Well this is WAY late, given our daughter Heidi is now almost 4 weeks old … but I do feel the need to complete my third trimester blog post given I made the effort of taking notes throughout, and it just wouldn’t seem right to jump from the second trimester to “The first month post-partum” (i.e. “The Fourth Trimester”). So here goes my summary of the third and final trimester, as well as my labour experience! Please note that this post is long, wordy, and probably overly detailed, as it is really intended to serve as an account of my experiences so that my daughter, husband and I can look back one day and remember all of it. Feel free to skip this post if you are more interested in pithy and to-the-point posts that don’t provide TMI about a rather personal and life-changing event!
Week 27-29: During this period, I was disappointed to be called in to complete part II of the Gestational Diabetes test because I failed the first one. While I was pretty distraught about that, I had heard and read that failing the first screen was quite common (depending on what you had eaten the night before or a few hours before). This second test involved fasting the night before and spending two hours rather than one at the lab (3 blood tests in total), after drinking the overly sweet, bright orange beverage. After all was said and done, I ended up passing .. which was a huge relief! And I’m not going to lie, I fairly promptly returned to indulging in my sugar cravings with minimal guilt. In addition to the GD test, I noticed having a lot more indigestion, and significantly more movement during this period. The baby’s kicks, punches and hiccups were now distinguishable and I could see my belly moving fairly often. Food-wise, I continued to crave sweets and just generally ate a lot. One day I tried to track my intake and I think it was around 2700 calories (a lot more than the recommended few hundred extra per day, especially fgiven I wasn’t very active)! Also, fatigue returned, similar to that of the first trimester … and I needed to pee about every 15 minutes (particularly if standing/walking) so getting out of the house for any reason became a bit of a challenge.
At week 28, I started having appointments every 2 weeks (one week ultrasound, the next week OB/Nurse). My husband and I also went away to Quebec City for a few days and I noticed how short of breath I was. We would be walking up a slight incline and within a minute or two, I was huffing and puffing like I had just run a marathon. It was comical at best … In fact, I was almost embarrassed!
Week 30: Unfortunately, this week marked the return of the dreaded pubic symphisis dysfunction. I moved my suitcase across the bedroom floor the night we returned from QC, and felt a twinge … and thereafter, I could hardly lift my left leg without experiencing shooting pain. This week my husband and I also started our prenatal classes through the City of Ottawa (three free 2-hour classes) with friends of ours who were also pregnant. I would say that the prenatal classes were useful in general, although we all agreed that there was a little bit too much emphasis on breastfeeding and avoidance of c-sections, epidurals and surgical interventions. The reality is – in my opinion – a lot of moms want to breastfeed, want to have a vaginal birth, and don’t want to endure more interventions than necessary. But the fact of the matter is, some of these circumstances can’t be avoided. Not everyone is able to breastfeed, babies are not always in ideal positions or in perfect health, and so interventions (and C-sections) are a reality. I found it off-putting to be asked if baby was breached during the prenatal class, and when I responded “no” (keep in mind there was still lots of time for baby to reposition herself) the nurse said “Oh that’s good, you don’t want a c-section.” How would I have felt 3-4 weeks later when told baby had moved into a breached position? Not great. In any case … It was informative and we learned a ton about available resources as well as basics of breastfeeding, bringing baby home and labour itself. I would recommend some sort of prenatal class to all couples at the end of the day – just take everything with a grain of salt, as the advice out there can differ significantly over a few months, between health professionals, relatives, medical/parenting books, etc. For example, right now the rule is to put baby on his/her back to sleep, whereas years ago it was baby on stomach. Other hot topics include swaddling, co-sleeping, introducing the bottle/pacifier, crying out, etc.
Week 31: This week I noticed an increase in my anxiety and general moodiness. For example, I found myself parked at prenatal yogaband minutes before it started, I decided not to go (it’s a 20 minute drive from my house) because I was suddenly overwhelmed by a need to buy baby stuff and figure out my winter jacket situation! After going to Baby En Route and Fabricland (in the hopes of installing a panel to make my jacket bigger so I could fit in it pregnant, as well as wear baby after birth) I found myself in the dollar store parking lot to buy plastic organizers, baby hangers, and chocolate. *NB: I didn’t even need the expansion until after baby arrived because my belly didn’t get so big that I couldn’t zip-up my jacket. Don’t spend too much on maternity clothing! Fortunately, the panel is working wonders for me now that baby is here and I can comfortably wear her under my jacket, so there was no wasted $. Anyways, back to my mental breakdown. In the parking lot of the Dollarama at 11am, I found myself chowing down on a massive chocolate bar while crying into my sweater. It was quite the scene. Off topic, but I totally recommend the 2 for $1 chocolate bars (Titan and Meteor – pretty much Snickers and Mars) from the dollar store. They are delicious. Something else I noticed this week was a worsening of low back pain; I actually felt like I looked pregnant (i.e. holding low back with one hand and waddling a bit). I was washing and cleaning green beans and had to sit down in a chair by the sink. I definitely felt “disabled” between that and the PSD. That being said, the excitement was mounting as I only had a few weeks until we were considered “full term” … A mix of excitement and anxiety as well as disbelief (i.e. I still couldn’t believe I was pregnant and that we were having a baby; you’d think it would have sunk in by 31 weeks, but apparently not!)
Week 32: A very exciting change took place this week! I was able to go 6-7 hours at night without getting up to pee! This was huge; it meant that I didn’t actually have to get out of bed overnight (despite being awoken several times a night by achy joints). Small victories! I also had another ultrasound that week, which showed all of baby’s measurements, her umbilical cord, etc. I was told her heart rate (135 BPM) and her weight (3lb14 oz) as well as that her head was very low in the pelvis (engaged). Her little body was wrapping around the right side with her feet near my left ribs. During the ultrasound I almost passed out and felt very nauseous, so had to lie on my side (and this has happened since then on several occasions). It’s apparently quite common to experience these symptoms as the vena cava is being compressed by the weight of baby when lying on your back. This week we also finished the nursery and that provided me a huge sense of relief and probably prevented additional dollar store parking lot mental breakdowns (though I most certainly returned to buy more chocolate over the next few weeks).
Week 33: Around this time, I started to get right upper back pain (in the posterior upper ribs), similar to the sensation associated with a pinched nerve. This was relieved somewhat by curling forward but of course, it was pretty hard to get into any type of true fetal position given my preggo belly in the way! I noticed the pain worsened with sustained sitting (such as in the car or at the computer – where I spent most of my time with work, unfortunately).
Week 34: This week marked a significant increase in pelvic pain and pressure (i.e. it felt like a bowling ball was going to shoot out of my cervix when I bent forward – nice description, I know). I also had weird finger and toe spasms – like, my finger just bent forward and curled in on it’s own and I had to get Ryan to pull it straight (when I asked him to “pull my finger” he understandably looked up at me with a smirk, until he saw the very crippled and deranged looking digit with a mind of it’s own. Then he was just weirded out, but compliant nonetheless.)
Week 35: Around this week I noticed hip and knee aching (as in, elderly, arthritic, deep bone aching) that I had never really experienced before. This happened only at night and I think it was probably because I stayed in one position while sleeping (i.e. on left side, pillow between knees) for several hours at a time. The aching joints actually woke me up more than the need to pee! Then of course, as I would get into a cat-cow position on the bed or stretch in some other strange contorted manner, the restless leg and/or toe spasms would start, hahaha … You can’t win! Also, I started to have really dry eyes!
Week 36-37: Getting close to the end, and considered “full term” … I was absolutely certain baby would arrive within the next week or two. Apparently this “belief” is pretty common for first-time moms ;). Surprisingly, my pelvic pain dissipated somewhat, I started gaining weight again more rapidly (about 2 lbs per week over a 2 week period) and my bump was really growing. The baby also dropped and I was told at my 36 week appointment that her head was “fully engaged” which means it had descended completely into my pelvis (which, I later learned, doesn’t really mean anything in terms of when you will go into labour, although it sounds promising! Oh, the false hopes …)
Week 38-39: Lightening crotch!!! Seriously, apparently this is a thing!? And I certainly experienced it. It’s like shooting sharp pains starting in your cervical area and shooting into your groin muscles. It feels like an evil little minion is violently pulling at your groin ligaments as if they were a bow and arrow. It’s sudden and sharp and enough to make you shriek a little bit! This was also the time that I began to have less cravings for unhealthy and sugary food, and finally began to feel like eating my beloved veggies again. I also noticed more fatigue and a few episodes of watery discharge (I wasn’t sure if it was the amniotic fluid/waters breaking … possibly a slow leak, which apparently happens, as my OB/nurse would advise at the next visit). This is also a good time to mention that just because you start to lose your mucous plug does not mean you are going to go into labour. In fact, some people never lose it until they go into labour while others lose it in one fell swoop, and then others just lose bits at a time. So again, NO INDICATION THAT LABOUR IS IMMINENT despite what some of the books say. Around 39 weeks, I had a membrane sweep and the nurse said she could feel baby’s head, which was a very odd thing to think about. Apparently I was 1cm effaced and 1cm dilated. Again, I got excited, only to realize THIS MEANS NOTHING! So far, all these so-called signs: head being fully engaged, starting to efface/dilate, and slowly losing my mucous plug … well, they weren’t signs at all. That’s the mental mind-game of pregnancy … you are always looking for signs (whether it’s a sign that you are pregnant or a sign that you will labour soon). It starts to get a bit whacky and my recommendation after having gone through it is to just to stop looking for “signs” and wait for contractions to start. With that said, I’m sure with our second child I will do the exact same psychotic thing during the waiting period (or maybe baby will be early and surprise me?)
Week 40: The day before my due date, I shovelled the drive-way against my husbands wishes (in hopes this activity would induce labour). I also went on a long walk/mini-jog at the dog park because I lost my keys in the snow and had to go back and look for them. I got out to do groceries, which was rather uncomfortable given I had to pee every 15 minutes. I also noticed my stomach was a bit off (supposedly another sign … again, while it can mean your body is preparing for labour, it does not mean it is going to happen in the next day or two). At 40w1day I had another membrane sweep and was told I was 1cm dilated and 90% effaced at 0.5 cm thick, but that the cervix was not very “ripe” – which by the way, I think is kind of a disgusting word to describe said body part. I felt really nauseous on the morning of my appointment, and headachy in the afternoon. After the sweep, there was tons of baby movement and I was also unusually tired for several days. Didn’t mean a thing, though …. Oh, and I continued to walk 30-45 minutes a day in the snow with my dog, as well as drink red raspberry leaf tea and eat horrifyingly large quantities of pineapples and hot sauce (not together, though that combination wouldn’t be half bad …). Still, nothing.
Week 41 & LABOUR! This week I noticed my TMJ jaw pain return, which had been completely gone during the entire pregnancy after about the 16 week mark. My jaw was clicking again and the range of motion was really limited. I figured this may have been a sign that things were changing (i.e. hormones) because the Relaxin hormone during pregnancy is what makes your ligaments more lax so perhaps as things were coming to an end, my preggo hormones were decreasing (just my theory). I took this as a sign that labour was looming, of course! I was also less tolerant to the cold (whereas the week before I was OK in -32 Celcius, this week I felt that my Raynaud’s was back to some degree as I was cold in -20). Another hormonal shift? Too bad pregnancy was only a temporary solution to some of these annoying ailments! I also started to feel strange stinging sensations in my abdomen high on the left side (like baby was taking a small knife or needle and scratching me from the inside). Looking back, it seriously could have been her nails! She was born with these great, healthy looking, long-ish nails.
Anyway, at exactly 41 weeks, my parents (who were visiting from Vancouver) took me on an outing to the Museum of Nature, in an effort to get me out of the house and doing something other than being pregnant and eating and obsessing about signs of labour 😉 It was nice to have some distraction as well as do something a little touristy, given I hadn’t been able to go to Montreal or do the canal with them in light of my current … circumstances. While touring the exhibits, I started to get pretty intense cramps similar to PMS pain (achy, low and also in the back). It was nothing that was unbearable by any means, just different. These went on for several hours and while I tried to time them, it was hard to tell when one ended and another began. I figured I’d know if I were going into active labour so just left it. We went for lunch after the museum, and the cramps started to subside (to my disappointment). By that evening, things hadn’t progressed and the next day I had my OB appointment anyways. I woke up the following morning and noted some clear watery discharge, but nothing major (i.e. no huge puddle or anything dramatic!). Thankfully, my dad wanted to come with me to the appointment and so we had the ultrasound first followed by a visit with the nurse. Everything looked good on the ultrasound but there was slightly less amniotic fluid than there should be (which is normal, in a sense, given I was overdue). The nurse nonetheless indicated I would need to go to the hospital for a non-stress test so that they could make sure baby was OK (she felt I would be sent home as baby looked good, active and moving lots, during the ultrasound). I was told that I would need to be induced in the next 24-48 hours regardless, which made me happy because it meant my dad would meet his first grandchild before heading back home on Saturday, but also made me a little bit apprehensive as I really didn’t want to be induced. Upon completing another membrane sweep, the nurse advised me that I was 100% effaced and 1.5 cm dilated, which I chose to ignore as any kind of sign (see, I am capable of learning!). By the time we got home from the appointment and ate/showered to get ready to go back to the hospital, I started having more of those PMS type cramps although slightly stronger. This was around 130pm. Upon arriving, they set me up with the non stress test shortly after arriving, and as per the monitor, it was clear these were in fact contractions – and they were becoming more regular and intense! It was so nice to have my parents with me because I would have gone on my own were they not visiting, given I didn’t really think “this was it”. Within the hour, I asked my husband to come from work as I felt things were progressing and the doctor also indicated I had broken one of my bags of water (there are two apparently?) By about 430pm, 1.5 hours after my husband arrived, the contractions were severe enough that I couldn’t really engage in a conversation and had to contort myself into all sorts of positions (mostly bent forward). On that note, counter pressure (applied by my husband) helped reduce the pain intensity somewhat. I was told after being admitted to the delivery room that I was only 4cm dilated, but I still wanted to hold off on the epidural as it had been my wish not to have one. By about 530pm I wasn’t really dilated any more and the contractions were os intense and frequent (i.e. 2 minutes long every minute or so) that with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to accept the epidural as I figured I’d be exhausted by the time I had to push. Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist came down at 630pm and the first epidural did not take! By 830pm the nurse asked him to come down again (I was now 8cm dilated) and despite trying various other techniques, they had to remove and reinsert the epidural. This time, it worked. And my god, now I understand why people have them! It made me stop sweating profusely and muttering dark things under my breath … it allowed me to breath and to feel a pressure but very little to no pain. If I had been told I would have another hour or two of contractions I could have held out, but my slow dilation pointed at a lengthy labour, so I think I made the right decision. By 1am, I was 9.5 cm dilated, and had been in active labour for almost 12 hours. They decided to start Oxytocin and I believe my parents returned to the hospital sometime before then (it’s a bit of a blur). I attempted to rest around 4am and my husband and parents too, but around 445am the nurse came in (and I was wide awake, as I could hear the fetal HR monitor slowing down) and indicated I needed to start pushing as baby wasn’t doing all that well. Because of the epidural, I had limited to no leg control and my husband and dad helped hold each leg, and my mom was at the head of the bed too for support. Fifty minutes later, little miss Heidi was born in one fairly quick go – she had crowned a few times and then after her head popped out, so did the rest of her body! It literally looked like she shot out of a cannon, and the placenta followed abruptly after (I had placenta abrupta, but no complications). It was the most incredible, emotionally intense experience I have ever had. And to have such a support team around me; I burst into tears immediately upon having Heidi placed on my chest. When she let out her first cry, I was ecstatic … She was so perfect, and I just couldn’t comprehend the enormity of what had just happened. My husband too says it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and he would watch the delivery in a heartbeat again if he had the chance.
My husband and I stayed in the delivery room for a few hours until after breakfast, and then they moved us and Heidi into the recovery ward. We lucked out and were given a private room with a view as well as a chair that pulled out into a cot (for my husband). We spent 2 nights at the hospital and I have to say the nurses were fantastic. They guided us through the how-to’s of bathing, swaddling, and most importantly – breastfeeding. They also helped with tending to my wound and catheter management (I had been given an in/out catheter during labour due to the epidural, which they finally took out about 36 hours after the delivery). Overall, I can’t say enough positive things about the support provided by the nurses. Their presence and patience was especially helpful during the overnight period – one nurse even took Heidi to change her and feed her so we could sleep as she was well aware I hadn’t really slept in 48 hours. We gave Heidi a bit of formula on night two (which, looking back, was unnecessary) as we were worried she was hungry given she cried quite a bit for an extended period and we thought maybe there was not enough colostrum (which my husband became an expert at hand expressing into a spoon! Who knew he would find such hidden talents). In reality, Heidi would have been fine with what I was producing given how small her stomach was, but as new parents, I think we immediately worried about her being hungry, especially because she was born on the smaller side (6lb14oz). If you are wondering why we were hand expressing colostrum into a spoon, the first day of breast-feeding attempts led to very sore/blistered nipples due to improper latch (this promptly improved within a day or two). I have to say that it is incredible how quickly one can become comfortable in her own skin; I was walking around with a pad, catheter, IV fluids, boobs out … There were meal delivery people coming in and a male nurse, and I didn’t even really flinch. You just get into this different head-space and everything is about baby, and about the both of your recovery from a traumatic event. My husband had to work on Friday (she was born on Thursday morning) and then we were discharged on Saturday after Heidi passed all of her tests with flying colours. Despite some question about jaundice, this wasn’t an issue. We drove home and my parents greeted us. My dad had to fly back to Vancouver about an hour and a half after we arrived, but he had the chance to see the three of us outside of the hospital, which was all that really mattered. The fact that my parents and husband were by my side throughout the labour, that Heidi arrived in good health and I was fortunate enough to avoid any serious complications, was really all that mattered …. (though of course, living closer to my family would be the icing on the cake).
SUMMARY OF PREGNANCY: What an amazing experience. I believe I lucked out and didn’t have any major complications, with the exception of the posterior sacro-iliac and then pubic symphisis dysfunction. I gained about 30 lbs from start to finish, though had gained some weight prior to getting pregnant, in part due I think to Clomid. One thing I would say that surprised me, is that throughout the pregnancy I frequently found myself having to take a moment and absorb the fact that we were in fact “pregnant.” Despite having a belly, attending appointments, and seeing baby on the ultrasound … it was so surreal. I felt so blessed, especially because at one point I questioned whether I would be able to get pregnant. Something else I will always remember is the extent to which fatigue and baby brain impact one’s function. By the end of the pregnancy, I was also incredibly klutzy! I spilled hot tea in my lap and in my car; I bumped belly’s with two of my pregnant friends on different occasions by accident (i.e. turning to say something, with no real awareness of the space my body was taking up); I slipped in the snow a few times, etc. The difficulty with word-finding and lack of quick-thinking ability is not something I’ll miss, but at this point (4 weeks post-partum as I write this) I am sure it still exists – I am just not cognitively stimulated to the same degree so don’t have the opportunity to err quite as much as when I was still working!
Anyways, thanks for reading and please check out my next post on the first three months post-partum (i.e. “The Fourth Trimester”) for some insights/reflections on the most exhausting yet fulfilling month of my life … I hope to work on that in the next 4 weeks, if time allows! So far, it’s been difficult to find the time to do anything productive between nursing, trying to rest, and do basic self-care and home upkeep. But it’s important (as friends and family remind me) to do things “for yourself” – one of these being social engagement, the other being physical activity, and the final one – productive/cognitive pursuits (i.e. blog, read, etc.). So there you have it – my goal for maternity leave is to eventually try and find balance between being a mom to the most incredible little sugar plum / sweet pea / dumpling, being a wife, and being …. well, “me” (and find time to do whatever else it is that makes me who I am). I have no doubt this will be a challenge, but I’m ready to face it and have come to realize that I need to lower my expectations right now in order to maintain a sense of sanity. I am focusing on every moment of every day, and relishing in small victories for now. Like getting 4.5 hours sleep, completing a reorganization of the laundry room, getting out for a walk, starting the income taxes … And just generally not losing my mind or comparing my situation to that of every other mom (particularly when it comes to baby’s sleep). The learning curve is steep … But I’m excited to continue the climb!