Pregnancy Week 36: Easy tears (and an easy Christmas craft)

I’m officially 37 weeks now. Which means, in addition to the baby being basically fully cooked and safe to come out, I am officially eligible to labor in the tub at the birthing center, if I want. Hooray!

But let’s talk about Week 36.

The primary features of Week 36 this time around:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Lightning crotch
  • Hairtrigger crying reflex
  • Stress eating, and the subsequent return of heartburn

Pregnancy-wise, it wasn’t too rough of a week. I think I’ve finally completed the midwife circuit at the practice I go to, and I’m now on a weekly appointment schedule. At the 36 week appointment, I got the Group B strep test (presumed negative, as I didn’t get a phone call), so I won’t have to get antibiotics during labor.

Life-wise, it wasn’t an especially pleasant week. I’m still swamped with freelancing work (which is a good thing! And a fun project! But not the greatest timing on my part), had to spend two daycare mornings dealing with minor but inconvenient car issues, and The Toddler is once again going through a weird developmental phase (please, God, let this just be a phase) where he is refusing to nap and regressing with his potty-training habits. The Husband, too, was stretched thin, and worked late three nights last week, so while he did his best I felt like I was flying solo through a lot of turbulence.

The Toddler napped one. time. last week. And has had about four costume changes a day, thanks to his refusal to tell me when he needs to go. On the bright side, no naps means he is crashing for bed by 6 p.m. But then again, so am I.

All of which made that freelancing work pretty tricky to tackle, and all preparation for his family birthday party on Saturday had to wait until Saturday morning, which meant by 2:30 on Saturday afternoon I was just frantically running around the house, tears streaming down my face, as I tried to put everything together at the  last minute. I’ve got to stop being enormously pregnant during the holidays.

Fortunately, The Toddler’s grandparents and aunts and uncles were (at least outwardly) unbothered by our mediocre food offerings and only wanted to shower the Toddler in gifts and affection. He had a blast, and is enjoying the infusion of new toys. (And my mom gets to live to see another Christmas, despite her gift of a thousand-decibel tractor toy with no off switch, because she watched him Saturday morning so we could pull everything together.)

I don’t have any additional pregnancy wisdom or whining to throw your way this week, so here are a few shots of the quick-and-dirty advent calendar I put together for The Toddler. Obviously, it’s way too late for this to be useful for this year, but maybe it will come in handy next year if you feel obligated to make something homemade but want to keep it super simple (like, say, if you’re enormously pregnant.)

 

Super-simple Toddler Advent Calendar

Materials

  • 1/2 yard green felt
  • A way to affix the felt to your wall (maybe Command strips/velcro? I’m lucky to have a brick hearth that holds the felt all on its own)
  • Several yards of cotton string (I used craft baker’s twine)
  • 25 buttons
  • Yarn or ticker cotton string the length of your mantle
  • Multicolored cardstock
  • Hole punch
  • 2″-ish circle template (I traced the inside of a roll of masking tape)
  • 25 clothespins
  • Metallic Sharpie
  • 25 stickers (optional)

Directions

  1. Cut out a triangle shape from the felt. (Mine is about 30″-36″ tall and 18″ wide at the base).
  2. Sew 25 buttons onto the felt to give your toddler a way to hang up the ornaments.
  3. Hang the felt tree on the wall with Command velcro strips/brick.
  4. Cut out 25 circles from the cardstock. Number them 1-25.
  5. Punch holes in the circles and tie a loop of string to each.
  6. String up the yarn/string on your mantle and evenly space the 25 clothespins out.
  7. Pin each ornament up on the mantle, clipping a sticker behind each. (For older kids, you could also write something on the back of each ornament — an activity they get to do that day, a special memory you have with them, a riddle, whatever.)
  8. You’re done! Just help your little one take down an ornament each day and hang it on a button on the tree. I like to use the empty clothespins to hold Christmas cards as they come in.
Pregnancy Week 36: Easy tears (and an easy Christmas craft)

Pregnancy Week 35: Lightening Up (my belly, and my hospital bags)

The first day of my 35th week of pregnancy, I was sitting on The Toddler’s floor bed rubbing his back and trying to get him down for a nap when, suddenly, I felt it: the unmistakable pleasure of being able to take a deep breath. To make certain, I took another one. Yes! The baby had dropped!

I hadn’t even realized just how hard it had been to breathe until it got easy(ish) again. (Well, I sort of did, because The Husband asked me if I was all right every day because most of my exhales sounded like exasperated sighs.) Suddenly it was also the tiniest bit easier to move around, as my center of gravity was lower and my belly even felt a little smaller.

Of course, there is a tradeoff for easier breathing and improved balance when the baby drops. Here’s a few of my Google searches from this week to give you an idea of what that tradeoff might be:

  • 35 weeks can you feel dilation happening
  • cervical pressure 35 weeks
  • late third trimester cramping

Basically, it feels like the baby is getting some work done on the getting-ready-to-come-out front. I’m trying not to convince myself I’ll go into labor any earlier than I did with Baby 1 (39 weeks, 1 day), because I know it will only make me crazy to surpass any arbitrary deadlines I set. Despite this, baby-day is looming close enough that I am finally getting some of the major to-dos checked off my list. One of those is packing my hospital bags. I still have a few odds and ends to add, but if I were to go into labor today, I would not be caught completely empty-handed.

With our first baby, we packed everything imaginable. As most first-timers will tell you, almost none of those items got any use. My temptation this time around is to drastically underpack, both out of sheer laziness and because I’m hoping to not spend much time at the hospital either in labor or recovery afterward.

Again, setting myself up for potential disappointment, but second labors are usually shorter than first, and my first labor was only 12 hours last time, only three of which were at the hospital. Additionally, because we’re working with midwives, there are a lot of extras–like an exercise ball–I won’t have to bring in because they’re well equipped to support intervention-free birth. And finally, I don’t want to stick around any longer than absolutely necessary afterward. I hated our hospital stay last time and just wanted to go home.

However, because we’re dealing with a 40-minute drive to the hospital instead of five minutes, and because I’m not worried about getting pressured into interventions, we’ll be heading to the hospital sooner than we did last time. (Plus, again, it’s possible this labor will be shorter. I’m not interested in having a highway baby.) So I did add some things to the list that I might appreciate earlier on in labor.

Without further ado, here’s my pared-down hospital bag list this time around:

In case the hospital drive gets messy

  • A towel (if I don’t need it on the ride up, it might be nice to have a big towel for the post-birth shower, in case the hospital towels are tiny and scratchy again)
  • A few absorbent underpads to protect the car seats in case my water breaks

Labor essentials

  • Wooden back massager
  • Charged Bluetooth shower speaker (I can suction it straight to the birthing tub and not worry about getting it wet)
  • Headphones
  • Camera with charged batteries and a cleared SD card
  • Mini LED battery-powered Christmas lights (Since childhood, my “happy place” has always been sticking my head under the Christmas tree and staring up at the lights. Considering how much I withdrew into myself during my first labor, I expect this will be a soothing, easy focal point.)

Post-birth essentials

  • Change of clothes for myself and The Husband (just pajamas. I will probably hang out in a hospital gown in the immediate aftermath, and I don’t have a particular desire to get fully dressed for the drive home.)
  • Baby clothes (one set of newborn and one set of 0-3 month clothes in case this baby is bigger than the last one), plus a hat, booties, and a swaddler
  • Mini toiletries (I’m delivering at a different hospital than last time, but the toiletries at the county hospital were, I am assuming, jail grade. I’m not a soap snob, but my first post-birth shower was pretty unpleasant.)
  • Slippers and flip-flops (the latter for the shower)
  • Sleep mask to give me even the remotest shot of catching a nap

Paperwork/resources

  • A few copies of my birth plan
  • Pre-registration paperwork and insurance information, plus a copy of the informed consent paperwork I signed for the Holistic Birthing Center
  • Quick guides (from The Birth Partner and doula/podcaster Adriana Lozada’s “The Birth Partner’s Ultimate Labor Support Toolkit”) for The Husband
  • Birth affirmations on index cards (maybe laminated, if I’m feeling really ambitious). I spent most of my previous labor with my eyes shut, so I’m not planning to post them up anywhere. Instead, the intention is to equip The Husband with things I actually want to hear.

Digital prep

  • I temporarily upgraded to Spotify premium so I could make and download a few playlists to my phone. So far I have a “fun” playlist (for earlier labor, probably), a “serious” playlist for when the going gets a little tougher, and a “zen” playlist in case I just want instrumental music.
  • An app that has a contraction timer. I also plan on changing the settings on my phone when labor hits so it stays unlocked and is easy to access.
  • Important phone numbers programmed into both mine and my husband’s phones (midwives, hospital, etc.)

Things I’m on the fence about

  • The midwife I saw most recently recommended I bring a Boppy pillow. It just takes up a ton of space and I don’t really feel like hauling it around.
  • Same goes with a regular bed pillow. Maybe it would help me feel more “at home” to sleep, but I’m not sure the slightly enhanced comfort is worth the extra baggage.

That’s it for my hospital bag(s), I think. Second+ time moms, what did you add to your hospital bags? What did you ditch from the first time around?

Pregnancy Week 35: Lightening Up (my belly, and my hospital bags)

Pregnancy Week 34: Date with Destiny

Today marks the last day of Pregnancy Week 34 . I am big, big, big. I had a midwife appointment the day before Thanksgiving during which I learned I had gained 6 lbs in three weeks, which is more than the recommended 1/2 a pound to a pound a week.

Not exactly a great way to kick off Thanksgiving weekend, but it’s not like I had made any major changes to how I’ve been eating and/or moving (answer: kind of a lot, and not much, at this point, TBH). I think the baby is just packing on the ell-bees him or herself, and I have not been getting in the way of that.

I did eat salad during both Thanksgiving dinners I enjoyed this week (and avoided seconds, for the most part), and have been filling up on kale smoothies during breakfast #2. I certainly don’t want to get myself into any health trouble, but I also am trying not to panic about something I have limited control over.

The week remained busy as heck as I tackle an extra freelancing project, and The Toddler’s most recent foray into part-time child care has, of course, brought with it a nasty cold that has made each night an endless battle. If it’s not a crying toddler waking me up, it’s the pregnancy insomnia. I’m feeling pretty worn out.

While I know that I’m not going to feel less exhausted when this baby is out, I’m looking forward to being able to get off the couch (or the floor, or out of bed) unassisted. Labor has become less of a faint, fuzzy memory and more of a looming reality.

One way I’ve begun to prepare is to start eating dates each day. I’ve had an unusual craving for dates throughout this pregnancy, but I’ve ramped up my consumption to six a day over the past week or so. There have actually been a few published studies demonstrating a statistically significant difference in the overall duration of labor and need for pitocin between women who eat dates in the weeks leading up to labor and women who don’t. (There was no evidence that dates start labor any earlier than it would have otherwise.)

Pregnancy week 34.png

The Husband has made this task much nicer with a lovely just-because (you’re huge and miserable) gift, a sampler box of different types of dates.

So sweet. (The Husband and the dates.)

So. Judging by my to-do list, I’m not ready for this baby, necessarily, but I do feel done with pregnancy. If it goes the way my pregnancy with Baby 1 did, I have just over four more weeks to go. That measure feels both impossibly endless and like no time at all.

Pregnancy Week 34: Date with Destiny

Pregnancy Week 32: Preparing a toddler for big-siblinghood

It’s another eeeeeaaaarly morning in the TLMB household, and a “late again” post from yours truly. Let’s skip the excuses and move along to the good stuff.

Week 32 pregnancy stats

Baby is… FOUR POUNDS (or just under) and again, around 17 inches. The size of a half-gallon of milk, a large jicama, or a napa cabbage. I like the half-gallon of milk reference because it sounds the heaviest, and this baby feels like a half-ton of sentient bricks rolling around in my uterus.

Aside from enormous, I’m feeling about as good as can be expected this far along. I had a weird dizzy spell the other evening that seems to be pretty common (and was not accompanied by any worrisome headache or swelling, before anyone asks.) Squatting, reaching, rolling over and shoe-tying require a lot more grunting than usual, I still have a perpetually stuffy nose, and apparently I snore now. The nesting instinct is still both fierce and usually abandoned to more pressing priorities, such as laundering The Toddler’s clothes so he has underwear to wear, or swapping out the frozen water for the goats and chickens (Oh, hey winter! Forgot you were a thing.)

Anyway, since I haven’t been able to keep up with my schedule of posting more than once a week, I thought I’d give you a twofer and share a short list of ways we’ve been preparing The Toddler (who will turn two a week before our due date) for the arrival of his little brother or sister.

Pregnancy week 32

Preparing Toddler for the New Baby

  1. Including the baby in conversations. The Toddler is talking up a storm these days. Sometimes I will ask him to tell the baby what we did that day, or show the baby a picture he drew, etc. Basically trying to regularly remind him there’s a person in there in a low-key way on a regular basis, and not just, “Please don’t step on my belly, you’re going to squish the baby.” I think this casual, inclusive approach has served me well so far, as The Toddler will often pull up my shirt to “see baby” and will hold up his toys to my belly, press his face against it, or just chat for a minute. It’s very heart-melty.
  2. Lots of books. We’re library rats, and every time I see a book with a sibling relationship in it, I try to grab it (all library browsing is done at top speed while The Toddler ransacks the children’s room). They aren’t all about new babies, and while I haven’t shied away from books about the mechanics of it all, he’s not really interested. The one we’re currently reading over and over again is Gemma and Gus, one of the “Gossie & Friends” series by Olivier Dunrea. We also read The Baby is Here! (Daniel Tiger) two million times.
  3. Exposure therapy. Probably a mislabel since he absolutely does not have a baby phobia, but I have lucked out in having several friends with new babies and have also recently joined the local chapter of a MOMS club. So every chance I get, I introduce The Toddler to a new baby. During these greetings, with the baby’s mom’s permission, I try to let The Toddler gently touch a foot or hand while describing how the baby interacts with the world–lots of sleeping, not a lot of moving around, no playing yet, and only eating milk. I know the reality of sharing his parents is not going to sink in full force until he’s doing it, but I’m hoping these repeated introductions to babies will give him a little perspective on how his little sibling will need a lot of help at first and instill whatever degree of empathy he’s capable of at this stage.
  4. Baby dolls. Baby dolls are for all kids, not just girls, of course. The Toddler has three (I recently bought him a very small, soft-bodied baby to go along with the bigger, hard-plastic ones he got from his grandmas). He likes to push them around in a stroller, or wear the smallest baby in a toy backpack on his back (like I carry him in his carrier sometimes still), pretend to feed them, etc. He even has started demanding that I change their diapers, and he steps up on a little stool at the changing table to pick out a diaper to put on them.
  5. Encouraging a spirit of helpfulness. The Toddler is becoming more independent as he approaches two, and wanting to do lots of things himself. Of course, this leads to a lot of power struggles, but whenever possible I try to harness this independence for good, and ask him to help me with easy chores (stacking up toilet paper rolls in the bathroom closet, handing me clean spoons out of the dishwasher, feeding the pets.) I always say, “Thanks, helper!” and can see he takes a lot of pride in these little chores, so hopefully this will carry through when I’m trapped under a nursing baby and really need him to bring me something.
  6. Introducing a part-time daycare routine. My freelancing work has picked up lately, and will stay busy through my due date, which has pushed me to do something I’ve been intending but putting off: enrolling The Toddler in a part-time daycare a couple days a week. We had a visit on Thursday last week, and his first morning will be tomorrow. While I’m not super thrilled at the inevitable myriad of colds he’ll bring home with him, I am thrilled he’ll be getting more running-around time, developmental enrichment and exposure to children his age. I’ve been really trying the past few months to provide this for him, but my energy is low, and I know it will only be harder to do in the first few months after baby arrives. So as long as we can afford it, we’ll keep up this routine.
  7. We got a TV. I’m not as proud of this item on my list as the others, but I’ve conceded it’s a necessity. Up until now, we haven’t had a TV in our living room. When pregnancy fatigue steamrolled me a few months ago, I caved and started letting The Toddler watch Daniel Tiger on my laptop. As is customary, I feel immense guilt about this. However, while an episode or two of age-appropriate TV isn’t going to kill him, climbing onto our trash can (something he did earlier this week) while I’m nursing a baby might. And a laptop isn’t exactly toddler-proof, so we bought a TV this week. I will use it judiciously keep him entertained and safe when I’m occupied with the baby (or, in the meantime, while I’m dizzily chugging water or clambering to make dinner.)

Still to come:

  • Preparing for first introduction. When The Toddler comes to visit us after the baby is born, our plan is to have the baby in a bassinet and first shower The Toddler in affection and attention before we introduce the baby to him. We’re also planning on picking out a small present “from the baby” to give him. These are pretty standard recommendations for helping The Toddler not to feel too displaced.
  • Busy bags for breastfeeding time. I’m planning on breastfeeding again, and can’t really wrap my head around how I’m going to keep The Toddler busy during marathon nursing sessions (and don’t want the aforementioned TV to be the only tool in my toolbox). I got a great recommendation from a MOMS club friend who has four kids, including a new baby: Make up a few boxes/bags of special toys that only come out during nursing time, and must be put away when it’s over. This keeps them exciting and novel and helps keep the big sibling happily occupied, at least in theory. I’m not sure yet what will go in these bags–The Toddler still always wants help/my active participation when he’s coloring or playing with Playdough, etc.–so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know!
Pregnancy Week 32: Preparing a toddler for big-siblinghood

Pregnancy Week 31: Still pregnant

It’s 4:37 a.m., two days into Week 32. Because my son doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time, neither do I.

Anyway, sorry for the late post, but I’ve been busy with work the past week. Also, I’ve been nesting maniacally, though it doesn’t feel that crazy because we genuinely have a lot to do before the baby gets (though I guess every nesting lunatic says that, right?)

Anyway, backing up to the facts:

During Week 31, baby is more than 16 inches long and 3 pounds, or the size of a coconut or a football. Baby is losing the werewolf look (I hope) as lanugo starts to shed, and continues to run out of room to move around (though that hasn’t stopped him or her from getting in some pretty hard kicks). The baby is also packing on fat in preparation for life outside of my toasty-warm uterus.

I’m still feeling pretty sleepy, though not nearly as worn out as I was when The Husband was out of town last week. I’m also sniffly–either just your standard pregnancy stuffy nose, or I’m headed toward another cold, I can’t quite tell. One symptom I forgot to mention along the way (I think) that I’ve been dealing with all pregnancy is a flare up of eczema on my hands. This is something I’ve dealt with on and off throughout my adult life, but haven’t seen for a good four years or so, so it’s been an irritating addition to my other symptoms. It got so bad I had to get a prescription to treat it.

Let’s see, what else…heartburn, of course. And shortness of breath, which I don’t always notice, but which has my heaving great big sighs that trigger The Husband to ask me if I’m okay all the time. And I’m just generally feeling humongous and cumbersome, especially when The Toddler demands I sit on the floor and then gets up and runs away while I roll around trying to get up like a flipped-over turtle.

I had an appointment with the midwife this past week, and she reported that Baby 2 is head-down (hooray!) We’re finally getting a tour of the Holistic Birthing Center tonight, which will then allow me to plan a realistic hospital bag checklist (last time around, no joke, we brought two duffel bags that we could have smuggled adult humans in.)

In other prep news, The Husband made and froze some chili for us last week when he came home. I didn’t manage to make a freezer meal this week, but I think I’m going to try for some enchiladas this week? Either that or I’ll take a nap. We’ll see.

Sorry the last few updates haven’t been particularly interesting (or on time, or consistent.) This part of the pregnancy just feels like a slog. I’d like to say I’ll make an effort to have these be more useful to anyone other than me, but honestly, no promises. If there’s one thing I learned in the wake of having my first baby, it’s to set realistic expectations for yourself.

Pregnancy Week 31: Still pregnant

Pregnancy Week 30: Sleepy, solo parenting

This is gonna be brief, because [see blog post title]. I’m at the end of Day 3 out of 4 of The Husband being out of town for a work conference. Just in time for pregnancy fatigue to come back in full force.

The Toddler is going through some sort of developmental leap this week. I’m calling it “Mommy, Look!” Week because he’s been saying it over and over again. Sometimes it’s cute (he has colored something or figured out how to open Mr. Potato Head’s storage hatch) but usually it means he’s standing on the dining room table while I’m trying to cook us something for dinner. It could also be called, “I’m No Longer Going to Tell You When I Have to Poop” week, which also has been fun.

Baby 2 is the size of a cantaloupe, or a platypus! (I know I’ve been complaining about baby size comparisons this whole pregnancy, but I’m pretty psyched about the platypus.) That equates to 17 inches and about 3.5 pounds. His or her lanugo will start to fall off this week (though judging by the full blown acid reflux that’s kicked in this week, he or she will still be covered in fur at birth).

Um, what else… I don’t know. I’m tired. I can’t stop burping. Or whining. I And I’m on solo duty for one more night. Wish me luck.

platypus_by_lewin
By John Lewin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Pregnancy Week 30: Sleepy, solo parenting

Pregnancy Week 29: Holding my bones together

Oh, hello. It appears we’ve arrived at the point in my pregnancy, approximately 8-10 weeks ahead of schedule, during which I cannot fathom how I will go on being pregnant and managing my day-to-day life.

It must kick in earlier with a second baby because the terror of trying to figure out how I’ll survive with two children is so much more acute–the sleep deprivation, the diaper explosions, the perpetual leaking of fluids–that it makes evolutionary sense for me to be so blindingly miserable as a pregnant person that I’ll take anything to get out of this. Including childbirth, and the aforementioned sleep deprivation, diaper explosions, and leaking fluids.

Before I go on, though, let’s talk stats:

At 29 weeks, baby is pretty well fully formed and is just putting the finishing touches on everything — in the form of more fat and muscle, eyelashes, and lung development. The baby is about 16″ in length and 3 pounds, give or take. You know, pineapple-sized (or a butternut squash. Or an acorn squash. Wasn’t it already an acorn squash a few weeks ago? I hate these comparisons.) My Ovia app tells me that as space is becoming more cramped in there, the baby’s “movements are getting less violent and more regular as s/he grows to the bounds of your womb.”

Ha!

On Tuesday, it felt like the baby was nearly successful in tunneling out of the side of my uterus Shawshank Redemption style. While it was only painful in one area (just to the right of my belly button), the pressure was so intense it had me Googling, “Contractions or baby kicking.” The kicks had me doubled over, unable to talk. And I am speaking from the experience of already having one unmedicated childbirth behind me. I had an anterior placenta with my first pregnancy, and either that was some valuable cushioning or this baby is going to be a human wrecking ball.

In response to my agony, The Husband showed me an article he saw on Reddit in which a fetus actually did punch through her mother’s womb, almost killing them both. The top comment described a second incidence of this happening. In reading further, I found that both women had scar tissue in their uteruses (uteri?), from removing fibroids, but that is NOT COMFORTING NEWS WHEN YOUR BABY IS KICKING, SIR!

We’re now deep into Snoogle season of this pregnancy, which is marked by me spending the night embracing a big, G-shaped pillow that takes up 85% of the bed. While it does nothing to improve my maneuverability, I need it “to help hold my bones together,” as I explained to The Husband when he whined recently that he was falling off the bed. (I wake up in the morning and my spine sounds like an upturned rainstick. Without this pillow, annoying as it is, I fear I’d wake up as nothing more than a loose pile of bones in a skin bag.)

Pregnancy week 29

While all my joints have been feeling a little loose for weeks, this week in particular marked the beginning of another fun symptom that has flared up (again, happened last time, too): symphysis pubis dysfunction (self-diagnosed, but I’m pretty confident). As I understand it, this means that hormones have rendered my ligaments so relaxed that my hips are barely attached to each other anymore. I guess it’s time to quit hitching a leg over the electric fence to pet the goats every day.

Because of this, I was so miserable on Tuesday I made The Husband come home early-ish from work with takeout pizza because I couldn’t get off the couch to make dinner or adequately supervise our son after his nap. While I haven’t been formally exercising lately, I have been pretty active in doing chores and general toddler-chasing, but this is slowing me down.

I suppose in some ways this is good, as I’m barely 20% finished with a baby blanket I started knitting months ago, and I’ve also become a late adopter of the Internet craze that is bullet journaling.

After making and losing 100 important lists in the last few months, I’ve found this to be very helpful in at least containing the overwhelming thoughts and plans I need to wrangle as I approach the chaos of a new baby again. Mine certainly doesn’t resemble any of the more elaborate, colorful journals you find on Instagram (and has, in fact, been snatched up and scribbled on by The  Toddler at leasst once since its inception last week), but its utility is undeniable.

 

 

Pregnancy Week 29: Holding my bones together