A couple of my commentors were kind enough to say they learnt a lot about pregnancy from my humble posts, and some even followed up with more questions. I realised that we have access to very few sources about actual health experiences, pregnancy related or otherwise.
When I worked/trained at DMH and Castle Street, I used to spend a lot of time chatting with the mums-to-be and giving them advice on diet, exercise, what to expect in the labour room etc. Quite often though, I'd feel like a complete fool, because it was all "book-learnt" and never from actual experience. In fact, I had a 17 year old girl (let's ignore the underage bit for the moment) tell me off in the labour room after asking me how many kids I had. Her scathing comment went along the lines of "you haven't a clue about what you're talking about and what I'm going through, so be quiet and concentrate on getting this thing outta me!"
So this is one of the Bibles for our Ob/Gyn appointments.
So as soon as the test came positive, I blew the dust off my copy and started thumbing through. My reaction was one of deep disgust, since (although it was obvious) everything was clinical and from the point of the doctor, not from the point of the mum. In addition, none of those much revered "Ten Teachers" were female... and the book was summarily discarded.
It's a bit wordy, but it became standard bedside reading and it includes chapters on pregnancy planning, week by week update about the baby, labour and best of all bits for the proud papa to read.
I'm not going to reproduce the book here, but just include a few highlights from my own experiences (wow, it feels so good to say that... am not a pregnancy-noob anymore!)
How do you know you're pregnant?
I've mentioned several times that I figured it out a couple of weeks before my period was due. One reason is that I'm frequently invited to do a lecture on the "physiological changes in pregnancy" to nursing students, paramedics etc., so I knew what to look out for!
It helps of course, if you're planning to get pregnant and have thrown your stash of pills/condoms out of the window. There are many ways to time doing "it", including counting dates off a calendar, checking your temperature daily for subtle changes. I personally recommend just getting rid of the... um... preventives and having a lot of relaxed fun with your significant other, but of course, to each his own.
The first thing I noticed that I was uncharacteristically hungry all the time and felt quite bloated. Then my boobs started to hurt (gah!!) and I actually went to work bra-less for a few days (no one notices under a saree anyway). Then came the need to pee all the time. By then, I just knew.
Of course the only way to be completely sure is to do a pregnancy test. The urine test (dipstick) costs between 40-50 rupees at the pharmacy and is simple to use... just stick it for a few seconds (5-15, it varies from brand to brand) and wait for the results. It's good to have a wide mouthed container (e.g. marmite jar) handy for moments like that. Note however, you need to be at least 5-6 weeks pregnant (i.e. about 2 weeks after your period is due) for this to be reliable, so any time before that, you may as well stir your urine with a hairpin.
Unfortunately, when my test came positive (yay!) I noticed that the strip had expired (it was a remnant of my days working in the female casualty wards). So we went and got a blood test done the next day. The blood test is a bit more reliable and can read positive as early as 3 weeks after your last period. There are 2 methods, one tests just positive/negative, while the other gives the actual hormone levels, so that the doctor can estimate how far along you are... this is useful if your periods are irregular. The test can cost between Rs. 1500/- to Rs. 3500/-, and if you're doing it, I would recommend one of the more established/reliable labs.
To be 100% sure, an ultra sound scan is needed, and this gives additional information like where the pregnancy is (some conceive outside the womb), whether it's a singleton or multiples (eeek!) and a more reliable estimate of how many weeks the baby is. The test can cost between Rs. 1500/- to 3,000/- depending on the hospital and doctors charges. You'd also probably need a referral or at the very least a positive urine/blood test, before you saunter in and ask for a scan!
Planning for a pregnancy
Of course, it's always better if you can do this (cue flashbacks of all catastrophic-unwanted-unexpected pregnancy movies). If you like, you can have a pre-conception chat with a doctor/nurse/midwife/nutritionist and find out how you can optimise yourself for the baby. This is very important if you have a medical condition needing long term treatment.
This means having a chat with your significant other, checking your blood sugar, blood pressure and haemoglobin, avoiding smoking (even second hand) and alcohol, getting a dental check up etc. It's also good to start on the vits: vitamin B-complex, vitamin C and folic acid. In fact, I'd recommend them to any young female of reproductive age because, apart from being good for the teeny tiny baby, they give you nice healthy skin and shiny hair. You can also take iron and calcium if you like, but this can be saved for later in the pregnancy as long as you have a healthy diet.
AVOID the vitamin A supplements and foods that have loads of it like liver and cod liver oil because it can cause birth defects. Some acne medications contain retinol related compounds and should be avoided as well. The usual amounts of vitamin A obtained from yellow fruits and veggies are perfectly adequate and necessary for mum and the baby.
If you HAVEN'T planned and still find you are pregnant, no need to get all worked up and panicky about bygones... just decide to take it from there... :D
Hmmmm... I just realised that the "relatively short" in the title is totally misleading. I'm not even sure if anyone wants to read all these details. Anywez, await part 2 soon (unless the Baby arrives, in which case, await part 2 later!)
This post is dedicated to my 2 year old nephew, A.
I spent a very relaxing day at his (or rather, his parents') place, being waited on hand and foot. It's amazing how everyone is so kind and accommodating when you are pregnant... it almost makes up for looking like a beached whale!
Towards the end of the day, A finally cottoned on to what everyone meant when they kept pointing to my belly and saying "See A, there's a Chuti Baba in there for you to play with". He started laughing and stroking the tummy, while cooing "Chuti-Baba" over and over again. He then ran to his toys, and comes back with a pile of lego stuck under his shirt, pointing to it and saying "Chuti-Baba" much to our amusement.
When his mother said, no, that's something different, he ran over to me, pulled up my preggy top (ooops!) and discovered my belly button, that recently started popping out (that deserves a post of its own!). Laughing delightedly, A started pressing my belly button, obviously trying to get the incumbent playmate to hurry on out!
I don't want my pregnancy to end! In spite of all the worry and the complications and the fear and uncertainty... I swear, this has been the best experience of my life.
Baby has truly been the sweetest and most considerate foetus anyone could wish for. When I first figured out I was pregnant (and this was a good 2 weeks before I missed my period), I just hugged the secret to myself. Just me and Baby - the two of us in our own private universe. Darling was let in on the secret... and then there were three.
I hardly had any morning sickness... I may have thrown up a grand total of 4 times during the past 9 months, and on 2 of those occasions it was food poisoning rather than the preggy hormones. Sure, I felt queasy sometimes, stopped being able to taste certain flavours, and was completely put off by others... but on the whole, Baby and I managed to eat healthily and heartily.
Things are a little different now... I get excruciating cramps in my legs at night, that make me wake up literally screaming in pain. Getting off bed involves complicated wriggly movements and a lot of effort. Whenever I walk more than a few steps or climb stairs I feel absurdly breathless. And I need to pee... all. the. time. This is complicated by the fact that I keep dreaming that something terrible has happened. I've always had vivid dreams, in full colour, and with smells, sounds, the works. I've woken up distraught more times than I can count, sobbing because Baby had "disappeared" or "never existed" or had been "taken".
Specially after the most recent scare, I've started to welcome the symptoms... even the cramps. It's "proof" that I'm still pregnant and Baby is still there with us. I think they're not even bitter-sweet anymore. Just pure sweetness.
These, I think are the sweetest of all. The textbooks call it "quickening", the sensation of feeling the baby move. At first, I wasn't even sure if that was what I felt... it was so small and so gentle... as if a flower petal had bumped against my belly. And then a few days later, it was as if someone was blowing bubbles inside me, that gently floated around, bumped against the walls of my womb and then went "bop".
That's what Darling and I call it... bopping. I tell Darling that I pity him, because he will never know how wonderful it feels to have this wonderful, living bundle of joy wriggling inside. And day by day Baby keeps bopping more and more, making my tummy bounce and wobble... and it's so difficult to suppress a delighted smile or laugh when that happens.
Baby somehow seems most responsive to Darling. Baby is Daddy's little love bug... and the bops are the strongest when D reads aloud to both of us, or spends time talking to Baby about his day at work and what not. Baby also bops in time to pirith and classical music. Excuse a mother's natural pride when I say that Baby has impeccable taste.
So here I am, counting my days and enjoying every bump and wriggle inside me...
Part of me never wants to let go of this warm wonderful feeling...