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.

Advertisements

Some news

Figure 1. Pregnancy test result. Test was performed twice and then confirmed by testing using a different method three times. For real.

 

It’s feels odd to be posting after such a long absence, but I wanted to share my news with you guys (if any of you are still reading!).  I am finally pregnant!  It’s early days yet (I’m only at 5 weeks), and we aren’t even telling many people until I’m in the 2nd trimester (because the risk of miscarriage is highest in the first trimester), but I thought I could at least share with you people.

As many of you know, this has been a very long time in coming.

To recap (grab some tea, it’s going to be a long one):

(If this kind of saga bores you, skip to the conversation between me and Husband)

I first started wanting a baby after I turned 30 (7 years ago), but was in grad school and wanted to wait until I was done.  And then grad school dragged on and on (and on) and then it became really complicated because Husband took a job that was half a continent away and I was still in Grad School City.  That situation continued for approximately three years.  And then, Husband and I were united, but I still had to write my thesis and defend.  And, I was trying to get on as low a dose with my meds (antidepressants) before getting pregnant which unfortunately backfired on us and we had to wait until I became stable again.  And then we decided to wait until after I defended because trying to get pregnant is not all rainbows and unicorns and I was under enough stress already.  Then, last spring I finally, finally defended.  So you’d think we’d be all clear, but then I was trying to get off of my restless legs medication because there’s no information about it regarding pregnancy in humans (boy, do I have a rant about that).  That didn’t work either (despite trying acupuncture, yes, you read right, acupuncture, apparently there’s a study going on at Stanford that shows that it has some affect on restless legs).  So, we had to wait until that was all sorted out because I was getting about 3 hours of sleep a night.  So, for those of you keeping track, that takes us to last September.  I did a search, found an ob that I liked (more about that another time) and then we actually started trying to get pregnant.

Except, it was still rather complicated because Husband travels for his work.  A lot.  And sometimes that coincided with with ovulation.  Or he was leaving the day I was ovulating (in one memorable case, I was ovulating on a Sunday so I went to teach Sunday school, then skipped church, came home and we had approximately 15 minutes before he had to leave for the airport).  Or it was the holidays and we were traveling so much that we decided not to complicate our lives any further by tracking ovulation.  Given that ovulation and Husband being home were often not coinciding, we even (briefly) discussed artificial insemination to get around this traveling thing.*

So, it was complicated.  And, emotionally stressful, which doesn’t help, of course.  But, we were trying when we could and if, after 6 cycles of trying, we didn’t get pregnant, my ob wanted me to come back (because I’m over 35 and we don’t have a lot of time in which to mess around).  Actually she said 6 months, but I felt we couldn’t count the months when we missed each other during ovulation.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from my mother.  My sister was pregnant.  Again.  And this time, she was on the pill and she still got pregnant.  You may wonder at my reaction considering I was trying to get pregnant without success while sis was trying to not get pregnant without success.  Well, I laughed.  Granted, it was laughter with a tinge of hysteria, but I laughed.  The situation was so ridiculously absurd that there was nothing I could do but laugh.  Needless to say, it was not the reaction my mother was expecting.  We talked for awhile, hung up, and then I took a nap for two hours (I had been feeling very tired lately).  I woke up having to go to the bathroom** and I thought, damn it, it’s only a few days before my period is officially late, I’m going to use a pregnancy test.  So, I drove to the drugstore, picked up some prescriptions and a box of three tests, went home, and peed on a stick.  And waited.  And waited.  And then, to my shock and surprise, it said Pregnant.  Not, Not Pregnant.  Pregnant.  There was really no mistaking the result.  And yet, I stared at the test in disbelief.  I walked out of the bathroom and came back in and stared at it some more.  I took the test out to the dining room table and stared at it some more.  It still said Pregnant.

At this point, I decided to call Husband who was traveling (of course) but was on his way home and coincidentally happened to be in Denver on a layover.  I told him the news.  He was appropriately delighted.

Husband:  Yaaayyyyyyy!

Me:  I don’t believe it.  I don’t believe the test.

Husband: [Concerned]  You don’t believe the test?

Me:  No.  I mean, I don’t have any reason to disbelieve it except that it seems too good to be true.

Husband:  Yes, I can see what you mean.

Me:  I’m going to take it again.  It’s only one test.  What if it’s malfunctioning?

Husband:  Yes.  Yes, you need to replicate the result.  That’s the only way to be sure.

So, in the meantime, I was home alone with this Really Big News an no one to talk to, so I skyped my mother.  I kept the test by me, and would look at it every so often, sure it would change to Not Pregnant.  But, it didn’t.  And the next morning, I used the second test AND I used one of these little test strips I had (which can be more difficult to read because the test band might be very faint) and they both registered pregnant.  So, you’d think I’d be reassured.

But I wasn’t.

I talked with my good friend, A, about it (who is sworn to secrecy).

Me:  It all seems too good to be true, so I tested again today.  With two different methods.  And they both say that I’m pregnant.

A:  Wonderful!

Me:  I think I’m going to test again tomorrow.

A: ??????

Me:  I don’t know, I just can’t believe it.

So, the next morning, I woke up and tested, and, indeed, the test registered that I was pregnant.  And the test line was darker.  And then I tested the next morning and the test line was darker still.  So, that was five–count ’em–five positive results.

People, I am pregnant.  After 7 years of wanting to have a child, I am pregnant.  For reals.  I have 5 test results.  I’m calling the doctor on Monday.

But, I still might take a pregnancy test that morning.  You know.  Just to be safe.

 

*You may be wondering why I didn’t just go with him.  Well, for one thing, my cycles are a little irregular in length and so it is nearly impossible to predict when I will ovulate more than 10 days before the big event.  The second issue is money.  All of that traveling gets expensive after awhile, particularly if you would be buying plane tickets less than 2 weeks in advance.

**This was important because you are supposed to wait several hours after the last time you urinated before testing and because I drink a lot of water (and tea), that means I usually have to wait until after I first get up.

Public Service Announcement: Me and My Diva

Today, I thought I’d talk about something a little bit personal (I know, you’re shocked).  This may or may not fall into the TMI category.

Men, if female problems make you squeamish, you might want to skip this post.  You have been warned.

Ladies, today I’m going to tell you about a product that literally changed my life.  But first, a little background.

I got my period in 5th grade.  It’s been the bane of my existence since then.  My periods were, and have always been since then, very heavy.  This was a problem because I’d have to go to the bathroom frequently to change my pad and the teacher was always wondering why I had to go to the bathroom so much.  It further was a problem because I’d have to take my purse with me, thus alerting everyone to the fact that I was “on the rag” (or so I thought at the time).  The other problem was my mother.

Mom didn’t have heavy periods.  She had normal, manageable periods.  Therefore, she couldn’t understand why the pads that had served her well all these years were not working well for me (there was no question of tampons except for when I had my period while I was in swimming lessons).  She yelled at me because there were stains on my underwear.  I wanted the fancy pads with wings.  She told me they were expensive and I didn’t need them.  Eventually, I got them, but it was a struggle.

Things went on like this until I got to high school when, in addition to having a heavy period, I started getting cramps.  Lovely.

Finally, I got on the pill.  It was supposed to take care of all of my problems with my period.  It didn’t.  My periods were still heavy, and my cramps were worse.  I tried many different pill formulations but nothing made it better.  A couple of them made things worse (two-week period, anyone?).  Then, one day, I ran out of my Rx and I couldn’t get in to get an exam (which they required once a year in order to be on the pill) and so I went off the pill.  Things got slightly better immediately.  My periods got a couple days shorter, the cramps weren’t debilitating and my mood improved so that for the first time I had total remission from depression.

The problem of the heavy period remained, though.  They’ve gotten worse over the years.  I’m pretty sure if I was bleeding this heavily from my arm, it would be cause for major concern.  In the years since I was a kid struggling through this, I had discovered tampons.  This was good because it meant that if I had a tampon (the biggest, heavy dutiest one I could find) and a pad (the biggest, most absorbant one I could find), I might be able to go as much at two hours without going to the bathroom.  Not ideal.

Then, one day, I was reading a knitting blog and the author just had to tell us about a product that had made all the difference in the world to her.  The menstrual cup (check out that link, it has all the information you could ever want about the various models on the market).  A menstrual cup is, well, a cup that gets inserted into the vagina while you have your period.  You then empty the cup as necessary.  The blogger who told me about this cup was so in love with hers, I decided to try one for myself.  I purchased the Diva Cup.

I fell in love with it immediately.  Initially, I had some issues inserting the Diva Cup and getting it to pop open (you have to fold it up to get it in, then it needs to open up fully in order to be effective), but I found a livejournal site that has all kinds of information and helpful advice.

Now, for the life-changing part.  I no longer have to go to the bathroom every couple of hours even on my heaviest days.  On the lighter days, I can go all day without having to empty it.  It truly is a miracle product for me.  I don’t have to worry so much about the availability of a bathroom.  I can go on long car rides without having to stop all the time.  I can fly on a plane without worrying about whether I’ll get stuck in turbulence and not be able to go to the bathroom.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect.  I still have to wear a pad at night on my heaviest days because it will leak due to overflowing.  But, that is so much better than worrying about whether I’m going to stain my pajamas and the sheets everytime I go to bed.

I’ve saved quite a bit of money on tampons and pads.  And it’s better for the environment.  And, it’s no problem if I get to a bathroom and they say don’t flush tampons.  There’s no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.  You can wear it overnight, no problem.  When it’s in, you don’t feel it at all.

I wrote this post because most of the women I talk to have never heard of menstrual cups.  All of the doctors and nurses I have talked to have never heard of menstrual cups.  That means there are a lot of women out there who are suffering like I did and could really be helped if only they knew about the cups.  So, this is my attempt to educate some women about a product that can really make a difference in their lives.

So, that’s the story of me and my Diva.  I hope that some of you try it (or one of the other cups) and it works as wonderfully for you as it does for me.  If you do try it, or if you already use one, give a shout out in the comments and tell us what you think.

The Lady Doctor

Once a year, every year, it is necessary to go to what my friends euphemistically call “the lady doctor” aka the gynecologist.  This is rarely a pleasant experience for many, many reasons, even in the best of times.  You don’t go in there expecting to have a fun time of it.  And just about everyone I know has a story in which things have gone awry.   Zuska has recently shared her terrible experience with a physician’s assistant during her annual exam, so, in a show of solidarity, I thought I would share my “worst annual visit ever” story.

For several years, I had been getting my exam by a lovely nurse practitioner who was upbeat, kind and efficient.  However, she took a position elsewhere (as an instructor at a medical school, actually, so I suppose I was glad she was at least going to influence generations of health care workers) so I had to find someone different.  I tried to get the person a friend of mine saw but she was all booked up.  So, I got someone who was an unknown.

I should’ve known things were not going to go well when in the beginning she asked if I had any plans on getting pregnant and when I said no she said, in a rather patronizing tone, “You can’t wait forever, you know.”  Really?  Gosh, I may be getting my PhD in cell biology but I am completely ignorant of the fact that women have a finite amount of time in which to conceive!

So, we go through the breast exam and all that, and then I’m in the stirrups, with my ass hanging off of the table as per usual and of course that’s when things really started to go downhill.  Because things are taking a lot longer than they ought to.  And she must’ve repositioned the speculum at least 5 times (does anyone else find those damn plastic speculums uncomfortable?  what happened to the metal ones???).  Then, she elevated the bed WAY up high, I mean I must’ve been 6 feet off of the ground.  After more futzing around (at this point, I would say I’ve been subjected to this for about 15 minutes which, if you’ve ever been in stirrups and had a speculum being constantly repositioned you know that that feels like FOREVER), I have the following conversation:

HER:  I can’t find your cervix.

ME:  Well, it was there the last time someone checked.

Now, I know I have a retroverted uterus (aka a “tipped” uterus).  I know this because my previous nurse practitioner told me (and when I asked if that was a problem, she said only in that it might make some sexual positions more uncomfortable than others and I had an AHA! moment).  This means, of course, that my cervix is not in the conventional position with respect to the rest of my anatomy.  However, I know that it is not impossible to find my cervix because not only have health care people been able to find my cervix fairly easily for many years I have also seen the damn thing myself*.  And, anyway, aren’t there only so and so many places to be looking for it?  I’m pretty sure there’s not that much room up there.

Finally, after five more minutes of searching, the woman found my missing cervix, scraped it and blessedly removed that damn speculum.

I should’ve written a letter of complaint.  But, I didn’t.  Actually, I should have told the stupid woman to take out the damn speculum and get someone in the room who knew what the hell she was doing.  But, I didn’t.  Because I’m a Nice Girl.  And because it’s difficult to feel empowered when you’re in stirrups with your legs wide open and your ass hanging off of the table.

This year, when I went to the lady doctor (at the same clinic), I got a different person–a nurse midwife–and I feared I would be subjected to another fiasco but all that happened is one readjustment during which I said, “I have a retroverted uterus,” and the nice woman replied, “You certainly do!” and moments later it was all over with.  Thank you, Jesus!

Note to self:  When looking for a new lady doctor be sure to ask in the beginning if she’s ever had problems finding a cervix.

 

ETA:  Unfortunately, I’ve had to disable the comments on this post due to the large amount of disturbing spam comments it was getting.  😦  I’m apologize to all of the women who have found this page and would like to comment on their own experiences.

 

 

*Once when I was having my annual exam, the woman conducting it asked, “Would you like to see your cervix?”  Now, the real answer to this question was, “No, thanks,” but that made me feel like I was being chickenshit so I said, “Why yes I would!” and a mirror was brought over and held in the appropriate position and I leaned way forward (difficult in stirrups) and saw my cervix.  Several years later another examiner asked me if I wanted to see my cervix and I said, “I’ve already seen it once before, thanks!”