The end is near – 36 weeks pregnant

At 36 weeks pregnant, I have about a month left until my due date and according to the doctor and midwife, bébé could show up any day now. Not that there are any particular signs pointing it happening like, tomorrow, but I thought I’d do one more big update on how the pregnancy has been going, just in case . . .

Weekly bump photos 2

(compare to the first 20 weeks)

I’ve still been fairly active, though obviously as I get bigger, certain things are hurting more. Sudden shooting pain in my hips and pelvis is all sorts of fun. So swimming has been great, even though in my grey swimsuit I definitely feel a bit like an elephant/whale! My weight gain has accelerated a bit. It’s still within the normal range, but at the higher end of the range, so my doctor wants me to stay away from the sweets (not that he was encouraging them before), especially since I’m walking less because of the hip pain. Heartburn is a frequent problem, though thankfully never at the same time as the hip pain.

Things have gotten more “real” since 20 weeks, maybe because of how much he moves around, or because I’ve had more time to think about it, or because now we know it’s a boy and have a name picked out and everything. I really really wanted a girl, so I was dealing with some strong feelings of gender disappointment for awhile. And still am a little bit, since we are (almost) totally sure we only want one kid (and even if we wanted more, it doesn’t mean the second is automatically a girl as pretty much everyone likes to tell me! Apparently Mendel is unknown in France, lol). Basically, you picture your life one way, and then it takes some time to adjust when turns out to be totally different that what you expected . . . But expats are used to lots of lingering “what ifs” while still loving the life they have. I definitely would have been slightly less nervous about a girl, since I’d know what to expect a little better, but my husband is so excited about all the things he wants to do and share with our little garçon, his enthusiasm has been rubbing off. Plus, French boys just adore their moms!

Preparations are well under way: we have a crib, a changing table, a stroller, and a car seat! And lots and lots of clothes . . . There are still other things I want to get, but if he comes tomorrow, he’ll have a place to sleep and something to wear, which is the important stuff. I’m pretty sure he won’t care if the rug on the floor matches his sheets, but I’d still like to have as much in place as possible before, since we definitely won’t have time after.

Preparing our cat has been a long process. Since he’s used to sleeping in our room, we started closing the door every other night a few months ago. Now it’s every night, and he still doesn’t seem to get it, and meows a lot. He’s a very affectionate cat, and I also stopped him sleeping on my lap a while ago. It’s hard to see him “ignored” but I know it’ll be easier for him later if he can get used to it now. Having the baby stuff around is supposed to help too, and so far he doesn’t seem the least bit interested in it, which is a relief. I’d much rather have him ignore the baby than fight with him to sleep in the rocker . . . He’s much more interested in the boxes the stuff comes in, so if keeping him happy means having empty boxes all over the apartment for a few weeks, I can live with that. I’ve also read that bringing something from the hospital with baby’s scent will help, so we’ll definitely try that.

For my own preparations, I’ve had 7 birthing classes over the past three weeks, from a practice of freelance midwives who are close to my apartment, rather than at the hospital which is 30 minutes away (or 20 if you drive really fast like I think my husband probably will do on the big day!). These are the same ladies who will come over once I’m home from the hospital to help us with any questions we may have, and who will do my pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation therapy. While it’s reimbursed here, I don’t think they do this in the states, and I had never heard of it before, so I get very embarrassed talking about it and will probably never mention it again!

In the classes, it was just three of us with due dates in the same week, but I never learned more about them. Maybe we were all just shy, but I feel like in the states you’d be gabbing away, sharing advice or asking about the nursery decoration. The five minutes before class started were always so awkward, just sitting there staring into space. At least I avoided any crazy “mompetition” like “Oh, I’ve only gained three pounds so far” or “The doctor said he’s the strongest baby he’s ever seen” . . . We had classes on when to leave for the hospital, how to breathe, how to push, one with the fathers to practice breathing/pushing together, one on breastfeeding, one on what to expect once we get home, and we visited the hospital. The only official thing left to do is complete my file with the hospital and meet with the anaesthesiologist, both of which I’m doing this week. Then he’s allowed to show up whenever he wants, since I’ll be “ready”!

Like I’ve mentioned several times before, overall this really has been a normal, boring pregnancy. And I’m very happy about that! Notice I don’t say it’s been “easy” because sleepless nights and heartburn and needing to rest every three steps is not exactly my idea of a good time. But it all falls into the normal range of things to expect. Physically everything is as it should be, administratively as well, so I’m crossing my fingers for a delivery that goes just as smoothly!

Going to a concert at 35 weeks pregnant

During our little road trip in Western France, we would alternate who chose the music, and the following conversation happened in the car:

Husband: What band is this?

Me: Flogging Molly. I’ve never played them for you before?

Husband: No. But I like it. It’s good bar fightin’ music.

Me: They were one of my favorite bands in high school. I went to see them whenever they were in town. It’s been like, 8 or 10 years at least since I last saw them. I wonder if they’re still touring . . .

(a few seconds of googling)

Me: Oh wow they’re coming to Luxembourg in June! Do you want to go?

Husband: Sure, but won’t you be like, super pregnant?

Me: I’ll ask the doctor.

 

When I first asked him in April, he didn’t say yes or no, rather he wanted to wait until the date was closer and we saw what condition I was in. My totally boring and normal pregnancy has continued to be boring and normal, so when I saw him the day before the concert, he said it would be fine, as long as I didn’t get too dehydrated or tired (it’s been in the upper 20s C / low 80s F here the past few days and super humid). He didn’t say anything about it being too loud, and from what I read on my own, one or two concerts in 40 weeks will not cause any hearing damage (things like working every day on a construction site might). If he’d had even the slightest hesitation or worry, even if I felt okay, I would not have gone.

The evening was already a little cooler than it has been lately, with a nice breeze, so things were off to a good start. I met my husband in Luxembourg after work for dinner, then we walked over to the venue, Den Atelier, which is very close to the train station. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there’s no smoking allowed inside, since you can still smoke in bars in Luxembourg. And though of course the one person who ignored this rule happened to be right next to me, he only smoked one cigarette and then came over and apologized at the end, saying he didn’t see that I was pregnant! (Understandable since it was dark and I was in a dark tank top.) After dealing throughout my pregnancy with people smoking next to me at bus stops and train stations and never being brave enough to say anything, it kind of made my month.

There’s a balcony level, with wide benches against the wall for sitting/standing, so it was perfect for me. I could stand up and dance (well, sway my belly from side to side) when I wanted and didn’t have to sit down on the floor when I got tired. There’s also a small bar on the balcony level, which was very convenient. The venue is small, around 1000 people I think, and since most people like to be downstairs, upstairs there was plenty of room and you still had a really good view of the stage.

They’re an awesome group to see live, and watching the crowd below dance like crazy was almost as much fun as when I was younger and would be in the middle of it. The energy was really great, and something I’ve missed at other concerts we’ve been to. If it had been any other group, I don’t think I would have bothered, but I knew it would be well worth an extra bit of tiredness and achy feet. I’m so happy the timing worked out, and the doctor okayed it. We got to have a last late night out just us two, and I got to share some of my favorite music with my husband and bébé. We’ll have to wait and see if the experience means he’ll only fall asleep to “bar fightin’ music”!

Flogging Molly concert at 35 weeks
Flogging Molly concert at 35 weeks

Unexpected things about pregnancy

There are lots of things I expected to happen while pregnant. Even without reading baby books, you see in movies and on tv things like morning sickness, fatigue, moodiness, gas, weight gain, etc. Then you start to read the books and you learn about even more “fun” stuff to expect like acne and heartburn. Or, in my case, two books: “What to expect when you’re expecting” and a random French book that is no help at all except to help me keep my dates straight. Maybe not reading a lot of different books is why there were still a few unexpected things about pregnancy for me. The few friends who’ve been pregnant in the past few years added a bit to my knowledge, but unless you see or talk to someone every day, there are lots of things you’ll never hear about.

And I know everyone is different, and I’m sure there are more surprises to come as I enter my third trimester, but there are a few things that really didn’t even enter my mind as possibly happening during pregnancy.

Like belly size. It changes! At first, it’s all bloating, which is so hard to accept because you’re just excited that you’re pregnant and even a tiny little bump seems so cool. Then one day, it totally disappears and you freak out when you wake up with a flat stomach and wonder if you can call the hospital with the symptom of “no more belly” but then you google it and it turns out it’s perfectly normal because everything that you saw before was just bloat and not the baby because he was only the size of a chickpea. Phew!

But belly size also changes during the day. Just like pre-pregnancy, you wake up with a smaller belly than you end the day with, depending on what you eat and do during the day. And then there are days you look gigantic for no apparent reason, and others you put on a hoodie and you don’t even look pregnant at all.

This is probably all because the belly is squishy, not hard. I’m not sure why this was so unexpected, but I wasn’t around pregnant friends enough to make a great study of their bellies. Also, I’m not one of those people who feels the need to touch a pregnant belly (besides my own), so if you judge just by looking, they all look round and hard, right? Not at all! I feel like I hear “basket ball” or “bowling ball” or “beach ball” associated with pregnant bellies, but that’s not really what I see on a daily basis. It’s definitely getting “harder” as the baby gets bigger, but at first, it’s weird to feel so much give and elasticity, you wonder if there’s really anything in there besides all the extra tacos the baby “made” you eat.

I knew that my belly button popping out was a real possibility. But I didn’t expect it to be such a slow process, and, just like belly size, to vary by day. You hear “pop” and you think of popcorn, a sudden POP! But thankfully there’s no noise, just a gradual depth reduction that might be my least favorite thing about pregnancy (I know, weird choice, right? But I didn’t realize how much I liked my belly button until it started changing). Mine is still an innie (just barely!), but I don’t know for how much longer.

Besides the unexpected discovery of new and mysterious aspects of my belly, I also wasn’t expecting to be quite so limited in what I can do. I was very active before, and have continued to exercise, but it’s more the daily things that are unexpectedly hard. Like stairs! So many stairs! At the train station, at work, up two flights to my apartment . . . I can walk or swim for an hour, but after five steps I am done!

And putting together furniture, one of my favorite things, takes way longer than before. This was really frustrating for me, since I am used to control and used to knowing my body’s limits. To be suddenly incapable of so many things I enjoy was extremely hard, despite “knowing” that my body is changing and using lots of energy to grow a baby. But I’ve finally gotten used to taking breaks every 20-30 minutes and just accepting that it will take two days instead of two hours to put a room together, and leaving 10 minutes earlier for the train to account for multiple breaks on the stairs.

There are lots of things I expected but haven’t happened. People have been pretty good about keeping the unsolicited advice to themselves, but maybe I am lucky and just know chill people. Or maybe they are waiting until he’s born . . . No belly touchers, no comments about weight, no side eyes over what I eat. So I still feel like overall, this is a normal, boring pregnancy, thanks to everyone mostly treating me the same, or at least, like a competent adult who doesn’t need to be reminded to not eat sushi. The unexpected things are more on the physical end, and no one can really know for sure what your body will or won’t do!

My not-so-hard, ever-changing baby bump.
My not-so-hard, ever-changing baby bump.

20 weeks pregnant – halfway there!

So here I am at the halfway point of my pregnancy! 20 weeks in, 20 weeks to go. I have been very lucky to have what I consider a fairly boring, normal, nonexciting pregnancy so far (knock on wood!).

While there was some definite queasiness the first few weeks, I didn’t throw up at all. No serious aversions besides yoghurt and eggs, which seems to have gone away. No crazy cravings, except preferring salty over sugary the first trimester, which also seems to have gone away and chocolate is back in my diet almost daily. This mild sweets aversion early on probably helped keep my weight gain in the acceptable range.

I’ve also managed to stay active, which I know is definitely helping with the weight gain. No running, since I had stopped running regularly a few months before I got pregnant, but lots of walking, elliptical, weights, yoga, or at least a little 10 minute video most days. I’ve been to the pool a few times, since my doctor’s advice for any aches and pains is to go swimming. As the weather gets warmer, I’ll hopefully swim more.

I seem to get symptoms one at a time, rather than all at once. So one week it was back pain, then another it was heartburn, another dizziness, then breathlessness . . . but it’s never super bad, and never every day, so about 80% of the time I forget I’m pregnant and I tend to blame symptoms on other things. Like, I’m definitely very tired most days, but I was tired before, and it’s winter so less sun which affects me a lot. Or like, I had weird digestion issues before, and winter food is heavier, lots of cheese, so I just assume stomach stuff has nothing to do with the baby.

I don’t know where this dislike of “blaming” the baby for things is coming from, but I’m sure it’s cultural to a certain extent (L wrote about cultural differences recently). So maybe I am trying to find reasons I am causing this, rather than someone/something else. Or it could just be that I still don’t totally believe that I am pregnant (I mean really, I can find an excuse for nearly every single “symptom”!), and I am having trouble picturing a baby in there/in my arms.

Though I think it’s also just kind of how I am. I prepare for things really well and then deal with them, knowing that I did my best to plan for different outcomes so whatever happens will happen. I am reassured by my research that my “I just don’t believe it” feelings are normal, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to make myself feel a certain way about things. If it becomes more “real” in a few weeks, once the baby starts moving around, cool. If I still don’t believe it until there’s a bouncing bundle of joy that looks a little like me (but hopefully more like my adorable husband!) in my arms, then that’s just when it’ll happen for me.

So when people ask how I’m doing, I know that these confused feelings are not what they’re talking about! They want to know about the morning sickness and weight gain, and they almost seem disappointed when I say things are fine, like they’re expecting some horror story. The only really scary thing(s) so far are my boobs, which are out of control! I could pretend the tenderness in the first few weeks was because of too many pushups (despite not having done any) but I can’t ignore the size. Neither can my husband! But that’s not really something his mother’s friends, or my colleagues, or our banker, want to hear. I also think they don’t want to hear about my acne that hasn’t been this bad in 10 years (and it’s everywhere but my face, ew) so I instead I mention the lack of stretch marks on my belly so far (KNOCK ON ALL THE WOOD).

One thing everyone seems to enjoy are weekly bump pictures, and we’ve definitely been doing that. I seemed to “pop” around 16 weeks, so I’m sure there’ll be a more noticeable difference in the weeks to come than there was in the first few months. But still, looking back at week 5 and now at week 20, I can’t deny there’s definitely something in there, and not just too much tartiflette. (And holy cow, was I ever skinny four months ago! I’m thinking I should maybe hang onto some of this extra weight . . .)

Weekly Bump Photos

 

Hopefully I can write that things are still boring, normal, and nonexciting in another 20 weeks (though I’m sure the delivery will provide some definite excitement)!

Calculating due date in France

The first question everyone asks when they find out you’re pregnant is “When is the due date?” or “How far along are you?” You would think these would be easy questions to answer. However, like so many things that seem to be different for no other reason than to drive foreigners crazy, dates relating to pregnancy are not talked about in the same way in France as in the states.

To start off, people/books/websites refer to both “semaines de grossesse” (SG) and “semaines d’ d’aménorrhée” (SA). SG is calculated starting with conception so it’s the age of the fetus, and the SA is calculated starting on the first day of your last period.

For months now, I have been wondering, why does this difference even exist?? If all the doctors and the administration talk about SA, why even have SG to begin with? It’s the “real” age of the baby, which is nice to know I guess . . . but still, very confusing. So when I read forums and books in French, I have to pay attention to if they’re talking about SG or SA, or worry about having done/not done something too late before realizing it’s okay, I still have two more weeks to do/undo it.

For various reasons, I actually have a pretty good idea of when we managed to make this happen, and I told my doctor this, but he stuck with the “conception is two weeks after first day of last period” rule (the one rule that does seem to be standard in different countries). So he calculated my due date as July 18th. When calculating using my date, with American tools, my due date July 14th.

Also, in France they calculate a due date based on 41 SA weeks, rather than 40 in the states. And I just read an article (from 2006 ) that the average in the states has gone down to 39. I work in Luxembourg and they use 40 weeks, so I’m actually going on maternity leave a week later than I would if I had a Luxembourgish doctor.

Despite doing my best to read about (and now write about) due dates and stuff, none of this really makes any sense to me. I still have no idea when this baby is “supposed” to get here, besides sometime in mid-July. Which is why I like to tell people July 14th, because 1) as an American, my body will obviously follow American rules; 2) that’s a super fun due date to have in France; and 3) it probably won’t be that day anyway, so why bother telling people what the doctor put on a paper.

There is a full moon on July 12th, and while the belief that more babies are born during the full moon hasn’t really been proven, the final of the World Cup is July 13th, and everybody knows that babies like to be born when there are other things to be done (I was born on Christmas, and my husband’s mom went into labor while the car was being washed. Yeah, I totally win that one.)

One thing I know for sure is that it will not happen any later than July 18th, because my doctor apparently does not put up with any of this “let’s wait a week or two past your due date” nonsense to induce. He said if I’m not in the hospital on the 18th, he will put me there. So sharing a birthday with Prince George is out, unless I want four days of labor. (I’ve never had a baby before, but I’m gonna bet that no, I will not want that).

As for the how far along I am question, I usually say something like “four and a half months” but this seems to confuse people here, and my MIL said “ok, so you’re in your fifth month” just like after celebrating your 25th birthday, you’re in your 26th year. Sigh. More confusion.

Even the months don’t seem to correspond to the same number of weeks on both sides of the Atlantic. Does month three end at 13 or 14 weeks? Month six at week 26 or 27? When the F does my third trimester start??

Anyway, by now, in both countries, everyone seems to agree that I am most definitely in my second trimester, whether at the end of my 4th month or beginning of my 5th is up for debate. I’m at 18 SA (and American weeks) whether +1 days or +4 depends on whether you want to listen to my doctor or to me, the person who was actually there when the baby was made. I personally only listen to him when he tells me I can still eat whatever I want as long as it’s in reasonable portions and that I should cook my meat all the way through.

I realize this was probably pretty boring for people who are not and/or do not want to be pregnant, in France or any country. So to thank you for reading this far, here’s a picture from the Carnival costume party we went to this weekend, featuring my little bump, who, let’s face it, doesn’t really care how old it is, as long as I am feeding it delicious French pastries.

pregnant egg costume