Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For!

I’ve been antsy about not having another sonogram until 12.5 weeks because I had one at 5.5, 7.5, and 8.5. They have been reassuring, and it’s also so nice to see how much growth has happened in such short periods of time. I was a little sad that I wouldn’t get to witness different stages of growth between weeks 8 and 12.

But I didn’t want it this way!

Yesterday around noon I saw a tint of red in my underwear, and when I wiped, dark, bright red bloody tissue was on the toilet paper. It looked like something that should not be coming out of me unless I’m on my period, and I immediately panicked. I ran straight back to my office and called the OB. For some reason I’m much less hesitant to call them for every little thing than I was with the fertility clinic. Maybe because I know they’ll be with me for the long haul so I feel they are responsible for me and this is just going to be part of our journey! The nurse asked if I was cramping or having lower back pain, and I said no. She said then that “it’s probably nothing” but they could schedule me for a sonogram if I was concerned. Yes, please! I told them I work in the Bronx and would need time to get there, so they gave me a 3:15 appointment.

I immediately ran to my supervisor’s office and burst into tears and said, “There’s more blood, and it’s like a clump, I have to go to the doctor right now!” She hugged me and said to let her know how it goes. I’m so, so fortunate in this area. I couldn’t be in a more supportive work environment.

I got there early and they didn’t see me until 4:15. I didn’t mind the wait because I was grateful that they fit me in, but I was just so nervous and wanted to know what was happening! I also kept wondering if there was more blood. Just after 4:00, I finally asked to use the bathroom and checked. There was nothing further. That reassured me quite a bit, because if a miscarriage was impending, I don’t think it would take a break for a few hours. But what do I know? And also it was my last day of the progesterone suppositories, so I feel like the extra hormones could always trick my body into holding on longer than it otherwise would if I wasn’t on supplements.

As soon as I came out, they called me back. A new doctor saw me since mine wasn’t available. I know this can be a downside of choosing a large (5+) OB practice, but it had been more important to me to find a practice with great reviews for bedside manner, skills, knowledge, and respect for my wishes. I’m glad I saw her because I loved her also, and it let me know that at least one of the other doctors I now feel comfortable with attending my delivery if mine isn’t available. I would love to meet all of them at some point!

While the doctor was out of the room, I took a peek at the laptop that was sitting out with all my information on the screen. There was a note for my call Friday that said, “Patient called RE some small amount of vaginal spotting when she wipes. She denies back pain or cramping. She was reassured and will call back if the bleeding continues or increases, cramping starts or back pain, or if she has any further questions or concerns.” (I took a picture of the screen so I have the exact words. Does that make me crazy?) This immediately looked like liability coverage to me; it’s noted that I was reassured and that I agreed to call back with any changes or concerns. So I guess now that I DID actually call back to say it was worse, they had to respond by offering a sonogram even though they weren’t concerned about it from my description. The note for today said, “Pt with episode of red staining with ‘clump’. To office for evaluation.” I was amused that they quoted me on “clump”.

The doctor first used a speculum to check my cervix and said everything looks fine, that there was no cervical bleeding. She then did a transvaginal sonogram and checked for uterine bleeding, which was not there, and showed me the heartbeat.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on the screen. It was an actual BABY! Gone was my seahorse. The baby was laying on its back, and I could see where the kidney-bean-shaped sac dipped down in the middle to connect to its stomach. The placenta and umbilical cord, I’m guessing. Seeing a head and a body, and something that looks like an eye, just froze me. I was in shock. And then I was flooded by emotions. They just ransacked my body and I started crying as soon as the doctor left the room. And talking to my baby, just holding my abdomen and saying, “THERE you are, you’re really there, I love you so much, stay put and stay safe!”

It’s an odd thing. The sonograms make me feel so connected that I can barely hold myself together for awe of it all. And then within a day, it already ceases to feel real again because I don’t feel or see anything except my growing sore breasts. I want to just stare at it on the screen all day so I know what it’s doing and that it’s okay! Everything is just happening in there without my control, and I’m just waiting for periodic check-ins to make it real again. My baby is more within my control now than it ever will be once it’s born. I don’t have to figure out how to meet its needs; my body’s just doing it. I don’t ever have to be separated from it. I can protect it better than I ever will be able to again. And yet I still struggle with feeling distant and disconnected at times, like it isn’t really happening. I actually MISS my baby – and it’s right here with me all the time!

In my outpouring of relief and love that the sonogram triggered, I said, “I’ll give up anything and everything to keep you safe and have you here with us. Just join us when you’re ready and stay safe til then!” I’ve had my anxieties about the realities of the ways in which our lives will soon change. I’ve thought about how reluctant I am to give up my solitude and freedom, my ability to just watch Netflix if I want all day, or go out on a whim without a half hour of preparation. I think it’s normal to start processing some of that and the losses that will come with this wonderful change. But in that moment, with such relief that my baby was okay, I felt like I wanted my baby here tomorrow, no matter what that meant for changes to my life, just to know it made it and was safely in our family. I’ve never felt such strong, instinctual, and immediate love for something that is still really a stranger and more of an idea than a real person in my life. It was overpowering and still blows me away.

It's hard to make out the details here, but when I zoom in on my phone, I can see eyes, nose, open mouth, and even an arm bent and up by its head!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10 Week Update

I'm ten weeks today, and it's been quite a ride. I had a few weeks of queasiness, but now not in over a week. Only once, in the middle of the night, did I actually feel really sick, but I still never vomited. I just felt like my stomach was heaving, like I was really seasick, and it wracked me for about an hour until I just fell back asleep. Aside from that one incident, I would just feel bouts of queasiness throughout the day. I kept ginger candies on me for when it got bad, but "bad" was still never really that bad.

The worst thing was really the difficulty eating. I would be so hungry but the idea of most foods would just turn me off. I was always in the mood for pizza from the amazing pizzeria down the street (which I only indulged once over those several weeks) and could always eat carbs, but protein became more difficult to stomach. I would eat barely any dinner and then have a bowl of cereal when I got hungry later. I was so repulsed by leftover pesto chicken that I reheated for lunch one day (I ended up just eating the pasta and then was ravenous and snacking all afternoon because I'd had no protein) that I still can't eat chicken. It was such a curse, being so hungry but feeling sick at the idea of anything that would be good and filling!

All that has passed. Somehow, without my realizing it, it disappeared around or before nine weeks. I've felt so great the past week that I sometimes get nervous about whether everything is okay! I hadn't had any spotting in over a week, and told my wife Thursday night that I felt like one of those factories that have a sign up with like "7 Days Accident Free" where they update it every day. It was just so reassuring that the spotting could be over, and every consecutive day without it felt great. No sooner than I said that, on Friday morning I saw some red blood. Not the "normal" pink or brown, but red. I was at work and went back to my office and broke down in tears.

I had let my guard down. I'd begun to feel blissful again. And physically comfortable at that! I was just in such a happy and secure place. This was like a slap in the face, like a reminder that I was getting too comfortable and should still be anxious.

I ended up calling my OB because I was worried that it would get worse over the weekend and then I would feel bad about calling an on-call doctor after hours so I would be questioning myself about whether it was really a big deal or whether I was overreacting. I figured calling during work hours and just getting an answer would put me at ease, and it did. My nurse said not to be alarmed unless I have to change my pad because of it or unless I get a backache and cramping. So of course then I kept feeling like I was having a backache and then would run to the bathroom to check my pad, but there was nothing. There's been nothing since (it's been two days). And I'm starting to feel more secure again, and yet at the same time, carrying a little bit of dread in the back of my mind.

Two and a half weeks til we get our 12 week sonogram. I'm hoping that gives me a little more reassurance!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Choosing an OB

I have been going to my family doctor for GYN exams, so I didn't have an OB and now had to go about choosing one in order to be discharged there from the fertility clinic. Where to start?? I looked up places nearby before I was ever pregnant and had bookmarked the site of a practice with five female OBs called "Women for Women." I always like the idea of supporting women in "nontraditional" fields, and it has always come into play when choosing a doctor. When it came time to actually choose an OB, though, I looked up reviews for this practice and didn't really like what I saw. There were great reviews for two of the doctors, pretty unsettling reviews for another two, and radio silence on the fifth. Not great odds. But after reading reviews for other practices in the same area (a town extremely dense with hospitals and medical providers, all within ten to fifteen minutes from us), I didn't see anything better. They were all getting two or three stars out of five, with complaints about wait times, bedside manner, and rude and unprofessional receptionists.

I felt so defeated. I figured I'd better stick with my original choice and just hope that mostly unhappy people write reviews. I called them at 9:20 AM and was sent to a voicemail stating to call back between the business hours of 9 and 5. I called again at 9:40, same thing. I was immediately done. It was not a great first impression that no one was picking up the phone 40 minutes into the workday and I was having trouble just making a first appointment!

I started to look up OB/GYN practices near my town and found one in an affluent town about 18-20 minutes away that had wonderful reviews. People raved about both the doctors and the reception staff. I called and was immediately attended to by a friendly receptionist who helped me make an appointment that fit with my work schedule (availability at 6:30PM?? Yes, please!) and let me know where to go on their website to get anything I needed to prepare for the appointment. I had a good feeling right away! But because I was choosing my appointment based on who could work with my schedule and not based on a doctor I had any knowledge of, I was a little nervous about being randomly assigned to one.

Today put my fears at rest. The doctor had an emergency earlier in the day and was backed up, so I didn't see him til 7:30, but he still took his time with me and was very warm and professional. The woman who took me back to the room said to stay dressed because Dr. K had never met me before and would want to first before the exam. He came and introduced himself and asked me some basic questions. One of them was about spotting and bleeding, so I told him I'd had some bleeding right before my sonogram last week, and then the following night. He said, "You're on progesterone, right? How much longer did they say you need to take it?" And that was all he said. His lack of concern was very comforting. The nurse at the clinic had told me progesterone suppositories can be very hard on the cervix, so it made sense that that was his next question.

He then left so I could undress and came back and did a full gynecological exam. He was so quick and thorough, not quite as gentle and explanatory as I'm used to my female doctors being, but so damn efficient that I wasn't even self-conscious and just completely trusted him. He poked all around my abdomen and said, "Oh yeah, it's definitely there." What?? What did you feel? Can you tell my uterus has doubled in size, because I can't! I came home and poked myself all over hoping to feel what he felt but couldn't.

Then he smiled and said we were doing a sonogram. We weren't sure if they would so I was SO excited! Dr. K turned to my wife and asked if she had seen the last two sonograms. She said, "Yes, and they were so different in just two weeks!" Dr. K said, "Wait til you see what's changed in just one week." And there our baby was on the monitor, with actual SHAPE to it! Not the blob of last week, but an upright figure with a little head and a protruding chest with that sweet thumping heart. He said, "It's a little human now, right? That heartbeat is nice and strong." Oh I was soaring. I couldn't believe I could see a head and know what position my baby was in. It looked like a seahorse, just hanging out upright with a head and big chest and no limbs! Incredible.

It felt so surreal, like I froze and felt like, "This isn't really happening. I'm PREGNANT? How is there this little person in there, with a shape and a beating heart, and I barely feel affected by it and life feels normal?" It feels so disconnected to the idea that I'm going to be a MOTHER next year. God willing, there will be an actual baby crying in my arms and I will be somebody's mom so soon. I will be completely responsible for and enslaved by this sweet, helpless creature. And it's just in there growing and preparing to change my life forever, while I walk around and go to work and kick my feet up like nothing's happening, with just occasional mild queasiness and super sore, firm breasts to clue me in at all. Insane. Surreal.

He took us to his office afterward to talk (and had a mezuzah in the doorway!! I'm a happy girl!) and gave us photos that did not show the shape nearly as clearly as the actual live sonogram did, and we were told what to expect over the course of my pregnancy and what appointments I will have. I won't get nearly as many sonograms as I've been getting, and I'm going to miss that! Then I was given a flu shot and a bag full of goodies: eleven different prenatal vitamin samples and a ton of pregnancy and parenting magazines.

Oh also? My blood pressure is NORMAL for the first time in years! I've read that it can drop a little early in the pregnancy because blood is being diverted to so many new places, so I'm not assuming that it's just magically fixed. But any time with blood pressure of 120/78 instead of 138/86 is time I appreciate having.

My little seahorse! It's in profile facing left. The head is very small and then you can see the big chest. Whatcha doin' in there, little bug??

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I've been so lucky during this pregnancy so far. I had one bout of rough sickness a week and a half ago, waking up at 2AM to seasick-like nausea that went on until I finally fell back asleep an hour later, and otherwise have just had passing periods of queasiness or sometimes just a "bleh" feeling. There are certain foods that I know I definitely do NOT want because I will feel a little sick thinking about it (tonight we had ground beef thawed to cook and I just couldn't), but that changes day to day. My breasts continue to be extremely sore and tender, and they developed a heaviness seemingly overnight about a week and a half ago. I'm a little more sensitive and emotional; things affect me that always would have, but my emotions are closer to the surface, harder to control, and take longer to recover from. I feel more tired than usual, but only had a few days where I just felt so exhausted I could barely do much. I feel like all of this is supposed to be much worse than it is!

Today was our appointment for the clinic to detect a heartbeat and discharge me to my OB as a "live pregnancy." It was huge for us because the chances of miscarriage go down to 2% after the heartbeat is detected, so I figured it would bring us some relief. My BabyCenter app told me at six and a half weeks (I'm seven and a half now) that the heart was now beating, and it just freaked me out! Because pregnancy is tracked from the first day of your last period, this means the heart is beating only FOUR and a half weeks after conception. How in that time does it go from ONE cell to something with a beating heart?? I'm just so amazed.

I went to empty my bladder before the sonogram as instructed, and saw bright red blood on my pad (which I have to wear because of the mess created by my progesterone suppositories). My heart just sank. I've had minor spotting, very faint pink or brown a couple of times a week, but nothing bright red since the last incident. I hated to tell my anxious wife but I had to. I told her I was just glad it happened immediately prior to the visit so that we could ask the doctor about it, instead of calling frantically later that night. The doctor didn't say much because, unlike the nurses, she won't just say something to provide comfort. She's very factual. So she just said, "well let's look," and commenced the sonogram. Immediately the gestational sac was visible, with two blobs inside, and she said that everything looked good. She explained that the upper blob was the yolk which would become the placenta, and that the bottom was our baby. Then she pointed to the rapid thumping right in the center and said, "there it is, the heart." I immediately started crying. She moved past it so quickly to check everything else out, and I wanted to ask her to find the heartbeat again and let us just watch for a while! Or record it with our phone to watch repeatedly later! But my inhibitions held me back and I just let myself feel happy that we had seen it and that we knew everything was okay.

The doctor said that bleeding is not uncommon in early pregnancy, and that since everything looks good, I shouldn't be alarmed unless it steadily increases, there are clots, or it's accompanied by cramping. And then she said, "If that's the case and you're miscarrying, there's nothing that could be done, but you should call your doctor just so they can help figure out what's going on." I appreciate her honesty! She told me that they will not officially discharge me until my OB appointment next week so that I still have someone to call or even see if anything happens between now and then.

She gave us a picture of our little bug and then the front desk staff congratulated me with big smiles as they collected my files for me to give to my OB.

Once in a while I have a moment of panic that something I can't even see is invading me and just growing and doing its own thing. It's so wild!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saturday Bliss

My childhood weekends were amazing. Many Friday nights, we would go with Dad to Blockbuster and pick out dumb kiddie movies for the weekend while he chose something for him and Mom or a family movie for all of us. We would have the weekend to watch and re-watch our selection.

In nice weather (and most of the memories I've held onto are from nice-weather days), I would wake up lazily on a Saturday to hear a lawn mower somewhere in the neighborhood, maybe feel a cool breeze. (Am I making that memory up? Were our windows ever open at night?) We would watch Saturday morning cartoons or Nickelodeon while Dad made pancakes or French toast or waffles. This was the only day we had a breakfast like this, so it was really special. Sometimes I would help him beat an egg in a little glass Garfield mug we had gotten during a promotion at McDonald's.

Weekends also meant yardwork or home improvement for Dad, and often this required a trip to Lowe's or Wal-Mart. He would practically beg one or more of us to accompany him. Poor Dad just wanted to spend some weekend time with his kids, and we often had to be dragged! Lowes utterly bored me; I was more interested in the Wal-Mart trips because I could bring my saved up allowance and very carefully select a new Barbie.

My brother and sister and I would sometimes play Nintendo and other times play outside, riding our bikes or playing in the fields and the woods, occasionally with neighbor kids. Sometimes there would be a neighborhood yard sale, and we would walk up and down every street to eye the goods, often spending our allowance on other people's old crap, like a toddler stroller that we would use for our dolls. One woman made homemade lollipops to sell, and that was always a treat!

Sometimes there were baseball games, dance recitals, bowling league. There was usually church on Sundays, often followed by fast food as a special treat. But when I think about my childhood weekends, the feeling I come away with is relaxation. We had our whole family together, we had open stretches of time to just play and be together, we had total separation from the rest of the week.

Being pregnant makes me think about the kind of family life I want to create for my child. There is so much pressure up here for kids to be involved in ALL THE ACTIVITIES. And my wife has a large local extended family, which I'm so grateful to have because that's something I never had as a kid, but it also means every other weekend seems to be booked with baptisms, first communions, birthdays, bridal showers, weddings, baby showers. I'm excited for my child to be involved with family, and I look forward to spending our two precious full days together as a family doing fun things and going on outings together, but I hope I also remember the simple value of just being around each other, finding ways to entertain ourselves in our cozy nest and really stepping out of the weekday rush to refocus as a family unit, to just live, and interact, and be.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

There You Are!

Today we saw the first picture of what will be our baby - meaning, we couldn't see the little bug itself, but saw the sac that it's being created in. It was like a little dark pea right in the middle. She pointed out the "yolk" and the "donut" and said the lining looked beautiful, my numbers are beautiful, and the growth looks great. I teared up and started to feel my first real attachment to THIS baby, not just the idea of a baby-to-come. It was an amazing moment, looking at it together, knowing it was in there safe and sound. Getting all these early sonograms is an up side to our involvement with a fertility clinic!

Two weeks til the heartbeat. The six days between our scare and today felt sooo long, but I have a feeling this next two weeks is going to be even worse! My best friend gave me a book called Fearless Pregnancy that has a doctor and a midwife break down the irrationality behind a lot of warnings well-meaning people and books will give you. One of the things discussed is the three-month-wait and how actually it should be like a seven-week-wait because once you hear the heartbeat, you have less than a 2% chance of miscarrying. That is very reassuring, but also makes me super eager to get to that point! This feels like such a fragile two weeks.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"The Pregnancy Journal"

My dear friend and coworker, who has been such a support throughout this journey, sent me "The Pregnancy Journal" by A. Christine Harris. It looks like a spiral-bound notebook and tells me what is happening on each day of the pregnancy, and then gives me places to make comments, notate my weight and waist size, check off symptoms, etc. It's fascinating to read every day what is happening inside my body - and also to be able to log a little bit about what's going on. So perfect for me!

Before going into the day-by-day descriptions, there are questions to answer to help you process everything. I enjoyed answering them, and want to share them here.

Was your pregnancy planned or a surprise?
Planned to the utmost!

When did you begin to think about having this baby?
For so many years! But real planning began in July 2013.

When did you first suspect you were pregnant?
The day before our blood test because my breasts were slightly swollen - but didn't believe it!

When your pregnancy was confirmed, how did you react?
I shrieked and ran to Nicole, then soon started trembling and crying. I was in such happy shock!

How long did it take to become pregnant? Did it seem quick or slow?
Slowww! It took six months, five very expensive cycles, and two donors.

What is the best thing about being pregnant?
Knowing my body is capable of partnering with God to create life, being treated so special, imagining what our family will be like, feeling the changes in me

What challenges do you foresee with this pregnancy?
Medical complications due to my high blood pressure and slightly high blood sugar. Adoption process for Nicole. Hearing ignorant, offensive, or otherwise hurtful remarks and questions.

Who were the first to know you were pregnant and what were their reactions?
Our parents and siblings, our clergy, and our close friends who have supported us all along the way. They were surprised and ecstatic!

What was the first thing you bought specifically for this baby?
Nicole bought a "Lil Mets Fan on Board" car sticker a few years ago!

What hopes and dreams do you have for your baby?
I want our baby to be happy, healthy, and whole. I want our child to learn from their mistakes and not be defeated by them. I want our child to be kind and compassionate and be committed to making the world a better place in whatever way they are called to do so. I want him/her to always feel LOVED.

What are the most important qualities you can nurture as a parent?
Finding balance between firmness and flexibility, being unconditionally affectionate, letting your child learn through their own exploration and experience, providing consistency and guidance.

What were the best things about your parents as parents?
Their love for each other, their high expectations of us, their playfulness and affection, their focus on family as first priority.

What role do you see your family playing in your baby's life?
Support, extra hands when we need help, traditions, giving our child a sense of deep belonging and being surrounded by love and adoration.

Have you picked any names? What names would you consider?
I don't want to say yet because we have only just scratched the surface of that discussion!

Are there names to which you would say, "Absolutely not!"?
Probably a ton.

Do you want to know as soon as you can if it's a girl or a boy? Why or why not?
No - finding that out at birth is one of the few special surprises left in life - and it doesn't matter!

What one thing do you want your baby to be sure to have that you didn't?
Stability - one neighborhood, one school, one synagogue, friends for life.

Whose facial and physical characteristics do you want your baby to inherit?
Nicole, to keep people from just assuming I was the one pregnant.

Whose emotional and personality characteristics do you want your baby to inherit?
The best of both! Loyalty, compassion, reason and passion balanced, playfulness, commitment.

What tasks do you need to accomplish before the baby is born?
Pay off the credit card we used for this cycle. Secure daycare. Enjoy our final months as a family of two - go to a show, spend time in the city, take a trip that we wouldn't do with a child. Read and learn a lot! Start adoption process with a lawyer. Create wills.