Thursday, June 20, 2013

Since When is Pregnancy Disgusting?

My sweet little baby I just have to show off!
Ever since I found out I was pregnant, I've been bracing myself for the tactless comments women find themselves receiving from friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers throughout their pregnancy.

"Wow, you're HUGE!"

"Are you sure it's not twins?"

"You should..." (insert unsolicited advice here)

I've also been preparing myself for all sorts of fun comments regarding breastfeeding when that time comes.

Luckily, since I look more like a sorority girl who had one too many wine coolers than a pregnant woman, I haven't heard anything other than "You're tiny for being five months along!", which doesn't bother me much, so long as nothing is said about me being a bad mother for not eating enough.

However, I never in my life imagined hearing a comment I heard about a month ago on Memorial Day.

Disclaimer: Yeah, it happened awhile ago, and I should just get over it, but it has been irking me since it happened, so I'm writing about it.

Every year on Memorial Day, my immediate family, plus my grandparents, an aunt and one or two of my cousins go to a small town nearby Le Mars for the day. There is a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and sausage in the morning at the park, followed by a service in the cemetery, and then a hamburger picnic type lunch afterwards at the community center. It's one of my favorite family traditions and I look forward to it every year.

Well, this year, I was in a great mood. I woke up with zero nausea, a rare blessing these days, and was ravenously hungry by the time we arrived for the breakfast. We all got in line and I got lots of eggs and sausage scooped on my plate. When I came to the pancakes, a middle aged man asked me if I wanted one or two. The breakfast is all-you-can-eat, and I knew I'd come back for seconds anyway, so I asked if I could just have three right then.

He gave me a really weird look, that can basically be summed up as "God, you pig."

I laughed a little and said "Sorry, I'm just really hungry. I'm pregnant and need a little extra food these days!"

He looked back at me, disgusted, and said "Ew. I really didn't need to know that."

I raised my eyebrows and stared at him in shock for a second before I said "Pregnancy isn't a disease, you know."

He replied again with a single "Ew."

Believe me, it took every ounce of patience, grace, and self-control not smash his face on the griddle. If a 13-year-old boy had said something like this, I would have laughed it off with a witty comment. But a middle-aged man, who had a boy standing next to him who was very clearly his son?

You've got to be freaking kidding me.

He received my death glare every chance I got the rest of the morning. I hope he's still having nightmares of the disgusting pregnant woman who wanted three pancakes for breakfast. How gross! Jerk.

I looked around the web for women who have experienced similar encounters, and was shocked at how common stuff like this is. Women with male co-workers telling them flat out that they think they're gross, women who have been accused of "harboring revolting parasites", women who have been asked to leave public property for fear that they'll pee or have their water break all over something...the list goes on and on.

Since when is pregnancy disgusting? Since when is it something that is taboo to discuss? Since when it is "Ew"-worthy?

I guess not everybody realizes that they also hung out in somebody's uterus for nine months, and that most of them came out of somebody's vagina, too.

Has something similar happened to you? How did you handle it? Please share in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!


P.S. At least the curmudgeon gave me three pancakes.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Week Twenty: The Halfway Point!

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus resounded in my head when I woke up yesterday morning. Twenty weeks, the halfway's finally here!

Another reason to jump for joy: Most women who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum finally get relief from the morning sickness from Hell at around twenty-one weeks or so, so I am almost there! The fact that I was sick again this morning makes me all the more excited. Throwing up bile is disgusting.

I'm still anxiously awaiting my appointment with the perinatologist on Monday. I have faith that everything will go smoothly, but that doesn't make trying not to dwell on it any easier. Although, yesterday helped me relax quite a bit.

Justin and I headed to Sioux City for the afternoon and evening (right after grabbing some free ice cream at one of the many Ice Cream Days festivities going on in Le Mars for the weekend). We started at Target, where we had a blast putting together a registry for little Jellie Bean. We finally decided on a theme for everything too: Owls, and the colors pink and green. Once I saw the little crib sheet with owls on it, I couldn't contain myself. All my visions of purple and yellow dinosaurs flew out the window!

We also picked up a photo album to fill with pictures that won't be able to go into Jellie Bean's baby book. After we got home last night, I started compiling all of our ultrasound pictures and placing them on the pink pages. It's nothing excitingly fancy, but it's nice to have a place for all those grainy black and white images of her.

Adorable, right? $17.00 at Target. It was a little pricey for my taste, but it was too cute to pass up! I'd show a bit of the inside, but sweet Jellie Bean's name is already written all over the place, so ya'll will just have to wait until we make that public. :)

After scanning a million items with the orangey-red gun in Target, we drove over to Olive Garden for dinner where we spent far too much time giggling over things that weren't really that funny. Then we made our way to the Promenade Theatre for a movie. It was a wonderful night with my hubby, my best friend.

We also did a cover of a song by the Christian duo, Lost and Found last night, so click on over to the "music" tab up at the top of the page and have a listen to our rendition of "Baby".

Today has been a slow day. Since I was sick this morning again, we took a while to get rolling. We finally walked over to Foster Park, our wedding ceremony venue, for Art in the Park, where crafty vendors sell lots of handmade goodies each year during Ice Cream Days. It rained this morning, though, so apparently less than half of the booths that were supposed to be there, weren't. Sadie had fun tagging along, though, and gave many kisses to the cutest little strawberry blonde girl in a navy blue jumper. We grabbed some free ice cream, and then headed back home.

We plan on going to see the Ice Cream Days fireworks tonight with a few of my dear friends from high school, and then I'll have a marathon of homework to complete for my online classes before the midnight deadline, which is my own fault, because I'm the world's greatest procrastinator. I should be doing that homework right now. But this blog is more fun, so I can put it off until a little later. :p

Until next time...


Friday, June 14, 2013

Some Sweetness Today

I woke up this morning determined that today was going to be a good day, and that today I wouldn't sit in the dark agonizing over something I can't control. So far, it's going well.

Today marks eleven months since Justin and I said "I do". I can't believe it's almost been a year since I put on a white dress and became his wife. We have plans for dinner and a movie tonight, which will be wonderful. I need to get out of the house. He also did some major cleaning and organizing last night while I typed yesterday's post and felt Jellie Bean's little flutters against the inside of my tummy. I was so preoccupied with the events of the past few days and trying to get clawing feelings out into words that I didn't even notice what he was doing until he was almost done - so thank you, sweet husband, for all that you do.

Justin has the day off today, so we'd been spending the morning just enjoying each other's company: laughing, talking, and fending off Sadie kisses.

And then the phone rang.

I felt that flush of hot, red panic rush through me again as I answered.

It was the nurse who gave me the bad news on Wednesday. The final report from my anatomy scan was in.

She didn't take a huge breath, or let out a massive sigh this time, but it still felt like ages before she gave me the news.

Everything looked beautiful.

Little Jellie Bean's profile!
Jellie Bean's heart, lungs, and all of her other organs were healthy, strong, and functioning well, and she didn't have one single marker for Down Syndrome.

This doesn't mean that we're out of the woods yet, though, as some babies will have no indication of a problem via ultrasound, but will be born with Down Syndrome or another birth defect.

But, the nurse told me that this was very reassuring, that it gave me better odds for a baby without Down Syndrome, and that I can breathe a bit easier now as I wait for my appointment on Monday.

Since my head was clearer today than it was when she gave me the call on Wednesday, I was able to ask her some very important questions that I wasn't able to ask when I got the initial news. And I am sure glad I asked...

When a quad screen is done, labs are supposed to factor in not only the hormones in your blood and the baby's gestational age, but also the mother's age, race, weight, and whether or not she has insulin-dependent diabetes. Also, if a crown to rump measurement from an ultrasound scan is available, that measurement is to be sent in with the blood sample as well.

I can say with confidence that my doctor's office knows that I am a 22-year-old white female weighing approximately 185 pounds, and I can also say with confidence that my doctor's office has measurements of Jellie Bean.

But for whatever reason, none of these factors were used in establishing the 1 in 12 ratio I was given on Wednesday afternoon. Not even my age which (considering I'm a pretty young mother), you think would kind of be a...oh, I don't know...HUGE DEAL.

My 1 in 12 ratio came solely from sweet Jellie Bean's gestational age of exactly 19 weeks at the time of the blood test, and my hormone levels, particularly elevated HCG (also known as the pregnancy hormone). I'm sure the fact that my hormone levels are completely out of whack due to suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum was not taken into account for this ratio, either.

So ladies, if you ever decide to get a quad screen (and I'm not even sure if that's a good idea, given the false positive rate, and the irresponsible way the test is apparently being done), make absolutely certain that ALL of these extremely important factors are being included in the calculation of your risk ratio.

Now I wait, not knowing what the true odds of Jellie Bean having Down Syndrome are, but knowing that they are already better than 1 in 12. If that number goes up only to 1 in 13, I will still have all the more reason to get down on my knees in gratitude to God, just as I have upon hearing this good news, and just as I have ever since learning this sweet little girl is growing inside of me.

We'll get a better idea of that number when we see the perinatologist on Monday, and will decide from there whether or not an amniocentesis is the right choice for our family.

Thank you all for your love and support, and please continue to keep us in your prayers as we continue on this journey.

Much Love,

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Week Nineteen...

I woke up late yesterday morning. I was still recovering from Tuesday, when I spent most of the daylight hours hunched over the toilet battling a relapse in HG.

I took a shower, got dressed, and spent a few moments fawning over the little pink and white shoes my mom bought me for the baby. We discovered Jellie Bean is a little girl at Monday's anatomy scan, and celebrated with family and friends at a gender reveal party that night.
It's a girl!
The anatomy scan went beautifully. Justin was working and unable to attend, but both of my parents came, and got to see their granddaughter squirming about in my tummy as the technician attempted to take measurements during the few moments she stayed still.

Jellie Bean was measuring right on track with my estimated due date of November 1st, according to my last cycle. Both myself and my parents asked the tech multiple times if everything looked okay, and she responded multiple times that everything looked great as far as she could see. She got her measurements and made no comments about any abnormalities, and believe me, I asked about the big ones. I also had an ultrasound on Saturday when I went into the ER for some concerning cramping and chest pain. That ultrasound appeared to be normal as well.

I spent the rest of that day, Tuesday, and the first half of Wednesday ecstatic about the healthy, strong baby inside of me. I thanked Jesus for the gift of life He has blessed Justin and I with. I patted my tiny bump. I couldn't stop smiling. Until 2:16 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

I heard my phone ringing from the other room. When I picked it up, I saw the number was from Le Mars, and instantly knew something was wrong.

It was my doctor's office. The nurse was talking very slowly. She paused so many times and must have made half a dozen big sighs. As she stumbled along, not getting to the point of the call, my mind began to wander. I figured there was probably a small spinal abnormality on ultrasound that the doctor found. I had halfway been expecting it, as I hadn't been able to take my prenatal vitamins since the HG kicked in a few weeks into my first trimester. I was careful about my diet when I could eat, though, so I assumed it wasn't a big deal, and another ultrasound would show everything was just fine, or would be just fine with treatment.

Finally she said, "The genetic testing lab called about your quad screen results."

My quad screen results...? I thought.

Oh. That. The blood test I was never originally planning on having because my doctor in California told me that at my age, my risk for a baby with one of the birth defects it screens for, Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome, was approximately 1 in 1,429. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of unnecessary worry and heartache the test causes mothers of healthy babies due to a high false positive rate.

My temporary OBGYN here in Iowa brought it up at my first visit with her, and for whatever reason, I said yes, and proceeded with the needle stick.

I took a deep breath, and listened to the nurse carefully, who told me that the test showed an increased risk for Down Syndrome in Jellie Bean.

My heart started racing.

"Okay," I choked out, trying to remain calm. I figured my risk was cut in half, somewhere around the 1 in 500 to 1 in 600 range. Even if it was down to 1 in 100, that's still a 99% chance my little girl would be born with 46 chromosomes.

The nurse took another deep breath. "The test showed your baby has a 1 in 12 chance of being born with Trisomy 21."

1 in 12. 1 in 12. 1 in 12.

The ratio kept repeating itself in my mind.

That's about the same risk that a 49-year-old would have...

I'm only 22 years old, Justin is just shy of 21...

Neither of us have a family history...

Neither of us have any risk factors...

This isn't happening...

How could this be happening???

I thought that, even though Jellie Bean was a surprise, the odds were on my side for a healthy pregnancy and baby due to my age, weight, and medical history. The odds were even more in our favor with Mr. Poster Boy of Good Health for a daddy.

Apparently, according to this test, I was very wrong.

I felt a wave a panic flush my face and move down my body to the tips of my toes, an all-too familiar stress response that I once frequently experienced when trying to make it through the darkest days of my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis. I held onto the wall as I tried to keep my grip on reality.

The nurse told me that I was scheduled for an appointment with a perinatologist in Sioux City. He would explain my quad screen results in more detail, look over my anatomy scan, and perform a level II ultrasound to get a better picture of my overall risk. From there, I would have to decide whether or not to have an amniocentesis performed, another test I had never imagined having. This invasive, and risky, test involves inserting a thin needle through the abdomen and into the uterus to take a sample of amniotic fluid containing fetal tissue. This test will give me a "for sure" (or as "for sure" as you can get) answer as to whether or not Jellie Bean has Trisomy 21, or any other birth defect.

The nurse must have heard me in the beginning stages of hyperventilation as I tried to keep myself from slipping into a panic attack. "There are false positives," she said over and over. She reminded me of this, and of my seemingly normal anatomy scan (although the final report by my doctor won't be completed until tomorrow). "These can all lower your risk. These are just the results from the blood test."

"Thank you," I said, and pressed the 'end call' button.

I have spent the past day and a half sitting in the dark, researching everything I can find on the quad screen test, anatomy scans, and Down Syndrome. I have compared Jellie Bean's grainy ultrasound pictures to ultrasound pictures of babies with and without Down Syndrome. I have read personal anecdotes about faulty, and not so faulty, test results. I have agonized over the risks of the amniocentesis. I have cried, and cried, and tried not to let worry and anxiety overtake me.

I am trying, with all that is in me to not let depression and anxiety and the lingering symptoms of PTSD overtake me. I am trying to see the positives, and remind myself that 1 in 12 means only a little over an 8% chance of Down Syndrome, or an almost 92% chance that my sweet baby is just fine. I am trying to find faith in stories from friends and women around the web who have been given far worse odds than mine, up to 1 in 2, and have gone on to have completely healthy babies without Down Syndrome.

But I won't for second try to convince anyone that I'm okay or that I'm coping well...or even that the reassuring statistics are comforting my "worst case scenario", neurotic mind. I am just taking it one moment at a time. I am trying my best to not let worry consume me. I am trying to hold strong to God's love, and His promises, especially those we read about in the sixth chapter of Matthew:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Verse 33 is my Confirmation Verse, and it has always served me well in times of trial. As I await my appointment on Monday, I will seek the Lord and His Kingdom: His love, His mercy, His grace, and His will.

All I will ask for are your prayers.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tales of the Scale

I have struggled with my weight since about the third or fourth grade.

I was always really skinny as a little kid, partly because I was so tall, but after a move halfway across the state in late elementary school, I discovered the "joys" of comfort eating in order to cope with bullying. I was unable to control my appetite, and ended up creating an overweight prepubescent girl with a stomach that could rival the first place winner at a frat house eating contest.

In eighth grade, sick of the song "Ellie Smelly has a big fat belly" I basically starved myself for several months until I was down to what I considered a "normal weight". It was the thinnest I've ever been. That didn't last long, though. The pounds came back as soon as I started eating again. Exercise made no difference.

I still struggle with portion sizes and eating carbohydrates in moderation (mmm mashed potatoes), and probably will all my life. This, in addition to my PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), an underactive thyroid, and probably several other of my "medical issues", explains my constant battle with the scale, no matter how little, or how much, I eat, and how little, or how much, I exercise. I usually stand between five and fifteen pounds heavier than the recommended weight for my height. Luckily, because I'm so tall, I carry it well, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm overweight.

However, because of hyperemesis gravidarum, I lost about 10% of my body weight (that's nearly twenty pounds) in a few short weeks, and found myself in the "healthy weight range" for a non-pregnant woman of my height. I lost inches in my waist, hips, and thighs, lost two to three dress sizes depending on the brand, and was almost to the point of needing to get my wedding ring sized smaller after I had increased it by a quarter size to prepare for swelling.

According to my doctor, I should have gained about ten pounds by now. He was very concerned about my weight loss, and very slow gain, at my last appointment with him before leaving California. Now, several weeks later, I have only gained a little bit of weight. I am now about two to three pounds lighter than I was before I found out that I was pregnant. Progress, but still not good.

I feel like it's the old "be careful what you wish for" coming back to bite me in my should-be-expanding-but-it's-not ass. I'm always wanting to lose weight and be in the "healthy range" (whatever that means with all the different body types out there), and the only time I can do it is when I'm puking at the mere thought of eating and there's a Jellie Bean in my tummy that needs om nom noms.

Please pray for some healthy weight gain to come my way soon!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Catching Up: Weeks 14 - 18

Its been a month and a day since I've written. I didn't realize I've gone that long. :( Sorry!

Weeks 14 through 15 were spent preparing a 1970-something Winnebago for a trip from Irvine, California, to my hometown in Le Mars, Iowa, where Justin and I are currently spending the summer, with my dad and five-year-old nephew, Zach.

There were some great parts of the trip. The Winnebago was vintage, and a lot of fun to travel with, and Zion National Park in Utah was gorgeous. It was quickly added to my list of favorite places, and I had a great time hiking, especially the beginning of the Narrows. It was way too cold to go very far, and I just didn't feel that it would be the wisest decision while pregnant. I hope to return someday, though, and hike both the Narrows, and Angel's Landing!

However, not all of the trip was a cake-walk. In fact, due to my health, I was unfortunately miserable most of the time. Not only was I dealing with the tail end of hyperemesis gravidarum and all the fun things like dehydration that come with it, but we also left California right after finals week, which, as always, coincides with my bi-annual cough that turns into severe bronchitis exacerbated by my asthma. It just gets worse and worse until it's unbearable. I spent most of the trip coughing, occasionally hacking stuff up, and puffing my rescue inhaler every couple of hours. It got so bad, that the coughing became so frequent and strong that I ended up injuring a rib. It was so painful I couldn't get a deep breath in. Luckily, an affiliate hospital of my insurance, Kaiser Permanente, was on the route home. I was admitted to the emergency room (shocker, I know) for evaluation and an x-ray. I was expecting to get a nebulizer treatment and steroids for the bronchitis/asthma, and the x-ray just to make sure my rib was puncturing anything, but after the results from the blood work, my doctor was concerned about blood clots, as my d-dimer test for clotting factors was elevated. Needless to say, it was a terrifying night. Luckily, I was released after several hours, as I only had a few small clotting issues that were not dangerous enough to keep me overnight. Justin and I stayed overnight in Colorado, and made it Le Mars the next morning.

We have been here for about half a month now. I have had one bad flare up of hyperemesis, but appears to be staying away. Even light nausea has reduced, so long as I keep food in my stomach. *knock on wood*

Justin is working production at the south plant at Wells Blue Bunny and is enjoying his new temporary job, and I am taking a few summer courses at Western Iowa Tech Community College. Miss Sadie Lou is enjoying a new friendship with her dog cousin, Leroy, and the little Jellie Bean is becoming more and more active by the day.

I begin care under my temporary OB for the summer starting on Friday, and will hopefully have anatomy scan the next week or the week after. Yes, that's the scan where we try to get the kid to spread his or her legs and show us the goods so everyone can buy us a bunch of pink or blue stuff. :p

We're also having a blast and half dealing with CUI and some financial aid mix ups. More on that later.

That's all for now, and I promise for weeks 19 and 20 I will have prompt and more detailed posts!