Friday, December 23, 2011

Maternity leave cankles

It's time to dance a jig: I'm on maternity leave!

Blurry photos = action shots!

Yesterday while my teaching career for the moment ended with a fizzle (it was the day winter break was beginning, so no kids wanted to work and I certainly wasn't going to assign something new or grade something new) I backed up my files, organized my notebooks, responded to final emails, said goodbye to my students and colleagues, turned in my laptop, and left behind my keys for my long-term substitute. Walking down our school's massive hallway for the last time was a bit surreal as I thought about how the next time I'll be there working many months in the future I'll have a baby.

And that is OK.

New stage of life is about to commence.

Appropriately, I scheduled my 38-week doctor's appointment for 3:30 yesterday, so I really couldn't linger at work after all was said and done.

Sitting in the doctor's office waiting for my doctor to come do her thing, I looked down at my feet. I made Matt bear witness to this too. All I can say is

When I was 32 weeks pregnant I wrote about how I'd managed to avoid lots of common pregnancy discomforts, including swelling. Then between 35 and 36 weeks I had a couple days of ankle swelling, but the swelling came and went quickly. Then something happened yesterday. The ankle swelling came and got worse and worse. It became feet swelling and calf swelling, too. I don't know what triggered this, but I'm assuming this is just one thing that's destined to happen to most of us by late pregnancy, and I'm just lucky that it happened 1) at 38.5 weeks pregnant, 2) at my doctor's office so she could reassure me that this, while gross, is in the range of normal and 3) on the day my maternity leave began, so at least now I can sit at home with my feet propped up. So, body, thanks for cooperating on that front.

As you may know, swelling (called edema) occurs in pregnancy because of water retention and the way blood circulates through the pregnant body at a slower pace, but it's also something doctors take seriously if it happens in a pregnant woman's hands and, more importantly, face. When swelling happens in the cankle department doctors just shake their heads and say, "Yes, it's unpleasant, but it's just a thing you have to deal with." Excessive swelling, especially in the face and puffiness around the eyes, can be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious condition of late pregnancy involving high blood pressure. So, I'll be closely monitoring my swelling and making sure it doesn't extend to other parts of my body, but the good news is that somehow my late-pregnancy blood pressure has been lower than my early-pregnancy blood pressure when, according to my doctor, usually the opposite occurs.

So how can you deal with cankles in late pregnancy? Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, these are probably going to just be a reality until sometime after delivery. Here are a few pointers I've picked up from my doctor (that are very similar to the ones posted over at BabyCenter):

1) Ironically, while much swelling is related to water retention, you can actually reduce swelling by drinking more water. I do not have a problem drinking plenty of water every day, but I am being hyper conscious of it. Yesterday evening I had five glasses of water in three hours.

2) Don't stay in one position for too long. Neither standing for extended periods nor sitting for extended periods is the best idea; instead, frequent shifting is a good idea.

3) This isn't new info, but as a reminder sitting with your feet propped up or lying down can help reduce swelling, which is usually at its worst at night. This is why after waking up in the morning swelling from the previous day should diminish some.

4) Taking walks can also help with swelling. Matt and I have been trying to take advantage of this mild fall and winter thus far with daily dog walks together as much as possible. I think it does help, and it might also be part of the reason why I'm almost 2 cm. dilated as of yesterday!

In almost perfect timing, Matt's colleague gave him (to pass along to me) a tube of Burt's Bees Mama Bee Leg and Foot Cream last week. I've put it on several times at night, and while I can't say definitively that it has reduced swelling (because sleep itself is probably the best way to reduce swelling) I can say the tingly sensation it gives me from the peppermint extract makes my legs feel good and makes our room smell better at night.

Frankly, these cankles suck because not only are they ugly (which I can deal with) but they do make movement less pleasant. Still, I am fortunate to have inherited my mother's good genes that lead to relatively easy pregnancies, and for that I am thankful.

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