Biking with a Bump

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CyclingWhilePregnant

At my first midwife visit, I asked if it would be all right if I kept riding my bike while pregnant. My midwives said that as long as I felt good, didn’t push myself too hard, listened to my body, and felt safe, cycling was a great form of pregnancy exercise.

I’m currently in my 32nd week of pregnancy, and I’m still loving my bike. Here’s why:

Even though I’m in my third trimester and feeling tired, heavy and achy, cycling still feels good. It’s low-impact and (miraculously) makes my back feel better. It makes sense, when your back is being pulled forward all day by a heavy load, spending some time in an opposite posture (with a curved back) is a relief.

There is also something amazing about being able to zip around on a bike when I’ve become used to lumbering. I’m still able to move at a normal human speed on a bike, as opposed to when I’m waddling around on foot. Although I haven’t been swimming much, I imagine it’s the same sort of freeing feeling of being lighter and more agile. It feels wonderful.

Some drawbacks: I have to be much more careful about falls. This means that I find myself getting off my bike a lot more often, for safety’s sake. The people of Collingwood generally will not keep their dogs on leashes, and I have to be careful that no one darts in front of me while I’m riding. One woman actually told me, as I was slowly approaching her off-leash Weimaraner “Watch out, because she WILL run out in front of you.” So, maybe keep her on a leash whilst on this busy, multi-user trail?

Also, as the baby grows, we’re both running out of room and leaning forward is becoming difficult. I suspect that sometime soon the baby will just refuse to cooperate, and I’ll have to give it up. But until then, I’m going to enjoy this as much as I can.

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Scaring Pregnant Women: A National Pastime

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When I was pregnant with C, plenty of people issued dire warnings from the other side (of parenthood). I’ve mentioned them here before, but I was regularly told that my life would never be the same again (and this was always said in an ominous tone of voice). I was warned that I would never have time to read or even to take a shower. This all turned out to be complete nonsense. Although I was very sleep-deprived for the first three months of C’s life, no amount of “enjoying my sleep” while I was pregnant could have helped me to avoid it. People who tell pregnant women to “sleep now!” seem to think that sleep is something you can stockpile, like a squirrel hoarding nuts for winter. It just doesn’t work that way, folks.

So you would think, having been through this once before, that I would be immune (or at least resistant) to the fear-mongering that people seem to enjoy when they interact with the visibly pregnant. Nope. I still regularly get anxious after talking with someone who says something like “Whew, you’re going to have your hands full soon. Good luck.” Uh, thanks? Or “So this is your second? Get ready for life to get crazy.” Um, okay? How do I do that, exactly?

Luckily, once in a while, I’ll bump into someone who is reassuring. I met someone last weekend who has two little girls (only a year and a half apart) and she asked me a few questions about my situation.

“What will the age difference be?” – 26 months
“Do you have any help?” – My parents live an hour away, but are able to help sometimes, and my husband works a lot but is super awesome.
“Will your older daughter go to daycare?” – Yes, two days a week.

Her response? “Pfft. You’ll be fine. Don’t even worry.”

Now that is what I needed to hear.

It’s not that I think having two kids will be a walk in the park. I know it will be difficult, particularly for the first year. But there isn’t much I can do now to prevent that. Worrying won’t make the transition, or the exhaustion or the craziness any easier. That is why I’ve decided to hold onto that lovely woman’s response and dismiss any negative comments I might hear in the next three months. Because worrying will get me nowhere. And besides, I’m pretty sure those people just want attention, and I’ve learned from my toddler books that conscious ignoring is a great strategy for dealing with that sort of behaviour.

Back to Blogging…For Now

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I’ve taken a bit of a break from the blog lately.  I didn’t plan on it, but life got interesting.

We’re expecting Baby #2.  Little C is going to be Big Sister C.  And even though I didn’t think a pregnancy would get in the way of my blog-productivity, I spent weeks (and weeks and weeks) feeling so sick that typing on a keyboard would have sent me into a nausea tailspin.

Side note: I had zero morning sickness with C.  I thought I was super tough and designed for pregnancy.  Hubris.  It gets me every time.  Well, I got my comeuppance.  I spent my first trimester feeling like I was going to throw up from the moment I woke up every morning until the moment I went to bed.  I also had food aversions that left me living on crackers, toast, and Kraft Dinner for two months.  I may have developed scurvy.

So now I’m in the wonderful second trimester and back at it.  I’ve been cooking again (unthinkable two months ago) and even biking and running.  Well, “running” is a bit of a stretch.  I’ve been jogging very slowly.  I’ve been doing some extra work for the board of directors.  And I’m hoping to get back to blogging for a while.

I say “for a while” because I’m sure when this baby arrives I’ll be far too busy and exhausted to do anything other than try to keep everyone in this house alive and fed.  But for now, the blog is back.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

In Pregnancy, Knowledge is Power

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When I was pregnant, I read and heard a lot about prenatal testing.  Many women around me said that they had declined it.  They would love their babies no matter what, so what was the use in having any testing done?

First, a disclaimer, I am not a medical professional.  But I am here to advocate for prenatal testing.  I know from experience that prenatal testing can save lives.  It can lead to a healthier baby and a better pregnancy outcome.  In pregnancy, as in everything else, knowledge is power.

When I found out I was pregnant, I went to visit my family doctor.  He said a few things to me.  One was that I shouldn’t announce my pregnancy, because I could miscarry.  He really said this.  The second was that I could opt to do some prenatal testing.  The prenatal testing, he explained very quickly, tested for Down Syndrome.  My (former) family doctor said that I should only go ahead with this testing if I were willing to abort a fetus who tested positive for Down Syndrome.  He also really said this.

Thank goodness I ignored this advice.  Why?  Because what he didn’t tell me was that the standard prenatal blood testing (done – in Canada – before 15 weeks) can also screen for neural tube defects and for placental problems.

At twelve weeks, Pete and I announced that we were expecting.  At fifteen weeks, when my prenatal blood test results came back, we had to tell our loved ones that we had bad news.  Our baby had a 1 in 5 chance of having Down Syndrome and an elevated chance of having a neural tube defect.

We were referred by our midwives to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, one of the best hospitals in the world for maternal-fetal medicine.  There, I underwent genetic counselling and later, an amniocentesis.

We eventually found out that our baby did not have Down Syndrome, and neither did she (because they accidentally told us she had two X chromosomes – there goes that surprise!) have a neural tube defect.  At that point, we thought we were in the clear.  The blood test was wrong!  It was all a big misunderstanding.

What we found out, however, is that often, a false-positive screen for Down Syndrome or a neural tube defect does not mean that nothing is wrong.  It often means that something is wrong with the placenta.  In my case, my placenta was too small.

There was nothing that I did wrong.  There was nothing I could have done differently.  It was either genetics or simple bad luck (we still don’t know, and probably never will).  In about 2-3 percent of pregnancies, something goes wrong with the placenta.

Placental problems are serious business.  They are often life threatening to both mother and fetus.

I’m writing this post because I’m hoping to spread some awareness.  Our placenta specialist (there is such a thing!) told us that many midwives, family doctors and even obstetricians are not aware that prenatal blood testing can provide important information about the health of the placenta.  He said that this was partially the fault of placenta researchers (himself included).  They simply weren’t great at getting the word out.

Please, if you’re pregnant, have prenatal testing done.  If you do have a placental problem, there is a lot you can do to minimize the risk to yourself and to your baby.  Monitoring babies who are not growing properly due to a placental issue can save their lives.  Monitoring your own health (because placental insufficiency is linked to pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome) can save your life.

Little C had intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) due to my placental insufficiency.  She was monitored by ultrasound every two weeks and when she stopped growing, and was in danger of suffering brain damage, I was induced.  She was born at 37 weeks and a teeny-tiny 4 lbs 6 oz.  But she was delivered early enough that she didn’t suffer any long-term difficulties.

C in the nursery with her feeding tube

C in the nursery with her feeding tube

We were lucky.  We got the best possible outcome.  Not all babies whose mothers have placental insufficiency do so well.  C spent 2 weeks in the NICU and is now a busy little toddler.  Even though I spent my pregnancy worried sick about her, I’m so thankful that I followed through with prenatal testing.

Remember, in pregnancy, knowledge is power.