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shadows of echoes of memories of songs
The kick inside
A couple of people said in my poll that they wanted me to write about my experience of pregnancy so far. I haven't really written much about it so far -- partly because of the tradition/superstition/pressure not to tell people until you're past the end of the first trimester; partly because there wasn't really that much happening that I thought would be of interest to other people; and partly because I was often so tired that it felt like my head was melting from the inside, starting at the eyeballs, and blogging about this seemed a lot less important than sleeping. But since it's been requested...

I can't say it's been a positive experience so far. I mean, obviously on one level I'm pleased that it's happening because of the (hopeful) eventual outcome; but as a day-to-day experience, I've had more fun at the dentist. The sickness has been really pretty horrible: from weeks 8 to 16 I was throwing up most days (not just in the mornings, all kinds of times), sometimes several times a day; it was making my throat sore & my stomach muscles achey, and it got to the point where I couldn't bear to eat or drink anything because everything just seemed to sit on top of my stomach sloshing around & waiting to be thrown up. It got to the point where I was feeling actually jealous of addedentry for being able to drink a nice big glass of water. Every time I found something that seemed to help, I'd go off it again after a few days (usually after throwing up just after eating it -- puts you off pretty much anything). And when I wasn't actually being sick I was feeling queasy most of the rest of the time. From weeks 16 to 18 I was only throwing up occasionally, & managed to start eating a few more normal things; I seem to have finally stopped being sick now (20 weeks) and am really enjoying being able to do things like drink a glass of water or eat a pie. As well as the queasiness I had more or less constant wind and bloating, often enough to be painful; I'm still getting quite a bit of that. Passing wind (in either direction) never actually seems to relieve it, and every time I burp there's a horrible sour taste in the back of my mouth (not to be confused with the burning just beyond the back of my throat from heartburn. The constipation is constant and fairly miserable; in about week 16 it got so bad that I went to the doctor because I was doubled up with pain (he prescribed some gloop & told me to take double the maximum dose, which slowly got it back to 'bearable' again). So, digestive system thoroughly screwed; what else? Everybody mentions sore breasts as a symptom of pregnancy; I expected this to be "feeling extremely sensitive" whereas actually it's more "feeling like the entire chest region has been badly and deeply bruised". Sports bras help a lot here. There's also the sore nipples, which get really really painful when they get cold (which is quite often at this time of year!). That's another thing: everybody says you get really hot all the time when you're pregnant. So far I've been freezing cold most of the time. I asked the midwife about this (in about week 16) and she said "Oh... it's probably that, er, your body hasn't, you know, caught up yet." Science, there. The general aches and pains are just a kind of background thing: backache (helped a bit by having switched to a kneeling-chair-thing at work), aches around the bottom of the uterus, more leg-cramps than usual. My eczema has also got a lot worse, and the only thing that really helps (steroid cream) is something I'm not supposed to use while pregnant. (MediHoney Derma Cream is the best alternative I've found so far.) And literally every night I have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo, which is kind of wearing, particularly since the tiredness creeps up and bashes me on the head even when I have had plenty of sleep. I'm also getting bigger, of course. I gather some people are delighted to have a 'bump', but to me it just feels like dragging a tonne of fat around with me. I'm not saying "fat is bad", it's just that I'm not used to having to carry that extra weight, & it feels like a ball and chain. It doesn't help that nobody else can even see it unless I stick my stomach right out in a tight-fitting top (which I don't have much opportunity to do because I'm so cold that I need about six layers on). Given all this, it's hardly surprising I have less sex-drive than a wet cardboard box.

Then there's the mental/emotional side of things. The midwife asked if I was feeling depressed (knowing that I had a history of depression), and I said that being sick several times a day & being unable to eat/drink anything except ice-cubes was enough to make anybody miserable, which was true, but only really half the story. I've had episodes of miserable weepiness where everything feels hopeless and despairing, and I've been struggling to concentrate on anything (getting into that horrible hitting-refresh-on-facebook state of mind where I hate myself for procrastinating but can't force myself to do anything), and both of those are pretty strong indicators of heading into depression, at least for me. I don't want to dwell on this side of things, because it'll just drag me down. If I'm not in that state of mind I can't write accurately about it; if I write accurately about it, I'll be in it, and I'm not currently in it, and I don't want to be in it.

I'm not suggesting that any of these are insurmountable things; worse things happen at sea, mustn't grumble, etc. I did get really really tired of people suggesting "infallible cures" for morning sickness when most things are no better than a placebo; but I did also eventually find things that were less impossible to eat/drink (of course, it was hard to tell whether they were helping or whether I was just slowly getting better anyway). I sort of got used to being sick every day. I do have coping strategies for fighting the various forms that depression takes for me, and I found a few more self-motivation tips in a rather good book called 59 Seconds (evidence-based self-help in easily digestible chunks), though it's harder to keep battling against the emotions when I'm physically tired and achey. But the alternative is sinking into a pool of misery and never getting out of bed.

On top of all this there's been the medical side of things: ultrasound scans, blood tests, midwife appointments, that sort of thing. The blood tests don't bother me (fortunately, since they had to do all the 'booking bloods' a second time because they lost the first lot -- I never did get any results back from those). The scans have been interesting: I confess I didn't find that I was swept away by emotion at the first sight of the baby, but it is still pretty damned awesome, both from the point of view of there being an actual moving living thing in there with, like, hands and feet and everything, and from the point of view of us having the technology to see it and hear the heartbeat. I'm also taking part in the Intergrowth-21st study, so as part of that I get extra scans, including a 3D scan, which was pretty nifty and made the baby look like something from Alien v Predator. (Incidentally, they should have been able to tell from that one what sex the baby is, but it had the umbilical cord tucked modestly between its legs. Hopefully they'll be able to get a better view at the 20-week scan in two days' time!)

I figured that if I was going to be miserable for 9 months I might as well be of as much use as possible to medical science in the process, so I'm also taking part in the SPRINT study, a trial of selenium supplements to prevent pre-eclampsia. It's not very troublesome: I have to take a tablet every day (which may be selenium or a placebo) and I also had to give my toenails to medical science (they can measure current selenium levels in toenails). I am generous with my body-parts, see; I also donated some of my saliva to yet another study, a psychology study about (I am loosely paraphrasing here) whether seeing unhappy babies makes pregnant women stressed. As part of this I had to watch a 6-minute video of babies yelling their heads off; for me that seemed much less traumatic than the other part of the experiment, which involved filling in pages and pages and pages of those bloody awful self-assessment questionnaires ("I get stressed by filling in forms" -- strongly disagree/disagree/neither agree nor disagree/agree/strongly agree). I also had to sign a form saying that I was giving your saliva samples to the University of Oxford as a gift. Happy Christmas, University of Oxford: here are some spit-soaked cotton-wool balls! All this stuff is actually quite cheering, because it gives me a sense of Being Useful.

What with all the sickness and tiredness and faff (and carrying on going to work and going to choir and volunteering at Oxfam and just Getting On With Life) I've not had much time to think about the actual baby. But now that I'm starting to feel it move, it's reminding me that it's there, which is good. So far it seems to be most active around 10am, 3pm, 8pm, and midnight -- dunno why, though the first three of those are roughly a couple of hours after I eat, which may be relevant? It also seems to move in reaction to me singing; I just wish I knew if it liked it or not! :-} It doesn't really feel like kicking yet (what I said about being kicked from the inside was just poetic licence), it's more like something wriggling and turning over inside; it's not unpleasant (just a bit odd) but quite distracting.

So that's where I'm up to now. Sorry so much of it has been whinging -- I'll write more about the thoughts and decisions and stuff at a later date, and hopefully that'll be more interesting!


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emperor From: emperor Date: November 11th, 2010 12:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Cor, you really are advancing Science! I hope you start to feel better (in all senses of the word) soon.
From: taimatsu Date: November 11th, 2010 12:19 am (UTC) (Link)
You are very exciting and generally ace. I hope things go smoothly and all the bad things lessen dramatically.
jinty From: jinty Date: November 11th, 2010 07:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Love the advancing science bits!

I didn't get asked to take part in the growth scan study, but I did get to give my toenails to science. Did you get told that they determine the amount of selenium by using a nuclear reactor?!
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 08:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Love the advancing science bits!

!! I don't think they put it quite like that! That is way cool. OUR TOENAILS WENT IN A NUCLEAR REACTOR!
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 02:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for all the tips! I have ordered a bump band & will give that a try -- not sure what "Bridget Jones" knickers are but I only ever wear big pants & am currently wearing them in two-sizes-too-big so they go over the bump (v comfy). Wearing a vest at night but a sleep bra is probably a good idea. I do hate bra shopping :( but I know it's going to be inevitable eventually (though fortunately haven't got any bigger there AFAICT). And I will get some breast pads (as you say, I'll probably need them in the end anyway).

I do know about antenatal depression, yes; the midwife warned me about it, but she also said that since there's a 4-month waiting list for any kind of treatment for it I was better off "just coping" if I could. (Not sure what a "care team" is -- there's the midwife who I've been assigned to, there are all the normal GPs in the practice I'm registered with... is there supposed to be someone else?) To be honest, though, I have never found any kind of therapy or anti-depressants any use at all (mostly they just made things worse), so I'm not sure what else they could offer anyway.

Six weeks of full-time care would be lovely, yes, but we can't afford to pay for it and I don't know anybody who could give it for free ( though I'm sure family will come and help when they can), so we'll just have to manage as best we can.
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: November 11th, 2010 08:22 am (UTC) (Link)
oooh, thx for the 59 seconds link
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 09:29 am (UTC) (Link)
You can have the book when I've finished it (should be soon) if you want -- it is quite readable & has not made me angry yet (this is rare for a self-help book) though I only really skimmed the chapter on tips for dating.
simont From: simont Date: November 11th, 2010 09:12 am (UTC) (Link)
made the baby look like something from Alien v Predator. (Incidentally, they should have been able to tell from that one what sex the baby is

If, like me, you managed to miss the word 'sex' in that parenthesis on first reading, it looks as if you're saying they should be able to tell from that scan whether the baby is an Alien or a Predator :-)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 09:28 am (UTC) (Link)

I shall try to remember not to ask them "is it an alien or a predator?" at the scan tomorrow, as I suspect that's the sort of thing that would make them report me to the social. :-}
julietk From: julietk Date: November 11th, 2010 09:17 am (UTC) (Link)
SCIENCE! I am sure the University of Oxford is very happy with your spit-soaked cotton-wool balls & will put them in a prominent place on the mantelpiece.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)
:-) I should have insisted that they were kept by Pembroke College in perpetuity, to be got out at ceremonial dinners with all the weird silver items.

NB the University also has some of my BLOOD (they took blood tests for the selenium trial thing) and possibly my TOENAILS (if they haven't nuked them already). They could clone me! They could make a whole army of j4 clones!
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: November 11th, 2010 10:21 am (UTC) (Link)
If you're cold and constantly worn out you probably need more calories and B vitamins. Peanut butter and sliced apple on ww bread (or any nut butter you prefer). Hummus, if you care for it. Smoothies with wheatgerm.

I think the general advice about "a normal diet should be enough" didn't work for me at all. I felt much, much better when I started taking the pregnancy support tablets from Neal's Yard, although I was wolfing large amounts of a wide variety of veg and fruit and my weight gain was "exemplary" according to the midwives and the GP.

Also and too, undies: skiwear undies are brilliant. Sleep bras. M&S do a good line in pregnancy undies and sleep bras. NCT do bra fittings.

But yes to all that physical stuff, it's all discomforting and odd and amazing and tiring.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I actually just ate a whole pot of hummous for lunch. :) I didn't entirely mean to but I started it & I still had more carrot sticks left and om nom nom.

I'm amused that you recommend peanut butter -- I think its current Threat Level is "you can eat it during pregnancy but you're not advised to if you've ever had any kind of allergic reaction to anything" (does that include hayfever? eczema? who knows!), though that's been downgraded from last year's "if you even think about a peanut during pregnancy then you are a bad mother". It seems to change about once a year, I'm sure a few years ago they said it was absolutely fine. Anyway, I forgot & have already eaten it while pregnant, so, er. Oooh look, there's a jar of it in my desk drawer. Om nom nom.

I will have a look in M&S but their bras are normally awful (or rather they may sell a nice bra somewhere in there but all the bras are always scattered all over the place and in the wrong boxes and on the floor and whatever, and it's invariably impossible to find any in the size I want, and they no longer do fittings except by appointment, and EVERYTHING is always covered in lace and bows and other uncomfortable nonsense) so I will have to wait until I'm feeling strong enough to deal with all the faff and fail! Sigh. I would be very happy if I never had to buy another bra in my life. :-( Hopefully once I've had the baby I will go back to some kind of stable size, & since nobody will ever be interested in my underwear again (least of all me) I will be able to get away with just keeping the same handful of bras forever.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: November 11th, 2010 10:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Glad to hear that you rate 59 Seconds. I haven't read it myself, but I really liked the author's The Luck Factor, and this may tip me over the edge into giving it a try. (The author has made a few off-message remarks so I'm not completely convinced about him as a person, but if he writes good books...)
juggzy From: juggzy Date: November 11th, 2010 10:40 am (UTC) (Link)
To be fair, the first trimester not-telling-anyone-thing has its roots in the fact that miscarriages usually happen within the first trimester; if the baby lives past that, it can be assumed to be viable - it's very rare for a miscarriage to happen after the first trimester, Nation's Sweetheart Lily Allen notwithstanding. But you knew, this probably.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know that is/was the reason, yeah (though I didn't know about Lily Allen). Though to be honest I'm still not sure how it would make having a miscarriage better if I had to keep that a big shameful secret too because nobody had known I was pregnant in the first place. It does feel (perhaps irrationally) as though it's all actually more to do with not talking about distasteful stuff until you can't hide it under your jumper any more. :-/

But then I didn't want to announce it to work too early, & because I hadn't told work I couldn't really tell everybody (because work/friends overlaps in places), & it just made all the illness/misery worse not being able to tell anybody or have any sympathy from anybody. All my own fault really for not telling people I suppose.

I would say "if I ever get pregnant again I will just tell people as soon as I know", but I don't ever want to do this again, so.
khalinche From: khalinche Date: November 11th, 2010 11:14 am (UTC) (Link)
How fascinating. I'm sorry that you're going through the wringer, health-wise. When I worked as a dishwasher, the only thing that shifted the exczema I got from the cleaning chemicals was calendula cream. I have quite a lot of it if you would like to try some - I'll be in Oxford this Friday. I'm also completely not going to be offended if not.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're in Oxford on Friday? Will you have time to meet up for a coffee or something? It would be lovely to see you!

I'll gladly give the calendula cream a go if you've got some spare, but no worries if it's a faff.
ultraruby From: ultraruby Date: November 11th, 2010 11:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, this is all very interesting, thank you for sharing it. Sorry you've been having a rough time though; I hope things get easier as you go along.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
It is better than it was. :) I think I'm just still getting all the whinge out of my system. (But apparently everything gets worse again in lots of new and exciting ways in the third trimester! So, ugh. I dunno.) I'm glad if it is actually interesting though!

I would say "how does anybody do this more than once?" but then I know plenty of people who say they didn't have any sickness etc at all. It seems like the only thing anybody can really say for certain is that you never know how an individual pregnancy is going to go -- e.g. my sister-in-law says it was different every time with all four (four!!) of her kids.
atommickbrane From: atommickbrane Date: November 11th, 2010 11:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Cor. I read all of this and my tummy has started growling, I reckon in sympathy. Oof!

However, if the above (*up there*) is your idea of a gift, PLEASE DO NOT FEEL like you need to get me anything this wobs :) No no! No problem at all!
j4 From: j4 Date: November 11th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
But I got you an extra spitty cotton-wool-ball specially! :D

For the growling tummy, I recommend CHOCOLATE. (I just found some in my desk drawer, but I'm afraid I'm not going to send you that either, I'm going to eat it. Soz.)
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