Ah the heady days before baby, when I could have a few large glasses of wine after work, share a bottle with a meal or finish the night with a wee dram or two; a sudden withdrawal from alcohol was always going to raise suspicions of pregnancy in those around me.
Luckily while pregnant, I just went off the stuff. From occasionally actually craving a glass of wine, I went to not being bothered by it – I would have a sip of Fred’s tipple just so I knew what I was missing, but that was enough. I was paranoid that Elphie would be born with fetal alcohol syndrome as a consequence of the extra drinks I had at Charles and Laura’s wedding following a negative pregnancy test that I mistakenly thought had put me in the clear. Fetal alcohol syndrome has a number of nasty growth and mental retardation symptoms alongside facial abnormalities like the below courtesy of an article by Warren, Hewitt & Thomas. There is speculation that Jade Goody and George W Bush shared these facial characteristics but I’ll leave you to play Dr Google on that one.
One day very soon, dear reader, you will hear my account of Elphie’s escapade to New York. But in the meantime, here is an excellent blog post from someone else on names (American names admittedly, but hey maybe we are on an American theme!).
As we seem to be on the topic of placentas, I thought I would share with you the concept of the Lotus Birth in case any of you fancied it.
We all know that the standard trick post-birth is to cut the umbilical (preferably after some delay) and then deliver the placenta, either helping it along a bit using a drug which is injected into your thigh while you are giving birth (a managed third stage) or naturally (a physiological third stage) where some time up to an hour after the birth you then push out the placenta like you did the baby, sometimes with help from the midwife pulling the cord to get the placenta out. The managed approach has been shown to result in less blood loss for the mother and is what I had this time round (although I have no memory of deciding this or being pricked by a needle – must have had my mind on other things). If there’s a next time then I think I would go the physiological route, just for kicks really as I am curious what it would be like!
But if I was a true hippy then the lotus birth would be the thing to do – you see the cutting of the umbilical cord is just an unnecessary intervention, so how about you just don’t cut it – leave the placenta attached!
The late pregnancy symptoms that I would have probably avoided if I’d given birth a couple of weeks ago continue to sprout up. As if the recent appearance of stretch marks wasn’t demoralising enough, I have lately been experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in my fingers.
A week or so ago, I started waking up with one or two sore finger joints. I took it to mean I’d been sleeping on my hand or something and didn’t think much of it. However, the soreness has gradually increased in intensity and now includes both hands and all my finger joints. The worst is when they click when moved – it feels like I’ve got broken fingers, and along with the swelling from the heat my hands are becoming a real problem area!
CTS happens when a narrow passage in your wrist (the “carpal tunnel”) becomes compressed and the nerves are affected. It appears to be just one of those things, which often accompanies arthritis and wrist injuries. I first came across it last year when one of my colleagues started wearing a wrist brace at work: she had developed CTS from repetitive use of her mouse. The brace works to keep the tunnel open and non-compressed. And of course, it is characteristic of pregnancy! The NHS says that up to 50% of pregnant women experience this symptom. The link with pregnancy is possibly something to to with hormone-related fluid retention compressing the tunnel and pressurising the nerves.
So my due date has been and gone – sorry to disappoint all my family and friends in the States, but it turns out that America, Liberty and Sam (as in Uncle) will have to go back in the name bank for next time! (I was also briefly tempted by “Americus”, as per the name the heroine gives her daughter in Where the Heart Is after giving birth in a Walmart. It’s also a film starring Natalie Portman. I must admit I have a special fascination for this story as living in a vast, reasonably-priced department store is something of a fantasy of mine…)
I went for the 40-week check up at the hospital in the morning. We installed the car seat and loaded my hospital bags and pillows into the boot – after what happened with Elly I was hyper-aware that they might find something and keep me at the hospital, so we wanted to be prepared. How the midwife laughed when we told her we’d brought everything with us… but there was a moment, quite a bit longer than a moment actually, when I thought with rather perverse satisfaction that we’d been justified in doing so.
Everything was fine, with the exception of my heart rate. I expect I tempted fate by lying awake the night before thinking about as many America-related names as I could…
So we have made it to July… and it is becoming impossible to ignore that by the end of this month there will be a little friend for Elphaba.
But when will its birthday be? What will the labour and birth experience be like? And most excitingly: will it be a boy or a girl? Lots of questions to entertain myself while I lie awake at 4am after my seventeenth trip to the bathroom!
A few evenings ago we went round to my sister’s place. She and her flatmate were admiring my lovely, smooth, basketball-shaped belly, as I proudly pointed out my lack of stretch marks. I even wisely imparted my “skinny person” theory, which is that only thin people get stretch marks; those who are already a bit curvy are used to having their skin stretch so can accommodate a baby bump much more aesthetically. I also shared my foolproof moisturising regime. They were all ears.
Literally that night, we were preparing for the evening ritual of slathering body butter over my bump, when Mr Cath got a funny look on his face: “Er… I hate to say this, but that looks like a stretch mark.” What?! No way. I strained to see what he was talking about but couldn’t see anything – it was too low down. He persuaded me to stay in bed rather than leap up for a mirror by suggesting it might have been the creases in my top that had caused it. I tried to forget.
But first thing the next morning, I immediately made my way to our full-length mirror and there they were: not just one stretch mark, but a cluster! All located on my lower tummy area, below the belly button. I briefly felt foolish about the night before, then realised that I must have not pulled my trousers down far enough – there’s no chance my sister would have seen them and not said something! What are sisters for? (“your face is round”; “you bulge out at the sides”; “you’ve got Walmart feet” etc).
If I’d given birth at 36 or even 37 weeks I would have escaped stretch marks entirely, as they appeared a day after the 37-week point. I really felt like I was nearly there, on the home stretch so to speak. That’s one thing Elly got away with! Oh, the perils of late pregnancy…
The following is the post I was writing from hospital on the Sunday morning before I went into labour. I figured I would share it with you just for kicks and because it explains a bit more about the condition I had developed. When writing this I was quite frustrated about being cooped up in hospital for potentially another 8 days (till I hit full term at 37 weeks) and had grand plans to persuade the doctors to allow me to be released and treated as an outpatient. Little did I know that the doctors were conspiring against me (and planned to induce me on Sunday) or that the alien had its own plans for a great escape that day. All I can say is that I am pretty glad I was in hospital in the end!
So it seems that itchiness all over without any rash is a bit more serious than I thought. At the consultants’ appointment on Friday, I told them about it and the obstetric consultant ordered a blood test to check my liver function. When I asked him if it was likely to be something else, he was pretty confident that the test would come back positive for some kind of liver malfunction. So from being super bored with me from when I started at the clinic to now, when really I was an interesting haematology case but not very exciting from an obstetrics point of view, suddenly it was all over to him, the haematologist could sit back and relax.
Following on from my post on confinement, I have been thinking about the idea of showing off – or not – a pregnant bump and how our culture has changed in the last generation or so. In the eighties, my Mum wore voluminous peasant-style clothes and a lot of elasticated waists. She is quite petite and didn’t gain much weight with me. So at eight months pregnant, when she overheard a man at breakfast in their B&B comment that she’d had enough to eat, it just goes to show the result of unflattering maternity outfits. If they made her look fat, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Since the late eighties/early nineties, maternity style has morphed into something else entirely. I think there were two catalysts for this change in culture: Neneh Cherry’s appearance on Top of the Pops in 1988 when she was eight months pregnant, and Demi Moore’s 1991 naked Vanity Fair cover when she was seven months along.