10 Weird things you didn’t know about being pregnant – Part 1

I’m now in my third trimester (congrats to me!) and consider myself to be fully qualified to talk about the truly weird and wonderful things that all lucky preggies can look forward to as your pregnancy progresses.  So here goes:

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  1. Where’s the buffet?

While the first trimester can be plagued with nauseous and food cravings or aversions, by the time you reach the third trimester the desire for salt and sweet has kicked into overdrive.  In fact, just the desire to eat … continuously!  The idea of eating for two is hard to resist as, by the second trimester, you will need to eat an extra 300-350 calories a day.  By the third trimester, increase that to 500 calories a day. Now that’s crazy stuff right there.  Some sites and blogs do mention the increased urge for sweet stuff too.  I can attest to that.  I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but right now I could easily scoff any cake, tart or chocolate in my sight.  On top of that I’m eating the same proportions as my husband, so yes, I am truly living to eat and not the other way around.

  1. Stock up on toilet paper

I’m sorry to tell you this:  but you’re not going to bypass frequent urination in pregnancy.  In your first three months the need to pee regularly is caused by hormonal changes. You’ll have a slight reprieve in months 3-6, but it comes back with a vengeance in months 7-9.  This time though, it’s because that growing cutie in your belly is putting pressure on your bladder.  Unfortunately, it’s not fun when you have to travel and can cause that 5-hour road trip to become a 6-hour road trip.  It’s also not fun to have to visit every kind of public restroom in every location you visit. My advice:  unless you plan to pee in your pants (not advisable), map out the public bathrooms in malls, restaurants and on your road trip journey beforehand because you will, absolutely have to, pee.  Moreover, you will wake up during the night to visit the toilet and you will, as your belly gets bigger, have to watch that sneeze which could lead to a bit of panty wetting.  You’ve been warned!

  1. Counting sheep

Ah yes, insomnia – a lack of good ol’ fashioned quality sleep.  In my first trimester I would wake up several times during the night to pee, and to eat as a way to combat my nauseous.  In the second trimester, the so-called babymoon, I just couldn’t sleep properly at all.  Now, as I’ve entered into my third trimester, I’m waking up during the night to pee again, and my growing belly is making it difficult to find a comfy spot.  Let’s not mention that I’m a back sleeper and sleeping on my side is not my chosen position.  Insomnia in pregnancy is perfectly normal and can be caused by a variety of reasons.  Whether it’s hormonal changes, the need to frequently urinate, anxiety, vivid dreams or even leg cramps, make peace with the fact that getting some quality shut-eye when you fear this could be the last time you actually can before baby comes, is something that may just elude you.

  1. Itchy and bitchy

I’ve read all sorts of interesting articles about women developing itchy palms and soles of their feet, but nowhere did I read about itchy underarms?  Each woman is of course different, so don’t quote me on the itchy underarms as a definite pregnancy symptom.  An itchy belly definitely comes with the territory though.  I noticed that every time my preggie belly planned to pop out a bit more, my belly would itch for days beforehand.  It’s nothing that a good tissue oil or cream can’t help with, but think about it rationally:  if your skin has to stretch to accommodate a growing and developing life form, then itchiness has to be expected at some time.  Why my underarms started to itch I still can’t say though …

  1. I can’t feel my legs!

Calf cramps is yet another crazy pregnancy phenomenon.  I thought it was hocus pocus to be honest.  I mean, what logical and scientific reason could there be for getting calf cramps when you’re pregnant?  And then, as I hit my 7 months mark, I started waking up with terrible calf cramps that caused me to leap out of bed simply to put pressure on the affected leg. According to whattoexpect.com, calf cramps usually start in the second trimester around week 19 of pregnancy and last through the third trimester.  Apparently the reason why is not so clear and many theories point the finger at fatigue from carrying extra weight, compression of the blood vessels in the leg, possibly diet (an excess of phosphorus and a shortage of calcium or magnesium) and pregnancy hormones.  Try stretching exercises before bed and drinking enough water during the day.

Look out for Part 2 of my blog where I’ll unpack the next 5 things you may or may not have heard about in pregnancy.  Aren’t we lucky? ;)

3,2,1 … blasting off for mommy land

Ok, I’m just going to say it:  I’m pregnant.

Actually, I’m just over 18 weeks pregnant now and still in a state of [pleasant] shock.  Last time I posted on Teatart I was lamenting over Mother Nature’s cruel blow of aged eggs, but as you can tell, lots … no tons … of things have happened since then.

I may not have uncovered the secret to improving a woman’s egg quality, but I have discovered that serene balance between using science to help fertility and relying on some well needed divine intervention.

What changed?

Hubby and I decided to try one last time, but this time to do things oh so very differently.  After much consultation with our fertility specialist and putting in some overtime prayer, we decided to go with the old school version of IVF:  ZIFT.

ZIFTOur awesome fertility specialist at Vitalab explained to us that some eggs are really just too borderline to undergo the stresses of being handled in a laboratory – no matter how sophisticated lab techniques have become these days.  My previous cycle of ICSI and PGS seemed to prove this as a healthy embryo just didn’t implant.  Moreover, we just didn’t feel right about the decision to destroy embryos that weren’t deemed healthy.

What we really needed science to help us with was the fertilisation of my eggs.  So with ZIFT, we harvested my eggs, used ICSI to fertilise and then the very next day I went under the knife and the fertilised eggs were implanted in my left Fallopian tube.   By doing this, my now fertilised eggs could naturally continue their journey down the Fallopian tube and plop into my uterus on their own steam.

It all sounds very straight forward doesn’t it?  I need to point out around about now that our chances weren’t great from the start.  Besides being a very invasive procedure, they could only harvest five mature eggs from my ovaries, of which only two eggs actually fertilised.  This meant that on the day of the surgery, we were found that we were undergoing a fairly painful procedure to put back only two eggs!  That’s not great odds.

You only need 1!

Our miracle had been scheduled.  From the surreal positive pregnancy test and blood test, to every scan since then, I still can’t believe how blessed we really are.  Every milestone is celebrated to the fullest and, if I can be so presumptuous, perhaps more so than for the average pregnant mommy to be.

Ask any infertility sufferer, the joy of falling pregnant is more poignant.  The converse is that the anxiety is more exaggerated too.   A crescendo of worry is the norm before each of my scans, followed by the absolute relief when we hear baby’s strong heartbeat and hear the doc says “everything looks good”.

But it’s all good and par for the course I guess.  Oh, and did I mention it’s a girl?  Well, doc is not 100% sure, but our next 20 week level 2 ultrasound will confirm all of that.  So no buying pink just yet!

The rotten egg toss

Well maybe rotten eggs are a bit too harsh. My eggs, and we’re not talking about the ones from chickens either, are only “aged” and not actually rotten!  After trying for a couple of years without too much success, I only discovered this issue when I visited a fertility clinic earlier this year.

monopoly-go-to-jail-card_8582The Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) process is a bit like a game of Monopoly:  sometimes when you’re two-thirds of the way around the board, you have to pick up the Chance card that says, “Go directly to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect 200.” Wham! All that progress is down the tubes (excuse the pun) and your wallet is the worse for wear too.

There are no guarantees

When undergoing fertility treatment, the first thing you will be told is that there are no guarantees that IVF or ICSI or GIFT or ZIFT (or actually whichever technique you are undergoing) will be successful.  Yet, when presented with a success rate of 80% and the payment of large sums of money, you really do begin to believe that “dammit, this just can’t fail”.

Well it can. In our case, we were in that unlucky 20% of couples where it did actually fail. After six months of running backwards and forwards to the fertility clinic at a drop of a hat, an op to fix the scarring in my uterus thanks to the D&C I had after my previous miscarriage, a truckload of blood tests, hormone pills, stabbing myself with hormone injections morning and night for a period of two weeks, harvesting my eggs, ICSI and PGS, I faced the lonely 10-day wait for the blood test that would show if the implantation was successful.

The odds were seemingly stacked in our favour with all the right conditions in place and a healthy, genetically normal embryo (the only one out of seven) being implanted.  Yet, this is where science leaves the guarantees at the door.  While it can control a myriad of factors, whether the embryo actually implants or not is something that just can’t be manipulated.

This last step of the cycle is the part fraught with the most risk and, in my own humble experience, is something most doctors and specialists downplay to various degrees.

An interesting article on livescience.com sheds some light on why some embryos implant successfully while others don’t.

Our little male embryo and my womb just didn’t make the right chemical connections and sadly, I miscarried.  We were again left distraught, poorer, more desperate … and basically back at square one since we had no more healthy embryos.

Forgiveness

So, I am here asking for forgiveness:  after spewing forth much enthusiasm and positivity in my last blog entry, this post is the polar opposite.

I do take consolation in that, for woman like me, these negative feelings of self-loathing and misery are apparently perfectly natural.  With hope, sometimes we need to face and conquer its evil twin:  despair.

If you are in the same boat, I offer these words of encouragement:  you are not alone.  Every woman and couple undergoing fertility treatment experiences almost the same thing.   The journey of trying to fall pregnant when you suffer from infertility complications is a path I don’t wish on anyone.  Yet, despite being emotionally taxing, it does offer hope to many couples that wouldn’t be able to do this on their own.

I love this visual representation of the fertility path.  If ART was a board game, it would look a lot like this:

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Rebirthing Teatart – a bumpy new ride

When I first started ‘Teatart’ I had lofty ambitions of a blog that was relevant to women transitioning into their thirties. I wanted to share my experiences and anecdotes with brutal honesty and humour.

The truth is that this blog became much more than that.  It became my mouthpiece. When I felt out of control in a world that is essentially out of control, I turned to writing in a safe forum that helped me to make sense of how I felt. From my divorce and my short “wild-ish” stint at being single, to my depression and anxiety, losing my job, having a miscarriage and finally, a second marriage that at first just didn’t seem to be meeting any of my expectations, I wrote it all down.

And then something happened. I began to draw closer to God again (ok, stop rolling your eyes) and my life slowly started to represent a picture of normalcy – or at least as normal as any person’s life can be. I stopped needing my ‘Teatart’ crutch and my blogging gradually reduced to a trickle.

Now, while my life is not exactly a bed of roses, I can boast a good job and a marriage to a man I love with my heart and soul. One gaping hole remains in my life – our lives:  we are yet to start a family after three years of trying. My miscarriage early last year left us devastated and, followed shortly by a second early miscarriage, I felt bitter and angry at the world around me.

imageIn March this year, exactly one year after my first miscarriage at nine weeks, we took the brave and bold step to seek professional help. Thorough researching helped us to shortlist several leading fertility clinics in South Africa, and from there to choose a fertility clinic we felt was right for us.  And so began our infertility journey.

This is where I want to take ‘Teatart’ now. To rebirth my beloved blog with a new focus … at least for now.  I hope I can offer women and couples facing the Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART) process an inkling of hope, support and precious, shared learnings.

It’s been a bumpy ride – but hopefully one with a healthy bump in sight :) Chat soon!

The murder of Caroline

Well, well, well … I haven’t blogged for so long that I almost forgot my WordPress password! Thanks to a writing workshop I recently attended (a gift from Mr Teatart), I have officially broken the writing drought.  So here is my edited short story assignment that depicts a part of the story telling process where the stasis is broken.  I call it:  The murder of Caroline.

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The first time Caroline met Joe at work, she knew she would be his wife.  Her life had always gone to plan, and now, Joe was no exception.  With just one look in his eyes, she foresaw children of her own, a dream home – the whole proverbial picket fence experience.  What Caroline didn’t know, couldn’t know really, was that Joe had secrets:  dark, festering, carefully guarded secrets.

You see, Joe had a type and Caroline was that type.  He would set his sights on winning her over and unwittingly, she would fall for him.  She would believe their first meeting to be a serendipitous event.  He would bump into her in the corridor with just enough force to send her papers and cell phone tumbling to the ground.  Apologising profusely, they would simultaneously stoop to collect her belongings, bump heads, and with his hand grazing hers, he would unleash his disarming charm.  The rest would be history.  Thanks to Hollywood, Joe believed his job would be done.  So many women were too eager to be loved, to be swooped up in a fast-paced, picture-perfect romance.  That’s exactly what Caroline got.

The day the wedding bells chimed and Caroline walked down the aisle beaming at him with love and adoration, Joe beamed back – a smile that nearly consumed his entire face, squinting his eyes into slits and lifting his eyebrows almost into his hairline.  Expect Joe wasn’t smiling in loving reciprocation. He was smiling at the thought of what he would do to Caroline in just a few hours.  Finally, he would be happy again, able to relive his twisted fantasies.   Joe then began to fidget with anticipation.  She would be his now to do with as he pleased.  Just a few more hours … just a few more hours.

My personal Adonis (a short story)

I shouldn’t be doing this. But here I am – rifling through his bathroom cabinet. They say you can tell a lot about a man from his choice of pharmaceuticals, but I’m not sure that’s really the scenario in my case. Besides hair gel, a toothbrush, toothpaste and two deodorant cans, I’ve actually learnt nothing new. That should teach me.

I place everything back as I found it and close the cabinet door. A quick peek out the bathroom door confirms that he is still sound asleep. The rumpled duvet covers lie half on the floor, half on the bed and my Adonis is lying on his back, spread-eagled. A sliver of the sheet covers his waist. It actually reminds me of the children’s bible story illustrations of Adam and Eve with a fig leaf over their private parts. That makes me smirk a little as I admire him from my bathroom door vantage point. He really is magnificent: sandy blonde tousled hair, tanned skin, a surfer’s physique.

The thing is, other than how he looks (and now the contents of his bathroom cabinet), I actually know nothing about him. What I do know is that a rowdy girls’ night out last night has, given my current precarious situation, not ended quite as planned.

It’s easier to blame someone other than yourself, so I blame Brendon, my long-time boyfriend of seven years. I conclude that his cheating shenanigans are directly responsible for where I am right now. We are – were – high-school sweethearts; the cliqued perfect couple. After being together for so long, I wanted a ring on my finger to seal the deal.  Yet Brendon was hesitant. Evasive even. I just didn’t understand why. We loved each other, had a stable relationship – so why then? I got the answer I didn’t want when Brendon’s recent activities were uncovered. He had met some girl at work and had been out with her several times. Apparently enough times to have moved the relationship to the bedroom! His explanation included a feeble excuse that because we had met so young, both of us had never really ‘experienced’ different relationships. He begged my forgiveness, but now it was my turn to be hesitant.

A night out on the town was determined by my girlfriends as the best therapy for a philandering boyfriend. Led by our one and only single friend, I allowed myself to be dragged out instead of comfort eating in my pyjamas in front of the TV. Not that I would’ve admitted it, but it was actually quite fun to dress up and act like a single, carefree woman again. My red party heels were pulled out from the back of my cupboard and my favourite fitted jeans donned. Topped with a splash of red colour on my lips and nails, I felt exciting and daring. Alas, the last thing I can confidently recall was swigging down the umpteenth shooter in some smoky club. Where I am right now, how I got here and with whom, I regrettably have no recollection of.

I decide to brazenly do the only thing a girl can do in this circumstance: I mentally channel the image of a stealthy ninja and make a grab for Adonis’ cell phone. Thankfully, no password and I’m in. A perusal of his text messages conclude that, while he is affectionately termed ‘Bud’ by his friends, I’m positive it’s not his name. Another bust it seems.

There’s something to be said of the cruel light of day, and now, as my bravado wanes and the Nancy Drew in me withers, I start to panic. Its morning. I want to go home. Now.

I scramble to gather my clothes, my cell phone and purse and head straight for the exit. I admit that I’m prone to acting first without thinking it through. True to form, only once I’m out the front door do I stop to contemplate my next move. I have one plausible option: phone my BFF Tina. Damn, my cell phone is turned off. Fumbling, I power it up again and, ignoring the flashing red light that signals my battery is about to die, I dial Tina’s number. She answers on the first ring. No pleasantries. Her first words are a half concerned, half irritated question: “Maddie, what the hell happened?”

I feel a big lump rising in my throat and the last of my composure crumbles. I manage to whimper, “Geez Tina, you tell me! I woke up in some strange guy’s bed. I feel …”. I let the words slide. Nothing can accurately describe how I feel right now. She mutters some profanity under her breath. “Ok, ok. Where are you? I’ll come pick you up”.

Another thing I don’t know it seems. I walk a bit further from the spot I’m standing in, turn the corner and see the main gate to the street. A car is driving out the complex and I make an ungainly dash for the gate. I silently thank the municipality for erecting a large street sign about 200 metres up the road. I tell Tina the street name. As the resourceful heroine she always is, she orders me to stay put and wait for her. “You can’t be far, I’ll plug the street name into my GPS. I’m on my way.”

Barefoot, holding my shoes in one hand, my hair dishevelled and my eye make-up smudged, I conclude that I must be a glorious sight to behold! I’m sure Tina thinks the same thing as I climb into her trusty Polo fifteen minutes later. During the animated ride home she manages to fill in a few of my self-inflicted memory gaps and tells me that she left before me last night as she had to get up early this morning. When she tried to phone me and her calls went straight to voicemail, Tina phoned one of our other friends to find out how things went. She found out that the girls had left me at the club with a friendly guy – hopefully the same one I woke up to this morning – when I insisted I didn’t want to go home and they should leave without me. It explains some of what has transpired, but not who my Adonis is and what happened after their departure. Perhaps this is one event I should really try to forget instead of trying to remember.

With much cursing and consoling, Tina finally drops me at home and leaves me alone on condition that I promise to phone her later on in the day. My first point of business is to make a cup of my favourite tea and take a hot shower.

I charge up my phone to check my text and voice messages. In addition to the harried messages from Tina, I have a long-winded message from Brendon. He says he loves me and asks if we can meet to talk things through. He also states emphatically that he believes it would be a huge mistake if I just end our relationship so easily after one foolish indiscretion. Characteristically Brendon – always trying to control the state of affairs and minimise the damage.

I’m contemplating whether I want to call Brendon back after so much has transpired, when my phone rings. I don’t recognise the number but I answer anyway.

“Maddie?” an unfamiliar voice asks.
“Yes.”
“Maddie, my name is Jeff.  We met at the club last night?”
I remain silent.
“You left your watch at my place.”
I balk. Oh boy, this must be my Adonis. Did I really give him my number?
He clears his throat, “You could’ve woken me up. I would’ve taken you home you know.” Now I hear a soft rumble as he tries to contain a chuckle. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed or angry.
“Why don’t I take you out for lunch today? I like you and we seem to have tons of stuff in common. Based on your quick escape this morning though, I think I might’ve scared you off. How about we start over?”
I think about it and after a short pause, I hear myself say “Ok”. Surprisingly, I am ok with it.
“Oh, and by the way Maddie, we didn’t sleep together if that’s what you were wondering. You were a little wasted and I couldn’t get your address out of you. So I took you back to my place to sleep it off.”
“But you were naked!” I blurt out.
He laughs. “I sleep in the buff.  See you in an hour.”

I’m smiling now – a big goofy grin that crinkles the corners of my eyes. He sounds like a ‘nice guy’ and I sure could do with a ‘nice guy’ around about now. Maybe there is a life after Brendon?  I’m sure I’ll figure it out, but it’s one step at time. This is my first step – and it’s out the door to meet my personal Adonis. Adios Brendon.

~ A short story by Sherrie Dyer-Bracher

Stressed out and strung out. Now what?

Stress does funny things to a person.  A person’s health and emotional well-being. To relationships. Sure, a little stress is good – motivating even. It can be a needed kick in the pants to help us re-focus and rise to the occasion.  But too much stress … it throws that delicate balance out of sync – and the results can be disastrous.

Run a Google search on “stress” and the first site that jumps up on the screen makes the bold statement of “Don’t let stress hijack your life”.  A profound statement in itself, because stress really and truly can “hijack” a person’s life.

StressWhile it remains to be said that stress comes in all shapes and forms, stressors affect each and every person in a different way.  What’s stressful to me may not be that stressful to you.  Yet, whatever those stressors may be, stress overload can result in a variety of health conditions.  For instance, high blood pressure, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and asthma, amongst other conditions.  Emotionally, things get more complex.  Now we’re talking about insomnia, loss of libido, difficulty relaxing, low self-esteem and depression, agitation, moodiness and frustration.  Such symptoms can also lead to a cache 22 scenario, for example, suffering from insomnia because due to stress will mean a person is less likely to be able to handle stressful situations because of being sleep deprived.  And round and round we go.

And then there’s the ultimate cog in the wheel, the negative impact stress can have on relationships.   Some people will emerge as moody, easily agitated and short-tempered ogres, snapping at loved ones and being so impatient and intolerant that unintentionally loved ones are pushed away – or perhaps sent running for the hills in search of cover.  In short, the home may invariably become a war zone of disharmony and discontent which only worsens the situation.

StressI know that we can’t always control what will cause us stress.  Yet surely we can find ways to maximise what we actually can control?  Seizing power over the foothold stress has in our lives means learning to recognise its symptoms and finding out how to handle it.  I found the World of Psychology’s “10 Practical Ways to Handle Stress” very helpful.

The great thing about the Internet is that, thanks to the myriad of websites and blogs dedicated to the topic, the information to help us cope is at our figure tips.  Applying it in our own lives is, of course, the real challenge – but not necessarily a battle that cannot be won.

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