Archive | December, 2012

So what kind of turtle is it?

30 Dec

Okay, one note on finding out the gender. This was always something I was fairly strongly against. I was all about the surprise, keeping it old school, buying gender neutral stuff, etc. It was kind of all bundled up with my former all-natural, no-interventions birth (and even conception) ideals.

But then infertility happened. And then this rather difficult pregnancy happened. And then we found out our child has a birth defect and suddenly everything we assumed about what this whole journey would be like, was different. We needed something to hang onto, something to make this real again. To bring it back to being about a baby coming into the world.

We needed to know Turtle’s gender to refocus ourselves and make this about more than the diagnosis.

One of the few benefits of being a high-risk OB patient (along with the frequent ultrasounds), is the possibility of finding out the sex early. We found out through a blood test called the MaterniT21, which tests for Down syndrome, trisomy 18 and trisomy 13 (all three were negative, thankfully). At our first appt with Dr. Kind, he recommended getting it, just to definitively rule out the possibility of any other genetic issues. It was the nurse who casually mentioned that the test also can tell you gender. So there we were at a little over 12 weeks, learning we’d be able to find out the gender in 7-11 days! We were pretty stoked (and shocked. Apparently, fetal cells float around in the bloodstream of the mother and can be detected as early as 10 weeks!).

So a week later, during my work day, I look down at my phone to see I have a missed call and a voicemail. I check the voicemail and it’s Dr. Kind’s office calling to tell me that the results of my MaterniT21 test are back and they are negative. She says nothing of the gender but to call with any questions. Of course I immediately excuse myself and call her back from the empty office space next door.

I have to admit, I was pretty certain Turtle was a girl. I had been having dreams of a daughter since long before we managed to conceive and a few since then too. My extreme morning sickness and the fact that I pretty much looked like shit also pointed to a girl. DH thought boy. No reason, just felt it. I expressed at one point that maybe what we both “thought” it was was really what we both just hoped it was.

Regardless. I get the nurse on the phone and she says immediately, “You want to know the sex?” “Um, yes!” “It’s a boy!” “Are you serious?!” I couldn’t believe it but was of course so, so happy. Suddenly, everything felt so so REAL. Im pregnant with a little boy. Our little boy, the fighter. I immediately called DH and told him. He just said, naturally, “I knew it.” He’s incredibly excited to be having a son though.

And at our second ultrasound with Dr. Kind, he was actually about to SHOW us Turtle’s boy bits! They were itty bitty of course but he assured us they would get bigger.

We kept this a secret until now because we wanted to surprise our families with the news at Christmas. I had thought of giving my parents and DH’s mom a small gift that would indicate a boy. I looked at some little blue turtle stuffed animals but they were kind of silly and didn’t feel right. Then I searched Etsy for “blue turtle” and found this set of three blue turtle ornaments. They are handmade and oh so pretty. And three was the perfect number, one for my parents, one for his mom, and one for us.

All the days leading up to Christmas it was killing us, keeping quiet. We had many gender conversations where we had to watch our pronouns very carefully. Earlier that night, my cousin was asking us if we were still planning an gender reveal party (I had wanted to do the thing with the colored cake, especially when we thought it was twins). I had to lie through my teeth and say “maybe,” when what I wanted to say was, “It’s actually tonight – in about 30 minutes!”

We gave them as the last present of the evening, “something special for the grandparents to be” and made sure they opened them together. They got the turtle reference right away but the gender part didn’t dawn on them until I said, “Notice anything about them?” My mom then said, “It’s a boy turtle?” And the room exploded and everyone was happy and we’re having a boy, ohmigod, the end.

photo-12

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First meeting at Children’s

28 Dec

Before we get into the gender news, I just wanted to give a quick update on our first meeting at Children’s before we left for the holidays.

I don’t know if it was the holidays or just a busy afternoon time (our ultrasound appointment was for 2 pm) but the whole area around Children’s and especially the parking garage were packed! We had to drive up to the tippy top level and park outside in the rain. Walking up to the building, it looks like some kind of giant ship or self-contained city. The place is massive. It has its own CVS, Au Bon Pain, Bank of America ATM, and that’s just what you see when you walk in.

We got directions to the Advanced Fetal Care Center (AFCC) at the front desk and then proceeded to get a little lost. Hallways are color coded and lead in all directions, turning this way and that. It’s quite the maze in there and nothing quite makes logical sense. Crazy to think one day we might know our way around at least part of that place.

Finally we get there (10 minutes late) and then we have to wait about 20 minutes for the ultrasound. The tech was super nice and warned me going in that it was going to be a longer ultrasound. My high-risk OB had said that too with our Level II so I wasn’t worried but this was hands down the LONGEST one ever. It was quite uncomfortable given that I was feeling particularly nauseous and gassy that day. She was pushing really hard and was using three or four different wands (transducers?) of all different shapes and sizes. Some of which hurt more than others. Especially nasty was the one with the squared off corners that showed all my lovely layers of fat, and revealed a cyst on the outside of my uterus (supposedly no big deal?).

When all was said and done, I was being scanned for a solid hour, and they took over 80 pictures (none of which we got to take home!). A rather brusk radiologist came in and asked us some questions. They didn’t seem 100% convinced it was gastroschisis but we assured them that Dr. Kind was absolutely sure and had made the diagnosis on two different occasions.

When that was over, we were starving, so they gave us some snacks and sent us to a little tiny meeting room to await our meeting with one of the surgeons. Except, the surgeon never came. We waited and waited and waited. Finally they told us that surgeon was stuck in the OR and they were trying to get a different one. So we waited and waited and waited some more. Ultimately they tried paging three different surgeons and none of them could make it. We were not upset about this – it’s a hospital and these things happen. It just sucked waiting around for so very long. Finally, our nurse manager, Donna, came and just walked us through everything herself and answered all our questions. We wished she did this from the beginning! She was so knowledgable, patient and kind (as she had been on the phone) and we felt completely confident getting all of the info from just her.

None of the info was particularly revelationary, but hearing everything again in more detail gave us a better sense of what this journey will be like once Turtle is born. We learned more about the medications the baby will be on, how they begin the transition to breastmilk from the IV, the signs they look for, the potential complications, the time it takes. We need to be prepared for an 8-12 week hospital stay. If it is closer to 12 weeks, I’m not sure how that will work for me, given that I only have about 12 weeks of maternity leave. If I never get ANY time at home with Turtle before having to go back to work? Well, that might be really hard.

The hardest part seems like it will be mostly figuring out the basics of life with a child in the hospital (showering, eating, etc.). In a lot of ways, it will be like being home, just with the help of nurses all the time. Once Turtle is out of the NICU, we can dress him/her, and handle most of the care in the hospital room. We can hold the baby, he/she will just have an IV in but it will be taped down to the arm. One of us can sleep in the room with the baby. The other can sleep elsewhere in the hospital. It will most likely be a shared hospital room with another child or baby.

The biggest financial hardships are meals, parking and gas. These really add up fast. I understand it’s helpful if you have someone at home taking care of your laundry/household/pets, packing meals for you, etc. so you can just come home occasionally to rest, shower, get stuff, get food, etc. and go back to the hospital. Luckily (so luckily) my parents will be living at our house and available to help with all this. We’re going to try to only ever have one car downtown at a time, if any. DH can ride his bike and use public transportation as much as possible. My parents can even drop me off and pick me up. I have a feeling I’ll essentially be living at the hospital. It’s hard to imagine sleeping comfortably at home knowing my child is in the hospital and being cared for not by me. But I’m giving myself full permission to change my tune on this once we’re in this for real.

Anyways, that was the gist of it. We spent over four hours there. We are set to go back in mid-January for another ultrasound and to meet with a doctor this time. One interesting thing that happened afterward: after I went to sleep, my phone rang at around 8:45 from a Boston number. I turned over and picked it up and it was actually one of the surgeons we were supposed to meet with, calling from the OR! He gave me a mini schpeal on gastroschisis (nothing new again) which I listened to half asleep. I was just so touched that he took the time to follow up with us. I know we’ll be getting world-class care at Children’s and that eventually it won’t feel like such a big, scary place.

Things I want to remember

26 Dec

I’ve been living this pregnancy with one eye closed. Waiting anxiously for the next blow to fall. And blows there have been.

Too often I’ve let feelings of fear, anxiety, and guilt override the overwhelming joy of finally being pregnant after such a long journey. I have some regret over this but at the same time, I know it’s only natural, given what we’ve been through.

But I want to remember the wonderful moments too. There have been many of those, even just in these past few days at home with our families.

Like telling my uncle on the phone yesterday, whom I rarely get to see, that we’re finally expecting. Even though we rarely talk, he intuitively knew of our struggles. He approached telling me that his grandson, younger than me, was expecting a baby a few years ago with such sensitivity, it was touching and so appreciated. And maybe he just knew when we spoke yesterday that this would finally be the year we’d have that news to share too, because he even asked about it. His joy was palpable. He joked, I always knew I was a great uncle but I guess this makes it official. I think he had been waiting to say that for a very long time.

Like discovering that my Dad goes on babycenter.com to track where the baby is in its growth, and that he likes to look a few weeks ahead.

Like talking with both my parents about our meeting at Children’s, all the information we’ve gathered so far, and feeling like they’re truly in this with us. Making plans as a family for how we will survive 8-12 weeks in the hospital.

Like receiving lots of beautiful maternity clothes for Christmas from my mother, and being told when I put them on that I look beautiful. Like deciding to embrace my burgeoning bump instead of thinking it’s “too big” for where I’m at and that I “just look fat.”

Or like revealing the gender, a secret we’ve kept quiet for the past two weeks, to our families. Yes – we know the gender! And I’ve been dying to tell you that but my cousin reads this blog and I wanted her to be totally surprised on Christmas Eve. I’ll tell the full story and reveal it to you very soon. But it was a perfect moment, just as we hoped for.

Of course my struggles with nausea, constantly needing to pee during the night, round ligament pain, and a new symptom of occasionally feeling the awful need to pass out after coming up stairs or while in the shower, have not abated for the holiday but that’s okay.

There’s so much good and wonderful here and I am so thankful.

14 weeks 5 days

20 Dec

Farmgirl Fare - baby turtle 1

 

I got back from my back-to-back OB appointments a little while ago and I’m happy to report that baby Turtle is GROWING!

Going into today’s ultrasound, I was once again nervous. Ultrasounds have been a high-stress moment for us all along during this pregnancy. In my mind, it was entirely possible we’d see a lack of growth or perhaps even no heartbeat. You know how the post-infertile mind works. Or is it how the post-infertile, post-first tri bleeding and spotting, post-vanishing twin, post-gastroschisis diagnosis mind works? (Not that I feel I’m no longer an infertile because after you’ve walked this road, it’s impossible to unknow what you know. Once an infertile, always an infertile.)

I even told my parents, who asked if after Christmas they can start telling more people, like cousins, that anyone you tell is someone you may have to untell. Crazy talk for the second trimester? I didn’t think so.

But how could I doubt our little Turtle!? Our little fighter? Of course he/she is still growing strong. Measuring right on track! We saw leg bones and arm bones and a bladder and god, the most gorgeous spine. The spine has got to be one of the coolest things upon which to gaze via ultrasound. And we got double confirmation once again from Dr. Kind that it is definitely just a gastroschisis. (There was a moment when the ultrasound tech made me fear otherwise but she didn’t know what she was talking about. He came in and then called her back in to show her exactly why it’s a gastroschisis and not an omphalocele.) Other than that, all is looking good!

Then we met with our delivery OB. I’ll go with Dr. Caring for her for now. This was our initial intake appointment with her practice and wow – what a difference from the first practice I was with near home. Unlike that first appointment, I felt like Dr. Caring actually gave a shit about us! Imagine that. In fact, I got the impression that she cared a great deal about us, and that she will take very good care of us indeed. She knows we want to do a vaginal birth if possible (big if) and she has even delivered gastro babies vaginally before. She recommended I get a flu shot (did you know pregnant women are 3x more likely to get the flu?) and they were able to give it to me right there in the office.

Between Dr. Kind and Dr. Caring, I feel completely confident that we’ll be getting excellent care. Tomorrow is another big moment: our first visit to Children’s and first meeting with a pediatric surgeon. I’m a tad nervous but also excited. Plus we’ll get to see our Turtle again!

Episode 15

18 Dec

Just a quick update to let you know that the latest episode of Bitter Infertiles is now live. This is a great episode wherein we speak with Cristy’s amazing infertility therapist, Denise Sterchi (aka Dee, if you follow Cristy’s blog), about some of the emotional challenges we face through infertility. Of course we’re only able to touch upon the tippy tip of that iceberg, but what we do talk about it quite powerful. If you’ve fallen behind on your Bitter Infertiles listening, I strongly encourage you to jump on this one. We’re proud of it. It’s great.

In the beginning of the episode though, we do talk about the tragedy at Newtown. This is something that has deeply affected every parent out there, and even though many of us in this community can’t yet call ourselves parents, in the way we work so hard to achieve our children – we are honorary parents. And you don’t have to be a parent to be stricken and sickened by this terrible tragedy.

In this section, we talk a lot about mental health, which I agree is incredibly – incredibly – important, but it’s also possible to get the impression that we think stricter gun legislation won’t help or doesn’t matter. I can’t speak for my fellow Bitter Infertiles hosts, but I want to just make it clear here that I am not in agreement with that. I know it’s taboo but I’m going to get a little political here: I do think we need to regulate this industry in a stricter way and I do think it could have made a difference in the case of Newtown. Here is a great piece on two key ideas almost everyone can agree with: mental health screenings before gun purchases and more accountable gun distribution and retailing. Personally, I’d love to see more sweeping changes, like what they did in Australia following the 1996 massacre. There hasn’t been a single mass shooting since.

I’m not sure I can agree with the statement that mental health is the “root cause” of this tragedy, because in my opinion (just mine!), it wouldn’t have mattered how sick the shooter was if he couldn’t get his hands on those guns.  Yes, he could have found other ways to injure but few things cause as much harm as semi-automatic weapons. Do you know what those are? Those are guns that automatically reload the bullet for you, making it easy to pump out multiple bullets in quick succession. Which sadly, is just what he did into those tiny bodies. I can’t understand why these killing machines are accessible to the public (we can have those, and not marijuana?), but they are. The mass stabbing at a school in China on the same day? Perfect example. A sick person in need of help, wanting to do harm, with access only to a lesser weapon. Yes, he did get his hands on a weapon but the only thing that matters to me is that none, not one, of those 23 children died.

I don’t want to be divisive here, that is the least of my intentions. Because I know that if any single change is to come from Newtown (and I sure hope it’s more than one), we have to work together. We have to be a community, just as Cristy said, and look out for one another. I just feel strongly that these two issues are inextricably linked where it comes to mass shootings. And as I commented on Cristy’s latest blog post, I get uncomfortable when I see anyone beating the drum for any one issue over another (especially as I’ve seen gun advocates using mental health as an excuse to skip right over the issue of gun control).

Both of these factors (plus those which are unknown) are so important and deserve equal time under the light of scrutiny. I’d like to see is someone leading the charge on looking at the epidemic of mass shootings in this country from a holistic point of view and then tying that to action. Otherwise, I seriously fear nothing will ever change. If the loss of those 20 precious lives in Newtown doesn’t start to incite some change, I can’t think what will. That’s what terrifies me most.

First call with Children’s

14 Dec

Earlier this week, I had a great call with a nurse at the Advanced Fetal Care Center at Children’s Hospital in Boston. My high-risk OB had started the process of reaching out to this center on our behalf so I was expecting a call from them to schedule a time for us to come in and meet with the pediatric surgeons/get a lot of information.

I wasn’t expecting to have a long, informative conversation with a very kind, patient and informed nurse.

Here is what I learned on the call:

-For the average, everyday gastro baby, they do well overall. They just have a long beginning in the hospital because they don’t know how long it will take the bowel to work. They can usually put all of the bowel back in on first day. We may be a simple or complex case – don’t know right now. Right now, we should think of it as simple and learn what we can about that. After 18 weeks they can do a whole survey, usually many loops of the bowel are out.

-60% are closed first day, others need the first 4-5 days in a silo to let the abdomen accept bowl and then do a final closure. Sometimes they incorporate the belly button or make it look like the baby has one. Then the baby looks normal on the outside. The part that’s hard is they don’t know how quickly the bowel will readjust to being used. It takes awhile for it to wake up and start working and absorbing nutrients. That is the hard part. Most babies average 6 weeks in the hospital – though some spend much more, some less. Sometimes the feeding progression is slow, but they have to let the baby’s bowel adapt. 80-85% do very well. Another percentage have complications like a bowel obstruction, which can be seen later in pregnancy.

-When we come in, they will do another ultrasound and we’ll meet with a pediatric surgeon and talk about the full spectrum of things that will happen and can happen. They’ll plan to see me back several times during the pregnancy. During the last part of pregnancy, we will tour the NICU and the regular floor. They can connect us with families who have been through it and can also connect us with a lactation consultant. Hopefully I’ll be able to pump after Turtle is born so they can try feeding him/her my breast milk, which is better than formula for gastro babes.

-I asked about Turtle’s transfer from the hospital where I’ll deliver to Children’s. She said it won’t happen immediately, but in the first few hours. The Children’s surgeons will come to delivery, cover the baby with plastic, put IVs in, let me hold the baby, then put him/her in an ambulance. There are 20+ pediatric general surgeons who treat it at Children’s and they see approximately 15-20 patients per year with this. Apparently, all trained pediatric surgeons can treat it. In the beginning, she acknowledged that it will be bit of a nuisance to come see the baby. Hopefully we’ll have a vaginal delivery, which will mean a quicker recovery.

-In the beginning, Turtle will be in the NICU. When he/she’s there, we can’t stay right beside the baby but could possibly stay in hospital. Once we move to regular unit, there’s a pull out bed. We can stay there or at home. Some people never leave their baby, others are a little weak. It all depends on how I react to having just given birth, but parents are allowed 24 hours/day at Children’s. When I explained all this to DH, he broke my heart when he said he would not sleep a night at home while his child was in the hospital.

-Best of all, she acknowledged that it wouldn’t be the birth and after birth experience we want and deserve. She said  she knew we were coming from IVF and that it doesn’t seem fair. I told her, “Well as long a we get a healthy baby at the end of this, we’ll be happy,” and she said “we will and the baby will be beautiful.” We just had a really great, positive conversation and I already feel so well looked after by the center. The nurse I talked to will be one of two nurses assigned to our case who will be following it all along.

The plan at this point is to go in a week from today for an ultrasound and a meeting with one of the pediatric surgeons. Our nurse wanted to get us in before we go away for the holidays, thinking it would give us peace of mind to get the ball rolling and more of our questions answered (I think it will!). So between this and our high-risk check up next week, we’ll be seeing Turtle TWICE, two days in a row next week. Yipee! Merry Christmas to us… one of the few perks of being high-risk.

Torn

11 Dec

I’ve been at a loss for writing lately. I feel kind of stuck in a lot of ways, between being all “yay, I’m pregnant!” to being focused on our diagnosis and what we need to do to get ready. Stuck between feeling kindred to other pregnant ladies to feeling jealous of them. Between feeling guilty about being pregnant after infertility to feeling – and this is perhaps most conflicting of all – grateful that everything ISN’T perfect so I have things to talk about that aren’t all bumpdates and poopdates, grateful that maybe people envy me a little bit less because of it.

Torn between wanting to be hopeful and have ultimate faith – in the doctors and the hospitals we’ve chosen, and in our strong little Turtle – and wanting to be realistic. Worried that I gave the impression that everything is going to be A-OK when that very much might not be the case. Gastroschisis may be better than other things but it’s still not a walk in the park. Turtle will have to be drugged up on pain meds for the first weeks of his or her life that can make feeding difficult and harm certain organs. He/she will be at risk for many complications. Foremost on my worry list right now is short bowel syndrome.

But I AM pregnant. I feel it everyday in my ongoing, haunting nausea. (Seriously, WHEN will this lift? I drove almost all the way into work today and then had to turn around because I felt so terrible.) I see it in my belly which is growing (noticeably!). We’re gradually telling more and more people. I gave my boss the okay to announce my pregnancy in a company meeting yesterday. I was so nervous for this moment. I had to ask her to say it because I just couldn’t. I’ve been so awkward about all of our announcements, especially to groups (which means any size bigger than more than one person). Of course, everyone was so nice and now it’s nice to not have to “hide” anything anymore (though apparently, lots of people guessed anyways).

I am looking forward to buying baby clothes, choosing names, decorating the guest room. Even though Turtle will probably be born early and won’t be coming home for awhile, I still want to enjoy these things as much as I can. I want to plan for the future and look forward to it but I do so with great hesitation, with serious worry.

I know there’s room for everything. I know the way will become clear. I’m mostly surviving, taking it day by day. But writing gets tough because it’s hard to know what tone to take. As much as I didn’t want this blog to be just another pg after IF blog, sometimes I kind of wish it could be. How do I both enjoy my pregnancy while also giving an accurate picture of what we’re going through? As usual, I want it all.