Monday, 27 August 2012

The Idiot’s Guide to the Pregnancy From Hell

A few days ago I posted this – Having Children: 50 Reasons Not To!

For some time, I’d wanted to talk about the nightmare that was my pregnancy, but I was unsure how to go about it. I didn’t really want to describe the horrific experience in details – not least because I didn’t care to re-examine it that closely as I am about to embark on round 2. The other reasons were because it’s not a story I usually share with women who intend to, but have not yet had, children, due to its horrific nature.

No joke...
When my friend shared a post with me, a tongue in cheek reasons not to have children, and I joked I could find 50 reasons before pregnancy even ended, I thought I had the answer – I could do my own slightly light-hearted, slightly serious list. The list included some obviously funny items, and some far more serious ones. 

Many people took the list in the way it was intended – light-heartedly highlighting the fact that pregnancy is not as glowingly glamorous as some books would have us believe, that for some of us, mere inconveniences pale by comparison, and it is, indeed, a cruel, hard slog, and comes with some serious, sometimes life-threatening, and sometimes life-changing, side-effects. 

One person, however, apparently taking the title literally, declared the post ‘idiotic’. For those who don’t know, blog titles serve two purposes – to elicit interest, and for SEO. For these reasons, they can’t always be taken at face value, and sometimes have only a tenuous connection to the post. 

I confess I found this declaration distressing – my pregnancy was the most horrific experience of my life. For those of you who read my guest post for @RachelintheOC, you know I survived an emotionally torturous divorce from my first husband, who suffered from multiple personalities, so to say my pregnancy topped that is, well, saying something! 

This person stated to me that ‘none of those reasons is sufficient to not have children’. To clarify – I wasn’t suggesting any one of them was enough to deter me. To be clear – I had all these symptoms. Some of them are mere inconveniences – except when lumped on top of the deadly 1-2 combo of symphisis pubis dysfunction and pregnancy related carpal tunnel syndrome. Then they become extra straws loaded on the camel’s back after that final straw that already broke it’s back. It’s amazing how distressing it can be that one can’t wear one’s favourite heels when one is already borderline pre-natal depression. It might seem silly to the balanced mind – indeed it seems silly now – but at the time it wasn’t. I even made my husband take our wedding photos down because I ‘didn’t know that woman’ in them.

Secondly, this person stated she wouldn’t give up her child for anything. I’m not suggesting I would give up my daughter – because what is the only thing worse than suffering through the pregnancy from hell for a child?

Suffering through the pregnancy from hell – for nothing.

That may sound insensitive, but I say that in all emotional seriousness. My mental state was so bad towards the end of my pregnancy that I was afraid the baby would be stillborn or suffer some other deadly complication. I had suffered through so much, endured the unendurable because there was no alternative, and was at incredibly high risk of pre-natal depression, and therefore also post-natal depression, that the idea was insufferable. I also suffered from a condition that meant I had a lot of amniotic fluid – so while books were telling me I should feel the baby move at every specified interval, I could go days without feeling the baby move. No wonder I was anxious. If it had happened, I don’t know I would have had the strength to try again. 

What my pregnancy did do, though, was make my husband and I seriously reconsider whether we wanted anymore children. My husband wanted 3, maybe 4, children – until about halfway through my pregnancy when he revised down to 1. It is no exaggeration to say my pregnancy put so much strain on my marriage that divorce was not outside the realms of possibility. My first pregnancy was horrific – how could we survive a second one - knowing what was coming?

You can say ‘every pregnancy is different’, but the reality is, some pregnancy conditions, once you have them once, are more likely to recur the second time. Symphisis pubis dysfunction (SPD) is one – my OB informed me I would almost certainly get it again, and earlier. The more pregnancies I have, the greater the probability the problems will become permanent. I might as well take this opportunity to announce I am pregnant – I’m 11 weeks pregnant, due 22nd March, and I already have early symptoms of SPD. I didn’t have this condition until 18 weeks last time, and this morning I felt the first touch of despair as I contemplated the next 29 weeks ahead of me.

You probably don’t know what SPD is or what it means in real terms, so I will explain now, in more detail, the crippling, debilitating nature of my pregnancy. If you are a childless woman planning to have children in the future, you might like to stop reading now. If you are a childless woman never intending to have children, you might like to keep reading – there’s probably something in here you can use as vindication to the people who question your decision!

Sufferers of SPD experience pain in the lower back, hips, groin, lower abdomen, and legs. The severity of the pain can range from mild discomfort to extreme and prolonged suffering, and I was at the extreme and prolonged end of this scale. It becomes difficult to climb stairs because of the severity of the pain – it’s not pain you can push through. The body responds defensively, and either recoils from the pain, or the hips just collapse under the pressure. Either way, you’re likely to fall, and once you start falling, you can’t recover, because the hips can’t respond. Our house was only accessible by stairs and some days I couldn’t leave the house if my husband wasn’t there to help me. SPD sufferers also have pain when carrying out weight bearing activities (think about that in the context of pregnancy…), difficulties carrying out everyday activities, and difficulties standing. In a nutshell, it hurts to stand, sit, lie and walk. It hurts a lot.

She looks like her back sure hurts...
Now think about how you get out of bed – you tend to roll, pushing with one leg. Forget. It. If you have SPD, attempting this will leave you sobbing in a heap. For a while, I used my hands to drag myself out of bed. Since I was sleeping with 5 pillows – one between the knees, one under the belly, one under my head, and two behind my back – to keep my pelvis neutral, this was a somewhat difficult exercise. Sure hubby would help, but I couldn’t wake him up every 2.5 hours to do so. Because I would sleep 1.5 hours, wake with a numb hip and needing the toilet. It was then a 1 hour exercise to get up, go to the toilet, rearrange the pillows so I could turn over, get back in bed, and fall back asleep. I kid you not.

The SPD was bad enough, but then I developed pregnancy-related carpal tunnel. Essentially I had excessive fluid retention (my total weight increased by 50% of my pre-pregnancy weight), including in my arms, which put pressure on my carpal tunnel nerve, producing carpal tunnel syndrome. This creates numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers, sometimes pain, and general weakness. I couldn’t feel my thumb or forefinger, and I had persistent pain in my last two fingers. I lacked strength – I couldn’t even cut meat, turn a doorknob, or carry a glass of water one handed. Or, you guessed it, haul myself out of bed using my hands. I no longer recall how I did get out of bed. Sometimes I didn’t; I was stuck there until my husband could help me.  

I worked through my entire pregnancy. I didn’t have a choice. I am the primary breadwinner for my family. If I didn’t work, we’d have nowhere to live. It’s crippling enough for our finances that I must take 6 months off work following the birth of the baby; there’s no way I could contemplate stopping work early. Quite apart from that, by the time I did go on maternity leave, 3 weeks before my due date, I was in such bad shape, physically, that literally all I could do was watch TV – and work. Thanks to my unorthodox typing style, typing was the one thing that made my hands feel better (although the mouse was a bitch). I couldn’t read, because the fixed position of holding a book open caused my hands to cramp and seize painfully. I could write (by typing) but didn’t because of my near-depression. 

By the last quarter of my pregnancy, it is almost fair to say if I wasn’t shouting and angry, I was crying. For every second of every minute of every hour of every day for at least 6 months I was in severe to extreme pain and discomfort from which there was no relief. 

So that’s my pregnancy, summarised. There is more, of course – reflux, and preeclampsia, and suspected deep vein thrombosis, and anything else I listed in the last post (and probably more I’ve forgotten) but those issues merely added misery on top of an impossibly high pile of misery.

Unless you’ve suffered through a pregnancy like mine, you have no idea what I suffered. The exceptions are if you watched a very close loved one suffer it (a wife, a daughter), or if you fell pregnant after fertility treatments, because that is its own brand of physical and emotional hell, or perhaps if you are a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy. That may sound dramatic, but in all seriousness, the only person I met during my last pregnancy who could relate to how I felt was a chemotherapy patient. That should be some indication of just how debilitating the pregnancy was. 

The people who watched me soldier through that pregnancy often said ‘I don’t know how you do it’ and the short answer was ‘Because I have no choice’. Quite apart from the fact that I would never have aborted a baby for any of the reasons listed in my last post, I was well past the time when that was a choice anyway.  

Those same people are now saying to me ‘I can’t believe you are doing it again, you are so brave’.

Well, there’s always another possibility.

I may just be stupid.

Not so stupid that I’ll be doing this a third time. 

If you missed it, check out my post on the mythical origins of werewolves.

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Friday, 24 August 2012

Having Children: 50 Reasons Not To!

Most pregnancies don't look like this.... Or not for very long.
My friend recently directed me to this post. After having a laugh, I told her I could have come up with 50 reasons before labour even starts. 

So I thought I had better deliver, and here are my 50 reasons, in no particular order. Some of these may be funny - others not so much.
  1. Swollen feet;
  2. Cankles;
  3. Not knowing if your favourite shoes will ever fit again;
  4. Not being able to put your own shoes on;
  5. Not knowing if your favourite jeans will ever fit again;
  6. Being woken in the morning by excruciating leg cramps;
  7. Sinusitis – because who doesn’t love a nose that drips like a tap?
  8. A persistent cough for three months because of sinusitis;
  9. The disgusted looks people give you because of the cough because they are afraid you will infect them with your non-infectious sinusitis;
  10. Feet like yesterday you spent all day at a show or fair – even first thing in the morning, and even if you spent the last 24 hours lying down;
  11. Not being able to stand long enough to brush your teeth;
  12. Sore knees;
  13. Round ligament pain – I do so love the feel of a hot knife shoved into my lower abdomen;
  14. Symphisis pubis dysfunction;
  15. Not being able to stand, sit, walk or lie down without being in pain;
  16. Not being able to sleep for more than 1.5 hours at a stretch for 9 months;
  17. Waking up because your hip is numb and needing to completely reconstruct your bed and the dozen pillows you’re sleeping with before being able to roll over;
  18. Waking up because your hip is numb and you need to pee and then needing to reconstruct your bed;
  19. Needing to kick your husband out of bed for 5 months because there’s no room for all of you;
  20. Breathlessness;
  21. Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome;
  22. Having to strap your wrists every night before bed;
  23. Sexy compression stockings;
  24. Not being able to put your sexy compression stockings on unassisted;
  25. Needing help getting in and out of the shower;
  26. Needing help in and out of your house;
  27. Not being able to cut your own meat;
  28. Not being able to turn a doorknob;
  29. Passing out on the train;
  30. People who sit on you on the train;
  31. Upper back pain;
  32. Lower back pain;
  33. Twice weekly visits with the chiropractor;
  34. People who say ‘But think about the miracle of life you are creating!’ – somebody pass me that half-brick in a sock;
  35. Low blood pressure;
  36. High blood pressure;
  37. Pre-eclampsia;
  38. Deep vein thrombosis;
  39. Constant exhaustion;
  40. All-day sickness – and not being able to take anything for it;
  41. Reflux;
  42. Indigestion;
  43. Excessive fluid retention;
  44. Stretch marks;
  45. Hair – in all the places you never wanted it. Black hair;
  46. Nose bleeds;
  47. Bleeding gums;
  48. Linea negra - that line up the middle of your stomach;
  49. Melasma – or pregnancy mask;
  50. Haemorrhoids.
So there you have it, 50 reasons before you even get to labour. And for anyone wondering, yes I can personally attest to most of those – certainly the worst ones. 

Most women don't get this big, but see the look on her face? See it? THAT'S pregnancy.

Here’s some bonus childbirth reasons;
  1. Induction;
  2. Having your waters artificially broken;
  3. Syntocinon drips;
  4. Pethidine;
  5. Being told you can’t have an epidural because an anaesthetist isn’t available;
  6. Having your husband sent home after being induced so you can both ‘sleep’ – HA!
  7. Overlapping contractions;
  8. Not progressing;
  9. Ceasarean section;
  10. That first time you get out of bed after a caesarean section.
If you missed it, check out my post on the mythical origins of werewolves.

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Friday, 17 August 2012

Growing A Thicker Skin – Feedback Does Stop Stinging!

This thick?
I hate having my work critiqued. Who doesn’t? The feeling of inadequacy, the annoyance (or perhaps anger) when someone makes a comment about your ‘baby’ that you disagree with, and the stupid feeling when you see obvious errors. It’s a hardly a fun experience, and you can come out the other end wondering why you keep putting yourself through the pain.

Despite that, I’ve always considered it a necessary evil and, no matter how painful, an important learning experience. Not all feedback need be accepted, and there are, of course, always those problems the writer is too close to see, but every technical problem shown to you that you didn’t know before adds something to your writer’s toolkit.

After about five years of having my work torn to shreds, starting with the not so flattering comment of ‘Well, it hangs together – sort of’, I still believe that. I’ve come a long way, and cringe when I look at some work from five years ago. But the process never got any easier. 

I would look forward to my crit group meetings, and at the same time I was eager to let someone – anyone – else go first, and would always demur when asked if I wanted to go next. The process of working through written feedback was totally demoralising, and I would procrastinate and find reasons not to start. When I finally opened that document, I was tense the entire time, waiting to be torn down or made an idiot of – even though the feedback was nearly always constructive. 

Or maybe this thick?
When I went on maternity leave a few weeks before the birth of my daughter, I had plenty of time to write. Owing to the ‘pregnancy from hell’ (the topic of a yet-to-be-written future post), typing was one of only two activities I could manage (the other was watching TV). However, also owing to the ‘pregnancy from hell’, I was far too depressed to contemplate reading the feedback on my novel. So I did nothing. 

In short, if I could have found a real way to avoid this part of the writing process, I would have. And all this despite the fact I am not usually a procrastinator, and I spent the first five years of my legal career having every piece of advice and agreement I drafted also torn to shreds. 

And then, two weeks ago, I received a final edit on my short story ‘Dragon Bait’. I opened it, scanned the comments and suggested changes, made the ones I agreed with, finalised the document and sent it off to a magazine. 

It wasn’t until a day later I realised I hadn’t procrastinated, and I hadn’t tensed up. I just did it. A necessary part of the process, and a job to be completed like any other. 

Apparently my skin is now sufficiently dragonhide thick so as not to bruise my ego. 

It only took twenty years!

Logically, it has to happen – if you hope to be a serious writer. If you traditionally publish, or seriously self-publish, you will have an editor. If your editor is any good, they will give your darling back to you covered in red scribble. And this may happen multiple times in respect of multiple books. If it doesn’t stop hurting, it could turn into a very stressful career choice!

But it did stop hurting. It happened, and I didn’t even notice. So now I look back at it and marvel, like a caterpillar turned into a butterfly, or a fading rainbow glimpsed at the end of the storm. 

And I smile.  
OK, maybe not this thick after all... And I don't support the slaughter of innocent dragons for gloves!

If you missed it, check out my guest post on POV Rules and when it's OK to break them here

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Friday, 10 August 2012

Ultimate Summer Giveaway: $225 PayPal Cash, iPod Touch, & More–2 Winners!

 Welcome to the Ultimate Summer Giveaway! Like a Bump on a Blog and our wonderful sponsors have teamed up to bring you some amazing prizes for 2 lucky winners. $225 PayPal Cash is the grand prize awarded to the first winner.
Win $225 Paypal cash and other awesome prizes!

The second winner will win a brand new iPod touch, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, and a 4-pack of artistic blank greeting cards.
Win an iPod Touch!
Win a $10 Amazon Gift Card

Win 4 Blank handpainted cards (2 fairy snails and 2 steampunk snails
Before we get to the Rafflecopter entry form, I'd like to thank our individual sponsors for their generous contributions:

A special thanks to amazing author Toby Neal. Check out her amazing Lei Crime book series, Torch Ginger, Blood Orchids, and Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything: A Social Media Mini-Book.

Toby Neal's Torch Ginger
Special thanks to RachelintheOc. Check out her bestselling snarky, witty, humorous books, The Mancode: Exposed and A Walk in the Snark.

Our other gracious sponsors include Intricate Knot, Dad Blunders-Life as I know it, and the The World 4 Realz. Check out their websites and blogs, because they are all pretty fantastic.

Now on to the giveaway entry form. You must complete ALL steps to be considered for these awesome prizes. Entries will be checked and those who only do part of the steps will be disqualified. Sorry to be blunt, but a lot of time and care has gone into delivering the best possible Ultimate Summer Giveaway to wonderful fans and readers. Thank you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Friday, 3 August 2012

New “Club Fantasci” Speculative Fiction Video Book Club

I’m co-hosting a video book club. Me. Wow.
The book reviewers are David Lowry, author Dionne Lister, entertainment personality and model Shannon Million, and of course myself! 

Club Fantasci launched August 1, 2012, and is designed to help bring great books and great authors more exposure to the world at large. We are taking the stigma out of speculative fiction!

The book club will select a book each month for review, and the reviewers will then meet via G+ Hangout once a month to discuss the literary merits of the book – and we’ll be doing more than just telling you we liked or didn’t like the book. In an entertaining way, of course. So it's just like an offline book club... except online... with wine... and stuff.

The first G+ hangout is scheduled for August 31st 7:00pm EST/CST. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, that’s 1 September 10am AEST. So if you fancy joining us, go pick up this month’s book, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and we look forward to seeing you there. 

You can learn more about us by:

Joining our group on Goodreads
Liking our Page on Facebook
Checking out our Website

And here’s a little more about Club Fantasci and what we hope to achieve:

We want to expose you to the full gamut of the speculative fiction genre, including science fiction, hard SF, militaristic SF, high/epic fantasy, dark fantasy, dystopian, cyberpunk, steampunk, space opera, paranormal, urban fantasy, SFF romance and erotica, and everything in between.

We want to educate readers on good writing in speculative fiction, entertain with witty banter, and above all have a fantastic time. Fiction need not be literary to be well written, and good writing need not be boring or mundane! We promise you we’ll do our best to bring you a good book every month, and if not, we’ll tell you why it’s not! For a bit of light fun, we’ll also be featuring a wine of the month and picking a song that best fits the book.

Club Fantasci will introduce the “Wine of the Month” and each of the reviewers will pick music they feel best represents the current “Book of the Month.” So bring your book, keep that wineglass topped up, and don’t forget your iPod!

The “Wine of the Month” for August is a 2011 “Suited Muscat” from Sort This Out Cellars Winery in Las Vegas, NV.

Alternatively, you can connect with the reviewers
The Lowry Agency:

Dionne Lister

Shannon Million

Ciara Ballintyne

You can read the official press release for the launch of Club Fantasci here

If you missed it, check out my guest post on POV Rules and when it's OK to break them here

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

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