Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Not-Entirely-Cheery Pregnancy Update

~ 28 and a half weeks pregnant ~

Day by day, this pregnancy has slipped by until now here I am at 32 weeks.  With eight weeks to go until my due date, I suddenly find that the time seems to be zooming past faster than ever; and I'm not eager for this pregnancy to be over.  There is so much more that I wanted to write about it and so much more savoring of it that I want to do.  So bear with me: this might be a LONG post.  ;-)


I have a rash.

That's embarrassing to admit; but I guess when I started to blog eight and a half years ago, I gave up on the idea of maintaining a high level of personal dignity!  ;-)  So here's the story...

It started on June 7.  I remember that because it was my 18th anniversary; and after our morning church service, we went out for lunch at a local buffet restaurant with my parents.  By evening, I was beginning to itch and was suspecting that I was having some sort of allergic reaction to some of the food I had eaten earlier that day.  I thought it would go away as the food cleared my system.

It did not.

My next hypothesis was that it was some sort of heat rash, perhaps related to the eczema I have that flares up unpredictably; the weather during that week was HOT and humid, after all.  But when the end of that week arrived and we spent most of four days in air conditioning (because we were attending a homeschool convention in Richmond) and I still didn't have any relief from the rash, I figured that wasn't the cause either.

Being as I hadn't started using any new cleansing products or laundry detergent, and being that it was unlikely that, after 18 years of marriage, I would suddenly develop an allergy to Jeff  ;-), I began to fear that the rash was pregnancy-related.  My memory returned to a pregnancy journal I had read some years ago in which a first-time mom developed a rash known as PUPPP and was TORMENTED by it for the rest of her pregnancy.  Reading that had convinced me that developing PUPPP during pregnancy was just about the worst possible condition a woman could endure, and the thought that I might have it made my bones turn to water in dread of the agony.  (And, by the way, that article I linked above says that PUPPP only shows up in first pregnancies, but they lied, as I learned by further research.)

I was reluctant to use much of anything on my skin to reduce the itching because I know that anything I apply to my skin, as well as the things I eat, can affect the baby; but after showing the rash to my dad, he suggested using hydrocortisone cream on it.  I did that a time or two, when the itching was particularly bothersome; but I mostly just suffered along and scratched my skin more than I should have, leaving little open sores as I rubbed the scabs off.  As I did laundry, I often found small blood spots on my clothes, and I quickly learned to wear dark clothes when I was going out since light clothes would show the evidence of that torturous rash.  In reality, I often wished that it were winter, so I could clothe myself in long pants and long sleeves to hide the evidence of my rash; but common sense told me that I'd better swallow my pride and keep wearing my summer clothing so I didn't die of heatstroke.  ;-)

Since I already had a midwife appointment scheduled for June 24, I didn't call into the office before that but just waited until then to discuss the rash with the midwife.  My appointment was with Marty, and I suspected that with her many years of experience, she might have a pretty good idea of what the rash was; but after taking a look at the rash, she humbly admitted that skin conditions are tough for her to diagnose (and I agree: they ARE tricky).  Thanks to God's perfect timing, Barbara, the midwife who delivered Tobin and Moriah and who has become a personal friend, "happened" to be in the office, even though she's semi-retired; and Marty quickly suggested that she defer to Barbara's judgment about the rash.  So Barbara came in, gave me a hug, and took a look.  In the end, after consulting a thick medical book of some sort, Barbara returned to give her diagnosis and show me in the book the information that supported it: Prurigo of Pregnancy.

I felt certain that her diagnosis was correct and was relieved to have a name for the condition (plus, I was extremely grateful for the humble way she and Marty worked together to clear up the mystery of my rash--just another reason why I love my midwives!), but I was discouraged that there didn't really seem to be any way to make the rash go away, except by giving birth.  And even then, Barbara's medical book said the symptoms could last for up to three months after delivery!  My heart sank as I realized that I might be dealing with the rash until close to Christmas!

I went home and told Jeff about it...and cried.  But I'm going to blame a high percentage of that particular emotional episode on the fact that the day of that appointment was also the day that Josiah had departed with his children's choir for a nine-day tour in New Orleans!  Missing him did nothing to improve my state of mind that day!  ;-)

As the days went by, I came to terms with my rash--and gave thanks that Prurigo of Pregnancy didn't seem to be quite as bad as PUPPP to deal with--but here's the funny thing.  I didn't expect any real relief to come; but somehow, very gradually, it did.  I discovered that either the rash was actually getting a little bit better, or I was getting so used to it that I didn't think about it as much.  When it all began, the thought "what I feared has come upon me" was prevalent in my mind; but then, to my great relief, I slowly began to see that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  

And now?  I wish I could say the rash is gone entirely, but that's not exactly true.  Certainly I have fewer spots, and the ones that remain don't bother me as much as they did at first.  But there is still some itchiness that remains, and I won't be surprised if it lasts until the fall of this year.  Honestly though, my experience with eczema has sadly made me very accustomed to itching.  My skin here on earth isn't great and hasn't been for a long time, so I guess I'll have to wait for heaven until a full restoration of my skin takes place.  ;-)

That thought makes me smile now, but I wasn't smiling a month ago about the whole idea, let me tell you!!!  :)


June 7 was significant for another reason: if my memory is correct, it was on that day that someone peered at my increasing size, inquired about my due date, and ominously foretold that there was no way I would make it until that date, the implication being that if I did, I would surely burst wide open because I was already so huge.  And so began a roller coaster of emotions related to body image and pregnancy growth.  And the thought that it all began with a comment from someone whose opinion I don't even really care about makes me feel stupid; but I kept hearing internal voices saying things like, "Well, if this person who is not exactly known for being tactful could make such a comment, that probably only goes to show what the rest of my friends and acquaintances are thinking, but are too nice to say."

Normally, body image isn't a huge issue for me.  Sure, I look at myself (when I'm not pregnant) and notice the extra flabbiness of my middle-aged self; and I step on the scales and think I should probably lose a little weight.  But the majority of the time, it doesn't hit me emotionally at all.

But for some reason, during this pregnancy, Satan discovered a chink in my spiritual/emotional armor concerning my image of myself and has been having a heyday with it. 

I know I have expanded outward quite quickly during this pregnancy; but ironically, my overall weight gain is still low.  For example, when I was 6 months pregnant with my 6th child, I had only gained 6 pounds.  I've gained more since then, of course; but it's still not a huge amount.  (I would freely tell you the amount if I knew it, but I haven't been weighing every day and I don't remember exactly where my weight was hovering last time I bothered to check it.  Part of my mental defense has been choosing to not weigh all the time!)

However, I apparently look enormous because I've had A LOT of people ask me when I'm due; and, when I tell them, they get an instant look of shock on their face before hurrying to cover it up.  It's happened so many times that I've begun to feel that my purpose in life right now must be to show people how gigantic an "only-32-week-pregnant" lady can be!  ;-)

I put a smiley face at the end of that sentence; but if I'm gut-level honest, I haven't done much smiling about all of this.  In fact, tears have more often been the result of my pondering this subject.  I have had several times when my emotions were so intense and completely NUTS that I felt like I was having one of *those* postpartum days when everything comes crashing down, and the emotions just have to flow out through tears.  I always have one of those days at some point after giving birth, but I didn't think I was supposed to have them already!!

The thing about dealing with body issues during pregnancy is that you really can't do anything about it.  If I weren't pregnant, I could possibly take this shame I feel and be motivated to eat less and exercise more--whether my motivation was losing a certain amount of weight or simply getting healthier and more fit.  But there's precious little I can do about this now!  Except look forward to more weight gain and more girth...

Even the hard things in life can bring forth good, and I truly believe that one of the good things to come from this is a higher level of sensitivity within me towards the challenges that women who deal with weight issues on a regular basis face.  For example, feeling "fat" can lead instantly to feeling "ugly," which can lead instantly to losing confidence in who you are.  And you can't get away from it.  In my situation, I knew that my size was related to this pregnancy obviously, and that in a matter of months, I would begin to lose the weight (but knowing my past, it won't all instantly drop off, that's for sure); but I had more than a few days when I wished that I could just stay home, wear a sheet or a tent, and not see anyone or deal with anyone for the next four or five months.  I didn't want to hear people's comments, and I sure didn't want to see that "look" on their faces--the "you are so huge" look.  (I could be misjudging people's facial expressions--I admit that--but it's hard for my rational mind to tell my irrational heart that when I'm feeling extra emotional about all of this.)  But you can't hide, and the weight issue is always there.  It just is.  You take it with you.  

Anyway, I just wish I could go around telling women--those I know and those I don't--that they are BEAUTIFUL, no matter what they weigh or what size their jeans are...and I wish they would believe me.

But in my dark moments, I didn't even believe myself.

All of this led to a much higher level of insecurity than I normally deal with, and I'm grateful beyond words for Jeff's kindness and reassurances.  I don't want to say much more about my struggles with insecurity, but I am incredibly thankful for his steadying love, through all my ups and downs and craziness.  

This particular aspect of this pregnancy hasn't been easy.


One more part of the trio of difficulties that hit me in June was the intensely busy schedule we had.  May was blessedly peaceful and laid-back; but June hit, and as I expected, it was fuller than I would have liked it to be.  However, none of the extra activities in it were things that I wanted to cut out!!  It was all good stuff (i.e. Jeff's and my anniversary, my parents' anniversary, Josiah's 13th birthday, the homeschool convention, Josiah's choir tour, etc.), and I'm thankful now that we were able to do it all; but as the stress level rose (even from good stress), my personal peace diminished.  

I've been reminded that, when those times of temporary emotional breakdown come, they rarely are the result of just one factor.  It's almost always a combination of a few things; and in June, adding an extra dose of pressure to get stuff done and taking away the chance for additional sleep to help me recover made a tumultuous combination.  The rash, the insecurity about my body, the things I HAD to do, and the fatigue--not to mention, the "normal" pregnancy hormones--all came together to create a perfect storm of emotions.  No wonder I had a more teary month than I usually do!


OK, time to change gears!  Now that I've spent quite a bit of time describing the hard parts of the past couple of months of this pregnancy, let me hasten to mention the good!

First of all, the baby is healthy, and I'm healthy, so all is well, and I thank God continuously for that.  :)

My favorite part of the pregnancy at this stage is feeling my baby's movements.  It is endlessly entertaining to me to simply sit and focus on my belly, watching it ripple like an earthquake is occurring inside me, rubbing it and feeling hard little protrusions that I try to identify as a heel or an elbow or what-have-you.  I never can decide with any certainty what exactly I'm feeling...except to know that it's my baby.  I LOVE THIS PART OF PREGNANCY.  Knowing that this is likely my last time experiencing it makes me want to cling to these moments so that in the years to come, I'll be able to remember clearly what it was like to feel the miracle of a new, real person growing inside me!  The fact that I only have eight weeks, more or less, left to feel these sensations is the main reason I'm longing for time to crawl during the next two months.  :)

At one of my appointments, the nurse was going over a list of things I should be doing here in the third trimester; and she instructed me to do kick counts every day to make sure the baby is moving often enough.  I know that's good advice; but when a baby is as active as this one is, it doesn't seem necessary to take any extra notice of kick counts because there's really no way to ignore his motions!  :)


Physically, apart from the fun of feeling my baby move, I'm also experiencing the normal sensations of this stage of pregnancy: heartburn (which is one of the reasons I'm drinking a much larger quantity of milk than I normally do, because it instantly soothes my heartburn), a prolonged effort (accompanied by occasional groans) to turn over in bed ;-), a sore back (especially when I wake up--after I'm up and moving around for a while, it works itself out and doesn't hurt anymore, mostly), general achiness and crampiness from time to time, etc.  Braxton Hicks contractions are common, and sometimes I still get those monster contractions that clamp down and don't let up for a very long time.  But nothing at all has made me feel like preterm labor is starting; and since that's never been an issue before, I don't expect it to be this time either.

I guess the biggest challenge physically is fatigue.  I seem to have an enormous capacity to sleep!  For example, I can easily fall asleep in the afternoon for several hours and then just as easily fall asleep that night when I go to bed.  As a matter of fact, I can pretty much easily fall asleep at any given moment.  ;-)

The heat doesn't help in this regard.  When people found out I was pregnant and due in September, they sometimes clucked their tongues in sympathy since I would have to endure the full heat of the summer; but I thought, "I don't think it will be so bad.  After all, I like being hot and dislike being cold.  This won't affect me too much."

Pride goes before a fall, true?  ;-)

What I've discovered is that, while I don't mind being hot, I also don't have any energy when I'm that hot.  Most summers, I rarely turn on the air conditioning in our house (except for when we have guests); but this year my choice has been clear: keep the a/c off and get nothing accomplished because I'm as lethargic as a sloth, or turn on the a/c and actually find the energy to do something!

Needless to say, I've been using the a/c more than I did last summer.  ;-)


I mentioned earlier that I've been somewhat limited in the clothes I wear because of this rash, so my darker clothes have certainly gotten more use than my lighter ones!  But now that my rash is diminishing, I'm getting brave enough to even do things like wear a pair of white maternity pants, like I did today.  *gasp*  ;-)  One fun challenge I've taken on is trying to get through this entire pregnancy without buying any maternity clothes.  If my rate of growth continues like it has, I may get down to one pair of pants and one shirt that actually fit by the time this baby is born!!  ;-)  But for now, even though I get a little tired of wearing my limited maternity wardrobe, I'm having a blast carrying out my resolution to not spend any money on clothes.  :)


Before I end this, I want to catch up in my record of my visits with the midwives.  In this post, I talked a little about my appointment on May 27; then my next one was on June 24.  That was the one I described earlier in this post, in which Marty and Barbara together discussed my rash.  Besides that, it was also the appointment at which I did the standard glucose test (and like it has always been before, it was normal, a fact I was very grateful for!).  Also at that appointment, my weight was up to 174.4 pounds, my blood pressure was 120 over 70, and the baby's heart rate was 150.  Other than the rash, everything was going great!

Two days after that, I returned to the office for a RhoGam shot, a standard part of pregnancy for me and probably the reason I no longer fear shots!  ;-)

About two weeks later, on July 9, I had another appointment, which was originally scheduled with a different midwife, but ended up being rescheduled so I wound up with Marty again--fine with me!  :)  It was a very routine appointment and didn't take long.  Of course she asked about my rash and was glad to hear that it was doing better.  My weight at that appointment was 176 pounds, my blood pressure was 118 over 70, and the baby's heart rate was something like 135 or 138.  I didn't write it down at the moment, and I don't remember exactly now...but it was somewhere in that ballpark, at least.  :)

Marty thought the baby was head down, and I think so, too, based on where I feel movement and where I feel hiccups!  :)

I have another appointment coming up this week, and hopefully it will be the same kind of routine, "boring" appointment that the last one was.  ;-)


Three more things come to mind to be included in this very long update!  First, I was looking at the online records for my prenatal care (I love the convenience of being able to log onto the office's website and access those records whenever I want!), and I noticed with a start that one of the notations said "Gravida 9."  Which simply means that this is my 9th pregnancy.  That seems astonishing!

Also, I've been given the paperwork to fill out to pre-register at the hospital; but I keep forgetting to do that.  The due date still seems far enough away that I find myself thinking, "There is no rush.  I still have plenty of time to get to that.  They really gave me that paperwork WAY far in advance!  Surely I don't need to do that yet, do I?"  :)

Maybe I should make that my big goal for the week: to pre-register at the hospital.

Maybe somebody ought to keep reminding me, because otherwise, I'm afraid it will slip my mind again!  ;-)

Third, even though I keep forgetting to register, I have not been forgetting to get my playlist of songs ready to listen to when I'm in labor.  It's easy to tell where my priorities lie: I might cause the hospital staff some unwanted stress by showing up unregistered, but at least I'll have my music ready!!  ;-)
~ almost 30 weeks taken by Moriah (yes, she actually took this) on the Fourth of July ~


Polly said...

Well, I think you look great!!!! :) And I'm sorry about the rash--I hope it clears up VERY soon after you give birth!!

Anonymous said...

You are not huge. Huge is twins and huge is the preganancy after twins. I'll pass along the information my Dr. told me about my size with Bryson. With each pregnancy the ab wall weakens and is unable to hold the baby back as it did with earlier pregnancies, making you look bigger. Nothing you can do about it. You will look bigger, measure bigger. She also mentioned and we can both personally attest to, that each baby is usually a little bigger than the last. You are beautiful and are so blessed to have #6. I Praise God for that opportunity. Kim

Pam said...

I think you look just beautiful; you don't look any bigger than I would expect; in fact to me you look slim all over except the baby bump.

I have eczema on my hands that can just drive me crazy at times, so I sympathize with how you about the rash. Many Blessings Davene. Love seeing your updates.

Valerie said...

Oh honey, you are an absolutely beautiful pregnant woman. I think the general public thinks pregnant women should look like they do in movies... you know..not real. I'm a few weeks behind you - I'm 29 weeks. My belly has really popped in the last two weeks. I've had A LOT of people ask me when I'm due. I've even had some ask if I've had an ultrasound to confirm that there is only one in there. Some people!!!

I'm sorry your struggling with a rash. I got myself into a panic around the 4th of July. I had a terrible itch that was waking me up at night. Dr. Google told me it was pregnancy related and could be harmful to baby... I would need to be induced by 37 weeks... sigh. I was a wreck. As it turns out, I had too much sun. I didn't have a sunburn but I was itchy from the tan/too much time in the sun. Oh, the relief knowing that my baby won't be induced due to some crazy itch! :) I'm glad yours seems to be easing up a bit for you. And I am SO glad that you don't have the itch that Dr Google said was so terrible.

I wish my baby was as active as yours! I will (and should) do kick counts. I have a mellow little one (that I hope continues to be once outside of the womb!) that gives me few kicks... but plenty of hiccups. :)

I'm glad you did a pregnancy update... and not so I could bombard your comment section with what I've been going through (sorry about that) but because I like hearing whats going on with you. :) Now, go register w/ the hospital. While your at it, toss a few things in a hospital bag. You are getting so close. Single digit count down! (well, in weeks anyway) ;)

sally said...

I know I haven't seen you in the last couple days, but I have NEVER thought you looked huge this pregnancy! I am honest, and not just saying kind things. You look positively lovely, and whenever I see you in pictures, I instantly think you look like you've lost weight everywhere except for the baby. I think your face looks thinner, and just all around you look more trim, and have a beautiful baby bump. Please be encouraged!

I'm so glad you don't have PUPPP. I had that with Rachel Anne, and I can attest to it being every bit as miserable as you thought, and maybe even more so. It feels like hay is prickling you all. the. time., and just utterly miserable. I've seriously thought such itching may be one of the torments of Hell, and well, that would be some serious torment.

I am still sorry you've had an itching rash of any kind. Itching is miserable, even if it's not a PUPPP rash. I'm sure the heat of summer did nothing to help it.

I loved the update, and I hope your problems start fading away.

Hugs to you, dear friend.

bekahcubed said...

I so enjoyed this newsy update - even if it wasn't entirely cheery. I'm so thankful you're experiencing some relief from your rash - one of the gals in my Bible study has PUPPP when she's carrying boys and it sounded just terrible.

I I think you look lovely - and agree with Sally that you look quite slender apart from your baby bump. And maybe that's what makes people feel like you're so far along - because the bump looks large compared to your slenderness. It took me a little while to wrap my head around you at 32 weeks, listening to people's shock that you're not due sooner. No one thought I looked pregnant until I looked like a blimp - but then (in my own opinion), I just looked obese, not particularly pregnant. At 32 weeks, I was 200 pounds and swelling fast - and Tirzah Mae was born the next day. So I'm delighting in seeing your uncomfortable, but clearly HEALTHY pregnancy. You make 32 weeks look great.