The Babies!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Am Already a Bad Mother (8w0d)

I'm only eight weeks pregnant and I'm already a bad mother because I haven't named my embryo. Other pregnant women give their little future children cute names like "Bean" and "Bug" and "Squiggle." These names are apparently based on what they see on the ultrasound-- kind of like a maternal Rorschach Test. My friend Wendy, who is just a little over ten weeks pregnant, calls her fetus "Peanut." See? Cute.

I sent Sheri a picture of my ultrasound and called it a blob, but that's not much of a nickname, is it? Plus, it doesn't really look like a blob (which I keep typing as "blog" anyway, so definitely not a good nickname). In fact, in the first ultrasound picture, I kind of thought it looked like a baby. Curled up and a little fuzzy around the edges, but still a baby. "Baby" isn't a good nickname, either.

Jay calls the embryo by whatever size it is based on the pregnancy tracker he has downloaded to his iPod Touch (or "Little Guy"). This week, it's the size of a raspberry. Last week, it was the size of a blueberry. The week before... I think it was an apple seed? Or was it a poppy seed? I can't even remember! Bad mother. The fruit nicknames are kind of cute, but at some point "Raspberry" becomes "Watermelon" and that's really not a nickname I want to embrace.

My embryo is nameless and I'm a bad mother. What's worse, I doubt I'll pick a real name for the kid until he's arrived in the world. I like the old days when you could take the baby home and take some time to choose a name. Now, they won't let you leave the hospital until you've officially named the kid. I'm a big believer in waiting to name a baby until its been born, which is why I won't be calling my stomach Stephanie or Tyler. What if I look at him and he just doesn't look like a Matthew? What if she cries when I call her Persephone?

I'm hoping that when the time comes I will look into that little face and he or she will tell me what his or her name is. I'm just hoping it's not Blob.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Moving Forward (7w5d)

I am now one day past as far as I got in the last pregnancy. That's not a really a big deal because something could still happen, but it's a small milestone. It's nice to be here. The best part is that I don't have any symptoms to suggest anything is wrong. Good news.

I had a consult with my doctor today and that went well. The breast lump that was there last week has mysteriously disappeared (I'm pretty sure it's hormonal), which means I can forget about that for now. I have another ultrasound scheduled in two weeks on May 12, which will be reassuring. I have my MFM (maternal fetal medicine) appointment on May 27. That will start the process of genetic counseling and screening tests. A little nerve racking, but by then I'll be twelve weeks and closer to being able to relax.

I have to say, I'm feeling much more calm and relaxed this time around. Even my blood pressure was in the normal range today (they usually take it twice-- once when I get there and then again when I leave because the first time it's so high). Peace. I think it's a combination of receiving better (and more) medical attention and just feeling like this time everything will be all right.

Speaking of better medical care, by May 12 I will have had four appointments and two ultrasounds. May 12 was the earliest they would schedule my first prenatal appointment at the naval hospital. The lack of concern-- especially for older "high risk" patients is infuriating. If I had waited, I wouldn't be on the progesterone supplement (Prometrium) my current doctor recommended. A shortage of progesterone is frequently the cause of early miscarriages and is often prescribed from the time a pregnancy is confirmed through week 12. I didn't start until week 7, but that's still five more weeks this supplement might be working for me-- as opposed to not having it at all.

I get so angry when I think about it, but I don't know what to do or who to write or whether it would even make a difference. How many women are having early miscarriages due to a progesterone deficiency while they wait for the naval hospital to get around to seeing them? Grr. Makes me angry.

But, so far, so good. I'll be 8 weeks on Wednesday. Sometimes it doesn't feel real at all. I'm feeling pretty good other than be tired more often than not. My nails are growing like crazy, which is a nice perk of pregnancy and prenatal vitamins. I hope I can maintain this calm throughout. It's good to feel at peace with what's going on inside my body.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cautiously Optimistic (6w6d)

Two appointments in two days. Yesterday's appointment was the paperwork, exam and blood work and today was the much awaited ultrasound. Yesterday, I was freaked out and not feeling very optimistic. Today, I'm still freaked out, but there is a sense of cautious optimism.

I started writing a blog post yesterday entitled "Feeling like a fraud" because that's how I felt yesterday when I left the doctor's office. I'm starting with a new (civilian) ob/gyn practice and I love them. The quality of care is so much better than my experience with the naval hospital, but it's also frustrating to think that maybe if I'd been with them last time... I might not be here now.

The problem is, I just don't feel pregnant. Sure, I'm tired. Sure, I've had a few mild symptoms. But I don't think my mind (or my heart) will let me believe it and feel it. Not yet. So I felt like a fraud as staff member after staff member congratulated me yesterday. "Thanks," I would respond, with a half-hearted smile. I felt like I needed to tell them it was too soon to congratulate me. Then I went back today and I was okay with being congratulated. Being pregnant is a bizarre experience.

I saw the heartbeat today, fluttering right along in just the right spot. I'm not sure how to describe the feelings that were careening through me at that moment. Imagine looking at your uterus (you know, if you have one) on a giant flat panel television screen, expecting to see... nothing. A blob, a void. And instead, you see a little bright spot pulsing in the center of a lighter bright spot. Wow. Shock and fear and hope and panic and happiness and back to fear. It was there, it's real. For now, a little voice whispered.

Of course it was real last time, too, even though I didn't get to see it. And, once again, I was quoted that statistic: "95% of pregnancies go to term once cardiac activity is detected." Been there, heard that, and here I am again. So. Cautious. Optimistic. Freaked out. Emotional. That's me. I know some women start falling in love with their child from that very first heartbeat. I can tell you I didn't. I can't. I won't let myself. I saw it and I was happy, but there was no rush of maternal love. Even after seeing it, it's still hard to believe it's real.

Yesterday's appointment was a mixed bag of news. It seems I have another breast lump (I had a biopsy a little over a year ago and it turned out to be a cyst) and my thyroid gland is enlarged. These issues worry me, especially the breast lump. I can no longer think of just my health, I have to think about the pregnancy. I already had other worries related to the pregnancy-- the possibility of miscarriage still looms and there are the fibroids to worry about, but now I have additional things stealing my happiness. It's scary to go from thinking of only myself and being in a rush to do whatever it takes to make myself well to having to slow down and proceed with caution. Of course, the hope is that it's nothing to worry about and I can focus on being pregnant. That's the hope. Until I know for sure, I feel torn in different directions. Freaked out. Quietly, under the surface where no one can see. But there is a little voice inside me that is screaming very loudly that I was absolutely crazy to get pregnant at my age.

Melinda, the nurse I saw yesterday and today, said, "You're very high risk." No matter how many times I hear that, it never sounds any better. But she also said, "Good for you, getting pregnant on your own at your age! And twice!" That balances out the high risk part, I think. My body is still doing it's reproductive job-- and that has to mean something, right?

It's going to be a long, stressful road. As the doctor said today when I commented on all the possible complications, "Pregnancy is a dangerous condition, but at the end you get a prize!" I have the two pictures the ultrasound technician gave me to remind me that I really am pregnant, no matter how I feel. The embryo measured exactly 6 weeks and 6 days-- right on target. That little blob will become a fetus that will become a baby that will become a child. My child. Our child.

Wow. Happy... and freaked out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taking Chances (6w0d)

I broke down over the weekend and bought What to Expect When You're Expecting. I have an older edition but I figured I'd splurge and buy the newest edition. There must be many more horrible, toxic, dangerous things in the world now that I should avoid, right? Right. Plus, the woman on the cover of the older edition was in a rocking chair and looked rather somber. I hated that picture. Now look! She's standing up and smiling! The pregnant woman can walk now! Yay! Of course, the new woman looks about nineteen where the previous woman looked around fifty. Can't win them all, I guess.

The thing about pregnancy is that everyone assumes a pregnant woman has a network of support help waiting in the wings to take over all those horrible, toxic, dangerous chores once she's with child. It takes a village to raise a child-- and it takes a village to get that child from conception to birth, seems to be the message. A pregnant woman is expected not only to have a supportive (and always available) spouse or significant other, she is expected to have a large, extended family of mostly female relatives-- mother, sister, grandmother, aunties. There should be male relatives too, of course. Pregnant women need men to fetch and carry and lift things. There should also be many helpful friends who already have children and can give the pregnant woman advice-- and hand-me-down baby clothes, toys and furniture. Oh, and don't forget the medical professionals the pregnant woman needs-- the ones who will be available at all hours to answer any of those little questions all pregnant women have.


Reading What to Expect When You're Expecting makes me feel woefully alone in the world, even though I do have the supportive spouse and a few good friends (split about even between those with kids and those without), because I'm still sadly lacking in the family department and a medical professional who gives a damn. The thing is, there very well might be pregnant women out there who are lounging about on lavender scented cushions all day, drinking milk and meditating on the health of their growing fetus while their support team waits on them hand and foot-- but I don't know any of those women. I'm definitely not one of them-- and I wouldn't want to be. I like sharing my good news and telling people I'm pregnant, but I don't like the comments about things I shouldn't be doing "in my condition."

In the section about do's and don'ts of pregnancy (and there are waaaaay more don'ts than do's), What to Expect says to avoid painting the nursery. You should either paint it before you even conceive (what??) or get your spouse to do it. Where do I even start with what's wrong with that piece of advice? Let's start with the one that hits home with me: preparing a nursery before conception assumes that a woman will get pregnant when she's ready and have a healthy baby nine months later. What to Expect might get away with that naive kind of thinking if not for the pages and pages of warnings about the Really Bad Things that can happen to a pregnancy. They're also not taking into account the Jewish tradition of not bringing anything baby-related into the house or otherwise preparing for the baby until the baby has arrived. I'm not Jewish, but I can understand the wisdom in that tradition. The other assumption is that every pregnant woman has a spouse at the ready with paint bucket in hand. What about the single woman who chooses to have a child on her own? I guess she should hire a painter. Or, in my case, the Navy wife whose husband deployed this morning. I guess I'm just supposed to wait until he comes back.

The reason I caved in and bought What to Expect When You're Expecting is because I'm tired of internet searches that lead me to websites intent on selling me something-- whether it's fertility treatments, a new, healthier lifestyle or God. I ended up on an organic site last week which, on the surface, seemed helpful. But then I hit upon a section of what not to do and just shook my head in wonder when it suggested I get someone else to pump my gas for me so I don't have to breathe in the toxic fumes. It ended with one of those quotes all the baby books use, "After all, you deserve to be pampered!"

These sites (and books) that treat pregnancy like some sort of rare disease and pregnant women like fragile creatures. While I'm all for being pampered, I can pump my own gas, thank you very much (and I did, just an hour ago). I'm still trying to figure out why I'm not supposed to paint. Is it the fumes? They make paint that leaves almost no scent. Wouldn't that, along with open windows and fans, solve the problem? If not, why not? What to Expect doesn't tell me that, just that I shouldn't. And I hate being told what to do without some sort of logical reason behind it.

Too often, the answer is that they have no good reason (meaning: no scientific evidence to support their dire warnings) to tell a pregnant woman not to do something. They slyly throw in the veiled warning, "Why take the chance?" As if to say: "If you dare to ignore our warnings and something Really Bad happens, it will be your fault." Why take the chance? According to that faulty logic, I shouldn't even be trying to get pregnant anyway. I'm over forty. Why take the chance? I've had previous miscarriages. Why take the chance? It's likely to be a complicated pregnancy. Why take the chance? I'll probably require a C-Section. Why take the chance? And on and on and on...

It's human nature to take chances. That's why the human race has survived as long as it has. Imagine if the cavemen peeked out of their caves and decided not to procreate because the dinosaurs would likely eat their young. (I know I'm playing fast and loose with history, but you get my point.) Or if the Pilgrims decided to abstain from sex because they were dying left and right and didn't think it was a good idea to bring any more children in the New World. Or if everyone in the United States decided to triple up on birth control after 9/11 because the threat of another terrorist strike is always possible and... Why take the chance?

Some chances are worth taking, which is why I'm pregnant again for the second time in a year. I'll take my chances it will turn out all right and I'll do my best to ignore the scarier parts of the baby books. After all, why take the chance?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Remembering Last Year (5w3d)

Today was the due date for last summer's pregnancy. I had hoped I would be pregnant again by the time this day rolled around so I wouldn't be too sad. Still, there's an awareness of the date and what it represents. I'm not sad, not really, especially since I can see the ticker up there counting down the days again. Giving me hope.

I don't know why I left the old counter up when I added the new one. It is counting down a pregnancy that doesn't exist anymore. But, like the pregnancy test that I left on the bathroom counter (where it still sits, with a new one), it is a reminder of where I've been and where I am now. I was hopeful last summer and it didn't work out. I'm hopeful again... and still waiting to see what will happen.

I had several mornings of feeling nauseous and then three days without. It could be simply because I'm adjusting to the need to eat more frequently, but it's still worrisome when one of my few pregnancy symptoms suddenly stops. I realize the irony, of course. Most people would be happy to not feel sick, but when you're a pregnant woman, you want those signs letting you know things are on track. To reassure myself, I took another pregnancy test. The first test I took was so early that the pink line was barely a shadow. This time, about ten days after the last one, the test line came up quicker and much darker than the control line. A good sign.

I'm thankful my first OB appointment is in only nine days. That's a bearable wait. I'll be 6 weeks 5 days by then and I'm hoping for an ultrasound (and suspect I will get one, based on everything I've already been through) and to be able to see the heartbeat. There are no guarantees-- last time, there was a heartbeat at 7 weeks 1 day and three days later it was gone-- but every piece of good news brings me one step closer to December.

I'm looking forward to writing about the happy moments of pregnancy. Here's hoping I get there!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Signs (5w1d)

I'm a fairly logical and practical person by nature. Optimistic, but pragmatic. But I like signs. I like believing that if I trust my instincts and look beyond the surface, I can find hints of things to come. Which is why I've been super aware of the signs around me since I learned I was pregnant.

The first sign, of course, was intuitively knowing I was pregnant only five days after I ovulated. I have not felt that way since the last pregnancy (last July), though we've had the past five months to try before the luck of the Irish made it happen last month. I told Jay that I was pretty sure I was pregnant before it was even possible to know. I also tested ridiculously early to confirm what I already knew (which just meant driving myself crazy for a couple of days because I wanted the pregnancy tests to match what I knew!).

The day after I found out I was pregnant, I noticed three blooms on my Christmas cactus. My Christmas cactus that did not bloom at all over the holidays. I'm taking three blooms as a sign of three healthy trimesters, not triplets! Also, the Christmas catcus was a gift from a forty-something (ex) friend who had a baby last November.

Of course, seeing babies everywhere is always a sign, right? Or it just means I'm looking for babies. I've seen far more girl babies than boy babies lately, too. I really have no preference either way, but we'll see.

On Jay's birthday last week, I found out a friend who is a few years younger than me is also pregnant. She is just a couple of weeks ahead of me and I think it would be awesome if we could share this experience. Definitely a sign, I think. I hope.

Today, I called another friend to see if she wanted to meet me for lunch. She was in Target at the time and when I told her my news over lunch, she told me she'd been in the baby department when I called.

I also found out a favorite writer acquaintance of mine is pregnant with her second child. She was so sweet and helpful after my miscarriage last year because she also has fibroids and dealt with complications in her first pregnancy. Now she's expecting her second baby and her due date is October 9-- exactly two months before mine.

Physically, I've actually had nausea this time, which everyone tells me is a good sign. It's tapered off the past two days, which I'm hoping isn't a bad sign. Of course, maybe I've just adjusted to my body's need to eat more often to avoid feeling sick. Time will tell.

Of course, I know all of these signs don't really mean anything except that I'm extremely hopeful and looking for signs. I had signs last time, too. I mean, what 40+ woman gets pregnant on a three day weekend rendezvous with her husband who is deployed for six months? I was certain that was a sign, but we all know how that turned out. So, I'll keep looking for signs and hoping for the best. That's all I can really do.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Stressed (4w1d)

I hate the military healthcare system. Hate it.

My "appointment" on Tuesday confirmed my pregnancy. Yay! At that time, I was given the same paperwork I was given 8 months ago (with the same things crossed off because no one has bothered to edit the "Congratulations on your Pregnancy" paperwork they give newly pregnant women)and told to schedule my first prenatal appointment in 48 hours. Since I've been through this before, I reiterated with the charge nurse that I'm 41, have had previous miscarriages, have fibroids, have been told that I should be seen prior to 10 weeks. I asked her what I needed to do to make sure that happens. She said that all of that information is in my file and when I called for a referral, they'd see it.

And yet, I'm right back in that loop of them refusing to see me before ten weeks. I called the main appointment line this morning to schedule my appointment. I told them I'm going to be 42 in six weeks. I told them I have had three previous miscarriages. I told them I have fibroids. I told them that I was told I'm high risk and should be seen earlier and they said... "The earliest appointment is May 12." Which is, you guessed it, ten weeks. Well, nine weeks and six days.

When I said that wasn't acceptable, she offered to transfer me to the OB/GYN department at the naval hospital. I said fine. So she transferred me and that woman told me the earliest she can get me an appointment is April 21. Okay, that's some relief. Six weeks/six days is better than ten weeks. Oh, but that's not my actual prenatal appointment. I asked what that meant. She told me they'll do my blood work then, but no exam, no ultrasound and it's a "group" appointment-- an informative "class."

I don't need to sit in a room with a bunch of 21 year old baby Navy wives and learn about fetal development. I do not need a class. I need to be seen by a doctor. I need my first OB appointment before ten weeks. I need an exam and an ultrasound to check out those fibroids and the embryo implantation. I need not to have to call three different numbers and talk to four different people. I told this woman all of this and she got snippy even while I was starting to lose it. She said I could speak to a nurse if I wanted. I asked her if the nurse would tell me something different than what she was telling me. "I'm not a nurse, I don't know what she'll tell you," she said, ready to be done with me.

I told her to transfer me.

Only, I don't get to speak to a nurse. I get her voice mail. It was a little after 11 AM and I left her a long and detailed message about my situation. I recounted my age, my miscarriages, my fibroids, the fact that I've already been told that I should be seen sooner than ten weeks. It is now after 3 PM and the nurse hasn't called me back.

I hate the military healthcare system.

After that phone call, I called a local OB/GYN office that a couple of friends use. The receptionist said it would be two to three weeks because I'm a new patient. But guess what? I can get my first OB appointment with them on April 20. Six weeks/five days, no 'class," no need to call three different numbers and talk to four different (disinterested) people. Wow.

Of course, this now means I need to disenroll from Tricare Prime so I can actually see a civilian provider without a referral. It also means finding a general practitioner to cover my regular medical issues. It means paying a copay for appointments and prescriptions. But that all seems worth it given what I went through this morning.

I'm trying to find out if there is a way to maintain my current primary care physician and healthcare plan while being referred out for the OB/GYN. Reading the medical benefits and policies online has been headache-inducing so far. I don't know if there's an answer. But I'm trying to just stay calm (ha!) and get through this process so I can actually see an OB. I know I could have another miscarriage and I would really like it if I'm not in an emergency room the first time I see a doctor.