Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Great Gender Reveal

For weeks (make that months) I have been anxiously awaiting my 20 week anatomy scan so that I could finally know our baby’s gender.  I am not a patient person and waiting all these months has been killing me.  I don’t know why it was so important to me to know the gender.  I know that lots of women…even fellow Type-A women…wait the whole pregnancy to find out and love their choice to wait.  I couldn’t do it.

As with every other ultrasound we’ve had, the baby was extremely uncooperative during yesterday’s scan.  I had been in the hospital again over the weekend (suspected preterm labor that “luckily” ended up being just tearing of abdominal adhesions that I have from all of my endometriosis surgeries) and so I knew that the baby was okay, as they had a fetal heart monitor on me during my entire stay.  What the baby would let them see during yesterday’s scan looked great.  The baby is a little small, but that is typical for a mother with diabetes in the second trimester.  Plus, I still haven’t gained any weight.  I’ll gain a pound or two and then have a bad day and take it back off.  Once I can start putting on some of the pounds I lost, the baby should get a little bigger.

The scan lasted over an hour and the baby wouldn’t allow the technician to see the head or face (no cute pictures…our baby is definitely camera shy…always with the hands and arms in front of the face), so I have to go back in 2 weeks to have the scan finished.  The technician kept saying “Come on Little One, your Mommy and Daddy want to know which color they are painting your nursery.”  But the baby wasn’t listening.

The technician was making her apologies because she didn’t think she was going to be able to tell us the gender when, as if the baby knew what we had wanted and had just been toying with us the whole time, the baby flipped over and displayed the goods to the ultrasound in spread-eagle style.  Apparently our baby BOY is not as modest as he first seemed.  My mother’s intuition was correct (although The Prince is quick to point out that I did have a 50/50 chance of being right no matter what).  We are having a BOY!

I had worried that I would be disappointed if they told me I was having a boy.  I love pink and bows and frills, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t day dreamed about having a girl that miraculously would look like me…or at least the best parts of me.  But my worrying was for nothing.  When the technician said we were having a boy, a flood of relief washed over me and I started crying.  I was so happy and felt this immediate bond with the baby, beyond anything I had already been experiencing.  There was no hint of disappointment…I love that I am having a boy. 

For me, knowing the gender made this all more real.  My baby has an identity now, beyond “the baby” or “Baby Hamish,” and I am thrilled.  Speaking of “Baby Hamish,” the only bad thing about the baby being a boy is that The Prince is now dropping the name “Hamish” in just about every sentence that comes out of his mouth.  In an attempt to diffuse that situation quickly, I made The Prince go through name possibilities with me last night.  We’re pretty confident we have the short list all set (it helped that I had been cheating and working on a “girl list” and “boy list” for a couple of months)…and Hamish is not on that short list (although I relented and am allowing The Prince to continue calling the baby “Hamish” during the pregnancy).  We are keeping the names we have chosen a secret, as there is nothing worse than having people shoot down your favorite names with negative associations they have with the names.  People can judge our choice when there is a cute little baby boy attached to that name…let them try to scrunch up their noses at our choice at that point.

I think things get fun now.  I can now plan the nursery theme, start buying baby boy clothes and maybe even get going on my baby registry/shower (something which I’ve let fall by the wayside the last couple of months).  Just typing this, I’m seeing blue.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Still Not Over It

This morning, during a moment of joy, I realized that I am still not over losing the twin early in this pregnancy.  I had decided to use the home Doppler this morning, to “play” with the baby (the baby kicks the probe and if you move the probe to another spot, the baby will readjust for a minute and find it to kick it again…I love it).  After awhile, I decided to try to find the heartbeat for an accurate rate check…and I heard two heartbeats!  Not the baby’s and a slow one like mine…two fast ones.  As I listened to the two heartbeats (for all of a couple of seconds), I convinced myself that the doctors had just made a mistake for the last 3 months…and that Baby #2 was still hiding in my belly.  I rationalized that the second baby was why I felt so much movement and so early in the pregnancy.  I decided that I was pregnant with multiples, and that was why I was so sick.  Then, the probe moved and I realized that I had been hearing an echo of our baby’s heartbeat…not a second heartbeat.  I felt tears well-up in my eyes and I didn’t want to “play” anymore.

How ridiculous!  Of course there is no second “hidden” baby.  You would think after all of the ultrasounds, the NT scan, and the “heartbeat checks,” that fact would be abundantly clear to me.  But there is still a part of me…19 weeks into pregnancy…that won’t let go of the twin.  I’m not judging myself for having these feelings.  I’m past the point of caring whether this is normal or abnormal.  It just makes me sad that I feel this way, and it makes me a little nervous that I will never truly be “over” the vanishing twin.

I went to my first prenatal yoga class on Monday.  At one point, all of the women got into a circle and discussed a little bit about their pregnancies.  One of the other gals in the class said that she was pregnant (the exact same number of weeks as me) with twins after an IVF.  Everyone squealed excitedly for her.  I worked on not crying.  After the class, that very nice woman wanted to talk to me about my experiences with hyperemesis, as she was having issues with that too.  People from the class kept interrupting to say things like “I am so jealous you are having twins” or “I wanted twins but after this pregnancy, I’m glad I’m only having one.”   Every fiber of my being said that I needed to run away from that situation.  Each comment made me remember my excitement when they found the second baby on that first ultrasound.  And as I stood there, I wondered…will I always react this way?  Will seeing twins always bring that ultrasound picture to my mind?  Will I always be a little jealous of someone who is having twins?  Will I always like the look of a double stroller better than a single one?

I know in my heart that this pregnancy…this singleton pregnancy…is perfect for me right now.  I have really struggled with this pregnancy and I have serious doubts about whether I could have managed the pregnancy if I was still carrying two babies.  Things happened the way they needed to, so that I could be a mother.  I know all of that.   But I’m still not over the loss.  I thought I was…but I’m not…and I wonder when that will change.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Then and Now


Then:   Sick and bloated from fertility medications
Now:   Sick and bloated from pregnancy hormones

Then:   Relying on my friends to put up with my constant need for support and reassurance
Now:   Relying on my friends to put up with my “falling off the face of the Earth” for days at a time

Then:   Scared I would never get to experience the joy of being pregnant
Now:   Scared that I am taking the joy of being pregnant for granted as the weeks fly by

Then:   Struggling to not feel guilty about my need to take care of myself above all else
Now:   Struggling to not feel guilty about my need to take care of myself and the baby above all else

Then:   Irritated that pregnant women can be so insensitive
Now:   Irritated that I may have become the insensitive pregnant woman

Then:   Feeling guilty for not being able to get pregnant
Now:   Feeling guilty for being pregnant when some of my friends are not

Then:   Hopeful that each cycle was going to be “the one” for me and The Prince
Now:   Hopeful that each cycle is going to be “the one” for my fertility friends


Then:   Noticed the small earthquake we had last summer
Now:   Oblivious to small earthquakes

Then:   Worried that conceiving via donor eggs would make me feel like less of a "mother"
Now:   Already feeling like I am 100% the mother of the baby inside me

Then:   Grateful for this blog and the amazing friends I’ve made through the blog
Now:   Grateful for this blog and the amazing friends I’ve made through the blog     

Saturday, August 20, 2011

All About Our Doula

I was looking over my recent posts and realized that I never devoted an actual post to our doula…and our process of hiring her.  I had promised I would and so today that is what I will talk about.

My initial plan was to find and interview three doulas, and then to choose which was the best fit for us.  I scoured the internet, reviewing profiles and pricing for local doulas and reading reviews where they were available.  I sent emails to my three top choices.  Choices #1 and #3 didn’t work out well…before we even got to an interview.  But my #2 choice – Jean – was great over email and set up an appointment with me, for an interview, right away. 

Here is a little bit of information about Jean.  Jean has six children– all born naturally and some over 10 pounds at birth.  Her youngest child is 9 years old and the older siblings look after the younger siblings if Jean needs to be with a client.  Jean is married and has 4 small dogs (which is good…because she doesn’t mind my pugs sniffing and licking her when she comes in the door).  Jean thinks it is important to always meet in my home (especially when going over labor and birthing techniques) and to allow the dogs to do what they need to do when she is around, so that they will not be unnecessarily stressed when I am in early labor (which likely won’t happen for us…but we will act “as if” anyways).  Jean has been a licensed doula for three years but has been attending births in a professional capacity for six years.  Since being licensed, she has attended over 50 births and has covered all of the area hospitals, as well as a couple of home births.  Jean has a “back-up” doula that she works with (who, coincidentally, was #4 on my list of doula’s to interview) in case of emergencies, and the back-up doula will come to my labor preparation meetings so that I can get comfortable with her before the big day, too.   Jean became a doula because she thinks that the birth of a child is the most precious experience any woman can have and she thinks every woman deserves to go through that experience surrounded by love and without fear.

Jean’s fee is $400.  For that fee, Jean will meet with me to discuss nutrition, my birth plan, pregnancy issues as they arise, etc., no less than 4 times.  Then, we will begin labor preparation “classes” in the home, with The Prince.  Three or four focused classes should get us prepared by week 36.  Because of my situation, Jean will also devote an additional meeting to the experience of a c-section and exercises and household modifications that will help to prepare me for a c-section.  If I go into labor on my own, Jean will come to my home or meet me at the hospital, whatever I prefer, to assist in labor…for as long as it takes.  Her focus will be on me and my well-being and comfort, but based on her experience, she will also be able to tell when certain transitions are coming.  She can advise The Prince about when he should consider taking a “final bathroom break,” when he should go get a snack or something to drink, and when it is a good time to let family know that they won’t be getting updates anymore…because he will be staying in the room with me.  By helping The Prince with the timing of doing what he needs to do, Jean can help him be ready and strong for me when I need him the most…at the end. 

After the birth, Jean stays as long as I want her to.  She will make sure that I am able to breastfeed…or at least that the baby is able to latch on…before she leaves the hospital (assuming there are no unforeseen complications).  She’ll then come check on me at home a day or two after the baby and I are discharged from the hospital, to address breastfeeding issues and/or anxiety issues.  In Jean’s experience, new mothers (especially those who have conceived with ART) become overwhelmed when they take the baby home.  The dream has been built up for so long, but the reality is very different from anything that anyone can “prepare” you for.  Jean does as many follow-up visits as it takes to make sure I will be confident moving forward with parenting.  She also remains “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout my pregnancy.  And all of that is covered under the $400 fee.  By my calculations, gas prices alone will have her losing money on this endeavor.

In fact, The Prince (who had been quite anti-doula) said, after Jean left, “Is she crazy only charging $400.  She’s going to lose money.  She should be charging way more than that for everything she is doing!”  His reaction to Jean may have been the factor that tipped me over the edge on hiring her.  When dealing with The Prince, she explained that her role is to educate and empower The Prince and I to advocate for ourselves.  She will not interfere with any medical treatment or decisions.  She may remind us what our initial birth plan is and why we made the choices we did initially, but she will support any changes we want to make (ex.- me wanting pain medication five minutes into contractions).  Jean told The Prince that there is no universally “perfect” way to birth and that having a healthy baby at the end is always the goal…not the “experience.”  As Jean talked, you could see The Prince drop his bias that a doula was going to be a pushy hippy type.  In the end he said that he felt like he would be comfortable with Jean “helping him” to help me.

Jean is a little younger than my mother and in some ways resembles her physically (mainly her build).  That is where the similarities end between the two of them.  Jean is very soft spoken and mellow.  She listens much more than she talks (which is good…because I talk much more than I listen).  And now that we have hired her, Jean sends me emails every couple of days to let me know that she is thinking of me, is there for me, and that she has total confidence in my ability to make it through this pregnancy and to birth a healthy baby.  Even though she is a stranger, and it is her job to make me feel empowered, I believe her when she tells me that I am a very strong woman and I can do this.  I could not be happier with our choice to use a doula…and I could not be happier that we found Jean. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

R & R

Thank you again to everyone who sent kind messages regarding Josephine’s cancer.  I’ve read the messages over and over.  The support has definitely helped.  In just a couple of days I feel markedly better than I did. 

While lying around during my mini-depression, I realized that my nausea, dizziness, etc. seems to be greatly affected by how much sleep I’ve been getting.  Sleep has been tough to come by lately and I think that might be one of the reasons why I’ve been having a rough time.  During my second meeting with our doula, earlier this week, she told me that getting enough sleep is one of the most important things I can do right now.  Every pregnancy is different.  Not everyone gets a boost of energy during their second trimester.  I need to accept that I am still feeling a lot of fatigue and make sleep more of a priority than it has been.

So, last night, I made a few purchases to help with my sleep issues.  First, we have the Leachco Back N’ Belly Contoured Body Pillow. 

The Prince got me a great long body pillow earlier in my pregnancy, but it is only four feet long and doesn’t wrap around my body.  My new “pregnancy pillow” should hopefully help keep me on my side without feeling like there is a constant tug-of-war going on between my back muscles and lower abdominal muscles.

I also got a pregnancy wedge pillow. 

My massage therapist introduced me to this little gem, as she props my belly on one of these pillows during my prenatal massages.  I’ve tried duplicating the pressure-relieving action of the wedge pillow by using regular pillows under my belly at night…but the regular pillows just aren’t the same.  Our baby is the most active the first hour or two that I lay down for bed at night and I am hoping that the wedge pillow will soothe the stretching feeling, so I can just enjoy the baby movements.

Finally, I bought a maternity belt (not to be confused with a chastity belt…though they both resemble torture devices). 

I am feeling a lot of pressure from the weight of my expanding belly and my low back is struggling to deal with my new center of gravity.  I am sure that had I gone into this pregnancy with better core strength, I wouldn’t be having these issues so early in the pregnancy.  But it’s too late to change that now…so my doula recommended a maternity belt to relieve some of the pressure.  My doula said that I need to look at the pregnancy the same way I viewed infertility – something that affects every aspect of my health, my body and my life.  Something that deserves respect and acknowledgment.  A worthwhile pursuit that isn't easy...because nothing really worth pursuing ever is easy.  The doula says that I need to understand that my needs have to come first right now…and that means seeking comfort where I can get it.  So, in addition to sleep, comfort has moved up on my list of priorities.  (I have to say…I feel like the doula has already earned every penny we are paying her, just by assuaging my guilt for being a little selfish right now.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just Sad

First, I want to thank everyone for your kind words regarding our situation with Josephine’s cancer.  I felt so guilty on Saturday, but after reading everyone’s comments, I am starting to feel more at ease with our decision to give Josephine the best quality of life we can while she is with us, as opposed to putting her through surgery.  With that said, I am still so sad.  I imagine I will be for some time.

The Prince has been trying so hard to cheer me up.  He asks me what is wrong and I don’t have a good answer for him.  Obviously, the situation with Josephine is very upsetting, but I feel like this sadness runs deeper than that.  I am going through the motions, and doing what I need to do during the day.  But there is no joy right now.  I end up telling The Prince, “I’m just sad.  That’s all.”  It is the truth.  I’m not analyzing why I feel this way or trying to figure out what is wrong…I’m just feeling…feeling sad.

The Prince dances around (my court jester) and sings silly songs all the time, trying to make me laugh.  He even put a cape on Josephine and “flew” her around the living room, announcing that Cancer Dog was coming to my rescue…on a mission of bringing joy to sour-puss mommies everywhere.  I felt a little bad making light of Josephine’s situation, but Josephine was delighted by the game (she loves ANY attention) and she now barks at the shelf where he put the cape, trying to get him to fly Cancer Dog around some more. 

Frequently The Prince does manage to elicit a smile from me, at least for a few seconds.  I appreciate his effort so much, and I have told him so repeatedly.  He explained to me that one of the parenting books he has been reading explained that one of the best things he can do for the baby is to keep me happy during the pregnancy and after the baby is born (I could kiss that author).  The author (who, surprisingly, is a man) explains that the most important thing for a child’s development is creating a feeling of safety and security and, because of the bond between the mother and baby, it is imperative to keep the mommy from feeling stressed and releasing stress hormones that the baby will pick up on.  Accordingly, the Prince is now determined to keep my stress level as low as possible.  The book also “teaches” men how to fake empathy, which doesn’t come naturally to many men.  The Prince explained that he is now noticing when my mood changes, trying to figure out what caused the change in emotion, and verbally acknowledging his observations.  The author explained that “faking” empathy can sometimes lead to actually feeling empathy and that, either way, being attentive makes a man a better father and partner (did I mention how happy I am that The Prince chose that particular parenting book to read?).

I wish I could do a better job rewarding The Prince’s efforts, but I’m not sure I can do much more right now than wait for the sadness to lift.  I’ve been here before, during our infertility treatments, and no matter how all-encompassing the sadness would seem, it was always temporary.  I guess I will just have to have faith that “this too shall pass” and be grateful that I have a husband who lets me know that I am loved.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


It is strange how the importance of things in your life can change so quickly.  Over the last couple of weeks, I feel like hormones and stress had me finding a new “tragedy” to battle each day.  There was morning sickness, diabetes, fainting, deciding whether to switch OB’s, deciding which hospital to give birth in, etc.  And then, yesterday, all of those things became inconsequential, paling in comparison to the new dilemma placed in front of me. 

Yesterday, we took our furry puggy babies to the vet for their annual check-ups and vaccinations.  As usual, our boy pug – Napoleon, was very healthy and happy.  When it came time to examine our girl pug – Josephine, I raised my concern about a large mass that had formed in her mouth, on her gum line.  For a couple of months, I thought she was getting a condition common to pugs, where their tongues begin to hang out of their mouths.  Only last week did I realize that it wasn’t her tongue that I was seeing peeking out of her mouth…it was a tumor.  Josephine had also been itching much more than normal, but she has allergies, so I wasn’t as concerned about the itching.  Once I raised my concern about the mouth growth, the vet began looking over Jospehine’s body for other tumors.  She has four.  And after a needle biopsy of three of the tumors (they didn’t pierce the one in her mouth to avoid the risk of infection), we were told that Jospehine has mast cell cancer.  She is only 9 ½ years old.

The vet recommended that we get the tumors removed immediately, but explained that it is likely that the tumors will come back.  They are growing aggressively and the number of tumors is not indicates that her prognosis may be “not great.”  We would essentially be removing the tumors to gather information about the stage of Jospehine’s cancer and to determine whether radiation or chemotherapy should be pursued.  We would also buy her some more time.  If she only has Grade 1 cancer, she would have a 90% chance of long term survival.  If she has Grade 2 cancer, she has a 50% chance of living beyond 35 weeks.  If the cancer is Grade 3, she has a 4% chance of surviving beyond 7 months.  No one knows what Jospehine’s prognosis is without removal of the tumors, as no studies have been done about survival rates of dogs not undergoing removal and grading of the tumors.

Because Josephine is a pug, surgery for her is much more complicated than for a dog that has a snout.  It is more dangerous and more expensive.  The estimate for the initial surgery alone is over $2000 (and we already spent almost $400 yesterday, just for the examination and biopsies of the tumors).  The surgery price does not include any subsequent treatment, aggressive or otherwise.  Because of the location of Josephine’s tumors, it is unlikely that the vet would be able to get “clean edges” around the tumor.  He explained that he has to cut 2-3 cm around the tumors (including under them), and he would hit bone well before getting that far in.  The vet will almost certainly have to cut a piece of Josephine’s jaw away to remove the tumor in the mouth.  Despite all of this, the vet assures us that the surgery rarely affects the dog’s quality of life.  The Prince isn’t so sure about that.  He is adamant that our goal should be to give Josephine the best life we can, while she is still alive, and not to subject her to treatments that will be “buying her time.”  He feels that we cannot afford thousands of dollars in treatment with the baby coming (it would mean shortening my maternity leave by a couple of months).  We agree that we would not get Josephine chemotherapy or radiation treatment (or, perhaps we should say “could not afford to get Josephine chemotherapy or radiation therapy”), and, thus, we should look into palliative care now.

My heart is breaking.  I understand the logic of The Prince’s position, but I feel like I am serving my child a death sentence.  What kind of a parent am I if I don’t do everything in my power to help Josephine live as long as possible?  Josephine has been my “baby” for years.  Am I an awful person for putting our human baby ahead of her by allowing finances to enter into our decision about how to care for her?  I cry every time I look at Josephine.  I cry every time I hear her itching, because I now know that the tumors (which release histamine throughout her system) are making her itch.  If there was nothing that could be done for her at all, perhaps I could come to peace with the situation and move past this sadness and shock.  But there are choices here…and that makes it so much harder.  I feel stupid now for having stressed so much about the decisions I need to make about my healthcare provider.  There is a more immediate, more pressing issue that has been sitting right in front of me without me even noticing.  I am trying to tell myself to calm down, as stress isn’t healthy for the human baby growing in my stomach, but I’m not sure how to speed up the grieving process, so I can get to acceptance more quickly.  This is miserable.