Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Left Foot

No this post isn't about the 1989 film starring Daniel Day Lewis (which was brilliant by the way!) It's about my latest pregnancy symptom -- my big old Fred Flinstone club foot! It's official. I have cankles.

Well I have cankle. It is just my left foot. Granted, my right foot is no Kate Moss either, but it's not nearly as ghastly and gargantuan as the left. The photos don't actually do it justice. It's much scarier in person. Sometimes it's even a little bit brown-ish purple and shiny. With veins bulging out.

It just started this week. I'm 24 weeks pregnant now.  I'd had the odd leg cramp here and there but this balloon foot was new. At first my socks and shoes just felt really tight and my foot felt a bit puffy. When I looked at my bare foot I realized just how big it had gotten. When it was at its worst, I couldn't even fit into any of my shoes. I had to settle for wearing sandals (though the weather had gotten wintry again and was down to about 1 degree) or ballet slippers which stretched a little.

I don't think my feet are particularly attractive at the best of times. Still, seeing them like this came as a bit of a shock. I actually used to have ankles. With bones and everything. These photos show my normal pre-Baby legs/feet last Summer. 
Seeing my monster foot all of a sudden, I was worried at first. My Mom was always a bit of a hypochondriac, a chronic worrier. I suppose I inherited her tendency to be a little neurotic sometimes. (Though my mother will go so far as to read medical dictionaries and stress herself out by highlighting all the symptoms and convincing herself she has everything. She's actually quite healthy and looks great for her age. She's also obsessed with watching doctor shows and reading articles that she should avoid. The last thing she needs is more fear-mongering from the media. I believe much of it is just a ploy to sell products. Keep the people scared and make them buy stuff to feel healthy!) When I saw my foot blowing up at first I worried it might be something serious like a blood clot. Especially with my veins bulging out and with the swelling being only in one foot. But then I was relieved to hear from several people who had been through the same thing during their pregnancies and assured me it was normal. For whatever reason in most people, the left foot did end up being more swollen. Maybe we carry more weight on that foot somehow or maybe because the heart is on the left side so there is more blood flowing, or in this case pooling, on that side. I did a little extra research on my own as well just to put my fears to rest. I will ask my doctor about it next time I see her but I'm not rushing off to the emergency room or anything.

During pregnancy, we naturally retain more water. I discovered that the body actually produces more than 6 LITRES of extra blood and fluids for the baby!
That's like 3 large pop bottles full! No wonder I have to go to the bathroom so much! With all this extra liquid, naturally the force of gravity will make most of it settle in your legs and feet. So your extremities can become swollen. It's called "edema" when excess fluid collects in tissue. Also the added weight of your growing uterus puts pressure on your pelvic veins and your "vena cava" the large vein that carries blood from your lower limbs back to your heart. The pressure slows the flow of blood from your legs, causing it to pool. Hence the puffiness. Almost all of us go through this. Apparently 75% of women experience swelling during pregnancy, though mostly in the third trimester (so I hope it doesn't get worse in the coming months! I will be at my biggest in the hot summer months so hopefully the heat doesn't make it worse. I don't even have air-conditioning...)

There are things you can do to reduce the swelling: put your feet up, avoid crossing your legs, stretch, avoid tight socks, exercise, drink lots of water, eat well, try to avoid junk food. When I told my Mom about my bigfoot she accusingly asked me if I'd been having too much salt. I don't really salt anything (other than asparagus which I LOVE fried in oil and sea-salt. I figure the asparagus is so healthy that it should be OK even if I salt it. It's just so tasty! I don't add salt to anything else but of course a lot of foods are high in sodium without adding any.) She also told me to drink a lot of water, put my feet up and put something cold on my leg. So I forced myself to take a break, lay in bed with my left leg elevated on a pillow, a bag of frozen veggies on my leg and drinking a massive flask of water (I have to force myself to drink water. I don't enjoy it. It's so blah. Squeezing a little lemon juice into it at least gives it a slight kick. The only time I really like drinking water is when I'm really hot in the summer or exercising and dying of thirst. In a perfect world, water would taste like Coca-Cola! I love the sweet stuff. Then again in a perfect world money would grow on trees, men would be trustworthy, carrots would taste like french fries. Not that I'm knocking the world we're in. Hey, I admit, it's beautiful for the most part. It's just not always EASY.) Anyway, listening to Dr. Mom worked and my swelling actually did go down. I could see my ankles again. Unfortunately putting my feet up isn't always an option. I work at a job where I am sitting for 12 hour shifts. I do try to stretch a little, stand up for a break and elevate my feet slightly for a while at least but it's a challenge. At least I have gotten out of the habit of crossing my legs. The worst is when I have to walk around on an already swollen foot. I was shopping in a department store yesterday when all of a sudden my whole left leg went numb. My fat foot became a fat leg. I had to take a rest on a garden swing in the store and try to hold my foot in the air for a moment. I got a couple of strange looks until they got close enough to see my 6 month belly and I watched their surprised faces become more of an "Oh. Ok. She's pregnant. Carry on, freak foot." 

If I had someone to help with chores around the house etc, it would mean I could give my feet more of a rest but being single and on my own, it's all me. I work a long day and still have to do the shopping, cleaning, cooking and everything else. Of course being on my own, there is less to clean and only one (well, make that two including baby!) to cook for.

I've heard the second trimester referred to as the "honeymoon phase" of pregnancy. It has been a treat not to suffer the bouts of nausea I had in the first trimester. I was also much more stressed out, moody and depressed back then although I can't be sure how much was because of the pregnancy and how much was affected by the bleakness of winter and the fact that I was living with a dufus. Now that Spring is here and my life is decidedly dufus-free, I am feeling more peaceful, more stable, stronger and happier overall.

Aside from being a little tired, I was feeling quite healthy until this foot business. While it is a bit of a nuisance, I apparently got off pretty easy because I heard about an acquaintance who was swollen EVERYWHERE when she was pregnant. Her feet and legs were like balloons, her fingers were like sausages. Even her face puffed up and her lips looked like she'd had 10 collagen injections. Somehow she made out OK, even though she looked like the Michelin man. Facial swelling would especially be a concern though because it could be a symptom of "pre-eclampsia" -- a disorder which tends to occur after 20 weeks gestation and is characterized by excessive swelling, high blood pressure, rapid weight gain, protein in the urine, headaches, changes in vision, etc. Thankfully I haven't really had those symptoms, aside from my big foot. My weight gain has been pretty gradual and my blood pressure at each checkup has been on the low to normal side. My doctor did say I'll have to do a urine test at every check-up now so I guess they are always watching for things like that. My sister had "gestational diabetes" during one of her pregnancies -- high blood glucose levels, no real symptoms, mostly in the third trimester and affecting about 3-10% of pregnancies.

I never really liked feet. I'm afraid I took them for granted. Considering how much they do for me, I shouldn't. Our poor feet carry our weight around all the time. During pregnancy they have to work even harder. Before I got pregnant, I used to do yoga, including a headstand, every single day. Headstands are so good for you because the inversion gives your feet a break and allows blood to rush to your head, instead of away from it for a change. You wind up feeling more energized, able to think more clearly. It is also very good for your spine and gives you an amazing feeling of balance -- physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is relaxing. It is my zen. I stopped doing the exercises pretty early on in my pregnancy because I didn't feel up to it physically, especially the headstand. I didn't feel it was safe anymore and my balance wasn't the same anymore with the added weight. I was too front-heavy and didn't want to risk toppling over. Plus the last thing you want to do when you're feeling queasy is to be upside down. There are less strenuous exercises I could still do but I admit I'm a creature of habit and once I get out of the habit of something it is hard to get back into it. So I went from yoga every day to not at all. I will get back into it after I have the baby and I'm hoping I can get back to last year's weight again eventually. Just having the baby drops many of the pounds instantly. I've also heard that breast-feeding helps you to lose weight and speeds up the process of your uterus shrinking etc.  

I have been eating healthy at least, for the most part. Lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, dairy. I make sure to have a balanced diet including all the food groups every day and I've been taking pre-natal vitamins to make sure baby is getting all the nutrients she needs. I am however, human! I do need a treat now and then. When I work a long day especially, I don't always have the time or energy to make a big meal when I get home. Sometimes it's just too tempting to grab something easy. Yes I have succumbed to the lure of McDonalds! But I make sure to follow my Big Mac and fries with a bag of baby carrots, a banana, a glass of milk. A treat for Mama chased by good stuff for baby. Though I suppose the baby is getting a bit of everything, good and bad. which is why you have to be careful what you take in while pregnant. I wish I could send a memo to my digestive system! "Please send the healthy veggies express shipment to baby and divert the burger and fries AWAY from my little one!"

I haven't really noticed any "cravings" while I've been pregnant. I always heard the cliche of pickles and ice cream. I haven't really had that. The only things I've found myself really longing for were asparagus and mustard dill salmon which was my favourite dish long before I was pregnant. Unfortunately I'm limiting my fish intake to once per month because of the possible mercury pollution in the fish. Too much fish during pregnancy is supposed to be dangerous. It's a shame really because on one hand fish is so healthy -- it's brain food and full of OMEGA-3 fatty acids but because of possible pollution we have to limit our intake. My mother tried to tell me I shouldn't eat nuts in case the baby was allergic. I told her I don't think it works that way. Maybe being exposed to nuts would actually help a child not to be allergic. I know that when I was a kid in school NO ONE was allergic to nuts. Now it seems to be so common in schools that kids aren't even allowed to bring peanut butter sandwiches in case someone in the class is allergic. Could it be that kids today are too coddled and aren't exposed to enough things so they never develop an immunity? Just a theory. Anyway, to me, nuts are healthy and a high protein snack. Now when I buy them I actually get to eat them (instead of having them highjacked by a 6 foot 2 squirrel. Yes, the dufus ate everything in sight but he was particularly fond of nuts. You are what you eat...I am going to try not to mention him but I can't resist a little dig here and there. After what he put me through, it's hard not to! Still, I am grateful to him for the gifts he gave me -- the baby, most of all and the gift of his absence.)

Ok well, it's been a long day. My feet and I need a rest! Going to go have a nice candlelit bubble bath, with my feet up and then get to bed. Actually come to think of it, my main craving during pregnancy has been bubble baths! I've taken more now than ever before. I look forward to them. So relaxing. Baby seems to enjoy them. She always moves around a lot when I'm in there. I like when my ears are underwater because I imagine what it's like for her in her amniotic fluid. The echo of my heartbeat, breathing and my voice as I softly sing us lullabies. Baby and I  floating together. I hope she's going to love the water the way I do. Maybe we'll live on the beach someday... 

Footnote -- (couldn't resist the pun! Tee hee!) I guess my right leg was feeling left out of the discussion. It was begging for attention the following morning. I just woke up with excruciating pain in my right calf. It was a stiff solid ache. Perhaps I was a bit dehydrated because having a big glass of water seemed to help. I'd been lying on my right side because I was trying to keep the pressure off my left. It's still a little sore but nothing like when I first got up. I have had leg cramps the odd time, even before I was pregnant. It always seemed to happen in bed. Must be the way I sleep. I have a low pain threshold. Not actually sure how on Earth I'm going to get through labour! But that's a blog for another day...


  1. My wife and I had twins, pregnancy is an incredible journey, never quite sure what is around the next corner. The memory will soon fade, make sure to take some picutres. Stay off your feet when you can. Rest is important. I know you will be a great Mom, and one of the most interesting. Wishing you all the best for you and the baby.

  2. Hey there. Congrats to you and your wife on your twins!
    Pregnancy is certainly my biggest adventure ever! I will take more pictures (maybe not of my foot though!) Trying to stay off my feet a bit. Today I was shopping with my Mom & sister & had to take a break to lay on a Sealy Posturepedic in the store when my leg went numb! Thanks so much for your sweet comment. I hope I will be a great & interesting Mom! :)