Migraine + Pregnancy = No fun

What do you do when you have a migraine while pregnant?

Sadly, I suffer from migraines.  Fortunately, they rarely make me significantly nauseous, nor do I get the “aura.”  They are, however, quite painful and since they are usually located behind one of my eyes, that eye waters.  My simple, but effective technique for dealing with them over the years has been to take 800 mg ibuprofen at the first sign of a headache, put a cold pack on my forehead, lay down in a dark, quiet place and attempt to take a nap.  I am sure not every little twinge in my head would have developed into a migraine (some probably would have been your run-of-the mill headaches), but with migraines it is important to head them off as quickly as possible because it is much more difficult to get rid of them after they fully develop.  I understand this is actually true for pain management in general, and though I’ve never heard why, my guess is that those particular receptors take a long time to turn over making them fairly inaccessible to pain medication once the pain starts (though someone should correct me if I’m wrong) (look, science content!).

As you may know, you cannot take ibuprofen (or aspirin, or aleve) when you are pregnant.  So, when I felt a headache developing the other night I was pretty concerned about how I was going to deal with it since, in the past, Tylenol has not touched my migraines.  Nevertheless, I took two Tylenol, put an cold pack on my head, and went to bed.  And, as I feared, I woke up in the middle of the night with a migraine.  Took more Tylenol, put another cold pack on my head, and went back to bed.  And woke up this morning with the migraine still going strong.  So, I took more Tylenol and this time added my secret weapon:  caffeine.

If you look at the back of a bottle of  extra-strength Excedrin, you will notice one of the active ingredients is caffeine.  Caffeine is actually good for relieving migraines (if it is not what causes your migraines in the first place, it can do both).  You may have heard that pregnant women are supposed to stay away from caffeine, but if you do the research, it turns out that you can have up to 200 mg caffeine a day which is about the amount in one 12 oz cup of coffee or several 8 oz cups of black tea (depending on how strong you brew your tea).*  Of course, green and white tea have even less caffeine so you can have a whole teapot of one of those, if you want.

At any rate, I took more Tylenol, had a cup of strongly brewed tea (I hate coffee), laid back down, et voila!  Migraine gone.  For some people, I know, it would not be so easy.  These unfortunate people likely take something quite a bit stronger than ibuprofen for their migraines and fortunately, some of those can be used during pregnancy.  However, I think drinking some caffeine could be something to try if you are stuck with only Tylenol to soothe your pain.

*This is a useful number to have handy in case someone (your mother-in-law, for instance) gets on your case about having a caffeinated beverage.  Not that I would know anything about that.

Things to NOT say to your pregnant wife

Scene:  Bedroom, trying to go to sleep

Me:  I’m really worried about the weight I’m gaining.  I’m worried I won’t be able to get rid of it all after the baby arrives.

Husband:  Well, maybe you should count calories more.

Me:  That was not what you were supposed to say.

Husband:  I’m sorry.

Me:  You were supposed to say that of course I will be able to lose the weight and even if I didn’t you would still love me and find me attractive.

Husband:  Of course you will lose the weight and even if you don’t, I’ll still love you and find you attractive.

Me:  Too late.

Husband:  Sorry.

Finis

I am now 9 weeks pregnant and I have already gained 10 pounds.  Despite finding some ridiculous nutritional recommendations online (which wanted you to substantially increase your intake of all food groups yet somehow not add more than 300 calories to your diet), I ended up adding just 1 serving of fruit, 1 serving of veggies, and one serving of dairy a day to my diet.  That really doesn’t seem like enough to have caused me to gain 5 pounds a month.  Not only that, but for awhile I had decreased appetite and a bit of nausea so I wasn’t eating much of anything at all, which you would think would lead to me gaining less weight (I usually lose weight when I’m sick).

Now, it turns out I have some mega uterine fibroids that have probably grown as a result of the influx of large amounts of hormones.  So maybe that accounts for some of the weight (for real, they’re huge*).  I mentioned this to my mother and her response was, “Oh, no, I don’t think so.”  Turns out she gained weight right away whenever she was pregnant.  She said it was like her metabolism just stopped, it didn’t matter what she did, she gained weight.  She gained an average of around 50 pounds each time (she was fortunately only 109 lbs starting out).  And she did lose it all every time.  Unfortunately, she had a serious eating disorder at the time, so there’s no telling what would have happened if she had actually, I don’t know, ate after she delivered her babies (or didn’t take massive amounts of laxatives).  Since I am not keen on developing an eating disorder (I have enough mental health problems, thank you very much), it looks like I’ll have to take the traditional route of diet and exercise.

In addition to causing me some concern about my post-pregnancy self-image, the added weight has caused another problem.  Since the extra pounds all collected on my belly (in contrast to where I normally gain weight which is on my butt and thighs), I am actually starting to look pregnant a lot sooner than I expected.  So much so that I’m starting to wonder how much longer I can keep it a secret.  Originally, we had planned to tell only a handful of people until I was in the 2nd trimester when the risk of miscarriage decreases considerably.  I’ve been trying to disguise my growing belly with baggy clothes, but that really can only take you so far.  I have a feeling it won’t be long before somebody’s curiosity overcomes their politeness and they ask me about it.  In fact, somebody at church has already asked A who replied that she didn’t know and they should ask me (which was a total lie, she did know; that’s an awkward situation to be in, lying to people at church, poor A will have to go to confession about it for sure).  At this point, I almost wish it was still a taboo subject, that way I could avoid having to answer the questions of nosy acquaintances, potentially letting them in on the secret before the rest of my family even knows.

So, we’re thinking of telling our families at the end of next week.  That’ll be 10 weeks.  That’s close enough to second trimester, right?  And, I’ve already had an ultrasound and little Emmy (short for embryo) has a heartbeat, so we’re probably in the clear.  Right?

Right?

*One is 6.3 x 7.2 x 6 cm and another is 3.7 x 3.4 x 2.7 cm.  My little embryo, in contrast, is about an inch long.  My ob does not seem terribly concerned about the fibroids, though, so I’m trying not to worry about them.

If the government shuts down

Husband works for a company that contracts with NASA.  His office is in a NASA research center.  If the government shuts down, he can telecommute for awhile.  If the government shuts down for an extended period of time, he will not be able to telecommute for the entire time and will have to start taking vacation time.  If the government shuts down for a really long time, he will run out of vacation time and he will not be paid. Not, “he’ll still be paid but he won’t get a paycheck until the government starts up again.”  He. Will. Not. Be. Paid.  And seeing as how I’m currently unemployed, we will have no income.

A cut in income and no vacation time has pretty big meaning to us right now.  My brother is getting married in June in Iowa.  Will we be able to afford to go?  Or rather, will we be able to afford for me to go because Husband will have to stay home due to having no vacation time.  And then, there’s the baby.  Obviously, a decrease in income is not good when there is a baby on the way.  But, the loss of vacation time is also not good.  Husband’s company does not offer paid paternity leave.  He can use sick time for that (and pray he doesn’t get sick until he accrues more sick time) and he was going to do that, but he was also planning on using vacation time.  He’s been trying to save as much vacation time as possible in preparation for this, but obviously, it is more important to us for him to receive a paycheck right now so he will take vacation time now if he has to.

I don’t agree with many of the budget cuts the Republicans want.  But, at this point, I don’t give a damn.  Just pass the budget already.

Women who “don’t work” run the world

This morning, I got an email from a fellow church volunteer who abruptly said she needed something large, complicated and wooden that I had gotten roped into making by this Sunday.  No deadline had been mentioned when I got roped into making this piece.  In order to have the piece ready given the time constraints and weather constraints, I was going to have to forgo most of the plans I had for the rest of the week (including little things like menu planning and buying groceries) and do some of the work indoors (sawdust and polyurethane, great!).

As I stood in the shower, I thought about making this thing and trying to get the other stuff in my life done (realizing that buying groceries was actually not optional), I got totally overwhelmed and started to cry.  Which is when I decided I’d had enough.  I was done.  I was not making the Large, Complicated and Wooden Thing.  If she wanted it, she could make it her own damn self.  I sent an email to that effect (only slightly more polite) and then I called A the Ubermom.

A was on her way to French class with her two children, but she had a couple of minutes to talk.  She is also a volunteer at the church and, well, we were both feeling a little bit fed up with the status quo (actually, there’s quite a bit more backstory to this situation, but it’s not really important for the point I’m trying to make).  She reassured me that it was okay that I was not making the LCWT.  And then she said, “You’re doing enough, you’ve got a lot going on and you’re a very busy person.”  And A is right, I actually am a very busy person.  I agreed with her and then said, “Which is really funny because I don’t work.”  And A said:

“I have come to realize that Women Who Don’t Work run the world.  If all of us women who ‘don’t work’ were to stop doing everything it is that we do, schools, libraries, churches, and most non-profit agencies would come to a screeching halt.  And that’s not even counting housework and kids.”

Guys, I am perfectly willing to believe that there are women out there who do not bring in a paycheck, do not have children to take care of, do not have to take care of their houses and spend their entire days and nights doing nothing but leisure activities.  It’s just that I don’t know any of them.  All of the women I know who do not bring in a paycheck are involved in umpteen volunteer activities in addition to doing the lion’s share of taking care of the children and of the housework.  And, they grow their own vegetables.  And, take classes online or at community colleges.

I may not have children (yet), but I am just as busy with volunteer work, housework, growing our own vegetables, and taking classes.  In fact, I’ve had to cut back recently due to my need to sleep 16 hours a day (does that go away?  Please say yes).  Because I’ve been so tired, Husband has been doing quite a bit of the laundry and cooking and cleaning, too (he always does the dishes because I Don’t Do Dishes).*  This busyness was unexpected to me.  I really had thought there would be plenty of time to read  4 or 5 books a week and churn out a handknit sweater once a month or so (I didn’t think that’s what stay-at-home-moms did, I know taking care of children is a lot of work!).

So, be nice to Women Who Don’t Work.  Your favorite school/library/church/charity might fall apart without them.

 

*These were things that we had previously shared the workload for but that I taken over because I thought it was only fair since he is at work all day.  The reasoning went something like this:  he’s at work all day for which he earns a pay check that contributes to our life together, so I should do housework during the day as my share of contributing to our life together and then we will both be free at night and on the weekends to do stuff together.  This will change a bit when the baby arrives because I anticipate being about as busy with the baby during the day as he is with his job during the day.

PSA: Go to a bra shop. For real.

Since becoming pregnant, there have been some changes with my body.  The worst one, as far as I’m concerned, is that my breasts have basically been hurting continuously, day and night, for the last 5 weeks.  It’s not excruciating, but it’s always there.  It’s a bit like having a minor headache for 5 weeks straight.  It’s not the end of the world, but it’s unpleasant and, frankly, it’s not helping my mood any.

Well, last night, I decided I had had enough.  I looked at Husband (who has been hearing me say that my breasts hurt every day for the last 5 weeks) and said, “I can’t take it anymore.  I’m going to a bra shop.  It will be crazy expensive.  I don’t give a damn.  This. Has. To. STOP!”  He (very wisely) answered, “Okay, that sounds like a good idea.”

I had heard very positive things about bra shops in general from various female friends, who are, shall we say, a little on the busty side.  I had heard words like, “the most comfortable bra I’ve ever worn,” “life-changing,” and, “it made me look 10 pounds thinner.”  Basically, women who had been to bra shops could not say enough positive things about them.

My friends, it is all true.

This morning I went to a shop recommended by a friend.  I went into the store and told the woman working there, “My breasts hurt.  They need more support.  I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”  She looked slightly taken aback, but assured me she could help.  I explained that I am 7 weeks pregnant, and she put me in a lovely fitting room, measured around my ribcage, showed me why my current bra was not going to give me what I needed explained what she thought I did need, and brought me bras to try on.  It was beautiful.

As soon as I put the first one on, I knew I was hooked (no pun intended).  It was the most comfortable bra I had ever worn, it was life-changing, and it did make me look 10 pounds thinner (for real, guys).  And my breasts no longer hurt.  The salesperson (and I hesitate to call her that, because I really feel she deserves a more grandiose title like, “Bra-fitting Goddess”) explained that she was bringing me bras that were particularly stretchy in certain regions because my breasts were going to continue to grow (Oy!  Say it ain’t so!) and with pregnancy, I would likely put on weight in my ribcage.  So, she wanted me to have a bra I could grow in a little bit, while still providing me with the support I need.  She also said she was bringing me a very popular, basic bra that was in the low end of their price range.  “I can bring you $200 bras if you’d like, but since you will probably need a larger bra in a couple of months, I thought you might not like to spend that much.”  Indeed.  I remarked that I would likely need these bras again when my breasts decrease back to normal, they will go back to normal, right?  “Don’t count on it,”  she said.  Double OY!

With each bra, she evaluated the fit and brought me another size if it didn’t fit the way she thought it should.  I could tell which ones fit properly and which ones didn’t simply by how comfortable they were.  Additionally, she said women who get diagnosed with “blockages” (whether in milk ducts or lymph ducts was unclear) often have ill-fitting underwire bras that are putting too much pressure in one spot of the breast tissue.  I’m not sure what the data is for that, but I can see how it could be true, given where the underwire on my old bra was ending up under my arm.   She showed me where the underwire should end up under my arm for a good fit.  She mentioned breast-feeding that women who breast-feed unevenly often end up with uneven breasts, so beware!

In the end, I bought two bras which cost about $140 in total.  This was a whole lot cheaper that I thought it was going to be (I was prepared to spend up to $150 per bra if necessary, that’s how much distress I was in!) and, actually, not much more than I had spent on two of my ill-fitting bras.  I did try on one very pretty (and sexy) black bra with stretch lace at the top that would also allow me to grow that was a little over $100, but I decided to save it for next time (because I’m absolutely sure there is going to be a next time, and probably in about a couple of months).  She didn’t pressure me to buy the more expensive bra, she just asked if I wanted her to write down the brand, model, and size in case I wanted to come back for it.  She didn’t even mention buying a matching panty (which I’m sure they had).  Her goal was to get me in a well-fitting bra that I liked, not to get me to spend as much as possible in the store.

I wore one of the new bras out of the store.  I really couldn’t bear putting the old one on again.

To give you an idea of what kind of change we are talking about here, I walked in wearing a 36D (the size recommended to me by the saleswoman at Victoria’s Secret) and walked out wearing a 38E.  The 36F was a little too snug around the ribcage even though the cup size was right.  I was a little distressed about the cup size.  The Bra-Fitting Goddess tried to soothe me, “Don’t worry about it, it’s just a letter.”  Yes, but it’s a letter that indicates I will probably always need to buy the more expensive bras (although, as I said, the two I got were not that much more expensive than others I owned).

Why did I wear such ill-fitting bras for so long?  Well, one reason was that I had balked at the idea of going to a bra shop because I thought all of the bras would be at least $100 or more and I didn’t want to spend that much on a bra.  This was somewhat faulty thinking, though, considering how much I wear each bra (I usually only have two or three at a time and therefore wear each one about 3 days a week).  Really, given how much time I spend in each bra and how important I feel it is to be comfortable, a very good, expensive bra makes a lot of sense and is a smart investment.  I had come to this conclusion about my eyeglasses a few years ago (I wear a pair of glasses 16 hours a day, every day for two or three years, so it’s worth it to me to buy a nice pair that I really like), but really hadn’t put the same kind of thought into undergarments.

The other reason, I think, is that I was “comfortable enough.”  I didn’t feel like I was falling out of my bra because it looked pretty good from the front and I didn’t have the double-boob thing going on.  The band didn’t feel “too” tight.  (And, it wasn’t possible to try on a larger cup size in the places I typically shopped for bras.)  There’s a lot of, “just suck it up and deal,” advice given to women in just about every area of life.  We are meant to think that some things are slightly uncomfortable and that’s just the way it is.   I hated wearing a training bra before I really had breasts–I thought they were uncomfortable–so when I truly had to wear a bra (because being without one was more uncomfortable than wearing one), I didn’t necessarily think that it should be comfortable.  On top of that, my mother is an A-B cup and so didn’t have the same experience I have had, dealing with much larger breasts, so she didn’t teach me the importance of a well-fitting bra (not that A-B cup ladies don’t deserve to have well-fitting bras, they absolutely do, but it’s my impression they have less to worry about in terms of support, weight, and pain–please correct me if I’m wrong).  So, I was pretty much screwed from the beginning.

The key difference, I think, in shopping at a proper bra store versus shopping at a department store, or even shopping at Victoria’s Secret, is that the saleswomen in a bra store are professionals.  They really know what they are doing and this doesn’t seem to be a part-time or temporary job for them (the woman who helped me had been mentioned in yelp reviews going back at least three years).  I actually worked at a Victoria’s Secret right out of college, before I found a research tech job, and none of us were given any training in how to properly evaluate bra fit.  We only got a very brief talk about how to measure someone for a bra.  And we always, always had to suggest the matching panty.  All of the advice we were given was about how to increase a sale.*

Given my experience at this store,  how comfortable I have felt since putting on this bra and how much better I look, I will definitely be going back to this bra store in the future and if I move elsewhere, I will track down a bra store there.  I may be preaching to the choir, here, but if you’ve never been to a proper bra store (and you will know right away if you’ve found one by how knowledgeable the saleswoman is) I really very strongly urge you to go hunt one down.**  It might not be as expensive as you think and you have nothing to lose.

 

*Even though we were not paid on commission they did keep track of each saleswoman’s sales and if our sales were routinely low, we had to have a talk with a manager.  This is why it is important to remember the name of the person helping you in clothing stores and to mention it at the counter when you go to purchase something.  They key in a code before scanning in the merchandise which allows the computer to keep track of each person’s sales.

**Bra stores are a bit of dying breed, though.  If you don’t live in a major metropolitan, it may be difficult to find one.  But it will be worth your time.