It's already been three months since my last pregnancy update!
Last time I wrote about the pregnancy I was announcing it(!) and I was almost 19 weeks. Now I'm 32 weeks, and, as you can imagine, a lot has changed.
No small feat has been leaving Tokyo, our home of 10 years, and moving back to Melbourne, Australia. We did this just before I reached the 28 week mark.
That meant that we were (and still are) in the middle of two very major life changes – preparing to become parents and making a big international move. Until now, it's mostly been the latter than has consumed the majority of our time, as we have had to pack up our entire lives in Japan, and now we are basically doing everything in reverse as we start the journey of building up a different and new existence here in Melbourne.
Although, of course, among all the chaos of moving, we've also had to be taking steps to transfer my pre-natal care from Japan to Australia, with two systems that although are similar in some ways, are vastly different in most others (and I can't wait to share with you some of the differences in another post as I think you'll find them quite surprising).
Now on to the pregnancy update (if you haven't read our 19 week announcement and pregnancy update, you might want to do that for context before reading on).
So, how is baby Shiyoshi doing now?
She is doing very well. I had an ultrasound last week so that my hospital in Melbourne had a formal ultrasound report done by them to put on file (not just my Japanese scans), and also because the midwife wanted to check on the size of the baby.
According to my belly measurements the week before, I was definitely on the small side. They tracked my measurements from Japan on a chart and while I was a little bigger each time, my growth had slowed and dipped on what would be considered an average trajectory, and although this first measurement in Australia showed more of an increase, which made the midwife happy, the results so far would indicate that perhaps the baby herself is not so big.
Of course, just because the baby may be small, doesn't mean she is not completely healthy, but they just want to be prepared if it seems like there is a possibility she will be born on the smaller side, and may need to log a couple of weight gains in hospital before being released.
However, during the ultrasound we found out that she is actually above-average weight for her gestational age. She was estimated to be 1.9kg at 31 weeks 1 day, putting her in the 71st percentile. That means she has more than doubled in size since our last ultrasound in Japan at 26 weeks!
She'll be 2kg+ by now and we still have two months to go if she comes on or close to her due date of October 10th, and this is typically the period when a lot of growth happens.
So while she probably won't be a huge baby, she won't be small either. It seems that while my stomach may not be massive by Australian standards, she is taking up most of the space in there!
Like in Japan, it took some time to get accurate measurements as she is so active. My stomach was literally bouncing up and down during the scan, and the attending said that she was kicking the umbilical cord over and over, like she was playing a game or trying to skip rope. The word ‘cheeky' was used multiple times as they tried to get a visual on her organs and to take the measurements they needed. It seemed she had nestled her head as far down into my groin as possible and kept turning away from them.
It was really cool to “see her” again after 5 weeks, the longest we have gone without an ultrasound this entire pregnancy! It was also amazing to see her practicing breathing in there, something babies do to prepare for the outside world. It just makes you think how crazy it is that our bodies can do this and that all of this stuff is basically happening on auto-pilot on the inside.
How am I feeling now?
In the last update, I was coming out of an intense couple of months of morning sickness. I'm pleased to report that soon after the 20 week mark, the nausea went away and I stopped vomiting altogether.
That was definitely a welcome change as no one likes to feel terrible, especially when most medications you might usually take for some relief are off the table during pregnancy (and I had decided not to take anything at all), and also when you have no idea when it's going to end. At least during the final few weeks of packing in Japan, I wasn't dealing with this as well.
The sciatica I was experiencing got worse before getting better. In fact, during those final few weeks in Japan, I couldn't even lay on my back for more than a minute or two before I would be writhing in pain and unable to move over to my side to sleep.
After coming back to Australia and sleeping on a bed with a spring mattress, however, I'm basically not having any troubles at all, apart from a little twinge here or there. So I'm not sure if it's just coincidence that those symptoms went away at about the same time, or whether it is because I'm no longer sleeping on a futon on the floor, which is plausible. In any case, I'm grateful that it has gotten better.
So while things were crazy with leaving Japan, I'd actually been sitting in a little bit of a sweet spot physically. The morning sickness had gone away, the back pain was much improved, and I wasn't so huge yet that getting around was a major difficulty, despite feeling the need to sit more frequently.
But entering the third trimester here in Australia, I'm definitely starting to get a taste of why everyone talks about it being a difficult time (along with first trimester morning sickness).
I'm now much bigger which makes it harder to do many things. I can't walk as far as I used to, I need to use the bathroom more frequently, I get tired more easily, and I can't bend down or see my toes anymore. Putting shoes and socks on has become a difficult task and trying to get into a comfortable sleeping position is almost impossible. I've never been so glad for a pregnancy pillow!
My favourite parts of being pregnant!
The absolute best part of being pregnant and in these later stages of pregnancy for me is feeling her kicking and moving around. When I last wrote, I could feel her but Hai couldn't.
As we approached 20 weeks, Hai was able to start feeling her kick, but only sometimes and he had to have his hand over the exact spot, and it had to be quite a decent movement. Over the following weeks, he started to feel her a lot more frequently, but the smaller “flutters” I would feel, still didn't register. Now she is so strong that he can basically feel all her kicks, punches and movements.
For me, the movements have changed a lot too. Things started out more as flutters or smaller kicks, then they felt like stronger bumps. Then for a short time I started feeling the movement of the kicking motion itself. I could actually feel the motion of the knee bending and then her extending her leg out into a kick. So there was a kind of momentary “whooshing” sensation before her leg hit my stomach. I could only describe it to Hai as “frog's legs”.
As the space quickly became more limited, and she didn't have room to make big sweeping motions like that anymore, it went back to the bumping motion, only more intense because she was bigger and stronger by that point.
Now my stomach visibly moves and wobbles around when she kicks, to the point that others can often see this movement even through my clothes. And the other day between appointments at the hospital food court, I felt a nudge and looked down to see a distinct bulge protruding through my top. I couldn't tell if it was a hand or a foot and she didn't keep it there for long, but I'm hoping that she'll do it again at some point and when we're not in such a public setting, so we can take a good look and hopefully see some fingers or toes!
I'm also feeling the sensation of her turning, which I hadn't felt until maybe a month ago. It's perhaps the strangest feeling of all, and has stopped me in my tracks a few times. These movements are more prolonged than a sudden kick (imagine something like a rotisserie chicken turning inside you) and I can often feel her head quite distinctly at these times.
At this point, she can hear and also recognize familiar voices. Hai has been reading to her every night for many months and this is my favourite time of the day, seeing her responding to his voice and their bond already being established.
So apart from the usual pregnancy symptoms, overall my and the baby's health are great so far. And now our sights are starting to turn to her arrival.
It might sound crazy, but for me, even with all these major changes to my body, it hasn't felt that “real” until now. I mean, I knew I was pregnant and was happy to be, but the baby still very much felt like a concept or imagining up until this point.
In the earlier stages of pregnancy, the birth feels so far away and you feel a bit disconnected from the reality of actually having a baby, at least that is how I felt. Now that she is moving around with such intensity and sass (haha), and we are getting closer to actually meeting her, I'm really starting to imagine her outside the womb and becoming a part of our lives.
It's also because now we are buying car seats and prams and bassinets, and wondering if they'd be a good and comfortable choice for her; this human that will soon be in the outside world. It's actually time for birthing classes, to make a birth plan and discuss it with the midwives, and to pack a hospital bag.
And one thing that has been very apparent to me over the past few weeks is how quickly time is passing. In the beginning, it seemed to take forever to reach certain milestones, especially when no one else knew about the pregnancy, and that long stint of morning sickness definitely didn't make the days feel any shorter either. Now every time I go to the hospital and each department asks how many weeks I am, I almost startle myself with the answer.
There's definitely still quite a few things we need to do to prepare (as best we can for such things), but there is certainly an excitement brewing. It kind of feels like travel in many ways, when you are about to go to a completely new destination for the first time, and you're really looking forward to it but also possibly anxious or unsure about many things. You try to do as much research as possible and try to pack all the right items, but you also won't really know what it's like until you get there.
Then you realize that some of the things you packed were amazing (in fact, you should get more) and that other things didn't work out or you barely touched. The terrain that changes day-by-day and the constant decision-making is exhausting, and sometimes pushes you to your limits, but there is wonder and excitement in exploring someplace new. We learn, we grow, we adapt.
We definitely don't have all the answers, but we can't wait for the challenge.