38 Weeks Pregnant: Selfie Photoshoot, Stuck Rings, and Staycation

March 9 – March 15: 38 Weeks 0 Days – 38 Weeks 6 Days.

Selfie Maternity Photoshoot

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I couldn’t justify a professional maternity photoshoot to myself (even though I not-so-secretly would love to indulge in one). With an experienced photographer, maternity shoots cost a few hundred dollars, and I’m not sure what I’d do with the photos beyond posting them on Facebook. I’d rather spend money on a baby photoshoot, as I would use those photos to adorn everything from our walls, to my wallet, to the holiday cards we send to friends and family. (That said, if you choose to get professional maternity photos I 100% support you and would love for you to share them so I can live vicariously through you!)

Still, I wanted some sweeter photos to remember this time of transformation than the weekly side-profile shots I’ve been posting. Monday morning, Richard and I put a camera on a tripod and did a selfie maternity photoshoot. Rather than a lace gown, studio lighting, and windblown hair, it features clothes I actually wore throughout pregnancy, the patio I’ve been slowly beautifying all this time, and my bangs unceremoniously falling in my eyes. Maybe it’s imperfect and gritty, but I’m okay with taking the authentic over the idyllic.


Body and Baby Update

The baby moved around a ton this week, and when she’s in an energetic mood, she’ll even play patty cake with Richard—he’ll tickle, poke, push against my belly and she’ll kick back. My pelvis and lower belly are achier than ever before, which has been slowing me down. When I make sharp turns in the car, I feel the my uterus’ seatbelts (i.e. my ligaments) strenuously working. Nevertheless, I’ve been determined to stay active and continue adding to and checking off items from my to-do list. On Tuesday night, I was vacuuming the area rugs at 11:30pm, and Richard was certain my nesting urge—a sign of pending labor—had kicked in (usually I ask him to do the vacuuming, so this was particularly uncharacteristic for me).

With This Ring I Thee Ensnare

It’s nothing new that my hands and fingers are a little puffy, but on Wednesday I woke up with the knuckles of my left ring finger aching. The cause seemed to be that my wedding and engagement rings were so snug that they were cinching in the base of the finger. When I saw my midwife that morning, so she told me my fingers would probably get more swollen during labor, so it would be a good idea to take the rings off. I joked that they were stuck, and I didn’t realize how true that was until I went home and unsuccessfully tried all the standard techniques to remove them.

By the next morning, things had gotten elaborate. I soaked my whole forearm and hand in ice water for twenty minutes to reduce inflammation, then cut the ring off a condom so I could slide it over my finger work it under my rings to provide a sheath of protection (previous attempts at the following step had been painful, as this YouTuber shows). Then I wound dental floss over my knuckle and down through my rings (I learned from experience to wind from distal to proximal, as the video below shows, to push the inflammation down into the hand instead of painfully up into the fingertip). Then I slowly unwound the floss to work the ring off. I was so sure it was going to work, but I guess it was too elaborate to be effective. My finger ended up sore and red, and the rings still didn’t make it past my knuckle.

When I was a fitness instructor at my university, my supervisor was constantly chastising us for leaving the gym door ajar. It was an easy mistake to make—I had to put my whole body weight into slamming that door closed. One of my colleagues was a middle-aged, Eastern European woman who taught fitness on her lunch break from her job in academia. One day, I marveled at how she easily and effortlessly closed the cantankerous door. I couldn’t help but blurt out, “How did you do that??” She replied, “You must treat the door as you treat your wife,” and showed me that if you closed it with exaggerated love and gentleness the door was unexpectedly cooperative.

Well, it turns out that you must treat your stubborn rings as you treat your wife (Although, there’s a thriving BDSM community in San Francisco, so maybe the metaphor doesn’t hold up as well here). A couple hours after the Flossy Condom Caper, I started absent-mindedly working just one of the rings off (instead of both at the same time), and actually made some progress. I’d tried coconut oil the previous day, so this time I pulled out the big guns and slathered on some personal lubricant. After several minutes of slowly, gently, patiently working the ring from side to side and up and down I was able to get it past my knuckle! The other ring must be a little bigger, because it practically fell off after that. I never thought I’d be so happy to remove my wedding ring!

Candid prenatal photoshoot pic

A candid shot from our DIY photoshoot where Foxy can’t resist licking Richard in the teeth.

What would I be doing if I Were on Vacation?

If an animal’s safety is compromised while she is in labor, her labor will stop until she can find a safer place to birth her babies. It’s the same with humans: when women’s stress hormones are running high, labor stalls. Needless to say, being in a stressed out, go-go-go state isn’t conducive to initiating labor. On Wednesday, I ran into Melitta, my postpartum doula, at a baby store I was visiting in between my prenatal appointment and grocery shopping. Also on the to-do list for the afternoon were replacing burnt out light bulbs, washing the car, and shipping my niece’s birthday present. Melitta asked me if I’d been taking a nap or two a day to practice for breastfeeding. I thought back, and realized I hadn’t taken a nap all week.

Richard also gave me a reality check on Wednesday evening when I was frustrated about my stuck ring situation. He suggested that even though I wasn’t in labor per se, I should treat these last weeks (or days, or hours—who knows) of pregnancy as the beginning of my labor. We’re ready enough (and for the things we don’t have there are Amazon Prime and the hospital’s ring cutters). Now is the time to relax, accept, and surrender. He suggested that I spend the next morning with a pot of tea sitting out in the sun on the patio vizualizing myself nursing the baby in my “special safe place” (a Hypnobabies birth technique), which in my imagination features a warm courtyard, the sound of flowing water, lush rainforest plants, comfy wicker lounge furniture, chirping birds, colorful butterflies, and (inexplicably) a lazy sloth. The fact that Richard was able to describe my special safe place to me makes me more confident than ever that he’ll be an amazing birth partner. I followed his suggestion with some red raspberry leaf tea (a natural labor inducer) Sunday morning, and it set the tone for a relaxed day.

My new mantra is, “What would I do if I was on vacation?” I’d definitely be drinking more blended drinks. After a yummy prenatal yoga class on Thursday morning I treated myself to a tropical mango, pineapple (another natural labor inducer), and spinach smoothie. In the afternoon I watched a movie and took a nap. And, in the evening, Richard and I went out for dinner and ice cream. On Saturday, I went for a leisurely swim at the pool. Richard and I regularly walk on the beach, but this weekend, we brought a blanket and lounged on the beach with lunch from our favorite cafe (well, I lounged. Richard made sure the dog got a good workout). Sunday afternoon I did only the fun part of gardening (potting and pruning plants), and left the weeding for another day. I’m on the call-me-if-any-one-cancels list for a prenatal massage with labor-inducing acupressure next week, and maybe I’ll get a pedicure too. I still want to mop the floors, scrub down the bathroom, and digitize the stack of documents on my desk, but if those things don’t get done before the baby is born, it’s not the end of the world.

Quote by Ina May Gaskin

My sister has mailed me some inspiring birth quotes to set the tone for labor. Here’s a wonderful one by Ina May Gaskin—although she could’ve chosen a more flattering list of animals to compare us pregnant women to.

26 Weeks Pregnant: Baby Movements

December 15 – December 21: 26 Weeks 0 Days – 26 Weeks 6 Days.

I first felt the baby kick when I was eighteen weeks pregnant: there was a single little jab below by belly button, then I didn’t feel her again for a week or two. Gradually I started to feel her more and more frequently. The baby is kicking, shifting, and stretching all the time now. She seems to move most when I’m eating or lying down, so I assume she falls asleep when I’m moving around (probably a good trick to remember for when she’s out of the belly).

The baby changes positions frequently. It feels as though some days she’s set up to make firm contact with my abdominal wall and other days she’s positioned to kick the placenta (which is in the front)my sensation of her movements can be unmistakeably strong or barely perceptible. When the baby kicks outward, it’s sweet and amazing, but she occasionally kicks downward to make contact with my pelvic floor (and bladder), which is shocking, or upward to hit my stomach, which I think contributes to heartburn.

A week or two ago, Baby Center told me it was important that I start tracking the baby’s movements, and if I didn’t feel the baby moving for a certain period of time to seek medical attention. I have a mixed relationship with BabyCenter. I love receiving updates on the baby and when I Google a pregnancy-related topic BabyCenter nearly always has a relevant, informative article. However, the tips and articles they send me are perpetually stressing me out. Sure enough, shortly after reading the article about tracking kicks I went a whole day feeling only sensations that were maybe the baby moving, maybe not. It was also a busy day, so I may have simply not been paying attention.

Richard and I went to bed late that night, and I told him I hadn’t felt the baby move, and that BabyCenter said I should be worried. Neither of us could sleep, so I spent the next hour changing positions to try to wake the baby up and get some movement out of her. Finally I got some kicks out of her, and Richard and I were both able to exhale and get some rest. The next day she was jump, jive, and wailing all day long so she must’ve taken a day of rest to regain her energy.

The next time I saw my midwife, I asked her about tracking the baby’s movements, and she said different people had different opinions, but she didn’t ask people to constantly track their unborn baby’s movements unless there was already a reason to worry. She hit the bitten-down fingernail on the head, saying constantly tracking could just be another source of stress. If I hadn’t felt the baby kick in a while, she continued, I could drink an ice cold glass of juice then lay down—that nearly always got a baby moving. She reassured me that if I was really worried I could always come in and they could check on the baby.

She was right about the cold sugar-water waking up babies. I got my gestational diabetes test done this week, wherein I had to fast for twelve hours, drink ten sickly ounces of melted popsicles within 5 minutes, and then sit around for two hours to see how my body processed the sugar (I was happy and relieved when I got my negative test results a couple days later). Although my affinity for sugar has sharply decreased during pregnancy, I still consider myself to be somewhat of a sugar addict, and I thought I would have no problems quaffing the tutti-frutti syrup. The first three minutes were okay, but those last two were torture. For the next hour I had to get up and walk around frequently to keep it down. The baby loved it though! She was kicking strongly and constantly.

The big milestone this week was that I could see the baby moving. Before I was pregnant, I didn’t realize this was a thing! I was taking a shallow not-too-hot bath, when I felt a kick and saw my belly twitch. Then again. And again. I was mesmerized and in awe. It was also a little creepy, but I got over that. After I got out of the bath, I marveled with Richard a little longer as she continued to show us her kicks. I haven’t seen this again in the days since, so I think she was positioned perfectly that night to make an impact. This weekend, I had a wonderful baby shower with my family and my high school and university friends. My sister and friend were telling me toward the end of the third trimester, you can very clearly see the rolling and shifting of the baby. I’m looking forward to that amazing and weird experience!

26 Week Bump

Bump update from my Canadian baby shower at 26 weeks.

In Defense of Moving Quickly

One of my favorite teachers to practice with, Sean Haleen, shared the zen saying, “Nothing in nature is rushed, yet everything is accomplished,” which, as a vinyasa yoga teacher, is thought provoking. I don’t teach a ton of superfast flow and in my classes and I often say, “slow yoga is advanced yoga;” however I wouldn’t go so far as to say nothing is ever gained from moving quickly. While I don’t think your whole yoga practice should be fast flow (there often isn’t enough focus on integrity), I think playing with speed can be an amazing tool. Here are some reasons why, drawing from my own experience in yoga and fitness:

1. Going fast primes us psychologically for life: Five years ago, I visited San Francisco for two months and practiced yoga nearly every single day with teachers known for fast flow. I worked as a lifeguard back home, and a few months after my stint in SF, I responded to an extremely harrowing emergency at the pool–the type where you have to move quickly. The next week, my supervisor told me she was impressed by my ability to stay calm and take leadership in that situation. I told her it was because of yoga. Although vinyasa yoga sequencing can be crazy, hectic, up-regulating, and even stressful, the idea is to stay present, to maintain equanimity, to sustain even breath. Many people’s jobs, volunteer work, or family lives involve regular emergency situations, that require the body to be in a sympathetic (fight-or-flight) state. Although stress hormones can be damaging in the long run, activating our sympathetic nervous system isn’t a bad thing; it drastically improves our ability to respond physically. Teaching people to maintain focus in a body pumped full of adrenaline is invaluable. Of course, this should be balanced with down-regulating practices.

2.Going fast can refine our technique: Back when I was training half-marathons, I used to do one sprint-training session per week when I’d try to improve my time running distances shorter than a mile. Exploring my maximum power output at shorter distances taught me so much about technique and pushed me to recruit muscles I wasn’t fully taking advantage of. That training made my long-distance running much more efficient. Yoga is a different beast and more dangerous to do quickly, but in the case of a seasoned practitioner using speed with the intention of refining technique (which granted, often isn’t the case when people are blasting through practice), moving fast can spotlight detrimental habits. You can’t find the alignment for Warrior I in one breath? Why is your habit to come into the pose out of alignment and then fix it? You can’t make it from Warrior I to Chattarunga in one exhale? What’s holding you back from breathing more deeply? Moving quickly is another lens for svadyaya, self study.

3. Going fast is part of a balanced physical regimen: The body grows, develops, builds strength, and builds flexibility in response to stress (and loses all of that in the absence of stress). For example, the bones respond to high impact exercise (like jumping) by becoming more dense, which can prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis. When I was a runner, my sprint training didn’t only improve my technique, it increased my muscle strength and power output. One of the reasons yoga is so great is that it stresses the body in many different ways and directions. I don’t usually recommend that people get their cardiovascular exercise solely from an asana practice–I think there are more functional ways to stress the aerobic energy system–but if someone insists on only doing yoga as their physical activity, I would recommend they have some fast movement in there. Life can move quickly and I want you to be able to meet it without getting physcially overwhelmed. Obviously there are innumerable factors we cannot control, but there are many we can; if my child ran out into traffic and got hit by a car, I would hate for it to be because I had to stop running after them to catch my breath.

None of this is in disagreement with the zen saying above, because moving quickly and rushing are different things. Moving quickly is a physical process whereas rushing is a psychological process. The art of moving quickly is to do so without rushing. In my sprint training, I was moving nearly as quickly as I could, but without the mental chatter associated with rushing. I was focusing to intently on minimizing wasted energy that I didn’t have the mental space to feel rushed. I’m effective in emergencies because I make fast decisions and move quickly without rushing, without panicking. If you incorporate fast movement into your yoga practice to get the physical benefits of moving quickly, it shouldn’t feel rushed. If it does, you’re moving too fast for your awareness to keep up with. That could mean that you need to move slower, it could mean you need to refine your awareness. Experience and a great yoga teacher can help you explore this.