Friday, December 2, 2011

12 weeks Pregnant: Sequential Screening

I have been debating whether or not to participate in the Sequential Screening process for this pregnancy.  Sequential Screening offers a non-invasive method (ultrasound and bloodwork from the mom) to screen for Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18 and Open Neural Tube Defects.  It cannot tell us whether the baby has any of these syndromes (like amnio or CVS which can tell with great accuracy, but also are more invasive, and the procedures carry their own risks), but it can tell us the likelihood that the baby may have one of the syndromes.  So, in the end, the Genetics Counselor can inform you that your baby has a 1 in 10 chance of having, say, Down Syndrome, or a 1 in 1000 chance or a 1 in 10,000 chance.  But still, they are just chances.  A 1 in 10 chance still means that 9 times out of 10, your baby will not carry the extra chromosome.  And a 1 in 10,000 chance still means that 1 baby out of 10,000 will still have the syndrome.

Still, the majority of women opt for having these tests done.  With my first pregnancy, I decided to keep my ultrasounds to a minimum, and since I felt knowing this statistic was not going to change the outcome of my pregnancy (I wasn't going to have an abortion; I probably wasn't even going to have an amnio or cvs if my stats came back telling me I was in the higher risk category), I opted to not have the screening done.

This second pregnancy, I have been debating having the tests done for the same reasons I did during my first pregnancy.  Other than probably peace of mind, I couldn't think of a great reason to have the test done.  And since I felt relatively peaceful in my mind anyway, it didn't seem necessary.  But when someone we know had a beautiful baby girl who was born with Down Syndrome (and they did not know in advance), I decided, perhaps I would like to have an idea of whether we had a greater or lower chance of having a baby with DS or not.  Again, it would not affect the outcome of my pregnancy, but maybe it would give me greater peace of mind, or maybe it would enable me to start mentally and logistically preparing for having a child with DS.

So I call up my OB's office and inform them that I have decided to have the Sequential Screening after all.  Luckily, the hospital quickly accommodates me, and my sonogram is scheduled for the end of that week.

Since we don't have babysitting, Mike takes the morning off to watch our toddler, and I attend our first "big hospital" ultrasound alone.  As I sit in the waiting area with all the couples, I miss Mike.  We have been extremely lucky that he's been able to attend all of my OB appointments so far, and for my last pregnancy, as well.  I wait for well over an hour, as that always is the case at this maternity building, but finally I am called in.

I first meet with a very friendly Genetics Counselor, who draws out a family tree for my side of the family, and Mike's side of the family.  She discusses how family may or may not expose possible red flags for genetic risks.  She asks if our 2-year-old knows about the baby and I share our son's comments and insights about the baby, which leave her impressed and laughing.

After this meeting, and after more waiting, my ultrasound begins.

The sonographer is cheerful and talkative.  It is incredible to see our little baby on the big screen!  This is no small blurry sonogram at the OB's office when the baby is the size of a pee.  The baby is now the size of a lime, 2 inches head to rump (they don't measure head to foot until around 20 weeks).  The picture is clear and we have a lot of time to look at him/her.  S/he is extremely active, putting his/her little hands to the mouth, hiding his/her little face, flipping around from side to side.  The sonographer tells me my baby is "so cute," and when I ask if babies look different to her in the ultrasounds or mostly the same, she says, "They do look mostly the same. But some are just cuter than others. Some do cuter things, like move their hands around--like your baby is being cute."  Even though Mike is not there, she shares in my awe of the baby and makes me feel as though I am having this experience with a friend.

She tells me that all of the measurements look great, and hands me a long roll of 2-D and 3-D images of the baby (although she warns me earlier that 3-D images at this point look a bit scary--and I have to agree a bit--the baby sort of looks like a skinny sumo wrestler! But I love it nonetheless).  My bloodwork is completed quickly and I am finally on my way.

A few days later, I receive a call from the Genetics Counselor.  She tells me that after this first screening (there will be a follow up during the 2nd trimester), my baby's chance of having one of the syndromes is in the lowest risk category, 1 in 10,000.  I know there is still a 1 in 10,000 chance, but it does give me some peace of mind.  And while I do not advocate unnecessary sonograms, it still was a pretty awesome experience to get to see my precious baby again, in all his/her active glory!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

10 weeks pregnant: 2nd OB appointment

Mike is able to join me for our second OB appointment, which goes very well.  My doctor confirms the baby's due date of June 13, 2012, but after remembering I had my first baby one week early, he predicts this baby will come a bit before the due date as well.  And since my first pregnancy led to a relatively short labor and delivery for a first time (11 hours), he makes another prediction that things will go even faster the second time.  Even though I was pushing for 2 hours (although he said it could have been much longer given that the baby had such a big head size), he predicts this stage will also go much faster.  He makes a joke about Mike's needing gloves for the car, and I recall how our cousin's second baby arrived just minutes after she reached the hospital (she was still wearing her t-shirt from home!).  My grandmother also told me how each of her five labors became shorter and shorter, until her fifth child was actually born in the car!

Since my water broke before my hard labor started during my last pregnancy, I do wonder if I'll be certain of when I really am in labor.  It was easy to know last time.  Or, I guess I should say, it was easy to know when to go to the hospital (you're supposed to go fairly soon after your water breaks; it's possible they'll release you if you're far from labor, but usually they don't. And in my case, by the time I was at the hospital, my contractions were a minute apart, even if inconsistent, and I was definitely in labor).  The night before I had the baby, I had been having many hard braxton hicks contractions, and when my water broke, they continued, to the point where I couldn't comfortably walk around when I was having them.  I still believed they were just braxton hicks, but in hindsight, most likely, I was in labor.  But I guess I was also in a little denial!

So this time around, I'll have to be a bit more serious about knowing when to go to the hospital, should my water not break first.  Because, yeah, I don't particularly want to suit up the car for delivery.

The thought of labor and delivery makes me and Mike excited though.  I was scared of labor and delivery the first time around, and while I know it will be no picnic, I guess my crazy mom-brain really has turned things around.  Because I sort of look forward to it all now.

Again, the appointment grounds me into remembering just how real this little life inside of me is.  I have had some morning sickness this time around (although it was never as bad as many women get, and the worst was over by 8 weeks) and I have had some heartburn, which remind me that, yes, I'm pregnant. But I need these appointments to show me I'm carrying our child.  And this time, the proof is right in front of us.  The doctor does another ultrasound and we get to see our little baby moving and wiggling around!   I say, "Is that its head?  At the bottom left?"  "Yup," says my doctor.  "And those are the eyes?  And the arms are moving to the head right now?"  "That's right! You have a real wiggler there!"

Mike and I are wowed.  Our baby is moving and twisting and spinning.  This is all going on inside of me and I had no idea s/he was so active already.  It is another realty check.  Over the past month, life has continued as usual.  Our son has been amazing and perception, creative and funny, opinionated and challenging, but loving and sweet.  It really is different the second time around.  I'm a full time stay-at-home (SAH) mom, and my son takes up so much of my energy and thought.  So when I am here at this appointment, when my son is at home with his grandmother, I remember I am the mother of a tiny baby too.  And I like this grounding moment.

After the appointment, Mike and I see a matinee movie together, which is a nice treat.  We savor these appointments, these afternoon dates.  It is a nice time to reconnect with each other, and with our unborn child.  (But yes, of course, we can't help spending some time talking about our other active child too. :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

9 weeks Pregnant: Belly Shot

Okay.  I admit that I am not going to be posting belly shots every week this time around, and they probably won't be wearing the same jeans, same top, same position.  I think it is a good intention, but not one that seems realistic at the moment. But I will when I can. 

So!  Here, we will start with 9 weeks pregnant.  Even at 9 weeks, my body already has started to take on a new shape.

Friday, October 21, 2011

6 weeks pregnant: 1st OB appointment

We drive to the familiar office to see my trusted doctor.  When we arrive, I see him in the hallway and he greets me.  "I hear you have some exciting news!"  "Yes! We're so happy!"  And I am happy to get this final confirmation.  A doctor's appointment.  The nurse says, "Yup, you're pregnant!"  My doctor does an ultrasound and even at just 6 weeks, we see the fluttering heartbeat on the screen, and we hear the strong beating.  This is early, yes, but it is a very good sign that there is a strong heartbeat.  For the first time, I feel there is a fourth family member with us.  I'm not simply pregnant. I have a baby in me.  A baby that is doing something on its own.  Beating its own little heart.
The appointment gives me a focus.  I'm not just a barrel of pregnancy symptoms (yes, I have more morning sickness this time, and yes, I have heartburn already).  I'm a vessel of another life, and it is an awesome feeling to remember that again, amidst the play-dates, toddler songs, My Gym classes, games, and trains.

We put up the picture of our little lentil on the refrigerator.  That is our baby.  That is the fourth member to our family.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Telling the family

Oct 16, 2011

Since I am visiting my parents at their house when we learn our exciting news, I don't wait long to tell them.  I'm not going to walk around a house, visit with family, avoid wine, and keep this a secret.  The first pregnancy, there was no way to tell them in person, but this second time, I'm here, and I'm not going to wait.  Mike completely agrees and encourages me to tell them as soon as I can.

Of course, this second time around telling family seems to take a bit more time...My mom and brother are at the house after church, and I get Mike on skype so that we can tell them together.  He is leaving for a conference in Boston in an hour and won't be very available for the next several days, so this is our chance.  But my dad is still at church.  We stall, Mike talks to D on skype, we lose the connection a few times, we wait.  Finally, my dad returns home and we get to share our exciting news. They are very happy for us, of course, and it is great to see my mom's excited reaction in person this time!  It feels good!

At dinner out that night, I tell my brother's wife and my niece and nephew (then a few days later do a scavenger hunt for them leading to a baby surprise treat), and now there is only one brother and sister-in-law left to tell.  We call and skype several times, but are never able to reach them at the same time.  Finally, weeks later, he is available on the phone, but my SIL is painting and he says she can't talk.  Mike and I are together and we decide we will tell them anyway, and my brother can pass on the news to my painting sister-in-law!  And so we do!  And this time, unlike the first time, my brother hasn't guessed in advance what we are about to tell him.

We decide to wait until we are together to tell Mike's parents in person.  I wanted to tell my family so quickly, we didn't plan an elaborate way of telling them (although D helped us by announcing, "Mommy is pregnant!" And no, he doesn't know what that means yet).  So I looking forward to finding a creative way to tell them.  However, adjacent to the news of our baby, Mike receives a job offer that while exciting, also requires a good deal of global travel.  He is talking to his mother one evening when Mike and I are still hundreds of miles apart, and mentions our concern of his travel in light of our...he hesitates. He realizes he is saying too much...his mom fills in the blank, "Tara is pregnant?"  Mike stutters, then conference calls me in quickly, and tells his mom the news.  She congratulates us and gets Mike's dad on the phone.  Mike gives him the news (he is excited, as well of course).  Not exactly as we had planned to tell them, but as in life, we roll with all of it!  And now we have many months ahead of us to simply enjoy the news with all of our family.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Those two pink lines...

It's 11 o'clock on a Saturday night and I decide to take a pregnancy test.  I took one a few days earlier--the morning I was leaving with D, my 2 1/2 year old son, for a week's visit upstate to see family.  It was the last chance I had to discover if I were pregnant while Mike was with me (he didn't come upstate with us).  But of course, I saw that annoying single pink line, taunting me. Ugh. I hate that single pink line.  Anyone who has been trying to conceive for, oh, more than one month, probably hates that single pink line.  Or blue minus sign.  Or however your test tells you.  But they all mean the same thing.  The thing that the digital pregnancy test will tell you straight up--no lines or math signs, but in solid English: Not Pregnant.

I also hate the pregnancy test companies who tell you that you may (keyword: may) be able to know that you're pregnant up to (key words: up to) 6 days before your missed period.  It's a good marketing campaign because, really, how many women will take a test every day, for 6+ days, waiting for that single line to turn into two?  And at $8 a pop, that's not a small sum of money to spend in a week for the same single-lined result.  But this is the second time around the pregnancy ride for me, and I'm not about wasting money.  At least, not too much... I knew the chance was slim to find out this early.  Still, I had hoped.

But two days later, here I am again.  I tell myself I should just wait another day to take another test.  I am 99% sure I am not pregnant because, while we have been trying...well, I honestly don't feel pregnant.  I'm waiting to feel the same way I felt when I was pregnant with D.  But I don't.  Mike takes me at my word when I tell him that (sigh) I highly doubt I'm pregnant.

But.  I take the test.

Single pink line.

Ugh.  Stupid test.

I set it aside, deciding I'll throw it out in a minute.  I take a shower, not even giving it a second thought.  It's late.  I need to get to bed.  I have church with my parents tomorrow morning...

But when I get out of the shower, I suddenly think--What if it says pregnant now?  What if it just needed a bit more time (I know I only waited about one minute instead of five)?  What if I'm pulling a Carla in Scrubs here?  I am sure it will still be a single line.

But I look at it.

Eyes widen.

Two pink lines.
Two pink lines!

And here is my movie moment.

I look up.  I whisper.  "Are you serious, God?  Really?  I mean, are you serious?  Am I pregnant?"

I look at it again.

He seems pretty serious.

"Thank you, God!"

I blink.  A few times.  In a dramatic made-for-tv fashion, as is appropriate at a time like this.  I smile.  I think I even shake my head a little and laugh.  I say a quick prayer for the baby's health, for my pregnancy, and then I want to tell Mike.  Mike...Right...He is 300 miles away from me...I resist the temptation to call him immediately.  I need to dry off, get dressed. I need to be comfortable for this conversation.  I snap a quick picture of the test on my ipod, throw on some sweats, and slip into bed.  

"Hey, babe," Mike answers.

He picked up.  Good.  Okay.  I immediately send the picture from my ipod to his email.

"Hey, Mike.  Can you check your email?"  I cut right to the chase.  I try to sound natural.  Apparently, I do well enough, as he's expecting a video of our toddler or something.  Remember, he is entirely convinced I am not pregnant.

"Okay," he says.  He might hum something or make some little filler sound.  I can't say anything.  My heart is beating so fast.  My palms are sweaty.  I couldn't eat a thing.

There is that beautiful pause.  Then...

"No way!" I hear a voice with delight.  "Really?  You're pregnant?!"  He laughs.

"I guess so--right?  I mean, you can see it too, right?"

"Yeah! There are two pink lines. The picture is fuzzy--"

"It's from my ipod--"

"But I can see it."  He laughs again.  "I'm pacing around the room."

We're both grinning the metaphorical ear to ear.

"You're pregnant!!"

"I'm pregnant!"

"We're having another baby!"

"Yeah we are!"

I had wondered, when we would find out for a second time that I'm pregnant, would we be as excited as the first time?  For now, tonight, I know the answer.  Yes.  Yes, we are.  And yes, it is still as surreal as it was the first time.  There's a baby in me.  A poppy seed.  A little dot of a life.  But a life.  There are technical worries that creep into my mind--we only have two bedrooms, how will our toddler, D, adjust, how hard is it going to be carrying a car seat and walking with D up all those flights of stairs to our apartment...but I tell myself, Not now.  Don't think of those things now.  Enjoy this moment.  Appreciate every second.  Because this precious excitement, this wonderful surprise, is now.  And I will enjoy it.  I do enjoy it.  I barely sleep that night, but I enjoy it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

15 Weeks Pregnant: Belly Shot

It's Christmas time at 15 weeks pregnant, and I definitely feel my pregnancy belly.  People notice it too.  At Thanksgiving, one of Mike's aunts touches my belly and comments on how I am starting to show.  And it's true.  Much sooner than last time, and I guess this means, I can enjoy the perks of people knowing I'm pregnant sooner than last time!

Mike takes the week off for Christmas, and we visit my parents', my brothers and their families.  The baby is just in the womb, but already, he's seen Santa arrive at the Fair Haven Bandstand, Christmas Eve Night, parading in on a firetruck, as all Santas do.

Christmas morning, we receive the first gift for our new little bundle of joy--a cute sleep sack my mom made.  The baby's first gift.  Merry Christmas!