35 weeks. Hormone-ridden.

I cried at least six times today. Thrice for no reason, and thrice when I was telling someone that I cried for no reason today.

Tried to write a press release for a client, something I can usually pull off without drama, couldn’t concentrate, and had to give up. Cancelled lunch with a dear friend, which I’d been looking forward to for a week, and went to bed. Dreamt I was carrying reams of notes through a pet shop when I shoved them all into my son’s arms so I could hold a kitten with enormous eyes.

Sunset clouds

Couldn’t stop staring at the salmon-bottomed clouds at sunset. Suddenly found the infinite patience needed to teach my son how to crochet.

Viva las hormonas.

JunoMust stop thinking of self as Juno. I am probably thrice her age.

 

Permanent birth control: tied up in knots

Knots

Dr Atticus is jaunting around Europe on his annual sojourn, so I’m to see a locum for my regular check-up.  I get an inkling of the type of appointment we’re in for when he asks for my sample jar. I don’t think anyone has asked for my “wee wee” in four decades.

It does make me wonder, this certain generation of obstetricians who really don’t seem to like women, who patronize them at best. (I’m oldish, too, Imma be generationalist if I want.) All this bloke has to do is go through the steps: check my blood pressure, have a little feel of my bump, and test that “wee wee”. But no, he has bigger plans for my visit.

“So I guess this is it for you, then,” he starts.

Brilliant deduction. Yes, my partner is planning his vasectomy as we speak, I tell him.

“Why? You should be having your tubes tied,” is his immediate response. I have known this man for less than five minutes. Note: not “why aren’t you”, but “you should be”. Interesting.

I explain that I do not want to have a tubal ligation. That a close family member, one whose genetic and obstetric profile is virtually identical to mine, suffered some heavy-duty negative side-effects after hers. I do not add: dude, I have had two caesarians (and am about to embark on another), from necessity, for this family. Daddyo is more than happy to even the ledger a little with a procedure that can be done in a doctor’s surgery with the assistance of local anaesthetic and, later, a bag of frozen peas.

A vasectomy and tubal ligation are not identical procedures. Comparing them is not a straightforward appraisal. But this doctor seems to think that, since they’ll be “in there” doing a caesarian, I may as well go ahead and seal my fallopian tubes, too.

He tells me that my fears are completely groundless, that tubal ligation is safer than a vasectomy, and that it can decrease my chances of future ovarian cancer. (To be fair, a meta-analysis of 40 studies supports this.) He cites a study that followed a group of women who had their tubes tied, and another group whose husbands have had vasectomies. He tells me that both groups reported heavier bleeding as they got older: “It’s just a part of ageing, nothing more”. I get the feeling he trots this one out frequently.

This doctor has no idea about my medical history; in fact, he doesn’t even seem to have looked at my contraception, or caesarian, history on the file in front of him. (If he did, he’d read that I’m a “bleeder”, that I’ve hemorrhaged after varied surgery.)

He declares all is well with baby; actually says I’m a “wonderful incubator”. Since a sense of humour has been absent so far, I can’t assume that he’s joking. I wonder if any patient has ever hit him.

He frequently drives the conversation back to having my tubes tied.

I feel railroaded. Bullied, even. “I will consider it,” I say. “Fuck you,” I think.

I will mention this conversation to my obstetrician next visit. However, not for the reason this man wants me to.

Now there are many places to research these two options. You can do the Google, too. Try a question like “Is a vasectomy safer than tubal ligation?” There’s even a Facebook page for Post Tubal Ligation Syndrome.

I’ll copy one summary below. It’s from a site called Male Health Centre.

Once you’re confident that you’re ready to put your reproductive years behind you, there are two options: vasectomy (male sterilization) or tubal ligation (female sterilization). Vasectomy makes you sterile by cutting the pipelines (the vas deferens) between the testicles and the penis. These small tubes are located just under the surface of the scrotal skin, and it takes less than 15 minutes in the doctor’s office to snip them and seal the ends under a local anesthetic. 


Tubal ligation involves cutting and tying a woman’s fallopian tubes, which are well below muscles and other tissue in the abdomen. It requires a general anesthetic and a hospital visit.


A couple of statistics might make the differences even more clear:
  • Fatalities per 100,000: tubal ligation = 3.51; vasectomy = 0
  • Approximate cost: tubal ligation = $2,500; vasectomy = $750 – 850
Vasectomy is simpler, safer, cheaper and takes less time to recover from than tubal ligation. Their failure rates are just about the same: 1 in 2,000.
KnottedVasectomy: lower risk. Lower cost. Is somewhat reversible. Importantly for me, it involves my partner taking contraceptive responsibility.

As I leave, he has another shot.

“If it were me, I’d be having my tubes tied.”

“You don’t have any tubes to tie,” I reply.

“Yes I do, and nobody’s getting their hands on them.”

He says this. Seriously.  How dare we women expect our menfolk to sacrifice their gonads in the name of birth control?

What a prick. Good manners hold my tongue (which surprises me, too) and I walk out.

 

And then I realize: if I go into early labour before my regular doctor gets back, this is the jerk who will help deliver my child. Please hurry home, Dr Atticus.

Surfing the small stuff: third trimester torments

So far, I’ve been fortunate to avoid the bigger complications of some pregnancies, like gestational diabetes or public tracksuit-pant wearing, and other, lesser ones such as varicose veins or delivering an actual crying infant.  But, third trimester, third pregnancy has returned me some old nemeses.

 

Drama: Heartburn.

Why is it the moment I finish eating breakfast I need to bend over to do something essential, like pick up a dirty sock or dislodge ninja Lego from between my toes? Oh, that’s right, because I have a couple of pre-teen sons. And I’m yet to learn: bend before breakfast, not after.

Pregnancy-related heartburn isn’t just reserved for those special moments felt immediately after eating. No, it’ll save itself for the moment you’re drifting off to sleep, too. Or when you’re out in public attempting that thing that some call “pre-baby date night” (but others may call “let’s sit in an overpriced restaurant and bitch about our son’s useless teacher while I gaze bitterly at your alcoholic beverage”).

Solution: Quick-eze, the old-fashioned chalky tablets that come in a roll (not the useless chewy squares). Bought in bulk, crushed up, and mainlined.

Drama: Restless legs.

Restless legs are an utter motherfucker. You’ve just got your ample bulk arranged in its pillownest, you’ve bum-shoved the notpregnant person sharing your bed over to their allotted edge, and you’ve finally fallen asleep after your third toilet trip. Right as you hit the good REMs, it starts. Niggle, niggle, niggle, that junky’s cursed feeling of ants sneaking around inside your sciatic nerve casings.

Solution: Waking up. Walking around the fucking house. They say magnesium supplements can help, too. Stretch your legs a little during the evening And drinking more water. So if the restless legs don’t raise you, the bladder will. Checkmate.

Drama: Curious foot spasms.

This one’s a personal treat. Following spinal surgery, I had a minor neural after-effect, resulting in an occasional night-time left foot spasm (varying in intensity from a big toe standing up, unbidded, at right angles, to the whole Daniel-Day-Lewis-Academy-award-winning left foot and leg spasm). Of course, pregnancy exacerbates this. If my hormonehorrorshow didn’t have a go at such an easy target, we’d be almost disappointed. Over a few months, the hormones have progressed a minor nighttime ballet of restless legs and freaky toe spasms to a major choreography. The growing fetal weight pressing down on the base of the sciatic nerve way up there in that slackening pelvis does its bit, too.

Solution: Not being pregnant. Failing this, keeping well hydrated. Pilates. The magnesium helps. It’s most effective taken just before bed. An unexpected side-effect of taking magnesium at night is its effects on dreams. Apparently it can act as a bit of a psychedelic neurotransmitter, resulting in crazier dreams. I don’t make this shit up.

Because pregnant women need to experience even crazier dreams.

Oh, and a couple of weeks ago I started visiting a chiropractor (even though I’d sworn off the creatures) who specializes in old knocked-up broken women. She’s pretty much stopped the spasms. So maybe I should have mentioned her first.

Drama: Shortness of breath.

I’ve never claimed any level of aerobic fitness, but panting at the top of two flights of stairs was a scary revelation – and that was a couple of months ago, before there was even much of a bump to bitch about carrying up the stairs with me. I was almost relieved when Dr Atticus advised that rather than pitiful fitness, I could blame pitiful hemoglobin levels. You know, pregnant ladies need more iron, hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood, low hemoglobin means less oxygen getting around the body. It was all the hemoglobin. Nothing to do with the lack of fitness.

Of course, now, with a bump encroaching on valuable lung space, there’s another dimension added to the breathlessness. Now, it’s also about internal organ real estate.

Solution: Iron supplements. Stand taller. Surrender.

Drama: Tiredness.

Tired, mid-40s pregnant woman? Quel surprise.

Solution: A nap. Right now.

 

Wacky dreams of pregnant women

Mandelbrot Set Love

Almost from the day that second red line appears on a pee stick, pregnancy dreams are freaky. Some might make you giggle, others have you sprinting to a therapist. However they come, these dreams do seem to be different than usual, and more frequent.

They say it’s the hormones, stupid. But a blander interpretation is simply that pregnant women recall more because they’re waking more during the night, thanks to junior’s tapdancing across her bladder. This theory posits we all actually have these dreams; it’s just that nonpregnant people don’t remember having them. Like potheads who swear they don’t dream: maybe it’s more that they just don’t actually wake up properly in time to remember dreams*.

I don’t buy this. These freaky dreams start when bub is smaller than a peanut, too small to wake its host no matter how much internal breakdancing they’re practicing. Also, pregnancy dreams are weirder than the quotidian, and they reference a lot of breeder stuff. Like babies, sex, homemaking, and food.

Bizarre preggo dreams seem to follow a cycle of trimesters, like so many other aspects of the joyous wonderment that is Breederville.

According to babyzone.com, first trimester dreams are about the past: maybe you’re clearing old houses and lovers out of your psyche to make room for the new.

In the second trimester, animals and water come to the fore. This is when you dream you’re a dolphin.

By third trimester, dreams are getting dramatic. Natural phenomena dominate, like volcanos. Celebrities drop in and dream-bomb.

I find third trimester dreams are also practical dreams. You dream about the impending birth, labour if you’re luck enough to expect one, stuff that might go wrong, or the baby you’ll meet soon. If you’ve done this before, you may dream that you’re cowering in a cupboard, ignoring a screaming baby and hoping the rest of your family won’t find you, while you scoff a Freddo frog stolen from your son’s party bag stash.

Interpreting dreams is tricky, and there are heaps of different perspectives. Some cultures and dreamwatchers see certain symbols within dreams as particular portents. There are websites for that kind of symbolic dream analysis. Pragmatists may consider dreams as your mental preparation for events that may happen. Others, more metaphysically inclined, think that dreams are part of our lives that have already happened in another dimension. They should probably keep away from the bad acid. A psychoanalyst, bless ‘em, would see things differently, again. Dreams, for them, fulfil repressed desire. You really did want to sleep with your nephew. (Eewww to you.)

I often dream of my grandmother’s house, and have done so for decades. I’m pretty sure this house, which I haven’t physically visited for about 20 years (and which, sadly, doesn’t even exist anymore) represents me. It has featured in dreams throughout this pregnancy, especially the garden. I believe it represents parts of my mind, or maybe my life, that might need examining. Not that I actually follow through with any actual examination. Keeping stuff repressed is much more exciting, no? Pregnancy has added more past houses to the dream repertoire: my other grandparents’ coastal house, my parents’ home where I spent my teens.

I seem to dream of a particular figure from my past when I’m dissatisfied with my present. He’s not quite an ex, and he hasn’t been around much during these pregnancy dreams. A few other shady past lovers have featured, however, some of whom I’d quite forgotten existed. I guess this is part of the psychological cleaning out of the old to make room for the new. It weirds me out a bit.

I also have a penchant for Hollywood Blockbuster Action Movies – in my dreams, that is, as I’m a regular indie/foreign movie snob in reality. But I have scripted car chase and spy scenes in these dreams that, had I bothered writing them down, may have made me a fortune. In pregnancy, these have continued, multiplied, and taken place in exotic locations I’ve never visited.

The saucier dreams often involve my partner, which feels rather pedestrian, and the fact of which I’m not writing just in case he reads this, I swear.

The weirder dreams of the past months, at 31 weeks now, I’ve quite forgotten. Damn. They were probably rather entertaining. More so than this post, which started off as a good idea, but now bores me. Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. I’ve had enough, myself.

 

*Maybe they don’t wake up properly for like, months, dude. Pass the Tim Tams?

5 reasons why people click on your mummyblog post

1. Oh, hello. You clicked!

2. What is it with us, the Internet, and numbered lists?

3. It’s quite a lazy way to write.

4. And there’s often little substance involved.

5. You know how I said there were 5 reasons?

6. I lied.

7. Anyway, here’s a flying pussy.

Flying kitty

Stop! Mama time!

I want to freeze my sons, at 8 and nearly 10, in their age of “Stand By Me” wonder, of energy and potential

of health and optimism

of delight

 

I want to always hear these conversations: the complex trading systems of Pokemon cards, the ethical posturing of Star Wars, the heavy analysis of the World Cup, the astute shunning of falsity

of hanging out squashed together on the couch watching old Bollywood

of a houseful of children, a weekend tide, surging down the hall and out the backyard and up the trees

and back down the street

 

before the angst of teenage years, the tyranny of hormones

 

To keep them from grownupness

the competitive renovation of the aspirational middle classes

the state sanctioned greed of continual consumption

the sting of rejection

the cruelty of business

the unspecial loves, the mean lovers

 

Could we halt their growth? Make them forever boys,

happy to hold my hand (when nobody’s looking), innocent yet clever?

 

Ah, no.

But what men they will be!

and how lovely it will be to meet them

The sole door to that meeting

will, eventually, sacrifice these little blokes

to adulthood

to another

to this crappy grownupness

 

A writer’s perilous life (insurance)

In a show of adult responsibility, I consider death, TPD (total and permanent disability), and trauma insurance. I am, after all, quite ancient, and will be part-responsible for three dependents soon. Eeeek.

I check estimated premiums online at Sunsuper, where you can plug in some basic info before doing an actual application.* In the box that asks for occupation, I type “writer”, because that’s what I put on these sorts of forms. Out of the varied occupations I minister day-to-day, “writer” is my favourite self-identification, even if the pay sucks, comparatively. Pure intellectual vanity. I start typing “wri…” and the drop-down menu suggests “Writer” “Technical Writer” “Feature Writer” or “Not on the list”.

I select Writer, and send the online application forth. Computer replies with a provisional amount. My estimated premium for death ($100,000) and TPD ($500,000) insurance, as a writer, is $71.61 a week, or $3,723 annually. This seems rather high.

Maybe I should consider changing my self-described occupation.

I have been spending a large proportion of the week in (unpaid) domestic employment. I wonder if this occupation costs a different amount to insure. I change my occupational selection from writer to “home duties”. I keep everything else constant.

The premium changes to $7.86 a week ($408 annually).

That is nine times less expensive.

Let that sit in your head for a minute.

Truth time: I make the lion’s (more a sealion, probably, and a cub at that) share of my income as a marketing consultant, although when it comes to marketing, I confess I sometimes share Bill Hicks’ view of the profession.

How much to insure a postgraduate-educated marketing consultant?  A little over four dollars a week, or $225.25 annually. Cheapest premium yet.

This is bizarre. I can understand dangerous, or unhealthy, jobs, attracting higher insurance premiums. Jobs like firefighter, police officer, or fighter pilot. I check these out. I also note a category called “Tunneling and underground mining and shot firer”. All would cost the same to insure as a writer.

So would a Circus Performer, Golf Professional, Factory Cleaner, or Television Presenter. (By now, I’ve adopted their Deferential Capitals.) But not an interstate bus driver or miner who doesn’t work underground. They’re cheaper to insure.

Strangely, if I were a Technical Writer, my insurance premiums would drop to a much lower premium than if I remained just a Writer.

My inner geek is fascinated. We need to plot data.

Insurance premiums based on occupation

It’s not a rigorous study: I pluck random occupations and plug them into the website, keeping my age, gender, amount to insure, and income constant. I do not exhaustively choose occupations, but I do keep choosing until I become exhausted! Or bored, more honestly.**

So why is it more expensive to insure a writer? The workplace is not as dangerous as a police officer’s. Are we a mental health (and possible suicide) risk? Do we have social habits that perhaps mean we are more likely to become incapacitated? Do television presenters (also expensive insurees) share these qualities? And why do those technical dudes get away with a lower premium?

It’s an expensive buzz, but calling myself a writer, I feel a little more exotic. Dangerous. In keeping with some hardcore company: me, the fighter pilots, and the circus performers.

Not that I’m going to call myself one on any future insurance forms.

 

*I chose to not proceed with a Sunsuper application, as it does not offer trauma insurance (the main type I seek). However, I continued to play with the website as it was fascinating.

 **I gathered this data sometime in May 2014. It’s taken me a month to put it to this blog. You can play with your own figures here.

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