Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Let me start out by saying that baby is fine.

But we had a scare. And I have anxiety. Not a good combo.

I’ve talked on here before about my tendency to fret and worry, mostly in a jokey way, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever come right out and said that I have legit clinically diagnosed anxiety. It’s a disease just like infertility. And also like infertility, it’s not really something that’s readily understood or discussed in society. You can’t make it go away by positive thinking or relaxing. You can’t shut it off. You can do cognitive behavioral therapy, traditional talk therapy or SSRI meds, and all of those things help (although I personally haven’t tried meds), but they’re not a cure. I am currently in therapy. My therapist is good, but I only see her once a week. That leaves six other days for my mind to spin into circles.

Overall I’ve kept my anxiety fairly in check this pregnancy. I for sure had some very anxious bouts. The first trimester in particular was super scary, as was Christmastime. I’ve been keeping it together, though…for the most part.

But now? Sh*t has gone off the rails. Ever since I entered the third trimester, my anxiety has been building. My antiphospholipid antibody syndrome puts the baby at higher risk for stillbirth, so naturally I’ve been obsessing about stillbirth. Is this a productive or beneficial thing to do? Nope. Rationally, I totally know this, but anxiety doesn’t play nice with rationality. It actually beats the crap out of rationality on a regular basis.

Things kind of reached a peak over the last few days. On Tuesday evening I noticed that baby wasn’t moving as much as she normally does, so I did a kick count. A kick count is where you count the baby’s movements—you’re supposed to count 10 movements in two hours. She did her required ten movements in a pretty short span of time, so I stopped worrying.

Then later that night I woke up around 3:45 am. Baby usually wakes up every time I wake up in the night, without fail. The kid likes to party all night long already. But she didn’t wake up this time. I gave her about 20 minutes to start moving and shaking. Nothing. I ate a banana and waited. Nothing. I drank some orange juice. By this time I was wide awake, but baby wasn’t. She did eventually bust out ten movements after the OJ, but it took her the full two hours. Usually it takes her, like, five minutes. I got out of bed and was about to go into Labor & Delivery to get her checked out when Tim suggested I try drinking a Coke as a last ditch effort. I drank a Coke and it worked. She did ten kicks in about two minutes. I was semi freaked out, but figured baby was fine.

That brings us to this morning and my appointment with maternal fetal medicine. I have weekly non-stress tests now, and from 36 weeks on I’ll have them twice a week. A non-stress test is basically where you chill in a lounge chair and a nurse hooks the baby up to monitors. They are looking for baby’s heart rate to accelerate three times in 20 minutes. If that happens, they are assured that all is well. I was figuring the non-stress test would be a breeze like it was the previous week, and that it would provide me with some reassurance.

Only, the baby didn’t pass the test. The nurse told me that the baby did have some accelerations, but they weren’t fast enough. She then sent me for a biophysical profile. This is an ultrasound where they look for three things within 30 minutes:

  1. Baby needs to be seen practice breathing for at least 30 seconds
  2. Amniotic fluid levels must be adequate.
  3. Baby has to move her core back and forth three times, and she also has to show muscle tone, which means things like opening and closing her hand or flexing her leg.

She aced the practice breathing. She also had good amniotic fluid levels. But she wasn’t moving. It took that little runt almost the full 30 minutes to do her required movements. She did pass the test, but only in the nick of time. The nurse assured me that she was fine. She said she was the most conservative nurse there, and that she always errs on the cautious side, but even she felt confident baby girl was good.

So baby is ok. But I am not. I really am not.

I’m 33 weeks today, and my OB has already talked about inducing me around 39 weeks (common practice with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome), so there is an end in site. But I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next six weeks. I’m not trying to be dramatic by saying that—I really feel like I’m losing it a little. I feel completely overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. I’ve talked to my OB about these feelings. She doesn’t want me to take any anxiety medications because I’m already on so many other meds this pregnancy. She suggested therapy, which I am already doing. Basically the only course of action is to wait it out. I want this baby to be safe and healthy in my arms so badly, but right now that seems so far away.

Today We Celebrate

BigSis

Today I am 20 weeks pregnant. Halfway home.

Boy, that time sure didn’t fly.

Needless to say, I’m happy to be here, waving goodbye to the first half of my pregnancy.

Yesterday I had my much-dreaded anatomy scan. I had tears in my eyes on the way up the elevator. In the waiting room, I felt sick to my stomach.

But you know what?

Once I finally got in and got scanned, that baby looked perfect. Absolutely perfect. He or she was quite cooperative, too — turning just so for its measurements and letting the tech get a good look between its legs. The tech wrote down the gender and sealed it in an envelope. We’ll find out with our friends on Sunday if we’re having a boy or a girl. I will, of course, let you guys know.

The tech didn’t give us much during the ultrasound, but the doctor came in afterwards and told us everything looked good. I asked him about downs and trisomy 13 and 18. He said the scan doesn’t always detect downs (about 50% of the time), but that it almost always detects trisomy 13 and 18. “These things are not subtle,” he said. So we are hopefully in the clear from the big, bad guys at least.

At the end of that conversation the doctor looked at me and said, “That kid is fine. I don’t want you to worry about this. I want you to go home and have a healthy pregnancy.”

You can’t get much more reassurance than a high risk OB telling you your kid is fine.

I asked the doctor about non-stress tests because my regular OB mentioned that I might need them later on in the pregnancy. He said I didn’t technically need them, but it seemed a little strange to him to have me so closely monitored in the first half of the pregnancy and then nothing in the second. Then he said, “Non-stress tests are also good for our anxious patients. They put their minds at ease.”

Boom. Nail on the head, buddy.

I told him that I definitely qualified as an anxious patient, so we agreed that I would come back at 32 weeks for a growth scan and my first non-stress test. He also told me that he was totally fine with me coming in for a scan before then, too, if I felt anxious and wanted reassurance. How cool is that?

Later that night, we told Lettie she was going to be a big sister. She was completely underwhelmed. I pretty much expected that. She’s jazzed about the gender reveal party this weekend, though. Girlfriend loves her a good party.

And that’s about all I got. I just wanted to share the good news. Of course, scary things could still happen and my anxiety is not going away any time soon, but I might let it hibernate a little. For five minutes at least.

Because it finally — finally — feels like it’s time to celebrate.

Huzzah!

18 Weeks & Everything’s Still OK

Hi, friends. First of all, thank you for your comments on my last post. They were all wonderful and heartfelt, and made me feel significantly less crazy town. I’m sorry I haven’t responded yet, but I will. I love you guys.

I don’t have a single profound thing to say today. I’m thinking this is going to be a semi-boring update, so get your yawn faces on. In a nutshell: baby and I are ok. As of today, I am 18 weeks and 2 days. I had an OB appointment on Wednesday and that kid was moving around so much that my doctor couldn’t lock down a heartbeat! All we could hear for a minute were these swishing sounds. I’m thinking that means there’s a hyperactive boy growing in there. Anyone else have any gender guesses? When the doc finally got the heartbeat locked it sounded nice and strong at 158 bpm.

Following that appointment, I went to my dentist and got two more root canals. I only have three non-root-canaled teeth left in my mouth now. Can you even believe that? I kind of can’t. I half-jokingly asked my dentist if I had the most root canals out of any patient he’s ever had and he said “yes.” The man has been practicing for 33 years. Dude. I don’t even know what to say about that, so I’ll just leave it right there. Anyway, the one root canal went smoothly. The other was bleeding so much he couldn’t finish it. The dentist said he suspects it’s cracked, which means the root canal might fail. Which means a tooth extraction. The last time I had a tooth extracted, it took two hours and the head of dental surgery had to call over his colleague to help. Apparently I have the longest roots this side of the Mississippi. I do not want to go through this ordeal while pregnant. It’s already stressful enough getting root canals while pregnant. I’m really bummed about all of this, but it’s beyond my control.

I’m not sure if I told you guys about this yet, but I got a call from Dr. Braverman a few weeks ago. My long-awaited test results came back and according to him my immune system was “acting up again.” He doubled my prednisone dose. Dr. B assured me that he wasn’t worried about miscarriage at this point, but rather complications later in pregnancy. This increased dose will supposedly help prevent that. I was supposed to stop my intralipids after the first trimester, but those are continuing on for now, too. For those of you who don’t know, prednisone is kind of evil. I really try not to complain about it because honestly I am just grateful that it’s helping me stay pregnant. However, it causes major insomnia. I lay awake from roughly 1 am to 5 am every night. Once in a while I’ll take a Unisom and that helps, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that every night. More or less, this lack of sleep makes me feel insane. In-f*cking-sane. Like totally bonkers. I prowl around the house at night like a freaking cat, scouring the fridge for midnight snacks. Speaking of snacks, another fun little side effect of the pred is that I’m huge. I’ve been gaining a pound a week and my face is like a mylar balloon. Again, I’m growing a human, so whatevs, but it’s a little freaky to see the scale jump so much every time I go to the OB. The good news is that Dr. B wants to wean me off the prednisone by 24 weeks, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

All of the above BS aside, I really am doing ok. I’m still nervous as hell about our anatomy scan in two weeks, but other than that, I’ve been managing the anxiety. Here’s a couple of things that have been helping:

*The gym! I haven’t gone to gym with any regularity in three years (you can thank fertility treatments for that). But now that I don’t have endless doctors appointments and the first-trimester nausea has subsided, I have a little more energy (even with the lack of sleep, boom). It feels awesome you guys. I only do a half hour on the eliptical machine like three or four times a week, but even that feels like such a treat.

*I’ve been taking some space from Blog Land. I’ve found that it’s for some reason easier to manage my anxiety if I just keep my head down and don’t write about it.

*Staying busy. If I’m constantly moving or doing something I don’t dwell as much on the what ifs. I’ve been doing a lot of baking, organizing and even (gasp!) folding laundry.

*Planning a staycation. Tim and I booked a hotel in the ‘burbs next weekend. Lettie will spend the night with her grandparents. We’re going to get a couples massage and eat in a chain restaurant and swim in the hotel pool. I’m gonna get me a bottle of non-alcoholic wine, pop a Unisom and get a full night’s sleep. Romance, people!

Speaking of sleep, if you’re not snoozing yet, you deserve an award. I mean, I know how riveting reading about me folding laundry must be. Anyway, that’s about all she wrote. I’m still scared every single day, but I’m doing fine.

 

 

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Angel

On paper, I’m all set up to have a Norman Rockwell Christmas. I’m a mother to a three year old who has stars in her eyes about the season. I’m approaching the 14th week of what is, as far as I know, a healthy pregnancy. We have a tree with an angel on top and garland around our banister. Our house smells like cinnamon.

But then, underneath, there’s so much sadness.

Last Christmas, I woke up covered in blood. I left my daughter just after opening stockings to get an ultrasound. And at that ultrasound we found out our much-longed-for baby no longer had a heartbeat. It was one of the worst days of my life. I came home from the clinic and put on a good face. I didn’t want to ruin the magic for Lettie, my living child. We opened presents and I exclaimed in excitement over every little thing. I pushed all that grief aside, put it in a neat little box marked “Christmas,” and left it there. And sure, I did grieve some over the next few weeks and months, but my deepest, most secret sadness remained tucked away.

Here’s the thing about grief: it doesn’t like being ignored. It’s stubborn, and it comes out one way or another.

Two weeks ago, we went to the hardware store to pick out our Christmas tree. The same hardware store we went to last Christmas. As we were paying for everything, I found myself in the middle of a panic attack. Last year I was pregnant, just like this year. Last year I felt so much hope for the future, just like this year. It’s going to happen again, I thought, I’m going to lose this baby, too, just like last year.

And it’s not just the miscarriage that is making me melancholy. I miss my mom more than usual this time of year, too. I wish she were here now. I wish she were here last year. I wish she were here always.

Christmas is hard. Pregnancy after infertility and loss is hard. I keep waiting for someone to come along and say, “Just kidding, we’re taking this baby away from you, too! Sorryyyyy!”

There is always something to be fearful about. Last Friday, we met with a genetic counselor, and it’s official: we can’t do any non-invasive blood testing because the vanishing twin could jack up the results. So we’ll be going into our 20-week ultrasound blind. The genetic counselor warned us they might find “soft markers” for genetic disorders at this ultrasound. The markers are pretty common and often mean nothing, but sometimes they’re indicative of downs or trisomy 13 or 18 or whatever else awful thing they’re on the lookout for. I am now terrified of this scan, and it’s still six weeks away.

On Monday, I brought homemade cupcakes to work. I tied a tag around each that said, “Baby B, due June 2016.” I wanted to do something fun to announce my pregnancy. I wanted to give this baby the celebration he or she deserves. But after I carefully placed the cupcakes on my co-workers’ desks, I walked to the bathroom and cried. My pregnancy was out there now, and I couldn’t take it back. No matter what happened, I couldn’t take it back.

And the thing is, I feel guilty for feeling all of this. I’m finally pregnant after wishing for it for so long, and I can’t even embrace it? What is wrong with me? I have a beautiful daughter who is beyond excited for Christmas. Why can’t I be excited right along with her?

I’m having a tough time of it, you guys. I’m trying, I truly am, but some days the ghosts are really loud.

 

Graduation Day & Baby B

Graduates-throwing-hats

Friday was an amazing day. I “graduated” from my fertility specialist. That means, from now on, I am under the care of an OB, just like a regular pregnant lady. To say it was emotional is a big, fat understatement. The ultrasound tech gave us our final ultrasound and Baby A was looking good, right on track for 10 weeks, even moving his or her hand in a waving motion.

I haven’t mentioned our ultrasound tech yet, but she is wonderful. Not only technically good at her job, but extremely calming and caring. She never seemed rushed and always took the time to answer all of our questions thoroughly. And believe me, my science teacher husband had a ton of questions about not super-relevent things, like ultrasound views and such. After our scan, I thanked her profusely for being so good at her job. And then I started to cry. Not tearing up, but like actual shaking cries. Then Tim started crying, too. The tech gave me a big hug and said, “I’ve been doing this for a long time, I understand. That kid is growing so well. You’re doing great.” I’m pretty sure she even teared up a little, too.

Afterwards we met with our doctor and he officially released us from the practice. I didn’t cry again, but I did give him a bear hug and several “thank yous.”

Wow, you guys. Just wow. I really never thought I would see this day. Truly. I know we’re still not out of the woods yet, but this is a huge milestone. So for now, I’m putting the worries aside and I’m just going to bask in this glow, and give thanks to the Universe and those babies and my body for getting us this far. I can’t even write this without crying.

In sad news, at our 9 week ultrasound, Baby B no longer had a heartbeat. I haven’t updated you guys on this yet because I don’t really know what to say. I’m not sure how I feel, honestly. It’s a loss, for sure. But then there’s this miracle growing right next door. It’s just a weird situation. I do know, however, that I am extremely thankful to Baby B for coming here briefly and helping his brother or sister.. I will be grateful for the rest of my life.

Next up: final visit with Dr. Braverman tomorrow and first OB visit on Friday. Keep growing big and strong, Baby A. You’re doing great!

8 Week Ultrasound Update

Just a quick post to give you the deets on Friday’s ultrasound.

Baby A was looking good! measuring on track with a heart rate of 166. Yay, Baby A! We could see his or her arms, legs and even a tiny spine. It’s kind of amazing how much growth there was in just one week.

Baby B had not grown at all in a week, which means he or she is ultimately not going to make it. Strangely, there was still a faint heartbeat present. Needless to say, it was rough watching that little embryo trying to hang on, fighting a losing battle.

All in all, though. I’m ok about it. Yes, it is another impending loss, which is never easy. But I still have one healthy baby going strong and I am beyond grateful for that. Also, I was really nervous about a twin pregnancy and all the risks that go with it. I already have enough anxiety as it is without adding Twin Mania on top of it. So while I would’ve been thrilled with two healthy babies, part of me is also relieved to not have to worry about the additional risks that blessing would’ve brought.

My next ultrasound is on Friday again and I’m really nervous. I’ll be nine weeks. When I went on my ill-fated google fest a couple of weeks ago I read about a lot of people miscarrying at nine weeks, plus I know of some other bloggers who have miscarried at that time. So that week just feels ominous to me. Also still haunting me from my googling binge are the heart rate fears. Baby’s heart rates have been fine since 6 weeks, but I still feel sketched about it.

I’m still scared every single day, you guys. Grateful as hell, but terrified. There seem to be so many more hurdles left to get through. One of the biggest being, is this baby genetically normal?  I likely can’t do the non-invasive first trimester blood tests because there’s a chance the twin could throw off the result. And I refuse to do any invasive testing (amnio, CVS) — I’m not down with the risk of miscarriage that goes along with them. I don’t care how small it is. So we may not know until our 20 week scan (or longer) if the baby is genetically normal. I know this is how our moms did it, but it seems crazy to me. Oh, and we also need to make it to 20 weeks to even have that ultrasound to even find out about genetic anything. Hurdle 7,654. Need to get my track shorts on, stat.

Other than the physical symptoms like nausea, this pregnancy doesn’t feel quite real to me. Like, how could this actually be happening to me? How could I possibly be lucky enough to bring a baby home in 8 months? I’m trying to believe. I want so much to rise above the fear and just have confidence that this little miracle is here to stay. I want to be brave for him or her. But, crap, it’s really, really hard.