Thirty-four through Thirty - five Weeks
The last two weeks have been like hitting a brick wall. No one expects the Third Trimester to be easy, but I was startled by the new pregnancy issues that showed up seemingly out of nowhere.
Where did you go, Sleep?
I considered myself lucky for most of my pregnancy, because my sleep would only be interrupted by an occasional bathroom break. Suddenly, the last two weeks, my sleep is interrupted by everything from my hands aching (carpal tunnel from mild pregnancy swelling - I finally got a prescription for splints from my OB/GYN last week but haven't had a chance to fill it yet) to heartburn (which, I've learned, I can now get off of a single piece of toast) to mild dehydration (it's been hot) to aches and pains to the fact that I rolled over onto one of my son's stuffed animals. Last night, I woke up seven times. SEVEN TIMES. Some people are so good about getting back to sleep, but I am not one of them. I usually eat a bowl of cereal or drink water, pet my hauspanther, read the Economist or lose a few hours to Pinterest before I can doze off again.
Grape-Nuts and Cherries
I have absolutely faith in myself to down an entire box of Grape-Nuts and a pound of cherries every single day now. Considering that my pregnancy cravings have been pretty mild up to this point, I was intrigued. Well, as it turns out, Grape-Nuts are super high in iron and folate, two of the most valuable nutrients during pregnancy. Cherries on the other hand - well, what's not to love?! They are high in antioxidants, which help manage inflammation and melatonin, which helps manage sleep cycles. They also contain a lot of potassium, which is a super valuable electrolyte to consume during a summer heat wave. Another wonderful feature of cherries is that for all of their natural sweetness, they don't actually rank all that high on the glycemic index, meaning that indulging doesn't spike my blood sugar too much.
I just cut my bangs! What on Earth...?
People devote a lot of energy to expounding on the joys of magical, fast-growing, shiny, healthy pregnancy hair and nails. I never really noticed much difference. Then, all of the sudden, I looked like a sheepdog only two weeks after having my bangs trimmed. The next week, I realized that my nail polish had grown out to the middle of my nails - in three (THREE!?) days. It's pretty cool. I feel like Wolverine, like I can just make my body rejuvenate. I also clogged my bathroom sink drain twice already.
Twice Weekly Fetal Non-Stress Tests
I've continued to go into my OB/GYN's office twice per week for Fetal NST. I generally get these done on Tuesdays and Fridays. I've been fortunate to schedule them in the late afternoon so that I can work most of the day and then just leave a little early. So far, everything has been completely normal and I am so very grateful. I also had another ultrasound at Thirty-four weeks. I looked forward to this ultrasound for weeks because I thought I would get to see Baby Girl's profile, or something precious, like her sucking her thumb. Nope. I got to see her ear. One lone ear. And a femur. At least she is no longer breech!
Group B Strep Test...well, um, that was...invasive.
I honestly did not remember this test from my first pregnancy at all. In my mind, I must have vaguely recalled it as a simple vaginal swab. Well, it's a vaginal AND anal swab to test for Group B Streptococcus. Women who test positive for Group B must take antibiotics prior to delivery, as this little simple bacteria can cause all kinds of scary issues, the least of which is infection in your newborn. My Group B Strep Test was immediately followed up by a manual exam to try to evaluate whether my pelvic opening veered on the narrow side (it does). This was basically as comfortable as someone sticking their hand in your vagina to try to evaluate your spine. Let's just say my thirty-five week appointment couldn't end soon enough.
Delivery? I'm pretty sure it's tomorrow.
I'm four weeks away from my due date. Once you get that close, I feel like your body and your mind start to work together to narrow your focus to only your pregnancy. For example, the last week or so, I feel like it it is difficult to concentrate on anything unrelated to the baby. I also feel like my body's demands for rest have become loud and clear. Even a couple of weeks ago, waking to an alarm and getting ready for work seemed a thoroughly manageable task, now it often feels Hurculean. Emotionally, closing the distance of four weeks makes everything feel so imminent! This last month is going by like a bullet train!
Here is my typical workout schedule right now.
Monday: 30 minutes of swimming or "water aerobics" movements, aided by kickboard
Tuesday: 30 minutes of swimming or "water aerobics" movements, aided by kickboard
Wednesday: 30 minute walk
Thursday: 15 to 40 minutes of toning with 3 lb weights or bodyweight only (like Cardio Barre Arms on the Studio Tone it Up App).
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: Gardening or 30 minutes of swimming; 15-25 minute toning with 3 lb weights or bodyweight only.
Sunday: Rest Day
As you can see, I'm spending a lot of time in the pool. My son is just becoming an independent swimmer this year, so a lot of the time, I'm focused on assisting him in the water. When he has his wings on and I don't feel the need to be right on top of him, I'll do leg lifts, arm circles, skipping, bouncing and anything else to keep me moving in the water. Gravity and I have been having some disagreements lately, so it feel great to move without additional strain on my body. I keep it laid back and don't follow any specific workout routine in the water. I just try to stay in motion!
I continue to follow the Studio Tone it Up weekly schedules. That has required a bit of humility lately! Sometimes, I'll have plans to complete a rigorous workout and tap out after fifteen minutes. I just remind myself that this short phase of my life is not about gaining muscle or endurance, but rather about boosting circulation, stretching, maintaining health, managing pregnancy weight gain and just getting a couple of endorphins running around. Even five minutes of exercise can meet most of those goals, so I try to keep my expectations reasonable.
Sample Day of Eating: Third Trimester
MEAL ONE: A piece of Ezekiel Toast with natural peanut butter and low-sugar, natural jam. 16 oz of infused water (lemon and mint leaves are my favorite). Sometimes, I'll make a protein smoothie instead (1/2 frozen banana, 1 cup almond milk, 2 cups of frozen berries, 2 dates, 1 scoop of vegan protein powder).
MEAL TWO: A Tone it Up Protein Bite (my favorite flavor is Snickerdoodle), together with a small apple. Sometimes, I like to have an entire Tone it Up Protein Bar instead. My favorite flavor is Birthday Cake.
MEAL THREE: I have been focusing a lot on cold salads lately. I've noticed that it is hard for me to eat meat at this point in my pregnancy, so I try to obtain protein through plant sources. Today, I had a cold chickpea and veggie salad with olive oil and spices; together with an un-buttered piece of French bread and roasted veggies. This has been my largest meal of the day for a while, because it doesn't help heartburn to eat a big, substantial dinner. I have one goal for Meal Three now and that is to pack it solid with as many nutrients as possible, because (as you'll see), I've been struggling to eat much at all for dinner.
MEAL FOUR: No lies here. I have been grabbing a few "mini" pieces of chocolate at this point. I limit myself to 3 mini chocolates - like the kind you would hand out at Halloween (or about 140 calories). I also like to snack on nuts or seeds at this time, and sometimes throw together my own trail mix at home.
MEAL FIVE: Honestly, I can't win. I've eaten things as bland as banana-strawberry smoothies and still spent the night up multiple times with awful heartburn and stomach pains. Lately, I've tried to incorporate a small bowl of chickpea pasta with a little olive oil, just to have something more substantial to get through the night. Sometimes, I down a bowl of yogurt with a spoonful of natural peanut butter and raisins mixed in. Sometimes, I down a bowl of Grape Nuts or Oatmeal with almond milk. Sometimes, I eat a Popsicle, nectarine and raid my five year old son's snack drawer for fruit gummies. It's a victory when I'm motivated enough to make homemade "Nice Cream" or a smoothie.
Meal Five is a bit of a free-for-all, based on whatever I think I can handle now that my stomach is somewhere around my clavicles. I definitely can't even look at Mexican food, Indian food, Thai food, pizza, or meat-based dishes, and my significant other is beside himself. If he wasn't able to eat these foods, he would surely starve, muttering dramatic last words quoted from an episode of Top Chef.
I definitely can't say that Meal Five has been "TIU Approved." With that said, I've given it the Old College Try and avoided fried foods, artificial sweeteners, no high fructose corn syrup, and minimal refined breads or pastas. I'm also committed to staying with five meals per day to keep my energy levels stable.
I've read that during the last few weeks of pregnancy, the placenta creates as much estrogen in one day as in a single year of not being pregnant. This seems about right now that I'm crossing into Thirty-seven week territory.
I've gained 30-35 pounds total with this pregnancy, 38 pounds with my last one. Strangely, this slight difference seems profound. I get a lot more comments this time about being "all baby" and "not even looking pregnant" until people see my stomach, and can only attribute that to the fact that I worked out harder and more consistently during this pregnancy and must be carrying a bit differently.
Women place a lot of importance on their weight gain during pregnancy, but in my experience, that last 10% of total gain has nothing to do with you. In the last 60 days, I feel like the biggest driver of weight gain is water retention and the baby itself, things that are not impacted all that heavily by diet and exercise (unless your afternoon snack consists of a salt lick.) I was SO committed to keeping my weight under a certain number this time, and devoted a lot of effort toward that goal, and blamelessly blew right past that number four weeks before my due date. Pregnancy is a great example of how the whole "calories in, calories out" mythology of weight gain can be shortsighted and misleading.
Almost out of nowhere, my appetite completely changed. I can honestly say that I've only had ice cream a couple of times during this entire nine month period. Suddenly, I downed an entire mini-container (850 calories!) in one sitting. It's funny, because last time, I went into labor on my birthday after eating five pieces of cheesecake. I'm someone who can make an entire bar of dark chocolate last an entire week, so when I start to crave super high calorie "bombs" I know that my body is trying to stockpile energy for something big.
I always wish that I was a napper, but I'm not. I often lament the fact that even when I'm desperately tired, I just can't fall asleep during the day. Suddenly, once I hit this Thirty-seven week point, my body started to crash HARD from fatigue. For example, I had a busy day at the beach on Saturday. On Sunday, I was awake from 3 AM to 6 AM, when I decided to just lie down and rest a little. I passed out cold until almost 1 PM, and when I woke up, I was like "Where am I?" Just like the high calorie food cravings, my body seems to want to stockpile a few extra zzzzzz for the big event.
Hips don't lie
My hips suddenly feel like a game of Jenga, as though all of the parts are not quite fitting together the way that they should. This sensation arises from a mix of things, primarily the hormone relaxin, repositioning of my center of gravity, the significant weight at the front of my body, and the baby dropping lower into the pelvic region. Basically, if I roll over in bed, my hips crack or pop in about five places they didn't used to! Like most women, I also tend to get a bit of back pain or sciatica, especially after walking. At the recommendation of my doula, I've decided to focus heavily on hip openers.
I've adopted the following stretches, which I perform daily:
1. Butterfly asana
2. Wide legged stradle - right leg
3. Wide legged stradle - left leg
4. Wide legged stradle - center (e.g. Russian split)
5. Frog asana (yin yoga)
6. Modified dragon asana (keeping the back leg bent)
7. Pelvic tilts (modified Cat/Cow asana, watching for minimal back extension)
8. Pelvic tilts on an exercise ball
9. Hip circles on an exercise ball
10. Deep squats, supported by a yoga block
11. Goddess asana (wide legged "plie" squat) sometimes supported by an exercise ball
13. Psoas stretch with modification (low lunge or "foot to opposite knee" pose)
I have been lucky to retain quite a bit of flexibility, so this sequence does not cause pain or discomfort. Everyone is built differently, so please do not push it if any of these are uncomfortable. There are a million ways to modify a stretch or asana, and just as many ways to replace it entirely with something new.
My son took a look at my brand new wrist spints and said "it looks like your arms are broken." I took one look at them and said, "Wow, this is the first time I've been able to feel my fingers when I wake up in the morning in more than a month." When it became difficult to do simple tasks like button a shirt or open a can of cat food, I knew it was time to just suck it up and get a pair. Binson's Medical Supply was a joy and helped me find a pair that fit my tiny wrists. It's amazing how just a tiny bit of swelling was having such a huge impact on my day to day life.