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Pregnancy Post: Small Steps Forward

After every ultrasound and every doppler check, I get such a high. The sound of that heartbeat is my drug and it courses through my veins. But the next day? Gone. It is always surprising to me when it doesn’t last longer, when the worry sets in and even the reminder of a good heartbeat one or two or three days ago is not enough to comfort me.

But I feel as though this cycle of highs and lows is starting to diminish.  Proof? I am beginning to picture our future, our family of four. Over the weekend, I took a few steps forward in believing that Skittle might just be coming home with us this autumn. First thing, I put away my infertility books and brought out my pregnancy books. I started reading about what being 10 weeks pregnant means and reviewed the development of an embryo at this stage. By the end of this week, Skittle will become a fetus and weigh a quarter of an ounce. It is hard to believe that I somehow successfully sequestered myself all these weeks and was able to remain in the dark about this baby’s growth until now.

Today, I had my husband bring in my box of maternity clothes and my body pillow from storage. I am not quite ready to clear my closet of pre-pregnancy clothing, but I am starting to “show” ever so slightly. It startled me at first, but I know it often happens sooner with subsequent pregnancies and my dear friend told me she was in maternity pants at 9 weeks. Strangely, my pants don’t seem tight at all, but hiding the belly that peeks over the top of my waistline is getting a little more challenging. It will be time to start transitioning into a different wardrobe soon.

Also, my mom arrives in two days. She will be staying with us through the end of the month. I’m very much looking forward to our extended time with her and I want to utilize our time well. Which means we need to do a few baby things. Like go shopping for the maternity clothes that I lack.  (Yes, I could do this alone, but what fun is that?!) And I need to start turning our great room into an office so that the office can become Cupcake’s room and the nursery can stay the nursery. I really wanted to wait to take these big steps until I was at least in my 2nd tri, but I rarely get this much time with my mom. And while I’m working on the organization and rearrangement of our house, she can watch my daughter or help me move furniture. For practical reasons, I have to do these things now. And so I will. A bit grudgingly, but I will.

I guess this is just another sort of milestone that we infertiles must all face: moving from doubt to belief, from waiting to planning, from standing still to moving forward. For some, it comes sooner than others. I think it is coming earlier for me than I ever expected. But maybe that’s good. Maybe it means that I’ve come to see my risk of “jinxing” everything has passed, if it ever existed at all. Maybe, finally, I have faith. Faith that, in the end, everything will be okay. This this baby, our cherished Skittle, will be in my arms in another six or seven months.

Please God, let that be so.

I have a niece.

Yesterday, at 38 weeks pregnant, my sister delivered her baby. It’s a girl, though none of us knew that until the birth. She has the same middle name as Cupcake, which makes me grumble a little, but whatever. I waited on pins and needles all day yesterday, and then finally at 8pm, my brother-in-law phoned with the news. And after I said my congratulations and wished them all well, gave them all my love, did and said all the things I was supposed to, I hung up and felt my chest rip open with immense sadness.

It was completely unexpected and I can’t quite explain it. But I think it has something to do with this: my sister wanted a little girl desperately. So much so that she talked of adopting one down the road if she never had the chance to give birth to one. She would watch my daughter longingly and say wistfully, “This is why I want a girl so much.” So I should be happy — thrilled — for her, shouldn’t I? But you know what? In that moment, as I heard the news, I was not. I think a part of me wanted her to have a boy because then, I would still have the one thing that she wanted the most.

My sister’s life is not perfect. I know this. She has struggled with cutting herself, bulimia, depression, anxiety, and was taking meds for all of this until she got pregnant. She and her husband also have an enormous amount of debt (more debt than our house is worth!). But beyond that, I have always coveted what she has. A better house. A Master’s degree. A childhood that is not shadowed by sexual abuse. A father she respects and has a good relationship with. Fertility. It’s not fair that so many things have come so easy for her and, here again, she got exactly what she wanted: a baby girl. It’s just not fair and, instead of being happy for her, I felt sorry for myself.

I know this makes me a horrible sister. I know it puts me in a very ugly light and it feels like a brave thing to do to admit to how I feel. A very big part of wanted to ignore these feelings, or lie about them, but this is the one place I am completely honest, with myself and with everyone else. I am not proud of the way I felt, but I make no excuses for it either. It is what it is. My relationship with Sis is so complicated and I am just beginning to realize all the pain that still lies under the surface and all the muck there is to wade through before I am truly healed.

But please, make no mistake: I will still love this niece of mine. I hold no contempt towards her or her mother. Even today, with a little distance from the news, I am feeling better, happier, more ready to embrace the addition to our very unique family. Next weekend, we will take a road trip to meet the baby. I am excited to do so, but anxious as well. I am not sure what kind of hard feelings holding a newborn will bring up for me. It will, in fact, be my first time holding a baby since my loss and seems like a very big step to take.

My one consolation in all of this is the baby that continues to flourish inside of me. Skittle is the one who is holding me together right now, keeping my heart from being too heavy, allowing me to welcome my niece with joy. I heard the heartbeat with the doppler again today and so I can now face another baby shower this weekend with hope and relief. I am happy to carry this baby for thirty more weeks or so (please please please let it be thirty), but I cannot wait to hold this child in my arms. Hearing my sister’s birth story has only made me more desperate for another of my own. For my own child to enter this world in the same health and great expectation. I want that with every cell in my body. And I know I can do anything, I can get through this pregnancy and a cousin’s shower and holding a newborn that isn’t mine, as long as Skittle is okay.

And right now, s/he is and so I will go on.

Going Home: My 1st OB Appointment

I had some serious trepidation as I went to visit my OB for the first time today. This was in part because a few symptoms had started to wane over the weekend (and then returned mildly yesterday, somewhat alleviating this fear) and partly because I had no idea if Dr. Smiles would be listening to the heartbeat or not — and any potential for a doppler-check or ultrasound creates so much anxiety in me. You know, because what if there’s not a heartbeat?

But as I arrived at the office and was given my plastic cup so I could provide a urine sample and went off to the bathroom without anyone having to give me directions, I realized it felt like I was coming home. Everything felt so familiar, so safe. It was nice to be in a place where people recognized me and knew my story without my having to tell them. These people are the ones who saw me through most of my first pregnancy, the ones who were there when my second ended too soon, and the ones who will walk with me through my third, however and whenever it comes to an end (hopefully in about thirty weeks). These people feel like family and the office holds bad memories, but mostly good, just like home should. Which makes me know that, surely, it is the right place for me.

I needn’t have worried, though. As usual. The baby is perfectly fine. Dr. Smiles did a quick ultrasound and Skittle had a heart rate of 167, was measuring 10 weeks exactly (two days ahead), and was moving around with a cartoonish wiggle. Impossibly cute. It’s so amazing to get to see this. I never saw Cupcake by ultrasound until I was 21 weeks. But I have had the opportunity to watch this little one grow from a dot on the screen to something that actually resembles a baby. It’s been incredible.

I did have one concern other than a beating heart weighing on my mind as I went to see my doctor today: my risk of placenta previa. I had it while pregnant with my daughter, and though the placenta eventually moved enough to allow us to try for a vaginal delivery, I had a lot of restrictions (no sex) throughout most of my pregnancy and, at 39 weeks, I had a choice between an induction or a C-section because Dr. S didn’t want me going into labor at home thanks to the possibility of hemorrhaging (a 33% chance). Can we say, scary? It was indeed. Certainly, it was not the ideal I had hoped and planned for, but all’s well that end’s well and, in the end, I had a perfect delivery free of unnecessary bleeding and a beautiful baby in my arms. However, I would really like not to go through it again. But apparently, having placenta previa once does increase my chances of having it again. The doctor stressed the risk was only slightly increased though and we needn’t even worry about it until my anatomy scan. So I will try not to.

My next OB appointment is in four weeks and my NT scan will be in about two. I am constantly surprised to have nothing more to write here than generic pregnancy updates. Everything is going so well with Skittle, it sometimes feels surreal. And sometimes it feels like I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know? But for now, I am so thankful to have nothing more to report.

And for those of you still in the trenches, I want to say this: I know posts like these can be hard and tedious to read when you’re dying to get here. If you have made it to the end of this post to actually read this, I tip my hat to you because I know it’s not easy. Please know I have not forgotten about you. I have not stopped hoping and praying for you. I have always believed that we each have a story to tell, however long or hard our journey is, and however it ends, so I will not stop writing. But I want to be sensitive towards you, gentle and tender with you, so please call me out if I say the wrong thing, okay? I will *try* so hard not to take offense. And likewise, I will always make an effort to make it clear when I’m writing a pregnancy post…which is a lot these days, I know. I love you guys, each one of you, and just as you have walked with me on my journey, I will walk with you on yours.

P.S. Another pic is up on the Skittle page, if you are interested.

Doppler Success

This was going to be a post about how I had expected there to be a change at eight weeks and, knowing the miscarriage rate at that point, how I thought my fear and anxiety would start to subside. As it turns out, this did not really happen. I suppose, with every day that passes, it gets a little easier to manage, but I still check my underwear for blood obsessively. I still have miscarriage nightmares. I still feel ridiculously down if I go any amount of time without feeling any pregnancy symptoms. And all week, I have been dreading next Tuesday’s 1st OB appointment because, what if there is no heartbeat?

But last night, something extraordinary happened. I found Skittle’s heartbeat with my newly purchased doppler. To be fair, it was not the first time I tried. I also gave it a shot Wednesday night, but that was a BFF. A Big. Fat. Fail. I did not completely freak out, because I knew it was early (I was only 8w6d at the time) and maybe it required more practice, but it did concern me. It did weigh on me and disappoint me and, Thursday morning, I woke up feeling sad and worried.

So I decided to try it again last night. I had already watched several YouTube videos about how to use the doppler, but I watched more and I read several online articles as well. I wanted to get all the tips I could. And from that advice, I filled my bladder until it was nearly ready to burst. I found a quiet place in our bedroom, free from the distractions of Honey and Cupcake. I used lots of gel. And I prepared myself to be patient and take my time. No rushing through this.

And there in our chilly bedroom, reclined as much as I possibly could be on our queen-size bed, after only five minutes of trying, at just 9 weeks into my pregnancy, I heard the heartbeat for the first time.

It was the most beautiful sound. Glorious. I was worried that I might not recognize it from other maternal sounds (my own heartbeat, an artery, etc.), but there was no mistaking this. It was unlike anything I had heard the night before and measured at about 171bpm. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Now, this did not completely molify every fear I have. This afternoon, I have had some cramping and I have been feeling uneasy. I have gone to the bathroom to check for blood countless times. But I know this is crazy. I know that, as of last night, Skittle was perfectly fine. And probably continues to be today. And probably will be tomorrow. And hopefully, for many, many years to come.

I am still scared, but today I feel elated at hearing that sound. And I am beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, this baby will get to outlive me. There’s nothing I want more.

Telling My Sister

This weekend, I delivered our news to my sister.

I was nervous and my voice was shaking as I told her. I think I was afraid that, because I hadn’t responded in the way she had wanted me to when she gave me the same news, that she would only offer a lukewarm “congratulations”  as some sort of punishment. It is not beneath her to hold a grudge. But, mercifully, she responded in the way I had hoped she would: with unrestrained joy, delight, and excitement. She has sent me two e-mails since then expressing how happy she is for us.

For that, I am relieved and thankful. But I just hope that she realizes this doesn’t change everything. It doesn’t mean I am suddenly a fertile like she is, or that the pain caused by infertility has been erased. It doesn’t mean I get to enjoy a carefree, easy pregnancy like she has had. It doesn’t mean I miss or love the baby we lost, our precious Teddy Graham, any less. It really doesn’t mean anything, except that there is hope.

After hanging up the phone, I felt panic start to rise in my chest. Had I just cursed everything? Would telling my news to the one person who made my loss so difficult mean another loss is inevitable? I know it’s silly. I don’t even believe the universe works that way. But I guess this is what your mind does when you want something this much. All logic and reason go out the window.

After talking with my sis, I also have felt some guilt about my own reaction when she revealed she was pregnant to me. Was I too hard on her? Was my mediocre response unfair, or mean? But I know the two situations can’t really be compared. I had just lost a child, dammit. I had the right to still be hurting, to be unable to feel joy when I felt such sorrow. Can you tell I’ve done a lot of silent justifying to myself over the last couple days?

In other news, I had my husband deliver a dozen and a half cupcakes to our fertility clinic today. My graduation was last Friday and, even though I worried that this step, too, would somehow jinx this pregnancy (will these thoughts ever end?!), I wanted to say thank you. To be honest — they really didn’t do much for me. They monitored my cycles, but there was never any progress when I went in. I took Clomid, but I could have done that through my OB. I never had the chance to do a trigger shot or use my Follistim, so I can’t say the clinic actually helped me get pregnant. But they offered a great deal of support and encouragement when I needed it, I made some friends there, and they did allow me to come in three weeks in a row to check on Skittle. I guess you could say they gave me peace of mind and hope, which is surely something.

Or maybe, it’s everything.

Another Sigh of Relief

I’m not a superstitious person at all (give me a mirror to break, and I will!), but as we approached our 10am ultrasound today, I started to get nervous. The last two Fridays with my successful ultrasounds, the day was sunny and mild. Cupcake stayed with a friend, I was having a good hair day, and I had my ultrasounds in the same room. Today? Rain and wind. An absolutely miserable day. Cupcake had to come along with me, too, and I could not get my hair to lay flat, and I learned that my ultrasound would be in a different room. To me, this spelled doom. All I wanted was to replicate the same set of circumstances that would *ensure* another successful u/s and I couldn’t. I felt panicky.

But alas, it was all for naught. I did end up in the same cozy u/s room with my favorite sonographer and Skittle’s heart was pounding away at a perfect rate of 170. The little one continues to measure ahead at 8w5d (I’m 8w1d today) and I couldn’t be more relieved or happy. All is well. And it’s a good thing, too, considering that’s it’s Honey’s and my 7th Dateversary — that is, the anniversary of our first date. What a sad celebration it would have been if things had gone the other way.

And I know things can still go south. Technically, once reaching 8 weeks, the miscarriage risk declines to 3% (according to the research I’ve read), but we all know people who have fallen on the sad side of this statistic. I still have worries, fears, and trepidations. But I am also feeling more optimistic and more hopeful than I have in so long. I am starting to plan for an October 3rd due date. There are still plenty of things I won’t be doing for a few more weeks, but I will be giving my sister the news this weekend. And I may start reading my week-by-week (or day-by-day or month-by-month) pregnancy books soon. And right now? I’m off to buy a doppler. So I have something new to obsess over, of course!

Wishing you all a happy weekend. And for those of you who are interested…the Skittle page is now up and running. XO

Jinx?

My husband is the King of Creative Gifts. Many times, he will make them himself. I have received handmade earrings, necklaces, bracelets, Christmas ornaments, shadow boxes, even flip-flops. And more.

At other times, Honey will come up with a clever idea and have someone else make it for him.

For Valentine’s Day last week, I received a heart-shaped box made out of chocolate by some local students from the city. It was filled with some fantastic truffles that I am trying not to eat all in one sitting. Pure deliciousness.

And I also received two maternity T-shirts that Honey designed himself:

IMG_5168 IMG_5170

My belly obviously isn’t big enough to fill them up right now, but I love them. I love that they are unique and that Honey has the confidence in this pregnancy that I lack.

But, the moment I saw them, all I could think was Good God, I hope this baby doesn’t die.

Please don’t let this have jinxed it. Please, please, please.