Saturday, August 22, 2009

3 More Days

Well, in 3 days Evan Brian Castrucci will be here. I’m full of a lot of different emotions but am basically focusing on what needs to get done: putting together his room (furniture finally came yesterday), laundry, getting ready for guests, cooking so I can have food ready to go in my freezer, and trying to give my cats TONS of love to bide them for a while.

This will be my last post for some time, but I wanted to share one final thing with you: Natural Childbirth.

Even though it’s highly likely my labor will end in a c-section, I’m going to try and give birth vaginally and I will be trying to do this naturally. No, I didn’t just say I’ve been smoking crack the past 6 months (even though that is how people usually react when they hear what I’ll be attempting to do) I simply said that I’m going to try and let my body do what it knows how to do (although it supposedly knew how to get pregnant and I needed medical intervention for that). For this, I wanted to share with you why I chose natural birth as what I wanted to do.

Throughout the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, I conducted many highly unscientific and unreliable surveys with women who have given birth. Basically, I asked them about their birth stories and I asked them to be as honest as possible (I don’t believe in not telling pregnant women your truth, we should know possible outcomes).

Here is what I remember hearing from women who chose to give birth with an epidural. For them, birth was:

  • Something they got through
  • Not as bad as they had anticipated
  • Barely a bother since they were high from the epidural
  • Worth it because they got a baby at the end
Here is what I remember hearing from women who chose to give birth naturally. For them, birth was:
  • An amazing moment where their bodies worked in conjunction with the baby to give birth
  • Uncomfortable, but being able to be in the moment, to feel their child emerge into the world was indescribable
  • A moment filled with love and awe

So, from my poorly planned and epidemiologically flawed survey, what I gleaned was that the women who gave birth naturally had an experience with their baby (they first crew only ever mentioned the baby as an after item) that they remembered as wonderful, not as a trial. Having this information and already being someone who leans towards the non-medical, I felt there was no other choice for me, I would like to be there with my child when he enters the world.

For me, it’s that simple. I don’t necessarily believe that naturally birthed children are smarter or less traumatized, or any of that. I simply believe the experience is something than can transcend.

But… remember those clichés I had at the bottom of my “Intermission” post from August 13? You don’t? Well… take a second, scroll down and look at it. I’ll wait for you.
Welcome back, now let’s see how those play into this situation (mostly the one about God’s bizarre sense of humor).

Once we decided on natural birth, we enrolled in a class and started planning… can you hear God laughing in the background? I, who hate planning, needed to plan to be prepared for my choice. Well, here we are now, 10 weeks later, and my baby is so big that I’m sure my birth will be about medical intervention – not natural in any way. This is the main reason I hate planning, the let down when things out of your control mess with your plan.

And yes, I know that however Evan comes in to this world is the best way… but that thought process doesn’t follow my plans.

Anyway, when I get back with a baby and find some time to write, I have no doubt there will be entertaining stories from the hospital. It just doesn’t seem possible for Brian and I to do anything without it turning into a sitcom… hmm – is this reality or our perception – perhaps something to explore later.

Wish me luck and thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Third Trimester: Almost There

I’ve been in the 3rd trimester for the past 10 weeks. To quote Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…” and all the other stuff. That pretty much sums up the third trimester.

Here is what was/is good about the third trimester:
  • Fetal movement: I don’t care what anyone says I will never bore of feeling Evan. And I know that once he is no longer in there, I’m going to feel a little empty.
  • Looking pregnant: It really wasn’t until the third trimester that I finally went over the “is she fat or pregnant” hump. Looking pregnant is nice because it is an immediate excuse for why you are a little more cranky than usual, you are sweating more, or why you fall asleep in a meeting. You really don’t have to say anything, just point to your belly.
  • Viability: Basically, by the third trimester, the question becomes when you are going to have a baby and not “if.”
  • Baby Showers: What isn’t fun about having people give you gifts? I’m not the biggest fan of being the center of attention at showers, but I do love the gifts.
  • Husband perks: foot rubs, belly lotion, pedicures and all the other pampering things your husband is all the sudden ready to do for you.

But, as Dickens points out, the third trimester is also the worst of times (at least I think that is what he was referring to in the first line of A Tale of Two Cities. And so now let’s take a look at some of my not so favorite things about the third trimester.


Yes, I was told sleeping would be difficult but was assured that as long as I stayed on my side and bought a body pillow, everything would be okay. Well, they lied. There has been nothing “okay” about sleeping since week 28. Yes, I bought the body pillow, yes, I tried to sleep on my side, but I couldn’t last for more than 45 minutes at the most. So, I finally gave up and decided to sleep on my leopard print chaise lounge. I can get 2-3 hours straight on the chaise lounge, then I go to the bed for a few hours, then I return to the chaise and back and forth all night. The one thing I can’t do on the chaise is stretch out. I really miss stretching out.

So, everyone says that this not sleeping thing is God’s way of getting me prepared for when the baby comes. Okay, fine… but did He need to prep me for 10 weeks? Couldn’t I have learned the same lesson in like 3 weeks at the most?

Carpal Tunnel / Tingly Sensation

I don’t know if you are aware of this… but apparently carpal tunnel syndrome is a common side effect of pregnancy and it is no joke! I have to admit that in the past, when people would complain about carpal tunnel, I thought they were over-reacting. I’m here to tell you now, THEY ARE NOT KIDDING! I am a pretty independent woman and so far, Brian has had to cut up my food twice out in public (and more than that in private). I choose meals to cook based on how much cutting there is in the prep, I wear a brace as often as possible, and I spend a lot of time resting my wrist. It really really hurts.

In addition to the carpal tunnel, my hands are so swollen (which causes carpal tunnel) that my fingers are constantly tingling. I have to often stop what I’m doing, make and unmake a fist, let the hands hang and let the blood flow. More of an inconvenience than the pain of carpal tunnel.

Ankles (or lack thereof)

Yes, I’ve heard the rumors of swelling – that it happens to some women. But I don’t know that I really understood what it would look / feel like. It started slowly, I was able to wear my normal shoes for a while, it just looked like I was baking bread over the tops of them. At night the swelling would go down and my feet would look normal by morning. And then one day my normal shoes felt very uncomfortable and I accepted that I had to move on to flip-flops (this was about 5 weeks ago).

Once I started to wear the flip flops, I noticed some other changes. My ankles completely disappeared – I have a stump that meets my foot at a right angle. In fact, they now swell so much that there is a permanent crease where my left and foot meet. The swelling no longer goes down and it’s been weeks since I’ve seen my ankles.

The scariest part? I put on my flip flops the other day and I can barely wear them anymore. I have to think that at some point my feet will just have had it and boycott. I don’t know what that will look like, but let’s hope it doesn’t happen before the 25th.


At 24 weeks, back in the second trimester, I, like every other pregnant woman, went and got my glucose test for Gestational Diabetes (GD). Since I had been diagnosed with PCOS and since I was overweight before I got pregnant we (at least my medical practitioners and myself) were all in shock when it came back that I didn’t have GD. So I continued with my normal diet into the third trimester.

Then, giant baby came on the scene. I had been measuring big throughout my entire pregnancy. This is no surprise considering the fact that I’m almost 5’ tall and the average woman has about 5 inches on me where she can put the baby. But then, over the last few weeks, I’ve ballooned. Last Friday, at 37 weeks, I was measuring 44 weeks (3 more centimeters than the previous week). My doctor thought that maybe I do have GD which would contribute to his size (either that or I just grow giant babies).

Since I’m giving birth in a week, it’s important to know if I have GD so that they can address the baby’s blood sugar levels once he is born. So, since Saturday, I’ve been pricking my fingers 4 times a day to test my glucose levels (fasting, 2 hours after breakfast, 2 hours after lunch, 2 hours after dinner) and will be doing this until at least Friday when I have the next appointment. Just to add fun to my medical prognosis, the last 4 days I’ve been well within the normal range. Today, my fasting and my after breakfast levels were high. I swear I’ve done nothing different. But, I mean come one, why not throw a curve ball… juts for fun?

Doctor’s Appointments

Read my post from yesterday. Now think about the fact that in the third trimester, I’ve seen a midwife or physician EVERY WEEK. Nothing has changed about what happens in the appointments, just how often it happens.

And it might seem like the bad outweighs the good, but that really isn’t true. It’s just that there is always more to say about the bad. This is why Dickens didn’t write : “It was the best of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the epoch of belief …” No one would have read it.

I have loved being pregnant – all parts except for the anxiety, carpal tunnel, and sleeping – but I’m ready for the baby. I think the gestational period works very well and I know that this is as good as it gets.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Second Trimester

Medically speaking, the second trimester was of no consequence for me. My thyroid was under control and there were no new drugs to take. However, for the pregnancy, the greatest things happen in the second trimester.

Once we hit week 14, Brian and I had accepted that I had a viable pregnancy and we began to tell people. We knew we wanted to find out the sex (we are two extremely impatient people) but we had to wait until the 20 week ultrasound. So, from week 14 to week 20 we waited. The only thing that happened in those weeks is that I started to go to the doctor twice a month and the exhaustion of the first trimester disappeared. From the outside view, I didn’t look pregnant at all.

Brian had more anxiety around the pregnancy than I did. Probably because 1) the pregnancy was physically happening to me, and 2) he is a worst-case scenario man. Because of this, our lives settled into a nice pattern of anxiety in between visits as shown by the picture below.

We would go to an OB visit, Brian would hear the heartbeat and his anxiety level would be extremely low. Then, over the next 2 weeks, his anxiety would spike until the next visit when it plummeted back down when he heard the heartbeat again. He talked about getting a home Doppler but I adamantly was against this because I knew he would want to do it every 5 minutes and I had other things to do, and I knew that if we couldn’t find it right away, we would be at the ER – me so they could find the heartbeat, and him so they could give him some anti-anxiety medication and get him breathing normally.

The 20th week came and we were ready to find out the sex. Loopy ultrasound lady was showing us all the different parts of the baby (to this day is she hadn’t labeled the pictures I would have no idea what I was looking at) and she was telling us about the DVD she as making (yes, we have a DVD, that is pretty cool). All the sudden she said she couldn’t want anymore because she is sure we saw that it is definitely a boy. Brian claims that he did see but I had to take her word for it. At this point Whoosha Pupo became Evan Brian.

We had already picked out names for either sex. We couldn’t decide on any family names (because let’s face it, “Tom” and “Joe” were all played out on my side and even though we had thought about “Ydolo” from his side, it didn’t seem to play as well in Texas) so Brian recommended we look at the pregnancy. He mentioned that the earliest sign of the pregnancy was on Christmas Eve so if it was a girl it would be “Eve.” The only male equivalent we could think of was “Evan.” It felt weird to start calling him Evan, but we did immediately.

There was one thing left for the second trimester that hadn’t happened – feeling fetal movement. I was often on the boards on reading about how and when people felt fetal movement and on to learn it was “normal” to feel it anywhere from week 18 – 22 for a first pregnancy. Everyone kept trying to explain to me what the first flutters felt like but no on really could be specific. This was the one time I started to get anxious and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t feeling him. Then, one night as we were watching TV, my stomach felt like it had been on a roller coaster… there was a light fluttering and I knew it was Evan. I was 22 weeks – he was pushing it to the very end. And soon after the first movement, he was moving all the time – bouncing around in there. I’ve been told that fetal movement is not an indicator for the activity level of the baby once he is born… but if there is even a small correlation, I’m in trouble. The boy has not stopped moving since week 22.

The rest of the second trimester came and went quickly. We bought baby furniture, registered at Babies-R-Us for anything that seemed remotely necessary (after we had our panic attack about an entire wall of bottle choices), and I continued to get blood taken monthly for the endocrinologist, go and see the nurse at the endocrinologist every other month, and saw my OB ever 2 weeks. And before I end this blog, I would like to take a minute to discuss these doctor’s appointments.

I have heard people say, mostly people in public health, that pre-natal care is important as a concept but not from a doctor’s visit point of view. There is a huge push right now for group pre-natal care. Before I got pregnant, I was against this concept. Now, I would actually go so far as to advocate virtual care.

Here is what happens every other week in the second trimester at the doctor’s office:

1. I drive 20 minutes to the office.
2. If I’m seeing the midwife, I’m called back pretty quickly. If it’s one of the physicians I could wait up to 25 minutes.
3. I get called back. The nurse takes my weight and blood pressure. I pee on a stick to check my sugars and proteins.
4. I get put in a room to wait for the midwife / doctor.
5. The midwife / doctor come in, listen to the heartbeat, measure my uterus (the measurements didn’t even start until after week 20).
6. The midwife / doctor asks if we have any questions.
7. I make another appointment for 2 weeks.
8. Drive back to wherever I need to go (work or home).

As long as the pregnancy is “normal”, here is what I would like to see:

1. At home, I pee on a stick, take my weight and blood pressure and either call in or fax in the results.
2. If there are concerns, I make an appointment ASAP.
3. Otherwise, I attend monthly (or even less often) appointments in a group to learn about something in pregnancy and ask any questions – also hear the heartbeat here.

Look at the efficiency of my way and the time savings. And, I might actually learn something. Because, even though my practitioners are amazing, being new at this, I don’t always know what to ask so having other people ask questions around me will definitely help. But, it’s healthcare, and by necessity (due to insurance companies and malpractice suits) it’s become a racket.

Beyond the constant and useless appointments, the second trimester was blissful – this definitely had to be as good as it gets.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Trimester (or Minimum Clinical Girl)

So, on January 5, we went to the doctor’s office and we were immediately sent to get blood done. I got blood work done to test my hCG levels, progesterone, and my thyroid. Thankfully, and probably due to the obvious anxiety of my husband and our previous miscarriage, the tests were rushed and back within one day. I was definitely pregnant. My hCG levels were good, but my thyroid was high and my progesterone was low (still within range, but low). I made an appointment with the endocrinologist, was prescribed progesterone suppositories, had to go back to get blood drawn again to check my hCG levels, and scheduled an ultrasound to see what was going on. So begins my stress-free, all-natural, not medicated pregnancy.

And here is why Brian started to call me Minimum Clinical Girl:

1. My progesterone levels stayed consistently at the low end of the range, even with all the lovely suppositories. While I was still within range, being low made everyone nervous due to my previous miscarriage.
2. My hCG levels also didn’t act “normal.” Typically, with a viable pregnancy, your hCG levels will double (go up 100%) every other day. The acceptable range is anything between a 75% and a 100% increase. In 2 subsequent blood tests, my hCG levels went up 77% and 79%. Again, still within range, but nothing that made anyone comfortable.

So, we went in for our ultrasound hoping this would answer all of our questions and concerns. I was 5 weeks pregnant and there was a possibility, although not strong, that they would be able to see/hear a heartbeat. Instead, what we saw is the below picture (this is taken directly from my medical notebook, started once I realized my pregnancy would be medical).

As you can see from Brian’s handwriting (he is in charge of the book because he has the best handwriting out of the two of us and because it gives him something to do) we had a good yoke sack, good crown rump, good boundaries, and a fetal pole, but no heartbeat. Out of all of those things, the only thing I understood was “no heartbeat.” We scheduled another ultrasound for 2 weeks.

At this point, no one was sure what was going on. Yes, I was pregnant, but as my OB said, we should all be “cautiously reserved” about the viability of this pregnancy. Brian and I decided to tell only our parents about what was going on and I followed that agreement. I found out later that Brian had also told about 6 other people at work. Never ever tell him a secret, he just doesn’t keep them very well.

To make it seem even more unrealistic, the only symptom I had was exhaustion – a type of exhaustion I’ve never experienced before. I was going to bed at 7:00 PM and barely waking up the next day. But that was it – no nausea, no nuclear nose, no cravings, nothing.

We went for our second ultrasound and both of us were ready to hear nothing. The ultrasound tech, a little loopy herself, took her time setting up, spreading goo (yes, this is the professional term) on my belly, and then meandering around. She didn’t speak, just moved the arm thingy (another technical term) around my belly until she just stopped and said, “There it is.” And you could see something flickering on the screen – if you looked exactly in the right spot. At first I was convinced that it was a blip in the software program until she turned on the volume, and then we heard it… Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha Whoosha. Over and over again, loud and fast. I think a tear might have escaped my eye and I know Brian sighed in relief.

We were pregnant. The fetus had a heartbeat. I had progesterone supplements, synthetic thyroid, and prenatal vitamins. We had been upgraded to “optimistically cautious.” We named the bean Whoosha PUPO… “whoosha” after the heartbeat, and if you remember from a previous post PUPO means pregnant until proven otherwise. And even though we spent the first 13 weeks holding our breaths, knowing it could all be over within a minute, we did think this was as good as it could get.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Conception: Round 3

On Friday, we found out that Evan Brian is a ginormous baby and will be evicted in August 25. So, I’m going to hurry up and get us caught up to the future.

Disclaimer: If you are of the male persuasion and/or a female squeamish about bodily functions, parts of today’s post might be too much for you. Consider yourself warned.

So, it was back to trying. In the morning I took my synthroid, waited 30 minutes to eat breakfast, and peed on a stick looking for the smiley face. After dinner I took my Metformin and my pre-natal vitamin. I was sufficiently drugged up to conceive.

Our first month of trying was October. It passed and my period came. Our second month was November. Just because God has to get his giggles somewhere (and often my life seems like a likely place) my period was due around Thanksgiving. And, of course, it came. My in-laws were visiting and while I had a mini-meltdown upstairs they were oblivious downstairs (well not oblivious, I’m sure they knew something was wrong but not the specifics). I was just getting tired of continuing to drug myself up with no outcome.

Now it was December. And, as you might have surmised, since I got my period over Thanksgiving in November, it was due over Christmas in December. We were up in New Jersey, visiting my family and I was still taking my pharmacy and abstaining from caffeine and alcohol. We went to my Aunt Susan’s for Christmas Eve dinner, as we do every other year, and at some point during the dinner, I went to the bathroom and saw blood in my underwear. Assuming I had gotten my period… again… I was just done. This had been going on for too long for me (over a year) and I was tired. I told Brian what had happened and we left the dinner. On our way back to my parent’s house, while I was crying in the car, Bubs stopped at a Walgreens and went in and bought me tampons (that is a man secure in himself).

The next day, Christmas, I noticed my period was very light but thought nothing of it. I had coffee with the Christmas strata (sweet wonderful coffee) and then 2 glasses of wine with Christmas dinner (aah…wine, how I miss thee). After dinner, I dutifully went to change my tampon and there was nothing. I mean, it was completely clean. Apparently, my light period has lasted 24 hours… that just didn’t seem possible. I told Brian and we were both completely confused. We were going back to Texas soon so we both decided to wait and see what happened.

And I was able to wait pretty much until right after we landed before I visited my trusty medical consultant – I googled my symptoms a few different ways and came to the same answer over and over again… implantation bleeding. This meant that it was possible I was pregnant and I told Brian.

Due to our past experience both of us were skeptical. We decided to wait until after New Year’s to take the test which would also mean I would be more than 1 week late. And we actually made it as far as we said we would and then I took the test. It was a VERY long 5 minutes. We left the test in the bathroom and pretended to give ourselves something else to do. At the end of 5 minutes we walked back in together and saw the words “Pregnant.” All we knew was that one test said I was pregnant… been there, done that.

I took another test a few hours later… still “Pregnant.” I took one the next day and then the next day – all said “Pregnant.” While we weren’t convinced I was definitely pregnant, we were convinced it was time to call the OB. We scheduled an appointment on the next Friday and I took 2 more tests in the meantime, just to be sure.

At this point, we didn’t know what to feel so we just waited.

Friday, August 14, 2009

2 Disclaimers for Today's Post

I thought of 2 things to clarify about today's post before moving on...

1. Some of you may be thinking that if I just lost weight my body image would be better. Just as an FYI - body image is more than how much you weigh. Thanks for the ass-vice (read on), I'm working on it.

2. Mom, it is not your fault that I don't always have a fabulous body image. The sum of me is more than just your influence. Don't add this to your mom-guilt.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Conception: Intermission

So, we went to the endocrinologist and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (hypothyroidism). It means that at some point I probably got an autoimmune disease that attacked my thyroid and left it unable to do its job. There is no way of knowing when this occurred, but after hearing the symptoms (difficulty losing weight, thinning hair, exhaustion, dry skin – incidentally almost all the symptoms of PCOS as well) Brian thinks it was sometime after I met him. I was put on synthroid (synthetic thyroid medication) and we had to wait a few months to see if the level of synthroid I was on was enough to even me out before we could start trying to get pregnant again.

As an aside, I can now say that I see that the miscarriage was necessary. I had complained to other physicians about weight gain, dry hair, etc and no one thought of hypothyroidism. I was told if I lost weight all of the other issues would be taken care of. Thankfully, my OB saw differently and we were able to identify this problem. I can honestly say that the day the synthroid kicked in, I felt like a whole new person. Until then I didn’t even realize how sick I was.

Since at this point in the story Brian and I were on a conception intermission, I thought I would use this post for some short musings that were going through my mind around this time period.


(Sorry mom, but the potty mouth is necessary for this – I swear)

When my friend was having a difficult time getting pregnant, she started to read a lot of blogs about women who were in the same situation. We would talk about these blogs and there are two things from them that made an impression on me. The first is the concept of “ass-vice” which I’ll talk about in a minute and the other is PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise… this will become important in a later post).

Ass-vice is a noun – is it the well-meaning but useless advice given to women who admit to any difficulty of getting pregnant typically from women who have children (and conceived them by falling down).

It’s when people say things like:

“Just relax and it will happen.”
“It will happen when you least expect it.”
“I know that things will work out for the best for you.”
“The same thing happened to my friend/sister/mom/dog-sitter’s hair stylist…”

I realize that most of the people who read blogs about women who have difficulty getting pregnant are themselves women who have difficulty getting pregnant so I wanted to bring this to the attention of the fall-down pregnant women. Your ass-vice may be well meaning, but it doesn’t help… and in most cases just results in suppressed anger.

Because, relaxing wasn’t going to fix my thyroid, you don’t know how any of this will work out, you are not an oracle, and no matter the similarities between what is happening to me and to your friend/sister/mom/dog-sitter’s hair stylist it is not the same. My situation is mine… it is only happening to me at that moment and I don’t care what you think of it.

So, if a woman is brave enough to share with you that getting pregnant isn’t coming “naturally” to her, think of ass-vice before you answer. I’ve thought about this for a long time and I honestly believe the only appropriate thing to say is something along the lines of, “Wow, that sounds difficult.” Because, it is difficult and it was probably difficult for that person to share with you as well.

The Betrayal of My Body

I’m sure, that somewhere out there, there is a woman who is completely at peace with her body and maybe, just maybe she is reading this blog. But, I can tell you that she is not writing this blog.

There have been times where I’ve been at peace but something interrupts it. Maybe it’s a shopping spree where I want to spend a lot of money but can only find one thing in my size, or a shop window in Beverly Hills that proclaims plus size clothing for sizes 8 – 14, or it could be that my body is incapable of doing the most natural of things – get pregnant.

I honestly believe that my conception journey was made all the more difficult because it was just one more time when my body betrayed me. I can pinpoint the very first betrayal – the growth of my breasts. I’m not saying that overnight I turned into Dolly Parton or anything, but one day I didn’t have breasts and then everyone noticed that the next day I did. I was never a girly-girl but I was never a full-on tomboy either. I was able to exist in between both worlds, until the lumps showed up. They identified me as different from boys and boys noticed. In fact, one afternoon, sitting on the swing in our front porch two male friends made some jokes and a grab (in a total pubescent manner). And that was when I knew this body wasn’t going to be easy.

Even now, that I’m pregnant, I don’t think my reaction to my body at the time was irrational. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t function like everyone else’s and why it took medical intervention for me to get pregnant (and I still don’t). There were times when I hated my body, just really really hated it. I think if I had been able to be kinder to my body, this journey would have been less painful for me (and I’m sure for Brian). These strong emotions are just one reason why ass-vice is taken so badly by people for whom getting pregnant isn’t “easy.”

On a happier note, I can tell you that right now, at 37 weeks pregnant I have never felt more comfortable with my body and I only hope I can continue that feeling.


My final musing is about Murphy’s Law.

I hate medication. If I’m taking an Advil you can be sure that it’s because my headache is so bad I can’t see or it’s because my back is in spasm (although I have something stronger for that). So, what happens? I get diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease and find out I will be on drugs every day for the rest of my life. You see, my thyroid can no longer function without assistance – the damage is irreversible.

So, to end on some clichés: “never say never,” “be careful what you wish for,” and “God has a bizarre sense of humor.”

Conception: Round 2

So, off we went to the doctor’s, unable to believe that the Metformin had worked so well and so quickly. When we got there, the receptionist asked me how many pregnancy tests I had taken and when I answered just one, she said we would be taking another (as a FYI for anyone reading this who thinks about getting pregnant in the future, apparently if you take 2 tests at home then you don’t have to take one at the doctors – at least in my doctor’s office).

Being a woman, I was of course able to pee on demand so I took the test in a jiffy. It was not a fancy physician test; it was the same test I took at home. We were escorted to a room where we waited for the nurse midwife to come in. And when she did, she didn’t seem as excited as we did and we knew why in an instant. The test I had taken came back as negative – showing me as not pregnant. I didn’t even understand how this was possible and she didn’t offer any explanation (that combined with her matter-of-face attitude has made her our least favorite nurse midwife of the practice). She explained that since there were two contradictory tests that they wanted to take blood for a final answer.

Utterly confused and in a stupor, Brian and I went to the lab (thankfully only one floor up from the office) and I had blood drawn. I think I made it to the car before I completely broke down. I just didn’t understand what was going on. Was I pregnant or not? Was my body functioning “normally” or had it failed me yet again? Brian really was trying to console me, but I think he was probably dealing with emotions that were just as confusing (he later told me he kind of wanted a baby up to this moment when it shifted and he REALLY wanted a baby). We pulled out of the hospital and as we were waiting at a red light, I looked over and saw the now-infamous homeless woman (now-infamous because Brian had re-told this moment many times over).

Some brief facts before I continue with this story:

1. Austin is pan-handling friendly in most places of the city so seeing a homeless woman on a corner is not uncommon.
2. You must understand that at the moment, while I was crying (okay, probably sobbing) in the car, I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t pregnant and that somehow this was because I was defective… and even more importantly that the defect was somehow my fault (yes, I’m aware of the fact that there was no rational basis for this but when are you rational when you’re sobbing?).
3. I believe that Brian saw this woman before me because I remember him sighing which is what made me look over.

And here is what I said when I looked at the woman: “Oh my God, even the homeless woman can get pregnant.” Brian considers this to be a watershed moment in conception, when I completely lost touch with reality. But, all I could see is that this woman, who had no pre-natal care, no hygiene (trust me, I was looking at her), etc, had been able to get pregnant and the verdict was still out on me. It was just bad timing. But, important enough that I’m sure I could pick her out of a line-up today.

So, we went home and started to wait. Not being very patient people, we decided to take the remaining pregnancy tests in the house (about 5) all in one day. Each one came back pregnant. We talked to the medical professionals in our life (parents) and we all agreed I had to be pregnant. It was a Friday when I went to the OB so the earliest I would hear back from them would be Monday. Sunday night I got my period so it was no surprise when they called to tell me that I wasn’t pregnant.

There were, however, two surprises that did come from the phone call. The first one was that according to my doctor’s office, I had probably had a chemical pregnancy. I’m sorry… what? Here’s the deal. Nowadays, with all the brand new tests, people can get a positive pregnancy test almost a month before any other generation. But all the test is detecting is the level of hCG (pregnancy hormone) in your body. It does not detect viability and does not detect a gestational sac. So, when this scenario occurs, where your body gets ready to develop the gestational sac but something goes awry and this never occurs, it is called a chemical pregnancy. This probably occurred in my parent’s generation but to them it just seemed like their period was a little late.

So, here is where technology is not my favorite thing in the world. The doctor’s office talked about this chemical pregnancy as if I was never really pregnant and they didn’t use the term miscarriage. However, for me, I was pregnant, if only for a few days. So, I was dealing with a miscarriage and they were dealing with something completely different. As I was trying to process the fact that in my mind I’d had a miscarriage, the office had moved on the second surprise. They knew why I had a chemical pregnancy / miscarriage and were ready to solve the problem.

Apparently, my brilliant physician (no sarcasm here, it was purely her intelligence that discoveredf this very important fact about me), at the last minute, ordered a thyroid test for my blood and the results showed I was VERY out of whack and had hypothyroidism. According to what I was hearing, I would never have a viable pregnancy with my current levels because an out of whack thyroid impacts the development of a fetus’ brain. But, good news, all I had to do was go to an endocrinologist, get on the right level of medication, and everything would be fixed. Sounded great – right? And they were done with giving me information – have a good day.

So, let’s recap… here is what I heard that day:

• I had a miscarriage because my body was defective and couldn’t sustain a pregnancy.
• I was already on one medication that addressed one issue (the whole ovulation thing) and would now have to go on another to address the other process my body couldn’t do on its own.
• My medical professionals were optimistic that all was good now even though I wasn’t pregnant.

I’m sure I cried again (Brian refers to this time period as when he seriously thought about adoption because he couldn’t stand my crying) and I was scared to think if this was as bad as it could get… or could it get worse?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Conception: Round 1

I had decided, long before we started trying to get pregnant, that I didn’t want to become one of those women who are obsessed with counting days and peeing on sticks in order to get pregnant. Instead, I wanted to conceive my child in an atmosphere of relaxation and let nature take its course. While this all sounds naïve to me now, there was a reason behind my thought process.

Out of the people I knew who had been pregnant, I was only aware of one person who had any difficulties. Apparently, everyone else just fell down pregnant. Except, of course, for my mom and sister – they didn’t even need to fall down. They just needed to be in the vicinity of their husbands and boom – a baby. In fact, there were even some people I knew who had a surprise pregnancy (which Brian hates when people say because if you are having sex without birth control, he feels you shouldn’t be surprised – sorry rhythm method, you are not considered birth control). And so, it made complete sense to me that all Brian and I needed to do was have sex (sorry if that was too graphic for you, but we are married).

And that is what we did. Month 1 came and went and I got my period. Month 2 came and went and I got my period. Month 3 – still nothing. I know all the recommendations out there say nothing is wrong until 6 months, but sometimes you just know things aren’t right. So, I went on to, bought a bunch of ovulation kits and became that woman who counted days and peed on sticks. Starting a week after my period I peed on a stick a day waiting for the ovulation indicator.

And let’s just take a second, before moving on, to discuss the stress these tests create. Every morning, I peed on a stick (well, to be honest, I peed in a cup and then dipped because apparently peeing on a stick was beyond my abilities) and then walked away from it for 3 minutes. If I was ovulating, a smiley face would show in the digital window, as if the whole world was excited about my ability to ovulate. However, if I wasn’t ovulating, the digital window showed an empty circle. No facial expression at all. What did that mean? How was I supposed to feel about not ovulating – anything? By week 3, I missed the simple one line or two line concept that made no judgment or even wished for an “ovulating” or “not ovulating” digital window. Instead, that damn smiley face was what was beyond my grasp. And, by week 4, I knew there was a problem.

By now, I’m sure most of the ladies have figured out the problem with the fact that by week 4 I had still not seen the smiley face, but let me make it clear for everyone. No smiley face meant I wasn’t ovulating. And as you might remember from the minimal biology we all had in high school or by looking at, ovulation means “to produce and discharge eggs from an ovary or ovarian follicle.” Now, let’s take this one step further. Pregnancy occurs when the egg, discharged from the ovary or ovarian follicle, meets the sperm. So, for pregnancy to occur, a woman needs to ovulate and according to the blank circle… I wasn’t. It was time to figure out what was going on.

My first stop was I queried about not ovulating, read over a lot of articles, and diagnosed myself with PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) and took it one step further to decide that mine was probably weight related. I also read lots of posts where women who had PCOS still were able to get pregnant so I was okay at this point. Brian, however, wanted a medical opinion and so we made an appointment with our OB.

Let me take a minute to let you know how much I love my OB. I chose her specifically for her belief that in general pregnancy is not a medical condition, but instead a natural event. I also chose her because she is wicked smart and I am just smart enough to surround myself with smart people.

So, we went to the OB and guess what… I wasn’t ovulating, I had PCOS, and it was probably weight-related. But, she had a solution. Apparently there were studies that recently concluded that women who had PCOS reacted well to taking Metformin and were able to get pregnant.

I left the appointment with a few different things:

1. A prescription for Metformin and advice not to start trying again for 6 weeks until the Metformin starts to work
2. Optimism that I could get pregnant
3. A supportive and optimistic husband
4. A nagging feeling that my body had betrayed me

At the moment, the feeling in #4 was just in the back of my mind. I was able to control it with the rational side of my mind, but it was there… waiting.

We went home, waited 6 weeks, I peed on more sticks and one day I screamed in the bathroom. Brian came running in… and I showed him the smiley face. I was ovulating, it was amazing. And so I continued counting days, peeing on sticks, and trying.

Then one month, I didn’t get my period. It was time for me to pee on another kind of stick. After 5 minutes, this one came back and said “pregnant.” We called tons of people, made our OB appointment, and knew this was as good as it gets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Montage and Then Some

To bridge the time in between moving to Austin and thinking of a baby, I’ve decided to provide you with a montage. I love a good montage and in fact believe that every good action movie (think the original Rocky) needs a montage. On the flip side of that, bad action movies (think Rocky 3 – Rocky infinity – yes Mr. Stallone, you did owe us the apology of Rocky Balboa) usually have 2 – 3 montages so let’s hope this is the one and only in this blog. This montage will cover April 2006 – July 2007 (also known as the beginning of the conception quest – yes, we are almost there).

The first thing we did was unpack boxes and figure out where our furniture from the New Jersey house would fit in our new house. In some cases we knew right away, in some cases it took us a few months (or years) to figure out.

We paid for a custom sunflower glass sculpture to go over our fireplace (this would be due to my obsession with sunflowers – born the first time I saw an entire field of sunflowers in Italy and watched them swivel to capture the rays of the sun – breathtaking).

Next, we found a young man who was just starting out doing Venetian plaster techniques to walls and had him come in and do our dining room (incidentally, the only room for which we needed to buy furniture). The house wasn’t finished but we were settled. Now, what about us?

Brian acclimated to his job, found out his boss was a son-of-a-*** (my mother expressed dismay at my potty mouth in my last post so I’ll try and keep it clean), and fell in love with Austin. He bought a new Jaguar, tried swimming in Barton Springs Pool (the verdict is that the bottom was too slippery), and visited the Sea World in San Antonio.

We went to Walt Disney World for Christmas / New Year’s and Brian somehow was “tricked” into riding on Splash Mountain (long story) – it didn’t go over so well as you can see (he is wearing the red Seminoles sweatshirt and I’m the one next to him hysterically laughing). Friends visited, we went to the petting Zoo on I-35 and were attacked by some hungry zebras (seriously, we almost honked our horns to get the park ranger out to save us).

Me, I putzed around the house for a month or two and realized that if I didn’t leave the house I was never going to meet anyone. I got a job working out in Taylor, TX and discovered the best BBQ I’ve eaten to date (Louis Mueller’s – get the brisket… OMG) and some fabulous sausages in Elgin – oh, and I worked too, as a contractor.

This lovely photo is what my company posted to our website for other people in the company to see (I worked for a contracting company who had people across the US – we had something akin to an internal Facebook)… Brian was my prison photographer. I met a great friend, and native Texan, and learned why people said Austin was different from Texas. A giant ice storm shut down Austin in January 2007 and since we couldn’t leave the house, I thought what the heck – and quit smoking.

I gained tons of weight (come on, bowls of melted cheese, stress of moving to a new state and no one saw this coming?) and Brian lost over 80 lbs. We went on day trips all throughout Central Texas (best book ever: Day Trips from Austin) and saw all the lovely things Texas had to offer: wildflowers, small town festivals, farmed buffaloes and cattle, local wine and goat cheese, and a sky that just doesn’t quit. And I fell madly in love with that sky – to the point where the Jersey sky, blocked out by all the tree branches, now makes me claustrophobic.

And then we had the conversation. I have no idea how the conversation came about, so my re-enactment below is beyond a dramatization. I’m sure it followed a similar path… but don’t quote me.

The Conversation

Me: You know, Brian, I have been smoke-free for almost 6 months.

Brian: Uh-huh.

Me: We had always said that we wouldn’t start trying to have a baby until I was smoke-free for at least 6 months.

Brian: Yeah, you’re right.

Me: Well, what do you think?

Silence as I’m sure Brian tried to figure out what he thought and to see if what he thought was what I wanted to hear.

Brian: I think it’s time we start trying to have a baby.

Me: How about we start trying in August? This way I can get on pre-natal vitamins and we can be ready.

Brian: Okay, let’s do it then.

July came around and Brian decided he was impatient (no surprise there for those who know him) and we started a little early. He wanted to tell everyone we were trying. After we told my mom, she later said that basically we had just told her we were about to start having a lot of sex. She was right and that was just weird.

And life, at that moment as we looked towards our future, was as good as it gets.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Moving Day

Sorry to leave you hanging on this post. I’ve been away too long and after my OB appointment on Friday, I’ve realized how little time I have left (at the most 5 weeks) until Evan arrives and I still have a lot of stories to get through. So, let’s move on.

We arrived in Austin on Wednesday April 5, 2006. We stashed our cats at a local vet for boarding (recommended by our real estate agent) and then went to our hotel. The plan was for us to close on our house on Saturday and have our moving van meet us there that weekend since Brian had to start work on Monday. While we waited for Saturday, we drove around the city, trying to acclimate ourselves to the new environment both in store (our grocery store is HEB, not Acme) and in roads – roads especially. It seems that in Austin, all the highways have at least 2 names and which name someone uses depends on how long they have lived in Austin. For instance:
  • 183 = Research
  • Loop 1 = MoPac
  • 360 = Capital of Texas Highway

For those of us who are directionally challenged, this was a bit of an annoyance. It helped immensely that our rental car had a navigation system we could use to find the long and short routes to random places.

Saturday came, we closed without a hitch, and I owned 2 houses. We installed the cats in their new home – being in an empty room was better than a cage (and a lot cheaper too) and walked around our big empty house. Brian started the process of tracking down our mover – we hadn’t heard from him yet and honestly, we were a little worried about the possibility of him having a heart attack on the side of the road because he was much older than we had expected. After some dropped calls, we finally had a conversation with him and he told us the earliest he would be there was Tuesday. The mover would call us as he got closer to Cedar Park and we would give him directions to our house.

Okay – Tuesday – we would stay in the hotel a few extra days, I would drive Brian to work and pick him up, and I would be in charge of the movers… in a strange city… in a strange car that I haven’t driven because Brian drove it every day… I could do this. I’m a grown-up and, on occasion, have even come across as fairly competent.

To prepare, on Monday night, after Brian’s first day of work, we went to Wal-Mart and bought me a folding chair. We had no idea when the movers would arrive, so I could be waiting in an empty house for a while – I needed something to sit on (we still have this folding chair – I look to it as a memory of the first day). Tuesday morning, I dropped Brian off at work and successfully drove to our new house without getting lost once. I said hello to the cats and then deposited myself on the folding chair – outside so I could wait and smoke (remember, I still had that nasty habit when we moved down here).
My mom called and then my friend from NJ called. I felt good… things were going well. And then a friend of mine from work called and things weren’t as rosy.

Let’s back up a minute. In NJ, I was working at a sub-prime mortgage company as a Senior Learning Specialist. It was a really good position, paid well, and kept me interested (not an easy thing for a job to do). When we decided to move to Texas, I resigned from my position – or more accurately, I tried to resign from my position. I was turned down… I didn’t know your resignation could be turned down. But, apparently it can be. Instead, my boss made me an offer of long-distance employment. I would work from home and travel back to NJ at least once a quarter paid for by the company. I had my doubts since this was the beginning of what would become a great economic crisis spurred on by the sub-prime mortgage companies and my specific company had already gone through at least one set of lay-offs, but I was assured there was money for me and that I was important. With my inflated ego, I accepted and moved to Austin ready to work from home.
Back at the ranch… or back in my suburban cookie cutter development, my friend from work called. She worked in Employee Relations and therefore knew a lot of what went on at the company. Turns out, she was calling to warn me that I was going to receive a phone call from my boss and that I was going to be laid off. So, after all the assertions, I was going to be laid off. I called Brian, told him the news, and was trying to figure out how I felt about the whole thing. Turns out, I was angry… super angry – really pissed. I wasn’t convinced (and I’m still not) that the higher ups who approved my working from Texas, knew that they were just going to lay me off. I wish they had just let me quit and I would have been job searching already.

But, in one of those soul searching moments, I realized that what REALLY made me angry, had very little to do with my company. Within the hour, my boss called, I was laid off with a decent severance package, and all I could think about was that the job was my last tie to NJ and now it was gone. I had truly left home and apparently that was a bigger deal than I was prepared to deal with. That was when my anger turned to sadness and I cried, alone on my folding chair in an empty house. But, I needed to get my shit together because the movers were coming and I was a grown-up.

Early afternoon, Brian called me to tell me he had been talking to the movers, got them as far as a local mall and I was to go and find them and escort them back to our house. He gave me directions to the meeting location and said it should take me about 10 minutes. 45 minutes later, I found the moving van. I was already on the edge because I had gotten lost so many times, was emotionally not so stable, and wasn’t confident that I could have this moving van follow me back to our house. But, it had to be done.

So, a giant 18 wheeler was following me through suburbia. I wasn’t sure what to do. It seemed like it took him a long time to speed up and slow down so I was trying to accommodate the way he drove. I wasn’t sure what types of roads he could navigate, so I took us what I thought was the route with the widest roads… and I got us lost. Very lost on a road that took you nowhere. We stopped, one of the movers, younger gentleman probably in his late 30s, came to find out what was going on. When I explained to him the situation, he decided to drive with me in the car as we turned around (and how that truck was able to turn around was a miracle) and try and make it back to the house. And, honestly, I felt like a complete dumb ass.

At that point, I was someone who couldn’t find her own house, couldn’t have a truck follow her, and couldn’t keep a job. And very innocently, the mover asked me how my day was, and I burst in to tears. Not movie tears either – but sobbing heaving tears as I told him how I just got laid off. And I HATE to cry in front of people – even in front of Brian (and he hates me crying in front of him so that works out). I didn’t want this stranger to be emotionally connected to me and so I added that to the failure column which of course just made me cry harder. So, while I was in some self-deprecating circle of hell (I believe Dante would have put this in the 3rd inner circle) and the mover was trying to tell me how this was all God’s plan, we arrived at our house. It was 3PM and they weren’t sure they could move anything in that late, but one look at my face and they started.

And I knew, right then and there, that this had to be as bad as it could get.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Just a note... I'm a slacker. I'm aware of this. The last few days of any job, trying to wrap up the loose ends, becomes a little hectic. Add a going-away party, a trip to visit the hospital, and 36 weeks of a baby and you have a slacker.

Much to the sadness of my faithful reader (my mother) this is indeed the post for today. I promise I will have something tomorrow and that it will be very very good.

As a preview...

Once upon a time... a young woman, usually in charge of her emotions, sobbed in the car with a moving man while a moving truck followed behind her on a road where no moving truck was ever meant to be...

Monday, August 3, 2009

And now for something completely different...

I asked Brian to take these pictures today because someone actually asked me in the elevator if I was pregnant... and it seemed really funny.

This is what I looked like when I was asked if I was pregnant. Umm... what do you think?

I swear, there is only one kid in there. Does anyone wonder why my back hurts or why I sleep sitting up?

This is normal swelling for my feet. Oddly it really doesn't hurt that much. Let's just hope my flip-flops hold out.
I can't imagine I'll get much bigger, but I'll update you if I do.

Preparation and (sigh) Planning

My apologies to anyone who was looking for posts this weekend. I was too busy to post. Then again, it may only be my mother that is my faithful ready. Not unlike when I was in elementary school.

I’ve noticed that a lot of life is simply planning for life. Planning to get married, planning to have a baby, planning for a new job or for leaving an old job. All of this simply makes my head hurt. This was why when I planned my wedding, I pretty much decide to re-do my sister’s wedding (with the same vendors) and then had the vendors make most of the decisions since they were the experts. Guess what, I LOVED my wedding – it is still one of the best days of my life.

For me, the biggest and most stressful planning is the planning to move (and remember, it’s all stressful to me so this is a biggie!). The concept that all of my life possessions, some irreplaceable and some that should be replaced, will be in the care of a complete stranger for an unknown amount of days completely freaks me out. Even when I did the across town move, having my things out of my sight for a few hours was uncomfortable. But moving to Texas… this was a biggie.

Here are the things that were set to be out of my sight for more than an hour:
1. Furniture and belongings – somebody would be gently shoving all of the things that mean something to me in the back of a van and taking off. I would have a piece of paper that would promise they would show up at the other side.
2. Cars – we were flying so our cars had to be shipped. We would drop our cars off at some random (and might I add sketchy) lot and assume they would show up in Texas, in some sort of serviceable condition, within 2 weeks.
3. Cats – yes, even my precious kitties would be out of sight. Bubba Cat would get to come on the plane with us (due to his heart murmur and my bizarre and slightly abnormal attachment to him) but the others would go in the belly of the plane. I would drop them off at cargo and pick them up at cargo.

This involves a whole lot of trust in a whole lot of people I knew nothing about. And, on top of all this, I would actually have the privilege of paying for all of this. Oh my God, and the logistics. When to drop off the cars so that we could use someone else’s car since someone wasn’t thinking and actually taught a class our last night in NJ (that would be Brian) and so needed to drive back and forth to Philly. Or when to have the movers come so someone would be there to oversee the insanity.

These were the thoughts going through my mind as we left Austin, landed in Philly, and drove back to our house. I think it was when I started to have a severe anxiety attack that Brian told me not to worry he would take care of most of the logistics of selling our house.

Oh my God – we had to sell our house. And folks, that was it, for about a week I went into an intense denial coma of non-movement. Poor Brian literally had to do almost everything by himself. Here was his to-do list:

1. Contact a realtor. We settled on one (to remain nameless so as to keep me legally free from any liable suits) who was a “local guy that only sells homes.” I think the stereotype of realtors came from this guy.

2. Contact movers. We had 3 come out and price our house. Of course we chose the cheapest that, turns out, basically screwed over the mover. I don’t know if you are aware of this little nugget of knowledge, but when you contract with a moving company, they then contract with movers. So, someone from the company comes out and decides we have 2 tons of stuff to move and gives us a quote based on that. We accept the quote. The moving company then calls up one of their sub-contractors, the person who will actually move us, and tells him how much weight and how much we are being charged. So, when the guy who moves us shows up and he sees that the quote was WAY under reality (because we really have 3 tons to move), oh well for the mover. He has to eat it. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about humanity.

3. Contact a way to move our cars.

4. Identify the best airline for animal travel. I believe it was American (but don’t quote my fuzzy brain). Then find out that the only direct flights to Austin are from Newark and you need a direct flight, because you don’t trust people accurately transporting your kitties from one plane to another, so you have to figure out how to get to Newark. God bless my father who drove us and 2 cats up to Newark at some ungodly hour.

5. Identify what you need for the cats to travel. Then make the vet appointments, take them all there, and get all the paperwork. Oh, you also have to buy airplane approved cat carriers.

6. Locate a Pod. Since we the local guy that only sells homes recommended we de-clutter some of our house and move out some furniture (and because we had 4 weeks to sell, if he had told us to sacrifice a lamb in the backyard, we would have been eating gyros for weeks.

7. Get home pre-inspected. There were a few iffy items we needed to get checked out. You know, nothing big… like if our sun room was falling off the back of the house or if it just looked that way (turned out it just looked that way).

8. Find a painter. Turns out not everyone is into a purple bathroom, or a yellow and orange striped room (these were better ideas than executions).

9. Work with the landscaper to get the house show ready.

10. Occasionally, let your wife out of her straight jacket so she can reach an itch.

And it all worked out. It must have been one of my 200 guardian angels (and yes, I have to have that many to have done as many stupid things as I have and come out unscathed) because our house sold in record time and right before the crash of the market (the people who bought it from us put it back on the market within the year and it didn’t sell for almost 2 years). Brian’s to-do list got done, and we were on our way to Austin, Texas. Yee-haw…