Almost 38 weeks, a visit with Dr. Cullen, and the Little Stretchmark That Could

Since maybe Monday of this week, I’ve been saying to myself “Crap, I REALLY need to update my blog.” I mean, here I am, at the point where I thought the updates would get closer together and much, much more exciting. But the reality of late pregnancy is that it is a somewhat boring, occasionally depressive time of waiting, feeling a contraction or two (and boy, are they fun) that you know isn’t going to get you to Labor & Delivery any faster, enjoying two bites of your dinner before you start to feel full, going on a crying jag just to spice things up, and waiting some more. Did I mention the waiting? Yeah. Lotta that going on here lately.

At the moment, I am 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. There are either 15 or 16 days left until my due date (depending on whether my period started on Dec. 5th or Dec. 6th…I wouldn’t know, as I was out cold in a dead sleep). After speaking with my doctor at Wednesday’s fairly uneventful appointment, I can also tell you that – at a maximum – there are 22 or 23 more days until I’ll be meeting my son. Because if he’s not here by 41 weeks (around Sept. 18th), they induce. It’s just their policy, and while many women would fight the policy, I simply do not care any more. Call me complacent. I won’t argue with you.

Of course, I’d much prefer that Russ arrived on his own accord and of his own volition, and so I’m trying just about anything you can think of to naturally induce labor. Infer from that what you will, it can’t be too far from the truth. The doc tells me that I’m not dilated yet (CRAP!) but that my cervix is softening and thinning (good). My hope is that within a week or two, that might change. We’ll see.

Now, on the topic of those innocuous “cervical checks” that I’ve often heard women talk about so casually…what are you, MASOCHISTS!?!? Here I was thinking that it was gonna be one skinny little finger up to hoo-ha and “What a pleasant surprise, you’re dilated a whole centimeter!” (yes, I know that being dilated a centimeter means absolutely nothing, don’t try to reason with me at this late stage of pregnancy). Yeah, that is NOT how that appointment went. The sentiment was more like “Um…(sucks in a breath)…ouch…ow ow ow ow OW OW OW OW OW……did you just shove a BOWLING BALL up there?! OWWW!!”

It didn’t help much that the doctor performing my cervical check looked like some in-between approximation of Zack Morris meets Carlisle Cullen, heavy on the Cullen. Clearly my baby daddy is a bit more rustic than that aesthetic and I was never much on Zack Morris myself, but it’s still incredibly awkward to have someone with that smooth a forehead and that perfect a hair style wince under his breath, “Yeah…not much going on up there.” Thaaaaaaaaaaaaanks.

I guess one final point about this week in my pregnancy (other than the fact that my work week has been not-my-fave-ever and is going to extend right on through the weekend…which would be fine, if I weren’t so predisposed to wanting to sleep more lately as it is) is that the little stretch mark that could has finally arrived at the station. I remained cautious but optimistic, slathering myself in Bio-Oil and Body Shop Shea Body Butter for the last almost 9 months (no kidding…I started buttering the belly at only 5 weeks pregnant in preparation for the stretch that I knew was coming). And I guess I should feel lucky that it took almost the full pregnancy before one stretchmark appeared, but I was really starting to think I was going to get out of this without a single one. Crap. I guess it could be true that this might be my one stretch mark, a virtual tattoo of the pregnancy that I will one day look at and touch wistfully while watching my by-then-enormous son empty my fridge for the fifth time that week. But at the moment, I’m a little bummed and just feel sort of defeated in general. And for reasons I can’t fully pin down. Maybe we all hit a point in pregnancy where we start to feel like the entire world is tweaking our nose, saying “See, I told you that you couldn’t do this!” But I have to believe that this is just fear and progesterone talking (whichever one is ruling my existence these days). Maybe in a few days, Jonathan’s predictions will come true and I’ll go into labor. A girl can hope, anyway…

Big-Mouthed Celeb Mamas

Perhaps I’m just jealous because they clearly have a larger readership than I do. Maybe that’s why I find a lot of celebrity pregnancy and baby commentary to be utterly ridiculous and sometimes even flat-out offensive. It’s always sort of refreshing when celeb moms come right out and own up to the amount of work that motherhood is, the difficulty they had in regaining some semblance of their pre-pregnancy shape (or the rare candor to admit that not everything always goes back to as it was pre-baby), or the fact that breastfeeding (whether on set or heading back to a normal-people, 8-5 gig) is just plain TOUGH. But that just makes it even more aggravating to me when I read or hear about ridiculous commentary from celeb mommies.

Now, let me preface this by saying: I do not give even a tiny little chunk o’ crap what celebrity mamas say about parenting. I really don’t. However, we all know there are women out there who might really, deeply be affected or persuaded by those who use their fame or status to push a personal agenda – no matter how worthy an agenda it is. What bothers me goes beyond the “Oh, you’re too pretty to have a right to an opinion.” It’s simply not about that (though, let me be clear: a supermodel’s actual job description, if I’m not mistaken, is to “shut up and look pretty.” Just sayin’…)

It’s about responsibility, and having the ability to see far enough outside yourself to realize what your influence might be and having the ability to own up to the fact that YOUR way isn’t necessarily THE way. But at least be humble enough to admit the trials and tribulations of the process, not lord your own righteous experience and expertise over all the “peasant” mommies out there (in some cases, after one kid who is maybe 6 months old…i.e. a really premature declaration of parenting victory, if ya ask me).

Case #1:

About two weeks ago, supermodel Gisele Bundchen was quoted, for only the 7th or 8th time in as many months, making really presumptious and arrogant remarks about birth and breastfeeding. If you do read the occasional gossip column in the newspaper – as I quite shamelessly and unapologetically do – then you may remember back in the early spring when Bundchen said that her at-home water birth “didn’t hurt, not in the slightest,” and that she was up making pancakes just a day or two after her son was born. *roll eyes* Yeah, whatever, Twig Butt.

Well, just recently, she went one better and told UK’s Harper’s Bazaar magazine that she thinks the reason she had such an easy birth is because she was “prepared,” (by doing Kung Fu and yoga, no less…*yawn*) going on to insinuate that most women are “unprepared,” and that “it’s called labor, not holiday, for a reason.” Le sigh. But this is the same woman who married one of the biggest douches on the planet, Tom Brady. So…maybe I shouldn’t be surprised? Sorry, Pats fans…he’s a tool.

But here’s the real gem, I think: Gisele went on to say, point blank, “I think it should be worldwide law that women must breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months.”

Uh…..homie say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Did she just say that it should be a worldwide law? Like what, you want that crap added to the Geneva Conventions or something? Or do you just have an extremely minimal grasp of how binding laws around the world are even formulated?

Look, bottom line: Breastmilk is the best food you can feed your baby, and there are countless reasons why doctors are trying to get women to breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of life, if not through the first year.

One problem that Bundchen might’ve more eloquently highlighted is this: The U.S. is simply not as boob-friendly as most other nations in the world. Breasts, at the end of the day, may be great in Wonderbras and Playboy magazines, but they’re ultimate intent is to FEED A CHILD. There is a serious problem with people who expect women to feed their infants in a bathroom because it – for some selfish reason – bothers them to know that the baby is eating from the mother’s breast (usually, under a blanket, a t-shirt, or one of those Duggar-level modesty covers). In fact, I’ve had people tell me before that just knowing that a baby is being breastfed freaks them out. Well, to those people, I have four words to say: Don’t Be An Idiot.

And if that’s what she meant to say, then I really can’t blame Gisele, because clearly breastfeeding has a ton of benefits for both mother and baby. I myself am committed (and I mean like, way committed…as in, it better hurt worse than birth or I’m so going to do it) to breastfeeding Russ for the first six months. And I won’t lie, I do have some self-serving motivations there. That mess burns 500+ calories a day…that’s more food that I can enjoy and still hopefully drop a few post-baby pounds. I’m there. With bells on.

But do I think it should be worldwide law or something that women should have to breastfeed their babies? Uh, no. Do I think that women who don’t or – in many cases – can’t breastfeed their babies are bad mommies? HECK no! In fact, I have some of the healthiest nieces and nephews who weren’t breastfed and all and those kids thrive. They are intelligent, athletic, amazing kids with high IQs and social skills that rival a lot of 30 year olds I know. So, no, I don’t think breastmilk is this fabulous cure-all for the fact that some people check out of their parenting duties the minute their kids hit kindergarten. If you want to raise a good kid, then by all means, breastfeed if you like. But whether you breastfeed or formula feed, your child’s success and health is 100% IN YOUR HANDS. Not your boobs.

‘Nuf said.

Case #2:

And this one is short. Danica McKellar, otherwise known as “Winnie” from “The Wonder Years” tv show, is expecting her own little one these days. And apparently she is really doing great with her weight gain and stuff, which is wonderful, good for her, all that jazz. But seriously, Winnie? This is what I do NOT want to hear from pregnant women:

“I have healthy cravings and not-so-healthy cravings. Like my healthy craving is plain yogurt with a banana and some bird seed on top (no kidding, she calls it bird seed, I didn’t make it up). And then I just don’t indulge in the unhealthy cravings.”

What. The. Crap?

Look, argue with me all day long, but here’s the bottom line: Pregnancy is certainly no excuse to set up a tent and a portapotty in the parking lot of the local McDonald’s. We all know that. But dang, ladies…are we such a weight-obsessed culture that we can’t just chill out and enjoy pregnancy a little bit. Has it ever occurred to some of us that there may be compounds in some of our “craving” foods that our pregnant bodies actually need? If you want some chocolate, have a daggum’ piece of chocolate (or better yet, have some chocolate milk, something with a little filling protein like that). Or if you want a salad, have yourself a salad. But don’t sit there and brag about how you just don’t give into your pregnancy cravings, because that just makes me think you’re focusing on a lot of stuff that doesn’t matter that much. Good nutrition is about balance. Part of the problem with childhood obesity (and adult obesity, for that matter) is that many people have no concept of BALANCE. My dad has maintained the same size for nearly 30 years just by eating his veggies and chasing them with a cookie if he feels like it. He’s active, he loves life, and he eats what he wants in the proper portions. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gained a very healthy (and doctor recommended) 30 pounds at 36 weeks pregnant, and I’ve pretty much given into every pregnancy craving I’ve had – but in moderation. As in, I have a piece of cake, but it’s a small one and I move on and eat something a bit healthier for the next meal. No counting calories. No freaking out. Just LIVING my LIFE.

Big-mouthed celeb mamas just annoy me sometimes. Seems common sense is in short supply these days. I’m sure there’s no shortage of people on either side of the issues who might think that I’m a moron for my views – but I feel proud of the fact that my views tend to fall right in the middle of most extremes. I think as long as you’re doing what is best for your baby and what is best for you – or, as is the case in most instances, the solution that straddles the line of what is best for BOTH of you – then you’re doing something right.

35 weeks going on 36 weeks….going on 47 weeks

We have only 30 days to go until our baby arrives, but to see me, you wouldn’t know it. Embarassingly enough, I would pop this kid out RIGHT NOW if I knew he would be fully developed, healthy, and ready to meet the brave new world that awaits him outside. But alas, I have 4 weeks until my due date, and another week after that which I could spend lying on the couch and grunting about ways to naturally induce labor.

In the past week, things have just gone downhill for me in a big way – and I’ve hit that part of pregnancy that many women claim convinced them to only have X amount of kids (1, 2, whatever…I’m sure even that Duggar lady hits the late third trimester and swears “I’m stopping now! Nineteen children is enough!). The fatigue, the sense that I am carrying an anvil around on the front of my stomach, headaches, bouts of nausea that are becoming more and more frequent, and just a general malaise about life has set in and, well…it’s as if I was in the first trimester again, except this is the first trimester that I never had. As a matter of fact, it occurred to me around 12 or 13 weeks (back in March) that I was probably going to get smacked with a huge fistful of preggo karma late in the third trimester…after all, I had it SO easy. I was never more than nauseous in the first trimester. And it was nothing that a lemon-lime Gatorade (which I am, once again, sitting here sipping) couldn’t fend off – and my happiness over finally being able to say I was going to be a parent made it all no big deal. The excitement was the best elixir ever to cure all the little inconveniences of early pregnancy – and really, I knew how lucky I was not to have to contend with vomiting, exhaustion, and all the other crud that most of my pals and family have dealt with.

But now I am – in a very big way – getting it all back. So, for all of you out there who swore that you would create a voodoo doll in my image if I didn’t have at least one first-trimester upchuck, rest assured that I am now paying for my good luck with a really grotesque late pregnancy experience. Still no actual vomiting at this point (sorry), but if it’s any consolation, I WISH I could throw up and feel better. This is hanging around way longer than any collegiate hangover I ever had.

But in better news, I had a good doctor’s appointment this morning! Baby Russ is head-down and engaged (i.e. head low in the pelvis) somewhat, the doc said, so all is as it should be for this point in the pregnancy. My weight gain is right at 30 pounds so far, which is smack in the middle of most doctor’s recommendations, so I’m pretty happy with it. My workouts are getting less frequent and less vigorous, but that’s to be expected at this point. I do find that doing a little time on the elliptical helps a lot with swelling, so I’ve been trying to keep that up at least a few times a week – but it is definitely getting tough. I haven’t even bothered to hit the gym the last two days because I just feel so crummy – and that’s fine with me. Russ is healthy and – though I don’t feel like it right now – so am I, so we can’t ask for anything more.

Russ is a very active little guy, and this week has been peppered with countless, walloping kicks to my ribs. In fact, sometimes I get kicks in the pelvis where Russ’s butt is perched up higher on my left side and his legs and feet seem to flop over towards my right – as you can imagine, those are becoming a fast favorite (sigh). But in truth, I’m trying to just chuckle at the hard kicks and punches while they last, because I am really going to miss this time that I’ve had with Russ, just the two of us. The other symptoms, I could do without, but I still enjoy the movements – even the not-so-comfortable ones.

The only thing we really have left to do in preparation for Russ’s arrival is to install the carseats in both vehicles, consider whether to buy a breastpump now or wait until after the birth (we’re leaning on the side of waiting, just to see how things go), and wash the several LOADS worth of baby clothes that we got at last week’s baby shower back home in Conway.

Oh yeah! The baby shower! Have I written about that? Well if not, let me just tell you all what a blessed girl I am. My family – specifically, mom, my older sister, and my younger sister-in-law, threw me a really amazing baby shower last Sunday night and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how everything went. For starters, the cake…O. M. G…the cake. It was an 18-layer (yes! EIGHTEEN!!), chocolate number from a fantastic baker my mom knows. We brought home a few pieces of it and sad to say, they had been laid to rest by Tuesday evening. My only regret is that we didn’t bring home more!

There was a great turnout of family and friends at the baby shower, and I really enjoyed seeing everyone a final time before Russ gets here. We got a ton of super cute clothing – most of which was in larger sizes that Russ can grow into over the next year, which I thought was awesome – as well as diapers, little baby items like a hairbrush, a “snot sucker” (wahoo!) and bath products, an awesome Pack and Play that will be very useful for trips to the lakehouse, and some really precious personalized stuff that had Russ’s initials or name on it.

Though every item was clearly given with a lot of thought and care, there were two gifts that really stood out in my mind simply because they were so unexpected. The first was from my friend Kristen (yes, that’s also the ridiculously great photographer who did my maternity pics). She and her cousin Beth Anna did name pieces to hang in Russ’s room. They’re going up right above the crib this weekend. They were blue canvas squares, each individually painted to match Russ’s nursery theme (blue, brown, and puppies) – and 100% unique, since they were created just for us! We absolutely love them. The other gift that really struck me as “Wow…that is just cool!” was what my sister-in-law’s mother gave. Ms. Kim is a gardening extraordinaire and has spent many years in the landscaping business, so she offered us a truly special and timeless gift – a tree planting in Russ’s honor. She threw out a few ideas, from a Crepe Myrtle to a Magnolia, planted in any location we wanted, but we very quickly decided that an oak tree at the lakehouse would be perfect. The oak, especially to any Southerner, symbolizes strength, longevity, beauty, history, and an awareness of those who came before us – all things that we would like for Russ to have. And while we may not be at this house forever, Lake Marion will be a part of Russ’s upbringing no matter what – so the lakehouse is the only logical place where we could plant the tree. But isn’t that a cool gift? I was so honored that she thought of something so special for our little guy. How cool, decades from now when he has grandchildren of his own and Jonathan and I are long gone, that Russ can take his own family to that same tree and say “This is mine.” Makes me all teary just thinking about it.

So, the week hasn’t been totally smooth, but it sure started off sweetly. I guess I’ll just try to focus on all the good stuff until this period of feeling cruddy either goes away or this kid comes out – whatever happens first!

39 days to go

Well, we’re in the “sub-40” range now, with only 39 days to go until my due date of Sept. 11th. Now, about those “due dates.” For one thing, I think anyone who has ever been pregnant can tell you that the darn things are almost completely worthless and really only serve to tell you what developmental markers your baby is *probably* hitting around that time and/or exactly at which point you can expect to be a parent (i.e., he may not come anywhere near his so-called due date, but you can bet your cellulite-riddled hiney that he’ll be here 2 or 3 weeks after, come hell or high water).

But for another thing, Osama bin Laden almost ruined my due date. When my doc computed it as September 11th (not that BabyCenter.com, TheBump.com, WebMD.com, and about 15 other websites hadn’t already told me what the due date was going to be based on my last period), she shrugged and said “Oh, that just sounds so bad…let’s call it Sept. 12th.” Nuh-uh! Nevermind the fact that I’ll probably go 2 years overdue or something like that, or that my son will most likely come out looking ready for his first day of kindergarten (or football camp)…you keep that date at 9/11, lady! Don’t give Osama bin Laden my due date, too!

But see, Sept. 11th WAS the correct date when one considers that I went to bed the night of Dec. 5th, 2009 without a period and woke up sometime in the early morning of December 6th with a mess to clean up. Gotta love those little surprises from “Mother Nature.” Though I think those commercials that have her looking like a vengeful school teacher in a horrific, puke green, tweed suit are a bit off base. The lady that delivers MY monthly bill probably looks somewhat more like that lesbian serial killer that Charlize Theron beefed up to play a few years ago. You know – the role that won her the Oscar. That’s what my “Aunt Flo” looks like – toothless, with a grown-out perm, dirty skin, anger management problems, and a warrant out for her arrest. But, I digress…

So that’s that. 39 days to go. And in those next 39 days, I wish I could say we won’t have anything to check off on our to-do list, but any of you who know me will know that I graduated college with a B.A. in English Lit, but a Master’s in procrastination. But this won’t be like that term paper on Iranian political movements for Dr. Collin that I put off (i.e. forgot) until 3 hours before it was due and then managed to get an A+ on. Not remotely. We’ve still got baby gear to get, car seats to install, house repairs to finish up, and vaccines for the whole family to coordinate (if you have a baby, you need to get the Whooping Cough and flu vaccines, no exceptions!).

So, lots to do! But we’ll get ready (-ish). Is that a word? Ready-ish…