Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bones behaving badly

There are innumerable joys to pregnancy, from nausea to unbridled emotions, fatigue and a recent companion, joint instability. In continuance of my experience that the more painful the ailment the more painful its pronunciation, as if its name alone should cause one to shudder (except of course for labour, the exception to every rule, that aptly describes its experience with the one word), I have had the blessed visit of uninvited symphysis pubis dysfunction and like the best of dysfunctions, it is graced with its own acronym, SPD. Put simply as relaxin is released throughout your body to aid in delivery, but somehow badly programmed to not specifically target the pelvic area and be released only right before delivery ( an example of code cheating by our biology), all our ligaments are let loose and set out to party, including the symphysis pubis. So if you're wondering why you're suddenly more supple and flexible, conquering poses in yoga that you may have been struggling through pre-belly, it's due to a hormone gone wild.

As I started with loose ligaments in the first place, leading to a few cartilage conundrums in my wrists and knees pre-pregnancy, I took the now familiar hot pain in my knees and wrists with what I hoped was stoic acceptance. Proud of myself for letting go and accepting the return of joint pain, my continual party crasher, I did not expect that this time it would come vamped up, bringing pelvic pain into the mix. I spent one whole day utterly miserable, feeling what I can only describe as a continual burning pressure in my pelvis and was admittedly quite irascible throughout. The only relief was to get on my mat in balasana, with my legs separated more than usual to make room for my big frontal companion.

Along with ligaments letting loose, the gap in the pelvic joint widens a few mm during pregnancy (we all end up with child bearing hips!) and if it widens too much (please, no!) you face another latin tongue twister with its own acronym, DSP, or diastasis symphysis pubis and a lot more ouch. I'm going to try and focus on the bright side of this hip widening - yes, there's the arrival of my son but also, from a girl that never had hips for Fosse moves, maybe I'll finally have that hour glass figure ( but alas, would require a whole new wardrobe).

In addition to my pelvic predicament, I've had the blessing of round ligament pain, which started quite early on in the second trimester. In part, I believe this is may be ill targeted karma for unwittingly causing my husband massive amounts of pain after his hernia surgery when I thought a good past time would be watching comedies (in hindsight, I advise the tragic genre instead for such circumstance). The pain does not last long but it's a stabbing pain that makes up in force what it lacks temporally. Twisting, turning, laughing and coughing can bring it on and it forces me to double over in pain.

The fun never stops! At least not for another trimester....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Last hot days of the honeymoon

I'm a few days away from the beginning of the behemoth of the third trimester (not all pregnancy weeks are equal), which leers at me with a wink askew from the approaching shadows...and I admit, I am scared.

I know everything is going to become more difficult and it's already no picnic (and here I am solely using the idiom, for in truth picnics can be quite stressful - what charcuterie to bring? What fromage? What vin? Whom to invite? How not to invite those insufferable people that have clawed their way to the periphery of the group and are clutching as if their health depended on immersion into the clique).

Not only am I finding the weight difficult to deal with (unashamedly making suggestive statements to hubby in order to lure him into more foot massages which readily will simply turn to "another, please" with an expectant smile on my face-  he can't say no to the belly, right?) and am never comfortable, although most comfortable with my pregnancy pillow (my new best friend!) and ordinary movements difficult to negotiate (such as putting on my shoes, getting out of our futon-style bed and soon fearing issues with that delicate act of independent personhood, wiping my own butt), but my brain has packed up shop and is currently sipping a white Bordeaux, looking out wistfully at the shore in Côte d'Azur leaving me to scramble with no short term memory, unforgivable syntax and the logical aptitude of a maggot.

Just a few minutes ago, during a call in which I explained my hubby and I had to leave our loft in the village which we love so much, I stated to a somewhat awkwardly silent reception that "unfortunately, we're having a baby in two months and have to leave." A few days ago, I signed my name "Australia" in an email, albeit I did not feel overly patriotic at the time (in fact I had just been reading some delightful insights by our PM and was lugubriously laughing) although to my credit, both proper nouns start with "A" and have nine letters.

I can only imagine the delightful gaffes I will make at the pretrial conference at the Southern District I have coming up. On the positive, it may give opposing counsel a false sense of security, which I trust I will crush when my intellect returns from its sun dappled sojourn.

My dad, an avid believer of Murphy's Law, always quick to say that things go wrong just at the moment you need them the most (with a smile that invades any conversation and a laugh with seismic effect), thought it hilarious that our A-C went kaput a few days ago. I did not find the same humour during the 33 degree (celsius people, nine years in this country and I still don't get Fahrenheit - I wonder if it's a question on the citizenship exam?) heat, not exactly uncommon for mid July in the city. I drenched myself under a cold shower trying to keep all thoughts on the world's freshwater crisis firmly tamed. I stuck my head in the fridge and ignored creeping thoughts as to the needless emissions I was creating. I even strolled over to the supermarket a block away and walked around the frozen food aisle, acting interested at bags of frozen pees and pizza to get away from the strangling heat until the staff started passing me by with inspecting looks and I knew it was time to face the heat anew.

And so a new trimester begins...

Monday, July 21, 2014


Exercise is not so ninja when you have a belly.

Lately, even stairs have become my nemesis. Pre-pregnancy, I would scoff at our lift and had a very loyal relationship with our internal fire escape. Now, I still grumble up the stairs, albeit in a much slower fashion with an exasperated expression and much heaving.

Bending has become an obstacle (but on the other side of the coin, I have a great excuse for hubby to do all the housework! And yes, I will be utilizing it). I reflexively groan whenever I bend, a low rumble from another time, like a preserved mammoth awakened from its bed of ice. Not a feat to attempt around small children.

This makes exercise a little more imaginative, with a lot more adjustments. In my first trimester, I continued as normal and in my second, I made progressive adjustments until now, less than one week away from my third, I am strictly adhering to the prenatal label.

While I resisted going to prenatal yoga rather than doing adjustments in my regular class, I quickly realised that I was having to adjust or sit out the majority of poses (inversions, twists et al) and I swiftly joined the prenatal ranks. It was great not being the only belly in town. Plus, the prenatal teachers know what stretches you are aching for - it's amazing! If I wasn't practicing yoga every other day, I believe I may have been arrested for disorderly conduct quite a while ago (particularly respecting the times I have been craving a particular ice cream only to find out that the ice cream truck had indecently sold out of my flavour and most recently and egregiously decided to discontinue cinnamon right when I am entering my third trimester! Do these people have no empathy? I only survive by stocking up on ginger and coconut).

I must admit prepreggers, I was a little addicted to the endorphin rush after exercise. You name it, I probably tried it. Running (resulting in continual arguments and misunderstandings with my right ITB), yoga (practicing various styles from Ashtanga, to Iyengar, to Hatha to Bikram - the anti-yoga yoga- to a mixed vinyasa flow), pilates (both mat and machine), kickboxing (resulting in a torn meniscus), pole dancing (I loved this so much I posted a pole in my living room and ended up with multiple tears of the scapholunate ligaments in my both hands) and lately the barre method (Pure Barre to be exact). Needing my solace, I have been determined to continue my work outs, albeit in right belly fashion. Previously scoffing at work out videos, as often happens in my life (I have learnt to be a little less judgmental, as the universe has a habit of putting me in people's shoes - even literally, as once I ended up buying a pair of shoes that I had previously raised a critical eyebrow at), I am now ardently following the routine of a few.

Is it just me or do the "prenatal" instructors in various "prenatal" videos, claiming they are well into their second trimester, look not only decidedly NOT pregnant, but a little emaciated to you? I can't help but smirk every single time, albeit I can dictate the routine's narrative verbatim,  I hear the belly-less instructor exclaim "Oh, it is harder with a belly isn't it!" as she smiles ebullient and without a missed breath plunges into a decidedly fanciful exercise for a belly that knows no boundaries, such as the one that houses my son.

The more difficult negotiating exercise, or even just every day tasks such as sitting and standing up and bending are, the more my son exercises in my belly. He seems to have taken after me, as every day, at different times, suddenly my dormant belly erupts in an earthquake of ceaseless activity for minutes at a time, with such force that it interrupts whatever I may be doing. In the last few days, I have been able to not only feel him but see him moving. It's a trip, alright. Is he doing star jumps in there? We won't be doing them together for a while yet.

I can't finish a rant about prenatal exercise without broaching the subject of kegels. I must admit I have to work harder on mine- I realize their importance and lay prostrate at their throne! I was told by my yoga teacher to do ten sets a day. Ha! I am still getting to the point of practicing my kegels once daily and even then I can only do the rudimentary exercises, let alone the "elevator" reps they encourage you to do. The great thing about kegels is that you could do them anywhere. In the office. On the subway. Oh yes, just think, wherever you go, a soon to be mama is practicing her kegels somewhere near you.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Big Head Ninja

The first time we saw our baby he appeared a mere blinking dot. The second time, he looked like a tadpole. The third time, we saw a little baby ninja, kicking furiously and with a massive head, nearly as big as the length of his entire body. The understanding, loving parents that we are, we pointed at his disproportionate head and started laughing, christening him "Big Head" under the disapprovingly raised eyebrow of our sonographer. 

We have had two anatomical ultrasounds and both times I carefully counted that all digits and appendages were there along with the sonographer, asking the sonographer to confirm to the point of annoyance that she also saw five fingers that coiled together to make a punch, which very clearly were directed at the sonographer herself (our little Big Head does not appreciate the disturbance of ultrasounds). Possibly it was my critical Eastern European mindset, but on observing my son's facial features, I noticed that he had what appeared to be an overbite and quizzed the sonographer as to her opinion on the issue, already wondering where the good orthodontists were in NYC that accepted our insurance. I was quickly told that the ultrasound pictures were blurry, particularly because our little Big Head ninja was practicing his gymnastic routine and that I had years to go before I should worry about braces. Satisfied with the response, I enjoyed watching my little ninja tumble around in earnest reaction to the ultrasound. 

I have read that babies do not like ultrasounds and our son clearly evinced that a) he noticed the ultrasound and  b) that he did not care for its disturbance of his haven (this does not surprise me considering that I found the pressure on my abdomen during the ultrasounds to be less than pleasant). When the post 8 week ultrasounds began, our little ninja was serene and sleeping (or possibly meditating) until the sonogrpapher went to town and pushed this way and that all over his little body to get pictures of his various anatomical features. He awoke with a fury and as a rockstar avoiding the paparazzi, flailed, turned, covered his face and punched in the direction of the ultrasound so that no magazine cover eventuated and his parents were left with Picasso-esque portraits of his form (quite suited to the fact that his mother is an abstract painter). Even before his birth, he managed to thoroughly reduce the spirits of his examiner, who couldn't get the better of him and resigned herself to both blurry pictures and a conclusion that our son "was indeed a fighter." This was not surprising considering the temperament of his Balkan parents, whose tempers are as tame as the bulls in Pamplona during the encierro.  

The first time I felt our son kick, I had just started my 21st week and was lying on a bed, perusing my good friend's pictures of her time in Senegal. I was as surprised as excited. I had felt him for some weeks previously, what I have read termed as "fluttering" but what I would more readily describe as the feeling of noticing that something is swimming inside of you, which caused me to momentarily wonder whether I had ingested a live fish that somehow triumphed over my stomach acids, but had not yet felt a kick. Kicks are a miraculous, amazing feeling. I can't help bursting into ebullient laughter. Before a kick, even with the slimy fish routine, pregnancy can appear a little abstract. You feel fatigued, emotional, hungry or nauseated and then your belly starts to increase, but it's only when your little one gives you a ninja kick to say "hey, I'm here!" that your mothering instincts are charged into full swing (or at least this was my experience). Lately, our little footballer has been moving daily and kicking with more force, more times, each day as if influenced by the World Cup. He recently kicked just as Brazil scored against Costa Rica, so I garnered he was going for the home team and will be announcing to him the plays against their match with Germany tomorrow.

It is quite surreal to feel a wholly different person inside of you. For one thing, we are a different sex (I have impolitcally teased my husband at times that I have a penis now - but it's true!). More strangely, I have noticed that we sleep at different times. Sometimes I awake to find him kicking and squirming so that he was awake and active when I was asleep and generally when I am active, he is either asleep or at least serene so I do not feel him - we have separate consciousnesses - which I abstractly knew of course beforehand, but now I can directly sense. 

I have begun to speak more and more to my son and when he kicks, I wonder whether he hears me and his kicks are a way of communicating with me. In an effort to make communication easier, I have asked him yes or no questions and when he kicks in response, I stand proud for one second, believing my tactic has worked and then accept defeat as I realize my pyrrhic victory in not being able to discern whether his kick was for the affirmative or the negative in the situation, knowing I cannot differentiate his response based on the number of kicks, before I have taught him to count (leaving aside the fact that he most probably does not have a mastery of either English nor Serbian to understand what I am telling him in the first place). However, as he readily kicks when I speak to him, I cannot but believe that we are communicating on some level, even if it is as primitive as him understanding that I exist and his kicks telling me that he exists. 

As his kicks have become more forceful as he gets bigger, I wonder whether soon he will be cramped and run out of space, thus directing his frustration at my nearby organs, including my bladder - ah, the joys of pregnancy! I've been trying to reason with him on the space issue to preempt any such bladder attacks. First, I have politely pointed out to him that he should bear in mind that he can also grow outside of the womb, which increase would probably be more comfortable for us both. Second, I have noted that he can't expect much space being a New Yorker after all. We all have to compromise and discover devious ways of utilizing space. Unfortunately, I believe he is being true to form and finding that sliding his feet up between my ribs does the trick. Easy there, fella, you actually have it much better  than most New Yorkers - rent control, central air, food included and no need for closet space! I trust I have persuaded my little tenant, whom I cannot evict for a few more months whatever his behaviour, to be more accepting of his current digs.