Baby Starks: Week 31

Happy week 31, friends! I know I say this every week, but 31 weeks feels like such a big number! Something about being in the 30’s really makes it hit home for me that my due date is coming soon. I feel like there’s still so much to do, and we’re running out of time!

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How big is baby?

Weighing in at an estimated 3.5 pounds and 16 inches in length, baby boy is now roughly the size of a winter squash!

Even though my mom couldn’t stop talking about how big I am the entire time she was here for my baby shower, I don’t feel like I’ve actually gotten much bigger. In fact, I’ve actually lost a little bit of weight since going on the low-carb diet for gestational diabetes. My dietician is actually a little concerned that I may not be eating enough, but man, a girl can only eat so much meat and eggs and nuts. It could be much worse though… there’s a lady at my diabetes clinic who isn’t as far along as I am but is already on two types of insulin to control her sugars. I’m grateful that mine are ok as long as I eat like I should.

How am I feeling?

Well, right now I feel pretty terrible. I have yet another cold, and this one is kicking my butt. I don’t doubt that pregnant women are immunocompromised, because I seem to catch everything this year. I had to come home sick from work on Sunday and took another sick day yesterday, and I still feel pretty deathly today. Aside from sneezing all the time and coughing up gross amounts of phlegm, I feel like I could simply sleep for days.

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Otherwise, my biggest complaints are about my hands. They continue to be numb a lot of the time, and I’m now finding it difficult to hold a pen or pencil for very long, even to do things like write down report at work or color a picture at home. They also now hurt a lot of the time. My knuckles are very sore, and it’s painful to do anything that requires squeezing or pressure from my hands. Mild swelling does not seem to be helping, either, and I’ve given up on wearing my rings.

But enough about complaints… let’s talk about the baby shower! 

We had so. much. fun! My sister-in-law, Chrystal, graciously threw it for us at her house, and she did such an amazing job. From the decorations…

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…to the food…

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…like these adorable baby rattle cake pops that she made herself! I was a good girl all week before the shower, so I ate whatever I wanted that day. I can attest, the cake pops were delicious!

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I wish I’d thought to get a picture of the epic stuffed mushrooms she made. I was too busy stuffing them into my face, because they were so delicious.

We played some hilarious games, like “Pin the Sperm on the Egg”…

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My friend, Lydia, got her little swimmer right on the egg! She’s pregnant, too, due about a month after me, and it seemed fitting for her to have won. 🙂

There was also this hilarious orange drop game….

…players had to put a balloon under their shirts to give them a pregnant belly, then they had to squeeze an orange between their knees (as if they were trying not to pee), and then shuffle a few feet over to a jar that they tried to drop the orange into.

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I don’t think I have laughed so hard in a very long time. Even the guys were great sports.

There was also this awesome photo prop that Chrystal made…

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…it was a big hit, for obvious reasons. 🙂

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And there were so many amazing gifts! The generosity of people never ceases to amaze me. My LPCH coworkers pooled together to get us some big ticket items, like a gliding rocking chair (which I still need to have the boys assemble for me), and the stroller-car seat combo that I never imagined anyone would actually buy for us. I assembled the stroller all by myself the other day, and felt like I deserved a medal after all the swearing from the terrible directions and my belly constantly getting in the way.

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There were also some really amazing handmade gifts, too. Like this adorable Christmas hat that Lydia made…

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…and this picture that Chrystal painted herself, which will go above Baby Jack’s crib.

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The shower was so much fun, and I am so grateful to Chrystal for all her hard work to make it happen! And thank you to everyone who was able to come… you guys know how to make a girl feel loved.

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It was also just a really awesome weekend, having my family in town. It’s hard being so far away from them, especially at times like these, so I really cherish any time I get with them.

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Aside from the shower, we mostly took it easy and spent as much time beside the ocean as we could. I think my mom would move to Capitola Village if she had the chance.

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It was so hard to say goodbye to them.

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I can’t believe the next time I see them I will have a newborn baby!

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I think I’ll leave it there for this week. 🙂 Until next time…

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Baby Starks: Week 29

Hello friends, and welcome to the third trimester!

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How big is the baby?

Baby is now the length of a pineapple.

Let’s read that again.

A PINEAPPLE.

That’s huge. OMG.

And my apps tell me that he won’t actually get too much longer than this by delivery time, but instead will mostly be putting on fat and muscle from here on out. He probably weighs close to 3 pounds now, too. Chunky monkey!

And as you can kind of tell from the photo, I’m starting to outgrow some of my maternity shirts. Since I’m stingy and I don’t want to spend money on tops I’m only going to wear for a couple more months, I’ve taken to wearing some of Robbie’s t-shirts when I know I’m not going anywhere. My current favorite is apparently one that Robbie’s had since he was like 14, which he finds rather amusing. I just care that it’s big and it’s super soft!

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How am I feeling?

Honestly, I’m mostly just exhausted these days. I had a rough week of sleeping again last week, and I just can’t seem to catch up… I’ll take all the naps I can get, please. The heartburn seems to have settled down, for now, but I’m still having a lot of numbness in my right hand, especially in the mornings. Otherwise, I actually feel pretty good most of the time!

What’s new?

Baby has been moving like crazy for a while now, but those kicks are getting stronger and more frequent every day. His favorite time to move around seems to be bedtime, too, because as soon as I lie down it’s like a Bruce Lee movie is happening in there! His movements have also become more than just kicks and punches, and now I’m feeling more sweeping, pushing movements, too. I wonder if he feels like he’s running out of room! The sensation is honestly pretty strange, and I often giggle when it happens.

Also, I’m pretty sure that I can tell he’s positioned transverse (sideways) right now. I get stronger, more kick-like sensations against my right side, and softer, more sweeping, hand-like motions against my left, sometimes at the same time. It’s all good, just as long as he turns himself head down sometime in the next 11 weeks!

As expected, I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes last week. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, too, trying to figure out what I can and cannot eat. I was actually getting pretty frustrated and even wound up in tears last week, when even my best food choices were still giving me high glucose readings. I had my first appointment at the diabetes clinic last Friday, and was sharing my frustrations with the dietician when she told me that the meter I’ve been using is well-known for reading high. She gave me a different brand of meter to try, and imagine my surprise when the two meters were more than 20 points different off the same drop of blood! Since then I’ve been testing the two meters against each other, and the new meter is consistently lower every time.

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It’s been a major relief to have a more accurate meter. Now I know that I can actually eat some of the things that I didn’t think I could! I was also a little outraged to find this out about my old meter, though, because there was a very good chance that I would have wound up on medication with the numbers I had been getting. And considering that my fasting glucose has actually been more like 75-85 and not 105, that actually could have been dangerous, too! So, PSA, if you’re using the OneTouch Verio, I’d highly recommend talking to your doctor about trying a different brand. It might make a difference for you, too.

In other news, my baby shower is this weekend! I’m getting very excited, especially about seeing my family. I hope to have some pictures to share for the next post. 🙂

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And with that I’ll say adios until next time! Have a great rest of your week. 🙂

 

Learning to be grateful.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, and just haven’t known where to begin. Now seems like a good time, so I suppose I will try.

Disclaimer: there’s going to be period talk up in here. Feel free to see yourself out if you don’t want to hear it.

But the road to becoming pregnant wasn’t an easy one for us.

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Robbie and I got married in January 2015. We knew immediately that we wanted more children and we didn’t want to wait, especially with Robbie being 9 years older than I am and with James becoming almost too old to appreciate having a younger sibling. But we decided that, if we had any choice in the matter, we’d like to not have our baby in December (haha), since James’ birthday is already close to Christmas – spacing them out seemed the smartest, kindest way to do it for everyone involved. So we waited until April to start trying. No big deal.

I had been using hormonal birth control in one form or another for 10 years when we decided we were ready to try. I expected my body to take a few months to readjust before it would be ready to function normally without any synthetic hormones to tell it what to do, so I wasn’t all that surprised when I still wasn’t pregnant by the end of the summer. What did surprise me, though, was how completely irregular my cycles would become. At first, they were like clockwork – every 28 days, just like they’d been when I was on birth control. And then they gradually became longer and longer, until by January I had gone over 8 weeks without a period.

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It was extremely frustrating. Each time my period was later than it should have been, I was convinced I was pregnant. I don’t even want to know how much I spent on store-bought pregnancy tests. And then, of course, I was devastated each time it turned out to not to be true. I began to really take it personally. I began to feel hopelessly broken, as if my body were not capable of doing the one thing it was so obviously designed to do. What was the point of having these giant breasts since age 12, or these wide, child-birthing hips, or the horrendously excruciating periods that plagued my adolescence with regularity, if not to be able to have a baby? Was God playing some kind of cruel joke on me?

And, as anyone who has ever really played the conception game knows, having irregular cycles makes it extremely hard to plan when to “do the baby dance,” as people like to delicately put it. It’s hard know when the window for conception is even open if you can’t tell when you’re ovulating, or if you even are. It begins to make you wonder how anyone gets pregnant accidentally, when you have to try this hard to do it on purpose. Not to mention the tremendous strain it puts on a relationship when you turn an intimate act that used to be fun and spontaneous into a chore that has to be scheduled.

So by February, we were ready to really get serious about figuring out what was going on. I had started tracking my basal body temp every. single. morning. and bought a large pack of (rather expensive) LH ovulation test strips to see if I could pin down whether I was ovulating at all and if it was actually happening with any kind of regularity. I figured if I went to see a specialist, these were the first steps they were going to have me take anyway, so at least I could walk in with some information already in hand. The temperature readings were somewhat reassuring, showing a relative pattern that mimicked what my body was supposed to be doing, but I wasn’t getting any positive LH results anywhere in my cycle. All signs pointed to the idea that I simply wasn’t ovulating.

Then, in a last-ditch effort to try anything before we gave up and saw a fertility specialist, I decided to try acupuncture. I wasn’t honestly convinced that it was going to help, but I figured it was worth a try. The first thing she did was start a lab work up for PCOS. Along with the irregular cycles, I was having other symptoms, like hormonal acne and increased facial and body hair, that pointed to a PCOS picture. Then she did her acupuncture voodoo, including hooking a couple of the needles up to this interesting electric pulse stimulator thing, and I went on my merry way.

Maybe it was all in my head, but the results seemed almost immediate after that first appointment. I saw her in the morning, and by afternoon I felt like something was going on with my hormones – I was emotionally very sensitive, almost like PMS. Then later that week, it happened – my first positive LH test. Maybe I wasn’t broken after all.

A few weeks later, it was time to find out. I woke up early one morning, anxious to test, but I’d had enough negative pregnancy tests before to know that I should wait another day or two to avoid a possible false negative. “It’s going to be negative,” I prepared myself as I took the test out of the package anyway. I put it on the counter to do its work, and walked away, not really wanting to even look at the negative result I knew would surely be there. I came back to the bathroom a while later and glanced at the test, and there it was – the faintest little line in the positive column. I literally laughed – no fucking way. And then I cried. And then I proceeded to take 3 more tests over the course of the day, because there was no way it could be right. Completely at a loss for how to tell Robbie, I left them all on the bathroom counter, all lined up, and waited for him to simply come home and see. (You would think months of trying would give me time to come up with a fun way to tell my husband I was pregnant, but nope, lol.) And then, like a crazy person, I tested again every morning for the next 4 days, just to be sure.

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Given how unreliable my hormonal regulation seemed to be, I wasn’t convinced that my body would be able to sustain a pregnancy yet. I continued to go back to acupuncture almost weekly during the first trimester, in the hope that it might help. But aside from that, I tried hard not to focus on fear. I know enough about the law of attraction to know better than to focus on what I don’t want. So instead, every day I repeated this little mantra to myself and to God: “Thank you for my perfect, healthy body. Thank you for my perfect, healthy pregnancy. Thank you for my perfect, healthy baby.” Pray with a grateful heart, as if it has already happened, right? It might seem a little “woo-woo” for some, but it helps me. I still say this little prayer every day.

However, I’ve still had a few reasons to be anxious. I’ve had high blood pressure for most of my adult life, which got worse when I worked nights, and I’ve been on medication for it since 2012. And I work in the NICU, so I see first-hand what high blood pressure can mean during pregnancy. The last thing I wanted for any of us was to wind up with a micro-preemie due to pre-eclampsia or to have a baby with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). But I thank God every day that so far my blood pressure has been 100% normal (which was unusual for me pre-pregnancy, even on medication), and even sometimes low. And there’s been no concern for IUGR yet, as our little man has actually been measuring almost a week bigger than his gestational age.

With extra concern for gestational diabetes – due to a strong family history and being already overweight – I’ve had a glucometer for a while now, too. (I work in the medical field, so forgive me for wanting all the information I can get, lol.) I’m extremely grateful to report that so far my blood sugars have also been normal. I know that can change going into the third trimester – as can blood pressure – but it’s reassuring to feel like I’m already keeping an eye on it.

Then, of course, there is always the nagging worry about congenital anomalies that comes with seeing heartbreaking cases at work every day. We chose not to do the early blood tests for chromosomal abnormalities, since it wouldn’t have changed our minds about anything anyway, and I’ve known people who’ve had false-positive results on these tests and spent the entire pregnancy needlessly worrying about a baby who turned out to be perfectly normal. We figured we could get all the important information we needed from anatomic ultrasounds, which would most likely show if there’s was anything structural to be worried about. But of course my NICU traumatized brain went into each ultrasound terrified of what we might find. Gastroschisis? Diaphragmatic hernia? Heart defects? Again, I tried not to focus on those things too much beforehand, but I know too much not to wonder. But everything has been perfectly fine on each scan, and I say a huge grateful prayer every time because I know just how lucky we are.

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And after all the frustration of trying to conceive, and after all the worry about whether we’d get this far, here I am, with an active, healthy, viable baby boy kicking away inside me. It makes me cry with gratitude just to say that.

I try not to take any part of this experience for granted. I know how lucky I am to be having it.

I still don’t full understand why it took so long to regulate my cycles enough to conceive. Maybe it was the long-term use of hormonal birth control, though medical professionals say that shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Maybe working nights for so long messed up more than just my circadian rhythm. Who knows. And it’s anyone’s guess what any of it will be like after our baby is born.

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Or maybe it was God’s way of trying to teach me something. Maybe it was a just a big slap in my control-freak face to show me that I’m not really in control of anything, least of all when a new soul gets to come into this world. Maybe our little guy was just determined to be a Sagittarius no matter what we wanted, and he had to wait this long to make it happen. Maybe I needed to be grateful that I have James to raise, even if I didn’t give birth to him. Maybe first I had to learn what it really means to be happy for someone else when they get what I can’t have yet – Lord knows that was perhaps the hardest lesson of them all.

All I know for sure is that I am immensely grateful. I’m grateful to be pregnant at all. I’m most especially grateful that my baby is healthy, and so am I. No matter what lies ahead, I’m not taking any of it for granted anymore. Maybe that was really the point all along. 

I’m sorry for long-winded post, my friends. But I know I’m not the only one of us here who either has dealt or is currently dealing with fertility issues or PCOS. For those of you still in the throes of it, know that you’re not alone and I that I wish you all the best as you continue forward on your journey. We may never fully understand it, but I hope you are able to find some peace or learning in whatever you’re going through.

Love and peace, friends. ❤

Baby Starks: Week 23

Happy week 23, everyone!

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How big is baby?

Baby Starks is now the size of a small eggplant! He also weighs about one pound now, and everything I read tells me that he will continue putting on weight rapidly from here on out.

People familiar with NICU life will also notice that this week marks another milestone: viability. Heaven forbid, if our little man were born today, he could survive with excellent medical care. But we have no reason to suspect that he will do anything but stay put and keep cooking just as long as he’s supposed to, so we’re not going to focus too much on that. 🙂

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How am I feeling?

These days, the name of the game is overall discomfort. Even though I generally don’t feel sick, heartburn aside, my body is just never comfortable anymore. Bending over to pick things up or tie my shoes is becoming quite the chore. Sleeping has become difficult again, even with the giant body pillow, especially since whichever arm I wind up lying on is always numb by the time I wake up. I’ve also noticed that I feel generally warmer than usual, too, which means more sweating and panicky feelings if my surroundings seem too hot or stuffy – and it’s summer, so of course this is the case all too often.

Despite regular visits to the chiropractor, I usually wind up with some kind of back or hip discomfort by the end of the day, too. If I sit too long, the right side of my back hurts. If I walk around more, I wind up with shooting pain down the left side of my butt. Either way, most days the very center of my back winds up tight and uncomfortable.

And true to all the pregnancy horror stories we’ve all heard, I have to pee all the time. I’ve always had a small bladder, but now, with a tiny human putting constant pressure on it, I find myself in the bathroom every 15 minutes if I’m doing a lot of standing or walking around. For instance, at the gym I get about 15 minutes of cardio before I have to run to the bathroom, and then I usually have to take another break somewhere in the middle of my weight routine, and then again before I stretch. Annoying! And I have now officially become that person who asks whether there will be a bathroom where we are going and how close it will be, and who has to use one right before we leave. Between that and food, sometimes it seems like all I think about!

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This last week in particular has been extra difficult, too, because I came down with yet another cold. Coughing, sneezing, body aches… waking up choking, and getting winded just walking down the hall… it’s even been kicking Robbie’s butt for the last several days, too. Most years I get one cold in the spring and one in the fall and I’m good the rest of the year… this year I seem to catch everything that goes around, as this is the fourth time I’ve been sick in 6 months. I take my vitamins, I wash my hands on the regular, I get as much rest as I can… and still sick. I hear that sometimes a woman’s immune system becomes suppressed during pregnancy to keep her body from attacking the baby. And if that’s the case, well… good thing you’re worth it, little man.

Any other interesting things happening?

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Baby got to go to his first baseball game! Robbie and I went to see the Giants play the Nationals, and the little guy kicked me the whole time. It’s hard to say whether it was baseball or the garlic fries that had him all excited, but he seriously didn’t stop moving during the entire game.

And because of course, we bought him his first Giants gear! We settled for generic (aka, inexpensive) onesies, but it was really tempting to get him a Buster Posey jersey or an adorable letterman-style jacket. (Don’t worry… big brother got a cool shirt and a backpack, too.)

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Thankfully we agree on baseball teams, because football… football is a different story. Please send all the adorable Broncos stuff you can find, to drown out the disgusting amount of 49ers gear Robbie is sure to inflict on this poor kid!

We’re also slowly acquiring some nursery furniture (even though the “nursery” is going to be a corner in our bedroom). We’re trying to be smart and frugal, so we’re getting a lot of these things second-hand. I’m part of a local “garage sale” Facebook group, and it’s been great for finding gently-used things for a good price.

For instance, we recently picked up this dresser, which will do double-duty as a changing table once we put a pad on it.

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There’s also this MamaRoo swing, which we got for less than a quarter of what it goes for new. We use these things in the NICU, and they are awesome! Once I wash the cover, it will be perfect. (Also, I’m honestly surprised I haven’t found one of the cats in it yet, haha!)

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And yesterday we picked up this Ikea crib for only $60! The people who we bought it from say that their son only used it a handful of times, so it’s basically brand new. And after pricing new cribs, it’s a relief to have acquired one for so cheap! We still have to pick up a mattress (this picture was before we took it apart to transport it), but that will be easy now that the bulk of the cost is out of the way. And another cool bonus: it came with the rail to convert it to a toddler bed when we’re ready for that. Score!

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We also got this awesome Pack-N-Play set for a steal during AmazonPrime Day last month. It’s still in the box since we won’t need it for a while, but again, really nice that we didn’t have to shell out full price for it.

And before anyone asks, don’t worry, the car seat will be one thing we definitely buy brand new. 🙂 I might also suck it up and buy the stroller new, too, since it will get so much use and we’re likely to be hard on it.

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And that’s pretty much it for this week! We’ll just keep growing and preparing until next time… see you for week 25!

 

Baby Starks: Week 11

As promised, I’m back for week 11!

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Baby Starks took her first trip this weekend! (It’s still too early to know the gender, but forgive me, I can’t bring myself call my baby “It”. So I’m picking a gender-specific pronoun for now.) I went back home to Idaho to celebrate some milestone birthdays for both my mom and my grandpa, and we had a great time. The big celebration took place on Saturday – a 50’s themed sock hop! My mom and a couple of her friends dressed up like the Pink Ladies from Grease (including the pink jackets), and I wore this adorable red dress for which I received many compliments.

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The dance included a live band – which included my old saxophone teacher from high school! – and it was so much fun. We danced until our feet were blistered and didn’t stop until they shut us down at 11 per the noise ordinance. Even my grandpa – who was a fantastic dancer back in the day – couldn’t resist cutting a rug to a few songs despite his terrible COPD slowing him down.

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My whole family was excited to congratulate me on the good news, but my sister, Megan was especially happy. She was so excited about the baby that she talked to her frequently (“Good morning, baby!”) and anything I did, baby did (“Surfer baby!”). It was pretty adorable.

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Another awesome part of this trip was getting to see my oldest best friend, Savannah. She is 24 weeks pregnant with her second baby right now (a girl!), and it was fun to compare our size. While I definitely do not feel tiny this week,  it’s obvious that my little bump has a long ways to go before I catch up!

So, how big is the baby?

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Well, like I said, definitely not tiny this week. Even though my app says she is only the size of a brussels sprout this week, she is definitely starting to make an appearance! I first noticed during the middle of last week when I literally could not button my jeans. I am up one pound from the week before, and it is all in my lower belly. I did the rubber band trick with a Bella band for a few days, and then decided it was just too awkward. So I broke down and bought my first pair of maternity jeans this weekend. And I have to say, those, too, feel pretty awkward. I’m used to having my pants kind of hold me in a little (thicker girls, know what I’m sayin’?) and it’s strange to suddenly just let it all hang out. I guess it will just take some getting used to.

How am I feeling? 

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Well, for the most part, I feel like I have my nausea under control. I learned the hard way, though, that that mid-night snack is really what’s keeping me going. Saturday night, after the dance, I was super tired from being out late and did not want to get up to eat in the middle of my sleeping time. So I skipped it, and paid the price the next morning. After throwing up breakfast, it took me all day to get back to feeling semi-normal. It was really frustrating to spend one entire day of my trip home feeling so terrible. So lesson definitely learned.

Flying was also a challenge. I am prone to motion sickness anyway, and having this underlying nausea now be my baseline made me very nervous. I had tried these PSI bands before (pictured above) and found that they don’t help me much during the day. But I decided to wear them during my flights and found that they did help a bit for that. PSI bands or “sea bands” work on the principle of acupressure, with the idea that there is a pressure point in your wrist that helps to reduce nausea when pressed. These bands have a little knob that holds constant pressure at that point for that reason. So for the flight I took some dramamine while I waited to board, kept my hospital-issue emesis bag within easy reach, and pressed that PSI knob harder into my skin whenever we hit a rough spot. The tummy still wasn’t happy by landing, but at least I managed to keep my pretzels down.

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Otherwise, I have a bit more energy these days. I think that has a lot to do with better management of the nausea and more consistent intake of good food. It may also help that I’ve been able to get more prenatal vitamins down. Thank you, Tawna, for recommending these Vitamin Code Raw prenatals! They are a bit difficult to swallow – especially because I’m supposed to be taking 3 of them a day – but so far they do not upset my stomach at all. I like, too, that, if I want to, I can split the capsule open and mix the contents with juice for days that I simply cannot swallow any pills. So far they seem worth the $40 per bottle.

What am I eating?

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Well, things are becoming more normal on this front. Although I’m still not eating spicy food, tacos, or BBQ-flavored things yet, I was fortunately able to eat things like my step-dad’s grilled tri-tip and homemade potato salad and cole slaw this weekend. And remember how I was all about the Mexican rice and beans last week? This week was all about the pork fried rice. I even brought some through airport security with me on Friday and made the whole terminal smell like takeout. Sorry, not sorry.

Easy, go-to foods when I’m starting to not feel well continue to be cold, juicy fruits. Pineapple was a big staple for me last weekend. And still lots and lots of strawberries. Nighttime snacks and first-thing breakfasts continue to be crunchy granola with milk. Hey, when you find what works, you stick with it.

What I’m not eating much of these days is anything sugary. Soda, cake, pie, chocolate… they taste amazing but all unfortunately upset my stomach. And while this makes my tastebuds sad, it probably makes my at-risk pancreas very happy to not have me eating it. Oh well.

And with one more gratuitous photo from my weekend…

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…I think we’ll call that a wrap for this week. Thanks for following! See you next week!