Happy Embryo-versary!

 

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Our little girl at the very beginning, and now.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since our little embryo was created in the lab. She’s now a spunky, sweet, opinionated 3.5-month-old baby who is curious about everything and makes us laugh every day.

I know I haven’t been very good about keeping up with this blog now that she’s here. But, you guys, this motherhood thing… it is hard work. I’m home with her full-time and will be for at least another 8-9 months, which is both amazing and exhausting. I love spending every day with her. But it doesn’t leave a lot of time for much else.

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So, how is she these days? Well, luckily for us, she’s a champion sleeper. She started sleeping through the night at 9 weeks and, with the exception of some random growth spurts here and there, she sleeps every night from roughly 7pm to 7:30am. She’s a big smiler and loves it when we talk to her, sing songs, and make funny faces. We’re still waiting for her first laugh, but I don’t think it’s far off. These days she always wants to be held upright or sitting up (supported) so that she can see what’s going on. She’s not a big fan of being strapped into her carseat or stroller; she wants to be carried on my hip or sit in the Boba wrap. She’s so intensely interested in everything going on around her.

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My health has been pretty good.¬†The fact that she’s such a good sleeper is a huge factor in how well I feel. When she was smaller and waking up a lot in the night my lung function dropped and I kept getting recurring sinus infections. I’ve been able to stay off antibiotics so far, which has been wonderful because it means I can continue breastfeeding. I’m planning to continue breastfeeding her until she’s at least six months old, if possible. Before I had her I figured I’d stop after a few months so I could start Orkambi, but she derives so much comfort from it that I’m finding it really hard to think about switching her to formula. And she hates drinking from a bottle, but that’s another story!

I do wish my lung function had bounced back better. It got up to 84% last month, but at my check up last week it was down to 79%, which was discouraging. My doctors are still confident it will get back to where it was, but it’s definitely harder for me to get all my treatments in, rest, and eat well now that she’s here. I’m committed to keeping myself well, so I rarely miss a treatment, but I do often end up with a baby in my lap while doing my vest!

All in all, things are wonderful. I wish I could go back a year ago, when I was so anxious, and give myself a glimpse of the future. All the pain, frustration, worry and tears are so, so worth it.

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One Month Old

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All snuggled up on my chest as I write this post ūüôā

How old: One month exactly!

Stats: 9 pounds and 2.5 ounces, and 22 inches long. Since her lowest weight during the loss¬†after birth she has gained more than¬†3 pounds! She also grew two inches. She’s in the 80th percentile for height and the 48th for weight.

Milestones: She can hold her head up for a little bit during tummy time, and looks around a lot when she’s in her baby carrier. She’s starting to become more aware of her surroundings in general, especially in the last few days. She watches the mobile above her bassinet, studies our faces, and responds to music.

Clothes/Diapers:¬†She graduated from newborn to size 1 diapers last week. They’re a bit¬†big on her but they contain the messes much better! She wears mostly 0-3 month or 3 month clothing because she’s a long girl, but it’s a bit baggy on her.

Eating: As you might guess from her weight gain, she’s a good eater! She’s come a long way from the early days of falling asleep practically as soon as she latched on. She also latches like a champ now – no more scabbed up, bruised nipples (ouch!). I¬†feed her on demand, which usually works out to around every 2-3 hours during the day and every 3-4 hours at night. She is still exclusively breast fed, and takes her evening¬†feeding from a bottle given by her Dad. He likes bonding with her that way and it also gives her a chance to take her vitamin D drops and probiotics mixed with the pumped milk.

Sleeping:¬†She’s a pretty good sleeper, though her sleep has actually gotten a bit worse lately. In weeks 2-3 she would fall asleep pretty much as soon as we swaddled her and put her in her bassinet, and she slept solid 4 hours stretches at night. I had to wake her up to eat. Now that she’s a bit older and less sleepy it’s harder to get her to go to sleep. We still swaddle her, but we also have to do some singing and rocking. We’ve tried using a pacifier at bedtime but it hasn’t been a big hit, honestly. She likes it but it falls out within a few minutes, usually before she falls asleep. However, once she’s finally asleep she sleeps 3-4 hours stretches and wakes on her own to eat.

Likes: Cuddling, looking at her mobile, the feeling of a clean diaper, being sung to, riding in her boba wrap, eating

Dislikes: Tummy time, getting dressed/undressed, having her face wiped, feeling gassy, getting buckled into her car seat

Undecided About: Everything else!

Fun Events: Visits from her grandparents, attending mommy-and-baby group

Looking Forward To: Her first social smiles! She’s so close to smiling at us. She’s at her most cheerful first thing in the morning, and for the last few days she’s been smiling a bit at her toys when she wakes up. She’s getting more alert and interactive by the day. It’s amazing to see.

Daily Routine with our Newborn Baby

Now that our baby is 4 weeks old we’re starting to get into more of a routine. I wouldn’t call it a schedule, though – she’s still a bit too unpredictable for that. ūüôā

Here’s how things go on a typical day:

8:30 am: The baby wakes up hungry! I get up and change her and feed her. Depending on how things go, I’ll either get her dressed for the day or do some skin-to-skin during the feeding. Her usual clothing¬†for the day is one of those long-sleeved, footed cotton outfits. I think they’re technically pajamas, but since my husband likes to keep the AC at about 70 degrees inside, I find she gets too chilly in just a onesie. I haven’t really dressed her up in anything fancy yet – she’s bumming around the house, not going to meet the queen.

9:30 am: She usually goes down for a morning nap after eating. She’s usually sleepy enough to nap in her footie outfit, or I might swaddle her if she’s fussy. Honestly, I usually sleep during this nap too, since I’m worn out from the night feedings.

11:00 am: She’s up again! Now we really get up for the day. She will usually stay awake for about 90 minutes at a time during the day now. Often she wants to eat as soon as she wakes up, but if not, I work it in there somewhere. We also do some “playtime” – singing songs, dancing, walking around the apartment looking at things, looking at toys, or just sitting and making faces at each other. Her favorite things to look at right now are faces, shiny objects, and high-contrast objects. She loves staring at pictures on the wall and out the window. She has started tracking things with her eyes too, which is a fun development, and the older she gets the longer she’ll¬†focus her attention. She also loves music and being sung to! It’s especially fun for her when I sing and dance her around. She calms right down if she’s fussy. Finally, I try to work in some tummy time. She really doesn’t like tummy time and we can’t do it for long before she gets upset, but we try. Lying down on the ground with her and singing to her helps.

12:30 pm: Time for another nap. I try to put her down to nap at the 90-minute mark even if she’s not super tired, because from what I’ve read they can start to get overtired, which makes it even harder for them to sleep. For this nap I usually put her in her swing in the living room, and she’ll look around for a while before drifting off to sleep. While she sleeps I eat my breakfast/lunch (I know it’s not good to be skipping/combining meals, but I make up for it by eating a lot throughout the day!) and do my “morning” nebulizers and physical therapy. If I was a better person I’d probably do all of this during her first nap of the day but I’m usually just too tired.

2:00 pm: She’s usually up and hungry around this time. She’ll eat again, we’ll do another diaper change, then play for a while.¬†I usually have some stuff to get done around the house so I’ll put her in her Boba wrap so I can be hands-free. She likes the movement and enjoys looking around while I do dishes, cook, or whatever. If she’s up for it I’ll give her some “alone time” in her swing or on her play mat. I’ve read that it’s good for them to play happily by themselves, though she usually doesn’t want to do this for more than 5-15 minutes before she starts crying for me to come get her.

3:30 pm: Another nap. She might nap in her bassinet, in her swing, or on me, depending how the day goes.

4:30 pm: She’s up again! I like to work in a walk around this time, or earlier in the day. The fresh air is nice for both of us.¬†We either use the stroller or the Boba wrap and just cruise around the neighborhood. We might stop for ice cream (for me!).

6:00 pm: Another nap.

7:00 pm: She’s up again. From this point on the evening can go a couple ways. She tends to be more fussy at night, so we kind of follow her lead. There are nights when we’ve tried to put her down to sleep around 8 or 8:30 and she has just screamed for hours despite us trying pretty much everything to soothe her. So, we generally let her stay “up” with us until a bit later at night. I put “up” in scare quotes because she’s usually napping on and off – she’s not really awake the whole time! I usually do my evening nebulizers and physical therapy anytime from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm depending on how she’s doing. My husband is usually home from work by this time so she hangs out with him while I get a bit of a break.

10:00 pm: This is usually when we do the last feeding of the day. My husband gives her a bottle of pumped breastmilk with added vitamin D and probiotics, which our pediatrician advised us to give her daily. We don’t give her a ton of milk in the bottle in case she’s not very hungry, so usually I “top her off” with some breastfeeding before bed. Once she’s full and happy we do one more diaper change, then swaddle her and put her down in her bassinet for the night. How well she goes down is variable. If she’s drowsy, she’ll usually cry for about 30 seconds, then drift off to sleep on her own. Sometimes she’s up for a while, looking around (in the dark?) and kicking her feet before falling asleep. We’ve made the mistake of trying to put her down when she’s too awake (for the sake of trying to get her on a specific schedule – ha!) and that just doesn’t go well – she screams and gets all worked up. However, once she’s really and truly asleep she’s usually a pretty good sleeper.

11:00 pm: This is usually when I’m done with my evening meds and ready for bed. She’ll wake up about every 3-4 hours during the night to be fed. These days I’m doing all the night feedings myself since my husband works during the day and it’s hard for him to go in all tired out. When she wakes up in the night to eat I try to keep the lights off and just feed her using the nightlight – not always easy, since she still needs help latching a lot! However, they say it’s important to keep lights dim so they start to learn the difference between day and night. I usually try to keep her swaddled, but she doesn’t always eat as well when swaddled, and if she needs a diaper change it’s all got to come off. We play it by ear. She usually goes right back to sleep after a night feeding without any drama. Also – we really try not to interfere with her sleep unless it’s clear she really needs something. I’ve read in multiple places how important it is not to “overhelp” a sleeping baby. She actually makes a lot of noises and moves around a lot while sleeping, and sometimes starts¬†loudly crying – but only for about 10-30 seconds before falling back to sleep. I don’t do anything unless she cries for more than a minute or so. In general, she only really does that when 3-4 hours have gone by and she needs to eat.

So, that’s our routine! One of my goals going forward is to get everyone on an earlier sleep schedule. Unfortunately, we’re a family of night owls – before the baby was born we usually stayed up to 1:00 am or later most nights. I think she has that tendency too, based on how much she resists being put down to sleep earlier in the evening! However, I’ve read that once she starts getting real circadian rhythms around 3 months of age she’ll start getting sleepier earlier in the evening, so I’m not too worried about it yet. These days we’re just doing what we have to do so that we all get some decent sleep. ūüôā

Three Weeks Old

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One of my favorite shots of her from our newborn photo shoot at two weeks old.

Our little girl is doing wonderfully. We’re starting to really settle in to being parents and learning how to take care of her.

The past few weeks have been busy. When she was just over a week old our out-of-town visitors started to arrive. I wrote earlier in this blog about our guilt over asking family to wait a week before flying in to visit, but I can report now that I’m so glad we did. In fact, since she arrived a few days earlier than expected, we had about a week and a half with just the three of us before visitors started to arrive. That period was probably the hardest so far: she wasn’t sleeping well, wasn’t feeding well, and was losing weight faster than she should have been. We had no idea what we were doing, but at least we were buoyed by the excitement and the adrenaline rush of having a brand new member of our family. We took that time to get a better grasp of our new roles, bond, and get her on track with sleeping and eating. If we had also been trying to host visitors I think we would have fallen apart completely from the stress – and missed out on a really special period.

Our first visitor was my Dad, who only stayed for about 24 hours. It turned out this was just the right amount of time. It was wonderful to see him and he loved bonding with his new granddaughter, but to be honest, she doesn’t do a lot right now besides eat, sleep, poop, and cry, so he couldn’t really play with her or anything.

After he left my Mom arrived. She was an absolutely wonderful guest. She cuddled the baby for hours so I could get things done around the house, walked our dogs, cooked tons of food, ran errands, and was really conscientious about respecting our alone time as a family. She also joined us for our 2-week-old newborn photo shoot with a professional photographer, which was a lot of fun. Here are a few of my favorites from the shoot:

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So cute! I would highly recommend getting a newborn photographer if it’s in your budget. Her grandparents¬†initially scoffed at the idea, but now they adore the photos! However, be prepared to go into the shoot with a lot of patience – it took about four hours and a lot of coaxing to get these lovely angelic pictures. There was a lot of screaming and pooping in between.

After my Mom’s visit we also had visits from my mother-in-law and brother-in-law, and we’ll be having my sister visit in October. As wonderful as it was to get to introduce the baby to her extended family, it’s a bit of a relief to have the place to ourselves again. Even though people were helpful, there’s still a sort of implicit pressure to entertain guests – and honestly, I¬†just spend most of the day parked on the sofa feeding the baby or changing diapers.

For those of you expecting babies soon, I’d advise a few ground rules for out-of-town guests, based on our experience:

  • No overnight guests in the first week.
  • Unless you have guest bedrooms, guests should plan to stay elsewhere (AirBnB, hotel, etc.). Our apartment is enough of a disaster zone without air mattresses and luggage in the living room. Even if you do have guest rooms, you might still want to do this so you don’t feel pressure to play host 24 hours a day.
  • Set expectations about when people should arrive and depart (even if it’s just to their respective bedrooms) for the day. For us, that meant arriving no earlier than 10am and departing by 8pm. This gave us¬†some breathing room that was essential for both us and the baby since morning feedings and the bedtime routine take a while.
  • Also, set expectations about meals and entertainment. I think most people understand they shouldn’t expect you to feed or entertain them while you have a newborn, but it helps to lay the groundwork in advance. Ideally, they do some cooking or just pick up takeout for everyone, but at the minimum they should plan to feed themselves¬†(and do some¬†grocery runs so they aren’t eating all your food).
  • Make sure you have a private space where you can go to nurse. I was ok with nursing on the couch with my mom around, but not so much with my dad or brother-in-law visiting. I would retreat to the bedroom with the baby to nurse her and get some alone time.
  • This will probably differ for everyone, but I would recommend not having anyone stay for more than a few days unless you’re 110% sure they’re going to be very helpful, and you want that help. Our guests ran the gamut from very helpful to not at all helpful, and that was ok – but people who didn’t plan to help out (and were also a bit bored after the initial excitement of meeting the new baby) became kind of a burden to have around after a¬†few days.

Ok, moving on! I wish there was more to report regarding the baby, but like I said, she mostly just sleeps and eats right now. She has become more alert over time, so I notice her looking at things longer – for example, there’s a picture¬†with a black frame on our white wall that she loves staring at, probably because it’s high-contrast. She loves being cuddled and carried around, and enjoys it when I play music and dance with her. She also really likes being carried in her Boba wrap, which lets me snuggle her while having my hands free to wash dishes or whatever. Most days we get out for a walk around the neighborhood and I prefer carrying her in the wrap vs. using our stroller, since she usually just sleeps the whole time in the wrap. The stroller is kind of bulky if we go into stores and it’s hard to soothe her in it when she gets fussy.

I also took her to a mommy-and-baby group this past week, which was fun. There was another baby there who was born on the same day as her! Talking to the moms was fun, and it made me grateful for how well she sleeps. Currently she’s sleeping four-hour stretches at night which is fantastic. The other baby her age would only sleep 1.5-2 hours at a time and his mom was so exhausted.

Breastfeeding is going well and it’s great that she seems to be getting the hang of it more. Now she latches well and eats pretty efficiently, excepts when she’s gassy or fussy for some other reason. I’ve been making plenty of milk so I can pump and stash some for later, too.

Ok, I’m going to wrap this up. Sorry it’s kind of long and disjointed! I have to write in short bursts when the baby’s napping. ūüôā She’s actually going to be one month old tomorrow (it’s taken me a full week to finish this post!) so I’ll be back with a one-month-old update soon.

1 Week Postpartum

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What a week!

Our baby girl was born last Sunday, July 31st. In the week since then we’ve learned a lot about how to take care of her (and each other) despite uncertainty, weight scares, and a serious lack of sleep. But it’s all been so, so worth it – because she is absolutely wonderful.

Since the delivery was pretty uncomplicated (I’m actually working on a longer “birth story” post that gets into all the nitty gritty details) and our baby is healthy we only stayed in the hospital for two days. As promised, we got a private room on the maternity ward because of my CF, which was great. Overall the nurses and doctors were fantastic and it was reassuring to have a trained expert available at the push of a button if we had any questions. Also wonderful? Room service. Hospital food isn’t the best, but theirs was surprisingly good – and we could have as much as we wanted, anytime, billed straight through to insurance. Pure magic.

It was great to have food and medical care easily accessible because all of our energy had to be devoted to figuring out how to care for this little person. Neither of us had experience caring for very young babies and I don’t think we had ever changed a diaper before. Fortunately the diaper stuff is actually pretty easy (though the meconium poops are nasty). Less easy was finding a way to sleep when the baby had a meltdown every time we set her down in her bassinet. Since our hospital does “rooming in” (keeping the baby with the parents at all times instead of having a nursery) it was up to us to manage. We ended up essentially sleeping in shifts while the other person held the baby.

Each day we got a visit from the pediatrician as well as the OB. The baby passed all her tests with flying colors, which is absolutely fantastic. I actually surprised myself by how well I was doing, too. I was definitely swollen down there, but not very¬†sore¬†at all. The only real struggle was peeing. I had no idea how focused everyone would be on my bladder! The first few pees after delivery take place in the company of a nurse, who changes your (gigantic) pad and hoses you down with a peri bottle before settling in to wait for you to pee in a bowl inserted into the toilet to measure volume. I don’t know if this was because I had an epidural or not, but the first time we did this I literally couldn’t pee. I didn’t feel like I needed to either, despite the fact that I was apparently holding about a liter or urine. The nurse ended up having to catheterize me, which I would not recommend. Not fun. Luckily my bladder got it together and I was able to do it the next few times, after which you’re left to your own devices.

Much more fun was calling our families to let them know the baby had arrived. Everyone was surprised and excited since we told them it would probably be at least a few more days. It was really heart-warming hearing everyone’s well wishes by phone, text, and social media.

For those of you managing health conditions in postpartum, I heartily recommend bringing all your own meds and equipment with you to the hospital. The hospital staff had a full list of my meds, but inexplicably supplied only a few of them. They also brought me some that were just wrong (well, they were variations on things I take and probably would have been fine, but I would rather stick with my usual regimen). For example, they brought me my daily azithromycin, but no digestive enzymes, which I need with every meal. The respiratory therapist brought me pulmozyme and hypertonic saline, but no colistin – and they brought me some sort of nebulized albuterol combo drug I’ve never heard of instead of my albuterol inhaler. They didn’t provide any chest PT or equipment to use. This was kind of what I thought might happen since it’s pretty¬†rare to have an adult with CF in the maternity unit, so I was glad I brought my own medicine and vesting device. No one gave me any trouble about using them.

Once we arrived home things were both easier and harder. It was lovely being back in the comfort of our own home and not being constantly interrupted for checks. However, there was no more room service and no one to reassure us that yes, it’s normal if the baby sneezes every once in a while (for example). The baby still¬†refused to sleep alone in her crib, and since we’re not set up for bed-sharing (nor do we plan to) we were still getting¬†very little sleep. However, I felt like I was on this crazy adrenaline high: despite getting roughly three hours of sleep a night I had so much energy and love for the baby that I felt like I could power through anything.

The day after we came home from the hospital we had our first pediatrician appointment. Everything looked great except her weight. She was born at 6 pounds 13 ounces, and at 4 days old she was down to 6 pounds and 1/2 ounce. It’s normal for babies to lose some weight, but losing 10% of her body weight is really the upper limit of normal. The doctor instructed us to bring her baby in two days¬†for another weight check.

We spent the next 48 hours really doubling down on feedings. I think our initial mistake was that we expected her to cry¬†when she was hungry, but she was so little and sleepy that she would easily go 4+ hours without waking to feed. In addition, she would fall sleep almost immediately once I got her to latch. So to get her to start gaining again we were strict about feeding her every 2 hours around the clock, even if she wasn’t making overt hunger signs. I also started pumping so that we could supplement her feedings with more breastmilk. Pumping¬†had the advantage of 1) telling us exactly how much she was eating, and 2) reassuring us that she was actually eating something, since it’s hard to tell what’s actually going in when she’s just breastfeeding. She also was much less likely to fall asleep on the bottle than on the breast. I’m very thankful we had gotten the pump and some bottles before she arrived, even though we didn’t think we needed them!

It was a scary 48 hours, honestly. We felt guilty for letting her weight drop like that and worried about whether she was ok. I cried the first time I pumped because it seemed so unnatural and weird. We felt anxious about whether introducing a bottle so early would give her nipple confusion and make it harder to breastfeed. We even tried feeding her with a syringe instead, which was a total failure.

However, in the end, it was worth it. At our weight check on Friday she had gained 7 ounces in 48 hours! The doctor was thrilled and so were we. Since then we’ve¬†fallen into a more relaxed rhythm of feeding every 2 hours during the day and every 3 hours during the night. I pump twice daily since all that early pumping had the unintended consequence of really increasing my supply. I breastfeed her for almost all of her feedings, but it’s nice to have a backup supply in the fridge so my husband can bottle feed her if I’m busy or napping. We’re freezing the rest and we’ll have a really nice “emergency” supply on hand. Yesterday, at exactly 1 week old, we weighed her again on a baby scale at a local nonprofit for breastfeeding moms, and she was up to 6 pounds 11.5 ounces. Almost back to her birth weight!

Over the last week¬†she’s become a bit more wakeful (though she still sleeps almost all the time) and a much stronger breastfeeder. The bottle feedings don’t seem to have deterred her at all from latching and feeding properly. Mercifully, she started sleeping in her bassinet around 5 days old as long as she’s swaddled properly. For the time being, she’s actually a champion sleeper – as long as she’s not hungry, cold, or improperly swaddled, she falls sleep easily and stays asleep for the three-hour stretches between feedings. She’ll occasionally fuss but she’s able to calm herself down pretty quickly as long as those three conditions are met. It’s incredible. I have to credit Harvey Karp and the 5 S’s for getting her to sleep properly. If you’re pregnant and you’ve never heard of this, look it up before you give birth! My husband was highly skeptical of the technique when we read it before the birth, but was the first to admit it actually worked wonders on our baby.

Our pediatrician advised us at our first appointment to do our best to get out of the house at least once each day. “It’s a low bar to set,” he said, “But you’ll be surprised how hard it is to do some days. But it will really help you keep your sanity.” He was so right! Between the constant feedings, snuggling, and diaper changes, not to mention my regimen of medications, chest PT, and pumping, we usually don’t get much “free” time until the afternoon. But we’ve managed to get out for walks around the neighborhood, a stroller ride in the park, and even a quiet lunch at a local salad place yesterday. We’re careful to keep her away from strangers, sick people, and smokers, and no one has pestered us to touch her. She does pretty well in the stroller (as long as it’s moving) but absolutely adores the Boba wrap – she just snuggles in and conks out.

We’ve also had a few visitors. Some of my husband’s cousins who live here in the area have stopped by with gifts and flowers, which was sweet. On Wednesday my Dad is flying in for a quick visit, and on Thursday my Mom flies in to stay for the week. My in-laws¬†arrive the following week. It will be a busy few weeks of visitors, but we’re looking forward to seeing everyone. They actually won’t be staying with us: because we only have a small one-bedroom apartment (which is now filled with baby stuff) we told everyone a while ago that they would need to get AirBnBs or make other arrangements when they visit. I felt guilty about this, but I think it will really help with our stress levels not to have everyone living on top of each other in here. I also mentioned a while back that we asked that our out-of-town family wait to¬†fly in¬†until the baby was at least a week old. That didn’t go over well with everyone initially, but they respected our decision and I’m really glad we set that boundary. It gave us this week to bond with our baby, figure out how to best care for her, and establish a routine without having too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.

Ok, this post is already really long, so I’m going to wrap it up. I’m planning to write postpartum updates pretty regularly, so stay tuned!

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Belly a few days before delivery and one week postpartum.