Jan 26, 2011

Experiencing the Birthing Centre

The last two days, I got to experience the hospital's Birthing Centre. And I will say that it's great. It makes up for all my complaints about other parts of the hospital that are typically slow and require tickets and lots of waiting. But when you go to the triage at the birthing centre, all this changes.

I woke up on Monday at about 4am in the midst of a severe urge to throw up, and promptly did so. Followed by several similar episodes for a few more hours. At first I thought it might be heartburn and I tried a Tums, but soon discovered that this was something more serious - especially once I started losing fluids from other body parts too. 

I waited it out until about mid-morning but realized this wasn't going to stop any time soon. I suspected some kind of virus and wasn't too worried about baby-boy's health but it's not good to get too dehydrated in pregnancy. And at 8.5 months, I was worried that could happen.

So off we went to the hospital, hubby and brother in tow. I arrived at the birthing centre triage area and dutifully dinged the bell that's at the reception there. Within 10 seconds a nurse whisked me through the door and put me straight into a birthing room. Kind of strange to be in a birthing room when you're not in labour, but I was soon grateful, for it has its own bathroom. Clearly the nurse had insight after hearing my symptoms. 

I was asked to put on a stretchy tummy belt and sit on the birthing bed so that they could monitor the baby's heartbeat and make sure he was alright even if I wasn't. Nurse Bully came in and took over the room. As far as I could make out, she didn't seem to see a point of me being there, and over-rode the thorough and sensible intern's ruling that I should probably get an IV to keep up my fluids and maybe have some kind of anti-nausea medication. In the end, they tried me on apple juice first, which of course didn't work (I have a history of not being able to stop throwing up once I start). 

A bit later, the Bully came back and sighed "OK, you want an IV, I will give you an IV. It won't cure you though."

Well, duh. I'm not looking for a cure for a virus that causes gastro-enteritis. I simply don't want to dehydrate. I tried not to engage her in too much conversation -- I'm not at all partial to being bullied and there was a big sign in my room stating that "we speak 30 languages but violence isn't one of them". Therefore, no verbal abuse was to come out of my mouth. Though I think Nurse Bully could have had a second look at the sign. If it applies to patients, why not also to nurses?

So there she was, with the IV. And I soon figured out why she was so against it. She couldn't effectively put one in. After screwing up twice on my left hand, and me nearly passing out from pain because of the nice big pocket of fluids that were now under my skin, she finally left the room. Thank goodness that she went to get someone competent to try on my right hand. I think I might have broken the non-violence rule otherwise. The new technician had no problem at all, and the IV was in shortly. Nurse Bully came back now and again to tut at my IV.

I got unlucky with this nurse. Everyone else in the centre was great. The intern came back to check on me and told me my own doctor would come by during lunch time. Which she did. I LOVE my doctor. She is totally sweet, adorable, kind and competent. She is relaxed and gives confidence and doesn't freak out with either going "nature's way" or using sensible "medical intervention". (I really hope she can be there for my birth - it's not guaranteed and I know she'll be at a conference on my due date).

All good, and I went home. Of course, they hadn't given me the anti-nausea meds thanks to Nurse Bully and I promptly threw up again when I was home. Hubby got some meds for me, and I started to feel better. Except that a fever crept in. At 100.4F (38C) I started to worry - as very high temperatures can be dangerous to the baby. Not only that, but I was massively uncomfortable: shivering, sore legs, the whole shebang. So I ended up taking some Tylenol on a pharmacist's advice to reduce the fever and it did the trick. 

The next morning I felt a lot better and we followed up with a visit to my doctor that had been previously scheduled. All was fine, except that the doc had trouble picking up baby-boy's heartbeat. She wasn't sure if it was because the baby was moving too much, but it seemed the heart occasionally skipped a beat. I heard it too, and it isn't something I've heard in previous visits. 

She said she wanted to be sure, so she sent me back to the triage area at the birthing centre. Here we went again. Again, I was whisked through in seconds. This time, instead of my own room, I just got to sit in a chair with a curtain around it. Again, I wore the stretchy belt with the paddles to listen to baby's heartbeat. They confirmed a slight arrhythmia, but said that the rest looked and sounded good (i.e. no indication of distress).

Of course, it didn't end there. They wanted to double-check with an ultrasound so off we went to the first floor. Now my experience at the ultrasound place thus far had consisted of large waiting periods. But it's different when you get sent there straight from baby triage. Within 5 minutes I was in a dark room, cold gloob on my belly and staring at a monitor. The specialist was a doll. She showed me the heart and said that it looked fine, from a structural/physiological point of view, but also spotted an occasional skipped beat when tracking it. About every 7 - 10 beats or so as far as I could tell. 

While we were at it, she also checked baby's head, stomach, legs, scrotum (yes, it's still a boy), and weight. Apparently, he's now 6 lbs and 12 ounces. And he has chubby cheeks! What a difference from a few weeks ago when his face looked much less chubby. I'm trying to decide whether chubby is cute or not -- I'm more inclined towards the lean, but he's a baby after all.

She said that all seemed ok apart from the minor arrhythmia. Apparently this happens quite a lot, especially late in pregnancy, and especially because the machines are getting better at detecting minor cases (which was not possible in the past). And something like 97% of the time it fixes itself after birth. The technician called in a specialist to see it too, and the specialist confirmed all this. Basically, they aren't worried.

For the sake of precaution, they've got me booked in for an appointment at another hospital for some kind of super-duper specialist fetal echo-cardio testing. But of course, those people don't have an opening until Feb 15th. By that time, baby-boy could already be here. So we'll see. Like I said, no one seems to think this is very urgent.

As for me and hubby, we're really not at all worried. Up till now everything has been very well and this seems to be a common thing. I'm very hopeful that all of this will clear up on its own, once baby-boy is born.

But I do know that the birthing centre is a wonderful place in the hospital. While we were there, two babies were born. What a sweet sound to hear that little wail across the corridor :)

Jan 22, 2011

PUPPP is back

The PUPPP is back. It's not nearly as bad as the first time, thanks to powerful Atarax antihistamines, but it's all over my belly, my arms and now starting to hit my legs. I'm doing everything in my will power not to scratch and slathering on calamine lotion, avoiding showers for as long as possible, and distracting myself with work (and blog writing).

I worry about the effect the antihistamines will have on the baby-boy, but I in weighing the pros/cons, I just figure that my sanity is a better deal for the little one than constant crying and who knows what hormones go with the insanity of itchiness. So it is what it is. I hope that a few nights of being virtually passed out will help it to pass and then I can go back to the no-pill routine. 

It seems like there are some other symptoms that come with PUPPP, though I can't find anything online about it. The tiredness/exhaustion may be part of it because now that it's broken out, I feel less exhausted. And I also seem more prone to headaches when it breaks out. This could just be partly due to my crap sinuses, of course, which have not stopped being congested since pregnancy started and worsened with the cold/dry air (it's -18C this morning). I'm also wondering if low-blood pressure is related or not. I seem to get that now and again; yesterday I thought I might pass out in the middle of Walmart when we were buying new blinds for our bedroom. Someone REALLY needs to do a study on this stuff, and I cannot fathom why the medical profession seems so lackluster in this area. Maybe I need to be the one to start the study, just like Temple Grandin (GREAT film by the way, if you haven't seen it yet - we got it out on DVD because my back can no longer handle 2 hours of sitting in theatre seats).

Other than the occasional itch that distracts me, I've managed to keep my energy up for work these last two days. I actually went into the office. I think the face-to-face people engagement is helpful in general. My department chair must think so too, because as we are experiencing a governance crisis at the university (with all the negative media attention that comes with it), he asked me to help put some slides together for yesterday's department meeting so that we can shape an appropriate response to the university's board of governors, as many other departments have already done. 

Being at the business school, and being the management department, and therefore supposed experts at governance, this makes for tricky discussion and construction of an appropriate paragraph. Which showed in yesterday's meeting where, not unexpectedly, many different opinions were voiced and we were not able to come up with a motion. However, I was asked to help frame the actual wording of a statement that will be discussed and voted on next week. It's kind of scary being the "expert governance person" in the department, only having been there 18 months and probably the least politically inclined person in the department. But I got an encouraging note from someone in the department today that it was a fantastic presentation (I only had 4 slides), and that I seem to have mastered the art of doing so without taking sides. I try.

Other than that, we had an hour of excitement this morning: our power went out, and it's -18C (-4F) outside. Needless to say, hubby was beside himself and in contingency planning overdrive. Everything in our house runs on electric, so no heat, no stove, not even a way to get the car out of the next-door building's garage. One of his main concerns was the need to go to Ikea because he's doing his exhibition next week and needs a whole bunch of frames. Luckily, the power came back on shortly after and I was happy because I got to make my half-caf and eat breakfast. 

On today's to-do list: gym, followed by household chores, and then my brother's arrival this evening. Cool.

Jan 19, 2011

Heavy lifting


Is the word that describes my week. Oh, sure, on occasion I manage to raise enough energy to bound along to the hospital (for two hours of waiting in line), do some knitting (my little boy needs warm pants), or get on with work.

But mostly, I've been feeling tired. I though the last month of pregnancy would be full of nervous excitement in anticipation of baby-boy's arrival. Sometimes, I do feel that way. But mostly, the thought of getting up and lugging my body (+38lbs) around is more than I can bear. Especially when it's super-cold outside, and it surely has been this week and will be again.

All in all, this makes me very glad that my brother is coming to visit for a week. Of course, I'll be jealous that he gets to go off and snowboard. Last year, we went together and he taught me how. But I also have a list of things for him to help out with: putting up some blinds, painting the baby corner in our bedroom, helping out with hubby's gallery exhibition (next week!), etc. He's promised to do them all. Yay (clap!).

In the meantime, I'm wondering how on earth my colleague's wife managed with twins in her belly. I'm now way too big to fit properly behind a desk or the sink, requiring me to bend over in odd ways. My weight is so heavy that the blood supply to my legs is cut off as soon as I sit down to do some work, necessitating frequent breaks. Not all that bad given my need for bathroom stops and that it's better for your eyes and back, but it's annoying when you want to get stuff done.

Even so, I managed to get stuff done. Today, I finally completed a full draft of my paper revision for a journal, including the response letter to the editor and reviewers (a mammoth task, ask any academic). I bounced it to my co-author and it's now up to him to work on it, hopefully before I give birth.

Still. I struggled to wake up. Two hours in, I felt nauseous. At lunch time, I didn't want to eat and felt unwell. By 2pm I thought I really could go no further. Managed to push it till about 3.30 or so to get it done. It leaves me with some feeling of accomplishment amidst all this heavy lifting.

The best parts of the day: receiving the new crib mattress, ironing the baby bed sheets and making up the bedroom for my brother.

Perhaps academia is the wrong job for me? I do so love to move around. 

Jan 14, 2011

Baby feet are made for walking (or kicking at least)

Wanted to share some of what I experience on a daily basis, often, and throughout the day :)

Jan 7, 2011

Not procrastinating, honest

I'm not procrastinating. No. I'm just getting warmed up for necessary writing later this afternoon. Academic writing. Which can be tough at the best of times, especially when you're someone like me who wants to strike the right balance between sounding knowledgable but also interesting and digestible.

Hence, whenever I am faced with a day like this where I need to read some 4 or 5 articles to "inform" me, review my own findings, and then somehow tie them altogether into a coherent and uncomplicated knot, I tend to do some warm up exercises: email, facebook, and my blog.

I'm feeling good just for being in the office. I spent the last 1.5 days moping around at home, under the pretense that it is getting too cumbersome to move. But rather than finding that enjoyable, it becomes a drag and I work myself into a state of virtual catatonia, where even getting up from the sofa seems unmanageable. So much better to be at work with my plants, bananas and comfie chair.

Yesterday, I broke out of the moping a little bit by going swimming. Steve came along for the fun, and we really enjoyed ourselves. It was an experience learning how to bob in a somewhat comfortable position. I still can't stretch out fully, so a normal back-stroke is out, but I managed to find a balancing point for a slow breast stroke and crawl, as well as a way to at least exercise my legs while on my back.

The pool itself was a treat. We've walked past this "little" sports centre near our house time and again but never thought of joining. Turns out, it's completely free to get a membership there if you're a Montreal resident. And then, once you're a member, the swim is completely free. You only have to pay for exercise classes, which I'm not planning on joining even though they have a prenatal one, because you need a doctor's note declaring you are healthy and I forgot yesterday. That means I won't get another chance for 2 weeks and by then I'm not willing to dish out 84 bucks for 2 weeks of prenatal exercise.

So just plain swimming instead. I discovered that the "big" bikini I bought in Vegas in June to accommodate my 7-week pregnant and growing body is no longer big. In fact, I could very well pop out an accidental breast at one point or another, so it's all about tight tying of strings and double knots. But the swimming itself was fun. I'm out of shape. I can manage 2 laps before my arms give out, so yesterday I alternated between 2 laps full body and 2 laps with a floatie to support my arms and give my legs a go. It didn't feel too strenuous but when I tried to get up from the sofa later in the evening, I must admit I was super-stiff. Ah well, a good goal for the next 5 weeks or so. The best part is that it's weightless, so I don't have to worry about damaging joints, etc.

As for the rest, my PUPPP is back. I'm not sure if it was triggered by the chlorine (I doubt it since it has nothing to do with external conditions). It's still mild, but I'm back on the antihistamine this morning to see if I can't nip it in the butt right away. So this morning, I had to throw on whatever cotton items I could find that aren't in the wash ... the result of which is that I look like a clown.

Oh well. People at work can wonder. Let them.

UPDATE: shortly after this post, I fell asleep for 6 hours. Lesson of the day: don't take Atarax in the morning. Geez, what a waste of sunlight. I'm only now starting to feel myself again!

Jan 3, 2011

Slow start to 2011

First day back at work. I was gung-ho, mind set on getting lots of items checked off the to-do list that's been hanging around since before Xmas. But I got temporarily distracted.

First, there was the issue of three large filing drawers. Old exams, papers, ideas, you name it, it was in there. I was completely out of space, already before the holiday, but was told that I needed to wait till the end of the year before I could legally allow exams from the previous year to be shredded. So this morning, my first call was at the department secretary to get a bunch of boxes. I chucked in all the old exams (easy), and then decided I might as well go through the rest of my files (not so easy). I spent a good 4 hours sorting stuff out. I wanted to get rid of stuff, but not throw away vital things such as case study notes that took me weeks to complete and work done on research that took months to read and write up. By about 2.30pm, I finally had it all done, and now have two entirely empty drawers and many empty hanging files to go with it. Time to re-file the stuff that's been hogging my desk. Done. Being pedantic as I am, I color coded my hanging files and tabs, of course. It looks so pretty now.

Next item on the agenda was to do some emergency gardening to my three office plants. That was quick but no guarantee that they'll survive the onslaught of being ignored for several weeks. They look ok, so I'm hopeful (other than my lemon tree seed experiment which looks moldy and disastrous).

During the gardening I found out that my laptop was back from the shop. I first went to a nearby mini-mart to stock up on lunch and snacks, and most importantly, a box of tissues and new dust pads for my swiffer. Of course, I got everything but the tissues and the swiffer pads, so I'll have to bring those from home. I must have been too excited about getting my laptop back.

The return of the laptop was overrated. I got it, and it turned itself on. But I immediately found out that the IT people have installed Windows Vista on it (why??? I thought it was our school policy to avoid that program like the plague). On top of it, they didn't bother running the 94 windows updates that are due since my entire hard drive or motherboard, or maybe both, have been replaced. So I've been in the process of updating everything for the last 2 hours. I hate the way Vista looks and the laptop no longer feels like "mine". After the Windows updates will be the Javas and Explorers and Virus checkers and who knows what else updates itself. Then, of course, the real work starts: installing my 3 or 4 statistical programs, file share programs, restoring my lost files (a LOT of them) from my internet back-up system, and then download minimal necessities such as at least one chat program in case the entire process drives me so insane that I need virtual support from friends.

All said, I have gotten nothing done today. Real work that is. I've done plenty of mucking-the-stalls type of work. Not exactly how I imagined my first day back at work.

Happy 2011.