These last weeks, this last stretch: it’s like sitting in an old-school, 1980s Dreamworld rollercoaster (I wonder if it’s even still there), the ratchety one that never let you forget, right from the start, that you were climbing ever-higher. Click-shudder, click-shudder, and the view just amazing. Each little motion higher brought a sense of excited foreboding and a broader perspective. A little ridge at the top, and a suspended moment, limbo pause between the jerky climb and the freefall to come.
This last fortnight sits about three clicks from the top. Bought the ticket, well on the way now. Anticipating the freefall.
This last stretch. Pun initially unintended, but I’ll take it. Didn’t think my skin had any stretch left, but surprise! Measured the belly a week ago; we’ve cracked past a metre. It itches as it grows, soaks up moisturiser. Time has flown like a cliché. Work endures, dear clients appearing over the past months needing just a little bit more. Which is awesome. I’d aimed to finish it all last week, set personal deadlines and calendar reminders to keep myself on-track. But what’s a deadline if not a suggestion? Hopefully we’ll be done this week. Or maybe just a little bit next week.
Real workwork* means much less posting has happened here than planned. Half-arsed blog posts and scratched ideas sit on the computer. Notes hang there, virtual post-its from the past nine months:
- Toxins: pregnancy. E.g. Teflon
- Toxins: breastmilk
- Caffeine: an apology to #3 (but I’m so tired!)
- Health issues: 3. Mental health.
- Raising gentle men
- Call out for a zimmer frame-pram combo sketch
- Nappy bag rant.
- Well, slap my denim-clad arse and call me Daisy. (I think this is meant to be about urban gardening, but who could tell?)
- WTF is a WIPES WARMER?
Some of these make little sense now. Most will have to wait. Mental capacity has slowed; it pains me to accept this. Along with the physical treasures: the sleep deprivation training (there are so many ways to wake up in the middle of the night, even without a newborn!), the spasms, the smashing foetal kicks. Oh, the indigestion.
Last night, I had my best sleep in years, and woke feeling exultant, hearing Puccini in my head. I remember this; it’s the same feeling you get after months of baby-related sleep deprivation, the feeling of having a proper night’s sleep. Thinking, ah, that’s what normal people feel like when they wake.
If I don’t make it back on here this week, see you on the other side.
* “workwork” … There’s a funny story there.
A guest post I recently wrote for Little Kisses.
I found out I was accidentally pregnant with my third child in the midst of my 40s. A third child was never an actively pursued option, to put things mildly. For a week or so, I sprawled in deep, dark shock. Yes, this changed a few life expectations. But the biggest surprise has been how into it I am.
Little Kisses asked me to write a guest post to discuss the differences in being pregnant in my 40s compared to my 30s, and I’m struggling to entertain you. At the moment, at 35 weeks pregnant, I can’t think of any age-related issues that seem either important or amusing. I could write about how old I’ll be when this child finishes high school, or turns 21. I could tell you that I’m called an “elderly multigravida”, which is a funny, archaic term.
I call myself the Ancient Breeder, but to be honest, this pregnancy does not make me feel ancient. If anything, it makes me feel young, fresh, and, despite the daily afternoon naps, quite vital. And crafty, like a hipster friend of Patience Hodgson. As they say, I’m so crafty, I make people. Even accidentally.
I did feel ancient, once, this week, when I was a guest at a function populated by sweet, wholesome food bloggers. Why? I offered to take a photo across the table of a couple of fellow guests. (Her selfie-taking arm just seemed too short to encompass the glory of edible delight lying outside their shot.) I like to be pictorially helpful: I often volunteer to take strangers’ photographs for them. I have taken many blurred photos of Asian package tourists, so that everyone in the group gets in. I feel sorry for the one photo-taking parent who, you know, is the one always left out of the family documentation. I balance their albums.
But the selfie, I discovered, is sacrosanct. Blogger One looked at me aghast, not quite comprehending why I’d interfere in the gentle art of mobile-phone-self-photography. The other blogger, the one who looked quite like Moby (and hence closer to my middle-aged years; no twenty-year-old would look like Moby) realized what I’d offered, shook his head, and shrugged kindly at me.
“It’s a selfie thing,” he explained. (He may as well have added, “You wouldn’t get it, grandma”.)
I didn’t get the selfie thing, but I got the bigger message. I really did. I took no offence; there was none to take. But this was the message: It’s not about age; it is about your generation. Or cohort, or tribe, or whatever other sociological label you prefer.
Moby of Brisbane was all of about 18 months younger than me. This misunderstanding had nothing to do with age and everything to do with tribes. For I was not one of theirs, and I don’t think that the heavily pregnant mature lady who shared their table for a couple of hours would be first on a shortlist for new members. Which is fine. Because I realise I belong to another generation, not just defined by age: Generation Mama*.
Generation Mama transcends age and forms new bonds. You don’t have to share birth decades, scary high-school-formal hairstyle memories, or the same pre-teen crush on either Cory, to share exhaustion, the slam of maternal love, and the maternal guilt and confusion that comes home with a new baby.
When I found out I was accidentally pregnant this time around, I thought a blog called The Ancient Breeder would be a hoot, but it’s sometimes proving to be less relevant as this pregnancy progresses. I hear more from followers in their 20s than those close to my own age. Perhaps I should write more age-specific posts, but the material just isn’t that exclusive. We’re all breeders, if we’re breeders, and the age bit isn’t so relevant. At the moment, I have more in common with my beautiful twenty-something niece, who writes The Single Mumpreneur blog, than with many women my own age.
Because our ages belong to different generations, but our circumstances are completely Generation Mama.
*Or Generation Parent, to be fair, but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it…
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.
- Fatalities per 100,000: tubal ligation = 3.51; vasectomy = 0
- Approximate cost: tubal ligation = $2,500; vasectomy = $750 – 850
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tired, mid-40s pregnant woman? Quel surprise.
Solution: A nap. Right now.
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?
The Big Reveal? Or the slow drip feed. The latter was so effectively put to use by Deb, my old friend, that I didn’t find out about her pregnancy until last Tuesday. That’s the day she was scheduled to give birth via caesarian. Deb’s a week older than me. Maybe I should take her lead…
So how to let it be known? There’s the “scan pic across social media” approach, but they all look a little too amphibious. That’s already on the Facebook page, and even I’m a little grossed out by it.
I thought the fact that I’d posted pictures of baked goods on my personal Instagram would have been enough of a hint, but friends can be dim these days. It must be our encroaching middle age.
Let’s see how others handle the reveal.
There’s the horrible picture of a soft toy and a wee-soaked stick.
There’s the picture of pasta sauce.
Seeking a pithy statement of my own, seeking that crucial social media cut-through. Like a quiver of cheesiness, all prefaced by Guess what?
“I’m not getting fat, I’m four months pregnant”
… edited to “Not fat. Pregnant” – T-shirt ready…
Those mood swings weren’t early menopause, after all.
We’ll never be able to afford a holiday involving air travel again!
Daddyo and I settle on a trickle approach, leaving the kick-off up to our boys, who tell their school friends. A couple of phone calls, some face-to-facers, SMS’d scan pics, and we’re away.
I set up a blog, shimmy it out across social media, and back-date a stack of pre-written posts.
It’s awesome to finally embrace this event. I stick my due date into babycentre and sign up for the emails. (Finally.)
Now: to celebrate with a vintage Oaxacan embroidered dress. Hello, Ebay!
I speak to my obstetrician. I haven’t seen him yet; apparently there’s not much point so early. Especially since I’ve done this all before ten years ago.
He tells me about screening options. There’s something new: non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). With ridiculous brand names like Harmony and Panorama. I tell him Harmony is now off my list of potential boy names.
They can take a blood test around 10 weeks, send it to the US, give you an early chromosomal heads-up. Earlier detection, reduced risk of miscarriage. 10 weeks sounds much better than 13 to this 43-and-a-half year old.
It costs, he tells me, around $800 – $1000.
The Chinese, he tells me, are working on a cheaper option.
If you’re interested in Queensland Health’s brief on NIPT from May 2013, click here. It’s a solid read.