Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pregnancy, Work, Chicken Feet

Yesterday morning, Don woke up thinking that I was in labor. I was merely sitting on the end of the bed, trying to get my socks on, but I guess the excessive grunting and sighing sounded alarming. It's hard to remember a time when getting dressed in the morning wasn't the most difficult thing I do all day.

If you'd been in the right grocery store at the right time yesterday afternoon, you could have found me standing in front of the Ben & Jerry's display, stroking my belly and murmuring, "So what do we want, baby? What sounds good? Chunky Monkey? Cherry Garcia? Whirled Peace?" The guy stocking the case didn't seem phased at all, though. I think being this pregnant qualifies one for a certain amount of eccentricity.

Yesterday was my last day of work. Next week and most of the week after, I am on vacation; after that, maternity leave. If there's any time in between, (i.e. if I get through the next two weeks sans delivering baby) I'll get a doctor's note and take short-term disability, because I'm not lumbering back into work that much past my due date. Actually, they probably wouldn't even want me, more than a week overdue* and ready to pop any minute. It feels strange to be done with work. I've always worked. The bank offers a 12-week maternity leave, so combined with my vacation time and etc, the earliest I would be returning would be September, if I go back at all. That is still up in the air, because it's very hard to know what I want to do, in a situation I've never been in before.

Our annual, surprise bank audit happened Wednesday, months before we were expecting it. (They actually nailed the "surprise!" part of it this year.) I was at the doctor's office when my coworker texted me, letting me know that the audit team was there... I'm glad the nurse had already checked my blood pressure by that point, because I'm sure it shot right up... I know my heart rate did. It's a nerve-wracking experience, a bank audit, no matter how prepared you think you are. We got the highest score possible, which is really unusual and puts us (me) in a very small winners' circle... The bank is buying dinner for me, my manager, her manager (like he had anything to do with it, really!) and two tellers; hopefully the dinner will be early next week or else there will be a tiny, uninvited guest coming along. I had originally been hoping that the auditors wouldn't come until I was gone, just so that I wouldn't have to go through it, (did I mention that it makes for a rough day?) but now I'm glad it happened this week. I figure that if they had come later in the summer, one of three things would have happened: we get a lower score based on something that was done wrong after I left (i.e. new people coming in and messing up my banking center, grrr); we would get a lower score based on something that I had unknowingly screwed up before I left, so that everybody is cursing me after I'm gone; or, we get the perfect score that we got Wednesday, but because I've been gone for a month, I get no credit for the results, even though I'd been diligently keeping the center in order for the whole year since the last audit... people's memories are short. This is really the best-possible outcome all around.

Things are starting to change in a way that makes me think that I'm not going to go past my due date. I think the baby has 'dropped' somewhat, based on the new, interesting pain in my pelvic bones; the sudden, otherwise unexplained, constipation, balanced out by *less* need to pee... baby's head seems to be resting in new places. I'm carrying so low that strangers feel the need to comment on it: "If that baby falls any more, he'll drop right out!" Well, that is kind of the plan, really. I've been very even-keeled, calm and steady, for most of this pregnancy, but in the last week or so I've been... less so. Hormonal whirlwind would be more accurate. 'Evil pregnant monster' might be Don's honest assessment, should you be able to drag such a thing out of him. I've actually cried twice in the last week, and I am not a crier in general. So, either all of these little changes mean that the baby is coming soon, or it means that the next two or three weeks are going to be... interesting**.

Last night, Don and I had to perform chicken surgery. Nobody mentions these things in the books glorifying backyard chicken-keeping; nobody discusses having to sneak into the hen house late at night, grab the bird you need, and spend a nerve-wracking ten minutes plucking feathers out of her feet. Now my first batch of birds were purebred, which means that you pretty much know exactly what you're getting. This batch is mixed, the result of somebody not separating their chickens by breed for the winter. Since I can't have a breeding flock anyway, it doesn't matter much, and it's actually been more fun so far; the first chickens were not only purebred, they were sisters, and completely identical to my eyes. These girls are all different. One's black-and-white, one's all white, one's almost all golden, and one is gold-and-black. She's the smallest, the prettiest, and Don's favorite. And for some reason, she has feathers growing down her legs and out of her feet. Now some breeds of chickens do have feathered legs and feet, but they tend to be fancy show birds, not the sturdy, barnyard layer types that are supposedly the parent stock of my chickens. We noticed several days ago that she was sort of limping and hobbling around. My first thought was that she'd hurt or broken her leg somehow, but a close inspection showed her legs to be fine, albeit with big feathers growing between her toes. At first I thought that maybe the feathers were just slowing her down, affecting her balance, (since the feathers were as big as her toes) but another few days showed her seemingly in pain, and pecking at the feathers to the point of drawing blood. We decided that if they were bothering her that much, the feathers had to go. So we waited until dark, kidnapped her, and I de-feathered her feet using pliers while Don held her on his lap. She was not happy with this procedure; I could tell it hurt. I think generally you don't pluck chickens until they're dead, but then again she was trying to get them out herself, and I think I did a better job. This morning she seems to be getting around easier; another day and we'll know for sure whether it was the right thing to do. At least the experience didn't traumatize her too badly, as this morning she's eating, drinking, and hanging out with the rest of the flock... This is a good thing since tonight, we'll be doing the same thing, except just to do another inspection, and a hydrogen-peroxide foot-bath. I love the chickens but they do walk in their own poop a lot, and she's essentially got open wounds on her feet-- I don't want her freed from the feathers only to be taken down by an infection instead. The joys of livestock, they never end. One funny thing, though; all of the advice books claim that you need to provide your chickens with at least 9" of roosting space per bird, and ideally 12". We have a four-foot-long roost in the coop for four birds. I thought, given the recommendations, that they would sort of evenly space themselves out along the roost at night, but it turns out that they all huddle close together, squashing themselves into the first 18" or so. I had wondered if they were doing something like that just based on where the droppings seemed to accumulate, but it wasn't confirmed until last night, when we actually saw them sleeping. I guess we could have used either half the length of roost, or had twice as many birds in there at night... Silly books.

*Don't worry, I'm fully aware that I would have to get past 42 weeks, not 40, to actually qualify as "overdue", and that the average first-time gestation is a little more than 41 weeks. But my work doesn't know that, and I have no intention of enlightening them.

** By which I mean HELL.


ayla said...

You're gonna have a baby! I'm so excited!

Mara said...

Well YEAH!!! I hope this realization didn't just hit you! :-P

Rachel said...

You put that disclaimer for the MDC chicks, didntcha? :snicker

I'm still waiting with bated breath for you to join us on hippymom....

and I went almost 4 weeks past my due date...not that it's going to happen to you!

Enjoy the ice cream :)

Mara said...

Not at all! Just for anyone that might mis-interpret and think that I, myself, would consider myself "overdue" should I pass May 30th with nary a contraction in sight.

No way I can go 4 weeks past, though, not with the size of this little one. Plus, I'm showing promising signs...