Wednesday, 16 April 2014

24 Weeks

We've gotten a little lazy about posting regular pregnancy updates. I think this is partially because we've been doing more lately, now that I have slightly more energy and haven't been throwing up. Plus, we're now at the stage where our baby is really active and I'm not feeling the need to constantly look up its new developments each week. It helps that we ended up having three foetal anomaly scans (as the baby was in the wrong position for the first two) so I'm absolutely certain that the baby is doing fine. 

Instead of the usual post, I thought I'd share some things I've learned so far in my pregnancy.

1. Hair & Nails: Everyone tells you that being pregnant will make your hair luscious and shiny and your nails beautiful, but I've not experienced this. I already have pretty shiny hair, and it's still shiny--but also very, very tangled. My nails seem to be breaking a lot more easily than usual, too. Either this one is an old wives' tale, or my nails and hair have hit their peak and started to go downhill. 

2. Emotions: Although I do tend to cry more than usual at any film, book or TV show that deals with parenting or children (even if the children in question are closer to my age than our baby's) I've not been as emotional as I anticipated. I've heard plenty of stories about pregnant women crying at the drop of a hat, but I think I've had one emotional day every fortnight, which is a lot less than before I got pregnant! Pregnancy seems to have completely off-set my Seasonal Affective Disorder this year, which I am so thankful for.

3. Cravings: People keep asking me if I'm having cravings. Occasionally I think, "Hmm, I'd like to eat X", but it ends up being more, "I'll plan this meal for next week" rather than, "Simon, you must go out and buy this for me immediately." When I get hungry, I tend to switch between wanting to eat something sweet or savoury, but that's the closest I've got to having cravings. 

4. Caffeine: The current "Avoid this if you're pregnant" craze seems to be fixated on caffeine, and maybe women who are addicted to Starbucks will have issues with this, but it's not been a big deal for me. I drink tea (which contains a lot less caffeine than coffee) and I'm a big fan of herbal tea, so keeping my caffeine consumption within my self-imposed four-cups-a-day limit has been pretty easy. 

5. Energy: Apparently I'm meant to have tons of energy right now, because I'm in the second trimester, but my energy levels are seriously fluctuating. Some days I can stay out at a friend's house all evening and not get back until 11pm and feel fine, but on others my energy droops the minute Simon gets home from work and I fall asleep on the sofa at 8pm. I really can't predict it, so I'm just trying to get as much done before 5pm as I can. If we cancel plans unexpectedly, we're not being rude--I'm probably half-asleep. And seriously, if you invite us to an event that doesn't start until 9pm we will laugh at you. 

6. Sleep: Talking of sleep, everybody keeps recommending fancy, expensive pillows that will take up half the bed. Aside from two weeks right at the start of the second trimester, I haven't needed any extra pillow support. I've read warnings about not sleeping on your back, but since I'm normally a side-sleeper this hasn't been an issue--plus, sleeping on my back is just uncomfortable right now, so I wake up if I lie in that position for too long. The biggest problem with the no-back-sleeping rule? I can't lie on the grass to read in the sun. My neighbours must think I'm loopy for bringing a bean-bag out on to the front lawn, but it works. 

7. Reading: After reading four pregnancy books, I kind of got burned out. Although I read a lot, I'm not actually much of a non-fiction reader. I made a big list of pregnancy and parenting books that were available within the Edinburgh library system, but in the end if I only read four. By the time I finished the fourth one, I felt like all the information was getting repetitive. I'm not saying I know everything about pregnancy, but I don't feel so worried that I want to constantly look things up. Here's what I ended up reading:

  • What to Expect When You're Expecting (4th edition) by Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel -- This one is great for looking up specific issues and ailments in the extensive index, and for finding out what your baby and body will be experiencing each week or month. The information on midwife/doctor's appointments is absolutely useless if you're in the UK (even in the UK edition, bizarrely), and I skipped the healthy eating/exercise section as it's overwhelming. As long as you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and do some walking, you'll be fine. The labour section is brief compared to other books, but honest. Some people said this book made them worried about everything, but personally I like being able to look things up and feeling relieved when I find that X or Y is perfectly normal. It's not one to read from cover-to-cover--and perhaps reading about all the possible ailments and complications all at once could be scary.
  • The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby by Erin McPherson -- I got this free on my Kindle a couple of years ago, and while the title is cheesy and some parts are completely irrelevant to a non-US audience, I actually really enjoyed it. I appreciated the down-to-earth honesty of the author, who talked about her own mistakes and worries during her pregnancy rather than lecturing on how you should do things. I read this book before my morning sickness really kicked in, and there's a massive section on morning sickness that I probably would have appreciated more towards the end of the first trimester. This book is pretty patronising towards husbands, which I didn't love, but aside from that it was an encouraging read.
  • Expecting Better by Emily Oster -- If I had to recommend one book for every pregnant woman to read, it would be this one. After reading and hearing conflicting information on whether alcohol/caffeine/fish/lunch-meat/etc is safe to consume while pregnant, I really appreciated Oster's approach to figuring out the facts behind the warnings pregnant women are given. Oster examines medical research in various situations--everything from sleeping on your back to drinking coffee to common painkillers--and lays out all the evidence to help the reader make an informed decision. This was the book that stopped me from constantly worrying about my caffeine intake. If you're wondering about the risks of Listeria or something similar, read this book rather than randomly Googling--it'll be a lot less frightening. The parts of this book that related to midwife/doctor's appointments and labour were very American, and the chapter on home births was much briefer than I would have liked, so those are the main downfalls of this otherwise helpful book.
  • The Babymoon Experience by Caroline Deacon -- I picked this book up at the library because I came to collect another one that I'd ordered and the librarian couldn't locate it. I wanted to read something to do with pregnancy, and this was on the shelf. I have really mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I appreciated that the author encouraged women not to feel the need to rush back into normal life after having a baby, and to take time our to bond with their baby and recuperate. But I also felt she was a little extreme, suggesting that you sequester yourself in your bedroom in your nightclothes for 2-6 weeks post-delivery. The chapters on labour, recovery and breastfeeding were fantastic and very informative and encouraging, but the tone was rather patronising (and like McPherson's book, rather dismissive of husbands) and she seemed very biased towards certain issues, like co-sleeping and non-medical pain relief. This one is worth reading for the chapters on labour, etc, but some of the other information (diet and exercise, for example) is nearly identical to What to Expect, except the tone is worse.
8. Movement: After being told by every book, website and person on the planet that first-time mums don't feel their baby's movements until at least 18 weeks, if not 22--I felt movements at 15, and Simon was able to feel then at 16. The movements were pretty inconsistent to begin with, and while they nearly always came in the evening, I didn't feel them every day initially. In the last week or so we've been consistently feeling them every morning at 7am and every evening at 8pm, so the baby is obviously in a routine. I'm starting to feel them more in the middle of the day as well, especially if I'm sitting or lying down. The baby tends to be quite active when I'm in the bath (which is where Simon was first able to feel it) but I'm not sure if this is specifically linked to the water, or because I take baths in the evening when the baby usually moves around.

9. Herbal Remedies: I might not be going to completely down the route of replacing my medicine cabinet with herbal remedies, but I did invest in a couple of essential oils early in the second trimester and they've come in handy. I occasionally get tension headaches, which could only be eased by ibuprofen pre-pregnancy (and ibuprofen is one of the painkillers that everyone agrees is to be avoided during pregnancy), and I've found that a drop of lavender oil mixed with a mixer oil (like grapeseed) then rubbed on my forehead is very effective at easing headaches. Simon actually tried this recently when he was feeling ill, and he also found it relaxing. I've also been using peppermint oil with a mixer for backaches. Honestly, I'm not sure if the peppermint oil itself is helpful, or just using some sort of massage oil, but my backaches aren't as bad as they used to be. 

10. Pregnancy Talk: There are some points where I just get bored of talking about pregnancy and the baby. It's not that I'm not excited, but sometimes it feels like it's the only thing people want to talk about when I'm around. My entire identity doesn't revolve upon my pregnancy, and sometimes it's just nice to talk about something else for a change. It's so refreshing to talk about books or cooking or anything other than "Yep, I'm still having a baby, and it's still kicking me and making me feel nauseas." Seriously, it's totally okay to ask me for my favourite pancake recipe or what my opinion is on Season 5 of Castle. I won't be offended if you don't mention the baby straight away.

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