These weeks correspond roughly to month five of my pregnancy. I am simultaneously thrilled to be beyond the halfway point and impatient that there is still so long to go. But here’s what happened during these five happy weeks.
My friend Stine came from Denmark to visit me at the end of week 17. As Paulus was traveling to Santa Barbara with a colleague for work, we took the opportunity of going as well, because why not. Santa Barbara is nice.
While Paulus was working, Stine and I hung out at the pool, went to the beach, and scoped out the stores and restaurants of Santa Barbara. We had a lot of good food here, here, here, and here, and more on that below. There may also have been a visit to here – we were on a road trip after all.
The weekend after we returned, our friends hosted a baby shower for us. I hadn’t imagined a baby shower as part of my pregnancy. Consequently, I had nothing to do with the planning of it. Our friends did it all and coordinated with Paulus when necessary. I had been feeling somewhat ambivalent about the whole thing, but it turned out to be a wonderful day, just hanging out with friends outside, lounging, barbecuing, drinking all the cool flavors of sparking water, and decorating little onesies. And I still can’t believe how generous all our friends were. We were truly showered with gifts, and we were thankful to have such a good start to our collection of baby stuff.
For this occasion, I brought out my fun polaroid camera to take photos. As is evident, I am still practicing how to use its settings properly…
At the end of the week, we said goodbye to Stine, and I turned my full attention to work once again (and to getting my food intake back on track (see below)), trying to make the most of my relatively high energy levels while I could. So much to do, so much data to gather, so many papers to draft and so many application to write, before the baby arrives!
This week was focused mostly on work. But in addition, nesting started happening to me. At least I was suddenly overwhelmed by a desire to get the house clean and tidy, and to get the baby’s things in order. All prior (logical) decisions to wait until further along to buy the big baby stuff went out the window, and I filled up our amazon cart and scoured craigslist for used items off our registry. I even contemplated giving the balcony with its sad and dying plants a makeover, but that turned out to be to excessive for my fledgling nesting instinct. However, the nice schedule I had made for us for when we should start emptying the freezer in anticipation of all the pre-made meals that I wanted to fill it with in the last weeks before the baby, was rudely discarded when I decided there’s no time like the present to empty the freezer. So on the weekend, I cooked short ribs, and sausage rolls in order to make some space. I also had this idea that I will to want to eat sausage rolls during labor (they are both handy and childhood-nostalgic), so a dry-run before hand to see if they are as good as I remember seemed prudent. They weren’t exactly, but I still have time to get it right.
And then I found a bouncer seat and some baby clothes on craigslist and decided it was reasonable for us to drive 25 miles to pick it up. So we did. Although the bouncer was what I really wanted, I ended up being the happiest about the baby clothes. We got a whole, hug box of it, with an assortment of styles and sizes. My friend gave me this wonderful spreadsheet with need-to and nice-to baby items that I’ve been using as a basic guideline for our purchases, and as a way to keep track of what we’ve acquired, and all the empty cells in the clothes rows had begun to freak me out. Although the clothes were technically girl clothes, I found most of them to be perfectly fine for a boy, too, once I had removed a couple of bows and ribbons. Or perhaps I just have an unusually high tolerance for scalloped hems on boy’s clothes, who knows.
In week 20, we had an anatomy scan. This is where they look at the baby’s limbs and organs to see that all is in order. The baby was measuring exactly on track, which is apparently rare. Just like at our last scan, the little one was floating calmly during most of the scan. No bouncy baby for us, no! But unlike the previous time, this time the stubborn thing refused to budge when it was poked, so the tech had to try multiple times to find the umbilical cord, which the baby was cradling. On this occasion, the baby was in breech position (which, if it’s near your delivery will disqualify you from giving birth at our hospital’s birth center), but this early babies have lots of time to move around, do somersaults and rolls, and still end up in the ideal head down position before birth. All in all, since I started feeling the baby kick, I have found our appointments, including this one, to be less exciting than I had imagined. I mean, we already know it’s alive and has legs to kick with. Although, we did get to see its little lips and nose up close, and I swear it looks exactly like Paulus’. And its little feet were cute. And there was also the exciting moment when we got to close our eyes while the tech looked for the baby’s sex organs. Apparently, at this practice, they have to register the sex, so they have to look for it. But we had made the final decision not to find out, so we dutifully kept our eyes shut.
The scan also revealed that I have a cyst on my uterus, but apparently this was alarming to no one. It also seemed from the pictures that the placenta may have an irregularity in its shape, which, again, no one appeared particularly concerned about. At first, I worried that it could influence whether I would be allowed to birth the baby at the birth center, but my midwife reassured me that 1) she has seen this assessment on ultrasounds before where the placenta turned out to be perfectly regular, and 2) irregularities don’t influence the baby’s birth, they just have to make sure that all of the placenta comes out afterwards, that nothing tears, etc. So perfect baby, slightly defective mom, nothing to worry about.
Other than that, I continued to have good energy. Workwise, I attended writing groups and workshops and found coffee shops with sunny spots to work in (I have a tan, now!). As for recreational activities, I continued to swim and do a bit of yoga, suitably modified for pregnant ladies.
This week, something shifted. At first I thought the baby had changed its sleeping/waking schedule, because I was feeling it kick more often during the morning and early afternoon, which used to be rare. But then I realized that I just felt it more in general. A lot more in fact. So much so that I at one point found myself thinking, ‘ok that’s enough, do go to sleep again’. Can you imagine! I suppose the baby has just grown to a point where I’m feeling most of its movements, and in addition, my apps told me that its coordination was improving around this time, so perhaps it is taking aim more carefully now. My bladder in particular seems to be a favored target. Obviously, the kicks are only going to get stronger from this point on, as the baby still needs to grow to some 7-8 times its current size (weight-wise). So yeah, this week enabled me to fathom how, at some point, it might actually hurt when the baby kicks, and why women say that towards the end of your pregnancy, you’re just kind of wishing the baby would tone down the kicking for a bit.
I also finally managed to stabilize my weight gain.
The belly got visibly bigger! Over the past months, more and more of my bras have been relegated to the far corner of the drawer, because they don’t fit anymore. In week 22, the time came to do the same to a bunch of my other clothes: dresses that wouldn’t zip anymore, and shirts that were too tight or would crawl above the belly. I had purchased a pair of maternity jeans, and two maternity tops, and I wanted to avoid buying much more than that. Luckily, I have a bunch of loose and/or stretchy dresses and t-shirts, so hopefully these will last me a good long while.
I don’t know if it was the baby’s movements, the displacement of other organs to fit it, or just the increasing weight of my belly in general, but during these weeks, I had to pee all the time. Pretty much all I did during week 22 was work and pee.
This week also contained the day that marked the five month point of the pregnancy – meaning there were only four months left until we get to meet the baby. We’re so excited to meet this little person. I can’t remember if I’ve already discussed this here, but we’re planning to raise the baby as a trilingual. Since I started to feel it move, I have been talking to it, and singing little nursery rhymes – all in Danish, since research suggest that language development starts in the womb already. The baby gets its dose of Dutch when Paulus comes home from works and tells the belly about his day. And then of course it is surrounded by English at all other times.
Food and Weight Gain
My appetite picked up in the beginning of the second trimester, and my tolerance for feeling hungry dropped in parallel. As a consequence, I’ve been adding second versions of most meals. Often, I’d have a bowl of cereal when I got up, around 6am. Then proper breakfast with Paulus around 8am. Then lunch at 11.30am or 12pm. And then second lunch around 3pm. Finally, I’d have dinner at 6pm, and sometimes a snack at 8pm. If this sounds like a lot of food, it is. Comparing my portion sizes to Paulus’ has let me know that my hunger/fullness levels have changed. But I was fine with this, since it seemed to be what my body was telling me to do. However, when Stine came to visit during weeks 17 and 18, things went a little crazy. We ate out all the time, really good food, for almost two weeks. Although I’m proud to say that I remained mindful of eating good things (I ate so much fish, people!), that was so much food, even for me. And boy did the scale reflect it. I gained 2 kilos (just over 4 pounds) in two weeks – that’s double of what I’ve been gaining in comparable intervals so far – , and went from being near the bottom of the recommended weight gain curve to being above it. So week 19 brought a heightened focus on my eating habits, trying to find out if and when I was overeating, and getting back in the habit of filling up on good veggies and fruits, rather than the more calorie intensive stuff. By week 21, I was back on track, weighing just below 64 kilos, which means I had gained less than 6 (14.5 pounds) in total since the beginning of the pregnancy. I’m supposed to gain between 11.25 and 15.75, (25-35 pounds) overall, so a 6 kilo gain at this point seemed quite appropriate with 18 weeks left, and a suggested weight gain of 400 grams (one pound) per week on average during those weeks.
Exercise and Birth Prep
I started swimming around the beginning of my second trimester, and I really enjoyed it. Since the weather was great, we went to the beach several times, which was a great improvement over my first many years living here. Most weeks, I also went to the pool a couple of times. I even bought a new swimsuit, a sporty kind of bikini that I’m hoping will accommodate the belly as it grows.
Although most people would not think of this as exercise, I’m nevertheless putting it here that I’ve been driving the car. That is a mental and emotional exercise for me, so I think it counts. I don’t like driving, but the reality is that I’ll probably have to drive sometimes with the baby, and thus it seems better to practice now than when the little one is here.
Finally, I purchased a birth preparation course that I got recommended. It’s in Danish, so it won’t be accessible to many of you, but here it is, in case you’re interested. It’s recommended to start the most intensive preparation around 8 weeks before the birth, but I sneak-peeked and began practicing a few of the techniques already. I also decided to do daily squats, push-ups, and Kegel exercises, but some work work is needed before I have the routine down.
Body and Symptoms
During weeks 18, 19 and 21, I had frequent headaches. They would occur nearly every afternoon and evening, which is a lot. I didn’t know if it was due to pregnancy hormones or it was pregnancy-unrelated, since I’m prone to headaches in general, but it did seem like I had more headaches than usual. Lavender oil, yoga, massages and lots of sleep were used as remedies, since I try to avoid exposing the baby to medications.
I also experienced some weak dizzy spells, or lightheadedness. I had a couple of moments of it during week 18, and then again in week 21. They were mild enough that they didn’t even cause me to be unsteady on my feet or anything, I just noticed them.
And finally, I had the long anticipated (or dreaded) emotional meltdowns that many women experience, during weeks 19 and 20. Things like a change of plan on short notice, or realizing that I wouldn’t have time to shower and make breakfast before heading to work would leave me either in tears, or (literally) stamping my feet in frustration and anger. Paulus took it all in stride, helpfully offering (logical) solutions like taking over the breakfast cooking while I showered. He also began doing more than his share of the household duties – possibly in an attempt to prevent more meltdowns, who knows. It’s much appreciated no matter its motivation.