Almost 30 weeks. Almost okay with things.

So, it’s been a while. Can I use the pregnancy card? The truth is, I pride myself on having clever ideas and themes when it comes to this blog, but lately I’ve felt just about everything except clever.

At almost 30 weeks pregnant now, I go between feelings of extreme excitement and extreme terror every hour of every day with small bouts of emotional exhaustion mixed in.

Now in the third trimester, my fear of this all ending is so much worse than it was in the first. I’ve continued to have multiple subchorionic hematomas. Almost every ultrasound shows a new one. And they’ve baffled my OB and my perinatologist and Dr. KK. And I’ve been warned that hematomas this late in pregnancy could trigger pre-term labor. So I’ve been put on modified bed rest.  Up until 28 weeks, I was a total wreck. Now that we’ve reached viability, I am slightly less of a wreck, but still not fun to be around.

Dr. KK ordered me to see a hematologist to see if he could figure out why I’ve been having so many hematomas. So I added yet another doctor to my baby-making roster. He basically said a bunch of scary things about how using the blood thinners that Dr. KK prescribed for my blood clotting factors may have compromised the pregnancy and ordered me off all blood thinners immediately. He even said “I just hope it’s not too late.”

Then, a week later one of my regular blood tests to check for clotting factors came back way out of range and Dr. KK ordered me back on lovenox. I freaked out because of what my hematologist had said and I called him and all my other doctors to get their opinions. Getting through all the layers of receptionists and nurses and on-call doctors to actually speak one-on-one with my doctors was one challenge. Getting some of my doctors to actually speak to each other…one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced. After two and a half weeks of translating medical speak between them and repeatedly giving each of them each other’s numbers and windows of availability all while freaking out that something terrible was going to happen to my baby if they couldn’t get their shit together, the majority of them were able to agree that I should not be on lovenox the remainder of my pregnancy.

Meanwhile, the hematologist ran a bunch of other blood tests and discovered that I have platelet dysfunction. Which basically means that I have the right number of platelets, but that they aren’t functioning properly, which puts me at risk for excessive bleeding and would likely explain the hematomas. However, his tests also showed that I am currently positive for lupus anticoagulant. So basically, I am at risk for both hemorrhaging and clotting. And treatment for one puts me at greater risk for the other. And all my doctors can ethically do at this point is treat what is currently showing itself as a threat…and that’s the bleeding.

So I’m freaking out about that. But now my hematologist’s main concern is me hemorrhaging at delivery. So he has ordered a platelet transfusion while I am in labor. This doesn’t concern me as much as the slight worry that because of my platelet dysfunction, the anesthesiologist may not allow me to have an epidural. This worry is compounded by the fact that our baby’s head is currently measuring 3 weeks ahead of schedule. Natural child birth is definitely not on my bucket list right now.

But I’ll tell you, I’ll suffer through 36 hours of natural, unmedicated labor of my big headed baby…heck, I’d gladly allow doctors to cut me open without any anesthesia to remove my baby if need-be. if it just means that at the end of all of this I get him in my arms. Living and healthy, big head and all.

Imposter

Today, I am 16 weeks and 4 days pregnant. And as I type that I feel like a liar, like I am posing as somebody I could not possibly be. It’s as if I am wearing a costume of a pregnant woman with a small baby bump and will need to take it off and return it to its rightful owner soon. In a month? A week? A few days maybe?

Who knows, because despite getting this far, I still feel like a ticking time bomb. I thought the feeling would go away at 12 weeks. Then at 16. But it’s still there, stronger than ever. It doesn’t help that I am now on my third subchorionic hematoma of this pregnancy and have had bleeding and spotting off and on for the last 3 weeks.

Nobody seems to be too concerned though. Baby is looking good, they say. HE is growing and kicking and squirming and showing us his little man parts on each weekly ultrasound. Dr. Kwak-Kim has taken me off lovenox because of the bleeds. And this has me more freaked out than anything. I’ve begged her nurse practitioner to keep me on it, but she has assured me that I’ll be fine without it – that she may not put me back on it, even when the bleeding resolves. So I cannot shake the worry that a blood clot is forming, getting ready to take all of this away from me.

So each time I say I’m pregnant, I feel like an imposter.

At 12 weeks, we told our families the news. Since they know parts of what we’ve been through, they were overjoyed, yet still cautious for us.

Telling other people has been harder for some reason. For so long, I’ve held this image in my mind of what it would be like to finally be able to say “I’m pregnant!” Yet each time I say it, it doesn’t come out how I imagined. It’s missing the exclamation mark on the end.

The recipient of my news always fills it in though. With excitement and questions about gender and the nursery and maternity leave. And sometimes, even, with happy tears. They don’t know any better than to assume what they would ordinarily assume: that I’m getting a baby at the end of all of this.

And I know far better than to assume that.

Every time I call a daycare provider and say I have a baby due in March, I feel like I am saying something terribly untruthful. And yesterday, my 5-year-old niece, all too familiar with the look of her mom’s pregnant belly, spotted my growing stomach and asked “Is there a baby in your belly?” I told her yes and that she was going to have another cousin soon. And immediately, I felt terrible. Like I had told her a lie bigger than Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy combined.

I know I need to crush those thoughts. After all, there’s daycare to be arranged. There’s furniture to be bought. There’s pediatricians to be decided on. And this is when most pregnant women do all that. Most normal pregnant women at least.

As everyone says, this is the time to be happy and register and spread the news and show off my bump. And I know, lord do I know, that I am one of the lucky ones. So I will. I will be happy and register and spread the news and show off my bump. And all the while, I will try my best to ignore the sound that’s resonating in the back of my mind. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

 

week 11 freakout

I’m still here holding my breath, waiting for the bubble to burst. It hasn’t yet. And I’m beginning to think there’s a possibility that it won’t. Well, some days at least. And then there are days like Tuesday, when I am convinced everything is going to shit.

We’ve been having weekly ultrasounds, and each week I can’t help but be pleasantly surprised to see there’s still a baby in there, growing, moving and beating its little heart. Tuesday’s ultrasound was no different. But the sonographer spent a little more time looking around and found a subchorionic hematoma (basically a small collection of blood in the uterine wall, outside of the amniotic sac).

She assured us it was quite common and would resolve itself on its own. But, of course, why should I believe a medical professional who deals with this stuff on a daily basis when I could believe my untrained, paranoid subconscious who’s convinced we are doomed?

I sent a frantic email to the nurse practitioner at Dr. Kwak-Kim’s office. And she reassured me that it’s common and should resolve itself. She advised me to reduce my activity level, refrain from any exercise, and discontinue blood thinners for 2 days, before restarting again at just once a day (until now, I’ve been doing twice daily injections).

This made me breathe easier. Until I woke up in a panic in the middle of the night wondering if two days without blood thinners would be long enough to cause a blood clot. Dr. Google comes up empty. Which probably means I am the only person to freak out about this, which leads me to believe what we all already know: I am a crazy-ass, non-stop, cannot-let-it-go worrier.

Just think about what I am going to be like as the mother of an infant. Running to the crib every 10 minutes, convinced she isn’t breathing. Incessantly google searching the meaning behind the color of his poop. At the ready to perform infant CPR on a 24-hour basis. I’m going to be cutting this kid’s food into tiny pieces until he’s 17 years old. God help us all.

But until then, we’ve got one more big milestone to get to: the 12-week OB appointment next week. If all goes well then, I may just take some of the bubble wrap off me and go out into the world as an openly pregnant woman.

 

Heartbeat

How many transvaginal ultrasounds have I had over the last two years? So many that if I had a dollar for every transvaginal ultrasound, I’d probably have enough to cover the out-of-pocket costs for one of them. Which is a commentary both on the state of my reproductive organs and the US medical system. But I digress. The dildo cam is a regular visitor of my vagina. And I’m so used to assuming the position for its entrance that I’m surprised that my body doesn’t naturally fall into the legs-in-the-stirrups position when I sleep.

But last week, at 7 weeks pregnant, I had a transvaginal ultrasound like no other. As soon as it went into place, we saw a tiny little blob with a perfect flickering heartbeat. The dildo cam has never revealed anything like that before. Then we heard the heartbeat. 132 bpm. Which the doctor said was very good – but, of course, that didn’t stop me from google-checking him afterward. Turns out, he was right. My husband and I just stared at the screen. And then, as quick as the dildo cam went in, it was out.

Wait! I wanted to scream. Give us a second here! The doctor was just so quick and nonchalant about the whole thing, that afterward, my husband and I rode down in the elevator staring blankly at the ultrasound pic, wondering if that all just actually happened.

Over the last week, I’ve allowed it to get more real. And on a couple of occasions, I’ve even caught myself mentally marking March in my mind as a time when life will change. You’d have thought the last two years would have shown me never to do that. Because all it really means is that we have gotten this far. To this milestone. And then we must wait for the next.

I still am paranoid about every symptom, or should I say, lack thereof. I’ve had a few brief waves of nausea, but nothing that sticks around for longer than 5 minutes. Which means I am lucky. But I’d feel much luckier if I were puking my guts out every 20 minutes. It’s likely because I’m on prednisone, which apparently masks morning sickness.

I’ve noticed that all of my veins are much bigger, and so I have this obsessive compulsion to turn my arm over and look at the veins on my wrist every half hour, ensuring they haven’t gone back to normal. But mostly, I’m just exhausted all the time. I could literally sleep for 20 hours a day if it was socially acceptable. And I generally have no motivation to do anything. Luckily, I work from home most days, which means I don’t have to try and hide my exhaustion from people.

I also feel just totally mentally blah. I’m guessing a lot of it is from the hormones. But I think some of it is just the waiting and unknowing. I feel like for the next four weeks, I’m in a mental purgatory. Pregnant, but not wanting to fully believe it. Wondering if any little thing I do will have an impact. If I could wrap myself in bubble wrap and never leave my bedroom, I totally would.

I keep telling myself that once I get to the end of week 12 – if I get to the end of week 12 – I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and start to feel more confident. But will I really? Not likely. I guess all there is to do is keep going, waiting for the next meeting with the dildo cam. 3 days and counting.

Still pregnant. Still terrified.

So after 7 hcg blood draws, 3 estradiol and progesterone checks, and two shipments of my blood to Dr. Kwak-Kim’s lab to check immune markers, it appears that this pregnancy is continuing as it should. My arms, however, look like they belong to a heroin addict. And since I’m already getting called out by people for looking “exhausted” (thank you for telling me!), I can’t imagine the unvoiced thoughts going on in people’s heads.

I, of course, don’t give a crap what they think, because I’m just ecstatic about the fact that this is the farthest we have ever gotten. But I still can’t help thinking that this pregnancy is going to just stop at any minute.

I question everything I do, wondering if that’s the thing that’s going to cause all this to end. Did I wait way too long to eat lunch yesterday? Did I take my morning pills a half hour too late? Was my morning walk too long? Too fast? Too jumpy? Did that hour stuck in traffic cause my cortisol to rise to dangerous levels? Is last night’s frozen yogurt freaking out my immune system. Should I not have eaten any bread? Did I just plop down on the couch too hard? I can’t help but scrutinize every little thing, thinking it’s the thing that’s going to send my current world crashing down around me.

Adding to all this pressure are the strict orders coming from the Dragon Lady. As soon as I notified her that I was pregnant, she had her receptionist email me a list of instructions of what not to do. No baths or hot tubs, no lifting 5 pounds or more, no heels, no vacuuming, no running or aerobics, no exposure to detergents or cleaning products, and no sex for 14 weeks. That last one is a big one. So big in fact, that she asked her receptionist to email me a second time just to reiterate: No sex!

I do feel pretty great about the fact that I have a legitimate excuse to not vacuum or clean the house for the next several months. Unfortunately, she said nothing about whether or not I should avoid doing dishes.

When I went for my first appointment with the Dragon Lady after the big news, she personally pummeled me with more orders.

DL: No mushroom. Mushroom cause inflammation

Me: Really? Wow, okay. (immediately started counting the number of times I’d had mushrooms in the last week)

 

DL: You no have sex! Sex make uterus contract. You tell him. No sex!

Me: You got it. I will let HIM know.

 

DL: I so worry you trip and fall. No trip and fall!

Me: I can’t remember the last time I tripped and fell. I’ll be fine

DL: (pointing to my flip flops laying in the corner) You wear flip flop, you fall all over. I worry.

 

And, of course, she wouldn’t be the Dragon Lady if she didn’t leave me with one final zinger.

DL: 309 high first beta. You stomach big. Embryo split, two babies in there.

 

Oh, Dragon Lady, here we go again.

Beta drama

In some other normal world, somewhere, there are women who have a sneaking suspicion they may be pregnant, pee on a stick, get a positive result and then schedule a 6-week appointment with their OB. And that’s that.

I used to live in that world. But in the last two years I’ve been transported to another world entirely. To a place where you could be pregnant one hour and not the next. Where every single cramp and twinge must be analyzed, fretted over and stressed about. And a pregnancy isn’t really a pregnancy until multiple doubling HCG tests say it is. And even then…don’t count on it.

I went in for my first beta Thursday morning. And, just 1 day after I got a very positive home pregnancy test, I had my doubts. I woke up and just didn’t feel pregnant anymore. The cramps that had been there in my lower abdomen off and on for the last 7 days were gone. And I just knew the pregnancy was too. I went on all morning thinking this way until the nurse practitioner called me at noon to tell me my hcg level was 309. 309!

The minute I hung up the phone, the pregnancy cramps returned. Almost as if the only thing causing them was my belief in the pregnancy. And maybe it was.

This cycle repeated itself when I went back for my second beta on Saturday morning. I woke up and found myself wondering, “what if it’s gone?” I quickly dismissed the thought, knowing that as soon as the call came through around lunchtime with the second beta number, I would be reassured again.

Except, the call never came. I tried to busy myself, but eventually found myself staring at my phone, willing it to ring. It did not. My clinic had assured me that they would run the order STAT and we would get the results that day by the time they closed at 12:30. Finally, at 1:30 the clinic’s lab tech called me to tell me they did not have the results yet and they were closing for the day, so that I would need to wait until Sunday morning for the nurse to call.

All Saturday afternoon and evening I convinced myself I wasn’t pregnant any more. That I needed to stop thinking of myself as lucky-this-time and get used to the fact that I’m unlucky-all-the-time.

Sunday morning, waiting for the phone call to finally come through, I felt as unpregnant as ever. But again, the phone call never came. I called the clinic at 11:30am and despite being open half-day for time-sensitive weekend procedures, the after-hours voicemail was on. All I could do was leave a very angry message that nobody would hear until Tuesday morning when the front office staff would be back from the 4th of July holiday.

I spent the next several hours crying my eyes out. How could they do this? Where was their sensitivity and compassion? If there’s one person you should never hold out hcg results on, it’s someone who’s had recurrent early miscarriages.

Last night, against my husband’s wishes, I went out and bought a new pack of pregnancy tests. I just needed to know if that line was still there. And as of this morning, it was. But then I spent an ungodly amount of time analyzing whether or not it was darker than the test I took on Friday. I just couldn’t tell. When I finally looked up from the two pee sticks I’d been staring at, I saw I had a missed call and voicemail from the clinic.

Results of Saturday’s beta: 789.

789! Turns out some glitch in the computer system meant the nurses hadn’t been notified that the results were back. 789. Suddenly, I’m pregnant again. Suddenly, I’m lucky again. And the next time my clinic wants to see me isn’t until my 6-week ultrasound.

Just like that, they’re throwing me back in that other world where women get pregnant and then have an ultrasound and that’s that.

Except I’ll never really live there in that world. Mentally, no matter how far along this pregnancy gets, I know I’ll always be an hour away from becoming unpregnant again.

The little embryo that could

IMG_1741

I never thought I would post one of these pics. Not just because I honestly thought I’d never get here. And only slightly because I don’t want strangers on the internet to see where I just peed. But mostly because pee sticks haven’t really worked for me. Both of my previous pregnancies took FOREVER to show up on a pee stick, if at all. So I just assumed that I must be in the 0.1% of people who don’t metabolize HCG.

Turns out, I metabolize it just fine, as of this morning at least. My beta isn’t until tomorrow. And I had sworn up and down left and right that I would not test at home until the beta. Mainly because of the anxiety I knew it would cause.

And then last night I had another almost sleepless night, crippled with fear over a tiny pink smudge on some toilet paper that I just knew signaled the end of everything. And I needed to know.

My husband woke up extra early this morning. And I, of course, was already up, googling my eyeballs out. And as soon as he left the house at 5:45am, I was like a junky needing a fix, looking up every 24-hour drugstore in my neighborhood. Turns out, there aren’t too many here in suburbia. So I had to settle for a 24-hour grocery store. And that’s how I became the crazy lady in pajamas running into a Hy-Vee at 6am asking for directions to the pregnancy test aisle. Pretty sure I was the only customer the sole checkout guy had in hours. And pretty sure he knew what I was planning to do next.

I was completely emotionally prepared for it to be negative like all the hundreds of others in the last two+ years. So when that second line started to show, I thought I was hallucinating. I called the husband to confess my junky ways. And, turns out, he wasn’t too mad about it 🙂

My beta isn’t until tomorrow. And given my history and all my issues, this could go a lot of different ways. But for right now, I know that I am pregnant. And after all this time, I finally have the proof.