the size of a honeydew melon. but not fruiby. oh, no. fruiby is a giant baby.
we learned in sydney that he was measuring in the 97th percentile for his gestational age, and we had that confirmed (as much as you can confirm these things) at our last routine ultrasound this week. at 34wks+2days his head was measuring about average for 40wks, and his body about average for 39wks. the sonographer estimated his weight at 7lb 9oz, and said he was the biggest baby she had seen in a while.
it's just as well we haven't bought any 0000 sized clothes for him.
i dont have any pictures from the ultrasound, because he wasn't being cooperative. he had his hand in front of his face the whole time and the sonographer couldn't get a single picture!

my feet have been getting alarmingly swollen. i no longer have ankles, i just have weird puffy sausages attached to the ends of my legs. none of my shoes fit. i can only wear thongs.

the underside of my tummy is now completely covered in bright purple stretch marks. it's feeling heavy. when fruiby moves around he changes the shape of it, which is pretty cool to watch.
s took this picture of my belly last night.
as you can see, my jim jams are getting less and less effective.

we're spending the week on the mornington peninsula with our family at the moment, and the house we're renting has a lovely pool. i had a swim yesterday, and it was lovely to feel kind of weightless for a while. i think i will be making the most of that while we're here.
it's christmas eve, and we're doing our big dinner, and gift-giving this evening, european style. there is lots of lovely wine and cider floating around and i am feeling a wee bit miffed that i don't get to enjoy that aspect of the celebration, but the house is already smelling delicious, and i am looking forward to eating ham, turkey, pudding, and all the trimmings this evening.
next christmas fruiby will be almost a year old, and big enough to enjoy the sparkly decorations, and gnaw on everyone's wrapping paper. i am very much looking forward to that.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

week 34: rockmelon

this week fruiby weights about the same as a rockmelon (or cantaloupe if you are american). we picked one up at the supermarket and it was heavy. which is unsurprising, because the kid is starting to feel pretty heavy to lug around now!

physically, not a lot has changed since last week. the sleep issues are still the same, i'm still feeling kind of sore in certain muscle groups etc.
my tummy looks noticeably bigger every day or two. i am kind of loving it. i pat it a lot, and s pokes my sticky-outie belly button whenever she can.

i've been on iron supplements for a few weeks now, and i've noticed that i haven't been getting as breathless as often as i had been, so i think they're starting to take effect. i still get a little out of breath from time to time, but i think that's pretty normal when your lungs are all squished up.

fruibs continues to be a very active baby. there's lots of kicking and poking and head-butting going on in there. it's great.

s and i have definitely got a couple of favourite names in mind now. we have had a list of about 10 for a while, but two have definitely floated quietly to the top over the last month or two, and unless they really don't suit him we'll almost certainly use one as a first name and the other as a middle name. but it is nice to have a list of others as backup, just in case.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

this is me: part 2

having the conditions that i outlined in part one of this series of posts means that i have to approach life quite differently than most other people i know. they're chronic conditions, so rather than treating them, i have to manage them, which has meant some pretty major lifestyle changes for s and i.

the biggest changes have probably been a consequence of the chronic fatigue. in the last few years i have gone from working as a high school teacher and studying psychology simultaneously, to only just managing one of my psych subjects at a time. i have tried to make up for this by finding ways to work that i can manage from home and at my own pace, and the penelope waits blog and shop have been the fruit of that endeavour. they certainly don't make me a 'living' but they make me feel that i'm not a complete dead weight, and that i have at least some small purpose.
i was seeing a specialist about my cfs before i got pregnant, and his approach was to try norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, which have been shown to have some effect in increasing energy levels in people with fibromyalgia and cfs. i was on them for a couple of months and didn't find them helpful (in fact, i felt worse), and while i might have tried them for a little longer in normal circumstances, i stopped taking them when fruiby came on the scene, as they are contraindicated in pregnancy.
there is only one thing i can do in order to manage my cfs, and that is pace myself. this means planning my time and rationing my energy in ways that mean i can get things done. for example, if i need to go to the supermarket in the morning, i have to make sure that i keep my afternoon free to recover. if i have a busy few days where i have a bunch of unavoidable commitments that keep me out and about a lot, i have to accept that i will then have a couple of days where i am good for absolutely nothing and have to stay quietly at home. it's important that i don't let my energy reserves get too depleted for too long, because that's when i start getting quite sick. my glands get swollen and tender, my muscles and joints get very sore, i get cold sores, can't concentrate on anything, come down with viruses, and get emotionally fragile and sometimes depressed. i have to be careful not to take too much on at once, and i must always have my illness in mind when i'm planning my time. this 'energy rationing' is explained really well by christine miserandino's 'spoon theory', which everyone who knows someone with a chronic illness should read.

anxiety disorders are better understood than cfs, so more effective means of management are available. i have found a combination of therapy and drugs to be most useful. i'm not in therapy all the time, but i have a good therapist who has taught me some cognitive strategies for keeping things under control, and i can go and see her when i am struggling with this.
i have also been prescribed citalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor which has been shown to have some use in reducing anxiety and controlling panic attacks. i was taking it for some time before getting pregnant, but weaned myself off when we started trying to conceive, because i had read that while it wasn't dangerous for babies, they could go through periods of withdrawal after birth if they were exposed to the drug through the mother during pregnancy and were then cut off. i have since had a doctor explain to me that breastfed babies don't experience this withdrawal, because the breastfeeding and weaning process also helps wean the baby off any effect the drug might be having on them. i wish i had known this before, because while i think i have been doing a really good job of managing without medication this last year or so, it has definitely been harder.
i have been having increasing anxiety symptoms over the last 3-4 weeks, and in consultation with my ob and my gp i am going back on a low dose of citalopram to try and get this under control before the birth.

in my case, managing depression is about managing cfs and anxiety. if i keep those two under control, i am far less likely to experience a depressive episode.
as an ssri, the citalopram also has an anti-depressant effect, so while i am on that i am also less likely to be depressed.

i am incredibly lucky to be supported by s in all of this. she understands how these conditions effect me, and is incredibly good at helping me identify my warning signs and symptoms when i am too distracted, stubborn, or tired to do so myself. she is always gentle and understanding, and is very quick to make me a cup of tea, or give me a hug when things are getting too much. i honestly don't know what i would do without her.
and now we are going to be parents together, and i am bringing all this baggage along for the ride. in my next post i'll do some musing on that.

this post is part of the three part series: part 1, part 3.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

33 week belly shot

this is the state of the belly at 33 weeks.
you can see a few stretch marks - i think i've even got a few more since i took this a day or two ago.
you can also see some of the henna design that was painted on at the baby shower last weekend.
he grows.

Friday, December 9, 2011

this is me: part 1

this is a post i have been mulling over for a while. there are some things that are difficult to talk about at the best of times, but become even more difficult in the context of pregnancy and parenting. they are, however, part of who i am and what i bring to this story, so i want to address them.
this is me

i have three separately diagnosed health problems that each effect my life in different ways. these are: anxiety/panic disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression.
i think i need to split my discussion of these things up into a couple of posts rather than one giant one, so i'll begin with telling you about what these disorders are, and how they relate to each other. in future posts i'll talk about how i am treating them, and what i think they'll mean for me as a parent.

so. what do these diagnoses mean?

generalized anxiety disorder - this is the one i have had for longest. i don't want to go into details of why i developed it (at least not right now), suffice it to say that i believe it happened when i was quite a young child. you see, brains are malleable things. particularly in childhood. they are still going through quite dramatic growth and maturation all the way through adolescence into early adulthood. some brains, those with a genetic vulnerability, if exposed to particular adverse conditions learn to see the world as a risky, dangerous, place. the parts of the brain that are associated with using learned information to regulate interactions with, and responses to the world can become wired (both structurally and chemically) for fear and hypervigilance if they learn early that the world is a particularly dangerous or frightening place. 
having generalized anxiety disorder doesn't mean being dramatic, highly strung, or hysterical. it means that you have a brain that's wired in a particular way, which is not your fault. it took me a long time to learn this. and i still sometimes forget.
i go through periods when my anxiety is easier to manage than at other times. if i am experiencing a period of increased external stress (exams, travel, interpersonal conflict, illness), my threshold for anxiety decreases and my symptoms increase. that said, sometimes i feel anxious for no identifiable reason at all.
for me, anxiety mainly involves:
  • preoccupation with possible negative events or outcomes (often death of loved ones, failure, illness, etc.), even if these are highly unlikely.
  • difficulty with problem solving and other higher order cognition, due to aforementioned preoccupation.
  • hyper-awareness of risks in the environment
  • placing a disproportionate amount of importance on small worries and failures
  • nightmares
  • a hair-trigger startle reflex
  • nausea
  • certain physical behaviours, including picking/tearing at my nails, and poking and scratching at my chest. s is usually the one to notice these, as i am not generally aware of them (i've grown out of it now, but when i was in high school i used to pull my hair out. by the end of vce i had no eyebrows because i had compulsively pulled every last hair out without realising i was doing it.). 

in periods of heightened anxiety i'll often experience panic attacks. these are usually triggered by external events (being startled, feeling like i have made a mistake, etc.), but sometimes come from nowhere.
if i have been feeling extremely anxious for an extended period of time, i'll start displaying symptoms of agoraphobia - i won't want to leave the house without s, and i'll become overwhelmed and panicy in busy places like the supermarket or the cinema. luckily, this only happens when my anxiety gets very bad, and i try not to let that happen very often.

chronic fatigue syndrome - it's hard to say how long i have had this. i would venture to say about five years. either way, i was only formally diagnosed by a specialist at the end of last year. it was a big relief to have a name to put to what i had been feeling, but i must say i still haven't fully adjusted to what this diagnosis means. i still sometimes forget that i have it, then completely overdo things and have a bad attack. i still get very frustrated at the limits to my energy and abilities, especially as i am an ambitious and creative person and always have lots of things that i want to do. but more than anything, i still feel a lot of guilt about my limitations, and get very anxious about how other people see me - cfs is a disability, but it's not as visible, or as well understood as many other disabilities, and i'm very conscious and fearful of being judged as lazy, boring, useless, etc. by people who don't understand what's going on in my body.
for me, cfs mainly involves:
  • exhaustion that is wildly disproportionate to exertion
  • heaviness in limbs
  • aches and twitches in muscles
  • digestive/stomach problems (we thought this was coeliac's disease for a long time)
  • orthostatic hypotension
  • regular tenderness in the glands around my throat and neck
  • diminished cognitive abilities (i've noticed a marked decrease in my concentration and attention span, as well as in other higher order cognitive abilities - you'll note that this overlaps with the anxiety)
  • increased vulnerability to viruses like colds and flu.
  • difficulty regulating body temperature (i cope extremely badly with hot weather, and all my symptoms increase noticeably in the summer when my body has to work doubly hard just to try and keep me tolerably cool)

depression - i view my depression as secondary to those other two conditions. i experience periods of depression semi-regularly, and in retrospect i can usually find that it's linked to a particularly long/intense period of anxiety, or a particular cfs flare-up. nonetheless, it's more than just sadness, or feeling a bit 'down in the dumps'. it's serious, and i have to take it seriously, or it gets worse.
for me, depression mainly involves:
  • all the negative and sad thoughts and emotions that you would expect to characterise depression, and associated teariness etc.
  • hypersomnia - i literally cannot sleep enough, and just want to hibernate til it passes
  • loss of interest in the things i usually enjoy (s always knows there's something wrong if i stop wanting to sew)

while they are each diagnosed and treated as different disorders, i see these three conditions as very much interrelated. not only is there a degree of symptom overlap, but it doesn't take too much imagination to see how they interact with each other in daily life. for example:

i want to attend an aba meeting, but find that i am extremely anxious about the idea of being in a room full of people i have never met before. i decide not to go, then get depressed because i am ashamed of being such a chicken, and worried about being isolated with no social network of parents when fruiby is born.

i have a particularly bad week of generalized anxiety, with several panic attacks, and because my nervous system has been in 'flight or fight' mode for an extended period, i experience a cfs flare up.

i know that i've been having a cfs flare up, and that my energy reserves are low, but i have a family event that i have to attend. i feel increased anxiety about my ability to make it through this event, and about offending people if i have to leave early in order to preserve enough energy to drive home safely.

i reflect on my limited abilities, and what they mean for my career prospects, how they influence my daily life, s's life, and how they're likely to impact on fruiby, and i become both anxious and depressed about the future.

so for me, the overall picture ends up looking a lot like this, with a flare up in one node having follow through effects for the others:

so as you can see, i've been dealt an interesting hand in the mental/physical health stakes. i am definitely better off than some, but i have my own set of challenges that i need to manage as carefully and wisely as i can.
more on that in subsequent posts.

this post is part of a three part series: part two, part three.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

week 33: pineapple

this week fruiby should be about as heavy as a pineapple. 

the week has been good in some respects, and less good in others. 

the best bit was the baby shower, and having s's mum stay with us for a few days. we have had some really good friend-and-family-time this week, and i have enjoyed that.

the less good things have just been normal third trimester irritations. 

i'm having trouble sleeping due to a combination of general physical discomfort, and being really thirsty and needing to drink a lot, and therefore pee pretty much every hour. this means that what sleep i am getting isn't very restful, because i'm not making it through full 90 minute sleep cycles. this is generally making me feel exhausted, vague, and sometimes a bit irritable. i've tried different combinations of body pillows to position myself more comfortably in the night, but i'm yet to discover the perfect configuration. i've tried limiting the amount of water i drink in the evening and overnight, but i get so parched, that it's really unpleasant. so i guess i just have to suck it up, and look on this as training for when fruiby arrives and we never sleep again.

all the muscles around my abdomen are now, obviously, very stretched out. they're not supporting my torso in the way they used to, and this is making standing or sitting in any one position for too long kind of impossible. i know this is normal, but it's also frustrating. we went to the market yesterday to do some shopping, and i had to stop and sit down every 15mins or so, when all i wanted was to get on with things. we've got family coming from interstate for christmas, and i'm worried that i'm not going to be able to do anything with them because i won't have the physical strength to keep up.

that all sounds like a fair bit of complaining, and i really don't mean it to. i'm grateful to be pregnant, i'm grateful fruiby's growing, and i'm grateful that my body is doing such a good job of looking after him. but i want to record what this feels like, and it doesn't always feel comfortable and glowy.

we saw our ob again this week for another routine check-up. she reported back about my glucose tolerance test, heart ultrasound, and ecg, and all were normal. there is nothing wrong with my heart, and i definitely do not have gestational diabetes. as she measured my fundal height she said "you know you've got a good-sized baby there" and we laughed. at this stage, i would only be mildly surprised if fruiby came out the size of your average four year old. every doctor we've seen in the last few weeks has been preparing us for baby-zilla. our gp went so far as to say that we must be relieved he's "coming out the sun roof", which i found particularly amusing.

fruibs has been doing a lot of kicking and wriggling this week. he squirms when i eat icy poles or drink frozen drinks, will often give extra big kicks when i am listening to loud music, and yesterday he gave such a sharp and sudden kick to my bladder that i almost peed my pants. good times.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

baby shower

yesterday, our dear friends s and j threw us a baby shower. it was pretty excellent.

it was held at a cafe-bookshop called teatime and tales, and they put on a lovely spread of food and punch which we ate while chatting and playing games
scones, brownies and fairy cakes

j, pausing for some punch

there was a trivia game, a guess-how-many-socks-are-in-the-jar game, but the best was the one where everyone had to make their own 'fruiby' out of fruit lollies. s and i got to judge the winners
 i love'd j's fruiby because of his pineapple hair

 s's mum came all the way from perth to be here for the party.
she worked very hard on her fruiby...

... he had hair AND ears!

there were cool prizes for all the games
my best friend b, with her prize for guessing how many baby socks were in the jar

s painted my belly with henna, which i enjoyed, even though i found it hard to sit still and not laugh and talk too much (it made my belly wiggle up and down).
henna going on 

b watching s paint

k holding s's baby while she painted


all our guests filled in wish-lists for the baby, on cards designed (by the oddparents) to match our invitations - we read through the stack when we got home, and there are some very wise and funny pieces of advice, and sweet, funny wishes on them.
wish card

everyone went home with a handmade gift bag, which had lovely treats inside, and a little onesie to decorate and send back to fruiby (a very clever idea, because crafting in a cafe would have been too messy and complicated!)
gift bag

our friends showered us with the most wonderful gifts - some were handmade (read about one of them here), all were so thoughtful, and given with love. i've only had time to take pictures of a few, but here's a little look...
 the sweetest little cardi, knitted by k

 the softest little bunny in the world, from n

 a jumper from e. it is in the colours of my football team on one side, and s's football team on the other

 a plushie tree stump, filled with finger-puppet woodland animals from j.

we feel so very loved and lucky. it was a wonderful party, and all our friends made it a very special day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

week 32: jicama

this week fruiby weighs the same as a large jicama. though he should be significantly longer, and hopefully a lot prettier. 

earlier this week i took the glucose tolerance test, as the doctor suggested last week. it was more of a hoo-ha than the glucose challenge test, but i didn't have a bad reaction to it as i understand some people do.
i had to fast from 10pm the night preceding the test, then the following morning i went in to the pathologist's office and had a blood test. i then drank the same sugary-sweet drink that they gave me in the glucose challenge test, waited an hour, had another blood test, waited a second hour, and then had a third blood test. 
the drink was a little more icky first thing in the morning on and empty stomach, and waiting around for two hours when i was quite hungry was a bit of a drag, but otherwise it was fine. i didn't get the dizziness, headaches, or nausea that some people do, and as i am not squeamish about needles, the blood tests were fine.
s waited with me the whole time, and when we were done she got me fruit salad, a croissant, and some juice, which was very welcome, and very delicious!
i'm yet to hear back abut the results, and i'm not sure if that's because there's nothing to report, or because my ob has been away on a conference for most of this week. same goes for the ecg and heart ultrasound. i'm choosing to go with the no-news-is-good-news hypothesis.

i've been quite emotionally reactive this week, and generally quite anxious. i've been planning to write a post about my (preexisting) anxiety/panic disorder for some time, but haven't been sure where to begin, and how to frame it in relation to pregnancy, birth, parenting... it's big, and it's complicated, and i think it's still a topic for another day. but i will get to it. because it's an important part of this whole journey.
this week, i have just generally been feeling an elevated sense of worry and anxiety, particularly about fruiby's wellbeing. there have been some tears, and some wakeful hours in the middle of the night. but at the end of the day all i can do is hope for the best, trust that my body will do it's best to grow and care for this baby, that my doctors know what they're doing, and that whatever happens s and i will manage it together. 

physically, i am doing ok. the iron supplement still hasn't really had an noticeable effect, but i am continuing to take it daily, along with my pregnancy multi, my vitamins d & c, and my fish oil. 
i'm getting a few more stretch marks on my tummy, but they're all on the underside of my bump, so i don't really see them unless i look in the mirror before i get in the shower. 
after the dizzy-woozy-weird spells i was having last week i've been reluctant to go for walks on my own, as i had been doing regularly, but s has been walking with me when we've had time, so i've still been getting some exercise. the walks are definitely becoming more like ambles now, but i'm yet to transition to waddling!

my favourite things to eat are still fruits of various kinds. i'm loving watermelon, nectarines, and pineapple in particular. summer fruits are the most delicious.