I went for my 13 week nuchal ultrasound scan last week. This scan comes under the heading of “not fun but highly recommended if you are 35 or over” which I am.
In combination with a blood test and a family history questionnaire, the nuchal scan assesses the chances of some chromosomal conditions – including Down syndrome – occurring in the fetus. It’s not diagnostic and can only give you odds based on the various results (1 in over 300 is good, under that not so much). If your odds are bad you’ll be referred for another more invasive test, probably an amniocentesis, which give definitive results but come with a small risk of miscarriage. I haven’t got the results and have to make yet another doctor’s appointment to get them. (I am very happy I live in Australia where short doctor’s appointments are usually free; go Medicare.)
So, not a happy-joy-time scan but one fun side effect was that we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. And it really wasn’t what I was expecting.
In yet another “the movies get this so wrong” moment, the heartbeat wasn’t the normal watery slow “wub-dub wub-dub”, but a Doppler scan made of the various sound frequencies found and all layered together. The result, at a healthy 130 beats per minute, was a catchy multi-toned electronic wub-wub-wub-wub-wub-wub worthy of a pumping dance floor at 1am when the wusses have fecked off home.
(Don’t believe me? Listen to someone else’s one here.)
I found my head bobbing along appreciatively to the speeding beat. The Child themselves didn’t stop moving during the scan. They were mainly upside-down while throwing shapes so it looked like they were also getting into it.
All the articles and books I have read so far talk about the amazing and intense reaction you will have to hearing your child’s heart beat for the first time. Words like “magical”, “ecstatic” and “transcendent” and are thrown around. No one mentioned interest followed by the urge to go clubbing, but there you go.
And The Prodigy are playing Sydney next month. Think I should take it as a sign and buy some tickets?
Yes, this! I get that pregnancy and having kids is hard but some Mums make it sound like it’s actually ruining any happiness they have in life. I’m pregnant and not exactly all gung-ho-go-go-happy-baby-hormones about it, and every article I read on having kids makes it sound less worthwhile and more like torture. Luckily I’m also very hard of hearing so I’ve decided to just stop reading the prophets of unending poo and doom and slide out the batteries in my hearing aids when they decide to bend my ears on it.
Also, I have discovered the best reaction ever but it’s not for the faint-hearted. When people start getting their schadenfreude on by giving absurd examples of how your life will change with mountains of poo and lakes of wee and permanent penury and NEVER sleeping again just look horrified and say, “Oh wow. I had no idea. Are you saying I should abort?”
If we needed any more proof I am a terrible mother-to be, the evidence is in my stomach. I have just broken the pregnancy eating guidelines by accident. Again. Third time this month, by my reckoning.
The culprit in this case is my lunch – a chicken schnitzel wrap. It’s not as if it looked particularly evil, being stuffed to the gills with loads of different veggies and minimal mayo. None the less it was a no-no, something I completely forgot when I left my office to forage for food. I wanted salmon sushi – oh, how I want salmon sushi – but remembered the You’re-Pregnant-Bitchface list of things I can’t have include raw fish. What I forgot is all the other stuff that gets pushed off the menu once you actually apply the list.
The Don’t-Eat-While-Up-The-Duff list doesn’t sound too exhaustive at first. No unpasteurised juices or dairy products. Soft and blue cheeses are off limits (sob!). So are raw eggs. And pate (double sob). Raw fish and any refrigerated shellfish. Undercooked meat. Salami, processed meat, cold meats generally. My old and excellent friend, Mr Alcohol. They also recommend washing the hell out of all fruit and veg, skipping buffet and bain marie items and avoiding pre-made salads full stop.
It seems pretty reasonable, you think. Surely I’ve can beat into my fluffy fatigued omni-starving pregnancy brain into remembering this small list of off-limits items. There are some things I’ll miss in there, it’s true, but not an unreasonable amount of foods to take off the menu for a few months.
Or is it? It’s only when you think about how that list will work in practice when you are out and about you realise how many easy eating options are suddenly on the naughty list. Meat that has been cooked but is now cooled is right out, especially if it’s chicken, so unless you’re a vegetarian most pre-made sandwiches are off the menu before you have even checked if the cheese is safe to eat.
That’s where my poor old chicken schnitzel fell down – I wanted a hot schnitzel, but they had none left so I took a wrap, completely forgetting that the reason I wanted it hot was the “no cooked but cold meats” prohibition. I was half-way through when I remembered it and you know what? I just sighed, and finished my fucking sambo.
The term undercooked meats actually means anything other than incinerated-until-it’s-well-done, making me less than popular at roast meals and barbecues, especially as I have turned my nose up at the pate, cheese and salami board passed around. Swordfish and shark are out due to mercury levels, which is reasonable, but they also recommended you don’t have more than two servings of tuna, salmon, crab, white fish – any fish really – all the while admonishing you that fish oils are something most prospective mothers don’t get but are needed for brain development.
They recommend you avoid food from a bain marie or a buffet table. And don’t think you can just get proactive and bring in your own – if you’re having leftovers at home, they must be under a day old and reheated until they’re at tongue-burning temperatures.
And if you’re preggers chickens are really out to get you; cooked but cooled their delicious flesh hide naught but listeria and DEATH, and pre-stuffed poulty you cook yourself may have so much DEATH even 2 hours at 200C won’t kill it, and unless their eggs are completely cooked, you are apparently rolling out the red carpet for listeria and salmonella both.
And raw egg? It turns out that it’s in loads of stuff, from mayo to dressings to delicious desserts. I’ve just discovered the tiramisu I had last week was off-limits, as was the gelato the week before. And I don’t care, because they were fucking delicious. In fact, I have no idea about the dressing used in my wrap was okay for me to eat. Did I ask if it contained raw egg? Did I bollocks. I was tired and hungry. I just finished the fecking thing.
And that’s before you even look at all the advice on what to eat for a healthy pregnancy because there are five million tons of crazy out there and all over the internet. One magazine I read insisted I needed to be eating help, chia and seaweed by the bucketload, because apparently I need to both build baby’s brain and be able to shit ropes. Another recommended “whipping up” a warm chicken salad for work lunch, because most people can cook at their desk – just bring in a camping stove if you don’t have access to a Masterchef kitchen! Several suggest going completely organic to get away from pesticides and other nasties, because as someone with a small and terrifyingly expensive child on the way who will need to take almost a year off work my main goal at the moment is to spend as much money as I physically fucking can. Twats.
I will try not to do it again, but I will not be berating myself for today’s slip-up. My pregnancy diet plan is less about obsessive eating and more about chilling the fuck out. I eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg in a varied diet with minimal fast-food or frying, and I take a multi-vitamin. I’ll be grand, thanks. Assuming the chickens don’t get me.
We went for our first scan on Monday, which was interesting. The scan was all fine and good – it looks about the right shape (like a small alien or a kidney bean, let’s face it) and has a decent heartbeat going on at 168bpm. Even better, they were able to get a decent reading from the outside of my abdomen and we didn’t have to go with a trans-vaginal scan which is no fun whatsoever.
(A trans-vaginal scan, for those of you fortunate enough not to know, is when they get a white wand, cover it in gel and jam it right up there and give your bits a good thorough jabbing until they have a decent image of what’s going on. Or get the signal for Jazz FM, whichever comes first.)
An outside scan is still not completely pain-free, even if your cervix doesn’t get shunted about your abdomen like bumper car being driven by a boy racer. In the movies, they always show the scan gently gliding across the belly on a screen of fairy dust and sparkles. In real life the gel is fecking cold and the screen is angled away from you and the ultrasound operator has to give a good hard press down on the abdomen to get a decent pic so it’s less glide-y and more pokey pokey.
Also you have been told to drink 2 litres of water in the previous hour (I cheated and drank about 1.5ish as I am not a fecking camel and started to feel ill) and are not meant to pee for 2 hours before hand (again, cheated and peed with an hour to go) so they are effectively hammering down on your full bladder as you try desperately not to pee on them. The woman operating the scan was very reassuring; she must have used the words “normal” or “good” at least 10 times in 3 minutes so I suspect she gets a lot of very nervy patients when people are at this stage. Perhaps making them less nervous makes them less likely to pee on her?
It all went well but, according to the measurement from crown to tip, I am wee bit less preggers than I thought, so my due date is now Aug 22-ish. I had originally calculated for the 15th, then the doc said the 18th, and now we are at the 22nd. They keep pushing it back. By the time we get to the third trimester, it’s probably going to be pushed back until October sometime, probably pre-Christmas, or definitely 2014 at the outside.
They warned me about the boobs. They warned me about the nausea. They warned me about the fatigue, and increased appetite, and the heightening of my sense of smell to the point where walking past people wearing cheap perfume is an exercise in restraining myself from shrieking, slapping them and then spraying them with a hose.
In fact they warned me about a whole bunch of things (vomiting, heartburn, flatulence, food cravings, headaches, dizziness, fainting, frequent urination, drooling, and more than I ever needed to know about vaginal discharge, thanks) pretty much all of which I have thankfully managed to avoid. Nothing like spending your days dribbling, belching, farting and throwing up to give you that much-mentioned “expectant glow”.
But they didn’t warn me about the worst bit of being pregnant – the endless badly-spelled new-age horseshit wankology that goes with it. It’s all over the doctor’s surgeries, and the pregnancy magazines, and the websites and the forums and the guides.
There are the usual standbys, so shite there’s no point even getting annoyed about them: chiropractors, homeopaths and iridologists, spiritual healers and twats with magnets shilling their expensive and ineffective wares.
Some are more practical. I can see the point of massage and even aromatherapy smells nice. But do you really need to spend all that cash when there’s a small child about to arrive? There’s also endless pleas to take up meditation, which seems a little sadistic. I’m not convinced developing a reliance on a need for silence and inner calm is a great idea when you are going to have a newborn in a few months.
Some just go right off into la-la-land when you need them. There are the doulas (birth assistants) who stress they worry about your spiritual needs in labour rather than the fact that you are CURRENTLY FORCING A SMALL HUMAN OUT OF YOUR VAGINA. Or fairly sensible books like What to Expect telling us not to get our ankles rubbed because reflexologists are worried it could bring on labour. (Overdue mothers, frankly, wish it were this fucking easy.)
Others abuse the poor English language in their endless quest to extract money from the wallets of unsure pregnant women. Today I saw a flyer for an alternative pregnancy class with a “wholistic approach”. I can’t tell you how much makes me want to slap them.
I can cope with the nausea. I can cope with enormo-boobs of doom, and the fact that my pre-natal vitamins make me want to hurl them right back up every morning, and the constant urge to eat. I can even cope with dribbling, fainting and vomiting, if I really have to. I just don’t think I can cope with another 7 months of being chased by alternative therapy suppliers just as I get too fat to run fast. Maybe projectile vomiting on command may be the way to go after all.
I’m 7 weeks pregnant but, as many women can tell you, getting from here to actually having a baby is no done deal. Depending on what I’ve read, there’s between a 15% and 35% chance that this pregnancy will end in miscarriage or another complication.
And I’m not actually seven weeks pregnant, not really. The official count starts from the day 1 of your last period, whereas conception usually takes places about day 12-14, so the pregnancy clock starts ticking two weeks before you have sex. Your baby is like Doctor Who and can travel back in time.
You hear that, ladies and gentlemen? You could be pregnant with a time-travelling baby right now. Even if you haven’t had sex yet. Does that seem fair to you? I am unconvinced, to be honest.
So, allowing for the likelihood the pregnancy will not continue, and the fact that I’m barely pregnant, and I am in fact so barely pregnant I have been advised not to bother telling people for a few months, I figured that worrying about hospitals and where I would give birth was a good bit in the future. First things first and all that. Survive the first trimester nausea and enormo-boobs of doom and then worry about the birth.
I was wrong. A quick google revealed that, in Sydney anyway, obstetricians and centres book up fast. Every single forum, every advice page, was saying the same thing – book as soon as you know. So I rang my local hospital – the RPAH – to enquire about their birthing centre which has limited space. I did this early, with the pregnancy test barely drying. I did this, in fact, before I had even had a chance to tell the father. I was 5 weeks and one day pregnant.
And, according to the nice lady I spoke to, I was lucky to get a spot. “August? We’re already quite full.” She made it sound as though I had managed to squeak in by a hair as opposed to calling 3 weeks after conception, at the point where many women have no idea they are pregnant and when chemical pregnancies are very likely. I mean, what are erevyone else doing? Do they have the RPAH on speed-dial and call after they have sex? Do they call while they are having sex? Is it a case of “Oh darling, oh oh darling, oh oh CALL THE BIRTHING CENTRE I’M COMING!”.
Now, I haven’t decided I definitely want to go to the RPAH birthing centre. It has a very drug-free feel and I may decide that much like the Ramones, I wanna be sedated. I may decide to go private. I may decide to share my pain and do the entire thing as a form of interpretive theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Fuck it, I may decide to go to Fiji and give birth surrounded by dolphins in the blue lagoon or some such idiocy. The world is full of terrible choices I haven’t made yet, and I’ll get to them when I am feeling slightly less like throwing up on them.
Honestly, I haven’t really thought too much about it. The theoretical baby in my uterus is less than blueberry sized at the moment and I am fighting fatigue and all-day nausea, you will have to forgive my less than total planning for something that may not happen and it if does happen will take place over 6 months in the future. I also haven’t chosen my theoretical child’s name, first school, college, marital partner and grave plot. I know, I am a bad mother-to-theoretically-be. Shoot me. Or send me some ginger biscuits and something to throw up in.
So, the world ends tomorrow and I’ve just found out I’m pregnant. I can’t help feeling these two things are connected.
While it’s not a complete surprise – after all, we were having sex and sex makes babies – it’s certainly happened a lot faster than we thought it would. Somewhat like the Swiss arriving to a party (“but you said it starts at 8pm!”) or builders that actually finish a job on time, it’s welcome development that’s come far earlier than expected.
We’d planned to have kids, and figured at some point in the next year would be good as I am over 35, and had – if not embraced all the things you are meant to do to encourage fertility – stopped diligently and enthusiastically preventing conception from happening.
We did this about 6 weeks ago. I am now 5 weeks’ pregnant.
I don’t know whether to congratulate our bits on their fecundity or curse them roundly for not waiting until after the Christmas holidays and we’d had a chance to drink a few of the nice bottles of champagne we bought for the occasion.
The funny thing is that my biological clock has always been on snooze – while I like kids, I’ve never felt the huge yearning many people get for children, and babies to me are intrinsically less interesting than puppies, kittens and pygmy hippos of all varieties. I had assumed my uterus would be similarly disinterested and take a good bit of kick-starting but no, apparently it’s in a huge rush to have a baby.