Monday, November 24, 2014

Not every pregnancy is nine months of nausea and discomfort

I don't mean this blog post as a boast. I only want to encourage any woman out there who are considering becoming pregnant, but have only ever heard horror stories of how their mother, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, or whomever, spent their entire pregnancy feeling miserable.

I'm beginning my 39th week, and I've felt nothing but completely normal. I can only guess why I feel so well, and I prefer to think it's not because I'm lucky. I prefer to think it's because I'm doing something right. This is all anecdotal, of course, an N of 1 doesn't equal irrefutable proof, but I hope it might be inspiring to others.
Three months along and heading up Mount Monadnock one muddy, spring day.
First, let's talk a little about food. Andrew and I eat a fairly balanced and varied diet. Generally, we follow Michael Pollan's advice of: eat food, mostly vegetables, not too much. When we go grocery shopping, the contents our of cart tend to be at least 50% fruits and vegetables, and we stay out of the centre aisles were the highly proceeded foods are. We're not vegetarians, but we don't eat meat every day, and even when we do, we tend to limit our intake to the recommended serving sizes of 4 oz (or roughly the size of a deck of cards). Further, as much as I love to bake, we don't eat desert with every dinner, usually just on weekends.

So, how does this play into my pregnancy? Well, I haven't changed the way I eat since becoming pregnant. I still eat lots of veg, limit my meat intake, and since I don't ordinarily eat most of the things that were on the list of band foods (i.e. processed deli meats, sushi, etc.) I didn't have to worry about cutting things out of my diet. Although I used to claim that if I was ever pregnant I would eat ice cream everyday, I've done no such thing. The old adage of 'eating for two,' simply isn't true--or at least, you're not eating for two adult humans. You're eating for yourself and an unborn infant, which of the recommendations I've seen suggests around 300 calories more a day at most. That's eating an extra bagel (nothing on top), around 2-2.5 servings (2-2.5 ounces) of crackers or pretzels, 3-4 large apples, 2-2.5 bananas, or about 1/2 cup of most ice creams.

Between 4.5-5 months, at a beach near Gloucester, MA on a beautiful day in August.
Fortunately, I've experienced neither strange food cravings, nor morning sickness. The former, I again attribute to a varied diet. I assume because I regularly consume different foods, I should be getting all the different nutrients my body needs and so I'm not craving anything to make up for it.

As for morning sickness, truthfully, I threw up once, and I'm pretty sure it was because I had a smallish dinner the night before, then waited wait too long to eat breakfast the next morning. Also, I do occasionally experience mild nausea in the morning. In these cases I'll munch on a few crackers or half of a Clif bar while I prepare for my regular breakfast (oatmeal with Bran Buds mixed in) and I'm fine. The precise cause of morning sickness is unknown, but there is some suggestion that it might be linked with blood glucose levels, which tend to be lowest first thing in the morning. Of course, morning sickness is a misnomer, and can occur at any time of the day. As I said, the cause isn't fully understood.
Almost 6 months pregnant, hiking and camping at Pilsbury State park over Labour Day.
Now the other reason why I think I've fared so well during my pregnancy: exercise. I haven't stopped. I've had to modify things, especially during the last two months, but I haven't taken the attitude of, I'm pregnant, therefore I must sit still and let my baby gestate. Rather, I've remained as active as possible.

I'm still running, although again, I've had to make some modifications. First, my gear. I wear a belly support strap specifically made for pregnant women (the Fit Splint), then I wear snug fitting Lululemon shorts that I used to wear for aerials over top of that, then I wear leggings. It's a lot of layers, but it seems to keep my belly secure. I also don't run continuously over our 5 km (3 mile) route. We run 5 minutes, then walk for around 4 minutes, so that I can have time to recoup, sip some water, catch my breath, etc. The biggest thing with running (as it's actually my least favourite exercise) is that I'm keeping up my cardiovascular capacity for as long as possible.

Seven and half months pregnant and still in the air. My belly makes a funny conical shape when I tense my abs.
And I haven't stopped going to aerials. Granted, I haven't done a horizontally rotating drop (ones that tend to wrap around the stomach) for almost 5 months, and I haven't done a forward rotational drop for close to 3 months, but I've kept going. I've also seen my stamina tapper off over the last several weeks, but I try to remind myself that I am hauling an extra 20lbs or so around in the air with me. The most important part of keeping going with aerials is maintaining my strength in the hopes that once Root is born I'll be able to get back to where I was faster. I mean, I'm not going to be able to jump straight back into advanced classes, but it won't be like I took my entire pregnancy off and my muscles have gone completely flaccid either.

The last thing I think might have helped me to continue to feel so good is the high volume of water I drink. Water, in general, keeps the body hydrated, but in a pregnant woman there are even more demands as amniotic fluid develops and blood volume increases. My midwife told me right from the get-go that I should try to consume as much as 3 litres of water a day, and I think I'm pretty close to managing that most of the time. It likely helped that pre-pregnancy I probably drank between 1.5-2 litres of water daily, meaning I didn't have to make many modifications with my normal lifestyle to accomplish the desired water consumption.

So, in sum--and if I had to guess--I would surmise that my pregnancy has gone so well because I've continued to live as normal a life as possible by eating well and remaining active. I can't promise that this will work for everyone, or anyone who isn't me, but maybe it will give other women hope, that pregnancy isn't nine months of misery.



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Alas poor Smart Car, we knew you well

If I was better versed in Shakespeare, or at least feeling more witty (I've been hampered with a cold for over a week now), I might try to craft some play on the line from Hamlet or compose a ridiculous ode to our Smart, but just now I can't whip my brains up to that sort of effort. Instead, I shall tell you, dear readers, what it was like to drive a Smart car for six years.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, perhaps in hindsight, purchasing a Smart car wasn't the smartest of decisions. We could never offer rides to friends if Andrew and I were going somewhere together (although we always said in an emergency we could fit someone in the back); and cargo space is limited. However, at the time Andrew and I were DINKs (duel income, no kids), and Ks weren't even a glimmer on our horizon, so we bought the car we wanted.

The 2008 Smart had some notable improvements over its 2006 predecessor, such as a 70 horsepower engine (double the original 35 horses). Having driven the 2006 a couple of times, I can say it was a vast improvement. In the older model you literally had to put the pedal to the floor to go anywhere, not so for the 2008. The interior had an upgrade as well making it more attractive and comfortable. Additionally, by the 2008 model, the Smart was no longer available in diesel (not that this was of much concern for me).

The Pros:
So, some pluses for the Smart? Well, one of the obvious was parking. We could fit into spots that no other vehicle could even consider maneuvering into--we also rarely needed to perform a 'proper' parallel park. Its size was a definite plus after we moved to the Boston area as parking spots can be hard to come by. Not to mention, in recent years, mall parking lots have started to mark out prime spots for small cars/hybrids/electrics, which although wasn't strictly necessary (I mean, we aren't disabled in anyway, we just drove a small car), I often made use of anyway. Linked closely with the parking benefit, you always knew where the Smart ended. There was no long nose to have to worry about bumping into things with, which made it easy to maneuver.

The other great advantage of the Smart was millage. In general, we don't drive much, so we could often go a month (or at least 3 weeks) between fill-ups, but that doesn't really indicate much. I think Andrew calculated that we could get around 45 miles per gallon, or  20 kilometers per litre (the tank capacity was around 8 gallons/30 liters). We've only had the Fit for a month, but so far we're not coming close to that sort of fuel economy.
Camping--before we headed off to hike the Jasper Skyline.
Camping--this summer on our way to Mount Monadnock.
Camping--this summer on our way home from Pillsbury State Park.
The Cons:
Okay, so lets go with the glaring con first, cargo space. There isn't a lot, although as you can see from the pictures, we often managed to fit more than one might have expected into the back. Really, your biggest enemy was long items. Cross-county skies, for examples, aren't very bulky, but they're long, so we'd have to nestle the tip of them down in the passenger-side leg area, and they'd stretch the length of the car. We were able to fit a plastic folding table in the car once (sorry, no picture). We had to slide it in along it's side in between the front seats, and as I commented to Andrew as we drove it home, he could have been naked over on his side of the car, and I never would have known.
The time we fit a cube freezer in the Smart.
The car with the cube freezer from the back.
The Christmas tree was 2/3 as long as the car.
There's a clear breaking point where the car shifts gears at around the 30 kpm mark. It actually accelerates pretty well up to that point, then you get a little kick back as the car hits the gear-shift. I don't recall any noticeable hiccups after that as you accelerate up to whatever cruising speed you were aiming for.

Hands down, the biggest problem we had with the Smart was the muffler--although from my understanding this isn't necessarily a problem unique to Smart cars, but just to small cars in general that are driven in cold, snowy climates. Shortly after our last camping trip I was out running errands when I noticed that our car sounded like a crotch-rocket-type motorbike. I suspected it was our muffler, and once we got around to hoping the car up on a curb it was clear, there was a hole. The most likely cause of this hole was due to snow getting caught in the muffler (and Heaven knows Edmonton does a terrible job of clearing its streets in the winter), the snow melting when we drove the car, then freezing again once we'd stopped. As one might imagine, such a cycle would not be good for metal objects. It was quite the hassle fix, which I won't get into, unless I can convince Andrew to write a blog post about the day-long marathon he and a friend spent fixing it (he was gone one Sunday from 9:30 am to nearly 9:00 pm).

The Unexpected:
I could comment again on how we were frequently able to get more into the car than one might imagine, but how about the fact that it actually has more head and leg space than one would expect. Andrew is about 6 feet tall, which certainly doesn't qualify him as giant, but it also means he's not short and he had spare space both above his head and beyond his toes. You also sit surprisingly high up in the Smart, so we never felt like we were inside a small car when we drove. Finally, despite the havoc the winter weather wrought on the muffler, the Smart handled snow conditions well. I don't think we ever felt unsafe in the car regardless of the weather, or where we were driving (ie city streets v. highway).

The Annoying:
Almost immediately after getting the Smart I noticed that the adjectives people would use to talk about what it must be like to drive around in a Smart car were not the same as what you might use if you were driving around in a van or truck. People would say things like: 'You can tootle around town.' Tootle? (Zip around was another one.) Imagine how an owner of a F-150 would respond to being told that they could tootle around in the truck.

Similarly, you get a lot of people asking things like: 'Is it safe?', 'Can you take it out on the highway?' Um, yes, and yes. It wouldn't be available in North America (never mind that the Smart is made by Mercedes) if it wasn't safe. It isn't a Tata, which from what I've heard is pretty much a death trap on wheels. And sure, the Smart's top speed is only 160 kph, but that's still sufficient to drive it on the highway. I mean, we drove the Smart across Canada and it was perfectly fine (never mind that we only had to stop for gas once a day).
The kitten, looking out the back of the car as we drove across Canada (we were, of course, stopped when I took this picture).
Finally, people (especially children) stare and point at the Smart. Yes, even years (8 years, I think) after they first appeared on the North American market many people still seemed react as though they've never seen a Smart car before. I never really minded this and I'm actually a little sad that our new car won't attract the same attention the Smart did--but at least the Fit is bright yellow.

So those are my thoughts on driving and owning a Smart car. We did know it well, and we'll miss it, a little bit too.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

One last getaway: Squam Lake, New Hampshire

Upon writing this I've realized that we've been to New Hampshire 4 times since May. I find this surprising since, when we lived in Edmonton, we didn't even make it to the Rockies once a year. I suppose the difference is that the most northern part of New Hampshire we've driven to is only a 2 hours away, compared to the roughly 3.5 hours it took to get from Edmonton to Jasper. At any rate, we went to New Hampshire for the fourth time last weekend, to the small town of Holderness on Squam Lake.

We stayed in a pretty little B&B called the Squam Lake Inn, which reminded me very much (from the exterior anyway) of Green Gables. As we were out of the peak season it was fairly quiet in the Inn and I think there may have been only one other couple in residence on Sunday night. We stayed in the 'Bennet Cove' room, which was probably one of the smaller rooms, but the bed was comfy and that was the most we were concerned with. The breakfasts at the Inn were fresh cooked each morning, and varied from a cider french-toast-type-thing and bacon to a vegetarian omelette and Vermont sausage. Yum.
The Squam Lake Inn, we were in the room on the end.
We arrived late Saturday afternoon (check in wasn't until 3:00 pm), walked about for a little bit before heading out for dinner at the local pub called Walter's Basin. The pub reminded me a great deal of the Castle on King (where I worked for a short period) in atmosphere and style of dinning. Had it been summer we could have gazed the Lake while we ate, but being late in the fall the sun was mostly down by the time we were seated.

The weather on Sunday was a bit dodgy, but we still managed to have a good time. We made a little circuit from Holderness, to a slightly bigger, close by town called Meredith. There we stopped at a cluster of shops (mostly 'stuff shops'), but it was a pleasant way to kill part of the morning, especially as it rained. After that we continued to the Castle on the Cloud (cue a young girl singing wistfully about her imaginary sanctuary, if you wish). Before visiting the castle--mansion, really--we ate at the carriage house restaurant, which really used to be the carriage house for the mansion. The tables were set up inside the old horse stalls. After that we took a trolly car up to the house and toured around.
Once we were finished at Castle on the Cloud we decided to visit the Sandwich Creamery. It was a fun little side trip where you went from driving on a secondary highway, to a still paved, but much smaller road, to a gravel road, to a smaller gravel road that went down a very steep hill. No doubt the inhabitants of the Sandwich Creamery get snowed-in in the winter. We only spent 15 minutes at the Creamery, but it was a neat little place to stop. Payment for their goods (ice cream, cheese, and eggs) was on the honour system. We picked up some cheddar, looked at the sheep and cattle for a few minutes then headed back to the Inn.
The little shop at the Creamery.
Monday morning we grabbed breakfast, then set off for home. It was a short trip, but it was nice to get away even if it was only for 48 hours. Both Andrew and I agreed we really need to take a proper vacation where we can relax and rejuvenate, but it's going to have to wait until the spring. Of course at that point we'll have a little one with us, which will make vacationing a very different experience, but I'm hopeful we can manage--after all, lots of people manage to have lives (fun ones, even) after they have children, so we should be able to too.