Birth Story Part 2 – the Delivery

Picking up where the previous post left off….

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – 11PM

After lots of waiting around the last few days, once we get moved back to labour and delivery to start the pitocin, things start to move quickly. As soon as we get into the room, the mood feels electric and purposeful, and there is a real sense that this is going to be it, and that the baby would be coming soon.

I am pleased to find that the nurse assigned to me is the same nurse who I met in triage the night before and really liked. She also remembers me, and I am really happy to have her on my team. Since the idea of the pitocin still freaks me out, I mention to her that I will want an epidural sooner rather than later, and she reassures me that I can have it at any time.

I’d been monitored for the baby’s heartbeat and contractions every few hours since being admitted, but now that the pitocin was going to be administered, I would be constantly hooked up to the monitor. I was Group B strep positive, so in addition to the monitor, I got an IV put in to administer an antibiotic to clear up the infection, and protect the baby from contracting it.

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – shortly after 11PM

The nurse hooks me up to the monitor, which immediately shows that I am having a contraction! I am feeling a little crampy in my lower pelvis, but it does not feel anything like what I expected a contraction to be. “Are you sure it’s a contraction?” I ask the nurse.

She feels the top of my uterus, and since it is really hard, she confirms that it is, in fact a contraction.  The news of an actual contraction, even before the pitocin is administered is a good sign. There is a festive, celebratory feeling in the air, however it is short lived.

The nurse frowns at the monitor. “That’s not good.” We learn that once the contraction was over, the baby’s heart rate took a dip. The nurse explains that while it is not unusual (and okay) for a baby’s heart rate to dip during a contraction, a dip right after is not a good sign as it means that the baby is not handling labour well. So, we watch to see if the same thing happens with the next contraction.

The nurse is pleased to see that the next contraction does not end with a dip in baby’s heart rate, however, before we can relax, the heart rate goes flat. As I mentioned in my last post, the baby’s heart rate should be within a certain range, and also fluctuating within the range (with peaks and valleys). In our case, while the baby’s heart rate is still within range, there is very little change from beat to beat. Instead of seeing peaks and valleys, you don’t have to be standing very far back to see a flat line.

A flat heart rate tracing could mean one of two things: either the baby was resting/sleeping, or he just was not doing well anymore and needed to come out sooner rather than later. So, the first step was to try to “wake” him up.

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – waking up baby

I remember seeing the flat pattern once earlier in the day. That time, the nurse had said the baby was probably resting, and sure enough once I ate something, the baby almost immediately “woke up” and started moving around. So, now we would once again try to wake the baby up.

First I have some sweet apple juice. Nothing.

Then the Dr. (who, along with a resident are in and out of the room this whole time) tries to irritate the baby to perk up by moving my stomach around. Still nothing.

Next, the resident finally manages to pull out the foley in case it is bothering the baby. And still nothing.

While the baby has generally been very active, I realize that this whole time I had not felt him move at all.

At this point, the Dr. starts talking C section if continued monitoring shows no change. From the conversation between the Dr., resident and nurse I find out that of everyone on the very busy labour and delivery ward, they are most concerned about us, and one other patient. In a matter of hours we’d gone from super low priority to highest priority.

The nurse continues to watch the monitor, which continues to show no change. I’d been lying on my left side this entire time, so she suggests maybe if I move to my right side, we might see some improved activity. I move over to my right, but as soon as I do, the baby’s heart rate plummets. Upon seeing this, the nurse yells for me to turn back to my left, and thankfully once I do, the heart rate goes back to its familiar flat pattern.

The Dr. and resident come running into the room. “What just happened there?” The nurse explains the change in position, and the Dr. tells me to stay on my left side.

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – getting ready for decision time

I am not totally sure of the exact sequence of events, or how long any of this takes, but several things happen now:

  1. The Dr. explains that she does not like what she is seeing. She is going to do a C section on another patient, and if there has been no change in the baby’s heart rate by the time she comes out, we will be going straight to a C section too.
  2. The nurse suggests that since I had indicated that I’d prefer an epidural early in the labour process, we may as well get one going now. Even though I am not yet in labour, I would need one if we end up doing the C section, and as this is looking more and more likely, getting an epidural now would shorten the prep time later.
  3. The Dr. says to stop the pitocin as she does not want anything to happen while she is in the operating room doing the earlier C section. I am not clear on when exactly the pitocin was started, but it is now stopped.

June 23rd (41w, 6d) –  sometime after midnight

The resident anesthesiologist comes in to administer the epidural. He asks me if I am a runner, which I find very flattering. I explain that I did not run during pregnancy, but did run on and off before that (though I do find it hard to identify as a “runner” given that I usually did not have a regular routine, and do not run very far or very fast). He explains that he could tell from my muscular back (!).

I feel an icy river trickle down my back as the epidural goes in. It is some time before I feel any effect, but eventually I do start to feel some tingling in my feet. I then start to feel colder. I know from my reading that feeling cold is a very common side effect from epidural (seen in about 50% of cases). I mention to the nurse that I am feeling colder, and she confirms that this is nothing to worry about. She asks if I want a blanket, but I am fine without. We’re in the middle of  a heatwave, and even with the air conditioning going, it has been over a week since I’ve felt anything but slightly warm to unbearably hot. So, the cooler temperature is welcome.

However, after about a minute I feel like I’m freezing and start shivering uncontrollably. My muscles tense up really tight with every shiver. I tell the nurse that I’ve changed my mind about the blanket, and she immediately brings me 2 blankets that have been warmed up, which feel wonderful when she places them on me. I am soon cold again, and have my husband rub my muscles to warm them up and cut down on the shivering.

The nurse continues to watch the monitor, which shows no real change from before. Finally, she says “I’m not a Dr., so keep in mind that this is just my opinion, but I think you should prepare yourself for a C section. We haven’t seen any improvement, so when the Dr. comes out of the operating room, I expect she’ll want to do a C section on you.”

June 23rd (41w, 6d) – sometime after 1AM

The other C section is over, and the Dr. and resident come into my room. The Dr. tells me that she was watching a read out of my monitor while she was in the earlier C section, and that based on what she saw she’d already made up her mind that we weren’t going to wait any longer. They wheel me to the operating room, and my husband goes to change into scrubs.

There are about a million people in the OR. This is a teaching hospital, and every person in the OR has a resident or student with them. By now, I recognize many of the faces, and most of the others come up to me to introduce themselves.

The prep seems to take forever. I listen to the conversations, and watch my monitor screen. Overall, the mood does not feel frantic or panicked, which gives me comfort. At one point, I hear someone ask the Dr. if this is an emergency procedure. “It’s urgent” the Dr. says.

This spooks me a bit, and I keep watching the monitor. At some point, the Dr. comes to talk to me. She explains that she has no idea why the baby’s heart rate is doing what it’s doing, but that it is not a good sign, which is why she wants to get him out sooner rather than later. She then tells me that if everything is fine, I will hear the baby cry when he is born. If I don’t hear anything, things are not good.

After what seems like forever, my husband shows up and stands by my head. I am happy that he is finally with me again. I am still shivering, but also start to feel very hot on my face. Someone takes my temperature and notes that I have a fever. I can’t believe that part of me still feels freezing cold, and yet I have a fever.

The prep continues. The resident anesthesiologist tests my level of sensation by pricking me, first in places where I am not numbed, then in places where I should feel no pain. Eventually, it gets to the point where I can’t even tell he’s touching me. I hear voices counting in unison, as various staff check that they have all their instruments ready.

I keep watching the monitor. The heart rate continues to be flat, but it is now also a bit above the desired range.

Finally, they start cutting into me. There is a curtain hanging down just below my chest so I can’t actually see what is going on, but I know what is happening. Again, this stage seems to take forever.

And then, the baby is out. I don’t remember at what point I realize this, because he does not cry. The Dr. says “Oh, goodness” when he comes out – and not in a good way. (I don’t actually remember hearing the Dr. say that – my husband tells me about it afterwards. He claims we talked about it right afterwards, but either I totally blocked it out, or I was so focused on listening for the cry that I did not hear it). I see a group of 4 or 5 people move from my lower body to the corner of the room. My baby is somewhere in the middle of them, but I can’t see him. More importantly though, I still don’t hear him.

The resident anesthesiologist is up by my head, opposite my husband. “Everything’s fine. Your baby’s okay” he says. “But he’s not crying. He’s supposed to cry.” I answer. “It’s okay, that’s what all those people are there for” he replies, pointing to the corner of the room.

And then, I hear it! My baby cries out an angry cry. Shortly afterwards, someone asks if my husband wants to cut the cord. Based on how squeamish he is, and our earlier conversations, I am sure he doesn’t, so am surprised when he says he does and bounds right over to the corner of the room. When he comes back, I say “I can’t believe you cut the cord!”. He replies “I just wanted to see him”. And then he pulls out our camera, and I get my first look at our baby boy. His mouth is open wide in a wail, and he has several wires coming out of him, but he’s perfect and he’s all ours! We are finally parents.

To be continued (tying up some loose ends).


Birth Story Part 1 – The Induction (That Wasn’t)

I finally managed to cobble enough time to get this post written. Since it’s long enough as it is, it’s not the complete birth story (the baby does not actually arrive until the next post).

Before I go further, I should clarify something about dates. All along in this blog, I have been using a due date of June 7th, which is consistent with the date that my fertility clinic gave me. However, my OB has been using a date of June 10th. Since the decision as to when to induce was made by my OB, his due date is the most relevant date for the birth story, so that is why in this post my pregnancy seems to go in reverse.

June 19th  (41w, 2d) – 11AM

Final OB appointment – Dr. says it’s time to induce. I go home and wait for the hospital to call me in once they have resources available, which could happen at any time over the next few days.

Feels like the longest day ever.

June 20th (41w, 3d)

Still no call from the hospital. I start wondering whether they actually know they are supposed to call me, or if I’ve fallen through the cracks and am waiting for nothing. Time slows down even more (did not think it was even possible!).

June 21st (41w, 4d) – 1AM

I am in the bathroom getting ready for bed when my phone rings. Yes, it is really 1AM, and yes, it is really time to go kick things off.

By 2AM, I am in labour and delivery triage getting a cervical check by the resident Dr. As expected, nothing is happening, so I get cervadil gel inserted which is supposed to help ripen my cervix and get it ready for labour. The plan is that once I am dilated enough, they can break my water and we can go from there (assuming I haven’t gone into labour on my own in the meantime).

I am monitored for an hour to make sure baby’s heartbeat looks good, then sent home and told to return in 12 hours to check progress (or sooner if my water breaks, the cervadil falls out, or I go into labour).

June 21st (41w, 4d) – 2PM

I feel mild to moderate cramping in the morning, which gives me hope that the cervadil is working. I can’t believe that this is actually happening! We go back to the hospital for our progress check, however when I describe the sensations I’ve been having to the Dr. in triage, she does not look impressed and says she does not expect that we’ve made much progress. The cervical check confirms her suspicions, so after another hour of fetal monitoring, I am once again sent home and told to return in 12 hours.

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – 1AM

The cervadil falls out an hour early when I go to the bathroom, so I wake my husband up and we walk over to the hospital (after the last visit, we stayed at my mom’s house which is conveniently located right across the street).

On the way into the hospital, we run into the husband of the woman who came in at the same time we did the night before with contractions. She had her baby not too long after we saw them. We also run into a couple from our birthing classes, and the female is having some serious contractions. I’m tired, but otherwise feel perfectly normal. “I’m not in labour, I’m being induced” I offer as explanation as to why I don’t appear to be in pain at all.

We have the cervical check, and once again the verdict is the same – no progress. We’ve done what we can with the cervadil, so the resident Dr. explains that I will now be admitted to the hospital for the next stage in the induction process. After consultation with another Dr., I learn that the next step will involve inserting a foley catheter (a little balloon filled with water that should mechanically expand my cervix), and hooking me up to pitocin, which should bring contractions on.

However, before we can get going, we’re back to waiting for a room to become available, so spend the rest of the night resting in triage.

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – 8AM

Finally at 8AM, we get moved to a room in labour and delivery. The nurse explains what’s going to happen next, and checks some vitals. Shortly after we settle in, my OB pops in to visit, and in his usual blunt way explains where we stand:

“I know you feel like you’ve been at this a while now, but since the cervadil did not work, it’s like you’re starting from scratch – the last few days don’t count.” He then warned that I now had “2 strikes against me”, since I had not gone into labour on my own, and the cervadil did not work, so with continued intervention attempts being required, my chances of ending up with a C section are now about 50/50.

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – 10AM

Just before 10AM, the nurse and Dr. working that day come in to tell that there has been a change of plans:

“We’re not going to start the pitocin right away. Instead, we’re moving you to the high risk unit and only doing the foley catheter for now. We’ll check you in 6 to 8 hours and if nothing has happened yet, we’ll start the pitocin at that point.”

I ask why I’m being moved to high risk, and the answer from the Dr. is: “Frankly, because we need this room.” While this is getting a little too familiar (and not in a good way), I am happy to delay the pitocin, which scares the hell out of me. As it is, I’m already dreading the pain and exhaustion that comes with labour, and all the reading I’ve done has prepared me to expect faster and harder contractions with pitocin than what would happen naturally. So I’m all about taking things slow with the interventions and hoping that the catheter will be enough to get things going.

The foley is put in, and I felt quite crampy right away. We move all of our bags to the room in high risk, and I am given instructions to walk as much as possible to put pressure on my cervix and hopefully speed things along. My husband and I spend quite a bit of time walking around the ward.

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – most of the rest of the day

We are pretty much back to waiting. Periodically, the nurse checks on me to check my vitals and hook me up to the monitor to track the baby’s heart rate and my uterine activity (ideally contractions). Since she sees we’re interested, she shows us how the read the monitor. The top tracing shows the baby’s heart rate, which should fall within a highlighted range, while also jumping around within that range. The bottom tracing shows my uterine activity, and the nurse explains that a contraction would show up as a low, gradual hill pattern. However, all I get is periodic spikes which correspond to the baby kicking me, or otherwise moving around.

At every check the nurse asks me if I am feeling any contractions or cramps, and how much pain I am in. Initially, all I feel is the constant, dull cramping from the catheter. I estimate the pain at 1.5 to 2 out of 10. The nurse is not impressed. As the day goes on, even that pain goes away. Once in a while, I do feel a little crampy, so report this to the nurse, but again, I can tell that 3 (not very painful) crampy moments an hour is not what she is hoping to hear.

Ideally, if everything went according to plan, the catheter would fall out once my cervix was sufficiently dilated, however this is not happening. At some point, my husband goes to get some food, and comes back to report that the couple from our birthing classes who we’d run into in triage the night before had their baby about an hour and half after we saw them.

Not that I’m counting, but both couples who we saw in triage over the last two nights now have their babies, while we continue to wait. I know it’s irrational because we are so close to meeting our baby too, but I have a flashback to that familiar feeling while struggling through infertility: “Why can everyone else have a baby so easily and I can’t?”

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – 8PM

Finally, after about 10 hours, the resident Dr. comes to check on me and confirm that the foley is still in tight. Therefore, once a room becomes available, I will be moved back to labour and delivery to start the pitocin. In the meantime while we wait, she suggests that I tug on the catheter periodically to see if it’s loosened up at all. I do as suggested, but each time, it feels as tight as ever.

June 22nd (41w, 5d) – 11PM

We finally get the word that they are ready for us in labour and delivery, so it’s time to once again change rooms, hopefully for the last time before our baby comes. I’m nervous, but resigned to the fact that I do really need the pitocin to make this happen, and ready for something to finally happen.

To be continued…

Update – 41 Weeks 6 Days

This will be another “all about me” post about where I’m at with this pregnancy.

Last Friday (4 days ago), I went for a biophysical profile to make sure that the baby was still thriving and could stay in longer. The test is a fancy name for an ultrasound where they monitor the baby and conditions in your uterus to make sure that everything is functioning as it should. If not, I would have gone to the hospital to be induced that day.

As is apparent from the title of this post, everything looked good. As in really good. As in making me think that the baby was way to comfortable in there to consider coming out any time soon.

One of the things they look for in the biophysical profile is how the baby’s moving. I had to eat something sweet 15 minutes before the ultrasound in order to get him moving (tough assignment, I know). We were running a little late, so while we were waiting for the coffee shop next door to get my hot chocolate ready, I drank half an orange juice to kick things off. I managed to get the hot chocolate down before the ultrasound too, and in no time at all, the baby was bouncing around inside me.

Sure enough throughout the ultrasound, the tech kept commenting on how active the baby was. She also told us that based on the level of activity, she didn’t see him coming in the next few days since babies usually quiet down a few days before delivery. The other thing she commented on was that the level of amniotic fluid was still very good, and in fact did not look at all like I was overdue. Overall, we passed all the tests with flying colours.

Based on how everything went, my husband and I took the opportunity to enjoy “one last weekend” (knowing that unlike the last two weekends, this was really going to be it), and got in dinner, a movie, and our third Blue Jays game in six days.

Over the past week, I’ve also done a lot of walking, based on my Dr.’s recommendation to get things moving on the labour front (while going for 6km, 10km, and 5km walks in the last 5 days tired me out, it apparently did nothing for my cervix).

This morning was my last OB appointment as a pregnant woman. Even though I’ve been overdue for a while now, I still can’t believe that this baby will be here now in a matter of days!

In a nutshell, the Dr. said we are “at the end of the line” and it’s time to have the baby. He checked my cervix to see how I was going to get induced, and nothing much was happening on that front. My cervix is still long, it’s not soft, and I’m not dilated at all. So, the first step in the induction process will be to insert a gel that should soften my cervix and then we’ll go from there.

At this point, I just sit and wait for the hospital to call. Apparently they are very busy today, so it likely won’t be today, but I should expect a call sometime tomorrow to come in and start the induction process.

I can’t believe how close I am now! This is really it.

Update – 40 weeks 6 days

I have been suffering from writer’s block the last few weeks. I’ve started two separate posts about some thoughts I have about labour, and the transition from infertile to pregnant infertile to parent, but in both cases they are sitting as unfinished drafts.

I am 40 weeks 6 days today, so instead of waiting for inspiration which may not come before baby arrives, I thought I would check in with a “what’s been up with me” post which is more informational and therefore easier to write than a post that tries to provide insight on an issue. This one’s all about me!

Third Trimester Activities

Since I last wrote, I’ve enjoyed some late pregnancy rites of passage. I was fortunate to have two baby showers – one was an afternoon tea at a chocolate shop planned by my friends, and one was a “surprise” (we ended up knowing in advance) family shower planned by my mom. Both were wonderful experiences, and I will treasure the memories for a long time.

A week after my first shower, I splurged on a maternity photo shoot. When I first raised the subject with my husband, I was not sure how he would react. I was worried he wouldn’t see the point and would say it’s a waste of money and try to talk me out of it. Instead, even though I could tell he didn’t completely understand how much it meant to me, he was very supportive. He said we’d worked hard for this pregnancy, and he knows how much I’ve enjoyed being pregnant so if I wanted this extra documentation, I should go for it.

The shoot was a lot of fun. The photographer (who was also pregnant, just a few weeks ahead of me) was pretty hands off, so everything felt very natural. I remember wedding photographers and other professionals being a lot more involved in planning the shot, making me turn one way or another, tilt my head a certain way, or gaze at a specific point in order to get the (very unnatural feeling, but perfect) shot.

This was different though – she would tell us how to stand or lie, and then she just snapped away. Not being the most photogenic person, I was worried that this would result in a lot of bad pictures, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about. The shoot took a few hours, and in addition to feeling pampered and beautiful the whole time, it was also a wonderful way to focus on being pregnant and connecting with my baby.

I worked until May 31st, which was 39 weeks for me. Originally, my contract was supposed to end on April 30th, however as April 30th approached I couldn’t imagine finishing up at that point only to sit at home for 6 weeks plus waiting for baby to arrive.

Working the extra month was definitely the right decision for me. I felt good until the very last week when I was feeling pretty tired and looking forward to being off.  I was also happy to make the extra money from working another month. And my department threw a surprise shower for me a week before I left! This one was actually a surprise. I had no idea what was going on until my hand was on the board room doorknob and I started having suspicions about the “meeting” I’d been asked to attend.

The Due Date and Beyond

Over the last month or so, I have been reading and re-reading my pregnancy books and notes from our pre-natal classes for signs that labour is imminent, and to prepare myself for what it is going to feel like. I’ve also had friends checking in regularly to see if anything is happening yet, and sharing their experiences of pre-labour.

Up until my due date, I did not feel like anything at all was happening. I felt the same as I had all month, just more. More tired, more achey, more frequent peeing. I was not feeling any new sensations like pressure in my pelvis, or contractions, so was not surprised at my OB appointment last week at 40 weeks 1 day when my Dr. checked my cervix and said that nothing was happening yet. He also confirmed my suspicions that the baby had started his descent but had not yet dropped. Based on this information, he estimated it would be another week or so and gave baby a new ETA of June 17th.

Last night, I was feeling some activity in my pelvic region, including some painful cramping, so I was wondering if things were going to be kicking off soon. However, today I feel the same as always, and baby is not any lower. I have an OB appointment tomorrow, so I’ll get the scoop on what the plan is if baby does not arrive by Sunday.

Overall, I haven’t felt anxious about still being pregnant, and have enjoyed the extra time to get things done, have some me-time, and fit in a few more social activities.

Moving Beyond Pregnancy

Over the last few weeks, I’ve started preparing myself for life after pregnancy. Aside from becoming a parent and having a baby to take care of (which I could write entire posts about), there are the other peripheral things that are going to be changing very soon.

I have started washing and putting away some of my maternity clothes that I know I will not be wearing in the next two weeks (mostly work clothes and sweaters), and have already contacted some pregnant friends about whether they want to borrow anything from me. Last week, I also went to buy some nursing tops to supplement my post-baby wardrobe. I was disappointed to find that there was limited selection, and what there was didn’t seem particularly attractive. I kept being drawn to the cute maternity outfits, but had to hold off and tell myself I am past that stage now.

While I have not missed alcohol and the forbidden pregnancy foods while pregnant, now that the restrictions will be coming off (or at least relaxed) in the next few weeks, I am looking forward to enjoying what I’ve missed. I am planning a raw sushi/sashimi meal shortly after birth, and have started thinking about what sort of fruity cocktail will be my summer evening treat.

In addition to the pre-natal classes, which focused on labour and breastfeeding, my husband and I took a baby care class. It was only 3 hours, but was crammed full of information, much of it new to us. A coworker had given me her copy of “What to Expect in the First Year”, and last week I went out and bought several books about caring for a baby, which I’ve started reading.

I admit I’ve also been a little nervous about how I’m going to feel about my body once this baby comes out. I have really liked how I look pregnant (I’m sure this is in large part due to having bump envy while dealing with infertility), and I can honestly say I can’t think of a time that I felt more attractive (in the moment  – of course you always look back on pictures when younger/thinner and realize how good you look, but at the time you don’t appreciate it). While it’s a small thing overall, I am nervous about how the transition to post-pregnancy pooch and leaky breasts in non-underwire bras is going to feel.

Since this post is twice as long as my target length, and I’m off to see a Blue Jays game, I’ll end it here. Hoping to write more in the next few days!

Is Pregnancy Really that Bad?

It’s been interesting for me to note the changes in my body, and my mood as I progress through this pregnancy. I am now in the third trimester, and at 29 weeks have only 25% of the pregnancy left (give or take of course).

Every trimester and up to a point, every week is slightly different, but for me (as for many women who struggled with infertility before getting pregnant), the most important milestones and indicators of whether this pregnancy is going well or not have been tied to how well the baby seems to be doing. Reassuring ultrasounds, encouraging test results, and reaching that magic viability date of 24 weeks have all meant a lot more than how I may be feeling on a given day.

While it’s somethng I’ve noticed since we first started telling people about the pregnancy, it seems like in the last week I can’t escape the message that pregnancy is some horrible ordeal that must be endured and suffered through, rather than a miracle to be cherished and appreciated.

On Sunday, I started a new pre natal yoga class. The class is an hour and half long, but the first half hour or so is devoted to a talk on a pregnancy related topic such as preparing for labour, or proper nutrition while pregnant. However, this Sunday the instructor told us she was getting over a cold and since her voice was in rough shape, she’d turn the floor over to us for a discussion.

The chosen topic of discussion? Pregnancy complaints. So, for the next half hour, I got to listen to the other women discussing their aches and pains and all of the ways that their bodies have suffered over the course of their pregnancies.

Then, two days later, as I approached 29 weeks, I went online to read about what’s happening with me and baby at this particular point in time. Since I don’t think I could do justice to what I read by simply describing it, below is a direct quote from the first website I went to describing what being 29 weeks pregnant is like:

“Let’s get right to the point: You’re a bloated, water-retaining mess. Chances are good you can’t get your sneakers on or your wedding ring off, so get comfy in your slippers. Your pants don’t fit. Your shirts don’t fit. And now, thanks to the swelling in your feet, your shoes don’t fit. You can thank a wonderful thing called edema for that. Go edema!”

Seriously?? I was shocked to read about what a horrible state I was in. I really didn’t think things were so bad. I felt my feet, and my shoes seemed to fit fine. I checked to see if my fingers were swollen, and was easily able to slide my rings off. And as to clothes fitting? Like the vast majority of women, by the third trimester I’d been wearing nothing but maternity clothes for several months. So while I did feel like I’d gotten a lot bigger over the last few weeks, my clothes were made to accomodate that, and felt as comfortable as always.

I realize that pregnancy results in a lot of changes to a woman’s body, not all of which are pleasant. And I realize that for some women, these changes and side effects are more severe and can be extremely uncomfortable, and even prevent them from functioning normally on a day to day basis. I am by no means trying to minimize the very real physical symptoms that prevent many women from enjoying their pregnancies.

My issue is that lately it seems that everywhere I turn, everything I read and hear seems to be telling me I should be miserable, when in fact I’ve probably never been happier. Yes, I’ve been lucky that the pregnancy symptoms I’ve had have been mild in comparison to what some people go through, but I know I’m not the only woman out there to have a positive pregnancy experience. And yet, the focus everywhere sems to be on the negative.

I even see this in my day to day interactions. People are constantly asking me how I’m feeling, and even before I answer, sympathizing that I must be feeling so uncomfortable due to [fill in the blanks with the malady du jour]. After a while, I felt like I was letting people down if I didn’t have some unpleasant story to share, so it got to the point where I was actually relieved to be able to share that in the last few weeks my back and hips have been feeling really sore.This seemed to satisfy them more than my earlier answer that everything was great.

Crazy, yes? But par for the course apparently.

Documenting the Pregnancy Experience

Last month, I started writing in a pregnancy journal that my mom got me for Christmas, in order to document more of the details of this pregnancy. At first, the idea of a pregnancy journal terrified me. As I have written elsewhere on this blog, my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 11 weeks. As expected, this experience (in addition to 3+ years of infertility) changed my expectations for and experience of pregnancy forever.

In dealing with the aftermath of the miscarriage, I spent a lot of time with a friend who’d lost a pregnancy at 20 weeks about a month before I got pregnant, sharing our grief and trying to heal. I remember very clearly being with her about a week before her expected due date, and talking about whether she was going to do anything special that day. It turns out she had a small ritual planned, where she would open her box of mementoes of the pregnancy/baby and spend some time with these objects. The box included ultrasound photos, plaster impressions of her tiny baby’s feet, and a belly book.

I hadn’t heard of a belly book before, so she explained that it was similar to a pregnancy journal, and that it was where she had documented her pregnancy through weekly pictures of her belly. Upon hearing this, I still remember the two very strong emotions I felt. First off, I felt incredibly sad for her that she had this tangible reminder of the joy and expectations that she and her husband had for the lost pregnancy, and how difficult it would be to look through the book and contrast her grief against the memory of how she had felt while the pictures were being taken.

The second strong emotion I felt was relief for myself that I did not have a belly book, pregnancy journal, or any similar chronicle of my ill-fated pregnancy. The only remotely comparable thing we’d had was pictures of the pregnancy pee stick showing those two magical lines, which I deleted from my computer several weeks after the miscarriage because I couldn’t face accidentally flipping to them. The lack of a belly book or pregnancy journal was purely a fluke – it is totally the sort of thing I would have gotten if I’d been in the baby and pregnancy section of the bookstore at the right time.

When I got pregnant this time around, even though I was comfortable buying small baby things fairly early in the pregnancy (as I was able to tell myself they were for my eventual baby, whether it be this one or another one), I couldn’t bring myself to get a pregnancy journal or belly book, which would be so intimately tied to this pregnancy and baby.

However, when we told my mom about the pregnancy, one of the first questions she asked was whether I was keeping a pregnancy journal, and after I said no, she highly recommended I do. So, it was no surprise when I got one under the Christmas tree from her, but it still took me a few weeks before I was able to get over my fear and actually write in it.

Since then, I have written 3 posts with details of how our appointments went, or what new milestones we’re experiencing. I write when I’m in bed, just before going to sleep, while feeling the baby moving around inside.

In one sense, the journal is more about facts than this blog – a detailed explanation of how the anatomy scan went, a documentation of my weight and baby’s heartbeat, and other such factual details which I want to remember, but don’t feel quite comfortable boring my blog readers with.

However, one of the surprising things I’ve really enjoyed about the journal is that it is also much more personal than this blog. While the blog is primarily about my feelings and experiences, my journal entries are written to my baby, and focus on him. I honestly don’t know if he’ll ever read them (I think the fact that he’s a boy and not a girl makes it less likely that he’d ever be interested), but as I write”you” instead of “the baby”, and “daddy” instead of “my husband”, without fail tears of joy come to my eyes and I feel an uncontrollable outpouring of love and an intense connection to the miracle growing inside me.

23 Weeks 3 Days and All is Good!

I won’t even bother making excuses! I think I just need to resign myself to the fact that I will be writing a new blog post every month instead of every few days, and just go with it, so here goes…

Even though I am now more than halfway through this pregnancy, the reality of being pregnant still fills me with wonder. Every morning when I wake up, one of the first thoughts I have is how far along I am that day, and the comfort that this knowledge brings me. Wednesdays are extra special, as that is when my pregnancy enters a new week, which means my fruit based pregnancy ticker (which is attached to my signature on one of the infertility forums I post on) bears me a new fruit. These little rituals help me believe that this is happening for real, and that sooner rather than later we will be blessed with meeting our baby boy.

Along with counting down the days, I am loving the experience of being pregnant. Every night before I go to bed, I stand in front of the full length mirror in my bedroom and relish the curves of my naked body, staring in wonder at my growing belly and changing breasts. Throughout the day, when I walk by a mirror I sneak glances at my silhouette, and when I am washing up in the bathroom at work (assuming nobody else is around), I smooth down my top so I can get a better view of my belly.

Since I last wrote, we have had our anatomy scan, and two OB appointments, and everything continues to be progressing perfectly! Our risk of Downs based on the triple screen testing was determined to be extremely low at 1 in 20,000 (compared to the 1 in 200 or so that is statistically expected for a woman my age), the anatomy scan did not reveal any red flags, baby’s heartbeat is strong, and my weight gain is on track. I really could not have asked for a smoother pregnancy. With each new milestone and piece of good news, I say a silent “thank-you” to my baby for his part in making everything so perfect.

A Telling Experience

Hello, poor neglected blog! I have had two posts that I started sitting in draft for several weeks now. I don’t really have an excuse (well, a weeks of Christmas busy-ness comes to mind, but other than that, no excuse!). I do have some time today to try to catch up a bit, so here goes.

Once we moved from the first to the second trimester, my husband and I turned to the crucial question of who to tell about the pregnancy, and when. Up until 12 weeks, the only people who knew about the pregnancy were: our fertility clinic in Toronto; our fertility clinic in our old city; my acupuncturist in Toronto; and my acupuncturist in our old city. And that’s it. No family. No friends. Nobody else.

I was pretty sure a few people had guessed (based primarily on my lack of drinking), but we hadn’t admitted to anything.

We had decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t be posting a splashy announcement on facebook (that will have to wait until the baby is born!), nor would we be sending out a mass email to all of our contacts announcing the news. Yes, someone my husband used to work with sent the following email a few years ago: “[Wife] is preggers!!”. Not for us.

Our original plan was to tell our families at Christmas time, which would coincide with the 17 week mark of the pregnancy. My husband actually wanted to wait even longer, until our anatomy scan at 18 to 20 weeks, but I didn’t think I could hold out that long.

Our first OB appointment after being released from the fertility clinic was at 13 weeks 5 days. Unfortunately, it was rescheduled last minute, and my husband was unable to go to the new appointment time, so it looked like I was going on my own. However, my mom and step dad were coming to our house for lunch the day before the appointment, and in the end we decided that if we told them the news that day, then my mom could come to the appointment with me (the OB and hospital are actually right across the street from her house, so even if she couldn’t come along, I would have wanted to park in her driveway).

So, that’s how it started! The following weekend we told my husband’s parents and my dad and step mom, and then started sharing the news with friends as we saw them/spoke with them.

Sharing the news has been wonderful. It’s a relief to finally be able to tell people about the pregnancy, instead of pretending there’s nothing new with us, and it’s great how excited everyone is for us. Nobody knows the full details of our infertility struggle, but most people we’ve told know we’d been trying for a while, and some know about our miscarriage and/or fertility treatments. So they understand on some level that this pregnancy did not come easy.

Wonderful as it has been, sharing the news has also been scary. With each new person we tell, the pregnancy feels more real. The more we talk about it, the more excited we get. However, facing the reality of the pregnancy also forces us to confront the fears that we’ve tried to suppress that there’s still so many things that can go wrong. I have another post started (which hopefully I’ll finish soon) which delves more into that side of things, so stay tuned.

It’s a….Boy!

As I wrote in my last post, the most amazing thing happened at my 12 week 1 day ultrasound – while I did not get to hear the baby’s heartbeat, I found out that we were having a boy! I had read in my pregnancy books that by week 11, the baby’s sex organs would be differentiated enough that in theory it was possible to know the baby’s sex. But none of the books had even hinted that the ultrasound technology was sophisticated enough to pick up on this. Rather, the books make sinister references such as “if you could see your baby outside the womb, you would be able to see the sex”.

I know people who wait until the baby is born to find out the sex, but my husband and I are not those people. We are both planners, and I (I’ll speak for myself) am impatient, so we both wanted to know as soon as possible. Up to this point, we had referred to the baby as MB (i.e. embie). However, while we spoke of MB in the masculine, we did not actually expect that MB was really a boy.

While we were keeping an open mind, both of us were gearing ourselves up for a girl. My husband had even recently started saying things like “When MB is born, she’ll like….”. Our reasons for expecting a girl were at once completely rational, and entirely baseless:

First off, we had the perfect name (first and middle) picked out. Both of us loved it! It was beautiful, simple, and not too common. Since we weren’t having much luck agreeing on any boy names, we figured it had to be a girl.

Also, after experiencing our friends’ little kids, my husband had decided that girls seemed easier. The little boys were constantly on the move, dismantling everything in sight, while the girls sat quietly and played with their toys. So, my husband had decided that we would have a girl.

I had a similar bias, but for different reasons. Anytime I pictured how I would decorate the nursery, it was always very girly – lilac walls, a flowery chandelier, etc. And the little girl clothes were beyond adorable!

So, when I called my husband after finding out the sex and had him guess what it was, it’s no surprise that he guessed it was a girl.

“Guess again!” I said. And with the same sense of wonder that I had felt, he said “It’s a boy!”.

With this new knowledge, both of us saw a shift in our attitudes towards the pregnancy. Up to that point, we had been taking it day by day, or at most, week by week. We celebrated each new milestone and looked ahead to what was next, but weren’t very good at thinking long term. We had talked a bit about how things were going to change once the baby came, but it hadn’t really felt real that an actual baby was going to be the outcome of what we were currently going through.

However, now that we knew it was a boy, we started talking about what our son would be like – things like would he take after his father, what sorts of father/son activities my husband would do with him, and how to raise a little boy. A lot of this conversation was driven by the need to reframe our expectations from a fuzzy likely-girl, to an actual, real boy. Both of us had to purge our little girl thoughts and replace them with little boy thoughts.

However, regardless of the motivation for these talks, the end result was what mattered: the process got us that much closer to believing that everything was going to turn out okay, and the possibility of a baby became that much more real.

Catching Up – the NT Scan

Here I am again with a backlog of posts to write! A lot has happened over the last month (? – or however long it’s been since I wrote, I didn’t even check the last date I wrote). We leave for vacation on the 17th, but I should have some time between now and then to write a few more posts and attempt to catch up.

The first significant event I have to write about is our NT (nuchal translucency) scan. This is an ultrasound done between 11 and 13 weeks, which measures the thickness at the back of the baby’s neck to assess the risk of Downs Syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. Mine was scheduled for 12 weeks 1 day, and unfortunately my husband was not able to join me due to work commitments.

I had heard that it may be possible to hear the heartbeat around 12 weeks (so far we’d just seen it), so I was really hoping to have that opportunity.

Usually, with my husband there, I would watch his face, and his big smile while the ultrasound tech was doing her thing, to reassure myself that everything was okay. Since he wasn’t with me this time, I asked to see the baby before she started her measurements, and was surprised to see it wasn’t moving around like last time. I mentioned it to the tech, and she smiled “Baby’s sleeping. Good baby.”

She went about her work, and then switched from the vaginal to the abdominal ultrasound and kept going. And then she said the most amazing thing: “Do you want to know the sex?”

I practically sat bolt upright. “Yes, yes, of course I do” I said, hoping she wouldn’t change her mind. “Okay, have a look.”. I looked where she was pointing on the 3D ultrasound part of the screen, which showed the baby in a vertical position with its legs spread. As soon as I looked, I knew right away. “It’s a boy!” I said in amazement. She smiled, and then we got back to the work at hand.

At the end of the ultrasound, it was time for the ultrasound picture. By now, after all the disruption, baby was no longer sleeping, and the tech started laughing. “Silly baby, look!”. I sat up to look at the 3D ultrasound, which showed baby holding his (his!) ears at the side of his head. It was the silliest loooking thing, and picture makes me smile every time I look at it.

After the scan, I had to go for bloodwork, since results of the bloodwork and further bloodwork in the 2nd trimester would be combined with the NT scan results to assess the risk of chromosomal abnormalities. I had  a look at the requisition for the bloodwork, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it listed the NT scan measurement. It was 1.2mm, or well below the 3.0mm that could indicate issues. Phew. Another successful milestone. I knew that I still had to wait for the bloodwork results, but we were off to a good start.