It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted anything here--sorry about that. I'd like to say it's because things have been busy, but ... it isn't. It's because I've been so tired that I really haven't been doing much to write about. But there has been a little going on with the pregnancy, so I decided to update you about that anyway.
At my regular prenatal appointment a week and a half ago, my nurse asked all the standard questions, including "Have you been experiencing any pain?" The short answer to that question this time was yes, although there was nothing that I thought was unusual or problematic. However, it's always safer to report it all and let the doctor decide, so that's what I did. I was right about the hip and thigh pain that I've been experiencing for over a month now--that's normal, and it's normal for it to be worse at night than during the day. But that isn't the only pain I've experienced. I've also experienced a little bit of abdominal pain, mostly when I'm wiggling around in bed at night trying to get comfortable or when I reach for something on the top shelf in my kitchen cabinets. This pain also struck me as normal--after all, my abdominal muscles are under a lot of strain right now, so it makes sense to me that any use or stretching of them may be enough to push them over the edge into soreness or even a momentary acute pain. My nurse practitioner largely agreed with me, but she looked a little doubtful. She said that pain like that was unusual, and unusual is a little concerning, so she wanted me to go see a local OB just to make sure everything was okay.
We made that trip last week. Long story short, everything is fine. There is no indication that anything at all is wrong, other than that I may be a little dehydrated. Both my nurse practitioner and the OB emphasized that, especially now that I've started having a few Braxton Hicks pressure waves, which can be magnified by dehydration. The OB, Dr. Nevine, also recommended that I start taking Cal-Mag, a calcium supplement, in addition to the prenatal vitamins that I was already taking. That made sense to me, as I regularly realize that I've gone all day without eating or drinking much of anything that has a lot of calcium in it--I try so hard to make sure that I drink enough water (which means that I often drink nothing but water, drink it constantly even when I'm not thirsty, and still end up with signs of dehydration) that I don't drink much milk.
Dr. Nevine also palpated my abdomen and informed me that Alexa currently is transverse. That means that she's lying across my abdomen; instead of being head up (fully breech) or head down (in the proper birthing position), her head is on one side and she's lying against my cervix. It isn't a problem at this point; most babies turn sometime between weeks 32 and 38, and I'm just now at week 31. She'll probably turn into the proper birthing position on her own, but if she doesn't, my OB in the States may be able to turn her manually later on. I actually was happy to hear that she's transverse, just because that's how I felt like she was laying. It would have been disconcerting to be told that she was up-and-down when I could have sworn that I felt her more side-to-side. But it will be nice when she gets herself into the birthing position--if she were to stay transverse until time for her birth, that would be an automatic cesarian section, which I'd much rather avoid.
In other pregnancy news, I've started doing a home study course for natural childbirth. It's a 5-week course with weekly reading and daily practice. I have not been good about doing the practice, which is why I'm not keeping to the 5-week schedule so well--I keep realizing that it's time to read another lesson but I haven't done my practicing. The course I'm using is Hypnobabies. I was very skeptical of it at first, and I'm still skeptical of some of its claims, but overall I think it will be a good method for me. I don't think of it as self-hypnosis (although it turns out that there actually is some research out there indicating that people can be trained to use self-hypnosis for effective pain relief) so much as I think of it as teaching myself not to be afraid of childbirth and to relax deeply.
The idea is that fear causes the release of adrenaline and increased muscle tension. Increased muscle tension can stall labor, as the uterine muscle fibers that have kept the cervix closed during pregnancy tense up and refuse to be drawn out of the way by the uterine muscle fibers that are trying to open the cervix for birth. Increased muscle tension causes the experience of pain as these muscles work against each other. So it's important for a woman not only to not be afraid, but to be able to relax deliberately in order to minimize muscle tension and allow her body to birth with as little resistance as possible, which should minimize the pain she experiences as well.
Some claim that using self-hypnosis effectively leads to completely pain-free birth, but I don't expect that--although the course is trying hard to get me to expect it. I am, however, working to teach myself to expect a birth that is calm and manageable--one during which I will be able to use the relaxation cues I've learned in order to help my body relax. That's what the daily practice is all about--they call it learning self-hypnosis; I call it conditioning my body to relax in the presence of certain cues. I don't do the practice as often as I should, though, because apparently my body already relaxes in the presence of those cues--I keep falling asleep! I don't expect that to be an issue during my birthing time, so I do need to teach myself to relax in the presence of those cues while not falling asleep.
Oh, and if you've noticed some oddities in my vocabulary, it isn't just you. Part of the Hypnobabies method for reducing fear involves changing the way we think about certain things by changing the words we use to describe them. "Contractions" become "pressure waves," an equally accurate descriptor without the associations with pain that most people have. "Labor" becomes "my birthing time," again because so many associate labor with pain. I forget the other vocabulary changes that I'm supposed to be making, although there is one that may or may not be a Hypnobabies thing, but I've read it from several midwives and doulas: the word "delivery" is a little demeaning to mothers as it currently is used with regard to childbirth.
"Who will deliver your baby?" That makes it sound like the doctor is doing all the work--and making all the decisions--and the mom is just along for the ride. Midwives and doulas tend to talk instead about a medical professional attending the birth or catching the baby (although sometimes, depending on parental preferences, the doctor attends and the father catches), and the mother is the one who is birthing her baby. This change in terminology linguistically gives control to the mother, rather than to the birth attendant, at least to the extent that anyone can control birth. I like this terminology better than the traditional "delivery" terminology. After all, do I really want to use the same word for childbirth that I use when the pizza shows up at my door?
I think that's it for the pregnancy updates, other than one kind of amusing story. Alexa had been kicking me fairly regularly, although not all the time by any means. Then suddenly she stopped kicking me more than a couple of times a day. I started to get worried and mentioned it to Jeff. Within an hour, Alexa was kicking me constantly--four or more times in the first 15 or 20 minutes. Now it may be that frequently sometimes, less at other times, and none at all if I'm moving around a lot (probably rocking her to sleep), but it never gets to the point anymore where I even consider worrying before she goes into a frenzy of movement. It's almost as if she understood me tell Jeff that I was worried--I know she hears everything I say now, although understanding is unlikely--and she's determined not to worry me again.
Okay, that's really it. Hopefully it won't be two weeks again before I post something, but no guarantees. Right now my time is being spent sleeping, chasing Cleo away from the speakers (she's taken to licking them), and getting ready to head back to the States before too long. Speaking of those speakers ... gotta go!