Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pardon Me While I Freak Out a Little

So, I had my 20 week ultrasound last Friday. I was very excited to get to see my little boy do some serious screen wiggling, and he didn't disappoint. In fact, he was extremely wiggly, and even obstinate about having his picture taken -- so much that I had to drink a bottle of cold water, get up and walk around, and perform a series of other contortions to try to get him in the right position for the ultrasound tech to get the necessary images. Our regular high-risk doctor (whom we've only seen once) wasn't there, and his partner handled our visit. I really liked her; however, I didn't really like what she had to say.

After the doctor came in to read the results with us, she told us she had three areas of concern. Whoa. So this was unexpected. After our last visit with the high risk OB, he seemed to think everything was going pretty swimmingly and just prescribed THOUSANDS of milligrams and micrograms of nutritional supplements -- a total of 8 pills a day, including 4 of the massively huge fish oil capsules that make me burp salmon all day long.

So, concern number one was our high risk of having a Down's syndrome baby. Been there, done that -- already looked at the probability and scary ratios and decided against having an amnio. Our motto as concerns the baby's chromosomal help (as refers to Down's) remains "it is what it is." For us, the risk of having an amnio outweighs the uncertainty of the possibility of having a Down's baby. The doctor, though, seemed to be encouraging us to have it so we would just "know." She listed this as her main concern.

Her second concern was about the baby's heart. The ultrasound showed that his blood flow was a little abnormal, which she didn't seem overly concerned about, but enough so that she wants him to have a prenatal echocardiogram in December when the technicians are here from St. Louis. She said she definitely didn't see anything that would necessitate a big worry or prenatal cardiac surgery, and that most babies with a heart murmur find that it heals naturally within the first two years of life. This was disconcerting, but not so scary as to send us over the edge into panic.

The third thing, which she didn't seem to prioritize as highly as the other two, is the one that has thrown my whole life into chaos. It seems that my cervix has gone from 32mm at 16 weeks to 18mm at 20 weeks. This could show that I'm at an increased risk for pre-term labor, and since the baby is nowhere near ready to live outside the womb, it's a pretty big honking deal. She had me sit for twenty minutes hooked up to a monitor to make sure I wasn't having contractions that I didn't recognize as contractions (because I sure don't know what those feel like). After twenty minutes, she came back and told me it looked like the monitor showed no contractions, but that my bladder was filling up. I could have told her that -- no monitor required. She asked me about my activity level and what plans I had for the weekend -- I told her that I was going to clean the house and that my folks would be coming to visit, and then on Sunday we'd be going to Warm Springs Ranch to see the Budweiser Clydesdale breeding farm and operation. It was advertised as a 1.5 hour walking tour. She asked about my activity level at work, and whether or not I could teach from a chair. I told her that I'm not really that kind of teacher, and since my schedule doesn't necessarily allow for regular exercise, I use my walking around while I teach as my activity. She thought this was just fine, but told me to take it easy and not do anything too strenuous. I asked about vacuuming, which she thought was fine (ironically, she didn't want me scrubbing toilets, which is a whole lot less strenuous for me than vacuuming...). I'm scheduled to go back on Friday (a week later) for another ultrasound to decide whether I've continued to shrink, or whether I'm holding steady at 18, or whether my little Buddy has flipped and taken his head off my cervix, and that it has sprung back up to a more acceptable thickness. At that time, she'll make a call about where to go from there -- but it looks like bed rest is possible (if not probably) in my near future.

Bed rest.

Holy hell.

The one thing I have been adamantly pre-freaking out about since I found out that I was pregnant. The one thing I begged my OB to help me avoid. The one thing that I didn't even allow myself to think of as a possibility, because the consequences are too gruesome to even contemplate (what do you think the chances of the mortgage company letting us just skip 6 months of payments and adding that to the end of the loan will be? Yeah -- that's what I thought, too.) And here it is, staring me in the face. So, I've spent as much time as possible this week on my butt with my feet up. I sit in class rather than walking around. I go home at night at sit in my recliner. I'm being as sedentary as possible, as well as drinking massive quantities of water and emptying my bladder super frequently. I am, of course, freaked out that every twitch and cramp (which I was taking as due course in this whole pregnancy thing) are now signs of incipient and impending early labor. In short, I'm pretty much a mess.

Thankfully (she says with an ironic question mark in her voice), my priorities have done what they needed to, and shifted. After a little time trying to wrap my head around this, I'm a whole lot more concerned with keeping my baby inside and growing than I am with concerns about how I'm going to pay the bills. I won't say I've hit that zen state wherein I won't be freaking out and will be just handing it all over to the Almighty to handle, but I think I'm on my way. We have friends (none of them rich, unfortunately, but good enough that they might be willing to come vacuum my house or bring me books once in a while) and family who will help us in any way they can. The school will hold my job for me, and will make sure that I don't go any months without a paycheck of any kind (although it will consist of my total estimated time off minus my accrued sick leave prorated over the time gone, if not the rest of the year -- so basically, a loss of around 1/3 of my salary over the course of 5 months). Of course, we don't have any short-term or long-term disability insurance, since we dropped it several years ago when the doctor told us we couldn't have kids; there's also no way to get disability insurance once one receives a diagnosis of pregnancy.

I have to have faith that Baby is going to stay inside and growing until he's fully (or fully enough, anyway) cooked. Then, I have to have faith that the rest of it's going to work itself out. Until Friday, it's a waiting game.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stick Peeing and Other Summer Adventures

And so, I find myself at the age of nearly-39 with a baby on the way in 21 weeks...

Perhaps I should step back and explain.

Paul and I decided when we were first married to wait to start a family. Having children was always a plan for us; we just wanted to enjoy one another's company first. Plus, we were living 5 states away from our families, and just didn't want to put either us, our children, or our parents through the strain of not being able to see one another as often as we would want to. So, we waited until we moved back to the Midwest to begin trying for our family.

That was eight years ago. We did several rounds of infertility treatment, stopping short of in vitro fertilization because 1) we had no money left to pursue it and 2) I was just done with the emotional ups and downs of the whole infertility roller coaster. The doctor told us not that we "couldn't" get pregnant, just that we "wouldn't." We just planned to enjoy our nieces and nephews and leave it at that. We looked briefly at adoption, realized that we weren't in a financially good place to pursue that option, and just moved on.

So, exposition over.

We went to Maine in late June and early July of this year for the wedding of a friend -- he married a Maine girl, and Paul was honored to be asked to be one of his groomsmen. We thought, "Cool. Maine. Never had any thought to visit, but it sounds like a pretty cool place." It was -- an absolutely gorgeous visit that reminded us a lot, topographically, of upper Michigan and the Piney Woods of Wisconsin. Of course, staying practically on the Atlantic Coast made the experience a little more unique for us. We took a tour on a lobster boat, drove down the coast looking at lighthouses (for what seemed like FOREVER -- my husband is FAR MORE INTO lighthouses than I will ever be.) It was a nice vacation, especially considering that we hadn't taken one since our trip to the UP of Michigan four or five years ago. When combined with our earlier trip to Washington, D.C. this spring, we considered ourselves pretty lucky to be able to log two trips in one calendar year.

I enjoyed Maine, even though a nagging part of me hadn't wanted to go -- the trip was pretty expensive, and it wasn't on my top 10 list of "Places I'm Willing to Spend a Lot of Money to See." However, we had a nice mix of time to ourselves and time with friends of the bride and groom who had also made the trek from Missouri. I did find myself tired by the end of the day -- almost like a power switch that would flip off at about 7:00 each night. One evening, we were taking a car tour of Acadia National Park, and we got to the lookout point for Cadillac Mountain (the first place in America to see the sun rise every day). It was a short 1/4 mile hike to the summit, and I just refused to go with Paul and the others -- I just wanted to stay in the car and read the guidebook. This is SO not like me -- I'm usually the one scrambling to find every hysterical...erm...historical marker and scenic overlook possible. I just didn't have the energy. I chalked it up to let down from the excitement of getting ready for the big trip and tiredness from having spent that afternoon walking all over Bar Harbor and visiting the tourist shops.

And then we came home to Missouri. I didn't have the energy to unpack -- I took a few things out of the suitcase each day and listlessly threw in some laundry now and then. My mom had taken care of the house and critters for us while we were gone, and the place looked wonderful -- I couldn't keep it that way to save my soul. The only thing I could muster up the energy to do was shower in the mornings (eventually) and plop my butt on the couch to spend the day watching reality TV marathons on the Bravo channel (pausing, of course, for a 3 hour nap every afternoon). Paul was less than thrilled at my lack of gumption, and just gave me holy hell one night for being lazy and unproductive, which was true. However, I didn't care and couldn't explain to him why -- I just told him I didin't feel good, to which he replied, "Then go to the doctor and get it taken care of." Good point.

I had to work at the library the next day (but not until noon, thank heavens -- I could still indulge myself in a relaxed mornning), and I woke up feeling just icky and queasy. The feeling didn't go away, and I thought back to realize that I'd been off for a while -- I didn't eat very much while we were on vacation (and again had just chalked it up to excitement from the trip) and hadn't felt much like eating since we'd been back (took too much effort to cook anything, so I existed on cold cereal). I went to the pharmacy while on a break from the library and told the girls working there that I wanted some Pepto Bismol to calm my stomach. In our conversation, they somehow came up with the hair-brained idea that I might be pregnancy (I scoffed) and that I should take home a pregnancy test just to make sure (I disagreed -- I've had a long-standing belief that I have a bad gallbladder, and I was pretty sure that it was just time for the sucker to come on out.). They pretty well forced the test into my sack, and I laughed at them for their silliness.

And then I peed on the stick. Since it was a cheap one (I stopped spending money on the good ones years ago), I had NO IDEA how to read the results. I'd have thought a degree in English would qualify me to decipher the fine print on a generic pregnancy test, but no such luck. I finally called Paul (who had no idea I had even bought one) into the bathroom to help me try to interpret. He couldn't tell either, but from what we were both reading, it looked as if it MIGHT be a positive result. Holy cow. Neither one of us even allowed ourselves to think that it might be a possibility, though, and I decided to head into the doctor's office the next day to start talking seriously with the doctor about getting the gallbladder yanked. I was, by this time, pretty tired of feeling like poo all the time.

The next morning, I popped into the doctor's office and peed on another little stick, then stepped back to let the doctor tell me that I was NOT in fact, pregnant, so we could have the "remove the gallbladder" chat. Yeah. It wasn't the gallbladder. Her fancy little test showed one pink and one blue line -- positive for pregnancy. Holy cow.

I refused to believe her, and told her it must by a chemical or hysterical pregnancy (I'd been watching the television show Glee, in which hysterical pregnancy was one of the major first season story lines). I challenged her -- "Well, if I'm pregnant, the spot where I used to get pain from ovarian cysts hurts -- it's probably a tubal pregnancy, right?" She did some math after asking me a few pretty personal questions (although she is the doctor -- you kinda' have to answer those honestly) and let me know I was a little far along (six weeks) for a tubal -- I'd have noticed it a long time before now if that had been the case. However, knowing my history of infertility and my refusal to believe that I was, in fact, knocked up good and proper, she sent me into town for an ultrasound. An hour later, I was laying on a table watching a little fluttery heartbeat on the screen and thinking, "Holy cow." Savannah, the lovely ultrasound tech with the ready box of Kleenexes, printed me off a picture of the blob and kindly marked it with an arrow that said "Baby." I took it to Auto Zone to show it to my flabbergasted and slightly disbelieving husband.

That was 13 weeks ago today. Since then, we've had 3 more ultrasounds (during which times we've seen him hiccup, grab his toes, and flip himself completely around) and are scheduled for another one (the big one) next week. We have a pretty good idea that the little booger kicking me (I can't feel it, but my innards feel like they've been beat with a blunt instrument) all the time is a baby boy. As of 2 weeks ago, his heart beat was strong and sure, and considering that my belly is growing every day, I'm guessing he's still in there getting bigger. According to this week's entry in "What to Expect When You're Expecting," Buddy is the size of a mango and is covered in vernix. That's a lovely thought -- a cottage-cheese covered tropical fruit with legs who does flip turns like Michael Phelps. Yesterday, I bought a used crib on Craigslist, and this afternoon, I picked up a brand new changing table that I found the same way. More and more each day, this whole situation is seeming less like a made-for-TV movie and more like reality -- it's going to happen. We're going to have a baby.

And I can't wait to meet him.