Dude. This is 3279 words long. They had a HUGE editing job. There are a few paragraphs of TMI in there, but I didn't get too graphic and despite what I said: I DO talk about it at parties. I don't just go there, people. I live there. A few doors down from Margaret Cho.
So here it is: written at 430am one morning in December and un-revised/edited by me:
I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom. My own parents divorced when I was six and while I honestly consider my mom to be one of my best friends (seriously - it’s almost freakish) I did spend my childhood dreaming of the day when I could have that nice little Norman Rockwell nuclear family. When you are nine it’s easy to believe it exists and comes easily for people. When I was twelve I was allowed to start baby-sitting for my mother’s friends. By the time I was a senior in high school I was working in the day care at a local gym and taking early childhood classes. More than half of my life has been spent in the company of the under-5 set in some form or fashion and I honestly believe that it was helping prepare me for motherhood. (Dirty diapers? Check. Colic? Check. Been barfed on? Check. Been woken in the night by a screaming infant? Check. Helped out with baking projects, science fair, recitals, and algebra homework? Check. Done the school run with the flu? Check. See? Covered.)
I met my husband, Steve, at the end of college. He was finishing up his graduate work and we were introduced by mutual friends. Did they know that they had just introduced me to my future husband? Not at all. Did I? No. In fact, our first impressions of each other were not stellar - but a few months later my number was burning a hole in his cell phone and that made me smile. Three and a half years later - in April of 2006 - we got married on the shore of White Rock Lake in Dallas and have been happily making people nauseous ever since.
We had long talks about what kind of family we wanted and we decided that should we encounter any problems we would skip expensive and not-always-reliable fertility treatments and adopt. That morphed on its own to a very firm belief that at least one of our children would be adopted.
Based on the advice of our financial planner and various other trusted confidants, we waited until our first anniversary to start trying for our first child. I dutifully went to the library and picked up a worn copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I bought a basal thermometer, started charting on fertilityfriend.com, and delightfully discovered that my cycles were like clockwork.
That was March. The Friday before Labor day of 2007 I was sitting at a job site with my boss experiencing the worst headache of my life. By Monday I had a fever touching 104 and had been sent to several doctors, winding up in the ER having a spinal tap and cat-scan. The diagnosis: Viral Meningitis. I spent the next few months in and out of the hospital and barely able to move around our loft. Our attempts to start a family came to a grinding halt and we were under strict instructions to remain that way until further notice. Not that I had any desire to do much more than lie on the couch and sleep.
By November I was feeling myself again and in December I weaned off the drugs they had me on - and we were given the green light. Which we took advantage of.
In February I started feeling like I pulled a muscle in my groin area. Upon inspection I determined that a doctor should look at it...and then I made the mistake of googling vague descriptive phrasing and the results all screamed “CANCER!!!!” I managed to freak myself out enough that we skipped Go and went directly to the ER. It was determined to be an abscess in the muscle of my left butt cheek. I’ll spare you the details but there were more drugs, more restrictions on our sex life, and a surgery in April of ‘08 that pushed things back further.
Finally we were cleared...again. While I never resumed charting, I had been paying attention and things were still moving like clockwork. All of that chaos in my body and my reproductive organs just kept ticking away. I celebrated my 30th birthday at a champagne bar with my friends and through my bubbly haze told everyone that after that I was cutting back because it was time for me to be a mommy.
I feel the need to make a note here about my husband: he sets a very high bar. During all of my health issues he never left my side. He cancelled business trips, arranged to work remotely (both from home and the hospital) and took over the housework without complaint on the days when I couldn’t even bear to stand up. I am very spoiled. So when, in September of that year, he decided that he just couldn’t take working for his company any more I supported him without question. (Ok - mostly that was because he’d been so overwhelmingly wonderful, but also because the company in question had moved from “promising start-up” to “shady business” and so leaving felt like the right move.) By October is was clear that in order for him to find a fulfilling position at a company that would allow him to grow we were going to have to leave Dallas. He started flying out of state for interviews.
It was a sick joke played on us by the universe that he managed to be out of town the same days I was ovulating. In November he was offered his current position in Santa Clara, which he started on December 1st. A brief rundown of how those weeks went: I spent Thanksgiving in Florida with my mom’s family. He spent most of December in Santa Clara working while I was in Dallas packing. We spent the week surrounding Christmas in Switzerland with his sister, her husband, and their infant. On January 1st, 2009 we board a plane in Dallas and made our final move away from all of our friends and family to San Jose.
Through all of that my cycle never skipped or shifted. So in April my new OB decided it was time to do some preliminary fertility testing. My new colo-rectal Dr also wanted to do some scans to make sure that he knew how things were in that area. Shortly before this I decided that I was tired of waiting for my body to get with the program and we started interviewing adoption agencies. Since none of my issues were life-threatening (just inconvenient and not something you talk about at parties) none of the adoption professionals we spoke with thought they would in any way hamper our process.
In between all of the various tests (I’ll spare you the details) we managed to have sex only once that cycle and it was far enough away from when I knew I ovulated that I completely ruled getting knocked up out for that month. A few weeks later I went in for my first Progesterone test, and then had a sonogram of my ovaries, and Steve went for his sperm analysis. I joked that it wasn’t fair - I had a whole slew of things lined up that involved needles and dye and cameras going into places where a camera really shouldn’t ever be and he got porn and a cup. He chuckled and countered with “the Playboy was old. And not in a cool vintage way, either.” This did not help his argument.
I waited for my cycle to restart so I could schedule the next round of tests and for the first time since this whole process began it was not behaving like clockwork. Four days late, I pulled out the lone test that had been collecting dust under the sink and unwrapped it. Four minutes later I came out of the bathroom and dropped it on Steve’s desk.
“The fuck is that?!?!?” Yes. That’s actually what I said. He looked down at the test and then up at me.
“Two lines is a yes?” I nodded. “I knew it.” How he knew and I didn’t is beyond me. But I trust him.
Insert hugging and crying and disbelief. I called my OB’s office: “I just took a home pregnancy test and it says that I’m pregnant but I don’t believe it.”
“Those are pretty accurate.” Was the patient reply.
“No. I think it’s lying to me. I want to come in and confirm it.”
“We’ll schedule you for a few weeks from now, but go and have blood drawn and sent here. I’ll mail you the paper work.”
“Ok. But this test is lying to me. What should I do?”
“Take another one. We’ll see you in a few weeks.” We scheduled and I hung up. Then I called my mom, who did a dance in her office. Then I called my sister, who was teaching, and left a message. All I said was “CallmeCallmeCallme” about eighty times into her voicemail before I hung up. Then I sent her a text with the same message. When she finally called me back an eternity (ok, 5 minutes) later and I told her she started crying. Then she told her class. I heard the chorus of cheers from 20 six-year-olds and I started crying again. Steve called his parents and then we sent instant messages to his sister and her family, who are still living in Switzerland.
I drove Steve to work and we told our best friends. Over the course of the next several weeks we had confirmation from the OB and told everyone who would listen. We joked that what was really going on was that I was incubating a Cylon - the sonogram machines had impregnated me rather than my husband. And since everyone knew a) about all of the scans for all of my conditions and b) that we’re huge nerds, they got the joke. When the first ultrasound happened, at 7 weeks and 5 days, Baby got a new nickname: Bunny. Tucked up high in my uterus with one leg flipped up in the air, we watched the heart flutter and Steve exhaled “it looks like a bunny.”
Over the next few weeks I got steadily more sick. The name “Morning Sickness” is a cruel, cruel joke - I was sick morning, afternoon, night...basically any time I wasn’t asleep. We tried everything and I wound up spending most of my first trimester in bed or on the couch. I read a giant stack of books and magazines. I played endless hours of MarioKart and Tetris. Steve once again raised the Husband Bar and not only did he take over cooking himself dinner, doing the grocery shopping, and doing the laundry, but he arranged with his boss to work from home in the morning so that he could make sure I wasn’t going to have a really bad day before he came in. I had breakfast in bed (not so nice when breakfast won’t stay down, but I did make a point to focus on the luxury of having my english muffin brought to me to munch on while I snuggled with the cats and read...right up until I bolted to the bathroom.)
While that did eventually subside, it was only with a regular regimen of Zofran, which I still have to take daily. As much as I hated to take drugs of any kind - hadn’t I been through enough? Why risk it? - it was the only thing that worked. And sometimes even the magic little pill wasn’t enough.
I am lucky several ways there:
I never needed to be hospitalized for dehydration. I came close, but it never happened. I am so grateful for that.
I wasn’t working. In March we started talking about how we were settled and unpacked and while yes, we could live off of one income, we would reach our goals much faster if I was at least bringing in the grocery/gas/spending money. I started to consider what I might want to do and went to work on revising the novel that had been put on hold while our lives got crazy.
The baby was always solid and healthy. The heartbeat never wavered and every test came back with great results.
Because we told everyone from the minute we knew, I didn’t have to explain that I was so sick because I was pregnant. Which is handy when you fall off the planet for weeks at a time.
I have Steve. He is the kind of man who will tell his very baby-sick wife that she is glowing and then wave away her protestations that it is the sheen of exertion from vomiting rather than the glow of impending motherhood. And then he’ll kiss her, even if she hadn’t brushed her teeth in days. That’s love, my friends. Furthermore - he has never missed an appointment and he eagerly attended the two classes I signed us up for, where he asked intelligent questions and was genuinely curious about what was going on in my body (both with the baby and with my boobs.) I have never doubted that he will be the kind of father kids dream about.
I went home in July to see my family and friends. It wasn’t the easiest trip - I was still nauseous most of the time - but they understood and when I couldn’t get out they came to my sister’s house and sat in the living room and watched bad tv with me.
In late July and August our parents came out (separately) to visit us. I felt like a bad hostess, entertaining from the couch and only occasionally getting out - but one of those trips out was for our 20 week organ scan - Steve’s parents were in the room when the tech showed us Bunny’s fingers and toes and ribs...and contrary to my predictions that our ornery child would use one hand to cover the goods and the other to give us the finger, we got a clear money shot of his little man parts. The family name will continue for at least one more generation.
The next milestone was the Gestational Diabetes test. I failed the first one, but passed the second - despite having a hellish reaction to the orange drink (orange being one of my first aversions - another cruel trick by the universe as there are no less than 3 citrus trees on our property.) Amusingly, while I don’t have GD, I do have what I’ve started calling “Gestational Vegetarianism.” Luckily, Steve likes to cook.
My job in Dallas was with an Interior Design firm, and I have always been the girl who rearranges and redecorates when she gets bored. Couple that with a distinct desire to nest and my lack of energy was driving me batty. By September and October, however, I was able to get out and around more, which I took advantage of. Unlike July, I was now obviously pregnant. Strangers start conversations with me - most of the time the exchanges are perfunctory and cheerful. Sometimes, though, I yell across McDonald’s at someone being a moron. Seriously. Here’s how it went:
Me: “I’ll have fries and a medium drink, please.” Transaction completes, I take my cup over to the fountain to decide which drink to have with my ice. (I had a period of being faintly anemic, which is marked by a distinct craving for ice.)
Stupid creepy guy hovering next to me: “Have the passionfruit one.”
Me: “I’m allergic to passionfruit, but thanks.”
SCG: “Have the passionfruit one, it’s good for the baby!” He slinks away, probably spurred by what my sister has dubbed the Stare Of Death.
Me - watching him go: “It’s not good for the baby if I’m allergic to it, you moron!” As I’m filling my cup with coke I have two thoughts: “that felt good.” and “that was really loud and all of those people are looking at me.” The chick who gave me my fries winked at me. I felt vindicated.
Fast forward to this past week. I went home for a week and a half to spend Thanksgiving with my family and friends. Steve flew in the night before Thanksgiving. I finally found the secret to having a good day every day (Zofran before I even lift my head off my pillow) so I was able to enjoy every minute of the trip. It is a testament to how beloved Bunny is - even from thousands of miles away - that everyone who was able to do so rearranged their schedule to make time to see us.
A few nights into my stay I went up to bed and of course that’s when Bunny decided to wake up and be active. He is consistently ornery - kicking me right up until the minute someone wants to feel him and then he quiets like he’s sleeping, only to start right back up the minute hands are off my belly. The only exception to this is when there is a doppler involved. From the first appointment where we were supposed to hear the heartbeat right up through yesterday’s 32 week appointment, his favorite thing to do is kick the doppler.
Anyway. That night he was particularly active and he had the hiccups. Since my sister was still awake and her husband was in the shower I climbed onto her bed and laid on my side, putting one of her hands on the spot where I felt his hiccups and her other hand on the spot where he was kicking. Or punching. Or head butting. (I often think how nice it would be to have x-ray vision so I could see which part of his little body is pushing out against my abdomen.) Her reaction was priceless. My big sister, who refers to colostrum as “The Baby’s Colostomy”, actually cried. And then she threw me a Circus themed baby shower, complete with friends I haven’t seen since before we moved, a dining room that had been transformed into a circus tent, and carnies.
We spent a lot of our downtime watching him move under my skin. It was interesting to see what he reacts to. Stomp Live, for example, convinced me that if he wanted to badly enough, he could live up to his new nickname: “Mommy’s Little Chest Burster.”
I’ve repeatedly stated, from about week 8, that I never want to be pregnant again. It was too hard and I can’t imagine having to go through all of that while having a toddler to care for. Since we’ve already started the adoption process once, it won’t be so alien when we start it again. I am told - also repeatedly - that the next one won’t be so bad and that it’s all worth it. I’m skeptical about the former, but wholly agree with the latter. Feeling him wiggle makes up for the bruises on my ribs, the acid-reflux, and the frequent trips to the bathroom. When he’s born - and after he’s served out his six week grounding sentence - I will forget that I spent whole seasons if not actually unconscious then at least hazy and nauseous.
My estimated due date is January 16th, 2010. Because of that surgery I didn’t go into detail about, I’m having to have a scheduled c-section, which is currently slated for January 11, 2010. However, I started dropping last week and at yesterday’s appointment the possibility of an early baby was discussed. I’ve been saying for years that I want a baby for Christmas and I’m ready. We’re ready to have an outside baby.