Tuesday, April 16, 2013

28 weeks later

Are women who say they love being pregnant, that it is a 'lovely', 'special' time, to be believed?

I suspect these sentiments are uttered because 1) they are easy to say in hindsight and make one sound positive and healthy 2) society pressurises women to believe being pregnant is some sort of natural state in which to languish.

But, then, I tend to assume that everybody must, at some level, be just like me... and often I'm wrong. Perhaps I am more of a grumbling old softie than the average gal. Perhaps some women really enjoy the whole physical process.

Having had a remarkably straightforward twin pregnancy thus far (28.5 weeks - it can only get worse!!) I have not enjoyed any of it. I am grateful and happy we have twins on the way. I enjoy the thought of them growing. Most of the time, I am very excited about their arrival in our lives. I am glad that I am pregnant. But do I enjoy the sensations and symptoms of pregnancy? No, no, no! How could I?!

Minor complaints: One gets fat and heavy - this is a novelty and source of amusement. One can't eat and drink certain pleasant things - this is easier than I expected. One is more tired - but only a little. One is continually anxious about the wellbeing of the passengers - I have managed to keep that fairly under control.

Common, relatively insignificant but nonetheless 'Aaaaaaargh' complaints:

At 6 weeks came the sickness. I barely suffered in comparison to some of my friends - only actually vomiting twice and with only a fortnight or so of severe dietary constraint - but I hated it.

Nausea was more or less gone by 14 weeks, with one exception: I can no longer tolerate mint. Tooth brushing is a daily bind.

I have had a blocked nose for the duration and it often bleeds.

Around week 22, I developed unbearably itchy skin on my tummy, breasts, upper legs and upper arms. Possibly PUPP. Mercifully and unexpectedly, this faded after a fortnight. I had tried to steel myself to cope with it until the birth (which seemed likely, given its usual pattern) but admit the prospect of rising to slather on steroid cream / calomile lotion / aloe vera 6 times a night for four months was making me nervous.

Aches and pains in the back, torso and legs multiplied steadily as the weeks went by and now standing, sitting and lying down are all problematic. Putting on socks or getting off the sofa require assistance or incur discomfort. These developments have irritated me since around week 18, when I found I could no longer jog. (Walking for anything up to an hour and swimming remain quite comfortable. Hurrah!)

Today, I am kept entertained by a tummy that feels like a sack of rocks, a crushing sensation on my lungs that (combined with the blocked nose) makes breathing hard, a bladder so squished I wee about 10 times a night, an ongoing battle with constipation, veiny boobs and swollen fingers.

Oh, and there are the non-physical things as well. Most notable, the constant comments about my condition from strangers. I don't want to be uncharitable: it's nice to be talked to. But it can also be intrusive and is extremely repetitive. I could write a week-by-week guide to the things said to you daily at each stage of your pregnancy. One example - at around week 20, the question of the moment is "Can you feel them (it) moving 'yet?". Which, like many of these 'Yet' questions, is pointless and angst-inducing for the woman who must answer 'no'.

The physical symptoms of pregnancy are so all-encompassing that the last thing I want is for every person who speaks to me to reinforce the message that my existence can now be summed up in one word: PREGNANT.

In summary: hats off to all those of you out there who enjoy this time of your lives. Really. If you feel that way, I am full of admiration. I can't wait for it to be over!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Relocation, relocation, relocation!

Here in Edmonton, Alberta just shy of 2 weeks.

It's a funny thing, international travel. In We Need to Talk About Kevin Eva, the travel-writing protagonist, explains to those impressed with her adventurous spirit that she's terrified before every trip: the idea of it overwhelms her. But, in bits, the task is so banal she can manage to get it done: book a ticket; pack a case; get to the airport; board a plane. And these few simple acts, completed one at a time, lead you to a strange place where you just have to exist. I feel a bit like this about the last months and days.

Culture shock or homesickness are the process your body and mind go through in order to catch up with the undeniable reality: the surroundings, habits and people you so recently faced every day are gone. You are confronted with the unfamiliar at every turn, forced to create a new routine and face every person as a stranger.

I've been very fortunate because Jon had done much of the scary admin in the 5 months before my arrival: navigating immigration; finding a home; sorting eligibility for healthcare; making contacts; learning how to cope with the weather; getting used to the transport system etc. Not sure how he managed it all on his own, to be honest. One of those 'had to get on with it' things, I guess.

Two observations, for now:

I am enjoying how laid back and friendly people are. In comparison, encounters with new people in Britain are suspicious: characterised by an "I don't know you yet - prove yourself to me" attitude. Connected with this, there is much more openness in Edmontonian conversation. Generally, those I've met are more talkative and happier to chat away about the trivia of their daily lives than their British counterparts. There's no obvious fear of a 'bovvered?' reaction. As a newcomer, this is welcome. Though my intolerant, cynical national characteristics may kick back in once I feel more settled and everyone starts irritating me!

I am not enjoying the weekly shop.

It is much more expensive so, for example, we buy the cheapest Canola oil rather than olive. There are things you can't get that I'm used to eating / drinking (stock; orange squash; a range of cheeses...)

More importantly: I see now that I was an 'ethical' shopper in the UK because of what was on offer. Fairtrade isn't really a thing here. Almost everything comes packaged in three layers of plastic. (You can get freerange eggs, much more pricey, but they come in a plastic box unlike the battery kind. What to do?!) There is a separate organic supermarket in the city, should one have the money and time to visit it. Similarly, one can buy less environmentally hazardous cleaning products - but it's not without significant consumer sacrifice. In the regular stores organic / envonronmentally-friendly is rare and costly. I haven't to date bothered too much about buying organic (as opposed to ethical) because food standards in the UK are pretty rigorous. But here, 'organic' may mean that your piece of beef or pint of milk has not been pumped full of chemicals and hormones. It may mean your tomato is not an affront-to-nature giant grown in a huge, energy sapping greenhouse.

I find myself concerned about the contents of my dinner, for the first time ever. And worrying about what we will feed the children once they are at that stage.

No doubt the unfamiliarity of it all exaggerates the anxiety. Obesity and strange allergies etc are more of a problem here. An Edmontonian's carbon footprint is huge. And yet people thrive. And if I think things are bad, I can reflect on the situation of our neighbours to the south and realise how good I have it.

If one chooses to live in a place that's a three-hour drive from its nearest neighbour and is under feet of snow for 7 months of the year, one must take some culinary adaptation on the chin.