Ouchy Head

Well, if Martin’s recent sufferings weren’t enough, I appear to have developed the capacity for migraines. Imagine my delight.

It is apparently not uncommon for women’s migraine status to change in pregnancy – sufferers may experience some relief, and non-sufferers may start getting them. This ties into the theories that migraines are hormonally based.

I don’t know if the two killer headaches I’ve experienced in the last month are true migraines. In both cases, my head was throbbing so badly it felt like it would explode, particularly behind the eyes. Any light caused stabbing pains in my eyes and temples, adding to the pain even more. Eventually, it hurt so much that I got nauseated, sometimes uncontrollably.

Yesterday’s headache was preceded by an unpleasant series of sensations as well. I went up into town at lunchtime, and while on my way back, I began to feel somewhat faint. (Since I have low blood pressure, I am familiar with the symptoms that lead up to fainting, though I have only once passed out. Specifically, I sometimes experience dizziness, ringing in the ears, sweating palms, nausea and a trailing off of extreme weakness. Yesterday I had three of the five, but managed to avoid the nausea and sweating palms by sitting down for a few minutes.) Then I got back to the office, and began to feel an incipient headache.

That feeling of faintness matches some of the symptoms of an aura, such as often precedes a “proper” migraine. Not being a doctor, I don’t know if my guess that this was an aura before a migraine is accurate (though as far as I can tell, the medical profession sometimes uses “migraine” to mean “bad headache we can’t otherwise explain”. It’s been the default diagnosis for Martin a couple of times.)

My head hurt all evening, meaning my poor Martin had to put Alex to bed. (I couldn’t bathe him, because the bathroom light was too bright. I took my shower later by candlelight.) I was better in the morning, but still too light-sensitive to take Alex to nursery; Martin had to do that too. Work was right out of the question.

Finally, about 24 hours after the first faintness, I’m feeling better. The light sensitivity has gone, the headache has vanished, and apart from a dragging tiredness, I’m back to normal.

The bad news is that, being pregnant, I dare not take painkillers. The worse news is that some pregnancy-onset tendencies to migraine don’t go away after the birth…

The good news is that Martin is wonderful. Thank you, Bun.

The Quickening

Hooray! The quickening!

Say “Quickening” to a science fiction fan and they’ll cringe. It’s one of the worst, tackiest films ever, a disgrace to the otherwise excellent Highlander series. So why am I so pleased about it?

In pregnancy terms, “quickening” refers to the moment when the mother can first feel the baby move. It tends to occur between 18 and 22 weeks for first pregnancies, and somewhat sooner in later ones (I’m at 16 1/2 weeks). There are two main theories why second pregnancies quicken earlier. Either the mother knows what she’s trying to feel for, or the uterus is more stretched and conducts the kicks better. I tend to believe the latter theory – neither Alex nor Chenoweth* has felt like anything other than something inside kicking out. (Note to self: time to watch Alien again.)

For many women, the quickening happens a week or two before the kicks are externally perceptible. This hasn’t been the case for me. Martin felt the third Alex kick I did, and I can already feel Chenoweth from the outside as well. (Haven’t yet timed it for Martin to feel. Probably over the next day or two.) This probably means I’ve missed the earlier movements in both cases, but I don’t really care.

In the days before ultrasounds, or even pregnancy tests, pregnancies weren’t announced until the baby was felt to move. Originally, it was thought to be the time the baby first moved, rather than first time it was perceptible. The quickening was the moment when everyone knew that a pregnancy was viable. If the pregnancy was a politcally important one, it was cause for public celebration. Look what happened when Jane Seymour felt a few kicks one day.

On 27 May 1537, Trinity Sunday, there was a Te Deum sung in St Paul’s cathedral for joy at the queen’s quickening of her child, my lord chancellor, lord privy seal and various other lords and bishops being then present; the mayor and aldermen with the best guilds of the city being there in their liveries, all giving laud and praise to God for joy about it.

Now, I’m not going to book St Paul’s, or even St John Vianney’s over the hill, but I am very pleased. Of course, we knew Chen was viable and moving after the scan (it was doing barrel rolls onscreen). But the quickening is still emotionally important. It’s the first time a baby becomes real, the first time I feel like there’s actually someone there. It’s also the beginning of the best thing about pregnancy for me: the feeling of closeness with the baby. In the years since Alex was born, I have often missed the slow, seismic roll of baby in the tummy, the feeling that he was right there with me all the time. That’s when I fell in love with him, and now I get to fall in love with his sibling.

Welcome, Chenoweth.

* We’re referring to the baby as Chenoweth, which is the planned middle name regardless of gender. It was my paternal grandfather’s mother’s maiden name, and I have always loved it. It’s Welsh in origin.