Friday, August 31, 2012

Unspoken Pregnancy Symptoms

I'm probably not alone in this. There are a lot of whacky changes that take place during pregnancy that produce a whole range of symptoms. Some of which you've undoubtedly heard about, such as:
  • breast tenderness
  • swollen ankles or feet
  • back pain
  • rashes
  • morning sickness
  • frequent urination
  • constipation
  • exhaustion
  • skin discoloration
  • cravings

Those are what you can pretty much expect anyone you've ever known who has had a baby (or their significant other) to tell you about. They're like, the staple of pregnancy for almost everyone, I guess. While I experienced a few of those, notably having to pee once an hour every hour, I skipped over most of them. No morning sickness, no constipation, no rashes, no change in my skin, very little tenderness, hardly any cravings, no foot swelling, etc., etc. Lucky me, I am told!

Instead, however, what I've experienced mostly is the following:
  • groin pain
  • swelling of the hands
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • hot flashes
  • excessive hunger
  • rib pain
  • food avoidance
  • insomnia

No one has ever mentioned any of those things to me as pregnancy symptoms, with the exception of late third trimester heartburn. I'm on prescription strength Prilosec due to a preexisting medical condition (cleared by my OBGYN) and cannot fathom a woman going through pregnancy without it. Even with the Prilosec I experience extreme heartburn (if I lay down without care, there's stomach acid in my throat) daily and Tums have become a staple of my pregnancy diet. A side note there, who decided citrus was the best flavor to make an antacid? Citrus is the last thing you want to consume when you've got heartburn! I know it isn't actual citrus, but still. Totally unappealing.

Excessive hunger and food avoidance seem contradictory, but they're really not. I am hungry all of the time. I do not get many cravings, I'm just always hungry. I can eat a bowl of oatmeal with a glass of orange juice and two pieces of multigrain toast with butter and jam and still be hungry enough for eggs and potatoes afterward. I don't (usually) eat two full meals back-to-back, but I could! It's not a nutrient requirement thing either. I take several varieties of supplements per day and have had my blood checked -- there's no deficiency present. I just want to eat like a fat kid.

Meanwhile the food avoidance is more like, certain foods just completely disinterest me or seem repulsive now. I haven't eaten a tamale in months and generally I really like tamales. It's just every time they are brought up as a food option, I'm like, "Ugh, no thanks." I have absolutely no desire for them anymore, even when I'm really, really hungry. I'm not a picky eater normally. I am willing to try anything once, sometimes even more than once just to be sure. So this is strange to me.

Hot flashes are particularly annoying because it's summer time and already hot. We've had a heat wave out here for several weeks now (temperatures of 100 degrees or more) which certainly has not helped either. Even with the AC blasting, I'm uncomfortably hot all the time. Sometimes so much so that my only relief is to either hop in the shower or lay down all sprawled out naked fanning myself. Or a combination of both.Which might sound kind of attractive, but at nine months pregnant probably isn't so much. And I'm not saying that in a moody pregnancy low self esteem sort of way. I know I'm a foxy mama, but when you take hot and stack it with more hot and wallowing, that's just not sexy at all.

Your baby will kick the shit out of you. I know most people talk about being kicked by baby as a fantastic thing, and usually it is! It is an amazing sensation to feel and even see a tiny human live inside of you. But sometimes you will either get kicked someplace really sensitive (like an organ), or just be kicked in one place repeatedly until it's sore. This is not so great.

I don't think I'd have much rib pain if the baby didn't continuously kick them. Which, by the way, feels a lot like when you bang your funny bone. Only inside your chest, completely beyond your control. I can't blame him. He has no idea what the hell he's doing in there. My bones probably seem fascinating in his world of juicy squishiness. It's woefully uncomfortable though, and on particularly bad days can leave you quite sore afterward. Sometimes I go to bed feeling like my ribcage is on fire. Not exactly conducive to sleep.

The headaches aren't frequent, thankfully, but I included them anyway. Mostly because when you are pregnant you're not allowed to take most headache expunging medications. Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Execrin, and any type of Aspirin are all taken off the table. You're allowed only very low amounts of Tylenol, which isn't typically enough to thwart a headache. At the very best it just takes the bite out of the pain. I'm the sort of person whose headaches always gradually progress into migraines if left untreated. So on the rare occasion a pregnancy headache crops up, it winds up restricting me to bed all day. My midwife says taking walks and drinking lots of water can help with pregnancy induced headaches, but in my experience this only helps a little and if the headache gets to migraine level walking will be the last thing on your to-do list. I've found laying down seems to help me more, if only because it usually changes the position of the baby and gets him off whatever he'd been sitting on that probably caused it.

Groin pain took me completely unawares and is probably the only symptom I'd wish out of existence if I had a magic lamp. For the last month or more it has felt like I've pulled my groin. I haven't, but the pain is there regardless of that fact. I cannot lift my feet more then two inches from the floor without sharp pain radiating through my pelvis. I have to sit down to put on pants and if I want to prop my feet up on the sofa, I need to pick up my legs with my hands in order to get into position without wincing. Mind boggling realization? This happens to a lot of pregnant women and will disappear after delivery. In the meanwhile, the only thing I can really do for relief is sleep with a body pillow. Which is kind of like having a third person in the bed. Or I guess, a fourth person if you include baby. I haven't gone to sleep without a body pillow tucked between my knees and under my giant belly in weeks. Because if I do the pain I described above is so intense I can't even walk without experiencing it. This is all caused by the weight and position of the baby as well as the muscle and joint loosening hormones being produced by your body and there is really nothing to be done about it medically. A long soak in the hot tub would probably help, but those are forbidden to pregnant ladies as well. Ho-hum.

Swollen fingers is a new one to me, something I woke up with for the first time yesterday. I've been waiting for my ankles and feet to swell but it just hasn't happened. Not even when I walked from one end of campus to the other and back again while hopelessly lost. So the fact that my fingers of all things have now taken to swelling is just bizarre to me. I get up in the morning and they're so puffy my grip is weak and my knuckles hurt (the ones I can feel anyway). I can only imagine how much worse this would be if I didn't have peripheral neuropathy. I find it a little funny that my preexisting medical conditions have thus far all been boons to my pregnancy experience.

Insomnia, for me as a narcoleptic, is just surreal. I've experienced it before, on rare occasions, but nothing so frequent as this. Sometimes I'll just lay awake in the dead of night, totally exhausted but unable to actually sleep. I imagine it's some primal motherly instinct to prevent my babies from being eaten by predators or something, but it's really annoying. There are no leopards in my house. We reside in a nice neighborhood, so there probably aren't even any burglars anywhere nearby. There's really no justification to be set to "can't let my baby be eaten" mode. Yet at least once a week, there we are. Four am, tired as a dog, staring at the clock, waiting for the moment when I need to fend off a pack of wolves with nothing but my hands and teeth.

And all of this? Completely normal! Just seldom mentioned by anyone, including doctors, until you yourself bring it up. Why? I have no idea. I certainly would've appreciated a heads up about feeling like I've been kicked in the snatch.

Don't let any of this deter you though. I know it might sound like a lot of complaining, but if you want to bring another human into the world -- it is absolutely worth it.

P.S. Adema is neat. I can leave hand prints on my skin, or draw pictures with pressure.

P.P.S. Someone just pointed out that I myself forgot one: leaky nipples! While you do not produce milk until days after delivery, for four or more weeks prior to delivery your breasts begin to produce and at times secrete pre-milk called Colostrum. A clear (sometimes cloudy) nutrient rich substance that will keep baby nourished until your actual milk comes in. It's usually only a small amount (a few drops worth), unlike actual lactation, but can be more at times. So you should invest in nursing pads ahead of time, just in case! It may be tempting, but you should avoid expressing before delivery as doing so may cause uterus contractions as well as leave less nutrients in the pre-milk for baby when he or she arrives. Expressing won't make you leak any less, anyway. So there's no point.

P.P.P.S. I've been told due to Ph changes you should avoid colored panties, mostly because you might find that you bleach them!

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