Monday, March 7, 2016

"I'm still pregnant" is the new "I'm pregnant"

    So you might have noticed that I’m sharing the news of my pregnancy a little late. Well, it hasn’t been an easy journey. Last year, I publically shared the news of my pregnancy at about 16 weeks, and just a week and a half later, I had a miscarriage. And since I had told everyone about the pregnancy, I had to tell everyone about the miscarriage.

This time we told just a few people at a time. First, it was our Bible study friends, because we wanted ourselves and that tiny baby covered in prayer. At Thanksgiving (6 weeks), we told our immediate families. Then as I started showing (11 weeks), I started telling more friends that I was seeing in person, then even more people who couldn’t help but stare at my stomach and wonder (13 weeks).

At 14 weeks, you’re officially in the second trimester, where the risk of miscarriage drops to about 1 percent. That figure should make most people feel good and “safe” and OK with going public. But since I had already had a miscarriage beyond that point, I didn’t feel safe. Part of me wanted to tell all my friends, such as the ones who I’m more than just Facebook friends with but don’t see on a regular basis in real life. But another part of me felt like “if I wait, that’s one less person I’ll have to tell bad news to, should it turn out that way.” After all, it is much easier for both sides of the conversation when someone can say “I’m so sorry you went through that” instead of “I’m so sorry you are going through this.”

For people who did know, and would ask “How are you feeling?” every time we got together, the answer was really complicated.

Up until 8 weeks, I felt really hopeful. It was as if my brain was divided into two parts, the happy part that was all “yay, babies!” and the “rational” side that was all “maybe a baby.” But the happy side was winning.

Then at 8 weeks, I started to get more nervous. I hadn’t been to the doctor yet, and it wasn’t that I was worried that there wouldn’t be a heartbeat; it was more like I was worried that the appointment would give me a false security, and then if I did lose the baby, I’d be wrecked (as if I wouldn’t be wrecked in any circumstance that led to losing another baby). I reached out to my prayer friends, who got me through the day, and at night while lying in bed, unable to fall asleep from worry, I would pray to God. I remember specifically one night in December feeling extremely worked up (which is really unlike me, I am not a worrier by nature) and I prayed: “Jesus, I need you now, if I'm going to get any sleep, please give me your rest.” And it was answered prayer in a way that I have experienced very few times in my life. Immediately the cycle of worried thoughts stopped, replaced by Christmas songs, and I fell asleep within minutes. All night I dreamed dreams of being a reporter and doing interviews with people who had stories with crazy circumstances, but how God had worked it out for good. I had three dreams in a row like that, but I forgot the details of each as soon as it was over. (I usually have extremely boring dreams, so experiencing these was quite remarkable, even though I couldn’t remember the specifics of the dream.)

We had the first doctor’s appointment at 8 ½ weeks, and because of our ridiculous insurance policy, I’m not allowed to see a doctor and an ultrasound technician on the same day. We only saw my doctor that day, but she used the little handheld ultrasound unit (yay for technology!) and verified, yes, there was a living baby in there, head, body, heart, and little appendages. Five days later Josh and I went back for the real ultrasound on the big machine, and the ultrasound technician easily found the baby, measured him and confirmed my July 22 due date, but had a hard time getting the baby to move. I kind of started freaking out, because it seemed really important to the tech to get the baby to move and she kept poking my uterus and then made me roll back and forth a bunch of times until we finally got the baby to respond. We did see something really amazing on the ultrasound though—I had a blood vessel right under the baby’s head, and my blood flow pulsing through it was actually rocking the baby’s head up and down, as if he was in a rocker. That was a slight consolation about why the baby was so hard to wake up.

At 11 weeks, I went for a second doctor’s appointment, this time with my mom because I couldn’t get an appointment that would fit Josh’s schedule. This time the baby was easier to see on the little handheld unit, with fully sprouted arms, legs, hands and feet. Again, the baby was sleeping, but after a few minutes of the doctor moving the ultrasound wand all around, the baby did wake up and wiggle a little. But the doctor said she got a clear look at the neck and it looked good and she could see the nose bones, which apparently is a really good sign developmentally at that stage. It was just enough reassurance to get me through the next week and a half.

At our 13-week appointment (Pause: I have an amazing doctor, who as you can see, was letting me come every two weeks instead of every four weeks. She knew I needed the reassurance of seeing that baby and she told me I could come back even on her lunch breaks if I was just having a bad day, but I kept it to my biweekly appointments), Josh came with me again and we saw the baby on the handheld unit, wiggling up a storm. He had crossed, then uncrossed his feet, long legs (I wonder where those came from?) and was rolling over, giving us all kinds of visuals. I left the appointment feeling elated, and quickly texted everyone who was praying for me and my nervousness the great news.

Part of me wanted to tell all my friends at that point, but the part inside of me that’s still sad, still guarded, over-road the excitement. After all, the last baby died somewhere between 14 and 17 weeks. Granted, the only time we saw an ultrasound of that baby was at the 8-week appointment, so we never knew anything was unhealthy with the child until I was spotting and panicking in the doctor’s office. But then again, how much could the doctor really tell this time by looking at the ultrasound on a screen the size of my iPhone?

In mid-January, when I hit 14 weeks, Josh’s work schedule for late February and early March started getting busy. I knew I would be eligible for the anatomy scan ultrasound, where the technician really checks the baby out, looks at all the visible organs and does in-depth measurements, identifies the gender and gives a sort of “all clear,” at 19 weeks, which would be Feb. 26. While you usually need the doctor to order the anatomy scan, I called my doctor’s secretary, explained my husband’s work schedule limitations to her, and she let me make the anatomy scan ultrasound appointment for Feb. 29. Leap Day! It felt like a good sign, like maybe we’d have such good news we’d be “leaping” for joy. (I apologize for the pun.)

At 15 ½ weeks, Josh and I went back and saw my doctor for a regular appointment. The office was running pretty late that day, and the doctor only did the Doppler to listen for the heartbeat, which she found immediately, and explained that the extra weird sounds we were also hearing was the baby moving around. And she looked me in the eye and said “I think this is a completely normal, healthy baby.” And it was like my soul sighed with relief.

While I had entered the office wanting one more appointment before the ultrasound—which would feel like an eternity at 3 ½ weeks away, I didn’t ask for it. It was time to let go of my pseudo control. An ultrasound can’t save a baby, it can only give me 12 hours of reassurance (oh me, of little faith). And then the worry was likely to come right back. I let it go, then Josh and I went to Panera to buy a gift card for our awesome doctor who had gone out of her way for us so many times already. (She also had delivered Rye during an emergency C-section, and we had never officially thanked her for that, so a Panera gift card didn’t really seem quite fitting enough for a thank-you, but it was a gesture.)

The first week went by OK. The next week got harder. I still couldn’t feel the baby, and the anniversary point for when I had found out I had lost the last baby, at 17 weeks and 3 days, was coming up. I asked my friends to cover me in prayer that day, which turned out to be a snowstorm and Rye and I were stuck in the house. That did not help—no distractions for me, and all my energy went into keeping Rye and I from going crazy with more cabin fever. I’m not going to lie, it was a sucky day. I didn’t feel God’s reassurance, or the baby moving, and I just had to continue to wait.

But just three days later, I did feel the baby move. Determining those first kicks and moves from regular bodily functions can be hard, but these sensations were clear—and clearly coming from right underneath my C-section scar. I cried.

And the motions continued to pop up every day, throughout the day, first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. Thank you, Jesus! I thought the last week leading up to ultrasound day would be the hardest, but it wasn’t. My schedule was so full that I had a visitor every day but one (a day of much needed rest and sweatpants), and with my baby’s movements, it was like I had a new friend keeping me company internally throughout the day. While I think my natural face that I walk around with is a horrible, sullen-looking expression (as evidenced by every single photo where I’m not told to “smile”), I now really was smiling.

And three days before the ultrasound, I texted two friends who know the depths of what I’ve been through a cheerful “Been feeling the baby consistently for a week—overwhelmed with feelings of ‘this is really happening!’” With tears in my eyes.

On Feb. 29, we headed down to my Owings Mills doctor’s office and made great time, getting there at 10 on the dot. I knew we were the first ultrasound of the day, and my heart was racing as we waited to get back there. I hadn’t been able to eat breakfast, but had an apple in the car so as not to pass out during my appointment (and to give that baby a boost of energy too so we could see him move).

Still, the minutes ticked by. Despite being the first appointment, we still didn’t get into the ultrasound room until 20 minutes after our scheduled time. The ultrasound tech was very pleased, getting great shots of the baby’s spine, head, leg and heart rather quickly. But when it came time for the gender reveal, baby would not cooperate. He was moving, but in weird ways. We even saw him do ¾ of a somersault, and the technician started chanting “do it, do it!” and all I could think was “don’t, don’t, the cord!” Finally though she caught a flicker of the crotch that we didn’t catch, and said “ready to find out?” and we said yes, and she showed us the freeze frame of that tiny little penis. I smiled. Whereas with Rye I had been 98% sure I was having a girl, this time around I was 95% sure it was a boy. While we both wanted to know the gender, we had already learned that this baby was looking healthy, and that was what mattered more than anything.

The ultrasound tech was now running pretty behind schedule, so while she told us the baby was measuring 5 days ahead of due date and probably weighed 12 ounces, we didn’t find out the percentiles or anything like that. I figured the doctor would tell us that since we were supposed to see her next, but this doctor (not the same one I had already seen four times) had apparently cancelled all her appointments for that day and I had to reschedule. Oh well, we had the news we wanted.

And so now I feel pretty reassured. We’ve seen the baby, he’s big (oy vey), and he moves all the time. We both enjoy chocolate and carbs. And ice cream. I think we’re going to get along just fine.

To everyone who learned about the pregnancy via the blog, I hope you’re not offended. Just know that I am SO HAPPY to share the good, good news with you now.