Learning About Pregnancy Online – huge success!

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

I have been a committed blogger for 13 weeks and am proud to say that I have learned much about learning online about pregnancy and motherhood.

My digital learning project involved tracking and learning about how to have a healthy pregnancy. This project involved lots of research both online and with friends, family, my doctor, and my doula. I started my online learning by outlining several main areas that I wanted or needed to learn about in my first and second trimesters.

In my second blog post I addressed learning about what I was experiencing physically and emotionally. Learning about common symptoms and experiences from a variety of women and pregnancy blogs helped me feel less isolated and reinforced what I was experiencing. These blogs really supported my understanding that women do not talk about their pregnancies enough. I was suprised to have experienced so many symptoms and even more surprised that many women experience these symptoms in isolation and without support.

Recognizing this really pushed me to share more personally on my blog and with Chris‘ encouragement I continued to include an element of education by describing my symptoms and fetal development. I started organizing my blog into sections which involved a pregnancy update, symptoms, embryo/fetal development, and then exploring the topic of the blog. For example:

  • Pregnancy Update!! I am just over half-way there! 21 weeks pregnant and feeling great!
  • Symptoms: muscle soreness, stuffy nose, constipation, gas, sensitive gums, shortness of breath, hot and sweaty, and definitely experiencing “placenta brain” which involves absentmindedness and forgetfulness.
  • Development: The fetus is the size of a small cantaloupe and is about 10 ounces and 6.5 inches. Their arms and legs are in proportion now, neurons are now connected between the brain and muscles; cartilage throughout the body is turning to bone. The fetus’ reproductive organs are developing more and they will be able to taste more of what I am eating now because the flavours are sensed through the amniotic fluid and the fetus is swalling small amounts of it everyday. The fetus is moving around lots and at times feels like they are doing acrobatics in my uterus. (Source: What to Expect When You Are Expecting, 5th Edn.)
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My third and fourth blog posts dealt with fears and frustrations of having a healthy pregnancy and dealing with the judgements and advice of others. By reading a number of websites and blog posts about healthy pregnancies I learned about the social pressures new-moms face. It is understood that pregnant women need to eat healthy foods and exercise. The consequences of unhealthy eating habits and not exercising include having an unhealthy baby or putting on too much weight. Navigating these social pressures and not letting them become an internal dialogue of stress and concern is a big job, especially while listening to strangers discuss your pregnancy and give you advice.

I learned that the collective discussion found on the What to Expect App is especially helpful in sharing experiences and creates a network or community of women who are experiencing the same thoughts, feelings and emotions.

The fifth blog post I looked into what it means to have good nutrition and in the sixth blog post I found exercises I am interested in doing while pregnant. After sifting through ample advice about ways of eating and exercising and the comments on my previous blog posts, I realized there is no right way to be healthy while pregnant and it is completely up to me to determine what makes the most sense for my health and my fetus’ health.

I found it helpful to use my body mass index pre-conception to help determine healthy weight gain. At 21 weeks I am 142 lbs and am on track for continued healthy weight gain. Recently my doula suggested that it is not about how much I gain, but that I am eating healthy foods and getting enough protein, iron, and prenatal supplements to ensure my body is not being too depleted. The menu and excercise plan I commited to has proven to be quite nourishing for both my mind and body. I feel healthy, full, and happy!

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Much like all of the other information and opinions on the web about how to be pregnant, I found numerous websites useful in helping me decide:

  • whether antibiotics are safe during pregnancy,
  • which baby supplies I will need by April 17th, and
  • what I understand to be my birthing preferences.

In my seventh, eighth, and ninth blog posts I discussed some of the websites and ideas that helped me come to decisions. From writing these blog posts I learned that sometimes you need to make tough decisions which may compromise the health of you or your baby if it is serious enough. I learned that I could buy numerous products and be happy with probably any of them, but that I am commited to doing the research to find the best quality, most environmentally friendly, and the most cost and time efficient products for our family now, and as we grow. As well, I learned that there are two main ways of thinking about how to have a baby and since I am more holistic, natural, and relationship-focused I am more aligned with a natural childbirth than a medical childbirth experience. Though I knew this coming into the pregnancy, I did not know what it meant in terms of decision-making in the delivery room or determining birth preferences. Creating this plan has provided me with ease of mind and has allowed me to be more present during this pregnancy.

I think it is fairly apparent that the knowledge I gained specifically online through videos and blog comments were valuable tools providing valuable content and enhanced my learning experience. This information was translated into knowledge which informed personalized plans, shopping lists, exercise programs, diets, and decision-making that helped push me to understand my experience and future as a mother, better. I have learned so much about pregnancy and motherhood and have appreciated this exercise in learning online.

It is clear that many many things can be learned online, and learning about pregnancy is defnitely one of them. The ways women, and sometimes men, shared about their experiences in blogs and through Twitter was both informative and affirming.

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Becoming part of these communities has better equipped me to both participate in, and be responsive to, the network of mothers or parents that exist in both local and international online communities.

 

Thanks for reading and supporting me throughout this learning journey!

 

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What are birth preferences and how do you decide?

As I get closer and closer to my due date, April 17th, 2018 I have been talking to my mommy friends about their experiences with labour and delivery. I have learned that they have either enlisted the support of a doula or wished they had.

I started to explore this idea by looking into the role of a doula. According to Angie Evans, a doula in Regina, “[a] doula is a woman experienced in childbirth who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother and partner during pregnancy, birth & early postpartum. In much of the world today and throughout history, women support women through labour & birth.”

I really liked the idea of having a larger support system extended to someone who is connected with other doula’s and who has supported over 100 births. This kind of community, knowledge, and advocacy was exactly the kind of resource I wanted/needed for my first pregnancy. I am excited to have an experienced birthing partner in the room who can help me and my husband move through labour in a good way.

Now we needed to find and choose a doula! We sought recommendations from doula’s in Regina for a doula in Saskatoon and we interviewed Karen Slater. After we met, talked, and learned (a lot) about each other and the birthing experience we decided that she would be a good fit for us. Since then Karen has provided us with resources, books, and things to think about as we prepare for delivery.

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She indicated it would be good to consider our birth plan/preferences. Now that I have a doctor I am able to take all of the resources I have to construct my preferences. However, I didn’t know where to start to begin creating my birth preferences, and so I turned to the internet for help and found some questions to answer or consider. This is my first attempt to develop my preferences and it is based on information I have heard about or learned from friends, family, various websites, my doctor and my doula. I choose to use the bolded questions and answers as a starting place and know that these may change over time and as we get closer to child birth.

Where would I like to give birth?

In a different circumstance I might have liked to give birth at home, but because we are currently living in an apartment waiting for our house to be built I would prefer to deliver at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.

Describe ideal labour environment.

The type of labour environment I hope to construct will involve the following items for optimal relaxation:

  • ability to walk around
  • dim lighting
  • soothing music playing
  • private room (if possible)
  • personal items (blanket, pillow, robe)
  • lavendar aromatherapy

Who Do I want Present?

I would like my husband, Kyle and my doula, Karen to be present during labour and delivery.

Is there a special birthing apparatus and/or position that appeals to me?

Some birthing positions that appeal to me include:

  • kneeling on the lower part of bed with arms or upper body resting on upper section
  • on all fours with stomach facing down, supported by hands and knees

Both these positions help to relieve backaches which I am expecting to have plenty of. If there are other positions that relieve backaches and are more natural/gravity-centered please share with me!

Other birthing preferences

  • intermittent external fetal monitoring
  • internal vaginal exams every 2-4 hours after active labour begins
  • no pain relief medication – only pain management through acupressure and massage (the pain control options include narcotics, nitrous oxide, and epidurals)
  • no episiotomy
  • if we have a boy – no circumcision
  • rooming in – keeping the newborn in the hospital room with us unless there are health concerns with the baby
  • delayed cord clamping; we will donate the umbilical cord blood

My doula also recommended taking prenatal classes from the Prairie Birth Collective. We have signed up for the “six-week birth preparedness class. Topics will include childbirth principles and history, signs and symptoms of labour, childbirth choices, breathing and relaxation, the coach’s role, medications, breastfeeding, postpartum, as well as early childhood literacy.”

Learning about labour and delivery from these resources has been instrumental in helping me shape the kind of birthing experience I value and appreciate.

From strollers to onesies and everything in between

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Pregnancy Update: I have fully recovered from the cat bite and I am finished the antibiotics. While I was on them I felt awful for over a week. Now that I am done them I have renewed energy and have been enjoying the pregnancy a whole lot more!

Development: I am 19 weeks along today! The fetus is approximately 6 inches long and about half of a pound – the size of a mango! Now the fetus is covered in head-to-toe vernix caseosa which protects them from the amniotic fluid. The fetus’ legs have also gone through a growth spurt which can create more movement in the uterus.

Check out this video that explains how the internal organs change throughout pregnancy. It is pretty cool!

Symptoms: difficulty sleeping, dehydrated, shortness of breath, and general discomfort caused by my growing belly.

As Christmas approaches, boxing week sales are on the horizon, and as I get closer to my due date I have realized the importance in researching and sourcing all the supplies we will need to bring a newborn home in April. There is so much to think about that I did not expect to be considering while we are shopping. Questions we have been considering include:

  • Will we grow our family into needing a double stroller? Just because we may want to doesn’t mean we will necessarily be able to.
  • Should we buy the cleaning supplies to keep a circumcized are clean? Are we having a boy? Are we going to circumcise?
  • Should we be looking more for deals on these items so that we don’t break the bank? Concerns about how much of my wages will be covered between EI and my work top up.

I looked over the suggested supply lists on a number of sites and found two sites that covered a lot of the essentials. I cross-examined these lists and others to determine what supplies and what quantities make the most sense. See below for a fairly comprehensive list.

As you can see we have only been able to get a stroller, car seat, and crib so far. We have a lot more items to get before baby comes and this requires a significant amount of time and energy to source good quality, ethical (if possible), and affordable items.

So, if you have any ideas of where to pick things up in Saskatoon, Regina, or online that are free, second-hand, or otherwise, it would be greatly appreciated. Or, if you have any other suggested items that you could not have gotten through the first six months or so without, do tell!

Thanks for reading!

During pregnancy, is it safe to treat infections from animal bites with antibiotics???

On Saturday night I was playing board games at a friend’s place and was petting their cat. After playing a couple games of Settlers of Catan we switched games and during the intermission I spent some time giving the cat some pets. Unfortunately, as I turned and looked away momentarily the little monkey bit my hand.

Photo Credit: Cheryl Marland

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Not thinking too much of it, I began to pull away and he sank his teeth in further and punctured my skin. I have grown up with pets my whole life and am confident in reading their body language…but in that moment that I looked away, he got upset, and I didn’t notice until it was too late.

 

 

I regularly play with animals, but never has my skin actually been punctured to the point of bleeding, with exception to the odd scratch that bleeds for a short time. I was upset with myself for not paying attention and it reminded me how quickly things can become dangerous with animals if you aren’t paying attention. This was a good reminder for me to consider the health and safety of both animals and baby as we bring a baby into a family with a cat and dog.

The puncture wound immediately started to hurt, so I cleaned it out with soap and water. After a few hours my hand was swollen and was burning up. It was clear that it was infected, but I didn’t know what to do or take because I was pregnant. When we got home, my husband suggested I ice my hand and try to sleep. In the morning it hurt so badly and I had limited mobility in half of my hand. I decided to go to the walk-in clinic to get treatment.

The doctor took this issue quite seriously and asked me a number of questions about the cat and about my vaccinations. Fortunately, I was up-to-date on tetanus and actually had the rabies vaccine in 2015. This was good news because the risk of serious infection without the vaccines is more significant.

Now, it was time to get a prescription for an antibiotic to fight off the infection. The doctor explained the drug to me (Amoxicillin 875MG and Clavulan 875/125MG) and said that this drug could be harmful to the fetus, causing issues with its bowel development.

I hoped to stay away from all drugs that can be dangerous for a fetus and wanted to know if this prescription was the best option for me. I called my brother, who is a pharmacist, and he explained that this drug is probably the safest option for women who are pregnant since the drug is less dangerous for women who are in their second trimesters. Lucky for me, I am, and can rest a little easier knowing that the risk of complications for the fetus is low.

As winter sets in and cold and flu season arrives I am curious what over-the-counter drugs or alternative remedies/healing practices others have used to treat their symptoms during pregnancy. If you have any suggestions I am eager to learn.

Thanks for reading!

Fit(ness) as a state of being during pregnancy…

Pregnancy Update: 16 weeks along and feeling great!

Development: the fetus is between 3-4 ounces and 4-5 inches long. It’s muscles are growing, their eyes function, and the fetus is getting more and more sensitive to touch.

Symptoms: headaches, constipation, gas, and bloating.

In efforts to continue this healthy pregnancy I wanted to learn more about fitness activities I am interested in and can do while pregnant. As an Ultimate Frisbee competitor I am not used to inactivity, however during the first trimester I was not feeling up to doing much.

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Now that I have more energy in my second trimester I am excited to get back to exercising! I searched several websites to learn about safety concerns and precautions when exercising during pregnancy. Learn more about some of the myths.

In order to get me through the winter months I have decided to get a membership to the YMCA. There, I will take prenatal exercise classes when they are offered and otherwise try and do activities from the following routines.

I am interested in doing some yoga, strength training, and meditation throughout my 2-3rd trimesters.

Yoga and Cardio – I will plan on doing yoga and cardio 3 days a week. and then the strength training two days a week.

                                                     via Fit Momma Clean Baby

Strength Training – I will plan on doing strength training two days a week and using either workout plan.

via Fit Momma Clean Baby

Meditation – I will work on my meditation practice 2 days a week until I am 8 months along in the pregnancy. In the last month I will increase the amount that I meditate to 3-4 days a week.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for how well I keep up with this fitness plan. If you know of any videos for pregnancy exercises or meditation please share!

Food consciousness for a healthy pregnancy

Just when I thought it would never come, I made it to the second trimester!

Pregnancy Update: I am feeling much better than I felt in the first trimester and my appetite is back. It is as if a major brain fog has lifted and I am better able to re-engage with the world.

Development: the fetus is about the size of a fist, and is developing hair, straightening out, and the left and right hemisphere of its brain is developing.

Symptoms: bloating, gas, constipation. More energy and less nausea – starting to feel like myself again!                            Source: Wikimedia

However, my body is changing and it is hard getting used to it. When I bend down to tie my shoes I lose my breath; after I eat I get hungry again almost right away and if I don’t feast I am super moody; when I see something that triggers happiness or sadness I weep; etc. All this to say, I feel like my hormones are so wacky right now and I think nutrition and exercise will help keep me more balanced.

In order to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby I need to learn more about good nutrition during my 2nd and 3rd trimesters.

By simply doing a Google search on ‘pregnancy nutrition’ there are many articles that come up that provide suggestions for how to gain weight, eat well, and warnings not to pack on too many pounds during pregnancy. It is all quite overwhelming.

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In order to get a better sense of how much weight I should be gaining, so that I can avoid pre-term labour or a baby with a low-birth weight, I went to visit the What to Expect website. They suggest the first step is to determine my Body Mass Index (BMI). Since I started my pregnancy at 128 pounds, in the normal weight range (22.7 BMI) I am supposed to gain 3-4 pounds in the first trimester, 14 pounds in the second, and 10 pounds in the third. Based on this calculation, by April 2018 I should be a healthy weight of 158 pounds.

How am I going to put on all of this weight in healthy ways?

Pregnant or not, I have never followed the old or new version of Canada’s Food Guide. However, since I need to eat for me and a fetus I want to make sure I am following a trusted source on Canadian nutrition. Health Canada suggests that Canadians eat the following servings of food each day and it is broken down by sex and age. The new version does not have specifications for pregnant women.

Now that I am equipped with the knowledge of how much food I need to eat based on the food guide and how much weight I need to gain, now all I needed was a food tracker or menu planner. I looked at a couple of websites to try and find one that would work for me, and then I came acress the Eat Right Ontario Weekly Menu Planner, which served my needs.

This website was such a useful tool! Once I was done the process of developing my menu, I received a 40 page report of my selections along with a grocery list and recipes to go with these meals. I plan on getting groceries the rest of this week and begin prepping the foods so that I can begin this diet on Sunday.

If you have any healthy vegetarian recipes that align with my diet (daily servings) please share them!!

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Unsolicited advice…take it or leave it

My readers have requested that I share some coping strategies for dealing with unsolicited advice from strangers or loved ones.

In the first trimester, often when people would approach me or would show their excitement for my pregnancy it would be difficult to engage nicely because of how terrible I was feeling. At that time I had not found effective ways to cope with advice and my reaction to it was negative and sometimes hostile, which made me to feel like a bad person.

More and more, I am understanding why people don’t share their pregnancy news before the second trimester. It is not only because of the risks or complications during that time, but also because pregnant women often do not have the energy or emotional endurance to handle others’ excitement or questions. Or, at least that is my experience.

There is a lot of pretty funny and sometimes still hostile ways the online community suggests to deal with the unwanted advice, however I did find the suggestions offered in the blog Dealing with Unwanted Advice particularly useful. They suggest that you:

  1. Use your poker face;
  2. Be honest;
  3. Keep your sense of humor;
  4. Be vague;
  5. Turn it back on them.

Now that I am feeling better I am happier to discuss the pregnancy and less reluctant to dismiss the advice I am given. Basically my coping strategy has been to change my reaction to people and take what they say with a grain of salt while showing appreciation for their interest.

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My next blog is going to talk about nutrition during pregnancy. I am soliciting your advice on good strategies for healthy eating during pregnancy. Please share if you have thoughts on this.

Thanks for reading!

Anxiety leading up to the 12 week ultrasound!?!

Pregnancy Update: I have been feeling anxious for my first (12 week) ultrasound. There is a significant amount of pressure for pregnant women to have healthy pregnancies and babies.

This pressure comes is both self-inflicted and from society where women are given many do’s and don’ts during pregnancy.

My fears involve whether I am lifting or exercising too much, resting enough, or eating/drinking the wrong thing or getting enough of the right things. These fears can be paralyzing for the result could be low birth weight, birth defects, malnourishment, and miscarriage.

Over the last month, at least, I have been fairly inactive in part because I am exhausted, but also          via Giphy   

because I am afraid that if I do too much I could harm the fetus. It is clear that I have some knowledge to gain about proper nutrition and exercise during pregnancy. If you have been pregnant or have been the cook for someone who is pregnant, what tools did you use to ensure a nutritious diet and exercise plan? If you have any thoughts or resources on how to exercise and eat well while pregnant please share and stay tuned to future blogs where I will explore these ideas!   

So, I am excited for the next trimester and am anxious for the results of the first ultrasound and hope to learn whether the fetus is healthy. In order to prepare for the ultrasound I evaluated my level of knowledge about ultrasounds by taking a quiz. Find out what you know about ultrasounds by taking the quiz at BabyCenter.ca

Development: between week 11 and 13 the fetus’ body is straightening out; hair follicles, finger and toe nail beds form; they no longer have webbed hands; ovaries are developing if it is a girl; the intestines develop inside the umbilical cord; and there is vocal cord development. (Source: What to Expect When You Are Expecting, 5th Edn.)

Symptoms: fatigue, headaches, constipation, bloating, and some nausea, but less than the previous weeks.

On October 6th I went for the first ultrasound and learned that based on the size and length of the fetus, it is 12 weeks and 2 days along in its development. It’s heart beats 161 times per minute and it is 5.6 cm long.

During the ultrasound we did a nuchal translucency screening in order to determine whether the fetus has any early signs of Down Syndrome or other health concerns.

I feel very lucky to be able to report that there were no concerns with the screening and so far the fetus is healthy! In order to celebrate I thought I would share a pretty funny video that my classmate, and supermom, Coralee Czinkota mentionted to me in a blog comment. Enjoy!

Solidarity Throughout Pregnancy

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Between the 7th and 9th week of my pregnancy a blood test confirmed that I was pregnant and at this point the embryo is changing in size from a blueberry, to a raspberry (raspbaby), and again to a medium green olive – something actually tangible.

Symptoms include: breast tenderness, fatigue, headaches, dry heaving, nausea, constipation, gas, and bloating.

Development: heartbeat, lips, nose, eyelids, legs, and the head and muscles develop more. (Source: What to Expect When You Are Expecting, 5th Edn.)

Learning about it’s size and development was an important step in making the experience real. It is such a strange thing, transitioning from drinking a glass of wine and coffee on a semi-regular basis and playing competitive sports to instantly changing eating, drinking, and fitness habits.

I noticed right away how much anxiety I was having over the pregnancy because I started to drive well-below the speed limit and sleeping/resting probably more than I needed to. This realization that my life will no longer be the same came as such a surprise. As I watched my husband drink a cold beer, enjoy his morning coffee, go and play basketball with his friends, I started to feel jealous and lonely that I could no longer participate in the lifestyle we shared not too long ago. His life didn’t have to change instantly and he was able to just be excited about the idea of having a baby.                                    Photo Credit: DarnKid

These frustrations coupled with the intense feelings of isolation are scary and can be divisive. It is obvious that it is not his fault in any way for living his life, however, I needed some tools to help me understand how I was feeling about the changes in my lifestyle. I wanted to make sure that when I bring up the topic I don’t sound super hormonal, but it seems like that might be inevitable.

I searched some online blogs and came across a helpful article that identifies 15 Great Ways to Support her During Pregnancy, and the second point suggested,

“She may have given up smoking, stopped drinking alcohol, switched to a healthier diet and started doing more regular exercise. Help her out by making these changes too.”

I think it goes a long way to show your partner support by changing your lifestyle to match how her lifestyle has changed. In my relationship, we both wanted to have a baby and so this showing of solidarity throughout the experience seems like an important piece.

10 Weeks Pregnant

At 10 weeks pregnant the embryo is 1.5 inches – the size of a prune. At this stage it graduates from and embryo to a fetus.  Bones and cartilage are forming (indents for knees and elbows), teeth are forming under the gums, or the stomach begins producing digestive juices, kidneys produce more urine, and the male testes produce progesterone. (Source: What to Expect When You Are Expecting, 5th Edn.) What a busy week of development!

TIP: Here is a tip for anyone who just found out they are pregnant and are beginning to experience symptoms. My friend told me once that when she was pregnant and her husband asked her how she was feeling, she would describe it, as if it were a hangover. So, on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is can’t get out of bed for days hung over, you can relate how you are feeling in a way that might make some sense (food averse, gas, bloating, indigestion, nausea, etc.).

Thanks for reading!

Nothing Could Have Prepared Me For How I Feel in the First Trimester

Nothing could have prepared me for the first trimester of my first pregnancy. My husband and I were ready to have a baby, but didn’t know whether I was pregnant or just had the flu until my 5th week. I took a pregnancy test to confirm my suspicion and then immediately searched for information about what to expect in my first trimester.

After searching for a description that accurately reflects most of what I am experiencing I found a blog post written by Celeste Erlach on the blog site Pregnant Chicken. Her article, Symptoms of Pregnancy No One Wants to Talk About – 1st Trimester Edition resonates with me and entertainingly describes her experience of morning sickness, fatigue, constipation, bloating, and self-doubt. Check it out!

Friends and family had told me that all pregnancies are different and women will experience the symptoms differently. I learned very quickly that I would be one of those pregnant women experiencing all of the symptoms. It actually feels like the embryo is sucking the life out of you and as I near the end of the first trimester I am less hopeful the symptoms will subside. Sure, I am a bit grumpy about it. I didn’t realize how hard it would be on my body or my emotions, and my husband can hardly believe the mood swings and exhaustion. So far, pregnancy has been a frustrating experience because I am:

  • hungry, but have no interest in food;
  • unable to get as much done in a day;
  • disinterested in most things except for watching Netflix;
  • unfocused and forgetful;
  • utterly exhausted after doing what seems like nothing compared to pre-pregnancy;
  • uncomfortably able to fit into my clothes;
  • upset by unsolicited advice, mostly when it is from strangers;
  • uncertain and not feeling like myself;
  • temperamental; and feel like a baby in need of frequent naps, bathroom breaks, and consoling.

Every time I feel a bit frustrated by my current state I read in my What to Expect When You Are Expecting book, by Heidi E. Murkoff, about what parts of the embryo are developing and re-connect with the miracle of creating another human. At week 5 the heart and circulatory system begin to take shape and in just two weeks the embryo has developed a heartbeat, kidneys, liver, and lungs, lips, nose, eyelids, jaws, cheeks, chin, ear canals, mouth and tongue, arm and leg buds.

Photo: credit via Ed Uthman

Amazing! This humbling experience teaches me to be patient with myself and hope that my husband, family, and friends will be too.