Baby blimp

It started a few weeks ago. First my metatarsals disappeared. Then my ankles looked suspiciously thicker.

“Do my feet look fat?” I asked Chris. Chris looked at me with the eyes of someone who is considering making a discreet call to the funny farm.

Then, sometime last week, I was sitting on the bed with my feet up, examining what looked to be 10 very select, juicy cocktail weiners placed with care on two plump, round ends of ham.

“I see what you mean about your feet now,” Chris admitted when confronted with the fact that my feet looked like the prize work of one of those clowns who twists balloons into animal shapes for partygoers.

Normally, I am not a person who gives a lot of thought to the appearance of my ankles. As long as I have a well-toned derriere and nice flat abs, I couldn’t care less if my lower legs most closely resemble those of a pachyderm. However, my derriere is currently padded with what pregnancy books tactfully refer to as “maternal fat stores,” and I think we have established by now that my belly is, at this point, extremely convex. As you might imagine, when a person has added 20-odd pounds over an eight-month period, one’s ankles are all one has left.

So it was with much dismay Friday that I surveyed my ankles obsessively (meaning at least twice a minute for 10 or 12 hours) over the course of the day. I had made the unfortunate decision to wear my white capri pants, which meant that — with my aching pavement pounders propped up on an ottoman where, for once, I could actually see them — I was constantly faced with the gruesome fact that my feet are now just a second bend in my pudgy legs.

I thought it might be better if I took my shoes off. It wasn’t.

My shoes — the T-strap slide-ons I bought in February not just a half-size but a full size larger than my old footwear — had left impressions on each foot, with waterlogged flesh rising like bread dough through the two little half-circle cutouts.

“That’s OK, Heather,” I told myself. “You are still a beautiful rockstar.”

Then yesterday, as if the damage to my feet was not enough, I noticed my ring was feeling tight. Uh oh.

Sure enough, it was stuck. Five minutes later, once I had managed to painstakingly twist it off, there was a big dent encircling the base of my finger. I realized with horror that I’d seen that finger before. It belonged to the Michelin Man.

I may be a rockstar. But if I am, that rockstar is the peanut-butter-and-banana-sandwich-snarfing Elvis in his sequin-bedecked, bloated nadir.

Between my Hamburger Helper hands and the zeppelins masquerading as feet, not to mention that I now have to lean back as I walk waddle so as to prevent the lead-filled beach ball from pulling me over, I am feeling none too attractive this week.

Obviously this is my punishment for being happy last month to have “escaped” the edema commonly associated with late pregnancy. I flew to close to the sun, and like that other famous blimp, the Hindenburg, I have gotten my comeuppance.

And now, the dramatic Week 38 shots capturing the Heatherberg zeppelin’s final, bloated moments (of pregnancy).

Contraction Junction

One of the good things about having really painful periods is that, theoretically, labor pains won’t feel as painful. Only problem is, I’ve had nine months to forget what cramps feel like.

Having spent 15 years of my life working through several days a month of debilitating pain, I thought my imperviousness to intense uterine spasms would give me nerves of steel, making me a veritable Superwoman when it came to labor. Alas, these three glorious trimesters without my monthly visitor have proved to be my kryptonite.

The little, blood-pressure cuff contractions that began in the second trimester have mutated into longer, crampier contractions. While they are not paralyzing like my infamous cycle cramps, I have been made soft by nine months of uterine comfort. It doesn’t help that the formerly fist-size organ in which the baby resides has expanded to the point where it could hold a full-grown Saint Bernard. (The result, of course, being greater area in which to feel uncomfortable sensations.)

That — combined with the fact that a certain little monkey this week decided to commence an ambitious, concentrated and near-constant effort to create an alternate escape hatch by burrowing into my colon — has resulted in a good bit of discomfort for me, and in Chris’ conviction that I am capable of dilating at a moment’s notice to 10 cm and delivering our wee daughter on the kitchen floor. This belief is bolstered, no doubt, by the whimpering I apparently do while sleeping through nighttime contractions.

While I realize that these contractions are small potatoes, even compared with my normal period, my newfound wussiness prevents me from ignoring them entirely. Even though I absolutely know I cannot possibly be in labor, I time them. They are only mildly painful (more like a leg cramp than a charleyhorse), and I wouldn’t have even noticed them a year ago, but I still practice breathing through them.

Why — when I’ve spent the last three months coping with back spasms and the last week or two with pelvic pain so bad I can’t walk — am I so freaked out over these mild cramps?

Winston Churchill got it right when he said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Yes, I forgot what cramps felt like, but I could handle them when I was 12 and I can certainly handle them now. The real issue is what they mean.

I’ve realized that it’s not these mini-cramps I’m worried about. What worries me is that the mini-cramps will eventually turn into those good old cramps that make me feel like my insides are going to fall out, and that those cramps will turn into the most horrible pain a person can possibly feel. And that then I will be asked to push out something the size of a canteloupe, which I can’t imagine is a comfortable undertaking.

I guess Chris’ belief that I am, at all times, potentially hours away from giving birth isn’t so very silly. It’s just hard for my control-freak mind to cope with.

It could happen after an induction May 22. It could happen today. Labor could sneak up on me in my sleep or at the mall or while I’m watching CSI with Chris’ parents. And the truth is that it will hurt and probably last awhile, and instead of getting a break afterward I will have a helpless human being to take care of — at the expense of showering and sleeping — for the next 18 years. (And I will probably have forgotten to put the ice packs in the labor bag.) The fact that I just can’t adequately prepare for natural labor the way I can for a chemistry test or a scheduled surgery is way more disturbing than a few crampy contractions.

So I guess I will keep timing those Braxton Hicks and breathing through them in practice for the real thing. Chris will keep asking me “Do you think you’re in labor?” and the baby will continue her assault on my colon, which Dr. Goncalves’ substitute on Wednesday told me would happen during labor as well.

I may not be the labor superhero I hoped I’d be, but the bottom line is that at some point the baby has to come out, and that it’s my job to put up with the awful cramping when that time comes (or allow someone to insert a big scary needle in my back, but that is a babyblog entry unto itself).

My plan is to have the 3D ultrasound pictures on hand, and when the pain is awful and unbearable and I’m tempted to focus on how much worse it is than the formerly legendary cramping of a heavy-flow day, I will try to focus instead on the fact that I am inches away from meeting the beautiful baby girl for whom I’ve waited so long.

Time crawls

While pregnancy is divided into three equal units of time called trimesters, this particular pregnancy can also be divided into three periods of time that aren’t so equal.

In the first trimester and early second trimester, when my days were spent sleeping, forcing down food and barfing, each of those days felt like an eternity. The weeks dragged by so slowly at the beginning. And each of those weeks meant exciting developments for our little fetus — first a heartbeat, then fingers and toes, and later on, the development of taste buds and hair follicles. Then, finally, I felt those first little tickles of movement.

After I felt the baby move, we entered the second period of time — the one I barely remember because it flew by. No longer sick and now able to monitor our wee one’s well-being simply by lying down and waiting for her flutters, I had boundless energy, a great appetite and a perennial good mood. The baby’s organs all were formed and really all that was left was growth and development, so each week was a little less exciting.

Suddenly, weeks were over before they began. Sure, I got bigger and bigger — as did our little daughter — but with few big physical milestones or major discomforts, it was much like not being pregnant at all (except, of course, for a little frantic nesting behavior).

Even as the baby became viable and turned head-down and I became more enormous and uncomfortable with each passing day, the weeks flew by. Mostly, I think, because the baby had nowhere to sleep.

Then, around Week 31, the third time period began. As happened during the first several months, the weeks in these last months have been dragging by.

With the room furnished and the baby big enough to survive outside the uterus, it’s now just a matter of weight — and waiting.

Each week is spent ticking off days — not toward delivery, which I view with a mixture of anticipation and dread, but toward the next chiropractic appointment.

Each day is spent ticking off hours. How many hours before my indigestion is gone and I can eat again? How many hours can it possibly take to pack a simple labor bag? (Lots, when it takes you five minutes to haul yourself up and waddle from one room to the next!) When I’m up and around, I want to be in bed where my belly is free from the pull of gravity. When I’m in bed, I can’t wait to get out so my arms will stop tingling.

Each of those long hours is spent ticking off minutes (which, these days, are about as long as hours used to be). Minutes it takes for my swollen feet and aching hips to carry my giant, heavy body to the bathroom. Minutes it takes to lift myself from lying down to a semi-sitting position and catapult my enormous girth out of bed. Minutes between Braxton-Hicks contractions. Minutes for the Gaviscon to start working. When I’m in the car, I count the minutes until I can get out and stretch those screaming back muscles. When I’m shopping, I count the minutes until I can get back in the car and rest my throbbing, sausagelike feet and support the leaden beach ball that is my belly.

Needless to say, while I am happy there are only three weeks left, I am worried about how long those weeks will feel. Can three weeks seem longer than an entire trimester? I worry that they will.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In other, less depressing news, the baby is now considered “term” and my labor bag is almost completely packed. To those relatives who received emails informing you that I had gone into labor, sorry about that! Chris was writing a little application that would automatically send out emails and while testing it, he accidentally hit the wrong key. Oops! Wishful thinking!

And here are the Week 37 belly pics, which, according to my doctor, may or may not be the last shots of my expansive, baby-filled midsection.

Better late than never, Part V

Here they are at last: The long-anticipated Week 36 belly shots! I promise that they were shot at the very beginning of Week 36. If you don’t believe me, check out Week 37’s pictures and tell me my butt hasn’t gotten bigger. You can’t, can you?

Hey, I’m just glad the pictures don’t include my ankles. How fat are they, you ask? Well, if this were the ’80s, there’d be no way I’d fit any of my jeans.

(And yes, this was not really posted two days ago. I just didn’t want my belly-pic posts to be out of order, so I “cooked” the date.)

Coming soon

During these last several weeks of pregnancy — even as I’ve yearned for the glorious day when my water breaks in the middle of a crowded Wal-Mart, signaling the end of months of back spasms, pelvic pain, ugly fat feet and heartburn — it hasn’t really occurred to me how very close the baby’s arrival is. When I look at the little ticker Chris created for the top of Pele’s website to tell us how many days are left before the wee one’s grand debut, the words “only 23 more days” just don’t really sink in.

As I began packing my labor bag a few days ago, only in the back of my head did the thought lurk that not only was I preparing in case I went into labor early, but that — with just more than three weeks left before my due date — this was something I really did need to get done, and soon!

In fact, as much as I’ve pined for my old flat and nonviolent tummy, painless pelvis and visible feet, until yesterday those dreams of mobility and comfort have seemed like some faraway, fuzzy mirage.

Then I went to my 36-and-a-half-week appointment with Dr. Goncalves.

After he finished the exam (the baby is fabulous as usual, of course), he told me that he’d be out of town for a week and I’d be seeing one of his associates at my next visit.

“I’ll see you in two weeks,” he said as I headed for the door.

“If you’re still pregnant.”

My jaw dropped wide enough to expel a fat, full-term baby.

Of course I know that 37 weeks is considered “term.” But it hadn’t really occurred to me (as much as I’ve wished it to be so) that our little bundle might actually arrive before the 40-week mark. In fact, I’ve been pretty prepared for a 48-hour labor on May 22, when I will be induced because it’s two weeks past the wee one’s due date.

Now that I am beginning to realize that the baby could come, in Dr. G’s words, “any day,” I am feeling just a wee bit panicky.

Will the baby wait until tomorrow’s trip to pick up a hot water bottle, massage oil and daddy’s snacks? Will her arrival precede that of her changing table? Can we hold labor off until our carseat-installation appointment next Wednesday?

In all likelihood, when you consider my family history and general bad luck, we will have had everything ready for a month and I will be suffering from multiple cracked ribs before a big dose of Pitocin and an amniohook collaborate to bring our reluctant, nine-pound offspring into the world.

Hmm. On second thought, if my water should break in Wal-Mart tomorrow, maybe that wouldn’t be so very scary.

Assisted living

As any natural-childbirth person will tell you (while they’re kindly informing you that accepting pain relief will surely leave you an incontinent paraplegic), pregnancy is not an illness. However, what nobody will tell you before you get pregnant is that it is a disability.

Because of my disability, my birthday wish list is drastically different from those of previous, carefree years.

You may recall that, since Week 26 when the baby turned head-down, I have been coveting the Hoverounds often sported by elderly folk. Now that she has gained about four pounds and dropped, it is even more clear to me that I should have some sort of special placard on my car.

Let’s count the ways pregnant women resemble people with officially recognized disabilities.

1. The elderly and the physically challenged are slow-moving. Well, let me just say that when I was swimming laps at the aquatic center last week, the 92-pound grannies were swimming circles around me, their gnarled talons flailing past like (relatively) crazy windmills as I struggled with each laborious stroke to move forward instead of sink like a rock. As for getting out of the pool, I can only say that I’m really lucky it’s a graduated pool and you can literally walk out of the shallow end. Getting out of a normal pool would have been impossible without a chairlift.

My lack of mobility also manifests itself when I arise from my bed or a chair, both of which take 5 minutes if no one is there to help, and when I am shopping. It is not a pretty thing when arthritic nonagenarians glare contemptuously at you in the mall because you are walking too slowly and holding them up.

2. It’s not just a matter of speed for the elderly and physically challenged, though; every movement is excruciatingly painful. Apparently, this is true in the last weeks of the third trimester as well, although everyone I know who has given birth conveniently forgot to tell me this until after Chris and I conceived our little pelvis-cracker.

One would think that the back and rib pain would be bad enough, but Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, decided that rather than equipping women to pop out babies without our hips having to loosen up, it would be amusing if our pelvises were to spend the last month or two of pregnancy slowly disintegrating. Thus, each step threatens to pull our hips out of our sockets, and the baby feels like it’s going to crack through the pubic bone at any second.

Fortunately, the people who design parking lots realize that pregnancy can be as crippling as arthritis and have come up with an excellent invention called “Stork Parking.” Situated right near the handicapped parking spots, new- and expectant-mother parking spots allow giant, uncomfortable women to cut hours off the time it takes them to make the painful waddle from their car to the much-needed food inside the grocery store. I love you, person who invented Stork Parking!

3. Now, if only they would designate Stork Bathroom Stalls! I have found myself using handicapped stalls simply because:
a) My bladder sometimes just cannot wait for a regular toilet to open up (which very nearly necessitates another old-folk and disability hallmark, the adult diaper) and
b) when I turn to grab some toilet paper, my belly turns with me and smacks the T.P. holder. Then the baby gives my bladder a retaliatory jab and I have to pee some more. Clearly I have grown too big to fit in a normal stall!

4. Not only do I covet old and disabled folks’ large, usually unoccupied toilets, along with Hoverounds and chair lifts. I also have finally figured out why they buy those silly reacher/grabber things — it’s HARD to bend over when you’re painfully creaky. Even more so when there is a giant beach ball to bend around. Every time I drop something — which is often, because pregnant people are clumsy — I wish I had one of these handy (if dorky and unsightly) contraptions.

And just yesterday, as I was painstakingly creeping up the stairs, trying desperately to inflict minimal misery upon my back and at the same time trying not to hurt my hips, I realized I had either dropped to a new low in assistive-technology envy or just been hit by a stroke of genius.

The latest third-trimester accessory I crave? The ultimate in arthritic-granny comforts — my very own stair lift!

Yeah, I may not need an epidural, but I definitely need something to help me get around, retrieve the things I drop, and ascend the stairs. (Right now, that something is named Chris and is probably tired of lugging around a massive, practically paraplegic preggie.) If anyone has a spare stair lift or Hoveround they’d like to donate, my birthday is April 29. Although believe you me, at this stage in the pregnancy it is not my birthday I’m looking forward to!

Coming soon: Week 36 belly shots. Only four weeks to go! (Or one, if I go just barely to term, or six, if Dr. Goncalves has to induce.)

April foolin’

With parents like Chris and me, no wonder our baby is a little mischief-maker. It’s in her genetic code.

Friday morning, Chris came up to check his email, so I got off the laptop and stood nearby, patiently waiting for him to finish his business. Suddenly, fluid started dripping rapidly onto the kitchen floor. Chris, in the thrall of the silicon gods, did not appear to notice. In a voice tinged with panic, I prodded, “Honey, I’m leaking!”

“Did your water break?” he asked.

“No, it was just this Ziploc bag I’ve had down my pants for the last hour,” I said. “April Fool!”

But Chris got me back 10 times better yesterday.

All week long, I’d been looking forward to Sunday lunch with his parents. Chris’ friend John and his girlfriend Rose were coming up to visit, and we were going to have crepes at the parents’. Jan makes the world’s best crepes, so I was disappointed for multiple reasons later in the week when Chris told me John and Rose would not be able to make it.

But when Chris informed me that we would still be having crepes, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Only fools dare to separate a pregnant woman from promised breakfast confections!

Yesterday, Chris woke me up with McDonald’s pancakes and then drove me to his parents’ for crepes. I should have been suspicious, but then Chris is a man who can (if necessary) eat two full meals in three hours. I should also have been suspicious when he was acting all time-conscious, since, if being late made one fashionable, Chris would be Karl Lagerfeld. But since he’d told me the Yankees-Red Sox season opener was scheduled for 5 Eastern time, I thought nothing of it.

I should have been even more suspicious when he followed a painfully slow pickup to his parents’ house instead of zipping around it. When we pulled into the driveway and it was filled with cars, red flags definitely should have been raised. But then again, Chris’ mom makes excellent crepes. Why wouldn’t the whole town show up?

“I think your mom must have been messing with us when she told us she’d just woken up and hadn’t started the crepes,” I remarked idiotically.

“Maybe everybody’s messing with you” was Chris’ cryptic reply.

I walked into the kitchen and when I saw a table full of desserts and NO CREPES, I suddenly realized what Chris had meant.

Chris and his mom had somehow managed to throw me a huge surprise baby shower, and I had somehow managed — for weeks — to be completely oblivious to all the big neon signs saying “You are being fooled with.”

So our little girl has two incredibly sneaky parents (and one sneaky Nana, too!) and now, thanks to the Wild Women of Oliver and some sweet people from prenatal class, she is also spoiled absolutely rotten.

The wee rib-kicker is now 35 weeks plus one day along, which means that in 13 days, she will be considered term, and five weeks from now she will be overdue. With my giant belly and our now-full nursery, there’s no getting around the fact that we are going to be doing nighttime feedings very soon!

And here’s what you’ve been waiting for — the Week 35 belly shots: