Sciatica

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When women tell me just how much they loved being pregnant, I realize that it’s probably because they don’t have any sciatica issues like I do. My mom used to suffer with terrible pain in her hip, which she attributed to having polio as a child. When it would act up, usually after sitting all day at a desk, she would use it as an excuse to lay lengthwise on the couch, slurping down glass after glass of wine until she no longer felt any pain or functioned as a parent.

I get pain from time to time too. However, instead of choosing a sedentary route of self medication and justification for alcohol abuse, I’ve found that exercise has been the best way to treat it. Before I was pregnant, I would attend yoga classes, do cardio on an elliptical machine and lift weights at the gym to alleviate the pain. I would see a massage therapist and stretch at home.

Since I’m so late in my pregnancy, most of those things are sort of off the table. The pain and my physical condition prevent me from doing much, and as my body prepares itself for labor, my hips are stretching and flexing out to allow a human to pass through them. As a result, the pinging pain in my right hip has come back with a vengeance.

I’ve been trying to walk, but as I’m more of a belly with legs, it’s more of a gyroscopic wobble than an actual walking. A few days ago, we decided to go over to Longwood Gardens to attend their Nightscape event. At night, they set up music and light shows throughout the gardens and walkways, and I really love going. My son has also gotten to the point where we can enjoy it too.

But our attendance meant that I’d be on my feet and walking for an inordinate amount of time. All in all I ended up putting in about 2.5 miles. We had to push back my son’s bedtime in order to see the show, so getting him out of the gardens when we were done meant dealing with the inevitable meltdown and tantrum that accompanied it. We did get him home and into bed eventually, only to have him wake up around 4:00 a.m., unable to get back to sleep.

As I laid in bed for that short stint, I rolled on my side to put a pillow between my legs (standard pregnancy sleeping position for me), and heard this loud crack as my hip finally settled back into place. The pain was simultaneously terrifying and satisfying, as I was able to move normally almost immediately afterward. So, when the little guy decided to get up at 4:00 a.m. having wet the bed and needed an entire bedding change, I was actually able to help and be with him.

The rest of that morning was hell, unable to go back to sleep, he fussed in the bed, until just before sunrise, when I relented finally, and took him downstairs. I dozed during episodes of Sesame Street, not really getting any solid sleep, and tried not to let it get me down. After all, with a new baby coming, sleep disturbances and insomnia would become my way of life. I knew I had to get used to it again. The attachment to the idea that I’d ever get a full night’s sleep ever again is unhelpful, depressing, and most of all, unrealistic.

The paradox of depression

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Living with depression under normal circumstances is essentially accepting you have a baseline of negativity and toxic thinking that you have to overcome in order to approach daily life in a “normal” way. Once I understood the disorder, and its impact on me, I was able to come to terms with this as a condition for interacting with the outside world. Most of the time, I’m okay with it. Sometimes I get frustrated and just want to shut off this extra process and react in real time, normally, and not have to filter everything through these extra safeguarding measures. But, in doing so, begins a pattern of destructive thoughts and behaviors that are difficult to recover from. It’s best to keep an even keel and not stray too far from the path.

Under normal circumstances, I’d be on medication to assist me, but being in a “child-bearing” mode, I’ve been off medication since we decided we wanted to start a family. The complication with that is hormonal factors from being pregnant, plus the lack of sleep and stress of raising my son are triggers for a lot of my issues. The irony of it is that I’ve never needed medications more in my life than I have now, and I’ve never been less “allowed” to take them. Sure, there are some people who do, and that’s fine. But to go it unmedicated, so to speak, is my choice.

Still, the worried looks from health care providers when I turn in another depression screening questionnaire that’s answered honestly are annoying. Yes, I know the score is high. I’m a clinically depressed pregnant person. No, I don’t have thoughts of suicide or harming others. No, I’m not in crisis. Yes, it is very difficult for me to do the things I used to enjoy doing. Yes, I’m sleeping like crap. Yes, these things impact my life in a severe way. Yes, I’m aware that you’re obligated to ask. And yes, I’ve got a plan in place to manage all this stuff.

I do have a bottle of my meds in my hospital bag, so that once I deliver, I’m going to get back on the wagon. And my caregivers were kind enough to alert the Women’s Emotional Wellness department to have the social worker come check on me, which I’m grateful for. Postpartum depression adds another layer of difficulty, and it’s good to use the resources available to me.

Miraculous

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When I was pregnant with my first child, I had to wait until I was almost 42 weeks to deliver. At that point, my body simply wasn’t going to give him up on its own. My OB told me to drink some castor oil and see if we could induce labor. It didn’t really do much except give me some mild contractions and make me feel completely gross for a day or two.

My due date came and went. The winter dragged on outside, and an epic blizzard was forecast to hit our state. My OB decided if I didn’t deliver on my own, I’d go in for an induction. The process was scary to a first time mom, but from what I understand, it went by the book. There were a few minor bumps, but compared to what some women experience, I made out well.

When discussing my plans for this pregnancy with my OB, we reminisced briefly about how the previous one went. I mentioned how I’d like to repeat that experience because it worked out so well. She agreed, saying it was almost “miraculous.” The word gave me pause. I should have pressed it, but I didn’t want to read too much into it.

To me, the word “miraculous” implies that this event was somehow magical and unrepeatable. I wanted the exact same situation to play out for this pregnancy, and now that seemed like asking for a unicorn, when I already had one. No matter what people would tell me, the worry that I’d somehow have a more complicated experience the second time around seemed inevitable.

I worried about c-sections, NICU stays, infection, tearing, and all sorts of other things that happen. None of which are death sentences, but I worried about that too. I worried that I’d go into labor while my husband was out of town, and my son would have no one to pick him up from daycare. I worried that it would come so fast that I’d be alone in the bathroom trying to deliver my son alone. I worried about all the worrying making my son anxious and sick. My brain only needs a tiny margin for it to go off the rails and turn in on itself.

At the time I type this, I’m still very, very pregnant, with an active fetus kicking away, and hoping for the best and trying not to think about the worst. Stay tuned.

Labor cake? 

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Of all the old wives tales about pregnancy, the only one I can really get behind is the idea of a labor cake. I forget the logic, but supposedly eating something super chocolatey and rich is supposed to set your labor off early. Naturally, as my due date approached, I was willing to undergo such an experiment, for science, of course.

Spoiler: it didn’t work, but I think maybe I need to try again with a larger slice. Or several. You know…for science.

The Fear

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The countdown moves from months to weeks, from weeks to days, and the feeling of excitement wavers from blissful joy to sheer terror that soon, very very soon, a new life will spring forth from my body. Holy. Shit.

My body swells to unnatural proportion and I’m not able to bend down to pick things up off the floor anymore without real pain. The dysmorphia is real. I forget until the baby moves or I bump into something I should have been able to squeeze past easily before. It’s surreal.

Things haven’t been easy during this pregnancy. The sad truth is that I’ve been trying to cope with a pretty tricky time with my son right now. He’s entering into a moody three-nager stage and is very sensitive to criticisms like asking him to not accidentally punch me in the stomach or to stop kicking our shared wall with the neighbor for the fifth time in a row. How am I going to explain this new baby to him? (He knows, for the record, but it’s all hypothetical until the squalling infant comes home with us.)

There’s a brooding angry fear in the back of my mind about how this is all going to play out. It rumbles quietly how this is going to be the hardest thing I’m ever going to do, how I’m destined to fuck it up, how I was foolish to want another child, how are we ever going to weather this storm, what the hell was I thinking.

This voice is remarkably familiar, much like my own, only more certain and really kind of an asshole. It ignores my friends and their kind advice. It hates the things I used to love, and only wants the things it can’t have, like sleep and silence. It’s an amalgam of all my worst qualities, pooling it’s strength in the darkness, seeing how frail and weak I’ve become, mocking me.

“The best thing ever”

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It’s no secret that I hate my job. The so-called adult humans I work with are a rare collection of sociopathic, narcissistic jerkfaces who somehow have not yet committed a grievous enough offense to be put into a cage with their ilk, remaining instead like the paycheck drawing chair moisteners that our hospital has a penchant for collecting. And, while I should be more upset about this than I am, what I feel instead is resigned disappointment that I didn’t see it coming.

The incident I refer to in this post is a phone call I overheard between a coworker and a customer. To say I overheard the phone call is to emphasize that the caller spoke so loudly that I actually heard both sides of the insidious conversation, instead of just my coworker’s half. The caller in question had previously been to our office, peeking through my office door (which I keep mostly closed, out of avoidance of said assholes, and also because I keep my heater on as I’m always cold). She’s also screamed “HEY PREGNANT GIRL” at me across the parking lot once rumor got out and baby bump became noticeable. To say she lacks tact is an understatement.

So, when I overheard her asking my sworn enemy if she’d hoped I wouldn’t return from maternity leave, I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear my coworker cackle loudly how it would be “the best thing ever” if I didn’t. Ah, confirmation, within earshot, of how much I’m disliked. Nice. So very, very nice. Believe me, I’d love to be independently wealthy, and not need this job or to inconvenience others with my presence. I’d certainly love it if my husband wasn’t losing his job right after our child will be born, so that I could focus on being a stay at home mom, or at least work for less money so that I wouldn’t be here. But such things aren’t in the cards, sadly.

Truly, it would be pretty awesome if I didn’t come back from maternity leave, but I guarantee our reasons for thinking so are very different. She could go back to being the only person in this role, and I could never have to see her stupid face ever again. Being pregnant this time around, I have the benefit of realizing what my limitations are going to be, and if working this job means I can afford to provide a better life for my kids, you better believe I’m gonna suck it up and be here, even if it is an inconvenience for her.

Orderliness

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I vacillated between two extremes in the last weeks of my pregnancy: complete apathy and psychotic nesting. I must give credit to my husband during this time. Where I fell down on the job, he stepped up in such a huge way. The first time around, I had the ability to nap whenever I wanted, but now that we already have one kid and with another due any minute now, the idea of sleeping one second longer than my son will allow is a pipe dream I let go of with claw marks all over it.

Still, trying to tie up all the loose ends I could before the baby comes is an impossibility because there’s a lot of things I can’t predict. Instead, I’ve spent too much time conjuring what the realistic outcomes might be so that I can activate the phone tree depending on what time of day my water breaks. I’ve written a so-called birth plan (which is to say I have written an email to my friend who’s going to be my birth partner so my husband can take care of our son).

The house is in some sort of order, but so much still feels undone. I’m trying to remember where all the burp cloths went, and figured that as each one became too gross to toss in the wash, we must’ve just thrown them away. I’m trying to get appointments scheduled before the end, but I feel like I’m missing something.

We did manage to get most of what I wanted to do checked off activity wise. We took my son to the beach twice this summer. We made our trip to Disney in the spring. We had a chance to see the light show at Longwood Gardens. We got our fill of crabs before the season ended. But I am still left wondering what I forgot. Maybe it’s just that feeling that you never really check everything off the list, you just get to do whatever life lets you before it comes crashing down on you. And the rest is for the aftermath.