Thursday, 18 September 2014

I am growing a giant.

All of a sudden it has occurred to me that I am... HUGE. I do a pregnancy pilates classs and another lady there has the same due date as me. She is really short, but her stomach is way smaller than mine. And why this is, I don't understand. At my first scan my baby was measuring a whole week ahead so it may be that I am cooking a giant baby in there.

It also occurred to me that no one is monitoring my weight at all. My back-up OB-gyn did weigh me both times I saw him at the 12 and 20 week scans, but I don't see him again until the end. The midwives have not weighed me. I thought that this was awesome because all that weight gain was likely to be depressing but then I remembered that rapid weight gain is a sign of pre-eclampsia and it would actually be worth keeping track so I don't miss something like that.

So I weighed myself. The torture. It's crazy to think that the baby does not even weigh 1 kg yet. Where does all the weight come from? Well, I know it is the extra blood and the placenta and the amniotic fluid etc, but even then I doubt it explains everything. I do feel scared as my weight is about to enter new territory, I am currently at my highest ever weight from years ago. I am tempted to not get on a scale again! But I think it is worth keeping track in case something weird happens. Another lady in my pilates class had sudden onset pre-eclampsia at 30 weeks and had to give birth to her little one immediately. I would like to avoid that if possible!

Still can't figure out why I am comparatively so huge though. All I know is that the pilates must be working. I have not had any sciatica so far or any unusual pains other than the usual back issue that I have had for years, despite my baby being the size of a (very large) lettuce.

Also I am giving up coffee again, that one cup a day was making me too guilty. I am finding it harder than when I originally gave it up. I think because I need to be awake to write my thesis. But I have also been getting headaches. Ugh. I think it is worth it though, for my peace of mind if nothing else.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


I passed the 24 week mark this week. The Americans on my Babycenter birth board seem to consider this a big milestone - the baby is now viable. But as far as I can tell, this is not the case in South Africa and 28 weeks is considered the viability landmark. Although I have heard of stories of babies born at 24 weeks surviving here in SA too, the survival rate anywhere in the world for such premature babies is only 50% anyway, with very high rates of lifelong health issues, so lets hope my little one decides to stay in MUCH longer, thank you very much.

It's hard to consider any date a landmark when you know that loss can occur at any time. At least 4 people I know via the internet or real life have had late losses, and I cannot begin to imagine how devastating that must be. So my milestone is birth, really.

I am really struggling with the whole diet thing. Eating healthily. I had the best intentions for this pregnancy but 9 months is a long time when eating healthily is not easy at the best of times. And I started drinking coffee again. Nescafe, once a day. Well within the limits but I feel bad about it. I am just not sure I will make it through my thesis write up without any caffeine. All nighters are already off the table for me and I doubt this has anything to do with pregnancy. My brain shuts off by about 9.30pm these days and refuses to work any more. I think if I drank coffee I could keep going but I am not breaking my one a day barrier. Unfortunately I was using decaf as a very effective substitute but it triggered morning sickness twice and now I have a mental block against the stuff.

Protein, vegetables. I am not eating enough of these. I am so off food and cooking right now really. I think it is the fact that the baby is squishing my tummy and makes me feel full quickly. I mean, I am getting quantity fine, but quality is the issue. Oh the guilt. I just hope my average to subpar diet and caffeine intake don't do something bad to this kiddo.

I have 4 months to go. Perhaps you can tell, I am finding that time moves like an exhausted snail right now. Except when I calculate how much time I have left to do my thesis. Then it flashes past like a really flashy thing.

Also I FINALLY told my fellow students in the department that I am pregnant. I was just too damn shy but I managed to blurt it out yesterday. I am a good 10 years older than most of them, and some of them are considering their own kids in the near future. It is kind of fun answering their questions, even if I am extremely late to this baby party and they all probably know more about babies than me. Maybe they can babysit?? 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

To C or not to C.

I have gone to a huge amount of effort (and money) to TRY and avoid a C-section in South Africa, and I certainly never dreamed it would be so hard. I am wondering now if I should even have bothered, considering that if the baby is breach or there is another issue, I will have to have one anyway, which would actually save me a lot of money. Maybe I should have surrendered to the C all along.

In the UK the NHS (being free) keeps C-sections to minimum - emergencies and complications only. The care is midwife led. I remember thinking back when I lived there that natural birth seemed terrifying and that I should aim to come back to SA for having kids so that I could have a C-section.

Then I came back to SA and started to actually research what giving birth is like. I remember sitting in my tiny room in Johannesburg coming close to a panic attack as I read about natural birth. Then I remember reading about C-sections - and I realised that as terrified as I was of natural, I was more terrified of C-sections. I have had a very minor operation before, and it was terrible. I hated recovery, I was miserable for weeks. C-sections are not minor. I don't really want to have major surgery and then have to look after a baby. I am sure most women are not such wusses about operations, but I AM! I hate them. Let's not mention the weird reactions I had to the anaesthetic.

So I decided to go the natural route. Little did I know in SA and in Cape Town in particular, this is almost impossible in the private sector. I knew that SA private hospitals have a high rate of C-sections, actually it must be one of the highest in the world, because it is much higher than the US. What I did not know is that most doctors here actively discourage natural birth. Apparently in Cape Town many doctors refuse to do natural birth at all. Or they pretend they will allow it, but then tell you that you need a C-section for various reasons. Basically they lie to you and tell you your baby is too big or your baby will die. Now in some cases, obviously those things are true. My midwife told me their C-section rate is 20% - so they deem 20% of women need a C-section for those reasons.

My hospital up the road has a 90% C-section rate. Apparently 90% of women interviewed for a survey at that hospital hoped for a natural birth. But 90% of women who go there get a C-section (I can't find the link to these stats. I may be remembering them incorrectly. I know it involved two 90%s). Which means a whole lot of people are being told they need a C-section when they don't. I kept reading miserable stories of  women being told their babies are too big, having a C-section and the baby weighs a perfectly normal amount. The reasons are payment (doctors get paid a lot more for C-sections), safety (some doctors think C-sections are safer, although the statistics do not back this up!), convenience (the day can be scheduled, and it can take an hour, whereas labour can be days), and these days, just inexperience.

I have no issue with elective C-sections, if a woman wants one. But if a woman wants a natural birth and is being forced into a C-section, then yes I have a problem with that.

According to the interwebs my only hope of having a natural birth in Cape Town was ditching the doctors and hiring a private midwife. So that is what I have done. They have back up doctors that cover them in emergencies. There is only one hospital in Cape Town that allows them to practice. This hospital is not only my list of hospitals for the medical aid coverage that I chose. And they do not cover both the doctor and the midwife. So I am going to have to pay extra for the midwife and extra for the hospital. This baby is going to cost a LOT of money. If I had stayed in the UK, the whole thing would have been free, and the natural birth would have been default. At least I know with the midwife that if I am told I need a C-section that I am not being lied to and I can trust their advice.

All I can say after all this effort, I better not need a damn C-section after all! Funny, what an effort it took for the privilege of squeezing a baby out of a vagina. Which is still the (second) most terrifying thought to me. Let's just block that thought out for now.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Pregnancy milestone - rogue bellybutton.

I can tell that my bellybutton wants to pop out. It is on the verge. I am dreading it. Outies freak me out. I have always thought they look hideous (sorry previous pregnant ladies). And you can't hide them. They stick out for miles. I am just going to have to not look down for the next 5 months because they give me a bad feeling inside.

Considering what is going to happen to my waistline and apparently my lady apparatus in the next few months, not looking down is probably the safest policy.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Reality kicks.

I've started feeling real kicks now, the kind where I don't even have to press my hands on my stomach, and it is freaking me out. I was at university today, typing away at my thesis, when these kind of ticklish, uncomfortable kicks started up.

I had a real moment of panic and disorientation. There is a human INSIDE of me (trying to get out?). It was some kind of Alien moment. This human is inside of ME. And anything could happen. I am supposed to look after it inside of me, but anything could happen.

I have always been a nervous (maybe more like terrified) and reluctant driver. I really struggle with driving. I learned so late in life. I still feel the need to practice driving somewhere before I go for the first time on my own. Now that I have a permanent passenger inside of me, I am terrified again. I am so crap, what if I crash? I mean, it will be much worse now if I crash! I am so out of it sometimes when I drive, anything could happen!!

Oh dear. This all became so real. I think it did not really dawn on me before just how real this all was. The groblet was tiny and I couldn't feel him. It seemed like a story I had told myself rather than something real.

It's so real and I have to look after this human for the rest of my life and keep it alive and I am totally freaked out.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Major diet-related guilt.

I know going on and on about pregnancy related stuff can be somewhat tiresome, but it does tend to take over your whole life, for obvious reasons.

I did not get morning sickness, no vomming for me, hooray for that. I did get nausea though and an enthusiastic gag reflex. I also got a strong aversion to vegetables. They don't make me nauseous, but my stomach just says NO. I do try though. When I make something healthy it can take me an hour to eat it because I really have to force it down. Which makes me naturally want to avoid all vegetable dishes because they are such an effort to eat.

Meat is not enticing at all either. I can eat it but it will not digest and it just makes me feel blegh. So there is a lot of force-feeding going on at the moment.

However, carbs are my best friend! Potatoes, oh yeah. And chips - The Simba kind, especially corn chips make me feel so good! There is a definite salt craving going on.

I have to admit I have eaten a few full bags of nik naks and ghost pop so far. And a few people have pointed out that they are filled with MSG and preservatives and a whole crap load of e-numbers and lots of salt and that I should NOT be eating whole bags of them. Eating donuts and sweet things does not cause so much panic but my chip consumption is apparently a whole other level of bad.

Now I am panicking somewhat. Will my poor kiddo have some kind of nasty issues due to salt overload or horrible e-number overdose? Ugh. The thing is, it is so hard. All other food is making me miserable. All I crave is salt and carbs and it is the only thing that makes my tummy feel ok, And I am trying. I forced down a steak today and yesterday I force-fed myself a homemade soup with at least 4 types of veggies. But egh. Eating is such an effort. And my nik nak addiction has probably already done the damage if there is any.

I am going to try like crazy to avoid all chip-related binges from now on. How, I do not know. Try telling my stomach how delicious butternut really is and please send it the message that gagging is no fun.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Coffee or no?

Ugh. I quit coffee just as I got pregnant, and it was surprisingly easy. I had tried to quit before and had terrible withdrawal that included depression, headaches and just general misery. This time I did not have any of that, which surprises me, because while I was working on my Masters in Joburg I was living off coffee and very little else.

Recently I have been suffering mild headaches, and I am blaming pregnancy. They are not very bad, and I should not really complain, but it does get a bit draining when they occur every day. I read that caffeine seems to help. So today I made myself some Nescafe, the caffeinated kind. It is ok to have a bit of coffee in pregnancy.

Now I am feeling not so good! All shaky and weak and anxiety has sprung from nowhere. I am not usually an anxious person. Blegh. My mild headache is gone though. Can't win in this game - headaches or anxiety? Maybe I will alternate.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A lemon in the oven.

So blogging world, I have been hiding again, for no other reason than absolutely nothing interesting has been happening in my life. Until now I guess.

After a miserable two months in Johannesburg slogging day and night in lab with no time to cook or exercise and lots of time for stress, I came home and immediately fell pregnant.


Just kidding! If there is one thing I can safely say I am good at, going by my 14 year relationship, it is birth control. We clearly had that down. I can happily vouch for the wonders of condoms because the minute we put them away I got knocked up. But this was all well planned.

I feel very lucky and grateful to have fallen pregnant with such ease. At my age fertility is  in decline and I know many people of all ages who battled for years to fall pregnant, if at all. And even that one month was stressful! I cannot imagine doing that again and again. Living by the clock, what with calculating ovulation and timing the deed, and then two week waits, and then the countdown for miscarriage risk at each week of pregnancy and then in my case a 12 week wait(!!) to actually see if there was really anything growing in there or if it was all my imagination, I was stressed and tired of watching the clock. Now I feel like I don't have to worry about time so much until the baby needs to come out, so that is a relief.

I had very mild pregnancy symptoms at first, no morning sickness, just some nausea and an aversion to vegetables and meat. Only dairy products and carbs seemed to go down ok (Nik Naks are my saviour).  So much for the healthy pregnancy diet I am supposed to be following.

Now I am in the second trimester (baby currently the size of a lemon) and I have thrown up twice! And I thought things were supposed to get better from now on. And I have hectic shortness of breath. We walked around the block the other day and I had to sit down and rest I was so puffed. I am a bit worried about this actually, because I know many women can exercise just fine during pregnancy and can do more than walk around the block. I mean, my body has produced up to 50% more blood and is straining the heart, but I am not sure that this is a normal level of breathlessness. Apparently pregnancy can suddenly bring to the fore heart problems that went undetected before. Please don't let that be the case.

I am also now having lots of uterus stretching pains which are not agonising but last all day and get to me after a while. And then there is my back. I am not really showing or anything but all the stretching is causing back pain already. Oh boy, I can't imagine how painful it will be by the end.

I am already missing the easy times of the first trimester.

I am so inexperienced in all things baby, have never changed a nappy, have had almost no interaction with babies whatsoever. I am pretty terrified. But somehow I will have to manage, so here goes.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Celebrity divorce

When I heard that Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are going to divorce, or consciously uncouple, if they must call it that, the wave of divorce sadness hit me again. Does everyone get divorced? And particularly, why do almost all famous people end up getting divorced?

I actually feel sorry for famous people. It seems that there is this modern myth that we can have everything, awesome career, good relationship and happy kids, and famous people always seem to be the epitome of this expectation. Poor things. They have so much money, it is almost their duty to be happier and more successful in all of the things than we are. I think celebrities are victims of very unrealistic expectations, but to some degree, we all are.

But it is a lie and it is a lie for all of us. You cannot have everything, there has to be compromise. You CAN have a compromised version of everything, yes.

Famous people generally get famous by having an awesome career. Long after they have made more money than they will ever need, they still pursue their careers, I assume because it fulfills them, at least I hope that is the reason. But in order to have a good relationship, you have to sacrifice some career stuff. You have to give your partner time. Lots of it. If your career takes up too much time you have to say no to stuff. You cannot keep pursuing that career and not expect it to have consequences in other aspects of life. It doesn't mean quitting, necessarily. Just cutting down.

So I guess we all have to really decide what is important to us and then compromise. Extra money really does not buy you out of this equation.

I know for sure that my relationship is more important than any job I could have. I have never been a career-oriented person. I tried to be one for a while, or thought I should be. But my relationship will always come first in my life. I suppose that makes it easier for me because it does not feel like there is any sacrifice I need to make in terms of work life at all.

Freaking divorce! You are everywhere. Stay away.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Random life stuffs.

G and I bought a flat in Cape Town! Well, G did. As a student I cannot really make any contribution to a bond. It seems awfully grown up and scary, but then, he is 38. Everyone has to grow up sometime, right? Actually, no, owning  a place is not necessary for grownup life at all, much as we are conned into thinking that. And I even question the financial sense of why everyone does this now that I know how much freaking money you spend in the process, and how little you make as profit when you sell? There must be a reason...

On that subject we also bought our first ever couch. Hilarious. They are expensive too. People keep asking how we survived without a couch but the truth is, we are not very sociable and when we had people round in our tiny granny flat in England people sat on the floor or a chair or the bed. 

When I say we bought a flat, it is not actually ours yet. We agreed to buy in September. And the lawyers have still not come through with the final paperwork! A friend of ours signed to buy in December and had his place by the end of Jan. How is it possible that we are still waiting? We are renting the place that is supposed to be ours. Most useless lawyers ever.

Real estate is heartbreakingly expensive in Cape Town. I sometimes browse the property pages for other cities to make myself sad.  I am not sure we could ever afford to buy  a house in this city, at least not in the central areas. 

I am hating every minute of every day of my Masters. It is sad to admit, but I dream every day of quitting. I have major homesickness for my previous work place. I have tried for months to convince myself that I am overreacting, but I am just unhappy with so many aspects of the supervision that I have that I can't move past my dissatisfaction. I wonder if I will be able to hang in and finish it? I spend all night dreaming about how I will quit with minimum drama and accusation, but at the same time make my issues heard. I feel like a quitter these days. Do I quit everything? At the same time, misery is not healthy and I would be much better off without this level of unhappiness and stress. Who knows what will happen. Every day I try to hang on a little longer, mostly because I am completely averse to drama and unpleasantness.

I have been in Johannesburg for two months, living on an active building site with jackhammering and drilling day and night, and missing my G like crazy. The only way for me to finish the work my supervisors want me to do is to work day and night without cooking breaks. G has started to decorate our flat without me. I feel like I am nearing the end of a long prison sentence and I cannot wait to go home. No offence to Johannesburg. I am sure you are a lovely city. I, however, will never get to see you because I am chained to a lab day and night. I did not realise you rained so much. It's a bit extreme. 

I blame the ANC.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Being back in South Africa is much harder than I thought.

I am finding living back in South Africa SO much harder than I ever expected. I feel that I need to communicate that, but I am scared of trying to go into the why's of it. I have a feeling that articulating it would piss a lot of people off and I have no desire for that. Not that anyone reads this blog, hello I have had a wordpress blog for years. I think the reason I have come back to blogger is because I want that anonymity again.

Anyway, even saying that I find living in South Africa hard seems wrong to me. No matter how hard it is for me, it is a million times harder for all the people living in poverty, and they don't exactly have a choice about being here or not.

And this is part of the problem. Trying to align my own struggles with those of other people in this country and still feel that I have the right to feel how I feel.

I did not realise how angry people are here. And for good reason! But the anger scares me even though I know it is fully justified. I am one of those people who is not able to block these things out, the emotions of others affects me greatly. I have always had this issue. And this is probably why I am struggling so much.

It breaks my heart that people are so angry. It breaks my heart that for many people, I am a symbol of the cause of that anger. I was naive before. I thought that people got along. And they do. They really do. But it seems to be less common than anyone could wish.

Everyone, of every culture, is very nice to me here. But there are these huge barriers that seem to prevent us from connecting. I am not used to this. England is a melting pot of every culture, and the only way to survive is to connect, instantly. It is easy for me. I have made friends with people from every culture I can imagine.

And yet in South Africa it is completely different. The barriers are there and I can't even put into words how they work. One day they might go away. Maybe? But I will be old or dead. It makes me so sad. Because I like pretty much everyone. I want to connect with people and have that easy friendship that rises above culture. And it is possible. But it is much harder than I thought. We have a lot of misconceptions about each other.

People are friendlier here, much friendlier than in the UK, so it is not all bad. But there is a general wariness that we have around each other. And the anger, it is there, so strong I cannot ignore it.

 The thing is, there is so much good actually! So much. But the bad tends to dominate my psyche. I have always been this way.

My problem is that negative emotions overwhelm me until I cannot see anything else. Other people can see the positive and live positively, but the anger that is bubbling up in this country overwhelms me, and it scares me too. I do believe this country is in for a rough ride some day. When, I do not know. (Well, for many people it is already a very rough ride indeed. Perhaps what I mean is that we could be in for something that affects privileged people badly. Will the people who are struggling now struggle more? Perhaps. I think we need to chat to Zimbabweans about whether they are better off now or before Mugabe went a bit extreme. I bet there are a wide range of opinions on that!).

At the same time, things have always worked a little differently here. We have never followed the traditional African path in terms of history and politics. Not saying this is a good or a bad thing, but South Africa has had a unique path and maybe the current anger will rouse something slightly different from the usual. Who knows?

Of course another thing I struggle with in South Africa is guilt. In Cape Town you can encounter people with difficult and sad stories every time you leave the house, multiple times a day. I know that I am lucky to be the one hearing the story rather than the one living the story. The contrasts in this country are too great. I have never considered myself wealthy. But to a person who earns R1000 a month or less, of course I am wealthy.  Shockingly wealthy. My monthly grocery bill alone comes to a lot more than R1000 I can tell you that.

And so I am both wealthy and not. In some circles I would describe myself as ok, as well-off. Once we were struggling. In other circles we are incredibly wealthy and the thought of describing my past as "struggling" in this context is a joke.

 These things, they require some mental gymnastics that are difficult to negotiate.

I always thought I was made of stronger stuff. But I am learning that my very noble thoughts about my self, others and the world very rarely translate into noble action.

And so I am struggling. And I am disappointed in myself.

Apologies to any South African who may find this offensive in some way. I mean no offence at all. I always seem to struggle with things that other people think are just plain crazy. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Divorce is one hell of a mind-bender to me.

It's funny how I just wrote about commitment in relationships recently, and ever since then I have been thinking a lot about divorce.

A few people I know online or in real life are getting divorced. It terrifies me.

I think divorce does not terrify me if there was a problem with the relationship from the start, or if things become really bitter for whatever reason. For instance I know someone who actually broke up with the guy, found herself pregnant, they got married and had a troubled relationship for many years until they got divorced. In that case divorce seems like a kind of freedom from a bad situation.

But what really freaks me out is that I know people who have been with someone they love (loved?) deeply, for many MANY years - and suddenly after those many years something changed or happened and all of a sudden that life partner person, with whom you have extensive history, is no longer the person you want to be with.

I have heard of parents who have split up when their kids are in their late twenties. That blows my mind. All of that history an shared experience - nixed in an instant.  Did it not mean anything in the end? Or it did mean something but it is possible to move on from? Can you compartmentalise this stuff? You can see how much I am grappling to even understand how this is possible. My world would just not make sense if I did this.

This scares me so much because for me a huge part of bonding with all people is knowing someone a good length of time and shared history. I take a loooong time to warm up to people. It is an introvert thing. My brain needs to process x amount of information about a person before it feels comfortable that it knows the person, and similarly I seem to need to know someone for quite a long time before my brain feels that it is worth putting up the barriers I usually put up. After a longish time my brain says, ok, now it is worth it. This person is not just an aquaintance who will disappear. This person is going to be around and is worth putting all of your affections into. I guess all of my energy will go into that person, so my brain does not want to invest in someone who I just will not be very close to. Once time and history have been shared, I pretty much will love that person for life. No matter who you are, you are in.

I think that is why I always end up loving the people I work with so much. All of them. Because I spend so much time with them, am able to get to know them over a long time, and share a lot of history with them. I am aware how atypical this is because most people are very wary about friendships at work. I love all my colleagues and will forever! Personality clashes are not often an issue for me, as long as I have spent enought time with you!

The G man and I have shared nearly 14 years of history. If for some reason we split up - it would blow my mind. My life makes no sense without him there because we have all of that past stuff - it seems meaningless if we are not together. Does that make sense? I feel like if I lose him I will lose all of that history or at least render it senseless and empty. I can't describe how much it confuses me that people can walk away from such a long shared time and start anew. I think it is just not in my character.

I bond for life, and I mean LIFE. And yet, these divorces happen all the time. They can happen to anyone, even people like me who are convinced the person they are with is their ultimate person for life. And I also know that G is different to me and bonds in a different way - it is not so much about shared history and length of time for him. I feel that for him walking away from so many years of history would not be such a mind-bender. And that does not help my panic much either.

I think this is what they mean when they say relationships take work. Even when yours seems good it is no time to coast along and take things for granted. Ugh.