Show Your Scars

People keep commenting on how I’m so “brave” and “courageous” to be blogging about all this, and it seems so weird. I mean, I appreciate it, but it doesn’t feel to me like there’s anything brave about it. My reasons for blogging about it are all pretty self-centered, really. I’ve had over 3,000 visitors to the blog in the last couple of days (which is crazy; my highest prior to that was 300), and I can say with a fair degree of certainty that a lot of them came away feeling sad or upset. Many cried. (I can make strangers on the internet cry, what’s your super power?) If I’d kept all this to myself, those people would have been a little happier, or at least the ones who are actual strangers and wouldn’t know about it anyway. That doesn’t mean I think I’m wrong to be sharing it or anything, just that it seems weird to be told how courageous you are for making people cry.

Like I said, my reasons for blogging all this are pretty self-centered. For one thing, it helps me a lot to just get it all out there. Like I told Christopher the other day, I go out and I feel like I want to just tell every person I meet about it. Not literally, but it just feels like, I don’t know, that people should look at me and somehow know. This is such a huge thing for me, but for the rest of the billions of people in the world, it isn’t anything at all. But at least I can share it here, and some people do know now, and care. That helps a little, though I’m honestly not sure why.

And writing it out helps me process. I’d probably be blogging about it just as much if no one read it at all as I do knowing that hundreds of people are reading it. I go back and re-read my posts a lot. It helps me understand my own feelings sometimes, to remember what I said about it. And it keeps me from saying the same things over and over to Christopher. I’ve probably told him twenty times how glad I am that I don’t have any doubts that we made the right choice. I can’t imagine how much harder this would be if I felt guilty on top of everything else. I’m sure he’s tired of hearing it. So I say it here and I can go back and re-read it when I want to tell him again, and somehow that satisfies that need to express that feeling over again.

It also is comforting to me to think that some good might come out of all of this. By blogging about it, I might help make it easier for someone else who is going through something similar. I read other people’s blogs before and during all of this, and it helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone, and to have some idea what to expect. Being able to hopefully pass that on is a good feeling. Several months ago my aunt posted this quote on Facebook- “You are unique more by what you have suffered than by what you have achieved. If you want to be a ‘net giver’ to those around you, put the awards away to show your grandchildren someday, but modestly allow your scars to be seen as you struggle along with me to trust that God can use our story, no matter how painful. No matter how embarrassing. To give courage and stamina to those who now carry wounds where we bear scars.” -Steve Saint. Even though I’m not religious, so I’m not relying on God to use this, that last line really resonates with me. I don’t know if anyone will ever benefit from what I’ve written, but I can hope for it.

And there’s also the fact that by blogging about it, and sharing our experience, I can help to raise awareness that there is so much more to the abortion debate than many people ever realize. Growing up in a fundamentalist household, I genuinely never knew that there could be a reason to have an abortion that isn’t selfish. Even after moving away from that and becoming pro-choice, it just never occurred to me that there could be a situation like ours. Leaving aside the issue of whether it’s right or wrong if your reasons are selfish (that’s a debate I am definitely not prepared to have), our situation makes it very clear that there are situations where an abortion is the most selfless choice you can make. And the doctor at the clinic said that the majority of the women he sees, who come from all over the country and even all over the world for his help, are dealing with the exact same sorts of issues that we were. I always had this thought that abortions were easy, and maybe early ones are (I wouldn’t know), but I can tell you right now that this was anything but easy. I would have vastly preferred to have been able to have a normal, hospital birth. This was much harder. And if even one person reads our story and stops, even for a second, to reconsider their assumptions, as I would have been forced to had I read something similar when I was younger, then maybe that gives all of this a little more meaning.

So I don’t know, maybe it is brave to be open to the world about something so personal, and to risk the nasty comments that our choice might prompt in some people. (So far only two negative things have been said, and both were fairly tame.) But I’d say I’m getting more out of this than I’m giving. Still, there’s nothing wrong with that. The more good that can come of it, the better, whether it’s for me or others, right?

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You Take The Breath Right Out Of Me

I posted about this on Hellobee, sharing my blog there, and had one comment that did get me thinking. She said, basically, that I was only talking about me, and not about River herself, or mourning her loss (since I did focus more on the loss of being pregnant and such). For those that read the original comments, no I’m not trying to say I think she was right in most of it, but I do think that she had a point with that. And I had my reasons for leaving that off, but I do want to address that side of it as well.

There are two real reasons I didn’t talk about that. The first is simply that I don’t know what to write. If this were the loss of a loved one who had been born, and had a life, I would write a celebration of that life. There would be happy memories to recount, and I could talk about what I’d miss most about her. But there aren’t really any happy memories of her. There’s the time she yawned during an ultrasound (that was really cute), but that’s about it. Most of the rest, like the first time I felt her move, are more about the pregnancy than her specifically. I don’t know what she would have been like, or what her favorite book would have been. I don’t know how to write a tribute to what might have been.

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The other reason I didn’t write about it is that that side of it is far more painful to think about. It might seem strange for someone who is blogging so openly about such painful topics, but I actually do NOT talk about my feelings at all. If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that you can rarely tell how I’m feeling about something. The one exception is Christopher, and even with him I have a hard time. And not only do I not like talking about my feelings, I don’t always really have a good grasp on them myself. Usually the best I can come up with is “sad,” or some variation on “angry.” Angry is easier to feel than sad a lot of times. So I can’t really articulate how I feel about it, beyond saying that it makes me very sad. I did tell Christopher the other night, that I know we’ll still have kids, it’s not like it’s hopeless. But any baby we have, adopted or natural, won’t be her. That’s the really hard part of it all. There are a few songs that speak to those feelings, particularly “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day (hence the title of my last post). And the lines “you take the breath right out of me, you left a hole where my heart should be” from Breaking Benjamin, though the next bit “cause I will be the death of you” is a little too disturbingly fitting. Also, one thing I’ve found that does help me, though it seems strange, is to search “miscarriage” or “stillbirth” on Pinterest. That’s how I’ve found a lot of the images like the one above, and seeing other people’s words really helps me to say, “yes, that’s how I feel.” Or sometimes, “no, not that at all,” but even that’s helpful. It helps bring those feelings to the fore, so I can really process them and understand them. So here are a few of those images that really speak to me.

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That last one, “I really wanted to keep you,” it’s the simplest, but it’s by far the one that means the most to me. I literally can’t even look at it and read those words without crying. Because that’s all it really comes down to. I didn’t want a baby, I wanted this baby, my baby, River. I wanted to know what kind of person she would be, and what her favorite book would have been, and to see her smile, and talk, and walk, and grow up. And now that will never happen. I don’t, even for a second, regret our choice or think that we did the wrong thing. We could have let her be born, inserted the shunt, and we would still never have known any of those things, because that the condition that destroyed her brain took her away from us long before we let her go. But I’m still sad.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

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Well, it’s over. Or done at least. Can you ever really says something like this is “over?” We went to Colorado last week, and had the procedure done. In a later post (or maybe a couple, since it took several days and it’s a lot to cover) I’ll explain the procedure in more detail. I think I would have benefited from knowing more up front, so I want to put that out there for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. But I’ll do that later. First, one quick note. Her name, Katlyn is pronounced “cat-lin,” not “kate-lin.” And that’s rather beside the point, because we actually call her is River.

Anyway, it’s confusing, trying to explain what we’re feeling now. It’s such a mix. On the one hand, it really is a huge relief to have it done with. For one thing, feeling her move, having people comment and ask when I was due, and all those other things that came with still being pregnant, were really hard to handle knowing that there wasn’t going to be a happy ending to this story. Especially when she got the hiccups. That was my favorite before, but the reason babies get hiccups in utero is to prepare them to breathe, so feeling her hiccuping and knowing she would never breathe was rough. And I was really dreading the procedure itself (procedures? there were several steps). So with getting past all that, the first reaction really is just relief. Not to mention that I’m much more physically comfortable. The third trimester is no joke. My ribs are still ache-y where her butt was jammed up in them for weeks.

But, like I said in the post explaining this decision, during those two weeks between deciding and acting, it never really sunk in completely. The reality of moving on without her, looking down and seeing a (relatively) flat stomach, not feeling movement, all of those things, they’re definitely hitting home now. And of course, all the postpartum hormones aren’t helping. Sometimes it seems like every little thing reminds me. Like yesterday I was driving and listening to music, and I teared up because I realized I didn’t have to worry that the music was too loud and not good for her. But it does seem like those blows already aren’t coming so hard, as I get more used to being home and moving on. It’ll still be hard, particularly through September, when she was due, and probably forever really, but it isn’t constantly overwhelming.

When I was in 8th grade, my mom won a free trip for us to Disney World. (This seems like a really weird non sequitur, but I promise it’s relevant.) I really hated the school I was in at the time, and just generally wasn’t super happy (hello, it was 8th grade, of course I wasn’t), so the trip (we went over Spring Break) was just that much more awesome by contrast. But that disparity between how much I loved the trip and so didn’t love my day to day life made coming back home much harder. I kept thinking, “a week ago I was in Disney World” (or at a specific park), “two weeks ago I was in Disney World.” That went on for weeks. Eventually I stopped (when school got out, if not sooner), but I’ve noticed I still do that sometimes after something really good happens. And I keep doing it now. Part of me keeps thinking, “two weeks ago I was pregnant,” ” a month ago I was pregnant and expecting her to be here by now,” “four months ago I was pregnant with a healthy baby” (as far as I knew at the time). I really wish there was some way to go back to before 20 weeks, when we found out about her hydrocephalus, and just have a re-do. Though if I’m wishing for that, why not wish we could go back to last May, when we were in Europe, and still happily pregnant with my first? Oh well. Those thoughts are coming less frequently as well.

Though it does seem like the year is starting to get really full of “bad days.” Jan 11, April 28, Sep 6, June 12, July 27, May 4, and on and on. (Those are my original due dates, the day I miscarried the first, River’s birthday, and the day we found out I was pregnant the first time, respectively.) None of those anniversaries (that have passed) were that bad, but for all of them I was pregnant again, and it was looking good. I’m not sure how hard they’ll be without that positive future to focus on.

Not that there isn’t still a positive future to look forward to. As I said in the last post, we will still have kids, one way or another. But it’s all very much up in the air. We still don’t know anything about what caused the hydrocephalus, and we may never know, even with the testing they’re doing. The most common cause is “unknown.” And of course, we never knew what caused the miscarriages. Do we really want to try again, with that hanging over our heads? I’m (we’re) scared, honestly. Scared that it could happen again, and we’ll just keep losing babies. Scared of facing that anxiety for a looong nine months. And, in my case, scared of giving birth. I’ll go into (a little) more detail when I explain the procedure later, but suffice it to say that it was traumatic enough that I’ll either be having an elective c-section with any future pregnancies, or going to some counseling to get over that fear.

Adoption is, of course, an option, but it just really isn’t what I want. I want our baby, and I really did love being pregnant. I don’t want my only experiences with pregnancy to be losses. I want the full, positive experience, with a happy ending (though like I said, not so sure about the birth part these days). I want to feel a baby moving and it be a 100% happy feeling, because s/he is healthy and their hiccups really are preparation for breathing. And, of course, adoption is expensive. If we find that there’s an underlying genetic issue causing everything, we might have the option to go the in vitro route, and that’s really expensive too. But if not, just trying again, au natural, is definitely the cheapest option. And I read (right after the procedure, when I was feeling pretty pro-adoption) that adopted kids are less smart and successful in a lot of areas, statistically. It has to do with the type of people who are most likely to choose to give a kid up for adoption (their words, not mine!) and possibly the fact that a mom who is giving up her child might be less likely to take proper prenatal care (or going back to the type of person, they might be less able to afford it).  It seems like a dumb thing to care about, but that does bother me.

Anyway, this is getting kind of rambly and incoherent. The point of all that, mostly, was to say that the future is feeling very scarily open and empty. No matter what course we pursue, we’re looking at a minimum of six months to get started again on that road to having kids. I hadn’t been working, since I was pregnant and the plan is for me to be a stay at home mom, but since it’ll almost definitely be over a year before we’ll be bringing any babies home, there’s no reason not to have a job for the next little while. The question, of course, is what to do. Nannying is out. I am just so, SO not up for that. I may look for something simple in the retail area (I really liked working for Yankee Candle a few years ago). And I’m considering pursuing something in the baking field. I was already tentatively planning to get some actual training in that, and make some sort of actual career of it, once we had kids and they were in school. It’s one of the few things I love that I’ve always come back to. So maybe I’ll do that a bit sooner.

And we’re looking at other things to do, to fill up that future a bit. We might plan another good vacation, for after Christopher’s project gets past roll out next spring. He even said that we might put the money I earn towards that, once I start working. That would make a very meaningless retail or whatever job a bit more worth getting up for every morning, if I was working towards a goal. And we’re going to start fostering animals at some point soon too. It seems nice to bring a little new life into the house, even if it’s not permanent (we really don’t need any more pets right now). And maybe Link will stop getting so fat, if he has some puppies around to play with and help him get more exercise. 🙂 And we’re planning some little things, like a “puppy party.” We’ll invite our friends who have dogs and I’m gonna make “pupcakes” (cupcakes for the dogs) and maybe some doggie cake pops and that sort of thing. It’s silly, but it’s nice to have something positive to look forward to.

Beyond that… it’s just a matter of waiting for time to do its job, helping us to heal emotionally and (in my case) physically. Like I said, it’s already feeling a little easier, and while I’m sure there will always be bad days, I expect that to continue. We’ll be sad, but we’ll move on, and we won’t forget, but neither will it seem like such a huge, all-encompassing thing standing in our way forever. I assume so anyway. Guess we’ll see.

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A Time To Choose

This is one of those posts that I’m writing well before I’m ready to actually put it up. So by the time you’re reading this, it will be over, or as over as it can be.

As I said in the last post, we had a doctor visit scheduled on the 3rd (at 30w5d), which started off with another ultrasound. This one was just 2 weeks after the previous, which is close enough that the ultrasound tech wasn’t even sure she should bother taking measurements, because that’s not long enough to show much growth. However, the ventricles had enlarged significantly, to the point that the larger was up into the 40+ range. Worse, her head had not grown, and the increased fluid had further compressed her brain, so that the damage is now catastrophic. The neurosurgeon said that at this point the odds were in the “high 90’s” that she would never progress mentally beyond infancy. And she still had at least 3.5 weeks left before she could be delivered and the ventricle growth halted, so it would only get worse.

I don’t have any copies of her scans (nor do I want them), but a quick google search turned up some images that are comparable. The first is a moderate hydrocephalus. The fluid is the black area, and the surrounding grey is brain. The second is very similar to what we saw at this appointment. Basically the entire top half of her skull is full of fluid, so that the image is almost all black, with virtually no grey left at all. Her scan actually had even less grey around the edges than this image does.

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This news left us with three options. One, we could deliver at 34 weeks as planned, have the shunt inserted, and simply see what happened. More than likely she would survive, because her brain stem was still unaffected (meaning she would still breathe and her heart would beat, etc). When the brain is that severely compressed, there is some risk that when the pressure is relieved by the shunt, the brain will spring back too quickly and tear the blood vessels supporting it. But the odds of that are only around 10%, so she would probably live. But she would have no quality of life, no higher brain function, no ability to live in any sense of the word that truly matters.

Our next option would be to carry to term, and let nature take its course. No shunt, or other form of drainage to stop the hydrocephalus. Again, she would likely live, but in this case not for long. It’s impossible to say how long it would take, but eventually the pressure would destroy the rest of her brain, and she would die. It would be a short and probably painful life, and cruel to both her and those of us who care about her.

Which leaves us with the third choice. We could go Colorado or New Mexico, and we could terminate the pregnancy. It has to be done before 34 weeks legally, and even then we have to provide proof that this is a case of medical necessity. But it would be quick, for her, just an injection to stop her heart. For us it’s a four day process, starting with the injection, followed by two days of gradually opening the cervix, and ending with what basically amounts to a glorified D&C. Of the three choices, it’s the one that is hardest on us, at least emotionally. There would be no chance to hold her, or to ever see her alive other than on an ultrasound screen. But of the three choices, it’s the one that’s best for her. It gives her the grace of a quick death, instead of a protracted, painful one, or a life that offers her nothing at all.

And so we’re now in the process of setting things up for a trip to Colorado. My doctor here (who has been amazing) provided us with the information for a doctor there who will do the procedure. As it turns out, there are only three doctors in the country who will. The risk is just too high. There used to be at least one more, but he was murdered, while at church, ironically. We had planned to handle it as quickly as possible, but the doctor is out of the country for the next couple of weeks, so we have to wait for him to get back.

It also turns out that the whole thing is more complicated than expected. Growing up (in a highly conservative environment), I always had this thought that there were women out there getting late term abortions all the time, for no good reason. Turns out, as I mentioned, you have to provide (fairly extensive) proof that it’s medically warranted. It’s also far more expensive than we expected. They need her exact size to give us an official price, but the initial estimate is $25,000, which unlike most medical procedures where you simply deal with the bill later, must be paid up front. Thankfully for us, our insurance will cover it, but the standard procedure is for us to pay and then send the bill to insurance for reimbursement. Since there are no providers “in network” that do the procedure, our insurance company would be obligated to reimburse us for only whatever they thought reasonable, and leave us with the rest. But we’re fortunate to have very good insurance, and Christopher is working with them to get an exemption (to basically count this doctor as in network), which will leave us only responsible for our deductible. He’s also getting it pre-approved so that they’ll pay it up front, so that we don’t have to find a way to come up with $25,000 in the next two weeks.

I don’t know what we’d do if our insurance didn’t cover it. There is an organization (a charity of some sort, I assume) that helps with the costs in situations like ours, but it’s based on income. We make enough that I doubt they’d be able to do much for us. And we’re responsible for our travel costs no matter what, not to mention the vacation/sick leave/whatever (possibly bereavement leave) Christopher will have to use for the week that we’ll have to be gone. It makes me really, really angry that it’s so hard. This situation is incredibly difficult already, and added to that is a ton of financial worries, travel, and stress, so that we can go to an office where every single employee is risking their life every day just by doing their job and helping people like us who are facing an impossible choice. We’re not just some flighty kids that made a baby and then decided that maybe we don’t want to deal with it after all. We aren’t making this decision because we’re unwilling to raise a child with special needs and want to scrap this attempt and try again. This is a baby that is badly wanted, but whose medical situation is so dire that the only kindness we can offer her is to let her go as quickly and painlessly as possible. We shouldn’t have to go through so much to do something that’s already the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. And the people who are helping us should be seen as heroes, not murderers.

As far as how we’re doing otherwise, we’re holding up pretty well. Christopher has spent plenty of time with me, including taking some extra time off work. Right now I don’t think it’s really sunk in. There were some tears when we first found out, but not really since. I think that will come when we have to actually say goodbye, and go through with it, and continue on without her. Thankfully Christopher hasn’t tried to pretend she’s already gone. He still wants to feel her move and talks about her. Part of me does want to put on baggy clothes and pretend I’m just fat, but it wouldn’t be right. We have the whole rest of our lives to mourn her, but we only have these last couple of weeks to be with her.

We did have maternity photos done. We wouldn’t have, but my amazing sister-in-law put the whole thing together. They have a cousin who lost a baby under similar circumstances, and she told my sister-in-law that we would regret it if we didn’t do it. So she called around and found us a photographer willing to meet us last minute (on a Sunday, no less), and a hair stylist who touched up my highlights and did my hair, and even a makeup person. She also paid for the photographer (the other two worked for free for us, though I tipped them). It was kind of hard to do, and I don’t exactly expect I’ll want to keep the pictures displayed to look at all the time, but I’m really glad we did it. This might be our only pregnancy (we may pursue adoption, though we’re not really thinking that far ahead right now), and I think the cousin is right that I would have regretted not having the pictures as a sort of remembrance.

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We did box up all of her things today. We are keeping pretty much everything for a future baby. To us they’re for our baby (and we will have one someday, one way or another), not for her specifically. I did choose not to use any as props in the maternity photos for that reason. That would have made them actually hers. The only exception, I think, will be the blanket my cousin made for her. For whatever reason, that feels like it should be kept special. I’ll have that, and I’ll be getting some sort of Christmas ornament as well. I never did get one for the miscarriages (I might yet), but she needs one.

Christopher’s also getting me a ring with her birthstone, to wear with my wedding and engagement rings. It’s what I’d planned for any babies we had, this will just be in remembrance instead of just acknowledgement. We’re going to go with ruby, the July birthstone. She was due in September, then planned for August, and eventually July, so it’s hard to say which one is really appropriate. But the last date we were planning for her birthday was July 27th, and that’s the day I want to commemorate. September, I feel like, fails to acknowledge everything we went through, and in August we just had a general idea, not a specific date. I don’t want the day we terminate to be the one we choose to remember either, so as far as I’m concerned her birthday is July 27th.

The choices that we are being forced to make will be controversial, but I’m not going to try to hide them either. It’s not fair for us to have to live with this as some big secret, nor do I think it’s something shameful or wrong that merits secrecy. And I’ve blogged all this so far in case someone else who is going through something similar finds it, and finds some comfort in it, and some reassurance that I, at least, understand what they’re going through, and there is no judgement here. I’m not ashamed of what we’re doing. I don’t have doubts that it’s the right thing to do. It’s not a selfish choice. If I was being selfish I’d carry her to term, and have those days or weeks or months with her. Or maybe even deliver early and have her get the shunt, and risk her never having any sort of life for the sake of that maybe 1% chance that she would be, not okay, but not quite as bad as the worst case. I don’t want to give up the only time I can have with her. But our job as parents is to do what’s best for her, even when it means letting her go. And I’m not going to apologize for that, or try to hide it.

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Her name is Katlyn River.

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Time To Catch Ya’ll Up On Ultrasound Results

I’ve been putting this off, because I just really didn’t want to deal with writing it, but given that my next appointment is tomorrow (actually in about 9 hours), it’s probably time to quit procrastinating. Our last ultrasound was about two weeks ago, when I was 28 weeks along. And as you might suspect from my reluctance to write about it, the results were not what we were hoping for. The ventricles were approximately 24mm and 36mm. 24 isn’t so bad (though it’s not good), 36 is. The catch, however, is that she had flipped out of breech (normally a good thing, less so in this case), so her head was very low and they had a really hard time getting the right angles for the shots they needed of her head. Also, it’s not a huge difference, but we were on a different ultrasound machine with a different tech, so the margin of error was a little higher. But based on the fact that they never got a shot that was straight on, and that the doctor said it would be very unusual for her ventricle growth to be that uneven, those numbers are actually probably something more like 26-28 and 32-34. (Note, that is my estimate, the doctor only said they were probably closer.) Which, of course, would be a little better, but keep in mind that last time they were 18 and 21. That’s a lot of growth in a relatively short time (four weeks), especially since she had another six to go for sure (remember they said 34 weeks was the earliest they could deliver, because before that the risks of prematurity would be too great, and she’d be to small to handle surgery anyway).

I’ve read that the increase from one scan to the next is not a good indicator of what it will be in the future. Apparently the growth is not the sort to follow any sort of curve or anything. But I can’t help but do the math. If they grew roughly 6-10 and 11-15mm’s respectively in four weeks, in another six they could be as large as 40+ and 50+, which is well into severe and scary territory. I mean, theoretically, yes, they might stay the same or even get smaller, or at the very least grow more slowly. But it’s scary.

At this point we’re 100% planning to deliver at 34 weeks. I hit that on a Saturday, but we don’t know if they’ll get right on it or wait till that Monday or what. I would expect to make those plans at our appointment(s) tomorrow. Still, her birthday will almost certainly be July 26th or within a couple days of it. Today I had my first steroid shot, which they do to help her lungs, brain, etc mature to make prematurity less risky. I’ll have the second tomorrow (they would have done the first tomorrow and the second on the next day, but that’s the 4th of July so they’re closed), which I am just SO looking forward to. I hate shots, and steroid shots hurt, as it turns out. Oh, and I’m getting my pertussis shot (aka Tdap/whooping cough) as well (speaking of, if you’re family and plan to visit her in the NICU, we’d strongly request you have that one as well), and I may have another blood draw for the standard HIV testing (though I don’t see the point?) so yay for needles. If you don’t like needles, don’t get pregnant.

It was weird though, having the steroid shot, because it was really the first concrete step we’ve taken that really says she is going to be here in just three and a half weeks, for real. And we haven’t even picked out the color(s) for the nursery, or gotten even one piece of furniture for it! Granted, it’s not like she’ll be literally here, in the house, in three and a half weeks. She’ll be in the NICU for probably five or six weeks, give or take. But still, it’s a bit overwhelming.

As for the rest of the ultrasound results, she’s still on the growth curve, though she dropped a bit to 25th percentile overall (they weren’t concerned). Her head is starting to get a bit disproportionately large for her body, just a little, but that’s actually a good thing. It means her brain matter is still growing in addition to the ventricles, so her head is getting extra big to make room for both. We’re actually hoping that it continues to outpace her body in growth.

Tomorrow will be a long day again on appointments. First the usual ultrasound and meeting afterwards with my OB. Then we meet with the neurosurgeon again (same one we met with at 24 weeks), and then with someone from the NICU (not the same one as before). We’ll see how she’s doing (fingers extra crossed for good results on growth), and be able to get more detailed information about what this might mean for her prognosis, as well as a better idea of what to expect from her time in the NICU. I’ve read a bit about micro preemies (born before 26 weeks, which is very scary stuff), but very little about babies that make it all the way to 34 weeks before delivery, which is still premature, but much less so. We have a lot of questions, so hopefully we can get some good answers. Unfortunately, the fact remains that they don’t really have any way of predicting individual outcomes, because they can be so varied, but we can at least maybe find out a best case and worst case. Also, when we met with the NICU guy last time, he said that if things got really, really bad (remember how at one point we were told she would be able to breathe on her own, and her heart would beat, but she would have essentially no higher brain function at all? That’s what I mean), we would have the option to essentially sign a DNR for her, and stop all “extraordinary measures” to keep her alive. Which in a preemie, means there would be a decent chance she wouldn’t make it. As much as I hate to think about it, I also want to be sure that’s an option. If she has no possibility at any sort of actual life, I want to know our options.

So, obviously, this is all big and bad and scary, but it’s not hopeless. For the first few days after the news that she had gotten so much worse, I was really upset and depressed about it. I think it was worse because I’d sort of forgotten, over the intervening four weeks, how scary it really was. I was just thinking it would be about the same, no big deal. So it was an even bigger shock. I was really dreading my showers for a little bit, because I just couldn’t think how I was supposed to go get gifts for and celebrate this baby that I wasn’t even sure was going to survive. But the thing about me is that I can’t stay pessimistic. I just sort of default to hopeful. At first it was just me deciding that I would really regret not enjoying my showers because I was worried, especially if she turns out (relatively) fine, but even if she didn’t. I just decided that the point of the showers was to celebrate this pregnancy, and this baby, and she deserved to be celebrated no matter how short her life might wind up being. And then once I was thinking that way, I couldn’t help but get excited about all the gifts, and that led to getting excited about finishing up planning the nursery, and thinking about reading her the books we got, or her playing with the toys or wearing the clothes. The worry still creeps in (especially today, with getting the shot and anticipating tomorrow’s appointments), but so far it hasn’t been overwhelming.

I’ll admit that the delivering so early was a bit depressing in its own right. This may be my only pregnancy (if her issues are bad enough, we won’t have another because of the added stress), and now I’m losing a big chunk of it. But I’ve found that’s bothering me less now. I had already made my peace with losing my natural birth that I was planning, and not having that excitement of telling Christopher that “I think this is it” and timing contractions to decide when to go to the hospital and all that. But the thought of a natural birth has gotten a lot scarier as I’ve been having all these Braxton Hicks. They are strong, even though they’re not painful, to the point that it’s sometimes really hard to breathe. So imagining that, only stronger and painful, is pretty alarming. Plus, let’s be honest, pregnancy is uncomfortable. My hips are starting to really bother me at night, there are a lot of times that it’s hard to breathe comfortably standing up, my boobs are outgrowing even the new, much bigger bras I bought, etc, etc, etc. Add the inconvenience of the gestational diabetes, and the increasing heat outside making me more and more miserable, and maybe missing out on those last six weeks has more silver linings than clouds, from a strictly selfish point of view.

And Christopher, especially, has really helped with the stress of it all. When I’m stressed, he buys me things. Which makes me sound terribly spoiled (I am), but my primary love language is gifts, so it always means a lot to me. He brought me home a card and a new bamboo plant (the old one died in the move) the day after the ultrasound. It’s “lucky bamboo,” and he said we could use the luck. And he got me a new puzzle, so I’d have something to do that’s not related to the baby. And some other random things, like two crochet books (flowers/hats and toys, both for the baby), and some maternity clothes. But I think the best thing he did was actually something he said. He said that no matter how this turns out, we’ll be closer for it. That reminded me that there’s more to my life than my growing belly and the baby therein. Right now it feels like this has the potential to be the end of the world, and it’ll feel like it is if it goes very badly, but there is more to my world. So I’ll be really, really devastated, but there will still be good things left once I’m ready to move on. Lots and lots of really good things, of which he is the most important. So on the bad, worried days, I remind myself of that, and it makes me feel better. He’s also started wanting to feel her move more, and talking to/about her, and that sort of thing. I think knowing she’ll be here so soon has made her more real to both of us. And also, because we’re both planners, he took me to the store to buy some preemie clothes in case the outcome is good, and he asked me what sort of trip I’d want to go on if the outcome is bad, because we’d need to just get away for a while if that’s the case. It does help me to have a plan, and he knows that.

And to end on a positive note, here’s the latest shot of how beautiful she is!

28w3d

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It’s Been A While

I really need to update more often. But since I don’t, and I have a LOT to write about, this post will just be a general update about how the pregnancy itself is going, showers, etc. If you’re looking for the latest ultrasound results, skip to the next post.

Firstly, going back to the weekend after our last ultrasound I actually reported on, we had a lovely trip to Atlanta. Not the most exciting destination, but within driving distance and, very importantly, the Braves (Christopher’s team) were playing the Rockies (for whom his uncle is hitting coach) that weekend. I actually enjoy baseball enough to be happy to go with him, since he was really excited. Admittedly, I did read through parts of it (I don’t enjoy it that much, vastly prefer football), but he doesn’t mind that. And they had Dippin’ Dots and those lemonade ice things, and hotdogs, and basically lots of delicious (and overpriced) food for me to enjoy.

I didn’t actually mean to lead off with the baseball game. More importantly, to me at least, was the fact that Christopher booked the Loews Atlanta hotel for us to stay at. After our wedding, we stayed at the Loews Vanderbilt here in Nashville, then we stayed in the Loews Denver the next night after we flew to Denver. (We didn’t take a honeymoon till the following year. For one thing, with his dad, us, and his twin sister getting married all in the same year, right as he was starting a new job, he didn’t have the vacation time. For another, the company trip that year was to Puerto Rico and it was something like two weeks after the wedding, so we figured that would suffice for the time being.) All that to say, his choice of hotel for Atlanta was lovely and romantic and thoughtful. He also surprised me by booking me a pedicure when we go there, at the hotel spa, which was also very lovely and thoughtful.

Aside from the ball game, we didn’t really do much that was exciting. We walked around and looked at shops, and we found a really good restaurant for breakfast. We were trying to just find the Einstein’s Bagels that was near the hotel, but when we asked for directions we got directed to a restaurant called Einsteins instead, and we just went with it. It was SO good. Gotta love those sorts of fortuitous happenings. Also, a highlight for me, on the way home we made two random stops just to make me happy. One at the Lodge Factory Store, where I got some more cast iron cookware (which I love), and one at a totally random little store. See, Mama Lee’s hot chocolate (specifically their white chocolate cappucinno) is the best in the world. Seriously, it is absolutely my favorite. However, last time I went to their website to order more, it had apparently been hacked and I couldn’t get any. I was very sad. But google turned up a little store east of here that had some. I didn’t want to pay shipping really, so I held off on getting any. But then I realized that it was on the way to Atlanta. And because Christopher loves me enough to make our road trip just a little longer, he stopped and let me get some of my beloved hot chocolate. I got 2 pounds and it lasted way less time than I’m going to admit. But it was delicious! I guess I can hold out until Christmas to get more now. (They sell it at the crafts fair thing here.)

Unfortunately the trip had a teensy bit of drama. I’ll just copy and paste my post from Hellobee, because that’s easier.

” This weekend was interesting. We went to Atlanta for our anniversary, which is about 4 hours away. We walked to most places there, since we stayed in a hotel that was convenient to everything and right next to the train station. Unfortunately all that walking seems to have been bad for my tendency to have a TON of BH’s (Braxton Hicks).

It got to the point Saturday afternoon that they were less than 2 minutes apart. ANY other time I would have gone to the hospital, but we were on our way to/at a Braves game. For one thing, short of calling an ambulance there was no way to get to a hospital that wouldn’t have involved MORE walking, whereas staying meant I could sit and have some water. And we never, ever do what Christopher wants to do on our trips, because he’s the type to always try to spoil me and do things for me. And he loves baseball more than anything, and his uncle is hitting coach for the Rockies (who they were playing), so it was a big deal to him. Since I was having no bleeding, pain, mucous-y discharge, or other signs of true labor, I felt like it was dehydration and overexertion. So we stayed and when we got back to the hotel I took a bath and they slowed down to every 10 minutes or so, so I let it go.

Yesterday we came home, and they were much slower but still, every time I stood up or walked around, immediate BH’s every few minutes. Same today. So at this point, obviously I need to at least call and talk to a doctor. And yes, I should have sooner, but it’s a holiday weekend, and I didn’t want to get sent to the hospital in Atlanta, and now they seem so minor it seems less urgent.”

The doctor wound up agreeing that there was nothing to worry about. Apparently contracting a lot is just normal for me, and I need to take it easy and stay really hydrated, same as they’ve been saying. Though it seems like in the last week or so, instead of getting a bunch if I’m too active, I get them once I finally sit down afterwards. I’m not sure which is more annoying. But since they’re only annoying, nothing more, I’m pretty much just learning to ignore them.

More recently, and even more annoying, I failed my glucose tolerance test. So I apparently have gestational diabetes. From my understanding of what they told me, there are two main concerns with that. One, that the baby will get too big, but not in a healthy way. That can lead to higher risk of getting stuck during labor (which can be fatal for her) and other concerns, in addition to it just generally being unhealthy for her. Two, if she gets used to having a ton of excess sugar in her system, because my body isn’t processing it properly, it can be a nasty shock to suddenly have basically none once she’s delivered and not getting all of it from me anymore. But it’s totally manageable, and will go away after delivery. I have to stick my fingers and check my blood sugar four times a day, but so far I am having NO issues keeping my numbers where they’re supposed to be. And the OB said that the main concern is really my fasting number (what it is first thing in the morning, after I’ve had nothing to eat for at least 6 hours), and that’s always totally fine. The biggest annoyance for me is that the last few days I’ve had issues with forgetting to check it. The numbers are always fine, so it’s harder to keep it a priority. Hopefully they’ll let me drop to fewer times a day once they see that.

And last topic before moving on to the next post, regarding ultrasound results, my showers. I had three, one in Memphis with my dad’s family, one here with my mom’s family and friends, and one here with Christopher’s coworkers and a few other friends. They were all really great. I got balloons at them, which is a ridiculous thing to be happy about but I love them anyway. All the people were great, and we were both blown away by how many gifts we received. I’ll be writing a LOT of thank you notes. 🙂 The second one was a rainbow theme, at my request, and they did a great job with it. I wanted that partially just because I love rainbows (and of course, the whole play on it being a “shower” makes me happy), and also because she’s my rainbow baby (a baby after a loss). I didn’t mention that at the shower or anything, because it seemed a little, I don’t know, not morbid, but just not really something to talk about at that time, but it still made it a little bit extra special for me. And the third shower, which we were both a little worried might wind up weird (it was initially a baby shower/housewarming, so we invited all his coworkers, many of whom are single guys, but then it was too big for our house so it had to be moved and became just a baby shower, and we weren’t sure how it would play out with it being more guys than girls) wound up being a blast. We played games, and everyone participated, and it was basically just a  cookout with lots of food and a baby theme, and no one made it weird, they just had fun. And we got some really fun gifts at that one, like the shark stroller, guys being less inclined to go for the super girly baby stuff.

Anyway, that brings us more or less up to date on how things are in general, so now I shall move on to the ultrasound. If you stuck with me this far, I’m impressed.

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