It Takes a Village to Raze a Mother: Musings on the Artist/Parent/Academic Network and Pregnancy Updates at 27 Weeks
I’ve been wanting to update again for a while, but time is very cramped. I don’t even have the time now! But I will begin this, and save a draft, and keep it going over time until it’s done enough to share. It’s honestly been a month since I began writing this, but whatever it takes!
I want to start by saying I recently had the amazing fortune to be accepted as part of the Artist/Parent/Academic (A/P/A) Support Group initiative begun by Lauren Francis Evans. I’m in Support Group #5, represent!, which has an amazing membership of Lauren herself, Crystal Brown, Megan Stirling, Kristin Skees, and Heather Brand. We have been connecting on Slack (a great learning experience!) and had our first Skype meet-up at the end of January. It’s been amazing getting to know these women, their work, and how their lives function as artists, parents, and educators (many with an educator partner, sometimes also in the arts! So a lot of parallels with Blake’s and my life.) It’s empowering to hear their stories and feel free to express the many worries I had during my last pregnancy and during my current pregnancy, as they relate to art, academia, negotiations, bodies, and daily life.
I’ve included an image of each of their artwork. You can click on their names in the paragraph above and check out their websites. I’ve already been asking questions in our support group, and the larger Slack feed of all the support groups, that I often haven’t felt comfortable bringing up to others around me. Sometimes just asking about things like, “How do you handle x when pregnant?” or, “What is your maternity leave policy?” at work can be really hard. It’s been nice to have a group of other artists who are parents and in the academic world to chat with topics like women’s bodies in artistic spaces, tenure and promotion processes, sabbaticals, schedules, family planning, and so much more.
I feel that I’ve been lucky in some ways with my position and pregnancies, but also there have been a lot of things I’ve struggled with over the years with work, art, and being a parent. It’s too much for one blog post, one conversation, one blog or one voice, even, but I’ve been touching on some of it in my last several posts. I think to some degree, I have to be at peace with the fact that just like hindsight being 20/20, I won’t always be able to 100% relate my situation to those working around me. I want to be able to communicate when I’m behind or struggling with something, without it seeming like I’m complaining about pregnancy or using it as an excuse. It’s honestly something that’s often on my mind. I’m doing better this pregnancy than last in that regard (and in all senses, really), but I also feel maxed out weekly if not daily, and I don’t want to stress out my body any more than I have to.
As of today, I am in week 25, second trimester, of this pregnancy. “104 days to go!”, my pregnancy app tells me, “From head to heel, your baby is as long as a celery stalk — 13 inches.” These Modest Proposal style food-to-fetus comparisons always crack me up. Since I’ve been working on this post a while, I’m actually now up to week 27, the beginning of my third trimester. I’ve had an OBGYN appointment of some type every week this month. The first was a regularly scheduled appointment with an add on ultrasound to try to catch a full view of the baby’s heart (it was moving around too much to get a clear view all around the previous appointment.) And I had to do a 1-hour standard glucose test to determine if I’m at risk for gestational diabetes.
Unfortunately, at the ultrasound it was determined that the baby’s growth rate had dropped off drastically from the previous ultrasound 2 weeks prior. A similar thing occurred with Levee when he was in the womb, but it’s still worrisome, particularly due to the complications I experienced at the end of his pregnancy where the placenta was dying. Also, the baby’s arms, legs, torso, etc. seemed to be growing at weirdly different rates. I was advised to eat more protein and come back in another 2 weeks for an ultrasound (today). If baby’s growth rate didn’t pick up, genetic testing might become mandatory.
Later that week I received a call that I failed my 1-hour glucose test and would need to come in for a fasted 3-hour glucose test to determine conclusively if I have gestational diabetes. I’ve been really, really thirsty lately, which is another telltale sign of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes means it’s far more likely I would develop type 2 diabetes and also that my unborn child will develop type 2 diabetes when they are older. Also it can mean complications in pregnancy of various kinds, and potentially require a c-section, which I’m trying to avoid.
So, a week ago I began fasting the night before and then went in first thing on a Monday morning at 8am. For a 3-hour glucose test, they take a blood sample when you are fasted. Then you have to drink this GLUCO-CRUSH beverage in 5 minutes or less, which has 100g of sugar in it. I joked with the lab woman that it seemed like a test everyone is designed to fail. My body felt ill prepared to deal with this saccharine junk that tastes like they evaporated a dozen of those plastic barrel drinks with the tinfoil lid they give you at summer camp into a single bottle. Then every hour for 3 more hours, they take a blood sample again. The first hour, I felt like barfing but tried really hard not to because if I had, I would’ve had to cease the test and come in another day and do it all over again. After the first hour passed, I just wanted to fall asleep in the waiting room. I tried to get a little work done then ended up just reading my book, often reading the same page over 3 times until I actually comprehended it. At least I was reading a great book–Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I finished it up a couple of days ago and highly recommend it.
After my fourth blood sample was taken, I honestly went straight home after that and couldn’t get anything else done that afternoon. I ate and sat in a comfy chair and watched The Crown and took a nap. I felt like total crap. It took me a couple of days to feel myself again. So, this past week was all worries about whether I’d fail the 3-hour glucose test, which besides making pregnancy more complicated would mean I couldn’t try for a v-bac (vaginal birth after cesarean), which feels really important to me to try for. Maybe more on that later if y’all are interested. And all week I was also really concerned about the growth rate dropping off and maybe needing to do genetic testing (which was quoted to me earlier as being $1,000 because my insurance won’t cover it), and all the worries that come with the probabilities presented by genetic testing.
In any case, today was my followup ultrasound to see if my increased protein diet the past 2 weeks helped the growth rate and to learn the results of my 3-hour glucose test. Levee’s school has been experiencing some moisture issues leading to mold growth, so it is closed Monday and Tuesday this week unexpectedly. He was today, therefore, my constant companion for my appointments, beginning this morning with a dental appointment, then we went to lunch together, then he had a tiny nap before we went in to the OBGYN’s office for my 2:30 ultrasound and 3pm followup.
Unfortunately upon arriving at the OBGYN’s office, they had no record of my appointment. Some kind of computer error must have occurred. Thankfully, they were able to fit me in today so I didn’t have to worry even longer or rearrange other meetings this week (I’ve got a full schedule, plus a kid without a school, plus a visiting artist coming to stay with us and make a print starting Wednesday). We just had to wait an extra hour in the waiting room, so we sucked on cough drops and made paper cranes from the wrappers and played “air hockey” with a light up spider bracelet on a table, met a nice kid named Judah, and talked about the weather quite a bit.
Thankfully, after the ultrasound to check for growth and the usual pee in the cup test, blood pressure test, and weigh in (both tests excellent, and while I gained quite a bit at first I haven’t changed much in the past 5-6 weeks but baby still seems to be fine) my followup appointment with the OBGYN went just fine. At first the baby was growing in the 34% through my first trimester. It dropped off to around 18%, which caused concern, but it has stayed steady at that rate and since I’m small and grew a small baby last time, the doctor sees this as fine as long as it remains steady. I’m to come back in in 2 weeks for a regular appointment, 4 weeks for an ultrasound to just check up on growth just in case after that.
I’m to stay on a high protein diet. I’ve had trouble eating much, or even wanting a lot of food of any sort after lunch most days, but I’ve been working on it. I have smoothies for breakfast with our homemade yogurt and whey and an added protein powder, mixing it up with different combinations of coconut milk, whole milk, various berries, greens, nuts, dark chocolate, peanut butter, and tahini, to name a few. I started packing a snack in addition to lunch most days (usually some cheese and nuts), and making sure my lunch has plenty of protein, too. I’m hopeful I can keep things steady, but I was greatly relieved by today’s appointment and the positive news.
I feel the baby moving around a lot at very regular intervals. I do feel a good deal better this pregnancy than I did last time around. I still suffer from extreme heartburn in the afternoons and evenings that often causes me to salivate a ton and then throw up. Sometimes I also throw up if I go too long without eating a little bit or if I eat more than a small meal at a time. But these feel minor to me at this point, and definitely things I can deal with. I’ve been trying to do yoga at least 3 times a week and getting in exercise in the form of yard work and walks otherwise.
Sunday was the official start of my third trimester. I have about 3 months to go–wait–exactly 3 months to go to the day according to my official due date, May 17th! We are on the 5th week of this semester, and I’m just trying every day not to get the flu (all of my students seem to have it and Levee has had it twice this month) and to keep hydrated and protein-ated and stay positive! So much is going on at work, and some days it is all really overwhelming, but I’m really grateful for Blake and Levee and the printshop and the hard working students and this amazing house we were able to move into in August. Being here vs. our old rental has had such a positive effect on my mood each day for so many reasons.
Lastly, we did make a registry for the new baby. We don’t have many needs because we saved everything we could from last time and are pretty DIY and low maintenance in general, but if you wanted to send something here is a list of the limited things we need such as bags for pumped breast milk (I’m an overproducer of milk and seem to make small babies that need a lot of feeding by dad while I’m at work to help them plump up), a carseat (Levee is so small that at 5 years he is still in his–not big enough yet to transition him to a booster), cloth diaper laundry detergent, etc. I honestly went ahead and made it so I wouldn’t forget what we needed (and for the 10% “completion discount” we will get on some items come next month): https://www.amazon.com/baby-reg/281BEINAJURF9
We wore out a few wet bags for cloth diapers, Levee’s mattress (since he slept in it until he was almost 5), etc. We are all good on clothes and blankets and cloth diapers, and most everything else, though! I’m very grateful for that.
And I’ll end this post with a few more pics from life lately. I’m a lucky one.