I somehow managed not to blog for the whole of January, which I guess is an indication of how normally everything is going. A longer than planned update below.
28 week checkup
Everything was fine at my 28 week visit to the midwife at the local health clinic in mid-January. The GP had said at my previous visit that she thought the baby was head down. There’s no scanner at the clinic, so the only way for the midwife to check this out was the old-skool hands-on-the-belly method. Both she (I still don’t know her name, must sort that out) and the trainee midwife palpated my belly so hard and rummaged around so much that I was amazed the baby didn’t wake up and start kicking back. Surprisingly, they couldn’t work out his position – it was just a tangle of limbs apparently. Maybe because the placenta is at the front, who knows.
I have to laugh when I compare the medical facilities here with when I lived in Germany and had to get an ultrasound scan every six months at my gynaecologist just to renew my pill prescription. (An ultrasound on an empty womb always felt a little weird and sad.) But then I remind myself that I’m getting all of this for free, whereas in Germany I was covered by my obligatory, and expensive, private health insurance.
After trying to work out his position, the midwife initially couldn’t find the heartbeat with the Doppler, though I knew all was fine, as he’d been moving around all night. They could hear the swoosh of blood through the placenta, so they also knew everything was okay, but just couldn’t locate his little heartbeat because of whatever way he was lying. The solution was for me to drink a nice, cold glass of water to wake him up and get him moving, after which she found the heartbeat immediately.
I had to go into the public hospital the next day for my anti-D injection, as I’m Rhesus negative. They called this a ‘prophylactic’ injection, which I would have thought meant I was covered if anything happens, but apparently not. If I get a heavy blow to the stomach, have a car accident or fall or similar, I still need to get bloods taken to check if some of the baby’s blood has entered my bloodstream and set off my immune system. After the baby arrives, I’ll get another injection if he’s Rhesus positive, which is probably kind of academic considering I am unlikely to have another baby. This all took place in the fancy-schmancy private wing of the hospital, a brief glance at how the other half lives: no queuing among the bellied hordes to see the lovely nurse, just knock at her office door and go straight in like a princess. Again, not complaining, as I’m not paying a cent for my care.
My set of five antenatal classes (free) also started in January, as did my six pregnancy yoga sessions (€12 per class, bargain), both at the public hospital.
I opted to attend a singles antenatal class, which doesn’t necessarily mean the women have no partners, just that they choose to go to the class solo. I’ve always had a horrifying vision of sitting alone in a class of couples practising breathing exercises lovingly and supportively at each other on the floor, though I’m told apparently this only happens in Hollywood films.
The midwife giving the class was lovely but I found myself getting progressively more irked at her use of the word ‘husband’ throughout the class. I was possibly a bit pre-annoyed, as when I had arrived at the class, there was a man there with his wife/girlfriend, which made me wonder if it truly was a singles class at all, but the poor thing scarpered before the class began when he realised he was the only male there. At every point when she referred to a partner, the midwife used ‘husband’, as in “This will be one of the toughest times in your relationship with your husband.” “Your husband will be able to massage your back during this phase.” “Teach your husband three simple meals so he can prepare dinner when you give birth – and make sure he does the washing up too!”. It was like going back to the 1950s.
I headed down in the lift after the class and then thought to myself, “No way, sister, not for the next four classes”, went back up and knocked on the midwife’s door. Very nicely I said, “I just wanted to mention that I don’t have a partner,” and immediately she replied, “Oh my God, every time I said ‘husband’ I felt I should be saying something else.” I explained that I knew it was complicated these days but that I assumed some of the girls were lesbians and that many probably had a boyfriend, not a husband, even if I was possibly the only one with no partner, and that maybe ‘birth partner’ or some other phrase would work better. I also said that I had used a sperm donor, and she asked if she could note this in my file, which was fine with me. She was very nice and I was glad I had mentioned it.
I arrived a couple of minutes late for the second antenatal class the following week, and when she looked at the register to tick my name off she said “Oh yes!”, at which point I (mistakenly) thought I was about to be single-shamed before the whole group. Happily, during the class, she referred to “partner or birth partner, be that your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your sister, your mother or the man from down the road you go to for massage”, which was maybe overegging it (the man down the road??) but made me smile and feel a lot better.
At the third class, last week, a trainee midwife walked around ticking our names off the sign-up sheet and I noticed the gigantic comment “Donner egg” (like doner kebab but not even that correct) written beside my name. I was going to suggest that she maybe fold the page in half showing only the names but didn’t have the energy, though I did point out it was donor sperm, not a donor egg. If the whole class is going to know how I got knocked up, it might as well be correct. Somehow I don’t think this malarkey conforms with European data protection standards.
I feel like I’m being a bit of a Grinch about all this and trying not to overreact. In the first yoga class the week the antenatal classes started, the teacher, another midwife, made a few comments about partners (not husbands at least) and the baby being made with love hormones and your partner can do this during labour and so on, which I guess is natural, what with most people having partners and getting pregnant that way (as I always expected to), but it did ruin my yoga zen a little. Every week subsequently, I’ve toyed with suggesting she maybe use the term ‘birth partner’ instead but I don’t want to be a pain in the arse and it doesn’t bother me that much.
Other than that, the only thing I have to report is insomnia, which I think is fairly common. I’ve been waking in the middle of the night since some time in the second trimester to go to the toilet (literally the wee hours), and then unable to go back asleep for several hours. It’s not a big deal, as I don’t have to stagger out of bed at the crack of dawn to commute, and I can take a nap in the afternoon if I need to. I heard a girl at yoga mention she was the same and that she was shattered going to work in the morning. It does seem a shame not to be sleeping before the baby arrives, but such is pregnancy. I’ve never been so well informed about world events, as I spend hours listening to BBC World Service and New York public radio (New Hampshire primary tonight!). I read three Scandinavian crime novels (by Anne Holt, the godmother of Nordic noir, apparently) last week just to mix things up a little.
Which is all to say that, my being a grumpy cow and not sleeping brilliantly aside, things are going very well.