December 22 – December 28: 27 Weeks 0 Days – 27 Weeks 6 Days.
Long story short: Traveling while pregnant was not nearly as big a deal as I thought it would be, and it was totally worth seeing my family and friends for Christmas.
I started researching traveling while pregnant months ago, because I was sure it wouldn’t be wise for me to head fly home for Christmas when I was 27 weeks pregnant. I was worried that my baby would be deformed by in-flight radiation exposure, or that something about the pressure changes and sitting in a cramped seat would cause me to throw a clot, or that the airline wouldn’t even let me on the plane. Turns out all my fears were unfounded, especially for a short two-hour flight from San Francisco to Vancouver.
In-flight radiation: There was consensus among all the sources I read was that I would not exposed to enough in-flight radiation to affect the fetus unless I flew frequently (like a flight attendant or pilot). One round-trip for the whole duration of my pregnancy was negligible.
Blood clots: I didn’t find anything to indicate the pressure changes during a flight contribute to blood clots, but sitting still for long periods can (particularly since I’ve had a couple varicose veins crop up). I’m sure I sit for longer than two hours in front of my computer or reading a book sometimes, so a two-hour flight probably wasn’t a big deal. Still, I got up a couple times to walk around and stretch. On the flight back to SFO I had the aisle seat, which was nice because I could move around whenever I wanted. If the flight was longer, I may have worn compression stockings to promote even better circulation.
Airline regulations: I read that some airlines wont let pregnant women fly after 28 weeks, which made me nervous about getting up to Canada and then not being allowed to board the plan back home. It turns out most airlines don’t restrict travel until 36 weeks, which was the case with the airline we flew. Still, I got a note from my midwife noting how far along I was and that I had her blessing to travel. No one at the airline asked to see the letter or even seemed to think twice about letting me on the flights. The only time anyone expressed concern was toward the end of the flight back to San Francisco when I was out of my seat frequently, stretching and sighing. Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed and neglecting my normal exercise routine for a week had left me feeling a little kinked, and sitting in a cramped airplane seat didn’t help. The flight attendant came by to check that I was okay, but she may have done that with anyone.
Backscatter X-ray: At San Francisco International Airport, they indiscriminately route everyone through the backscatter x-ray machine. They say that you get much more radiation exposure in flight than in those machines, so I normally get my “virtual strip search” without thinking twice. However, with the perspective that having a sensitive fetus in my belly gave me, I decided that getting in-flight radiation alone would be better getting than in-flight radiation plus backscatter radiation (even if the difference was marginal). Richard has never trusted those machines, so I’ve watched him go through the process of requesting and receiving a pat-down many times, and knew it wouldn’t be a big deal. Honestly, I think it was more awkward for the woman administering the pat-down than it was for me. She asked me if I had any medical conditions, to which I responded, “no.” In retrospect, that was probably her way of politely asking if I was pregnant. I guess all my affirmations about pregnancy being a natural, normal, healthy, safe process have set in.
Any small inconveniences of traveling while pregnant were forgotten in the joy of spending the holidays with family and old friends. Before Christmas, I had a wonderful baby shower with old friends. No one will celebrate big life events with you quite as earnestly as the people who have seen you grow up. I was touched that so many people showed up to share in the baby love with me. I brought home a closet full of adorable baby clothes, cozy blankets, and story books, along with an amazing hand-crocheted mobile from my sister.
I loved spending time with my two-year-old niece, whom I don’t see nearly enough. She is so full of wonder and energy! Although, it did make me wonder how I will handle being pregnant with a toddler in tow next time ’round. Obviously I’ll figure it out, but I think it will be a much less me-focused experience of pregnancy.
On Christmas Eve, my mom and I joined my sister at her church for the Christmas Eve service, while Richard stayed home to give his dad a call. I felt kind of like the prodigal sister, showing off my big pregnant belly in pumps and a tight leopard-print dress with no husband in sight. All I needed was green eye shadow and a run in my stockings to complete the picture. The baby kicked whenever we sung carols. She seems to respond to sound more now. The other night, Richard read The Hungry Caterpillar to my belly (which we got from the baby shower). When he made a loud popping sound effect to signify the caterpillar breaking out of its cocoon, the baby kicked hard!
There’s nothing like spending Christmas at home with my family. As usual, I fell victim to my mom’s delicious spread of sweet and savory treats, and probably gained more weight than I needed to over the trip, but what’s life without having whole milk and shortbread cookies for breakfast every now and then? My mom’s a craigslist aficionado, and (on top of the new clothes she got me for my shower) she sent me home with some cute second-hand baby clothes. Where safety issues aren’t a concern, I’m all about used baby stuff—it seems crazy to spend a fortune on a wardrobe that only fits for 3 months (that said: in spite of myself, I have several irresistible hand-made onesies from Etsy on my registry). For Christmas, my dad got goodies from my baby registry, including one of my most-researched items: the ErgoBaby Carrier. Of course, the cliché is true: the greatest gift of all was spending joyful quality time in front of the Christmas tree, around the dinner table, and out-and-about with everyone I care about.