The Preggie Diaries: Dealing with those tummy touchers (21-27 weeks)

My pregnancy experience changed quite a bit around 21 weeks. It went from a personal experience that I could share with those special people in my life to more of a public experience. This is because my belly popped out and I looked more pregnant to the public. I started getting looks at the shops. People would look at my face, then at my belly, and either stare at my bump or look back at my face and smile. I know that people in general love pregnant women, and are usually very fascinated by them, so one needs to get used to being the center of attention. Some women love this, and others, like me, have difficulty with it. I am generally shy and private, so it’s going to be an adjustment for me going out in public, and maybe I’ll never fully feel comfortable. But one thing I know is that I should love my body for housing a beautiful tiny human, and feel confident and own my new look.

In this post, I am sharing my thoughts, experiences and symptoms of the second half of my second trimester. I started this to have a journal to read later, to always remember my pregnancy experience, to help me deal with my fears and anxiety surrounding pregnancy and parenting and to share it with you. As I had my baby much earlier than expected, this is the last of these posts, but expect a birth story to follow this.

Those lovely symptoms

Things are always changing when you’re pregnant. Some symptoms stay with you for your whole pregnancy, or most of it, and others only last a few days. Here’s a list of what I’ve been experiencing:

  • It feels like a have a constant head cold: I usually don’t get stuffy noses or sneeze frequently, as I don’t have allergies and I’m  generally  healthy. But this is one of those weird pregnancy symptoms, that I’ve had since the early days. I always have a stuffy nose, especially at night when I’m trying to sleep, which causes me to snore (which I’ve never done before). It’s very glamorous. Sorry husband. This is due to your body making more mucus, including the stuff in your nose.
  • My vision is fading: Over the past couple of weeks my vision has been getting a bit worse and I feel more of a need to wear my glasses, which I haven’t felt the need for in ages. My eyes have also become quite sensitive to light, and often catch myself squinting when I’m outdoors. I’m so grateful for my cheap sunglasses that I bought, they have been a lifesaver!
  • Dry eyes: I recently bought some eye drops for dry eyes, which has been amazingly soothing for my eyes, especially in the dry heat.
  • Lingering exhaustion: I definitely sleep for two. I have not gotten that burst of energy that some people get in their second trimester. I get tired easily, and fade very quickly in the evenings. I find I can only manage a limited amount of activity during the day, and I need to take frequent breaks. It’s so important to listen to your body at this stage, and give it what it needs. Don’t push yourself. Slow down if you need to.
  • That beautiful pregnancy swelling has started: Around 21 weeks, I started noticing my hands and feet starting to swell in the early afternoon, getting worse in the evening. It was highly dependent on the weather. It’s been quite hot, so you’re more likely to have swelling. That’s one downside to being pregnant in the summertime. I need to take breaks in the afternoon with my feet elevated. I’ve also removed my rings, as the tightness annoys me. My finger joints ache, that may be due to the swelling, but it’s quite frustrating.
  • Hunger: I have some days feeling averagely hungry, and other days when I can’t stop eating. I think it’s related to baby growing. I have noticed that I will get quite tired for a day or two, then extremely hungry and then my belly poops out more soon after. It tells me that my baby is growing.
  • Calf cramps: I don’t get them often but occasionally at night I get them. They aren’t too bad at the moment, just annoying. I’ve been stretching and trying to keep up with my yoga routine, which makes a huge difference.

More and more kicks: getting to know my baby

It’s been amazing to feel the life inside you moving. It’s an experience like no other. It lets me know that my baby is doing well, and keeping active. And it makes such a big difference for the bonding experience. I had struggled to connect with my baby in the early days, and feeling the baby respond to your voice, or music or your position makes it seem much more real and allows me to respond.

Having an anterior placenta means that my placenta is in the front of my uterus, which cushions the baby’s movements, and you often have to wait longer than usual to feel the baby moving. I was lucky to feel kicks at 18 weeks, I was not expecting to feel anything until around 20 or more weeks. But I must say that even though I have been feeling the baby move more and more, the movement is still hard to understand. Sometimes it’s still very muted. I think that’s because when the baby is facing inwards, I don’t feel much, but when they are facing outwards, I am more likely to feel kicks and punches. But it won’t be long until the baby get stronger and bigger and I’ll feel all those moments (big and small).

Around 22-23 weeks, the baby starts to develop it’s own schedule, and it’s been interesting to feel that. I find my baby wakes up in the mid morning and afternoon, and when I go to bed, it wakes up a few times during the night. It will also wake up for a short time after I eat a meal or snack.

Those Tummy Touchers 

It’s amazing that when you’re pregnant, suddenly people think they are entitled to touch your belly. Are pregnant bellies public property?! I’m talking about friends, family and strangers alike. If I wasn’t comfortable with you touching me before I was pregnant, I’m probably not going to like it when I am pregnant. I have appreciated the people who have asked me if they could touch my belly, then I can at least say yes or no.

I think a lot of pregnant women feel that it’s just something that’s inevitable, and you can’t avoid it from happening, but I just think we need to speak up if we’re feeling uncomfortable. Don’t be shy to say no. It’s your body, your belly is not public property. Obviously there are more polite ways and ruder ways of telling someone this, but a simple, “sorry but I don’t feel comfortable with you touching my belly, could you not do that?” is perfect.

Keeping fit and healthy

When I was at my 16 week check up at my midwife, she advised me to start some sort of exercise like swimming, yoga or pilates. I knew I needed to, and I finally felt more human to actually think about exercising. In the end I decided to try out yoga because at our Indoor Climbing gym they offer yoga classes. This made it easy because my husband and I could go there together, he could climb and I did yoga. Plus it was much cheaper this way than me going to a private yoga/pilates studio. Cape Town is expensive.

I loved yoga. It gave me the time to warm up my body and mind, getting into state of mind ready to exercise and not rushing into it. I really liked the flow of movement, and it was amazing for loosening up my tight spine and shoulders. The warm down taught me how to breath properly and relax effectively, which is so important for labour.

Over the Christmas and new year period, I wasn’t able to do yoga, but I found many other ways to keep active each day. We were away with family in Betty’s bay, and each day I would do an activity. This was either a swim in the lake, a walk/hike or a swim in the sea. It was so wonderful to keep active outdoors and it reminded me of how much I want to enjoy the outdoors with my baby.

Once we were back in our home, I found many YouTube videos of pregnancy yoga workouts, so I could do them at home, in my own time. This was useful as I wasn’t always able to go to our gym. I’ve been trying to exercise daily, and I’ve noticed how different my body feels if I am able to keep it up regularly. I feel healthier, it aids my digestion which makes a huge difference to my constipation, I sleep better, and my body feels stronger and not like I’m just wasting away.

The Blood Pressure Scare

So at my 21 week scan they found issues with the blood flow to my uterus. This is not always a cause for concern but it can lead to high blood pressure for me and a slowly growing baby, and possibly preterm labour. I was put on low dose asprin for the duration of my pregnancy, and was told that my midwives need to monitor it closely. At my 24 week check up, my blood pressure was higher than normal, but not too high. We also noticed how quickly it changed when I lay on my side, feeling more relaxed. How you are feeling has a big impact on your blood pressure, so if you’re feeling anxious about it, it helps to do something that will help you relax.

I was asked to have my blood pressure checked twice more that week and see what it is. If it’s still higher, I will probably have blood tests to check for any clinical signs of preclampsia. Luckily for me, I don’t have any other symptoms, like odema, severe headaches, blurred vision, etc, it’s just the higher BP. The midwife explained a higher BP can be one of two things,either it’s preclampsia which is serious and can lead to taking the baby out early if your BP is uncontrolled and too high. The other is something called pregnancy induced hypertension, which is easily managed with medication and normally you can carry to term.

So I’m trying my best to stay calm, not worry too much about it. Stress will only make it worse, so why bother. Whatever happens will happen, and I don’t have any control over it, and I know I have great medical care who will do what’s best for me and my baby. All I can do is pray, keep chatting to my husband and those close to me to keep my mind at ease. It really helps to share your thoughts and fears, as it often releases them and you don’t feel chained down by them.

In the end, after testing my BP a few times during that week, we found that it was down to my normal BP. This was a huge relief for me. That meant that my anxiety had a huge part to play in raising my blood pressure, and when I feel relaxed and calm, my BP is normal. I think it was the combination of stressing about my BP, that something would go wrong, meeting a new midwife each time I had a check-up and the white coat effect. This is something I can control, by learning to stress less, and informing the midwives what I needed from them before they did their usual tests. I have found that I needed to prioritise chatting to them, getting to know them on a personal level before they started their check up routine. I would ask them to first check the baby, and do all their other examinations and leave my BP check for last, as I would be a whole lot more calm then.

Mental health

Pregnancy can cause some huge anxieties and stress, whether you were planning to have babies or not. I noticed that my anxiety started midway through my second trimester and got quite bad. I would often feel as though I wouldn’t be able to cope with a baby, that so many things can go wrong even before my child is born. I worried about the choices I was making regarding my child’s care, were they the right ones?

I began to lose confidence in myself. I felt no longer able to do this. It was really hard, and what made it worse was my husband not understanding why I could feel that way. He was incredibly encouraging, reminding me that I’m so strong, and he knew I could do whatever I put my mind to. My lack of confidence was not something he got, but he kept asking me to talk to him, tell him my fears and thoughts and he just listened. This was a huge help.

And over time, my confidence in myself started returning and I’m feeling way better. After reading about a mother’s intuition, and the importance of it, even during pregnancy. I understood that I could listen to my body’s signals and trust them just as much as I could trust a medical test. I began to take to heart that millions of women have done this pregnancy thing before and survived. I believe God has given women an amazing ability to grow and birth new life, giving our bodies exactly what we need to achieve that, and we need to trust in Him as our creator and trust our bodies that He made.

The choices me and my husband make are the right ones for our family. We know what is best for us, when we are relying on God for life, guidance and nurturing. We do not need to conform to any social pressures or do things in a particular way because most of society is doing it that way. It can be difficult going against the grain, especially when it comes to caring for a child, but it is so empowering to be able to make an educated choice that you feel is right for you, your marriage and your baby.

 

Here I am, wondering what my third trimester will have in store for us. And I’m starting to get excited, because at the end of this trimester, we will have a beautiful tiny human to care for and enjoy. And I’m sure any suffering/difficulties I go through will be all worth it when we meet our baby.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, please let me know if you went though something similar to me, or if your experience was completely different. Do you have any questions? Please, ask away!

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