TMI Warning: This post contains details about pregnancy and childbirth that you may consider to be too much information. Don't say I didn't warn you!
First things first: the results from my very favorite jug-o-pee test came back and, thankfully, everything looks good. The level of protein in my urine is a little bit higher than normal - but it's not significantly higher than my baseline test from January, so the doctors aren't concerned. So that's a relief.
In the meantime, APL and I have been attending a birth class for the past two Sundays - and we've got one more to go this upcoming Sunday. Since the weeks that our little bun will remain in the oven are quickly ticking by, we're both really glad that the class is forcing us to think about the inevitable end of this long pregnancy journey - birth!! And though the some of the information the class provides is really obvious, and a lot of it is quite repetitive, we're both learning things that neither of us previously knew about the birth process. So that's a really good thing.
Since the joint pain in my hands and hips seems to be increasing rather than decreasing, and since I've been dealing with increased levels of stiffness and fatigue lately, APL and I are also very happy to be adding ideas to our "things we might be able to use to get through labor" list. We've learned about breathing techniques for staying calm and distracting me from pain. APL has learned massage and acupressure techniques to help me manage. We've talked about music and other relaxation techniques. And we were seriously excited to discover that every room in the hospital we have chosen comes with a hydrotherapy tub (which I am guessing we will use a lot during labor).
However, on Sunday we also discovered that, because of my arthritis, our "things we might be able to use to get through labor" list may end up being considerably shorter than most other couples. The primary topic of this Sunday's class was birth positions. The instructor emphasized how important it is not to just lay on your back like you see in the movies. Instead, you're supposed to change positions often and focus as much as you can on positions where gravity is on your side. Obviously this makes a lot of sense.
Unfortunately, in order to get gravity on your side, you also end up supporting a lot of your own weight. And as we attempted to practice these positions (on a day where my belly is six weeks smaller than it will be at birth and without the additional pain of labor, mind you) it quickly became apparent that a lot of the positions just weren't going to be options for me. Almost all of the kneeling and squatting positions put too much strain on my hips and my knees. Despite pillows, props, pads, and APL attempting to hold up as much of my body weight as he could, I had considerable difficulty staying in most of those positions for a few minutes - let alone the recommended half hour or so before changing to a new position. I felt like a lot of these positions would increase the overall pain in my body - and tire me out more quickly - rather than allowing me to deal with the pain of contractions.
Honestly? At first it was pretty discouraging. The instructor kept talking about using what nature provides to make the birth process easier (she was talking about gravity), but I couldn't stop thinking about how unfair it was that what nature provided to me was a bunch of stupid inflamed joints and the ability to get fatigued more easily - which simply wasn't going to help make the birth process easier!! I kept looking at the posters of birth positions around the room - not to mention the five other couples successfully enacting these positions - and feeling overwhelmed.
But then I took a few deep breaths (see? That breathing stuff is coming in handy already!) and APL and I tuned out the rest of the room, ignored the posters of suggested positions, and got creative to come up with positions that I could actually handle. We discovered that there were lots of options for standing/walking (mostly with me leaning on APL) that would be a good way to keep gravity on our side without overtaxing my knees and hips. And, with the use of a birthing ball, we actually managed to find a couple of kneeling and squatting positions that I could handle. We even came up with a position on our own (me squat/sitting with my back against the birthing ball, APL with his back against the other side of the ball, and our heads resting on each others shoulders, cheek to cheek) that the instructor liked so much she pointed it out to the whole class.
So while Sunday's class made it painfully obvious (quite literally for me) that my arthritis will most likely make the birth process more challenging for us, we also discovered that if we stay calm, work together, and get creative we'll be able to get through it. And that's a really good thing to know!!