Sunday, November 11, 2007

A pre-natal prologue: The ups, downs and ultrasounds...

As tedious as it can be, it is only fair to start this blog off with the requisite "why I am starting this blog" and provide the reader with enough background to feel confident that s/he will return. It is also only fair to start this off admitting that I have a sneaky suspicion this prologue is going to be of epic proportions. Just stick with it, please...I promise to toy with brevity in the future.

I imagine the only way you have found your way to this blog is by invitation from either Eric or myself, therefore you also must know we are pregnant! It will be interesting to see how far along I get before there is another set of eyes on this blog. To date, I am between 6-7 weeks pregnant (although, for reasons to be elucidated below, feels more like an eternity). Our intention is not to widely advertise our pregnancy until Christmas, which puts us right at the end of the first trimester. Although, we would be lying if we said not a soul knows. Due to some extenuating circumstances, others have been taken into our confidence, and know that we are pregnant. Reasons to follow in a bit; have I built up enough anticipation? If not, let me bullet out some of the nuts and bolts of the past 6 weeks.

  • The pregnancy has been confirmed by 4 home pregnancy tests (qualitative measure, i.e. urine tests), 2 office tests (also qualitatively measured), 3 hCG blood draws (quantitative test), and an ultrasound (u/s). Why so many? I had some bizarre bleeding early on, which I could have mistaken for an abnormal episode of the dread that most women go through every month, but with the additional nausea and and overwhelming sense of "something is different," I knew in my gut I was either pregnant or miscarrying, and after confirmation of a pregnancy by the home tests, the doctor wanted to make sure things were going well through blood draws and an u/s.
  • Eric and I have no cute story to share about how I broke the news. I didn't pull an "Aunt Becky" from Full House and cook a meal with baby carrots, baby corn, etc. I had no "a-ha!" moment...it was more of a "what?" With a pale pink 2nd line of a pregnancy test, I wasn't sure I was actually pregnant. The moment I read the results the first time, a realtor came into the condo to show our place. I am totally serious. I threw the test under the sink, got in my car, and tried to track down Eric at a track meet. Charming, no?
  • The first u/s was also not like it is in the movies. I could not have a transabdominal one because nothing could be found so early on (5-6 weeks), so she went inside, and after a lot of searching (man my bladder looked huge!), found a walnut sized black hole that apparently is my uterus. We briefly saw the yolk sac, and some tissue on the side of the uterus that appeared to indicate a heart beat (99% sure of it was her quote). Eric couldn't go to the appointment, but my amazing friend Carol was there. Eric was upset, but after seeing the scan, said, "you can't see anything! I am not so upset."
Let's take breather...phew. Ready again? So, back to what prompted me to start this blog. It may appear that it started because we simply want to chronicle our first pregnancy. That is partly accurate, but what really prompted me to start this was more out of emotional necessity. Let's just say that I had a preconceived notion that my pregnancy would be amazing--I would run, eat healthily, be full of hormonal happiness. What I neglected to consider was that those same hormones could cause a coup on my emotional stability and ability to function normally. As my hCG levels doubled, my body developed an unwavering relationship with nausea. Oh, and we are not talking car sick for a few hours nausea, we are talking complete and utter distaste for anything labeled as "food." Morning sickness is a misnomer...it is every minute of your life nausea. Thankfully, I have experienced limited vomiting. What this meant was that for someone who is already admittedly on the border of too thin, losing weight during a time that you are supposed to be minimally maintaining weight, was scary. And not the type of scary associated with watching Cape Fear at an 8th grade slumber party, but utter terror, fueled by a history of anxiety and raging hormones. It is so difficult to explain what it feels like to gag when you open the refrigerator, but let's just say it is just miserable. I was assured by my doctor that it is okay for me to be losing weight, even being so tiny in the first place. Hold on--perhaps "assured" isn't the best word. Let's just say "told," because the truth is, I didn't believe her, and still have doubts. It's not worth it getting into numbers, but let's just say I decided to stop weighing myself when I was approaching a weight I haven't posted since high school.

I tried ginger ale, crackers in bed, prenatal vitamin at night, pressing in my ears, meditation, brisk walking, bland foods...to no avail. (Okay, so my "meditation" was more like me trying to calm my mind, only to find me fueling myself with self defeating thoughts in a mantra like fashion. I'm working on it...).

With each failure I experienced as I tried out all the "cures" for nausea, I started worrying more, judging myself, and setting myself up perfectly for more anxiety and failure. With Eric's consuming job and life as a X-C coach on the hunt for a state championship, and my mother thousands of miles away in MA, I was feeling a bit lonely (I did tell my mother...she was quite the champion for me when I would be driving to my blood tests after work for a week straight, crying for seemingly no reason!) This fun little "secret" was turning into a prison sentence. I lost sight of the pregnancy and focused on my inability to eat and nourish myself, and the baby. When I realized that I would be going to my first u/s by myself, I knew that I needed another woman who was physically near, to know. In walk Carol. Truly, she is a saint, and as difficult as it was to "spill the beans," I felt enormous relief in having her confidence. She cried with me at the doctor's when I came out with an ultrasound, and supported me in a way that I am forever indebted. I think sometimes we neglect to honor and respect the power of a loved one's presence. Just her physically sitting in the waiting room was a miracle.

The nausea continued, my running and healthy eating took a hiatus of indeterminate length, and I was having to dodge questions like, "are you sick?" "Where have you been?" The worst was when, usually in the presence of food, I would say that I couldn't eat. I knew I would deal with the following 2: 1) others thinking I have an eating disorder, 2) others thinking I am pregnant. I cannot count how many times people would come right out and ask, "Are you pregnant?" "That is totally how I felt when I was pregnant...talk to me in 9 months!" "Did Eric tell you the first thing I thought when he said you were sick?" I hate lying, so I would just do some awkward little verbal dance and just try to avoid the conversation. So, in my desperation, I called the doctor's office again, primarily worried about the nausea, anxiety and weight loss, and was prescribed Zofran for nausea (let's just say that it is great for reducing vomiting, but doesn't do much for nausea), and it was suggested I talk to a counselor about my anxiety. Eek! A counselor!?! I am a strong, independent woman who needs to see a counselor within 6 weeks of becoming pregnant? Well, I swallowed my ego, and asked for the first available appointment.

Enter Dr. B. A clinical psychologist in her early 30's with personality enough for a room of kindergarteners. She was warm, funny, and most importantly, validating. I was apparently not alone, and she worked with many women who had gotten to the point of hospitalization in their first trimesters (please not me!), and said that I'll get through it. Boy did I cry...for once, I had someone explicitly identifying each one of my fears and concerns. She acknowledged that my nausea was bad enough, but my anxiety just made it worse--and that I was simply not cutting myself a break. I was (and am) doing the best I could, with the cruddy circumstances dealt, but that I don't deserve such vicious self-judgment. She was right: I was angry at myself for not being able to eat the best, exercise regularly, and even more, not enjoy being pregnant. That it is hard when the only symptom you have is nausea, and with a decreasing waist line, it is hard to "feel" pregnant. Luckily, she said that she didn't think I was crazy, or depressed, and said that medication really shouldn't be considered at this point. (phew!), but here was her prescription:

  1. Prenatal Yoga. I had to laugh. The last time I tried this was with Amy and Carol at Post Brookhaven. Let's be honest. The only thing I could think about (beside the fact that I am not flexible), is that with all the straining and rears in the air, this could turn into a comedy real fast if there was someone with an intestinal orchestral piece to share. (I still laugh now at the thought. There is something about tooting that will make me laugh until the day I die!) But, I decided to look into a program called Pierce Yoga--prenatal yoga.
  2. Stop the negative self-talk. It is okay not to love being pregnant right now. It bears no indication of your desire to have a baby. Feeling sick is the pits. Accept that, accept that it is also an anxious time, and that "this too shall past."
  3. Introduce the idea that this is a spiritual opportunity. Dr. B said to me, "I don't usually say this, but I am actually really excited for you. I feel like something big is going to happen for your life in terms of spirituality and self discovery." She continued to share a personal story (not very counselor like!), and I kid you not, my stomach growled with hunger pains for the first time in 1 1/2 weeks (although, I still had no appetite). Much like Carol, she is a miracle.
  4. Journal. Journal without discrimination, editing or concern for artistic integrity. Write about this experience so you can share it with yourself at a time that is much better...and with Eric, and Linus (the baby...we'll get to that name a little later), and maybe even at some point your friends and family.
So, here I am. Journaling without regard for sentence structure or concern for quality. This is hard for an English major, but embracing this vulnerability is rather liberating. I will not proofread my posts, and am going to let the words spill out of me from a space of emotion rather than the organized files of intellect. I recognize that this may make it harder to read (no harder than James Joyce I hope!), but will not, and cannot make an apology for that.

In addition to dedicating efforts to regular posts (I will include fun pictures and stories, don't worry), I have committed to posting at least one thing I am "grateful for" at the conclusion of each post. (I know, I know...totally A La Oprah, but I think she was on to something). I will try not to repeat, too.

You still with me? Congrats! One more piece of business before I close. "Little Linus." Eric and I don't know if the baby is a boy or girl (but want to find out at the first possible moment. The element of surprise is not something I enjoy. I am the type to go to all sorts of lengths to find out a surprise, and then hate myself for finding it out!). Ever since Eric and I talked about having kids, he would use the name "Linus." Ali: "When we have kids, I am not going to be able to go to as many X-C meets, you know." Eric: "You'll just bring Linus with you!" When I found out I was pregnant, there was no question that s/he would be called Linus. Now, whether or not the name makes the cut if we have a boy is still up for discussion as I think past the age of 6, we could be dealing with teaching Linus how to field the barrage of teasing he will endure. So, as "unreal" as this pregnancy feels with my losing weight, using the name "Linus" has been really helpful in redirecting my pain and suffering to remember the source--a baby. I hope that this chronicle of the next months can eventually be shared with Linus, and that s/he knows how loved s/he is...even when I find myself dissolving in tears, wishing for this part to pass. What is strange is that I honestly love this baby already. I love the potential. And I love the fact that for the first time in my life, I am carrying around in 1 body, my body, 2 hearts...

Gratitudes:

I am grateful for the opportunity to keep a record of this experience. As jumbled, emotional, and conflicting as it may get at times, it is going to be an honest account of who I am, and who my family is becoming.

I am grateful for Carol, my mother, and the one other person (besides clinicians) who knows (who I prefer to remain nameless for right now). I am still searching for the right word--friends, angels, miracles...they all lack in truly articulating how I feel about you. I'll get back to you on that one...

I am grateful for having the most wonderful and amazing husband. Without judgment, he has been able to endure what has been a down right awful few weeks. In fact, he just came in to the room, gave me a great big kiss, and I can honestly say I still melt each time. I still cannot believe how lucky we are. Eric and I have a truly blessed life...and I cannot wait to count a new blessing in a matter of months.

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