One thing they used to tell new bloggers back in the day when people had the attention span for blogs was never to write about how tired you are or how you have nothing to write about.
Observe me as I break some rules.
I have plenty to write about — I am hugely pregnant now, just rotund, full up to the eyeballs with baby — but I am also very tired, and I’m more interested in the tiredness than I am in almost anything else.
It’s a different tired than the first trimester, which felt like being lightly drugged. I just wanted to sleep all the time. It was kind of refreshing.
Now, in the third trimester, I am bone tired. In fact, I finally understand the meaning of that phrase — I’m so tired, I can feel my bones, and they sort of hurt, and also, maybe they’re coming apart at the molecular level and will soon crumble into dust.
I have had two naps so far today, and neither one involved real sleep. Instead, I just lay there on the couch, staring at the wall through slitted eyes until I started hallucinating. Pink coins fell in a shower, over and over again, like a screen saver at a casino.
“I wonder if it’s OK to see that,” I said aloud to myself, as I lay huddled on the couch. The baby kicked me in the bladder, and I ignored it for as long as I could before getting up to pee … again. The hallucination or whatever it was stopped as soon as I got up to go to the bathroom.
The good news, of course, is that I’ll have the baby very soon, and then I’ll be a whole different kind of tired. They say a change is as good as a rest. WE’LL SEE.
I just want to finish this pregnancy weighing less than President Physical Fitness claims to weigh, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
My body, however, has other plans.
Here’s where I should say that if you’re someone who’s triggered by discussions of weight, now is an excellent time to hit the back button. The last thing I want is to make other people feel bad by reading this post. That doesn’t really achieve our group aim, which is to destroy the patriarchy and create a better future with no scales in it.
Still here? OK. I currently weigh over 200 pounds. Jealous?
I haven’t gained all that much during pregnancy, either. OK, fine, I gained more than my doctors recommended … but they recommended that I gain 15 to 20 pounds. I’m sure that somewhere out there, there’s an overweight pregnant woman who managed to stick to that recommendation, and I am very impressed by her. However, given that the baby weighs about eight pounds and the placenta and amniotic fluid, etc. weigh about six pounds and your breasts might add another two pounds, sticking to the low end of that recommendation would actually mean losing weight during pregnancy.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far by the fact that my doctors haven’t harassed me about my weight. Other than making that initial recommendation, no one has said a word about the creeping numbers on the scale. It helps that my fasting glucose is actually lower than it was when I started pregnancy.
(Turns out, walking two miles a day is good for your blood sugar, even if you have to waddle slowly the whole time. I think I’ll mention that to my endocrinologist next time, just to watch him grit his teeth in frustration. When I leave the office, he’ll pull a mirror out of his desk drawer and ask his reflection, “Why won’t they listen to me? I just want them to live long and healthy lives. It’s not like I suggest they all start running marathons. I JUST WANT THEM TO GET SOME WALKING IN.”)
Sorry. I’m back.
Anyway, if I seem surprised about the lack of weight-related harassment, it’s because I am. Ever since I started getting fat, which is about nine years ago now, I’ve come to dread my doctors’ appointments.
At first, the problem was that no one believed me when I told them I wasn’t eating more, was still exercising, and was putting on weight. Then, I finally found a doctor who agreed to test my thyroid hormone levels, and the focus switched to, “OK, but now that you’re on medication, you should be able to lose the weight.”
And I have been able to — but only on very extreme diets, and not permanently. And, to be honest, losing weight has always been hard for me — my body holds onto every pound.
Years ago, I was thin — 120 pounds thin — and here’s what it took:
Eating 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day
Exercising intensely for at least an hour, almost every day
No restaurant food, alcohol, or desserts
No social life, for the most part, because see above
I was also single, 25 years old, in an entry-level job with no management responsibilities, and my thyroid still worked.
Oh, also: my period stopped for eight months under this regimen, and my hair started falling out, and I could only sleep for about 45 minutes at a stretch. However, I was thin, so awesome, right?
You won’t be surprised to hear that the feedback I received from people, some medical professionals included, was a lot more positive when I weighed 120 pounds and didn’t get my period than when I weighed 160 pounds and felt better than I had in years.
Finally, last year, I decided to give up. This was in direct opposition to my primary care doctor’s pleas — direct quote: “The important thing is not to give up.” — but it was necessary for my sanity.
Being on a diet makes me feel poor and angry, and it never works for long. When it fails, I inevitably wind up weighing five to seven pounds more than when I started. I gave up dieting because I didn’t want to diet my way into a bigger pants size.
At a certain point, you have to listen to your body. Mine has been telling me for years that it wants me to stop torturing it. So, I did, and I’ve been pretty happy. I also got pregnant, after three years of trying, which might not be a coincidence. (Acupuncture also had a lot to do with it.)
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about getting older and body image. She was thinking about getting fat-dissolving injections in her chin.
Now, I am very pro people doing whatever they want to their bodies, whether it’s refusing to diet or getting a million tattoos or getting plastic surgery. You own your body, and you can damn well do what you like with it. And if anyone tries to stop you, I will sit on them until they apologize.
I was also curious about the procedure, so I asked her a bunch of questions about it, because science is amazing in all its many forms.
Finally, she said to me, “You know, you’re the only one I’ve talked to about this who didn’t immediately explain your chin fat problem to me.”
I said, “Oh, I have more fat under my chin than I did 15 years ago, but I think I just don’t give a fuck.”
And as I said it, I realized that it was true.
I’m not telling you this to try to convince you that I’m enlightened. I still grimace every time I see the scale at my OB’s office, and I have lines and wrinkles on my face that I could do without.
But after spending my whole adult life trying to get my body to do what I wanted — be thin, be fit, have a baby — and giving up, only to get what I really wanted — health, happiness, a baby — I feel like I’ve finally learned something.
Here’s what it is: whatever else you do, you might as well be kind to yourself. Nothing else works.
If you’re in a certain demographic of impending motherhood, breastfeeding is not really a recommendation: it’s an assumption.
And although I feel like I should have a lot more money to be in the mandatory-breastfeeding demo, I am an older, college-educated, white female person — which means that I’m part of the club, whether I want to be or not. (Note: plenty of women breastfeed who do not check all these boxes. We’re talking assumptions, not reality.)
I’ve written extensively before about my decision to exclusively formula feed, and I meant every word. But to be honest, even I suspected that I might waver in the face of overwhelming pressure. It’s really hard to stick by your choice when the whole world seems to be telling you that it’s a bad choice for your baby.
Only sociopaths don’t care what people think.*I care what people think. A lot. And I want to be a good mother. But I also know that breastfeeding is not for me.
Before I got pregnant, I assumed that I would know a lot about my baby long before she was born. My mother says that she knew who my sister and I were when we were in the womb — and this was before ultrasound was common, so she couldn’t even see us.
Adam scoffed at this when I told him.
“This is like when you claim to remember things that happened to you when you were six months old,” he said. “Memory is unreliable. You think you remember because you saw pictures and filled in the gaps.”
“No, it’s for real,” I insisted. “My mom knew that I’d like to stay up all night, because I started doing the rumba as soon as her head hit the pillow, and she knew that Meggy would be shy and quiet, because she was a much more mellow baby. The memory thing is real, too: Meg remembers being weighed on a baby scale.”
“Sure, she does.”
“Women remember things much earlier than men do.”
“That’s because women are lying liars who make things up.”
I’m not going to get into the memory thing here, but Adam may have a point about inventing insights about babies, because I can’t say for sure that I really know that much about the Great Baboo (aka Beano, aka The Miracle Child).
I’m sure of the following:
Beano hates: the Doppler, loud noises, and when I get stressed out about stuff
Beano loves: car rides (Zzzz), spicy food, Mel Brooks movies, her thumb
Also, on the last ultrasound, she clapped her hands and got the hiccups. It was the cutest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and I once got to feed a baby lamb with a bottle.
I have a few other inklings. I feel like she’s probably a very determined person, but that might just be based on the skill with which she avoids the ultrasound wand. I think she’ll probably be a very silly person, but I don’t know how she’d turn out differently with me and Adam for parents.
I don’t know whether she’ll be shy, chatty, bookish, athletic, practical, dreamy, organized, creative, and/or analytical. I don’t know what her romantic or sexual orientation will be, or her gender identity, or whether she’ll be a plump person like her mom or a muscular person like her dad or a lean person like my aunt or my grandfather.
I’m guessing she’ll have wavy or curly hair, based on our hair, and that her eyes will be brown, because Adam’s eyes are brown and mine are hazel and I still remember a few things from high school science classes. She probably will not be excessively tall, since both her parents are compact, for ease of travel.
I hope she’ll love the Oxford comma, and be kind to herself and others, and be fairly liberal (or at least not someone who would cut funding for CHIP). I don’t care what she does for a living when she grows up, or whether she’s a genius or good at school or sports.
All jokes about punctuation and politics aside, she doesn’t have to like the things we like, although I hope for her sake she can at least tolerate hockey and Sherlock Holmes or it’s going to be a long childhood.
Most of all, I’m just glad she’s here. I wish she would live in my belly forever, and also that her birthday was tomorrow.
Yesterday, on the car ride home from Christmas at my sister’s, I told Adam that I thought the solution would be to grow a pouch, like a marsupial.
“That way, she could climb back in whenever she got cold or we needed to go someplace in a hurry,” I explained.
Since that’s not possible, I guess I’ll just focus on enjoying the last four months of pregnancy. It’ll be good to keep that goal in mind, since I’m already getting a few mid-to-late pregnancy symptoms that tell me the third trimester will be less comfy than the second has been.
For instance, on our car ride to Maryland, my feet swelled up to the size of pontoons and spilled right over my socks. It was like something you’d see on a medical reality show, and I was honestly afraid that my skin would burst.
They went back to normal pretty quickly though, and I got out of a lot of kitchen duty during the holidays because everyone was horrified by my hooves. So, I guess I can’t complain.
And in any case, I don’t mind having a few complaints. I’m just glad that Beano – the Great Baboo, the Miracle Child – is with us. We’ll figure the rest out as we go along.
Yesterday was the scariest day of my pregnancy so far.
There was always a fair chance that would be the case, given that the 20-week anatomy scan was scheduled for that date.
The anatomy scan, in case you don’t have babies but are (for some reason) reading this anyway, is when the maternal-fetal medicine specialist and ultrasound tech measure just about everything that can be measured on a baby: how long the baby is, how wide around the trunk, the width of the head, the length of the thigh and shin bones, etc. They also examine the brain, heart, and kidneys and look for blood flow to major organs and through the umbilical cord.
I know several people who got seriously bad news during the 20-week scan, up to and including the worst possible news: that something was so wrong with the baby, it wouldn’t live outside the womb for more than a few days. So, while I was looking forward to seeing Beano’s little face and belly and hands and feet, I was also terrified, starting from the time we made the appointment. As the day crept closer on my Google calendar, I grew more and more panicky.
That was before I woke up the morning of the ultrasound to find a fresh batch of test results waiting for me in my LabCorp inbox. My endocrinologist ordered the tests, because hypothyroid moms have to stay on top of their thyroid levels to make sure the baby has enough hormones to develop properly. But he also ordered a complete metabolic panel and a CBC, because it had been a while since I had either.
My thyroid workup was fine. The metabolic panel is where things got hairy. A few values were outside the normal range, including carbon dioxide, protein, and albumin, which were all slightly low. More worrying: the ALT value was slightly high, which could indicate issues with my liver.
Now, there were a few things I was worried about, for myself, before getting pregnant. I was worried about dying in childbirth and about having my choices taken away by doctors or midwives who might decide that pain relief was unnecessary or breastfeeding mandatory. But most of all, I was afraid of developing complications, because of my age, weight, and medical history. In our house, you’re not allowed to say “preeclampsia” or “HELLP syndrome” without holding a lucky rabbit’s foot at the same time — especially since my rheumatologist warned me that I’d be at increased risk for HELLP syndrome, because I have Behcet’s disease.
The “HELLP” stands for Hemolysis (basically, exploding red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelet count. So you can see why I was not thrilled to have an elevated liver value.
I’m a monster who reads her phone in bed upon waking up, which means that when Adam got out of the shower, he found he huddled under my fuzziest blanket, clutching my Snoogle to my chest, and weeping over my phone.
“You OK, sniffly?” he asked, before he saw my face.
“I HAVE ELEVATED LIVER ENZYMES,” I shoved my phone in his face. “Look!”
“OK, let me see,” he said in his calmest voice. (I think of this as his nurse voice, but I think it would also come in handy during a zombie apocalypse.)
I passed over my phone and hugged my belly with both hands. “It’s too soon for her to go.”
“She’s not going to go!” The nurse voice had temporarily disappeared. “Jesus, why would you say something like that?”
Now we were both wrapped up in blankets like disaster victims and freaking out.
After a moment of reviewing my tests, Adam’s calm reasserted itself. “OK, these aren’t that bad. Your ALT is very slightly elevated, but nearly normal, and your other liver value is fine. Your platelets are fine. I think you should just call the doctor and see what he says.”
So, I did. Our OB’s office, thank God, is very good about getting back to people, so we got a call from the doctor about an hour later. Adam had to read the labs to him, because I was curled up in the fetal position — or as close to it as I could get, with an actual fetus in the way.
The upshot was that he wasn’t overly concerned, but wanted to monitor my liver enzymes with more blood tests. It was too early for preeclampsia, according to the doc, but we should keep an eye on things. It might turn out to be a fluky lab, or the start of something we’d need to know about for later, or a ginormous gallstone hanging out in the wrong spot. We would find out. But in the meantime, I was able to unwind myself from my position on the floor and stop crying for a minute. Good thing, because I was getting dehydrated.
Two hours after that, we were in the other OB’s office, getting the anatomy scan. Which was terrifying right from the start, because one of the first things the doctor said to me was, “Did you decide to opt out of the AFP test? I couldn’t find anything in your chart.”
We had never heard of an AFP test, nor did we have any idea of what it was. It’s the alpha fetoprotein test, by the way, and it tests for spina bifida. Who knows how that one got lost in the shuffle, but we hadn’t had it. Also, if we wanted it, we had about 24 hours to squeeze it in, before the lab cut us off for being too late.
“I wasn’t worried before,” Adam told me later. “But as soon as he mentioned that one specific test, I was sure that something was wrong. Not even spina bifida, necessarily, but something. I thought, ‘He’s going to start this scan, and we’re going to see something really, really bad on this screen.’”
So it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who gets nervous about these things.
Long story short, he did the scan and we saw nothing atypical at all. We did see:
The baby sucking her thumb and yawning.
Adam’s nose, clear as anything, on her tiny little face. (Slight variations accounted for by size, and the fact that the baby has never had her nose broken.)
A spine like a string of pearls.
The heart, beating away at 150 beats per minute.
Two kidneys, two halves of a brain in a giant Hubley/Luckwaldt head, two eyes and two hands and two cute little feet, kicking away at the probe.
We left the office and both fell apart like our strings had been cut. Then we went to the other OB’s office and got some bloodwork done, and went to a diner for an outrageously early dinner. It was barely 5 o’clock, but I felt like I’d been up for about 20 hours.
If you see either of us today, don’t take our vacant facial expressions personally. Yesterday was quite a day.
Did you know that about a quarter of American women return to work within two weeks of giving birth? It’s true. Twelve percent take a week or less.
This means, as John Oliver pointed out when the report revealing this terrifying statistic dropped two years ago, that nearly 1 in 4 women are forced to return to work before they’re even healed, never mind psychologically ready to return. (Or confident that their baby is ready to be left with a caretaker.)
I knew all this before I started trying to get pregnant, of course. In fact, I spent a long time talking about it with my therapist when agonizing over the fact that I really, really wanted a baby, despite it being just about the stupidest thing you can do in American society today from a practical perspective.
A few sample convos, to illustrate my dilemma:
Conversation 1: Financial Realities
Me: Did you know that infant care in the greater New York area costs $400 a week?
Therapist: I did know that, yes.
Me: Who has the money for that?
Therapist: No one, really. And yet, people pay it.
Me: I assume that the bulk of it goes to the actual caregivers, who are frequently women of color and/or recent immigrants to this great nation.
(Therapist and I laugh uproariously in unison … and then pause in silence to consider the torment of modern life.)
Conversation 2: A Horror Movie
Me: Here’s another problem.
Me: I don’t want to put my baby in infant care.
Therapist: I don’t blame you.
Me: They don’t even have neck control yet.
Therapist: It’s true.
Me: Also, every time you hear a horrible story about a baby dying in daycare, doesn’t it seem like two things are true? 1. The facility was unlicensed, or the license had lapsed; 2. The baby was about a minute old.
Therapist: It’s really terrible. We’re the only industrialized country that thinks this is OK.
Me: And then when something happens, everyone blames the mother, who didn’t even want to put her month-old baby in daycare.
Therapist: Well, I hate to tell you, but people often blame the mother. Period.
Me: I hate humans. Animals are way better.
Conversation 3: Anxiety
Me: If I hear one more story about how middle-class parents are ruining their children with their anxiety….
Therapist: Oh, I know. Why would they possibly be anxious?
Me: Ha ha ha. HA. Ha ha. Ha ha ha?
I’m bringing all this up now because I thought I was really clever and it turns out I’m not. I’m a freelancer, so prior to getting pregnant, I purchased a disability policy that covered maternity leave. Today, I decided to confirm with the insurance company that said policy was still in effect — I pay my premiums, but you never know — and also to see about the claim and coverage situation.
Are you ready for this? My policy, which again, I pay every month, entitles me to four weeks at half pay … if I have a C-section. For a vaginal birth, I’ll get two weeks.
Now, you can say that I should have already known this, having carefully done my research when I purchased the policy, and you’d be right. However, I just want to point out again the absurdity of anyone thinking that someone who recently gave birth should be up and ready to go two weeks later.
Things aren’t as bad as they could be, because Adam gets paid parental leave, thanks to New York State’s new legislation. I’m also banking money now, during my pregnancy, to support a self-funded leave. I’m lucky to be able to do that, and I’ll probably be able to swing two months off.
I’ll also be better off than most new moms even when my leave is up, because I’m my own boss and have a flexible schedule. So I won’t have to choose between a part-time job with no career path and a full-time job that won’t let me see my kid. This is a tremendous gift, and one I’m grateful for every single day.
But I find myself thinking a lot lately about countries with decent parental leave. In Sweden, for example, parents get 480 days of paid parental leave — and 90 days have to be used by each parent. What a difference a year-plus would make!
Alas, we live here, in the country that absolutely doesn’t want you to have access to birth control or abortion, but also does not give two shits in a hat about that baby once it’s born. There’s a lot on my list of things to protest right now, but these facts are near the top. Of course, it’s hard to take to the streets when you’re working constantly or healing as quickly as possible so that you can get back to work ASAP.
Before I got pregnant, I thought I knew a lot about pregnancy. In retrospect, I realize that I knew a lot about pregnancy as it’s generally portrayed on TV and in movies.
It turns out, the entertainment industry is mostly lying to us. (I know. I was surprised, too.) Being pregnant is almost nothing like it seems on TV.
I guess this means I probably won’t give birth in an elevator, or in a car speeding down a highway — although I do know one woman who gave birth in a New York taxicab, which means that her kid will win every “who is a Real New Yorker” contest from now until the earth is swallowed by the sun.
On the downside, I can already tell that I won’t have one of those cute, photogenic baby bumps that you see on your favorite sitcom. I’ll be 19 weeks pregnant this Wednesday, and I’m already roughly the size of a barge, despite only gaining the recommended weight.
As Adam said recently, pointing to my belly, “That thing is serious, huh?” It truly is. I’m already having trouble figuring out how to deal with tables and countertops, and yesterday I hit myself in my own stomach with a doorknob trying to get into my house. Thank God for amniotic fluid, or we’d all be born with creases down our middles from when our moms tried to make a sandwich and the kitchen counter got in the way.
But the biggest surprise so far about being pregnant might be how relatively normal I feel. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I spent most of the first trimester feeling like I was on a rough ferry crossing, and when I need to eat or sleep, it’s an eating- or sleeping-emergency. But I still feel exactly like myself, which was something I was sort of led to believe wouldn’t be the case.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but I thought I’d be crazy, perhaps in the sense of being legitimately mentally ill, but definitively in the sense of being a hysterical female. I was led to believe (again, by popular representations of pregnant ladies, not necessarily by actual pregnant people) that I would weep all the time, and get really mad at Adam for no reason, and just generally act like a big, hormonal mess.
That hasn’t really happened. Sure, about eight weeks in, we tried to watch a documentary on penguins and had to turn it off when a penguin baby froze to death and I couldn’t stop weeping, but that’s not necessarily new. I’ve never been great with the part of nature documentaries where we’re reminded that nature is cruel.
And I definitely have a lot less patience for bullshit now, which has had the unfortunate effect of making me snottier than usual with courtesy callers or unhelpful clerks — not a great look for anyone. (Cashier at the grocery store: “You can recycle this bottle at Customer Service.” Me: “No, you can recycle it right here for me, like they usually do.” Cashier: “Oh. OK.”)
But in general, I’m pretty much myself, with fewer fucks to give. And I’m not sure if the fewer fucks are because of hormones, or because I’m so happy to finally be pregnant that the fog of low-grade depression from the past few years has finally burned off. It’s hard to be yourself when you’re so sad all the time, and now, miraculously, I’m not.
The other day, I asked Adam for his thoughts on the matter.
“This isn’t a trap,” I said, carefully leaning my side and not my belly against the kitchen counter as he put away the clean pans.
“No, no, really. It’s just that I was thinking the other day about how everyone makes it sound like pregnant women are crazy, and I just don’t feel that way.”
“You’re an A+ pregnant lady,” he said, closing the cabinet doors and looking relieved to have something nice to say. “You haven’t even really complained that much about anything, even when you were nauseated. I think you’re the happiest I’ve ever seen you.”
“So, I’m not secretly hysterical and deluding myself?”
“No, it’s not that. I’m just trying to figure out how much trouble I’ll get in if I say that life is easier when you don’t get your period.”
I laughed so hard I accidentally leaned the wrong way and bumped my stomach on the counter. “Ow.”
“Are you OK?”
“Fine, just unwieldy. Also, happy to know that you feel that way, since with the timing and all, I’ll probably go through menopause about a half hour after the baby is born.”
So, there you go. Something to look forward to, and a reminder never to believe anything that you see on TV. Of course, these days, it’s also a good idea to be skeptical of anything you read on the internet, so if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant in the near future, keep in mind that no one knows anything about what your pregnancy will be like but future-you.
And no matter what, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re crazy.