The Home Stretch

I never imagined myself being pregnant, let alone being medically able to carry a baby to term. I never saw myself with a newborn. And, yet, here I am, preparing to give birth to Baby Girl on Friday! I’m grateful that a far greater power was at work here, and I know that this was meant to happen.

Quite a few friends and readers have kindly inquired as to how the last month has been for me. To answer the most commonly asked questions:

  • My nesting instinct hasn’t kicked in, but that might have something to do with the fact that I’ve had to focus on a lot of work commitments. (The spring semester ended in early May, and I’m preparing to teach an online class this summer and two classes in the fall.) Over the past week, though, our second bedroom has evolved from a storage room to a nursery. Just in time, right? The walls are now lilac, the baby furniture is white, and the bedding is from Pottery Barn Kids.

  • My migraines thankfully abated, and I haven’t been back to the ER again.  (And, yes, I’m knocking on wood while I type!)
  • I have yet to swell or experience any of the common third trimester side effects. These last weeks have thus been comfortable, and I can easily walk two-three miles a day.
  • I’m still vomiting on an almost daily basis, much like I do when I’m not pregnant. The doctors were slightly concerned about the fact that I hadn’t gained any weight in eight weeks, although the fetus’ weight was in the normal range. I was ordered to eat as much as I could so I’ve been inhaling foods like macaroni and cheese and ice cream that tend not to make me nauseous. I’ve finally started to gain some weight, and the doctors are pleased that I have a bit of a cushion going into my C-section. (I appreciate that this experience isn’t one with which most pregnant women can identify. I feel as though the Weight Gods are balancing everything out since I gained more from three months of steroids during chemotherapy than I have during my entire pregnancy.)
  • My belly has finally gone past my boobs so I clearly look pregnant now.  Several close friends who don’t live in the area have indicated how much they regret not being able to see me pregnant. I’m never sure how to respond to that since I view pregnancy as a means to an end. Please comment if you get the allure of the belly!
  • I’m fortunately sleeping well at night. (I’m sure it helps that I was used to getting up several times throughout the night before I was pregnant.) It’s an added bonus that I can also still sleep on my stomach.
  • Since February, I've felt Braxton Hicks (or false) contractions when I've vomited excessively. Aside from that, I haven’t had any contractions. The procedure is still scheduled for the 31st, but I'll let you know if anything changes!

Until my next post, please know how thankful I am for all the love, concern and support! xoxo

Preferred Parking for Expectant Moms

As we drove up to the baby store, The Man noticed the parking spots for expectant mothers at the front of the lot and went to pull into one.

“No way!” I exclaimed with a chuckle. “I’m pregnant. I’m not an invalid. I’m cancer free. I’m not using one of those spaces.”

I’ve used similar lines to reason with loved ones about the fact that I can walk a few miles a day, lift boxes and drive wherever I need to. Despite my health concerns and the fact that my pregnancy is high risk, I’ve been fortunate (knock on wood) to have had an easy pregnancy.

The issue of parking spaces for expectant mothers has been on my mind of late, though. In a trip to a shopping mall on a busy Saturday night, my friend assumed that I would take one of the preferred parking spaces. I didn’t feel right doing so.

My thoughts inspired the following Facebook status update:

I shake my head and keep driving every time I see preferred parking spaces for expectant moms. Barring extreme complications, pregnancy is not a disability. Let's give preferred parking spots to people with health conditions that aren't a choice!

The online discussion that ensued was an interesting one. To highlight the major points:

  • If pregnant women need or want the spots, then why should anyone question their existence? 
  • I qualified for temporary disability due to a pregnancy-related condition, but didn't feel comfortable asking for a disability placard. I was thankful for those spots so I didn't have to use a handicapped space.
  • I’m pregnant, and I would never take advantage of these spots. 
  • I wish these spots existed when I was pregnant! 
  • Everyone’s situation is different so we shouldn’t judge. 
  • People will always take advantage of these types of things – pregnant or not. 
  • Wouldn’t it make more sense to have parking spaces for new moms? 

Offline comments included that these spaces are merely a marketing tool and how resentful several friends feel about these spots existing.

The discussion also prompted me to think about why these spots bother me. The answer is two-fold:

1. As someone who had cancer, I would have loved preferred parking spots for me back then! (Last month, I was in the ER twice, threw up almost daily and had bronchitis. That month was a walk in the park compared to how I felt post-chemotherapy!)

I wish there were preferred spaces for people who are having a really rough health day for whatever reason. I realize, though, that some people who aren't ill or limited in their mobility would unfortunately take advantage of these spots!

2. As a feminist and attorney, I worry that special treatment for all expectant mothers might have negative repercussions. Discrimination against women in the workplace is often insidious. Working females of a certain age are still placed on the “Mommy Track,” regardless of whether they have or desire to have children. There are laws in place to protect against pregnancy discrimination, and women who are experiencing difficult pregnancies are entitled to temporary disability protection. But, if there’s the perception that all pregnant women – not just women with pregnancy-related medical conditions – require special treatment like preferred parking, could that be a detriment to working women?

I don’t know the answer to that question. In the meantime, though, I’m going to keep driving around the parking garage in search of a spot, feeling thankful that I don't need the preferred parking and questioning whether these spaces are beneficial on a macro level.

What are your thoughts on preferred parking spaces for expectant moms?

The ‘S’ Word

Over the years, I’ve thrown quite a few baby showers for friends. Some have been simple, while others have been elaborate with budgets that would cause you to raise your eyebrows. Since I love party planning and babies, I've liked serving as a shower hostess.

When it came to celebrating Baby Girl’s arrival, though, I cringed every time someone mentioned the ‘S’ word.

“You HAVE to have a shower!” several friends implored. “That’s what people do!”

“When have you ever known me to do something because of others?” I replied.

“You’ll need so many things for the baby!” a few exclaimed.

“It seems presumptuous for me to have an event where there’s an expectation that people buy me gifts. I also don’t like the thought of having the friends who will help when she’s here spending all this money on throwing me a shower and getting me gifts,” I responded.

“Don’t you want to be celebrated?” two friends inquired.

“I know I’m open about a lot of things, but I don’t want to be the center of attention because I’m pregnant,” I commented.

As more and more friends approached me about a possible shower, I realized that some of this was about them…and that wasn’t a bad thing. Many of these friends had been through a lot with me over the past three years. Now, we had something – and someone – to celebrate!

So, while at Peacock Café for lunch, a few dear friends and I talked about an event to fete the upcoming arrival of Baby Girl.

“What about an evening cocktail reception?” one friend asked, as I nodded my head in agreement.

“Co-ed!” another friend exclaimed, as she knew that I’d want The Man and several close guy friends there.

I smiled and exhaled, thinking to myself that this sounded like fun! The hostesses also respected my wishes not to: 1) have games; 2) have decorations; or 3) open gifts in front of everyone. (I always feel like the latter is an awkward waste of time that could be better spent enjoying each other’s company!)

The reception was held last weekend, and I’m still smiling because of it! Picture forty good friends in a large private room with a bar, hor d’oeuvres, whoopie pies, and lounge music. When the crowd dwindled down, the lounge music was turned off, and the dance party began! Although the reception was supposed to end at 8pm, some of us didn’t leave until 10:45pm!

With the fabulous hostesses and dessert maker

They snuck a belly shot in!

Photo Credits: Kipp Burgoyne Photography

Thanks to the wonderful hostesses and all who attended for their love, support and generosity! The fact that I made it through a shower-esque event without playing baby games or having to wear a hat made of bows was icing on the cake ;).

What are your thoughts on baby showers?

Have you gone to one that you particularly enjoyed?

ER Round Two

During my last sonogram two weeks ago, Baby Girl weighed in at four pounds and one ounce. The average fetal weight at 31 weeks is three pounds and five ounces. Given Dr. Real Deal’s concerns that her weight would be below average, this was wonderful news!

Although not problematic, my weight is far from ideal. In eight weeks, I’ve only gained two pounds. That’s not the norm at this stage of pregnancy. On the one hand, my doctors aren’t too concerned since Baby Girl is growing so well. On the other hand, they'd feel better if I gained some weight as a cushion.

My health over the past month resembles my pre-pregnancy and pre-cancer health. I get sick on an almost daily basis. On those days when I’m also hit with a migraine, I get dehydrated very quickly since I don’t have much in the reserves.

On Monday morning, I woke up dry heaving and didn’t have any luck keeping crackers or ginger ale down. I threw myself a pity party in the bathroom for a few minutes, as I tried to figure out how I would be able to get through these bad health days while caring for a newborn.  For some odd reason, I decided to pull up my Facebook feed in the midst of everything else and saw this image:

As has been a recurring theme in my life, I was reminded yet again that the opposite of fear is faith. My tears subsided, as did the pity party. The vomiting unfortunately continued.

Later that afternoon, I ended up in the ER for dehydration. I highly doubt I would have needed to go to the ER two times in two weeks if I had been able to take my very strong migraine medicine while pregnant. IV fluids, along with pain and anti-nausea medications, helped break this migraine cycle, but there's concern that a pattern is developing. I can resume my old migraine medicine after she arrives on May 31st, but my doctors and I hope that I'm not in and out of the ER until then.

While I was in the hospital, the ER doctor checked Baby Girl’s heartbeat, and thankfully all is well. Her strength continues to give me strength, and I’m constantly reminded of His strength. Any mother you talk to has to juggle many balls in the air at once. Once Baby Girl is here, I’ll have to do the same. I’m not exactly sure how it will work out, but I have faith that it will.

Defying the Odds

“Oh My God! Your belly is so big!”

Lately, I've heard that comment from several friends. I typically respond with silence and an eye roll. Do people think that they have to say something about my belly and my weight because I’m pregnant? (It’s the cancer equivalent of telling a patient, “You look great!” when that’s far from the case.)

Unsolicited thoughts about a woman’s weight — whether or not she's pregnant — are unnecessary at a minimum and cruel at a maximum. Health, not size or build, is what we should hold in high regard!

When I found out I was able to try to carry to term, I assumed that I gain a lot of weight while pregnant. (My metabolism is still messed up from the steroids that I was given during chemotherapy.) Nonetheless, I reasoned that if I made it through the pregnancy and my baby was healthy, then some extra pounds weren't anything to worry about.

My health and the fetus' health continue to be my priorities, but I surprisingly find myself on the low end of the pregnancy weight gain spectrum. I’m 7 ½ months pregnant, and I’ve only gained 14 pounds. (The average woman gains between 25 and 35 pounds during nine months.)

In four weeks between February and March, I only gained two pounds. Thankfully, Baby Girl weighed in slightly bigger than average at 2.5 pounds. My OBs weren't very concerned about my weight since her fetal weight was healthy, although I was advised to try to eat more.  

Over the past ten days, the doctors' concerns have unfortunately increased. The reason? Several of my chronic health issues (migraines, nausea and vomiting) have resurfaced. The migraines and vomiting were so bad for almost four days that I became dehydrated. Last Monday, my doctor recommended that I go to the ER for IVs. Being in the hospital for these symptoms wasn’t new for me, but I kept worrying about Baby Girl. Would she have enough nutrients to gain enough weight for her healthy development?

Surprisingly, no one in the ER checked on the fetus. The doctor didn’t listen for a heartbeat or order an ultrasound. But, I did receive the fluids and medications that I needed for proper hydration and for the migraine to break. I still found myself stressed about Baby Girl's health, though. I took comfort in the fact that I happened to have a sonogram already on the books.

Two days later, I headed off to my ultrasound. After the radiology technician had taken all of her measurements, he asked me how much I thought she weighed.

“I don’t want to guess. I’m just praying that she’s at least three pounds,” I said I as I exhaled. (Three pounds would be on the low end of the range, but not low enough to warrant concern.)

He paused before exclaiming, “She is!”

“Really?!?” I asked, as I smiled and exhaled.

“She’s four pounds, one ounce,” he informs me.

“You’re kidding me!!!” I yelp as tears begin to fill my eyes. "FOUR pounds?!?"

Despite how little I have been keeping down, Baby Girl is in the 73rd percentile for fetal weight. 

Keep growing as you have been, Baby Girl, and keep defying the odds!

Thar She Blows!

Many women complain about the side effects that they experience during pregnancy. For the majority of women who haven’t had to deal with major health issues before pregnancy, these side effects can be disconcerting at a minimum and debilitating at a maximum.

That thankfully hasn’t been my experience with pregnancy, though. I’m used to dealing with health issues on a daily basis so the changes haven’t fazed me. And, I have (knocking on wood) had a very good pregnancy. As the doctors expected, I’m healthier pregnant than not. What health issues I have to deal with in a given week are lighter versions of what I experienced pre-pregnancy and pre-cancer.

Well, all except for one side effect…

And, it’s an embarrassing problem to admit.

I’ve turned into a snorer!

When I was told that I had been snoring, I was incredulous! I’ve never snored for more than a few minutes on a rare occasion throughout my life! (I didn't even snore when I had mild sleep apnea in the early 2000s!) I half jokingly asked for proof that I snore.

"I want to hear it for myself!"

Next time, I'll be careful what I wish for! The evidence – in the form of a short audio recording – was compiled. The recording was played for me. At first, the snoring was mild, but then it became loud. Really loud! Think of snoring full of vibrato!

I immediately started blushing and shaking my head in disbelief. I was really snoring, although I fervently wished it wasn't me!

The following day, I went online and learned that snoring during pregnancy is common. According to,

  • 25% of women experience frequent snoring during pregnancy; and
  • Snoring occurs more often during the third trimester.

Why is that? Well, during pregnancy, there’s an increase of blood and estrogen in a woman’s body. Both can cause swelling in the mucus and nasal membranes. (That might explain why I’ve been congested since December!)

I don't snore every time I sleep, but it does occur at least once every few nights. I haven’t tried to elevate my head when I sleep to alleviate the problem so I’ll give that a shot.

I’m hoping that the snoring abates after I give birth. I’m also hoping that recording magically disappears!

How She’s Doing in There?

At my bi-monthly sonograms, I continue to smile and laugh out loud at what Little Bit does. She clearly does not wish to be disturbed in there and will do her best to evade the ultrasound wand. During recent appointments, she again tried to swat the wand away. When the technician didn't move the wand, she put both hands up in front of her face in "Put Up Your Dukes" fashion.

Using 4D ultrasound technology, the technician has tried to obtain a clear look at the front of her face on numerous occasions. She hasn't cooperated, though, only showing us 2/3 of her face.

When no one is bothering Little Bit, she’s actually very calm. She flutters at times, which feels like popcorn is lightly popping in my stomach. She's already 15" and three pounds so she does shift positions from time-to-time. I've felt her hiccups and gas bubbles, but I generally don't notice much activity.

In almost 30 weeks, I've only felt her truly kick a total of three times. Friends who are moms describe feeling their babies-to-be kick as the best feeling in the world. I just find it odd and jarring. When I initially felt her kick, I was teaching a class on Feminism as part of my 50 Shades Trilogy course. I let out an, “Ohhhh!” because the sensation caught me off guard. (And, yes, I have to chuckle that the first time I feel a hard kick from her is when I’m talking about feminism. She really is my daughter!)

Thankfully, my pregnancy has been uneventful…with one exception…

On the last day of our vacation, my neurological issues were in full effect. I awoke throwing up and couldn’t stop for several hours. I was so dehydrated that I started having false contractions, also known as Braxton-Hicks contractions. As the day progressed, the contractions lessened, but the experience still concerned me. I feared that something was wrong and that I would end up having to deliver in an island hospital. (Granted, the island had a very well-respected neonatal department, but at the time, I didn’t find that comforting.)

As I boarded the plane back to DC that evening, I said a prayer that I would be home soon and she would be okay. I happened to have a sonogram already scheduled for the following day so I learned that all was indeed well. I hope not to get dehydrated again in the future, but if that happens, I know what Braxton-Hicks contractions feel like.

There's typically not a correlation between a fetus' activity inside the womb and how a child is outside of the womb. Nonetheless, I still find myself wondering, if she'll be stubborn like she is during the sonograms or calm like she is the rest of the time. If she's healthy when she arrives on May 31st, though, that's all that matters!

Pregnant After Cancer

I’m not a fan of pregnancy websites.

I haven’t bought a single book about pregnancy or parenting.

I have little interest in receiving well-intentioned advice from my friends who are moms. Likewise, I'm not one for rejoicing or commiserating much with my friends who are pregnant.

With only three months left to my pregnancy, I only just started a registry.

People who don't realize how much experience I have with infant and child care misperceive my actions – or lack thereof – as denial or uncertainty. I don’t think it’s either.

I’m pregnant after cancer.

More accurately, I’m pregnant:

I’m charting my own unique path yet again. In doing so, I’m trying to navigate the joys and fears of expecting a baby after cancer.

The joys are numerous, and I recognize what a blessing and miracle this is! My body defied the odds to conceive naturally at my age following chemotherapy-induced menopause. And, I’ve thankfully had a great pregnancy thus far. The doctors couldn’t be happier with how she’s developing and how my health is faring. For the first time in my life, I'm hearing words like, "perfect" and "better than normal," in reference to my health!

I also find myself far less stressed than the overwhelming majority of my pregnant friends. I’m used to changes with my health, my weight, my activity level, and my sleep. Doctors’ appointments were already a part of my weekly routine, and I’m actually taking fewer vitamins now than before I was pregnant. Listening to my body, heeding my doctors’ advice, and restricting my schedule as needed have been my default modes.

The concerns that accompany being pregnant after cancer also seem more pronounced.  A cancer patient’s risk of recurrence drops noticeably after five years in remission, and I’m not even halfway to that milestone. I’ve had health issues since I was a baby, and three of my conditions have a genetic component. The doctors also believe that my mom and I carried a genetic predisposition for breast cancer with a gene that has yet to be discovered.

To add another layer to the mix, I am an only child. My daughter will be an only child. I lost my mom to cancer when I was 24 years old. I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 37. (I could have easily titled this post, “Pregnant After Losing Your Mom To Cancer and Then Having Cancer.”)

I know that I will raise my daughter to be aware and proactive about her health. But, I pray that she doesn’t have my genes, as I simultaneously hope that medicine continues to advance with each passing year.

Those concerns exist, but they’re on my mind far less than the larger fear:

That my cancer will return and I won’t be around to watch my daughter grow up.

There, I said it. It doesn’t make the fear any less scary. It doesn’t mean that I have any more control over the situation. But, it’s one explanation for why I’m going to view pregnancy differently from most.

Yes, I’m grateful to be in remission. But, 30% of breast cancers return in a metastatic form. The women who must face a Stage IV recurrence have just as much fight and faith (if not more!) as those whose cancer doesn’t return.

After reading a post from Lisa Adams in which she describes talking to her teenage daughter about her metastatic breast cancer, I sat in front of my laptop and sobbed. I have the same reaction when I read Facebook posts from my friend with a Stage IV recurrence. She just wants to be with her children as much as she can for as long as she can.

I feel my fear when it hits me. I cry for a few minutes. I say a prayer and trust in God's plan. And then, I move on. There’s only so much emotional energy I can devote to the unknown…or a registry…or a pregnancy side effect. I don’t know any other way to be.

Why I Dislike Maternity Pants

Some women swear by maternity clothes, claiming that they’re so comfortable that they wish they could wear them long after they’re pregnant.

I do not ascribe to this view.

Pregnancy websites attempt to persuade women to start shopping for maternity clothes in their first trimester. By the second trimester, these sites claim that even if a woman doesn’t need to wear maternity clothes, she’ll probably feel better if she does. Talk about pressure to conform and spend even more money while you’re pregnant!

I just entered the third trimester, and I’ve worn maternity pants on four separate occasions. Total.

Why haven’t I wanted to wear maternity clothes? For the simple reason that I haven’t found them to be comfortable at all!

See, maternity pants have a layer of fabric that go over your belly. The extra material just makes your mid section look bigger and doesn't fall inconspicously under any tops. Why would I want to accentuate that area more? And, since I'm tall, if I wear maternity pants over my belly, they look like they're cropped above my ankles.

Maternity Leggings

On vacation two weeks ago, I wore maternity pants one day on the trip. That was the only day I received comments from people at the hotel about being pregnant. Let's do a photo recap to help prove my point.

stef woods, city girl blogs,

My shirt falls naturally over my bump while I'm playing tourist.

Two days later, wearing the same top in a different color with maternity pants underneath. See how the top of the pants draws more attention to the belly? I also had discomfort in my low back after only a few hours since the material is confining. (I didn't do as much walking on this day either. It really was just the pants!)

For those of you who find maternity pants to be comfortable, great! Do — and wear — what works for you! Likewise, I appreciate that some women want to draw attention to their baby bumps. I'm just not one of them. For now, I'll keep my eyes out for the few brands of low-rise maternity pants on the market and continue to wear the few non-maternity pants that still fit for as long as I can.

Halfway There

I had hoped for a photograph from my 18-week sonogram that was worth showing a few loved ones. That didn’t happen, though. Instead, I was given an ultrasound picture that looked as though the fetus came straight out of a Frida Kahlo painting.

If everything was good from a health perspective, though, that's what was important.

My 20-week sonogram was far less uncomfortable than the first. I attribute that to the fact that the radiology technician accepted that fact that Little Bit doesn't like to be disturbed.  The moment that the technician moved the sonogram wand toward her face she put her hand up to try to swat the wand away.

“She doesn’t want to be bothered, does she?” the technician commented.

“That seems to be her default mode,” I said, laughing.

The technician turned on the 4D technology to see her face. I smiled when I saw her lips, nose and chin. Even at 20 weeks, her features were pronounced enough that I could tell whose features she had.

As the technician tried to gently move her for a full-face photograph, she moved her arms up in front of her face.

“She’s a smart and stubborn one!” the technician exclaimed.

“I’ve heard that before,” I replied, laughing.

He took the best picture that he had of her face and printed it out. Now, this picture was a keeper!

When he moved on to measure my cervical length, he commented that everything was perfect. Little Bit looked great, and my cervix was measuring almost a centimeter better than expected.

The following week in my monthly appointment with Dr. OB, she also uttered the words, "great," and "perfect." I doubted that I would ever hear those words with respect to my health and not feel both surprised and grateful.

I was more than halfway through my pregnancy. With each week and each pair of non-maternity pants that no longer fit, I realized how real this was.