Sunday, October 16, 2011


I have had a cough since August 28th. I know this for a fact because I first started to feel the cough coming on when I was on the plane on my way home from Scotland 7 weeks ago. SEVEN WEEKS AGO. I have had some variation of a cough for almost 2 months now.  I know I got the original cough from one of my traveling companions. It was annoying for a week or two, and then I thought I was getting better, except that the cough never did quite go away completely. A couple of weeks ago it began picking up again. I blame the cough's resurgence on the rain. September was a straight month of drizzle. Our entire backyard turned into a mushroom field and according to the news the area experienced record-breaking mold levels. I never knew I had an issue with mold (having spent most of my life living in an arid climate, how could I know?), but apparently high mold counts don't agree with my lungs, so the hacking picked up again. The past week brought lovely, sunny fall weather that cleared out all the mushrooms and mold, but it also brought in-laws to town--in-laws who were pleasant company, but who brought a cold virus along with them [perhaps it was revenge for my getting everyone sick at my wedding? :-)]  Penn picked up the virus from his sister, and even though he and I slept in separate beds all week to try to keep me healthy our efforts were in vain. I now have the worst cough I've had so far, accompanied by chest and head congestion. I woke up at 7 this morning and couldn't figure out why since I was clearly still tired. Then I realized that my body had obviously woken me up because I could barely breathe! I spent half an hour in a steaming hot bathroom this morning, which helped a bit, but I still feel like I'm breathing at about 30% capacity.  And the drugs I'm allowed to take during pregnancy are almost completely ineffective (as evidenced by the fact that I have been coughing for 7 weeks). The most basic type of Robitussin is okay, and my doctor said I could take Sudafed, but neither do much for me. Plus I really hate putting meds into my body right now. I took nothing at all during the first trimester except Claritin once for a bad allergy attack. I feel like it's safer now, and I feel like my ability to breathe and get oxygen into my blood for the baby obviously outweighs the minor risk posed by taking cold medicine, but the point is that the cold medicine I am allowed to take is pretty much useless anyway. I've spent far too much time googling the effects of excessive coughing on a fetus. Dr. Google assures me that all of this coughing can't hurt my baby, but I still feel bad for the poor little papaya* being jostled around in there. Plus I am afraid that if this seal coughing keeps up the baby will get the mistaken impression that s/he is a marine mammal rather than a human being.  I have a doctor appointment a week from tomorrow, so if I'm still feeling lousy then I may see if there's anything else I can do to get some relief. Perhaps he will suggest that I convalesce in a sunny, arid climate for the winter.  I could go for that.

I intended to work on my dissertation all weekend. Instead, I fought this virus in my body (and lost miserably) and fought a virus in my computer (and ultimately won, but only after a complete reboot to the factory settings, THANK GOD I BACK UP MY FILES).  Sometimes things just don't go according to plan at all.  I really hope everything gets back on track this week.

*BabyCenter provides these weekly e-mail updates on "How Your Baby is Developing This Week" and for some reason they always compare the size of  the baby to a type of fruit. Last week the baby was apparently the size of a papaya. I had to Google images of a papaya to remind myself exactly what one looks like. I mean, really. A papaya?!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fun with Hormones!

I've had the kickiest baby for the past couple of days. It is awesome! I suppose "kicky" isn't really the right word because it still doesn't feel like a kick, exactly, more like a flutter, but the flutters are definitely getting more intense and consistent. I think Penn should be able to feel him/her from the outside any day now. If I'm alone when I feel the flutters I always use the sensation as an excuse to talk to the baby for a bit. I feel a little ridiculous talking to my stomach, but the baby's hearing is beginning to develop and I know it is good for him/her to hear my voice talking in "baby" tones and it's good for me to start getting used to narrating my day to a little person.  At this point I mostly just tell him/her how much fun we're going to have together if s/he will just stay put until March. Penn mostly tells him/her about how terrible the Eagles are playing right now but how they'll be much better in the future.

I just found out that one of my friends in the department is pregnant. I noticed she was drinking Sprite with dinner tonight and returned a pizza when the chef put blue cheese on it, so of course my pregnancy police radar went off immediately. I texted her afterwards and asked if she was pregnant, admitting that I knew how nosy and obnoxious I was being and telling her to just ignore me if she wanted to, but she called me back right away to say that yes, she's pregnant.  She's due exactly 2 months after I am. I'm excited to have a local mom friend! (I actually have a lot of mom friends, but the ones with babies are all long distance and with the exception of my cousin all of my mom friends here have kids that are at least 3 already.) I really, really hope her pregnancy goes well. She and her husband struggled to get pregnant. They had already been trying for over a year when I got pregnant, and she was very gracious when I announced my pregnancy but I felt bad because I knew it probably hurt her to hear my news. She was going to start fertility treatments this month but she got pregnant on her own just as she began to arrange the treatment. I'm happy for her and keeping my fingers crossed, both because I just want her to have the baby I know she so badly wants and because selfishly I'd like someone nearby who is going through the same infant parenting stages that I am. Also selfishly, I'm glad that I was the one who got pregnant first. I like this woman and she means well, but she can be a bit of a know-it-all at times and I feel like she's less likely to spout off the unwanted advice if I'm the one with more experience (9 whole weeks more experience but, you know, good enough).

On another pregnancy-related note, pregnancy hormones are wacky. Most days I feel like my normal self, but sometimes it's very apparent that there are some pretty intense hormones at work. Like the time I burst into tears at a music festival because I'd waited in line for food for an hour and the concession stand was out of nacho cheese (and when I say "tears" I mean gulping, heaving sobs; people were staring, it was humiliating), or the time Penn was making fun of a magazine I was reading and I was trying to defend myself and I was getting annoyed except that the mocking things he was saying were actually really funny so I ended up crying and laughing at the same time. On more than one occasion in this pregnancy poor Penn has looked at me in utter confusion and said, "Wait, are you crying? Why are you crying? I don't understand, what happened?" After the second or third time this happened he just put his hand on my knee and calmly said, "I guess sometimes you just need to cry, huh?" Exactly.  So, yeah, 95% of the time I feel normal and 3% of the time I just need to cry about nothing for a quick second. The other 2% of the time I'm full of righteous anger at all of the women who post on my internet birth board about how getting the flu vaccine will give you the flu or how the only way to be a good mother is to give birth to your baby in a kiddie pool in your kitchen, let your husband sever the umbilical cord with his teeth, and then fry and eat the placenta.  I can get on board with a lot of hippie nonsense (ask my husband, he calls me a hippie almost daily!) but it infuriates me how ill-educated some of these women are and how they spout off these nonsensical conspiracy theories about doctors and hospitals and modern medicine. [Incidentally, I am not against home births. A home birth is decidedly NOT for me--I actually find the routine and security of a hospital soothing and want to at least have the option of an anesthesiologist with an epidural nearby--but I respect that it is the best choice for some people. But the people who act like it is the be-all-end-all-only-path-to-a-fulfilling-motherhood-experience piss me off to no end. I hold back and don't actually respond to the crazy posts--other sane people do that for me--but it really makes me angry.]
So, yeah, anyway, today my pregnancy hormones manifested themselves in the oddest way yet. I happened upon a song I hadn't heard in years, Sujan Stevens "For the Widows in Paradise, for the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" and I got kind of emotional listening to it, and then I decided I wanted to listen to Mumford and Sons' "Timshel" for the dozenth time this week, which has been making me tear up ever since I first heard it. And then I was like, "Hey, listening to these sad songs is kind of cathartic and nice, I should make a playlist of songs that are good to cry to!" and then I was like, "What in the world is wrong with you, what kind of person purposely makes a playlist of songs that make her feel weepy?" And then I went back to writing my dissertation, which was what I was supposed to be doing at the time, but ever since this afternoon I've been thinking of songs that I would put on my hypothetical "I Need a Good Cry" playlist. Here's what I've come up with so far in addition to the two songs listed above:
1. Hallelujah by just about anybody who has ever covered it. That one is a good downer.
2.  Love Lockdown by Kanye West
3. Hurt, Johnny Cash's version
4.  What Goes Around Comes Around by Justin Timberlake
5. One by U2
6. By Your Side by Sade (I don't know why this one makes me teary, but it does)
7.  Jerusalem, the hymn (only certain arrangements, and I have no idea why, and I realize this is effectively the British national anthem so anyone from the UK will find this particularly bizarre)

Anyway, I know there are some other really good ones that I am forgetting. Give me suggestions, because my next step is a perusal of all of the soundtracks from the various seasons of the OC. That show was amazing at coming up with the most melodramatic sappy indie music.

So, nobody else ever does this sort of thing out of the blue during what has been a normal, happy week, do they? I can definitely chalk this one up to wacky pregnancy hormones, right? [Also, please don't worry about my sanity, I promise it really has been a normal, happy week (month, year). I'll take curative action if listening to weepy music becomes more than a fun recreational pastime.]

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I'm not sure how I'm ever going to finish my dissertation. I didn't get to work on it at all this week. I had a ton of editing to do for my assistantship (I am the assistant editor on an academic journal) so that took up all of the time this week when I wasn't teaching my university course or tutoring SAT students. I suppose I could have worked on it for an hour or two every day but then I wouldn't have had a single "me" second in my entire day, and that just seems crazy, especially right now when I know that for the sake of my health and my baby's I need to be sure I get a little bit of downtime and exercise every day.
I really have been prioritizing the dissertation lately. I make an effort to work on it for a few hours every day and aim for 20 hours a week, but in a week like this one, it just wasn't possible. I hope to have my first two chapters completed--at least in draft form--by the 15th and then I need to basically complete a chapter every four weeks after that if I want to be done before the baby arrives. I keep telling myself it will be worth all the hard work right now to be able to enjoy my baby without the dissertation hanging over my head, but I get so overwhelmed sometimes that I can't imagine the work will ever get done in time. I am determined to finish this degree. I didn't spend 4 years of my life working toward this to give up on it now. Yet I resent the amount of my interests and quality time with friends and family that I am having to temporarily give up to finish this project. I know that's what it's going to take, though. I once read or heard someone say that s/he finished the dissertation six months after deciding it was the most important thing in his/her life, but it's only now really hitting me that I am seriously going to have to sacrifice a lot to get this done.
I also need to work past my fear of writing and just get stuff down on paper. It doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't even have to be good. I just need to get pages in to my advisor so I can start getting feedback. I don't enjoy writing in the same way I enjoy reading and researching, but it's time to bite the bullet and make myself write every single day.
I keep trying to think ahead to the spring when I will no longer have this project hanging over my head. I know the sense of accomplishment will feel fantastic, and I know as I raise my family and continue down my career path I'll feel a sense of fulfillment and pride that I earned my PhD. I just wish that dream of the future was as consistently motivating as I would like it to be.

On another note, I had a doctor appointment yesterday. The baby seems to be doing great. I laid down on the exam table and the doctor said, "Let's listen to the baby...It's a little early for you to be feeling movement." I said, "Actually, I think I have been feeling movement for a couple of weeks, I feel little flutters sometimes." She said, "Well, maybe that's the baby," and then she put the doppler on my stomach and the instant she did, I mean the very second, she heard the baby's heartbeat loud and clear. She looked surprised and said, "Oh, your baby is right there!" Apparently s/he is floating around toward the front of my body, high and far forward in my uterus, which explains why I've been able to feel her/him for three weeks now. Lucky me! I feel the flutters several times a day now, usually for several minutes at a time. S/he still isn't strong enough to be felt from the outside, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm feeling my little one (in fact s/he is fluttering away in there right now!). The doctor said I can call the perinatologist and make the appointment for my anatomy scan for three weeks from now. Penn and I can't wait for that appointment, mostly because we should be able to tell if the baby is a boy or girl if s/he cooperates and is in a good position. I can't believe I'm already almost halfway through this pregnancy. We have so much to do to prepare!

The dissertation is the main thing I need to do to prepare, though. I need to tell myself that if the baby sleeps in a dresser drawer for the first few weeks that's okay as long as his/her mom is finished with the big project and has time to devote to baby care. I really need to make myself finish this work.