WARNING: this turned out to be super long... I guess I've never told the story in this much depth and I wanted to get it all out there. Feel free to scroll down and just look at the pictures. :)
Hi everyone!! This is my first actual pregnancy-related blog post, thanks in part to the fact that I'm finally "out" to my family about my pregnancy (and some of them are friends of mine on Spark). I'm also celebrating moving out of the 1st trimester and into the second!!
Our pregnancy started with a roller coaster of emotions. I had a non-viable pregnancy and missed miscarriage that ended in D&C at about 10 weeks last summer-- our first. It was devastating, but at first I believed that I wanted to get pregnant again RIGHT AWAY and that I was DEFINITELY READY... but when I found myself blubbering to my husband about how I didn't feel at all excited about getting pregnant again, just stressed out, and that I never thought I would feel excited again, we realized that we weren't actually ready. So after trying again for one month post-D&C (when I'm convinced that Yom Kippur falling pretty much exactly on ovulation day didn't help!), we took time off. I got my two-star scuba diving certification and started training for a half-marathon, doing lots of yoga, and generally trying to keep myself busy and enjoy NOT being pregnant as much as possible.
After a few months we felt ready to try again-- TRULY ready, excited-to-be-parents ready, optimistic ready. On our second month trying, on Valentine's Day, I took a pregnancy test a few days before I thought I actually had a chance of seeing a positive... but there was a faint second line!! We were delighted... and stressed out, and intimidated at the thought that I was supposed to run a half marathon in just a few days. Ok, maybe the stressed out and intimidated part was mostly me. I had this tape playing in my mind that said something like "don't stress, stress is bad for the baby, OMG I'm STRESSING OUT, I'm DAMAGING IT, NOOO I NEED TO STOP STRESSSING.... AAAAAH!!!! STRESS!!!!" I barely slept at all for the first few nights after getting that positive pregnancy test. While I think I had recovered from the miscarriage enough to be excited, it was obviously still playing with my mind... and for the record, telling a pregnant woman not to stress because stress can hurt the baby is basically the MOST stressful thing you can possibly say to any woman who is, shall we say, a bit high strung. I was also debating whether or not to run the half marathon, and I decided not to-- I didn't want to second-guess myself if this pregnancy, too, ended in a miscarriage.
Instead, I ran the 10K at the same event. It was great fun to feel super over-trained and to race without any pressure. Here I am crossing that finish line (white shirt):
The first person we said the words "I'm pregnant" to (ok, technically "Ani beheraiyon"-- we live in Israel so I said it in Hebrew :) was one of the race coordinators who agreed to change my registration to the 10K when we explained my "delicate condition."
On March 1st, I had my first doctor's appointment at 6 weeks exactly. We waited three hours to see him because I had the time wrong, and I sat in the waiting room with this growing feeling of dread. Last pregnancy, it felt like I got scarier and scarier news at every ultrasound... the baby was too small, its heartbeat was too faint, there was no heartbeat, it had stopped growing... now, seven months later, just after what should have been my first baby's due date, I sat in my new doctor's waiting room, getting up to pee every five minutes, fearing the worst.
And then it happened.
The doctor didn't see a fetal pole on the ultrasound, just a sac. He also started drawing pictures on his pad that looked kind of like deer antlers, explaining to me that he thought my uterus was bicornuate, and that I was carrying the baby in the left side. Yes, this could be the cause of repeated miscarriages. He sent me to get my HcG levels drawn: 38,000 one day, 40,000 the next-- high (so high that every website I googled told me that there should DEFINITELY be a baby and a heartbeat seen on ultrasound) but not going up fast enough. One website told me it would take something like 76 days for my HcG to double at this rate, while it's supposed to double every 24-72 HOURS at this point in pregnancy. I also felt a little crampy, convinced that my breasts were less sore than they had been the week before.
So when I went back for a second appointment four days later, at what should have been 6 weeks 4 days, and heard more bad news, I was expecting it. I had to ask my doctor specially to print a picture of the ultrasound out... I've found that they don't give you pictures when they think your pregnancy isn't viable. I also wanted to see what exactly this "bicornuate uterus" looked like. Here it is... the little black thing is what looked like an empty sac, and the white outline is my uterus (which didn't look quite as scary as the antler pictures my doctor was drawing on his scratch paper):
He diagnosed me with another missed miscarriage, and told me that lots of women have two miscarriages and go on to have healthy babies. It didn't feel that way. It felt as if getting pregnant (or rather, staying pregnant, since we got pregnant on our first or second try both times) was going to be this insurmountable barrier, as if something so effortless to so many women was going to be incredibly difficult for me. I felt as if I had plunged into a different category, the scary world of "multiple miscarriages," compounded by this news about my defective uterus.
The doctor printed out two referrals for me to take to the hospital the next morning-- one for a D&C, one for medically-induced abortion if that's what I preferred. I asked him if it would be ok for me to wait this one out to see if it would happen naturally. He said yes. I said I'd give it two weeks.
And then I went home.
I had cried so much in the days between the two ultrasounds that now I just felt numb. Even calm. My baby, my poor little nonviable baby was still inside me, which didn't bother me the way it seemed to bother other women on the Babycenter miscarriage support forum... I felt like at least I would get a longer goodbye this time, at least I could wait for natural miscarriage so that I would have no doubts that this had to happen in the end. I knew it could take a while; I read the stories of women who waited four weeks, with pregnancy symptoms churning along, before finally releasing their babies. I felt a kind of peace with this, a kind of confidence that waiting would be the best thing. I just hoped the miscarriage would happen on its own before my doctor would pressure me into getting a D&C.
In the meantime, I went back to my normal life. I ran faster and harder, intervals and tempo runs. I ate poached eggs with runny yolks, camped out all night on the rocky ground beneath Masada fortress when my parents visited and didn't worry about lack of sleep, drank a small light beer on two separate occasions. I didn't eat sushi, but only because our favorite sushi shop had closed. I reveled in iced coffee, hot "cafe hafuch."
And yet I felt I was living in a twilight zone between "pregnant" and "not pregnant"-- those jokes about how you can't be "a little bit pregnant" didn't seem funny anymore. In the Ein Gedi Spa at the Dead Sea, I decided to dip my toes in the sulfur water pool rather than go in with my whole body, thanks to the big signs prohibiting pregnant women from entering. When we took my parents on an introductory scuba dive in the Red Sea coral reef, I agonized about whether to go with them-- I had to sign that I WASN'T pregnant on the waiver before entering the water. But it was such a short and shallow dive that I decided to risk it.
I didn't want to give in to the "denial" that kept whispering in my ear about that bloat in my lower stomach, about the breast soreness that was back in full force, that light nausea in the evenings-- the "denial" that kept playing pictures in my head of going in for another ultrasound and seeing a developing baby on the screen. I felt that I had let denial string me along too much in my last pregnancy-- my doctor was gloomy about my prospects at every appointment then, but I had dismissed him as an Eeyore, and I told grandparents, second cousins, fellow theater board members, acquaintances, friends all about my pregnancy at just 7 weeks. And then told them the sad news at 10. This time I was going to face reality. It felt important to stop taking pregnancy precautions so that I could truly wrap my head around the loss of this second baby. But still, I didn't go in that sulfur pool, I didn't go on a deeper or longer scuba dive (even though I had the opportunity), I avoided any medication that could be harmful during pregnancy, and I kept taking my prenatal vitamins.
Three weeks after my last appointment, I called my doctor, ready for him to yell at me for waiting longer than I'd said I would. Instead, he wasn't worried. He scheduled an appointment for me in a week. I was grateful for more time to wait, more time to let this happen naturally instead of being pushed into making a decision to end this pregnancy.
I didn't bother to set the appointment for a time when my husband could make it. It would be at 10 weeks 3 days, so I knew that it was now or never-- if nothing had changed for the better on the ultrasound, I felt ready to take medication to end this pregnancy. My main question was whether I could wait until after the 5.7K field race that my husband and I had registered to run that weekend, back when it had seemed my pregnancy would be long over by this point. I didn't even look at the screen when my doctor inserted a wand to see what was going on with this pregnancy; I studied the gray curtain beyond my feet, ready to hear the worst.
"Maya, do you realize what we're looking at here?" my doctor said. And then I turned to the screen. And there was a moving, beautiful, heart-beating, perfectly-sized 10 week fetus.
I started crying-- maybe one of the only times in my life that I've burst into tears because of pure joy. This was literally my dream, this was that moment my "denial" kept playing in my head. This was my BABY, my actual kicking baby, there on the screen. At 10 weeks, my last pregnancy had looked like a smudge on the ultrasound, a little gray spot at the edge of the long, collapsing wedge of sac. This baby was waving at me.
The doctor also told me that he no longer saw signs of a bicornuate uterus on the ultrasound. He thought possibly originally there had been twins, leading to the high HcG numbers and odd ultrasound results, but I'd lost one early on. He was practically on the verge of tears himself.
The next few days felt more dreamlike than anything I've ever experienced in my life. I couldn't stop smiling, and while I passed one restless night after finding out the news (should I sleep on my side? What if something happened to the baby now?) but I found the calm that I'd felt when I thought I was miscarrying returning. This baby was strong. He (or she, but I felt like it was he) had thrived during the interval running, the sleepless nights, the-- *gasp*-- caffeine consumption. He was tough, and one nervous mother couldn't change that. I was pregnant!!
That Friday, I ran the 5.7K and didn't even bother going too easy-- while I made sure I was never overly out of breath, I also pushed myself just enough to pass a teenage girl on the slope down to the finish line. I finished just under a half hour, winning third place overall among women, thanks to the 11K race at the same event that siphons off the serious runners. Here I am on the podium, secretly gloating to myself about the fit-looking guys I'd passed while running uphill, 10 weeks pregnant (again, I'm in the white shirt):
On Sunday I went back for another appointment with my doctor and bloodwork, and he gave me another quickie ultrasound to show my husband our baby-- the baby who, despite the race, had even picked up an extra "day" of growth between appointments.
My pregnancy since then has been wonderfully uneventful. We did a nuchal translucency scan at 12 weeks to check for markers of Downs Syndrome (but more to get another glimpse at our little guy)-- and while it's too early to tell the gender for sure, the US tech did take a look between his legs and said he gave it 70% chance of being a boy. (Actually, it was at 11 weeks 6 days, but our little guy picked up ANOTHER extra day before that appointment and was now measuring 12 weeks!).
Here he (or she) is:
My favorite, the 3-D scan that the technician switched on at the end:
It was wonderful to see him wriggling around in high-definition ultrasound at that appointment, turning his back to the wand and making the tech's life difficult. He also "passed" these tests with flying colors-- our odds for Downs Syndrome and Trisomy went down from 1/1100 (according to my age, which will be 28 in October) to 1/10,000. Wahoo!
Now I'm waiting for my next appointment at 16 weeks, May 9th. I wish I could say that I've been totally zen and stress-free, but I haven't... After telling our whole family about the pregnancy over Passover Seder dinner at 13 weeks, I started freaking out a little about the risk of incompetent cervix associated with bicornuate uteruses (uteri?), and I began to convince myself that I felt some of the symptoms of a condition that, actually, is usually described as "symptomless." (A google search revealed just enough "symptoms" for me to scare myself.) On Saturday, I had a teeny bit of light brown spotting and then passed what looked to me like tissue, so we went to the emergency room. Everything was fine-- the doctor thought I'd lost just a bit of blood-tinged mucus, perfectly normal. We heard the thumping of our baby's heartbeat for the first time, saw him on ultrasound (already bigger looking, more proportional head). He checked my cervix: it's tightly closed, 5.1 cm long, perfect. He said it was fine for me to keep running and, as I was leaving the room, may or may not have muttered something under his breath about nervous first time moms. (He was very nice, though.)
So here I am-- still feeling dazed and blessed that I'm actually pregnant, that I actually have a baby growing inside of me, that the little flutterings I'm starting to feel in my abdomen may not just be gas. I've gained one pound so far (thanks perhaps to Passover gorging) and am eagerly awaiting the emergence of a genuine baby bump. Here are my "maybe bump" pictures so far...
10w3d (right after finding the baby on ultrasound... I think this was mostly bloat, but it had definitely made me start to wonder over the past few weeks):
13w3d (there's really something there, I swear!):
I don't know if a clear progression is showing up in the pictures yet or just in my mind... right now my "bump" kind of changes with the time of day... but I do definitely feel my stomach changing, and I can almost see the swell rising up toward my belly button. Also, I think I have freakishly large hands. :)
I'm still running, doing lots of yoga, and feeling grateful every day for this pregnancy. Let's hope my second trimester is just as easy and MUCH less exciting. :)
Estimated due date: October 23, 2011!!