Things to Never Say to Someone who’s had a C-section

Lately something has been bothering me like crazy: the things people sometimes blurt out to those of us who’s been through a c-section.

During my pregnancy I joined a wonderful group on Facebook, a group that helped me through a lot of the stuff that happened during the later stage of my pregnancy (more on that in a separate blog post). I read about mothers who’d just had their c-sections and how they felt shameful for not having ‘birthed’ their babies the ”normal” way. Before my c-section I could only offer my condolences and thought that the stigma around c-section and how it’s sometimes discussed and talked about as ‘not having given birth for real’ was crazy. Now, on the other side of it, I can only say that I get it! While no one has explicitly told me that I haven’t given birth for real, people have dropped comments, comments which I believe do play a part in this whole stigma around c-sections. Comments that makes a mother who’s gone through it feel as though she hasn’t really given birth.

Now, people might mean well when they tell you, following your c-section, that at least you didn’t tear down there! Maybe it’s a way to diffuse, to offer a silver lining kind of situation; however, comments like that has, for me, not done a damn thing! If anything I’ve felt like it’s downplayed and ultimately minimized what I was going through and the pain that comes with a c-section.

Struggling to find the words on what I wanted to say here, I did a little Google search (yes, Google is your friend) and stumbled upon an article by Kristen Thompson (read it here). She perfectly managed to summarize my still quite raw feelings on the topic (hey, it’s only been 9 weeks since I went through it). Thompson writes that someone, after her first c-section, told her that she was lucky because she got to forego labor. Thompson continues to write that in was a very presumptuous comment, seeing as she experienced labor for four long days. In my case I was induced and went through labor and struggled with the first 3 centimeters in a cold, and not very friendly hospital room rather than in the comforts of my own home. I had an epidural at 4 centimeters, so yes, I did experience labor.

Thompson further writes:

The reality is that many women who have C-sections do so because they have no other choice, and they may feel profound sadness, shame and guilt afterwards. So hearing things like, ”Oh, too posh to push, eh?” *wink*, or ”At least you aren’t all stretched out down there” makes many of us want to Hulk rage.

Thompson ended up collecting stories from her friends who’d had c-sections and made a list of things to never say to a mom who had a c-section. I’ll choose some of the points that I feel resonated with me.

”All that matters is you had a healthy baby”
Thompson writes that it’s probably the most-heard phrase by C-section moms. Yes, a healthy baby matters! In my case, when they told me they would have to stop my labor progress (aka, no more induction pills) and that I would have to have an emergency c-section due to Baby B not being able to handle the contractions; of course my thoughts were that he needed to be okay. However, as Thompson points out, the experience of a c-section can be traumatizing and that feeling matter too! It needs to be validated. So yes, while it was no brainer to have my son this way, because it saved him, it was also a traumatizing experience and not at all like I’d thought my birthing experience would be like. I didn’t envision barely being able to hold him at first on account of shaking in my whole body!

”You can try for a natural birth next time”
I’ll join Thompson in begging for another term, why not call it ”vaginal” birth, rather than natural. Calling it natural suggests that children born through c-sections had ”unnatural” births. Like Thompson writes, someone who’s still dealing with the cold, clinical way in which their kid were born, this term just adds insult to injury.

”So you didn’t actually give birth, technically, huh?”
”You’re so lucky you didn’t have to go through labor” & ”At least your vagina didn’t get annihilated”
Yes, I lumped these three comments together as they sort of intertwine. I’ve heard the third one the most, and to me it kind of implies the first one in a sense. Maybe that’s not people’s intention, but that how it comes across for me. Thompson points out that giving birth is the act of bringing forth life, regardless of how it happened and urges people to not take that experience away from C-section moms. She further points out a valid point: don’t diminish that success! It’s only now that I’ve started to think about my C-section, while messy and traumatizing, in the end it was a success! Something that I made it through. I’ve already brought up my personal experience and how I did experience labor and Thompson adds that many women have C-sections because they’ve labored pretty much forever; so don’t make assumptions.

About that third comment which I’ve personally heard the most so far, to quote Thomson ”yes, my vagina is fine and dandy, thanks.” However, if we’re speaking in terms of annihilated, as Thompson points out too, my abdomen was! It was sliced open, both skin and your abs (muscles) gets cut too, guts are pulled aside and a child hauled out. Like Thompson says ”So, maybe we’re even. Or maybe it’s not a contest.”

”You had it easy.”
No. No. No. Nothing about this was easy. A C-section is a major surgery for which you are awake. You get a catheter with its usual side effects of not being able to tell when you need to go after its removal. Fun stuff. My milk didn’t come in until much later, I couldn’t nurse immediately due to the ‘shakes’ that comes with the c-section and my child wasn’t given to me until later. You’re sent home with regular Tylenol, I was promised something prescribed, but they forgot to do it and I was sent home on a Friday. When I called about it, the doctor who could prescribe it had left work for the day. I cried as I waddled out of the hospital three days later.

During my check up at my OB, at around 8 weeks postpartum, she told me that she’d had a c-section too. As well as two natural birth prior to that and she said that a lot of people are misinformed when it comes to c-sections. You bleed after a c-section too, you have weakened pelvic floors too (since this can happen to anyone who’s been pregnant). She also informed me that my tummy flap/pouch, which I was afraid would never go away, is there mainly due to the stomach muscles being cut through and that they’ll knit back together more as the muscles regain their strength.

So yeah, this is not a contest and I wouldn’t say that a vaginal birth is better or easier or the other way around. Every birthing experience is different and so individual. I just wanted to bring forth facts that c-sections aren’t ”the easy way out,” as some people might think. Why don’t we just let people feel whatever it is that they feel and not diminish anything. Deal?

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Motherhood

Mother. That’s quite the title, isn’t it? I know it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been here, which isn’t much of a surprise. I was right the last time I wrote here though, it was my last pregnancy update as I did get induced. Being induced, which wasn’t something I wished for, ended up being a little more complicated than I’d anticipated and it ended with an emergency c-section! See? Even though I’d refrained from making up a ‘this is what I want’ birth scenario and remained as open about the experience ahead as I could; what happened was still something that threw me. I guess it’s one of those things you can never really imagine what it’ll be like until you go through it. What happens will happen and just because you’ve been through it once, doesn’t mean it will be the same the next time. If I’m being honest my whole birth experience was quite a mess and it took me a while to be able to allow myself to think about it as ‘messy’. However, I think that’s a topic for another blog post all together.

So, motherhood. It’s been one hell of a ride! It’s wonderful and I feel privileged and blessed to be able to experience this. That being said, I want to be honest with you guys because I’m quite sure all of you have heard what a blessing motherhood is and how wonderful it is to have children and that children are the reason for living. While I agree with all of it, that’s not the whole picture. Being a mother (or parent in general), especially a first time one, is challenging! I remember our first night together as a family, in the hospital, he was so small and I was so scared that he was going to break somehow. Even if they’d told me that he’d be small, I hadn’t realized just how small he was going to be. He came out weighing 2820 grams (and dropped some of that initially, like practically all newborns) and he was 49 centimeters long. During the days leading up to his arrival I’d seen people on social media share their photos of their babies and they all seemed big and sturdy somehow. He, however, wasn’t. No one had prepared me for the fact that I’d be so worried all the time. Being so small and with a newborns undeveloped coordination, his jerks that he got during sleep worried me. Being worried continued to be a pattern and still is, at least the first time (or first few times) something happens. Coming home, even though I was so happy to be out of the hospital and have baby B with us at home, I cried a few times a day. My hormones were all over the place, which caught me by surprised considering I hadn’t felt very hormonal at all during pregnancy. I’d read about baby blues though, but as the days went on I was a bit concerned that maybe this was something else. Again, on social media, people share their happiness and smiley faces about their newborns. No one mentions the worries and the heartache that happens when your newborn cries until they turn red and can barely breathe.

Being a mother, a parent, is literally wearing your heart on the outside of your body. You feel everything on a whole new level, both the good and the bad. I loved him from the first second I saw him and it felt so overwhelming. The combination of that deep felt love and worry, it made me feel incredibly raw those first few days (a bit over a week), I was also quick to judge myself and blame myself. If he was sad, I figured it was because of something I’d done, or hadn’t done. Breastfeeding wasn’t working well either, which I really beat myself up about. It felt like I should be able to do it, something that seemed to come naturally for everyone.

Baby B is 9 weeks and 1 day old now (I’ve been trying to finish this blog post for the past two weeks though, ha!). I can’t believe that he’s already 2 months old! He’s amazing and seeing him develop new abilities is the coolest thing ever. He started smiling at week 6 and while his smiles are still quite elusive and not always easy to trigger; it’s the most beautiful smile. I can say that it gets easier. There are, however, new things and developmental phases (leaps) happening constantly. As time goes by though, you learn to recognize the signs and you feel a little bit more confident in what you’re doing. For my Swedish readers, there’s a good app called: Växa och upptäcka världen, that keeps track of these leaps that your baby takes seven times during its first year. It syncs with your calendar too, which is great. I guess the conclusion is that the worries are here to stay and you’ll just have to go along with it and learn from it. I’ll say one thing though, for me, motherhood and being B’s mother in particular still felt very natural as soon as he was here. I know I was lucky in feeling like that, not everyone does.

Considering the fact that I’m so very new at all this, I don’t know if I should share any tips. I will, however, say that: to all of you new parents out there, you can do this and trust me, you rock and you’re doing great! Try to not get too caught up in the worries and enjoy! I already wish that I’d been a little bit more chill in the beginning and taken way more photos and videos that I ended up doing. So yeah, don’t let the worries (and fears) get in the way.

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Bump Update – Week 37 & 38

Baby
Weight: 2859 grams (w. 37)
Length: 48.6 cm (w. 37)

Baby will weigh between six and six and a half pounds this week. Growth slows down at this point and Baby is busy practicing for life after birth. Baby is plumper and if born now, would not require an incubator to keep warm due to the presence of sufficient fat stores. Lungs are fully developed, which means Baby would be able to breathe on its own if born now. Usually babies are head down at this point, but they can drop right until birth.

Me

Some discharge may have begun, which is a good thing to happen. It’s your body’s way to prepare for labor by secreting extra cervical mucus. Baby is probably head down by now. Remember that only about five percent of women have their babes born on the actual due date (even if due date has been calculated by ultrasound). Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by concentrating heavily on the ”magic” day. Baby will come when he or she is ready to enter the world. You may have noticed that your bump has changed shape around this time as Baby drops lower. You’re probably glad, as the discomfort of feeling cramped and breathless has eased slightly. At this stage your placenta weighs about 1.5 pounds and adds to the extra weight you’re carrying.

Baby
Weight: 3083 grams (w. 38)
Length: 49.8 cm (w. 38)

Baby’s skull is still soft to allow for the trip through the birth canal. Some of the tiny bones in Baby’s body won’t fuse together until after birth. At this point, Baby is ingesting a lot of amniotic fluid, which is resulting in the build-up of meconium (the first bowel movement that Baby will have after birth). Baby’s fingernails continue to grow but are kept soft. When Baby’s born you may want to cut them, but you should wait a few weeks to avoid damaging Baby’s soft nails and delicate skin. Baby is gaining about one ounce every day at this stage. The lubricant that will keep the lungs from sticking together during breathing is being readily produced.

Me

You’re probably experiencing a fair amount of Braxton Hicks contractions, which can be painful at this point, but are irregular. While real labor pains occur at regular intervals and begin at the top of the uterus, false labor pains are usually felt in your back, pelvis and lower abdomen and are irregular. The Braxton Hicks contractions may seem like pain, but they do have a purpose. They send more blood into the ageing placenta, which is good for Baby. Your hormones will be fluctuating and it’s not uncommon to feel a bit down or overwhelmed.

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I’ve ended up lumping these two weeks together, let’s just say a lot has being going on (as seems to be a pattern with my pregnancy as of late).

So, starting with week 37. I wasn’t too worried about Mini being on the smaller side. After all, so am I and since the obstetricians here use a curve that measure Scandinavian babies; there’s no wonder Mini might ”deviate” some from that curve. I’m of Asian descent and D is half Swedish, half Croatian. I tried to focus on fixing things at home and met up with a new friend from a pregnancy group on Facebook. J, she’s so nice and it was so fun to talk to her in real life. By the way, that group has helped me so much throughout my pregnancy and I don’t know what I’d done without it. There’s no judgement and everyone’s just super nice. It’s important to find groups like that, since I’ve heard horror stories about groups where there’s some serious mom-shaming going on. Who needs that. I also had a preggo date night with mWy lovely J who’s due about five weeks after me. It was so great to see her. I also had lunch with my mom and had another blood test taken too. That weekend was the first time I really experienced a more painful Braxton Hicks contraction! I actually thought something might be starting, but after that night it subsided and I haven’t felt anything quite like that since. Also, about the baby drop that the app mentions, well while Mini has been head done for a while now, I haven’t felt much relief due to the fact that I’m short. Ha. So much for that relief.

Week 38. I took the advice of a friend who said that I should pamper myself and take advantage of these last few weeks of alone time, before Mini makes an appearance. Which is why I scheduled a brow appointment at a salon that I’ve heard people rave about. Well, to be honest people have mostly been raving about the brow tattooing that they do, not so much the brow fix that I booked. Anyway, it was pretty good, however the coloring she did didn’t really stick that well. I’d been looking forward to – after having seen results on Instagram – not having to fill in my brows at all after the coloring; but instead you could see that she’d changed the shape a little with color, but the color ended up so light it looked like someone had gently smudged out a new shape with a brow pen. Oh well, at least the plucking she did turned out great. I’ve been in contact with the salon to see if they can try to re-color my brows, but haven’t heard back yet.

On Tuesday this week (August 6th) I had one of my regular OB appointments. Just before that I got to have a quick talk with the doctor that they have in office there once a week. She followed up with my bile salt levels, and while they’re within good range now, she still wanted to send me for another test. Since I was scheduled for my second ultrasound at the hospital (to follow up with Mini’s measurements) the day after, she said I might as well leave another blood test that same morning. She also prescribed me some vitamin D which she said I should take for the duration of my pregnancy and continue with while I’m nursing. At my regular OB appointment it seemed Mini had grown, probably then following its own curve. My sugar levels, iron levels and blood pressure were all good. My blood pressure was slightly higher this time around, but my OB said it was good seeing as my pressure had been so low before. Mini’s heartbeats were all good too. So, I left feeling quite relieved. Even if she couldn’t perform any detailed measurements, at least Mini seemed to be growing! That was a good sign. Had the pleasure of meeting up with E and her daughter M too, we had a coffee together. E’s was still waiting impatiently for her baby boy (her dude date was August 7th), considering that her daughter came early, she’d expected baby brother to be too.

The following day was D’s first vacation day! Yay. It was so nice to finally have some company during the day and I’ve been waiting to be able to soak up as much ‘us-time’ now as possible before we become a family! (Aww, I love that – our family!). We went into the hospital quite early for me to be able to leave my blood sample, then we spent some time walking around before we stopped for lunch in town. At 1.30 PM we were back at the hospital for the ultrasound. The OB (same one that had a student with her during our 20 weeks anatomy scan) measured everything and looked at the blood flow. She confirmed what I’d hoped, that Mini is following its own curve! Rather than measuring -20,5% as Mini did two weeks ago, Mini was now measuring at -17,8%. It was all looking good. She said she didn’t even see a reason for scheduling another appointment since the due date is just around the corner. She said she’d leave it to the doctors in special obstetrics though. Like last time I had a CTG and everything looked good. Mini’s heartbeats were good and Mini even fell asleep for a brief period during the CTG. D managed to record the super rapid sound, it’s so cute! My blood pressure was good too, though slightly elevated for being me. The OB who took my blood pressure said it was still considered low. Then D and I waited to see the doctor. She too confirmed that Mini is following its own growth curve and that heartbeat is all good and blood flow through the umbilical chord looks good.

She also said that the redistribution of blood flow to Mini’s head is still there. Something the doctor mentioned two weeks ago too. However, last time they’d said that if blood flow still looked to be good, they wouldn’t do anything. This doctor though explained that she wanted a new scan made of just the blood flow (since they’re no longer worried about Mini’s measuring small) on Monday August 12th. If the redistribution is still there, they might want to induce. She told us to come with our bags packed. Needless to say, I was quite shocked. That wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Also, it’s so weird. when I tried asking her about what it all means, the redistribution – and why Mini might be prioritizing blood flow to its brain, she basically just told me that it’s something they’ve only just now started to look at. She said that at smaller hospitals they don’t even care about it. So, if they don’t care about it, why was it so crucial to induce? Especially since I was 37+5 days along at that point. I didn’t really get an answer.

My mind’s been all over the place since then. I’ve been very careful to not to have a birth plan, at least not a very detailed one, just because I’m well aware of the fact that things might not turn out the way you expect them to. Being induced is not been something I’ve though about though and I’ve heard some horror stories about it. After all, being induced isn’t natural and you’re basically making the body do something it’s not ready to do. If there’s one thing I’ve wished for, is to be able to have my labor start naturally. I’ve had some great support from friends in the pregnancy group I’m in, so that’s good. Still, I’m sitting here, writing this and feeling quite nervous and I’ve been scared. This is all quite overwhelming. It’s not that I’m scared about Mini being here earlier, that could’ve happened anyway (even though first time mothers usually pass their due date – as stated in the app, too). It’s the how of it all. I’d hoped for it all to start at home and being able to stay here for as long as possible before going into the hospital and being in that environment. Plus, a friend of mine who was induced, her body didn’t react at all and she ended up having to go through a c-section, another thing I’d hoped to not have to do. Well, I guess we’ll see. At least I’m looking forward to meeting our baby, I really do! I’m trying to think positive and we’re doing our best to soak up on sleep and just being with each other, which has been really cozy.

I can’t believe this might be my last pregnancy update! Wish me/us luck you guys.



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Bump Update – Week 36

Baby
Weight: 2622 grams
Length: 47.4 cm

Baby weighs about six pounds (2,5 kg) and will gain approximately one half of a pound per week from now until birth. The protective fat layer will make up about 15% of Baby’s weight at birth. Even though Baby’s gums have ridges that look a bit like teeth, the real ones won’t make their appearance until about four or five months after birth. Baby’s cheeks are developing fat and the cheek muscles are developing, creating that lovely chubby appearance. Baby is sleeping 90% of the time, there isn’t much room to move around anymore either, although you’ll still feel regular movements.

Me

If Baby has dropped, you’ll be breathing easier now and experiencing less heartburn and indigestion. This is a sign that your little one has descended into your pelvis. The firm muscles of your uterus and tummy will help to keep Baby in place. The main movements you are likely to feel now are jabs from arms or legs, and possibly painful kicks to your ribs. Women often experience a ‘nesting’ stage as delivery approaches. This sudden burst of energy might lead you to do your spring cleaning early, but save some of that extra energy for labor.

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Friday July 19th D and I went to Nynäshamn to sign papers and handing in our keys! Our old apartment is f i n a l l y behind us! It felt great and I also heard back that my bile salt levels were lower now and more within a normal range. When I asked the OB why I was still itching like crazy at times, she said that my levels might rise on occasion, but as long as we keep it under observation, there was no real reason to worry.

That weekend D and I finally felt like we could relax a little. Between all the worries considering my glucose levels and then my bile salt levels and worrying about Mini’s well-being and safety, it was nice to just have some ‘us time’. The plan was actually to attend my friend E’s baby shower that Sunday, but I talked to her sister and explained that with everything that had been going on, I wasn’t going to make it. She was very understanding and I later spoke to E who told me all about the day and how happy and surprised she’d been. N had been really sweet and went and bought the present we’d planned on getting E (a wooden train that can be put forth during birthdays that shows the year on top of one train and candles on the others + a framed photo of E with her husband and daughter).

Mentally all of this had taken a toll on me, considering my pregnancy over all, up until now, had been problem free; this was all a bit overwhelming to say the least.

Monday (July 22nd) I was scheduled to meet up with my regular OB! I even managed to squeeze in a lunch with D in Nynäshamn before-hand and it was so nice to sit down and talk with him, it’d been way too long. I then proceeded to fill in my OB on everything that had gone down, we laughed about the fact that everything seemed to go down when she was gone (during the first part of her vacation I’d been into the maternity ward at the hospital due to not feeling Mini’s movements and this time all of the stuff that went down during week 35 went down). She promised me she didn’t have any other vacation planned for the duration of my pregnancy. My sugar levels were good and iron levels as well. My blood pressure continued to be on the low side, but that’s good. My weight was still increasing, but in a good and normal pace she reassured me (why is it that weight gain, even when pregnant(!) is still taxing for me, mentally?! Ugh, might write another post about that at some point). Mini’s heartbeats continued to sound good and she checked to see if Mini had fixated, but no. Still head down and all, but the head could still be slightly moved. I told her there wasn’t much relief when it came to breathing though, hah! Probably due to the fact that I’m quite short so even if Mini’s head is further down now than earlier, the majority of my upper body is still very baby filled. She confirmed that shorter women often does not get the same kind of relief as tall women get at the end of their pregnancies. When she measured Mini she noted that Baby hadn’t grown at the pace she would’ve wished. She said there was nothing to be worried about, but that she wanted to send me to get an extra ultrasound (tillväxtultraljud in Swedish) just to make sure. She said that maybe Mini had position itself with its butt/back tilting more outward, lying in a position like that might give a false sense of not having grown in length. I told her that Mini usually does like to lie in a position like that, making my stomach bulge more on one side.

While the thought of seeing Mini on an ultrasound again made me kind of excited, I was still a bit worried. Why was everything going down now during my final weeks? It kind of felt like a payback for having had such an easy pregnancy so far. I did remain calm though and I was booked in for a check up on Wednesday. On Wednesday the OB asked us whether we knew the sex of the baby and we said no, we said that if she did see it though, she could tell us. She asked us if we were sure and D and I exchanged a look. We’d talked about it the previous night, and we’d both agreed that we were too curious to not ask about it. I was kind of set on not getting to know it anyway, I figured the way that Mini was lying, head down it might be hard to even see anything…

I‘ll leave you in suspense, sorry. We did find out, though I just feel like it’s something I want to keep just for us at the moment.

During the ultrasound she was able to confirm that indeed, Mini was measuring smaller. She said the level of amniotic fluid looked good though and so did the blood flow through the umbilical chord. When she measured Baby’s head however she said that the flow there didn’t match what she’d seen in the umbilical chord. I was instantly worried. What did that mean? Less blood flow to Mini’s head? She didn’t explain it well, or I just didn’t understand. What I did understand however was that Mini measured -20,5% below its curve. It might just be because I’m small and just don’t ”make big children”. Which I guess is a blessing! She estimated that Mini, instead of weighing 2731 grams (which apparently was the expected weight for a baby at 35+5 weeks, Mini weighed around 2172 grams. She told me that she’d schedule me in for another ultrasound in two weeks to see how Mini’s measure is then. She explained that the hope is to see that the -20,5% is the constant deviation, making Mini following its own curve. Way to live up to your nickname, Mini <3. She then told me that she’d like me to see a specialist that same day, I’d be hooked up to a CTG for 20 minutes to make sure Mini wasn’t in any distress and after that a specialist doctor would see me. D, unfortunately, had to go back to work, but the CTG turned out fine and the specialist doctor that I spoke to explained what the OB hadn’t managed to make clear earlier. She said that on the ultrasound I just had done, the blood flow in the umbilical chord looked good. However, when they looked at the blood flow in Mini’s skull, there was a redistribution of blood; more blood flow to the brain than could be expected. She said that this is often seen when the blood flow through the umbilical chord isn’t good. When it isn’t, the baby’s body redistributes blood flow to important organs such as brain and heart, rather than flowing out into the extremities. She said there was no need to worry though and that this can happen and blood distribution can vary throughout the day, much like a person’s blood pressure. She said that in two weeks they’ll check the blood flow again to make sure everything’s good.

She also explained that if in two weeks the deviation, or variance, of -20,5% is constant, there’s no need to do anything else. They’ll probably hook me up to a CTG just in case, but if it’s constant it just means that Mini is following its own curve. She added that the curve against which Mini is measured is one based on the average Scandinavian child, who weighs 3,5 kilos at birth and is 50 cm tall. Since I’m not Scandinavian and shorter, it might just be normal for me to have a smaller baby. If, in two weeks however Mini measures below -20,5%, they’ll schedule ultrasounds more regularly to keep track of it all. If the blood flow looks to be worse next time, they might induce but she said that they rarely have to do that.

All in all, Mini seems to be doing well. I can also add that these last few weeks, basically from week 34 and onward, it feels like I’ve doubled in size. I haven’t taken belly photos that regularly, I don’t know why, I guess I’ve just felt kind of big and…well, not my best looking, but looking back and comparing belly now and from week 33, whoa! There’s such a difference. Hah. This week I’ve also begun getting swollen feet more easily, probably due to the heat too, that has returned with a vengeance. Don’t get me wrong, I love summers like these, but it’s no joke being heavily pregnant (yes, I’m höggravid according to the app – which is the term for it in Swedish) in this heat that ranges from 27 to 35 during the day. Ugh! My back’s been a bit sore too. Oh, yeah and my fingers are occasionally a bit swollen too. I guess this is to be expected at this part in the pregnancy though, inevitable. I was kind of waiting for it to hit too, since I think this is an important part of pregnancy. Before labor you want to feel sick and tired of being pregnant, it has to help with your mindset before the impending birth, no?

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Bump Update – Week 35

Baby
Weight: 2383 grams
Length: 46.2 cm

Baby weighs about five and a half pounds now and will start with a period of rapid weight gain this week. From now until birth your baby will gain approximately one half of a pound per week. A lot of this weight is the all-important brown fat to keep Baby warm for the first few weeks after birth. This brown fat is different from the white fat, brown fat contains more cells that produce body heat and this in turn prevents hypothermia. This brown fat appears on Baby’s upper spine, back and shoulders.

Me

Your body is getting ready to give birth and your cervix may have begun to dilate. You’ll be feeling a sensation of kicking in your ribs if your baby is lying head down (which is a good indication). Keep in mind that the weight you are gaining is mostly the baby and you’ll lose this after birth.

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Due to actually having had some muse to write a ”normal” blog post aka non-pregnancy related, which took me a while to formulate; I’m a little behind on my pregnancy updates, so there will be two after each other now (otherwise I’ll forget details). I also realized that I never commented on a thing mentioned in my previous weekly update (week 34). According to the app, most women will have trouble sleeping due to discomfort and thoughts about the baby. Well, I can happily report that during week 34 I had no trouble sleeping at all, but it sort of changed (luckily it was temporarily – read continuation down below).

So, first of all I can say that Mini is being quite kind to my ribs, I haven’t had much discomfort due to Mini’s kicks, even though Mini is lying head down. I can tell that Mini’s getting stronger though and sometimes I can feel what I assume to be a foot and sometimes a hand in my side, it’s like this little lump that moves and it’s so cool and sweet.

That being said, week 35 started off quite dramatically. As I mentioned in my last weekly update, on Thursday I was out to lunch with a friend, even that morning I noticed that itching, but I didn’t think too much about it. I figured I’d eaten something that I had a slight reaction too, I’m quite prone to getting allergic reactions, even when there are small traces of stuff (let’s hope Mini won’t inherit that). Then Thursday night the itching got worse and I’m not kidding! When we were watching Netflix on the couch before bed I could barely sit still due to the discomfort and then when we were lying in bed I just couldn’t lie still. Luckily D falls asleep quite easily, so I don’t think he was too bothered by it. Around 3 AM I still hadn’t fallen asleep, I went up and walked around in the apartment thinking that if I did something else besides lying down, maybe I’d be able to not think about it. It didn’t work and soon enough I went back to bed hoping to fall asleep, I finally did but woke up again around 6 AM and then couldn’t fall back asleep for a while. Then I think I got two more hours between 7 and 9 AM. I was exhausted when I got out of bed and couldn’t stop thinking about what a friend had told me about her first pregnancy when she suffered from ICP or Cholestasis of Pregnancy, which in her case got so severe before they figured out her diagnosis (it’s quite a rare thing to be diagnosed with) that her son unfortunately died soon after being born. I remember her sharing a lot about it on social media and how she said that two things to look out for was itching on the soles of your feet and hands. During the night I’d felt both. I was calm, but figured I should call my OB to check with her. I left her a message. Later that day another OB (the one who’d covered for her earlier in my pregnancy) called me and said that my regular OB was on vacation. I told her my symptoms, that the itching was worse at night and that it was all over my body, though not the classical pregnancy parts where you’re expected to itch due to your skin stretching (like stomach and boobs). She didn’t think there was anything to worry about. She did want to schedule an earlier appointment for next week (this was Friday), but where she told me she’d just go through the same regular procedures they always do; check sugars and iron levels, measuring the stomach and listening to Baby’s heartbeat. However, she wanted to give me something to help with the itching but for that she needed to get a hold of a doctor to prescribe them to me. She told me she’d call me back.

When she called back she said that she couldn’t get a hold of a doctor (a Friday in Nynäshamn, I’m not all that surprised). She told me that I could use one of the doctor apps available, so that at least I could get some relief from the itching and be able to sleep. I asked her again about additional testing, but she said that the regular stuff would do for now. She did add that if things got worse during the weekend, I should call the hospital where I planned to deliver and ask them for help. She also said that she’d call me on Monday to check in, but other than that I was scheduled to see her on Tuesday.

I did what she told me to do, I used on of the apps and got to talk to a doctor of obstetrics. When I told her about my itching and my symptoms she said that she didn’t want to prescribe me anything until Cholestasis (Hepatos in Swedish) was ruled out. She told me to call the delivery ward at the hospital to ask them for their opinion. So I did. The OB there told me to come in at 8 PM that night and it was around 5 PM when I spoke to her. At this point I started to worry a little, what if something was really wrong?

At 8 PM me and D entered the delivery ward at the hospital. It was busy (but with a calm vibe, which I was happy to notice) so an OB told us to sit down and wait, she also said it’d be a while. Around 8.40 PM an OB came and got us, I told her about my symptoms and she said that what they wanted to start with was a CTG (where they check the fetal heartbeat for any kind of distress). The room was quite dark, it was nice and we sat there, D and I, and listened to the sound of Mini’s heartbeats. I could also tell by the monitor that I was having some practice contractions. I think I might have had two during those 20 minutes, most likely because I was nervous, rather than a sign of anything else. When the OB returned she said that everything looked good and that the doctor would come and talk to us as soon as she was freed up. A little after 9 she came and said that she’d sent a referral for me to the lab at the hospital for Monday, so that they could take the blood tests needed to tell whether this was Cholestasis related or not. She told me I should be fasting before the test and that she’d also made a referral for me to see an OB specialist the following Wednesday to follow up. I also got a prescription for Lergigan to help me with the itching.

The pills worked! They made me a bit loopy, but damn, that night I slept like a log. Probably due to the fact that I’d slept so little the previous night too. On Monday the OB who’d previously been so calm about it all, suddenly was all over this! She was happy that I’d gotten to leave a blood sample and she told me she’d call me back when she got the results. Since I’d gotten a referral to a specialist on Wednesday, she said I didn’t need to come down the following day to see her.

On Tuesday I got a phone call from the OB specialist. She told me that my bile salt levels were a bit elevated, but they were no cause for concern right now. High levels indicates Cholestasis and very high levels can be dangerous for the Baby and induction might be necessary. She said that at these levels there was no reason for me to come in and see her and that my regular OB should be fine and she told me to contact them to let them know that. To be honest, it was a little frustrating and stressful to be in contact with so many different people and places. I wasn’t too keen on calling the OB either since she’d been so causal about it all in the first place. Even if things weren’t alarming and I had a very mild case of Cholestasis, my head was still filled with ”what ifs”. Anyway, I called her up and told her that the specialist didn’t see a reason why I should meet up with her, I also told her that during the night, even with my dose of two pills before bed I was still itching. She seemed a bit concerned and made another referral for initial testing to be done, she read me a bit of information on Cholestasis, but she seemed to be reading from the same document I had found online earlier. Anyway, I was pleased with the fact that she made another referral. Plus, I knew that on the following Monday I’d get to meet with my regular OB again! Which felt so nice. On Wednesday that week (July 17th) I went in for more blood test (my poor left arm! This would be the 5th time in a week).

That afternoon I went down to Nynäshamn since a co-worker of mine and her boyfriend were going to buy our old bed to have use it for the guestroom in their house. I ended up swinging by work too and had a bit of a chat with some co-workers, which was nice. Everything with the bed went well! Ikea furniture is way easier taking apart than they are putting together.

Other than the itching I was felt good. No swelling, sleeping well and even the acid reflux that I had experienced briefly during week 34 was gone! Now I just hoped my bile salt levels were going to stay put.

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#MyAriel – a discussion on representation

Live-action remakes of Disney classics seems to be all the rage lately. Earlier this year Dumbo premiered on the big screen again, a live-action re-imagining of the Walt Disney’s 1941 animated film with the same name. Before that we’ve seen: Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, to name a few. Considering the trend it wasn’t much of a surprise when the discussions of a new, live-action adaption of The Little Mermaid surfaced. It was in the beginning of the month that Disney announced that Halle Bailey will be the one staring as Ariel in said movie.

For those of you unfamiliar with 19 year old Halle Bailey, she’s one part of the R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle. So, we’ve got a young singer for the role of Ariel, well that sounds fitting, no? In an article on CBR written by Anthony Gramuglia, there’s a quote from Director Rob Marshall where he says:

”After an extensive search, it was abundantly clear that Halle possesses that rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence, and substance — plus a glorious singing voice — all intrinsic qualities necessary to play this iconic role.”

Sounds perfect to me. Oh, but wait. I forgot. Ariel has white skin and is a redhead. That must automatically disqualify Halle! Yes, I’m being super ironic here. Sadly, there are people who feel like that, that Halle couldn’t possibly have this role due to the color of her skin (and hair)! Not long after the news of her casting was released, the backlash started and the hashtag #NotMyAriel was soon trending on Twitter. Here are some excerpts:

Critics behind #NotMyAriel further claimed that having a woman of color take the role destroyed the classic character and the movie itself.

In the minds of these critics, Disney didn’t make their decision to cast Halle based on talent, but these white (let’s face it, they’re white) people assumed the studio chose a black actress because of diversity and out of political correctness. When defenders of Halle’s right to play the role of Ariel started sounding, the word racism was put out there (and rightfully so!), the critics’ responses were that it wasn’t so much a problem with Halle’s skin color, hence not racism, but a problem with Halle’s hair color.

As Gramuglia reminds us in his article, we’ve done this song and dance before (and most likely, it won’t be for the last time). We heard it recently when Zendaya was cast as MJ in Spider-Man: Homecoming. A role that in 2002 was played by Kirsten Dunst.

Probably because she looked a little bit like the comic book version:

When Zendaya was slated to play MJ Watson, as mentioned above, the same song and dance was performed. People were doubtful and thought that it was a risky move made by Marvel to cast her. Even in this instance the hair color was brought up as these critics deflected accusations that they were, in any way, being racist.

This baffles me just as much as when white people just assume I couldn’t possibly get tanned because I’m, in their eyes, already very dark. Hey, I have melanin in my body too. And just like I can get tanned, a black, brown or person of color can color their hair! It might take a little bit more effort, but hey! I’ve been a redhead for like 8 years now! It can be made. Just to be clear, a black person can also wear a wig! Cool, huh? Not that I expect those critics behind #NotMyAriel to really have a problem with the hair color thing, it’s just a thinly veiled deflection on their part. Zendaya posted a new picture on her Instagram in June where she shows off her new, red mane. Honestly though, I don’t think that she, nor Halle, even needs to color their hairs in order to properly take on their respective roles!

View this post on Instagram

Face it, Tiger…

A post shared by Zendaya (@zendaya) on

Freeform clapped back in defense of Halle Bailey’s portrayal of Ariel on their Twitter. Making a few very good points! They state that yes, the original author of ‘The Little Mermaid’ was Danish. Not that this would automatically make Ariel Danish, Freeform continues to write that:

”[F]or the sake of argument, let’s say that Ariel, too, is Danish. Danish mermaids can be black because Danish *people* can be black. […] Black Danish people, and thus mer-folk, can also *genetically* (!!!) have red hair.”

Some of you may ask why this is such a big deal, why can’t Disney just keep close to their original? Why couldn’t they just cast a white girl? Yes, let’s get into that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: r e p r e s e n t a t i o n. It’s so important, but it’s taken for granted by white people, or rather is something they don’t even have to reflect or think on, because white people have always been represented. They’ve always been the ones visible, both on and off the screen. As I mentioned in a previous post on representation, Whoopi Goldberg has said that at nine years old she saw the old Star Trek come on [TV] and she looked at it and then went screaming through the house:

”Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!”

She goes on to say that she knew right then and there that she could be anything she wanted to be.

Representation is such an important part of life (and especially growing up), I think that we all compare ourselves with others and because of that it’s essential for your sense of self, to have someone you could do that with. Growing up, I never saw others who looked like me (I’m adopted from India) on TV or even around me in my daily life. Sure, we had friends of the family who had two adopted daughters from India, but we rarely saw them. I’ve spoken to and heard other Asian adoptees’ (and non-adopted’s) frustration of their lack of representation. A lot have said that they’re sick and tired of the way that Asians (especially those of Chinese or Korean origin) are represented in Hollywood; overly caricatured and stereotypical in the sense that women are portrayed as ”dragon ladies”, ”china dolls”. Asians are also often stereotyped as ”nerds” with glasses and thick accents (read more on this topic in this thesis). Hollywood also perpetuates the trope that all Asians (especially men) know martial arts, and a lot of Asian women are portrayed in roles like prostitutes.

As if that weren’t enough, the fact that Asians aren’t readily represented and when they are, they usually fit into a caricatured mold of the ‘typical Asian’, what can be seen in Hollywood is a trend of so called whitewashing. For those of you not familiar with the phrase, it’s a casting practice within the film industry in which white actors are cast in historically non-white character roles which are scripted for non-white characters. Hollywood has a history of doing this, where white actors were caricatured into blackface or yellowface.

I remember reading about whitewashing as Scarlett Johansson took on her role in the 2017 live-action adaption of 1995 Japanese anime film Ghost in Shell. The backlash came in 2015 when the news of Scarlett’s portrayal of Asian heroine Motoko Kusanagi was released. Critics said that in Hollywood not even Japanese people could play Japanese people and that in the Japanese original version, the movie takes place in Japan.

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in Shell

A more subtle version of whitewashing, or rather shifting the focus away and in a way downplaying its origin, is the movie adaption of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. A historical novel written by the Canadian-American Eleanor Coerr. A friend of mine, Maria, recently wrote a very good post about this on Facebook (it’s in Swedish, and to all of my Swedish readers I urge you to check out her page!). In the post she explains how, when she grew up in Sweden, was surrounded by Pippi Longstocking, and other Astrid Lindgren characters (most of them typically Nordic in their looks, with blonde hair, fair skin and all that). She recalls only a few children’s book characters in which east Asian children were depicted. One of these characters is Sadako. The book contains vivid details about a girl, Sadako, who’s dying of Leukemia in the aftermath of Hiroshima. Maria writes that this book is now slated to turn into a movie, but sadly, rather than making a movie about Sadako Sasaki—which would’ve given Hollywood a chance to cast an east Asian girl, or Japanese American, in the lead—Hollywood has chosen to take another route. Instead the movie is going to be focused on the portrayal of Eleanor Coerr, the white, Canadian-American author of the book; starred by Evan Rachel Wood.

Maria states (further down in her comment section) that her critique stems from the fact that it’s rarely seen, a story featuring an east Asian main character, that has reach beyond the scope of Asia. But instead of letting this main character speak for itself in an American cinematic adaption, the focus of the movie instead becomes about the author. Maria says that Sadako Sasaki’s historical story should be able to be told in and of itself, without the involvement of the author’s relation her historical novel.

Evan Rachel Wood

Before you shake your head claiming that this is the same situation as with Ariel, but reverse. If a black woman can be Ariel, then a white woman can be play the role of an Asian. No, it’s not the same. Why? Because there are so few representatives of Asian characters in Hollywood (though thankfully actresses like Sandra Oh and Constance Wu are appearing more on our screens!). We need these non-conformative, non-caricaturized representations of Asian people! Whites are portrayed all the time in different roles, without there being a tired old, ‘stereotypical white person’ character that’s being repeated non-stop.

Going back to Anthony Gramuglia’s article, he too brings up the importance of representation but also add that The Little Mermaid is a pretty universal story. He further makes another great point in stating that:

”To deny a black child coming to this story for the first time a chance to see themselves represented on screen is a selfish one. And it’s also selfish to deny a child already represented by the original—a white, red-haired child—to see the same themes they identified with applied to people who look a little different from them. In the end, casting like this is something that can, and should, bring people together far more than it divides them.”

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Bump Update – Week 34

Baby
Weight: 2146 grams
Length: 45 cm

Baby weighs about 2 kilos now. By this time most of the lanugo (body hair) is gone. Baby’s immune system is no longer relying on the antibodies from the placenta. This self-immunity is important to protect your little one at birth and for the rest if Baby’s life. The vernix (thick white layer of protection present on Baby’s skin) is disappearing; however, a little bit of it will still be left at birth. The digestive system is fully working by itself. Moreover, Baby is peeing up to a pint of urine a day into the amniotic fluid. Even though the placenta is capable of supporting Baby until birth, it will start to age this week.

Me

If you’ve been grimacing over your weight gain all these weeks, relax a bit. Your weight gain will slow down now, even though Baby is still busy packing on the pounds. Due to the way a pregnant woman’s body metabolizes sugar, you might find yourself feeling shaky before a meal. This is the result of low blood sugar and small snacks can help alleviate this feeling of lightheadedness. Most women will have trouble sleeping, not only because of the discomfort, but also because of all the thoughts about the baby.

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So, a lot went down this week. On Friday, July 5th me and D attended my cousin’s 40th birthday party. It was fun to meet some of my relatives, we don’t really get together all that often. It was a great evening and since I’d been too tired and too preoccupied with unpacking the apartment, I decided to go with a store-bought baked good, rather than making one myself. We stopped by Bröd & Salt which is my favorite go-to for lactose free (and vegan) alternatives.

The next day we went down to Nynäshamn to attend a family gathering with D’s family. It was great and basically the first really sunny day since my vacation started. I even had to step out of the sun for a while since my skin is way more sensitive than it usually is. All of these pregnancy hormones, eh? D’s family is so nice and they all have a sense of humor, which I like.

On Tuesday (July 9th) I went down to the old apartment to let in the cleaning crew. It’s so worth paying to have that done, I mean this kind of cleaning is now joke. It’s super thorough! Windows, radiators, fridge and freezer, not to mention the toilet and the drains. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to do that at 8 months pregnant. Then I swung by work to double check on some stuff, before I got to have lunch with E! It was so nice and since she’s pregnant too (her due date is two weeks before mine) we had a lot to talk about. It was such a great afternoon and it ended at her place where I got to spend some time with her, her husband and daughter.

On Wednesday, I had my lab appointment for my glucose test. Since I’m not a big fan of blood tests (yes, they are different from getting a tattoo) I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. The first blood test was at 09:05 AM and then I got to drink the glucose, which they’d added some lemon-y flavor to. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, but damn was it sweet. I chugged it down (since you have to do it within five minutes) and then I waited for an hour before it was time to have another blood test. After that one, it was another hour before the last one. I told the nurse that my left arm is the best one (I’ve had my fair share of blood tests taken), for the third one the other nurse (they switched) insisted that my vein on the right arm looked good too and that it might be good for my left to catch a break since they’d already taken twice from that vein. I just shrugged, she inserted the needle (the baby one – butterfly) but then said that barely no blood was let out. I wasn’t surprised. So in the end she had to use the left arm again, plus I had some pain in my right arm too. During hour two and three I felt quite faint and nauseous. Probably due to fasting and the sugar drop after that drink. It wasn’t pleasant. That same afternoon I got it confirmed that I didn’t have gestational diabetes! It was a relief to get it confirmed, even if I suspected even before this that my levels would be good.

On Thursday I got to have a bit of a spontaneous lunch get-together with S, a friend of mine who now lives in San Diego. We know each other from our time studying together and it was nice to meet up and hear about what she’s been doing for these last few years. We had lunch at Urban Deli and we both had the beetroot tartare – it was so good!

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