Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What comes after 16?

Last night, while Adam and I were coloring (Aaron was at the Wild game), he decided to take a break in order to count the markers. His counting went like this:
"One, two, shree, four, five, six, seven, eight, ten, eleven, twelve, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, sixteen again, sixteen again, sixteen again ..."
Guess we need to work on that a little bit.

Monday, March 15, 2010

All about Button

(L to R: Amy, me, Karla & Megan.) This photo was taken at my dear friend Amy's baby shower on March 7, 2010. You can see my round belly pretty clearly in this pic. I feel HUGE! Amy is due April 14 and I am due June 2. These girls are like family to me. We—along with our friend Tonya who lives out in Idaho—have been friends since elementary school or junior high.

When I was pregnant with Adam, I wrote him a letter every month, referring to him affectionately as gender-neutral “Wee One” since we didn’t know if we were having a boy or girl. I wrote about how I was feeling and what I was doing and how scared and excited and anxious I was and my hopes and dreams for our firstborn.
I feel guilty because I haven’t done that this time around with “Button.” It’s not that I’m unexcited about this pregnancy, and it’s not that I don’t have the same hopes and dreams for Button, but I just haven’t had it in me to write. Everything about this pregnancy has been different than when I was pregnant with Adam in 2007, and when I say everything, I mean everything.
For one, I didn’t get a little plus sign when I peed on the stick until the end of October, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the date of my last period. Prior to that I had taken two pregnancy tests (one in September; one in October)—both with negative results—so assumed I had missed my period and was feeling tired because I was training for the Twin Cities 10 Mile race and was running a lot more than usual. I took a third pregnancy test on a whim one night only because we happened to have an extra one in the cupboard and I had been talking about my “weird cycles” with close friends earlier that day. Adam was asleep and Aaron was at volleyball, so it was just me and the stick. I waited a few minutes and checked it, thinking I was going to toss it in the garbage can like I had the others, and HOLY CRAP! I may not be good at math but I know what a plus sign looks like. The worst part was waiting for Aaron to get home from volleyball so I could show him. He was just as surprised/happy/nervous as I was.
We knew the exact date we had conceived Adam. With this one, I had no idea. I had already made a doctor’s appointment for my annual exam, so I knew I could talk to my doc in a week or so. At the appointment, I told my doctor my predicament, and hoped she wouldn’t think I was a complete idiot for not being more in tune with my body. I mean, I have friends who can tell when they’re ovulating (really?!) and I couldn’t even tell that I was pregnant! She reassured me that I wasn’t an idiot. She did a routine pap, asked a few questions, then gently felt above my abdomen, right above my pubic bone. “Your uterus is much larger than what it would be if you were only a few weeks along,” she told me. “Let’s get you an ultrasound today.”
Unfortunately, the ultrasound lab was booked for the rest of the afternoon, but I was able to make an appointment just three days later. For three days I worried without having a legitimate reason to worry. What if I received the bad news that my pregnancy wasn’t viable? Isn’t the statistic like one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage? Now that I knew I was pregnant I was actually pretty psyched about expanding our family.
I returned for my ultrasound and was overjoyed to hear the ultrasound tech announce, “There’s your little baby! And there’s a good, strong heartbeat!” I think any woman who has had a fetal ultrasound can tell you that it’s surreal when you see a living being on the monitor and that the living being is INSIDE YOU. She did a few measurements and then said in the same casual tone you’d use when talking about the weather, “It looks like you’re about ten weeks along.”
Say what?!?! DID YOU JUST SAY TEN WEEKS?!? Like, I’m-almost-done-with-the-entire-first-trimester ten weeks? I was in shock.
She printed out the ultrasound photos of our cute little inch-long baby and wished me luck. Ten weeks?!?! I stepped outside to call Aaron at work. Ten weeks?!?! He was just as surprised as I was.
The doc wanted to go over my ultrasound results that same day, so I waited around for another hour and went into her office with a huge smile on my face.
She wasn’t smiling.
She told me there were some things that looked “concerning” on the ultrasound and she wanted me to see a specialist right away. I came down off my high pretty damn fast. Concerning? I’ll blog more about that experience later … the gist of it was that the doctor was worried that our baby’s intestines were growing on the outside of his/her body and I needed to see a maternal fetal medicine specialist—and maybe even a genetics counselor— before we’d know anything more specific. I have never been so terrified in my life. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t concentrate. I obsessively googled terms that I shouldn’t have been googling without knowing all the facts. (Sometimes too much information can be a bad thing.) I hope I never have to go back to the maternal fetal clinic—it’s where all the high-risk pregnancies wind up—because it is so nerve-wracking when you’re wondering/worrying about your developing baby. It makes you feel totally helpless.
The day we were there a visibly pregnant woman was sobbing loudly in the lobby. You don’t typically see sobbing pregnant women at your ob/gyn. (not in the lobby, anyhow) From what Aaron and I gathered, she had probably just discovered that she had miscarried. She was absolutely devastated. A doc came out to the lobby to give her directions to the hospital, where she was advised to “check in immediately” after she left the clinic. We overheard the doc saying something to the couple about a D&C. A close college friend also had to have a D&C after a miscarriage and I was curious what it stood for. Here’s an explanation, courtesy of “D&C, also known as dilation and curettage, is a surgical procedure often performed after a first trimester miscarriage. Dilation means to open up the cervix; curettage means to remove the contents of the uterus. Curettage may be performed by scraping the uterine wall with a curette instrument or by a suction curettage (also called vacuum aspiration), using a vacuum-type instrument.”
It sounds so cold and clinical (I guess most medical procedures are). What it doesn't explain is the psychological damage—and utter heartbreak—a mother experiences when she loses her baby.
The poor lady was hysterical and her husband was trying to speak in a soft, soothing voice to calm her down and she kept babbling about how she’s going to have to pull her preschooler from school and who was going to watch him and his teacher already didn’t like her and what was she going to say to everyone?
My heart broke for her.
I was a bundle of nerves going into that ultrasound. I was on the track team in college and I used to get nervous before races, but those nerves were nothing compared to these nerves. Those nerves were baby bunnies; these nerves were T-Rexes. I give those doctors and nurses a lot of credit, though. What a hard environment to work in—day in and day out—and they were GOOD. They were kind and friendly and efficient and reassuring.
I felt like I was holding my breath until we had the ultrasound and the tech said, “Everything looks just fine, the intestines are exactly where they’re supposed to be.”
Everything looks just fine. Those have got to be four of the most beautiful words in the English language. Thank you, God. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.
The specialist came in to go over the results with us and told me that all babies go through a period of development when their intestines sort of bubble outside the body before going back in through the umbilical cord, and because my doctor probably didn’t typically look at ultrasounds before 12 weeks, she wouldn’t recognize this as normal. She then asked me if we wanted to do a first trimester screening blood test and ultrasound, to identify the baby’s risk for specific chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome, Trisomy-21 and Trisomy-18, “because I was at the advanced maternal age of 35 and I was already at the clinic.” After what I had gone through—worrying and agonizing about what could be wrong, beating myself up about the situation—it took me all of .2 seconds to announce, “No, no more tests.” I wasn’t going to put myself through that again. If something was wrong, we’d (hopefully) hear about it at our 20-week ultrasound. And even if our baby had a chromosomal abnormality, we wouldn’t terminate the pregnancy, so why bother with the test?
The whole experience was a real wake up call that all of the stars have to be perfectly aligned in order to have a healthy baby. I will never take that for granted again.
Other differences with this pregnancy: I was MUCH more nauseous (but only threw up twice, both times in the evening), I started showing much sooner (normal the second time around, after everything has been stretched out), I had terrible backaches in the second trimester, and I get up constantly to shift positions or go to the bathroom, sucking the energy right out of me. I went to a Guster concert at the zoo when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Adam—at the end of July—and I hardly thought twice about it. I remember having to sit while everyone else was standing (annoying peppy little college kids) but I don’t remember thinking it was all that unusual that I was there. And it was an evening concert. And I ENJOYED it!
Now I get tired if I try to stay up past 9 p.m.
I also feel like my belly is more cumbersome than it was with Adam. I’m carrying my weight differently. There are days when I wish I could hand my belly to Aaron and say, “Here you go! YOU carry this around for awhile.”
The thing is, I know Aaron would do that for me if he could. He has been unbelievably supportive during this pregnancy, just like he was the first time, maybe even more so because now we have Adam to care for/entertain. He makes dinner when I’m tired, gives me back rubs just because, and humors me when I get “cravings” (yesterday = I had to have a root beer float). I feel sorry for pregnant women who don’t have a supportive spouse.
Most recently I failed the one-hour glucose test and had to go to the hospital for a three-hour fasting glucose test—which, in two words—sucked ass. I had to fast the night before, drink 10 oz. of a sickeningly sweet sugary drink on an empty stomach (at 7:30 a.m.), have my blood drawn four times (to be fair, the phlebotomist was friendly and super fast at finding the vein/drawing the blood and even with all those needle pokes, my arm was hardly sore or bruised afterward), and sit in the lobby of the medical lab—you can’t walk around or it will alter your test results—for FOUR HOURS. I will forever be grateful to Aaron for surprising me that morning and showing up at the lab to keep me company. I had originally told him to go to work since I would just be “sitting and waiting and getting poked a few times” and he needed to save his time off for when the baby came and he’d be bored and I’d just read a book while I was sitting there and I’d be fine and blah-blah-blah but he said he could tell I was nervous (mostly about the blood draws on an empty stomach, I was worried I was going to pass out) so he came to show his support. It was nice to have him there with me while I waited between blood draws.
The first blood sample was to test my “fasting blood glucose level” and each subsequent blood draw, taken on the hour for three hours after that, was to test my blood sugar levels—after having downed the glucose solution—over a period of time.
The worst part of the entire test was the 15-20 minutes after I drank the glucose solution. I had to drink twice as much solution as the one-hour, in under five minutes. I didn’t mind the solution when I only had to drink 5 oz. in the doctor’s office, I mean, it tastes like Fanta—and really, who doesn’t like orange pop? But to drink double that amount, on an empty stomach, in five minutes …well, it was tough. After I slammed it I started feeling shaky and nauseous and wondered how I was going to make it through the rest of the morning. I closed my eyes and rocked in my chair and was glad Aaron and I were alone in the waiting room so I didn’t have to feel self conscious and I was glad when he put his hand in mine as a sort of endearing “I’m here for you” gesture. I rocked and rocked in my chair and hoped the feeling would pass … and after a few minutes it did. If I threw up, I knew I’d have to come back another day and start from the beginning, but I can’t blame my body for being confused. I’m sure it was like, “What the hell are you doing to me? You haven’t had a bite to eat since dinner lat night, and now you’re flooding me with sugar—at 7:30 a.m.! You treat me like this and I’ll tell ya what’s gonna happen, lady. You’re gonna get sick!”
The office administrators were very kind. They made sure I had one of the two comfortable chairs in the waiting area (reserved for mamas-to-be), they brought me warm blankets, they gave me control of the remote, they regularly peeked out from their perch behind the front desk to ask if I needed anything. It was nice to feel mothered.
I tried to read my new book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (key word = tried. I just couldn’t concentrate), Aaron read the paper, and we both kind of watched TV (nothing too thrilling on). Eventually another pregnant girl came in, accompanied by her mother-in-law, and sat down across from us so I spent the rest of the morning eavesdropping on their conversation.
After my last blood draw at 11 a.m., Aaron and I both received $5 meal tickets to eat lunch in the hospital cafeteria while waiting for the results. I don’t think a piece of pizza ever tasted so good in my life! (At least while I was sober.)
I had a cookie and Diet Coke, too, just in case I failed my test and had to alter my diet. I was more worried about having to change my eating habits (no carbs? No sugar?) than I was worried about checking my blood sugar up to four times a day by pricking my finger.
After lunch, we had some time to kill before my lab results were ready, so we decided to look for the maternity ward. We knew we wanted to deliver at that hospital (it was close to home) but had no clue where the birthing center was located. A nice official-looking woman must have thought we looked lost and stopped to ask if she could help us. We said we were looking for the maternity ward, so she chaperoned us to the proper part of the hospital and even arranged for us to have an impromptu tour. After our tour, I’m actually kind of excited to deliver there. I like that you get to stay in one room throughout labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum, I like that it’s a secured hospital, and I like the fact that there is very little turnover in terms of staff. The rooms were spacious and the bathrooms were awesome. (The one thing I wanted to do after I had Adam was take a bath.) Bonus that the family waiting room has a kitchenette, computer, and flat-screen TV, the d├ęcor was modern and warm and inviting, and the rooms were CLEAN.
After noon, we headed back up to the lab to see if I had gestational diabetes. I was called into a room where a woman showed me four different numbers on a sheet of paper that were all below what medical professionals consider abnormal readings. “I can’t tell you that you don’t have gestational diabetes because I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you that your numbers look good,” she said with a smile.
YES! Another small victory!
That test was a week ago. Next up = an appointment in two weeks when I will receive the Rho(D) immune globulin—aka RhoGAM shot—because my blood type is A negative. Apparently about 15 percent of white folks have a negative blood type (O, A, B or AB), which doesn’t usually mean anything to me but is apparently a big deal during pregnancy. I had to have this shot when I was pregnant with Adam, too. Basically, what this means is that your blood either has the “Rh factor” or it doesn’t. If you have the Rh factor, then you're Rh+ and you have nothing to worry about. But if you don’t have the Rh factor, then you’re Rh- and this, my friends, can be bad. Your Rh- blood could recognize the Rh factor as an intruder to your bloodstream and basically attack it. RhoGAM contains enough Rh antibodies to trick the mother's immune system into not attacking her fetus's Rh-positive red blood cells. If your baby is Rh+ and your blood mixes with your baby's and you didn’t get the shot to protect you, then your body could view your baby as a foreign invader and shortly after delivery your newborn could develop a potentially deadly condition called hemolytic disease of the newborn, or HDN. When we had Adam, Aaron and I had a doula (labor coach), Peggy, and Peggy told us that she vividly remembers the days when she worked in L&D, before RhoGAM was regularly administered—and witnessing the devastation of HDN.
Give me the shot!
So … I have 11 weeks to go before my EDD and I hope the rest of my pregnancy is uneventful! I can handle the back pain, I can handle the heartburn, I can handle the ugly stretch marks and itchy skin, I can handle the jabs and punches and kicks that literally take my breath away, I can handle the interrupted sleep cycles, I can handle the shortness of breath, I can handle the embarrassing ‘pregnancy brain’ moments (like putting my pants on backwards last week and not realizing it until 1:45), I can even handle the occasional weird pregnancy side effects like pelvic pain (I slept with a pillow between my legs one night and the consequence was waking up with debilitating pelvic pain … I’m pretty sure I resembled a 90-year-old woman hobbling around) and hip pain (I couldn’t sleep last night my hips were so tender, and what do you do if you’re not supposed to sleep on your back or your stomach and it hurts to lie on both your left and your right side? Sleep while standing on your head?), but I HATE the mental agony of waiting. Forty weeks is a long time to be pregnant! And even though it’s a long time to wait, I do not want my baby to arrive before it is “fully cooked.” Button still has quite a bit of developing to do in-utero!
And whether he/she arrives at 37 weeks or 41 weeks, I know one thing for certain: My heart is ready to meet this baby.