Thursday, October 27, 2011

28 Weeks

Yesterday, we had another ultrasound….our 28 week ultrasound!  The purpose of the ultrasound was just to check on the baby’s growth and that is all we were able to do.  No cute face photos.  No video of the baby sucking his toes.  Our little guy is squished inside me, with his face right down “in position.”  The ultrasound technician said he isn’t likely going to change his position for the rest of the pregnancy, as he is pretty wedged-in right now.  I think The Prince was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see our baby’s face, but I was actually relieved that my intuition about the baby’s positioning was correct.  My body and I are apparently starting to get better at this whole communication thing.

Given my gestational diabetes, we anticipated that the baby would be a little big.  He was a little big at the 22 week scan.  I knew going into the scan that the average weight of a baby at 28 weeks of pregnancy is 2.2 pounds.  Our little chunker is measuring in at an impressive 3.3 pounds.  As I predicted, he is husky…but not freakishly large.  His height and weight are proportional and, while Dr. C said the baby certainly qualifies as a “big baby,” he is still in the 79th percentile, which isn’t alarming.  Dr. C told us that a baby generally stays in the percentile it starts in, so our baby will likely be right around 8 – 8.5 pounds if we induce at 38 weeks.  However, Dr. C warned that “big babies” notoriously don’t fit well into the formula doctors use to determine fetal height and weight, so, our baby could still surprise us at birth.  The most exciting news of the day was Dr. C’s announcement that our baby has a 99% chance of survival if he is born now…we’re “out of the woods.”  Dr. C had to add the caveat that the statistic assumes only a premature birth and not any underlying unforeseen medical problems, but still…it is a happy statistic to hold onto.

(P.S. - I am glad that Dr. C told me about the 79th percentile thing because according to  the baby is measuring at 31 weeks.  I would have been freaked out if Dr. C had just left me with the weight and no other info.)

My next doctor’s appointment is in 2 weeks and my next ultrasound is in 3 weeks.  At that point, I will be in the office 1 time per week throughout the rest of November and December, increasing my visits to 2 times per week in mid-December.  I chuckle when the doctors, nurses and receptionists try to “console” me about the number of appointments I will have to go to.  I want to say…”Do you know what an IVF schedule is like?”  But I refrain, smile, and just accept their kindness. 

On a completely unrelated and “nobody probably cares” note, I am likely selling my car today.  I’ve had my SUV for four years and I love it.  We put it on the market a couple of months ago, when we figured out that it would be difficult for me to take a decent maternity leave and pay car payments.  We have two other vehicles (my husband’s small SUV/car crossover that he leases and a beat-up old pick-up truck that is paid off), so it just made sense to part with my vehicle…the one with the biggest payments.  The market sucks as far as selling a car privately right now, and the interest in our SUV was sparse until the last couple of weeks.  Last week, a man who lives a couple of states over from NY contacted me because he wants to buy my vehicle for his wife, as a present (nice gift!).  He is bringing a certified check for the whole purchase price with him today, even though he has never seen or driven the vehicle.  The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach.  I’m not sure if I’m sick because I hate parting with my car, because we are selling the car for $5,000 under its value (The Prince is adamant that it is better to get rid of the vehicle for under value but quickly, than to wait for someone to pay a reasonable price for it), or because the insane “people-pleasing” part of me is obsessed with the idea that buyer isn’t going to like the car or is going to find something wrong with it and will reject the car (which in my messed up brain means “reject me”).  The Prince keeps reminding me that everything will be okay, no matter how this transaction works out.   He’s right, of course…but my hormones or personality issue or whatever is wrong with me are making this so tough to get through.  I’ll be really happy when the whole car thing is all over, and I can move on to the next thing on my “Before Baby Gets Here To-Do List.” 

(UPDATE:  The car is sold.  I wouldn't say that I feel relieved per se, but the sick to my stomach feeling is gone.  Who knew you could get so attached to a pile of metal and plastic?)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Like Waiting For Christmas Morning

First, I want to thank all of the readers who left comments on my last post.  I'm glad that there are others out there who agree that the rhetoric regarding birthing choices needs to be toned-down a bit.  I was a little worried I was just off on a hormonal rant (but I didn't think so).  Thanks for the reassurances.

On a completely different subject, I am feeling very impatient today.  In two days, we have our next ultrasound (we'll be at 28 weeks).  Unlike all of my other ultrasounds, I am not at all worried that something is wrong this time (hopefully I'm not tempting fate by saying that).  I feel the baby all day, every day, so I know he's still okay, and I believe that they would have found any anatomical issues before now.  I know there are still some issues that could have crept up (placenta previa, placental abruption, placental degradation, etc.), but I just have a calm faith that everything is okay right now.  I anticipate that the baby will be big.  But even on that front, I am not anticipating that our baby is freakishly large...just husky.

I know I shouldn't be impatient about the ultrasound, considering that I think everything is fine.  But I can't help it.  I feel like a little child waiting for Christmas's a good "impatient," not a nervous anticipation.  I feel the baby moving all day, every day...and sometimes all night.  I call him "Fists of Fury" sometimes because the speed (and power) of his movements amazes me.  In reality, I have no idea what he's doing...kicking? punching? headbutting?  I can't tell the difference.  Maybe he should be called "Feet of Fury" or "Forehead of Fury," although those really don't have the same ring to them.  At any rate, I feel really blessed to have achieved this pregnancy and to finally be at a place where I can relax and have faith that things are okay...even if I still am not great at just "being in the moment." 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Please Check Your Judgment At The Door

During our infertility journey, I spent a lot of energy struggling with feelings of guilt and shame surrounding the choices we were making regarding methods of achieving pregnancy.  From making the decision to undergo multiple IVF cycles, to the life-altering decision of choosing to pursue the use of donor eggs, I spent many hours reading and listening to opinions people have about ART.  I probably should have done a better job screening what information I allowed myself to take in during that time, as many of the opinions were filled with negative inferences and passive-aggressive slights against “the infertile” and how “unnatural” ART is.  Recently, I have realized that I am seeing the same trend during pregnancy.  There is a lot of information out there, for the consumption of pregnant women, pushing guilt onto women who choose to birth in any method other than a “natural” non-medicated vaginal birth. 

I now am at the stage in pregnancy where I occasionally panic about the idea of labor and delivery (and by "occasionally," I of course mean any time I am not actively thinking about something else).  In an effort to calm my nerves, I have followed my usual path of ingesting as much information on the anxiety-inducing subject as I can.  The interesting trend I am noticing is that the majority of information I am coming across pushes (no pun intended) a medication-free childbirth.  If I talk to friends and acquaintances about their birth experiences – “natural” and otherwise – the vast majority tell me to get the epidural as soon as possible, to avoid the pain at all costs.  But, when I read a book or watch a movie about medicated vs. non-medicated birth, all of the women offering an opinion, who have had both experiences, strongly recommend non-medicated birth.  Can my friends really be so different from the norm? 

Not according to the majority of pregnancy message boards.  The majority of those women who have “been there…done that” recommend an epidural.  Shockingly, there will occasionally be a post, in response to those women recommending an epidural, “informing” all of the mothers-to-be on the forum that they are putting their lives and the lives of their babies at risk if they choose the “selfish” route of getting an epidural to avoid temporary pain.  No kidding!  That is the exact language used.  It reminds me a lot of the crap I’ve read about the “selfish” women who wait too long to have a baby and then “exploit” young and under-privileged women, by subjecting them to unnecessary surgery, to take the young women’s eggs, instead of adopting the thousands of babies waiting for loving homes.  It’s BS of the worst kind…attacking women who are emotionally vulnerable on very personal issues they already worry about.

What led me to write this particular post was something I read on the baby-gaga website.  Here is an excerpt from Week 34 pregnancy information (Yes...I clearly jump ahead in my pregnancy readings) on that site: “The epidural process: a six inch needle will be inserted into your spinal column as you're curled up in a fetal position to expose your spinal nerves to the technician. Once the drug has been administered, the numbing effect (if it works, which it might not) -- will relieve your labor pain, but it will also render you immobile and effectively chains you to your bed, forcing you to labor and birth on your back while psychologically numbing your mind to the process at hand, inhibiting your milk let-down and interfering with the postpartum endorphin release that combats postpartum pain and depression.  The take-home message: an epidural can provide much-needed pain relief during labor, but is not without serious risks including: long-term back pain (20% of women experience nerve damage), slowing labor and significantly increasing your risk of c-section.  It also inhibits the entire postpartum release of endorphins, which may negatively impact your postpartum recovery.

Does anyone else see a problem with the tone of this information?  Baby-gaga doesn’t hold itself out to be a site that supports medication-free birthing, but it is clear (to me at least) from this very biased use of language regarding epidurals, that the site is promoting an agenda (you should see the site's "Pro's and Con's List regarding hospital births vs. birthing at home).  I also have a SERIOUS problem with the “facts” stated in the excerpt.  For example, “20% of women experience nerve damage”???  I would love to know where they got that information from, because having practiced in the medical malpractice field, including cases involving epidural needles not getting where they needed to be or the catheter snapping off…I can say with some certainty that the chance of nerve damage is not 1 in 5, or even 1 in 500.  Even a 1 in 5000 estimate would, in my opinion, require a very generous use of the term “nerve damage.”  But if baby-gaga is your only source of information about epidurals, you are now going into labor terrified that your choice is deal with the pain, or have a 1 in 5 chance of "nerve damage."

Another quick example of the ridiculous rhetoric is from the book my doula gave me about the Bradley Method of birthing.  Granted, if you pursue the Bradley Method, you likely have the goal of a medication-free birth.  But, if you are like me…someone just looking for labor techniques to help with the pain, even though the possibility of using pain medication has not been ruled out…the Bradley Method considers you a failure….from the get-go.  The introduction of the book involves a comparison between Lamaze and the Bradley Method.  The author states that the Bradley Method rejects Lamaze’s statement that every woman’s measure of “success” during labor is different.  The author considers Lamaze’s stance to be a “cop-out” and considers use of any pain medication to be a failure of the Bradley Method.  The author states that “Many women have deeply regretted going successfully through hours of hard but rewarding labor, only to accept medication and its consequences just moments before birth.  Teaching an expectant mother how to avoid this pitfall is one of the main things that separates Bradley from Lamaze. 

So…let me get this straight.  I am a success if I go through hard labor for hours.  If I get an epidural, it’s not because I chose it, it’s because I "accepted" it…and, if I am like many women, I will regret accepting it.  The medication has "consequences."  Oh…and accepting an epidural is a “pitfall” to be avoided???  At least the Bradley Method book author isn’t pretending to be unbiased.  But still…is all the guilt and scary language really necessary?   

I want to have a medication-free birth.  In fact, I am praying that our baby decides to come out naturally a day or two before our scheduled induction, so I can avoid taking the medications necessary for induction.  There are side effects, some serious and others not as serious, associated with all medications…including those given in an epidural and those given to induce labor.  I would prefer not to expose myself or my baby to those side effects.  But…I am realistic.  Delivering our baby before his due date reduces the risks to the baby’s health…real risks that have a higher chance of occurring than the induction medication side effects that I find worrisome.  I also am realistic about my pain threshold.  I likely won’t be able to make it through a Pitocin-augmented labor without some type of pain medication.  My goal going into this labor is to employ as many natural pain-relief techniques as I can, and to hold off on an epidural as long as possible.  But…I am NOT a failure if I ask for an epidural at some point because I decide that the pain is more than I can tolerate or I decide that I won’t be able to effectively push when the time comes if I don’t get a break.  My idea of a “successful” birth is not dependent on whether I am “strong” enough to endure the pain of childbirth without medication.  My definition of “success” is bringing home a healthy baby…a baby I worked so hard to conceive.  And frankly, I am a little angry that anyone feels entitled to judge me about my choices regarding how I conceived or how I choose to bring my baby into this world.  Information is a good thing…and everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions.  But people should check their judgments at the door when it comes to conception and childbirth.  Have an opinion about what is "best" if you must, but stop short of telling women that they should feel guilty if their "best" is different.  The guilt is not welcome or warranted.  At least that is MY opinion. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

12 Weeks To Go!!!

In 12 weeks (from yesterday), I am scheduled to deliver a way or another.  12 weeks!!!  Where the $%@ did the time go?  I'm excited, grateful and terrified at the same time.  The Prince and I have been planning for, praying for, and dreaming of this event for a long, long time.  But now that it is almost upon us, I feel terribly unprepared.  Don't get me wrong, I've done my labor prep with the doula, read my parenting books, taken my infant care classes, spoken with other new mothers, and even practiced newborn care with my baby niece.  But I still get the feeling that no one can truly prepare themselves for the life-altering experiences of bring a new life into this world, or bringing a baby home.  Our lives are about to change forever.

I'm trying to pay closer attention to my pregnancy now.  I knew it would fly by, as I was warned about that by my IF friends who experienced success a little sooner than I did.  I guess "knowing" and "understanding" are two different things, because I have let so much pass me by without much thought.  I am determined to remember and focus on every remaining detail/milestone of this pregnancy.  Two weeks ago, I got my first "breast stretch mark" (lovely, I know).  Four nights ago was my first kick in the ribs (I'm amazed that the baby is already big enough to punch or headbutt "down below" and still get his feet all the way to my rib cage).  Last Thursday, we took the first "bump" picture though it is really still a pathetic little bump that leaves people saying to me all the time..."Really?  You're almost seven months pregnant?").  Last night was the first time I got The Prince to definitively agree to stop calling the baby Hamish (he has since named my dog's tumor "Hamish"...nice!).  These things may seem small and insignificant to an outsider, but to me...they are something to keep me grounded in "the now" instead of freaking out about the future.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"The Big Stretch" at 26 Weeks

I just watched a video that horrified me, fascinated me, and had me peeing my pants (though, what doesn’t these days) in laughter.  Our doula gave me this video – “The Big Stretch” – to help me with some of the emotional issues I have been struggling with involving the upcoming labor and delivery.  She warned me that it was a bit “crunchy” and “natural.”  She wasn’t kidding!

The video was made in Australia and has tons of beautiful photos and clips of naked pregnant women…not topless…naked.  I have no issue with that, but The Prince (who was encouraged by the doula to watch the video with me) would have a major issue with seeing so many vaginas (thus, the reason for my pre-screening of the video this evening, while he was at work).  The movie contains tons of video clips and still shots of multiple home births.  There is video of a woman playing a recorder in a birthing pool to help with her contractions.  There is a woman holding up a picture of her anus and vagina during the crowning, saying “This is my favorite photo because you can see how my anus is literally inside out, stretching me to the brink as our son entered the world.”  There are cartoons (very reminiscent of a bad 60’s movie) of flowering vaginas (complete with a song about exploring the sacred dark cave) and cartoon women walking in and out of the cartoon vaginas (see how comfortable I am with the V word now?).  And…SPOILER ALERT…the movie ends with a naked man riding a bicycle in the forest.  Why?  I don’t know…but what a way to end a movie!
I joke, but in reality, I am really glad I watched this movie.  Although it could pass for a spoof of a natural birth movie, it did contain some great words of wisdom from women who have been there…done that.  Some of the words were even offered while the women were in the midst of their labors…when the filters were gone.  I won’t be having my baby in a pool or a shed or a yard.  I won’t be playing a recorder or any other instrument during my contractions.  But, I will be bringing a new life into the world, just like the women in the movie were…and I will take any help or advice that they have to offer.  Some of the wisdom I gleaned from the movie: (1) Pregnancy is a big stretch…not just physically…but emotionally.  Stretch with it, don’t try to contract against it; (2) Pregnancy is the perfect time to work on yourself, getting rid of what you don’t like about your behaviors and thought patterns.  Spend the pregnancy nurturing yourself and growing; (3) Be prepared to go inside yourself during labor and delivery.  Support is important, but in the end, you have to find the strength from within to get through the “big stretch”; and (4) Understand that the days after the birth will likely be more trying than the birth itself.  Be prepared for that as an individual and a couple, but have faith that you can learn to enjoy being in survival mode.

These messages were important to me today.  I had my 26 week check-up with the OB earlier and the baby was doing great.  I put on 2 pounds in the last 2 weeks (perfect).  I am still dehydrated and no one is cutting me any slack on that issue anymore.  Initially, when the doctor got on my case about my water intake, I started into my usual spiral of defensiveness, guilt and anger…silently wondering why the doctor was being mean to me.  But, after watching the video tonight, I have decided that a little tough love was in order, as I have not been controlling something that I actually have control over…something that can make my pregnancy and the baby’s experience more pleasant and healthy.  I decided that there is likely an emotional component to my hang-up about not drinking enough water.  I’m not sure what it is, but there is truly no excuse for me to not drink…I love water, I know I feel better when I drink enough of it, I know it is important for the baby’s well-being, and I work from home (so distractions are not really the issue).  I’ve decided to “stretch” myself a bit by trying to explore what is at the bottom of my self-induced dehydration and to really work on it.  And that small shift in my perception and my attitude has had me smiling all night (well…that and the mental image of a smiling naked man waving at me as he pedals his bicycle). 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Don't Forget Daddy

I’ve been thinking about how, now that I am pregnant, it is difficult to figure out where my IF experience fits into conversation.  There is a part of me that is very comfortable saying to inquiring minds “Yes.  It is our first baby and it took us three years to get here, so we are feeling quite blessed.”  For the most part, when I say this to people, they gush over the news in the same way that they would if I left the thinly veiled IF reference out.  But, sometimes someone will ask a more direct question and it throws me into uncertainty.  For example, a woman who I consider an acquaintance (but not quite a friend) asked me “Who do you think he will look like, you or your husband?”  I answered “Oh, most definitely my husband.”  There was an awkward pause, just long enough for me to become uncomfortable and start wondering whether further explanation was required and how to avoid sharing my “dirty little donor secret.”  As I’ve said before, I don’t consider our use of a donor a secret or something to be ashamed of.  But, once in awhile, when I am having a “deer in the headlights” moment, these thoughts creep in.  I finished my conversation with my acquaintance with the statement “My husband’s got strong genes.”  UGH!!!  How would I know that and even if I did, who says that?  Plus, I am betting the silence that compelled me to offer something extra was exaggerated in my head and was probably just a normal pause in conversation.

That example is just one of many I could give.  Another example involves a stupid baby shower game.  My baby shower is a few weeks away.  I have to admit that I’ve taken control of it.  I know it is rude and tacky.  I know I should sit and allow my mother-in-law to run the show and let me be surprised by how things go…but I can’t.  I have wanted this for so long…I need it to live up to my fantasy and I need to be immersed in every aspect of it, so I can soak the experience in during every second between now and the end of the shower.  This experience needs to last me a lifetime and I want to savor it.  

My mother-in-law (the official hostess of the shower) groaned when I mentioned that I had bought some adorable pens to use during baby shower games.  She said “You know people hate the games.”  Yep.  I do. But I want one or two anyways…to round out the whole cheesy experience.  I scoured the internet to find the least tacky and annoying game I could.  I came up with “Don’t Forget Daddy.”  For that game, The Prince answers a bunch of questions before the shower.  The game participants are given a “test” with the questions he was asked and multiple choice options for his answers.  People complete their test and then The Prince’s answers are revealed.  I chose this game because it is fast, it isn’t too corny, and we can have fun at my husband’s expense (I couldn’t have asked for him to give funnier answers).

The problem is, as I was looking at possible questions for the test from examples online, I realized that my game was going to have to be carefully tailored.  I couldn’t just use the default questions, because they really wouldn’t apply to an IF situation and, in fact, many are quite offensive to those who have experienced IF.  Even in cases where the question could be used (ex. How many home pregnancy tests did the husband buy before he would believe that the wife was actually pregnant), our answer would require an uncomfortable explanation (ex. By my estimate, we went through about 150 POAS in three years and about 20 during the cycle which resulted in this baby.  How did we go through so many?  Oh…because I tested twice a day, sometimes with two tests at a time, for confirmation that the pregnancy wasn’t a chemical pregnancy).  That answer would certainly set a different tone for the shower.  In the end, I just ditched a lot of suggested questions, made up my own questions, and/or tailored the answers to work for us.  For example, for the question, “I hope the baby gets his Mommy’s: (a) hair, (b) eyes, (c) smile…etc…” I changed it to, “I hope the baby gets [The Princess’s]: (a) brains, (b) sense of humor, (c) good taste in a spouse.”  I think it will work and I am the only one (other than you gals) who will know that any thought went into the questions at all. 

IF is still with me and it always will be.  I imagine I will always be negotiating and renegotiating exactly where IF fits into my conversations and thoughts and, I’m okay with that, I guess.   I’m just trying to get used to it and I’m trying to make sure that I balance avoiding making others around me feel uncomfortable, with not pushing IF back into the closet…where it can fester and grow and drag women into its cycle of shame and secrecy.  Is it possible to advocate and own IF without pushing people out of their comfort zones?     

Friday, October 7, 2011

Don't Shake The Baby!


Last night, The Prince and I attended our first infant care class at the hospital we will be delivering at.  Unfortunately, it caused me to realize that we are either going to be really fun parents…or we are way too immature for this.

This “event” was the first excuse I have had in weeks for dressing in “real people” clothes, as opposed to PJ’s or yoga outfits.  I thought I would feel all sexy in my brand new maternity dress pants, cami and blouse (which I had to wear unbuttoned because of my baby belly).  Not so much.  My hair was dull and unruly, my skin was pale and blotchy, and I looked as frumpy and uncomfortable as I felt.  To make matters worse, we had to walk into class in front of everyone, and sit in the very front of the class, as we arrived five minutes late (damn potty breaks).  All of the other couples had really dressed nicely for the occasion.  The women had done their make-up and hair.  And then there was us.  We were definitely the uncool kids in class.

Because we arrived late, there was only one baby doll left for us to practice with.  It was African American.  The Prince immediately leaned over to me and, with a smile, said “I think they mixed up the donors.”  I tried to suppress a laugh while the instructor gave us the dirtiest look ever.  This was just the beginning of our “bad” behavior.  While watching a video on the basics of infant care, we were inundated with the “Don’t Shake The Baby” message.  At the end of the video, the instructor asked if anyone had any questions and I leaned over to the Prince and said…”So I missed it.  Are we supposed to shake the baby when it cries?”  If looks could kill, the instructor would have murdered us right then and there.  

I think the final straw was when we were swaddling our baby doll.  The Prince and I were laughing as he struggled with the diaper, wondering aloud why gaps at the legs wasn’t okay.  We were laughing as he tried five times to get the “swaddle” right, explaining to the instructor that he isn’t so great with directions.  Eventually, The Prince got the swaddle right, and the instructor said “The baby still won’t stop crying.  Now what do you do?”  Without skipping a beat, The Prince replied “Shake it?”  That was when I knew, definitively, we are not the typical expecting couple.  All of the other couples were very serious and intent on getting things right.  We were there to learn, but I think the gravity of the reality that in a few months this is going to be our lives compelled us to introduce levity to the situation…immature levity.

Please don’t think that we don’t appreciate how serious and awful shaken baby syndrome is.  I’ve defended doctors in multiple law suits where pediatricians were sued for not picking-up on child abuse during routine examinations.  The effects of shaken baby syndrome are unspeakable and it is difficult to imagine anyone being able to destroy a tiny little life.  Even The Prince said, on the way home from the class, that he can’t imagine ever shaking something so small and fragile.  He is certain that he will get frustrated on the umpteenth sleepless night, but he has no doubt that his instinct will be to put the baby in a safe place and walk away for awhile.  Not ideal parenting…but realistic and healthy I think.  We truly are not ignoring the importance of the message to not shake a baby.  We just couldn’t help ourselves from having fun with the infant care class…even though it probably made us look like terrible parents-to-be.

There is one more class…next week…with the same students but a different instructor.  I am determined to make a better impression this time.  I will start getting ready really early, so I can be one of the dolled-up, fabulous moms-to-be.  I will insist that we leave early, so we are early to class instead of late.  But most importantly, I will seat us in the back of the class…where our inevitable snarky comments will not be heard and judged by others.  I would love to say that we will grow up between now and next week, but I’m a realist.  We are always going to make jokes and be sarcastic...especially in the face of fear.  I just hope that doesn’t make us bad parents.