my tiny dancer

After my big panic moment last week, I decided to spend this following week choosing to believe everything was ok. I still battled moments of worry and concern, and the inevitable thoughts of panic would enter my mind, but I decided to let them have their momentary space and then I chased them away. I managed to stay relatively calm until my ultrasound yesterday, when all the inevitable nerves came flooding towards me.

Little babe measured 9w3d and was dancing up a storm. The baby was so active that even the nurse and doctor were laughing. Little arms flailing around, looking like a video game avatar from the 70’s. My husband proceeded to imitate the little one’s frenetic dancing for the rest of the day, for my endless amusement.

And with that, graduation time. I’ve been officially released from my RE and will visit a regular OB for a scan next week. I love my doctor and the entire staff and am so sad to go even though I know it’s a great thing to be released. I’ve never encountered a doctor’s office that was so organized, compassionate, friendly, and as well run as this one. My RE has been amazing and I wish she were the one that could deliver my baby. 

Saying goodbye felt surreal. My entire journey flashed before my eyes as I hugged my doctor goodbye. I felt elated to be moving on with such hope, but I still carry the baggage from the past two years. I felt like crying and I didn’t know if it was from happiness, feeling overwhelmed, or saying goodbye to such an intense chapter. The idea that I could become just another normal pregnant lady sitting in just another regular OB’s office was hard to grasp.

After the scan, I finally got the guts to walk into a maternity store, to buy a much needed belly band. My pants no longer fit comfortably, or at all. I perused the store awkwardly, feeling like a fraud. As I left with a giant “A Pea in the Pod” shopping bag, which included a free welcome gift of baby bottles and gadgets and coupons, I tried to breathe through my feelings of discomfort and imagine myself as normal. Someone who’s not afraid that what they just purchased will serve solely as a reminder of what was lost should something go awry. Someone who’s feeling a normal swelling of the belly for 9-1/2 weeks pregnant and needs more comfortable clothing. I left the store with my giant bag and as I walked down the street, on another sunny, warm California day, with Christmas carols playing on the streets as if coming from the skies, I put my hand on my belly and thought, just enjoy this moment.

8w3d and a major panic attack

On Friday night, I started getting cramps. I have felt many twinges, pulls, and the odd pain here and there, but these cramps alarmed me. A shooting pain that felt like my uterus contracting, occurring every few minutes, which continued for most of the night. I cried myself to sleep, thinking it was over.

On Saturday, I felt so nauseous that I managed to convince myself everything was ok. On Sunday morning I threw up. But after that, I started to feel better, my nausea abating to the point I started to fret again. As I felt better and better as the day went on, the knot in my stomach and dread I was feeling got worse and worse. By nighttime, I was convinced. Between the cramps I felt on Friday and the loss of my symptoms, I went into a total spiral of despair. I was 100%, without a doubt convinced it was over. I laid in bed with my husband and cried. “This is bad. I really think this is bad. I’m not nauseous!! Why aren’t I nauseous?!” I couldn’t believe I ever had the audacity to complain about the morning sickness. It was such a beautiful thing! And I desperately wanted it back. 

My husband took my face in his hands. “Avocados. Scrambled eggs. The smell of the refrigerator…” He continued listing all the things that had turned my stomach and sent my running for the toilet the past few weeks. I laughed at first, which quickly turned to more tears. “It’s not working!!” I said in total despair. 

On Monday morning I woke at 5:30am to use the bathroom, realized I still didn’t feel nauseous, and continued panicking. I cried in bed and couldn’t fall back asleep. I felt crippled with dread; I couldn’t imagine going through another loss. I had come so far in my healing in the last year and I didn’t want to start over, having to face all those complicated feelings again, having my heart ripped out, having to start the grieving process all over again. Incredibly quickly I slipped into a dark place, unable to even think about having to function or face my day. I called my RE as soon as the office was open and begged to move my Wednesday ultrasound to as soon as possible.

By 10:15am I was in the ultrasound room holding my husband’s hand, heart pounding, stomach in knots. I believed with everything I had that our little babe’s heart had stopped beating. That Friday night’s cramps was a harbinger of its demise, and the lessening of the nausea was just confirmation. I tried to prepare myself for when I had to hear those horrible words come out of my doctors mouth: I’m sorry, but there is no heartbeat.

But by 10:30am, we heard that beautiful thumping sound again. Our little one’s heart was still beating. I felt shock and relief wash over me, and then I just cried. I couldn’t believe what I had just put myself through. I had never felt so insane, so damaged. My sweet RE has probably seen this over and over in patients with a history of loss, as she seemed to almost expect it. Even with her packed schedule, she told me she knew she had to squeeze us in. “You’ve been through a lot,” she told us, and gave me a hug.

Our babe measured 8 weeks, 2 days (according to my LMP I should be 8w1d) with a heart rate of 164. And our baby is finally starting to look human-like, with a giant head and two tiny feet, somewhat resembling a misshapen sour patch kid. My husband and I couldn’t stop giggling at how cute it was. We are so used to only seeing a lentil-sized blob on our ultrasounds, and never had anything develop beyond that. Seeing it actually look like a baby blew our minds. “OUR BABY HAS A F*CKING HEAD!!” my husband texted me later, “I need some time to process this” he joked.

I realized too, that on Thursday I started taking B6 to help with the nausea. I had low expectations of it actually working, but thought I would try it first before moving on to other drugs. I have no idea if that is why my nausea has subsided, but if it is that means that I basically begged my doctor for something to help my nausea, and then when it worked I went into a tailspin thinking I was miscarrying. Which again, makes me feel like a crazy person. 

As I thought back on my meltdown, I realized that with my first two pregnancies, this is when they ended.  We’ve never really made it past 8 weeks. I hadn’t been thinking consciously about that, because even with our first ultrasound we measured larger than we ever had before, so I feel like we’ve already surpassed the first two. But somewhere within, I was aware, and the timing signaled to me that this one was coming to its own end.

But nope, not yet. Our little one is a fighter.

a heart still beats

Thank you for all the sweet wishes yesterday, when I was a nervous mess! The ultrasound today went well. The little babe’s heart is still beating at 154 beats a minute and is growing right on track. Right now, it’s looking like we are 7 weeks 3 days, although each time my doctor measured she got a slightly different measurement. I know there is a lot of variability in the beginning, so I will try not to obsess too much about that one…if my doctor is pleased, then I will try to be pleased!

Our next ultrasound is a week from Wednesday. Already, we’re measuring bigger than we ever have before. I have morning sickness which I’ve never had. And we’ve had two good ultrasounds, which we’ve also never had. I’m still afraid to get too far ahead of myself, but I am hopeful. And that hope feels very surreal.

Keep growing, my little love!

nerves, naps, & nausea

The elation and optimism I felt after last week’s successful ultrasound lasted exactly 48 hours. Since then, I’ve been bouncing between total terror, all-consuming nausea, and sheer exhaustion.

This is my first foray into morning sickness, which I didn’t have with my first two pregnancies. I might have had a bout of mild nausea here and there, but I think it was mostly a product of wishful thinking. This time around, I’m nauseous all the time. It wakes me up in the middle of the night, and makes getting up in the morning a monumental task. I’m having food aversions to literally every single food. I can barely walk into my kitchen without gagging.

I am grateful for the nausea and it is without a doubt reassuring, although not as much as I would have thought and hoped. And in the rare moments when the nausea lessens, I completely panic, and a feeling of impending doom takes over. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around with a secret. When my close friends and family continue to be optimistic and excited about this one sticking, I respond with a smile and feigned enthusiasm. But there’s a little nagging feeling in my gut that makes me feel like I know something they don’t know. A nagging feeling that tells me that this one may not last either.

I know the morning sickness is the best possible thing I could be experiencing right now, but ironically it’s part of what’s making me feel so overwhelmed. When I don’t feel well, I have a harder time tackling life and staying strong. I need physical stamina to have mental stamina. But right now, I want to vomit and then take a nap and wake up in about 6 weeks.

Tomorrow is ultrasound #2. Once again, I am terrified. It is so hard to imagine things going as it should when that’s never been your experience. To hear a heart still beating, to see an embryo still growing…please may we be introduced to that phenomenon tomorrow.

number three

(*warning – pregnancy mentioned*)

About 3 weeks ago, I came down with a horrible stomach flu. For five days I suffered through a torrent of vomiting, chills, shaking, fever, and stomach pain. I couldn’t eat, move, or carry on conversation. I was miserable. As far as I was concerned, I couldn’t tell the difference between how I felt during those days, and how it would feel to actually be dying.

After 2-1/2 days of this, my husband brought me to the ER. I was having severe stomach pains, enough to scare me and get me to agree to go. We spent 9 long hours there.

They took blood and found that my liver enzymes were high and wanted me to do a full abdominal scan. They saw my white blood cell count was low. They saw my potassium was low. And during the ultrasound, they found sludge in my gallbladder and a slightly enlarged liver (which we later learned was likely from all the Tylenol I was taking in an attempt to reduce my fever). They told me I needed immediate follow-up with a GI doctor and should take a course of antibiotics.

I was 9 days post ovulation. I had refused to take anything during my illness except for Tylenol, for fear that I was pregnant. I let them know there was a possibility I was pregnant and didn’t want to take anything that would be harmful. So they did a blood pregnancy test. Which came back negative.

The physician assistant casually let us know the result and left the room. I felt that familiar punch in my gut, but took it in stride and gave a sad smile to my husband. “She has no idea how loaded that is for us,” I said, trying to joke, as I snuggled further under my heated blanket in an attempt to comfort myself.

The doctor proceeded to prescribe me Cipro, an antibiotic not safe for pregnancy, just in case what I had was bacterial. I kept pressing him on the negative pregnancy test, asking him if perhaps it was too early, wanting to know exactly what my beta was. I kept getting the same answer, that these blood tests are pretty accurate and that I should take the antibiotics. I felt uneasy about it, but with the evidence tilting towards not pregnant, and feeling as horrible as I did, I looked at my doctor’s extended hand and accepted that first dose. 

But I decided I would test on my own every day to continue to confirm that I was indeed not pregnant before taking that day’s dose of antibiotics. So the next morning, less than 12 hours after the blood test, I peed on a stick. It was the first time I had done it without a pounding heart, without heightened expectations and the fear of insurmountable disappointment. I thought for sure it would be negative.

But a faint second line stared back at me. Positive. All I could feel was confusion speckled with total numbness. I called my husband. I called my RE and left a frantic message. I was afraid to trust the stick. It didn’t make any sense to me. How could I have a negative blood test, and then 12 hours later a positive FRER?!

In the frenzied googling that followed as I tried to solve this mystery, I learned there are two types of pregnancy blood tests, a quantitative test and a qualitative test. A quantitative test is the beta test that we all do at our RE’s office, that measures the exact amount of hCG in the blood. A qualitative test simply provides confirmation of the presence of hCG, and a “yes” or “no” answer for pregnancy, and will only register positive if the hCG is 25 mIU/ml or higher. Which is less sensitive than many home pregnancy tests.

And of course, they gave me the qualitative test. But no one spelled out this distinction for me.

Finally, the fear struck, and all I could think was why. Why after an entire year passing since our last positive test, did I have to get pregnant at the same time I got so violently ill?! With all the fever, dehydration, vomiting – how would my little bean ever survive?! Why, when I know that any future pregnancy would cause me high anxiety even under the best circumstances, did I now have to worry how this flu would affect my little one’s development?! I felt completely overwhelmed.

The week of betas that followed was one of the most stressful weeks of my life. I strongly suspected that this would turn into a chemical pregnancy. I did not understand how I could get so ill, right at the time of implantation, and everything would be fine.

Beta #1 at 11dpo was 28.

Beta #2 at 13dpo was 118.

Beta #3 at 17dpo was 691.

The week of my beta I continued to stay void of any happiness or excitement. I tried my best to be unattached and prepared for the worst. It stressed me out to think any further ahead than the present day. I could barely look at what my due date would be, for fear of it becoming another sad date, a continual reminder of what was lost. But when I received our 3rd beta number, I felt a lift. I knew I had crossed to other side of hope, and I knew, no matter how much I had been resisting, that if this one didn’t work out, it would hurt just as much as all the others. I also suddenly felt so sad for my little bean. I loved my other two babies from the moment I was aware of their existence. Didn’t this one deserve that love too? No matter how short its existence? How could I ignore it, just to protect myself? So I decided to love, and to hope, and to pray.

I immedietly got the chorus to the song “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child in my head, and would sing it to my little bean, deciding it was his/her anthem. I’m a survivor, I’m not gon give up, I’m not gon stop, I’m gon work harder, I’m a survivor, I’m gonna make it, I will survive, Keep on survivin’.  It made me laugh and kept my spirits up. My husband would join in, singing Kanye West’s “Stronger” to my belly.

And then morning sickness started at 5w2d. I thought for sure if I ever felt that first wave of the elusive nausea I never felt in my first two pregnancies, I would jump for joy, assured that this little bean was healthy and growing. But I was too scared to believe that. Having just had that terrible stomach flu, I came up with all sorts of fearful reasons why I was feeling so woozy. I got scared I was getting sick again, sure that I was at the beginning of battling another stomach flu. I continually thought I had food poisoning, even waking up my husband in the middle of the night to ask him if he felt nauseous, because I thought the turkey we ate that night for dinner was bad. “Babe, I think the turkey was bad! Do you feel sick?! I’m so nauseous! The turkey was definitely bad!” I was laying in bed at 3am trying not to vomit. My husband just grumbled, “I feel fine, it’s because you’re pregnant!!” before rolling over and going back to sleep.

Finally, I decided I had created the morning sickness in my head. Out of hysterical desperation, I brought the nausea on myself.

This was how little I trusted myself and trusted my body after all we had been through.

This is what repeat loss can do to you. It makes you scared to trust, to believe, to hope. You don’t know what to feel. You know you should be positive, but you’re terrified of being positive. You know you should stay calm, but you are heading straight back into the war zone that gave you all the trauma to begin with. In the moments where I wasn’t feeling “enough” pregnancy symptoms a horrible, crippling wave of dread would wash over me, and I would feel my knees buckle and my stomach drop, and I would think, “Who am I kidding? This one is not going to happen either.” It is a horrible feeling. I had a handful of follow up doctor appointments in the week after my flu, and when I would share that I was pregnant, I always felt like I had to include a caveat. I’m pregnant, but I’ve had two losses before so…I don’t know….we’ll see….

My first ultrasound was yesterday, at 6 weeks, 1 day. I managed to stay (mostly) calm during the two weeks that preceded it, and although I was afraid to identify the morning sickness for what it was, it did help to ease my mind. I did my best not to think about the appointment, as I would immediately be filled with butterflies and a slightly sick feeling when I would. This worked until about an hour before the appointment, when I started shaking with nerves. When my husband and I arrived, we sat in the waiting room and I blinked back tears, legs twitching, hands shaking, heart pounding. When they took my vitals my pulse and blood pressure were higher than I’d ever seen before. I sat in the exam room waiting for the doctor and just started crying. My doctor walked in and gave me a hug and all I could say between tears was, “I’m so scared.

But it was time, and my doctor was great about getting right to it. Only a few seconds had passed before she exclaimed, I see a heartbeat!!  I had tears streaming over my cheeks and held my breath as she took measurements. Baby measured big at 6 weeks and 4 days, 3 days ahead of where it should be according to my LMP. Heart rate was 124. More tears followed. Then we listened to the heartbeat, and I looked at my husband and he had tears in his eyes. It was completely overwhelming. When it was over, I sat up and felt light-headed and dizzy from all that had just happened. 

We’ve never had an ultrasound go well before. Even with our first pregnancy, where we did have a heartbeat, the baby was measuring 6w3d when it should have been 7w5d. This was the first time everything looked exactly as it should. It is an incredible feeling. We go back next Monday for another ultrasound, and of course I will be holding my breath until then.

I don’t know what will happen, or how long this will last. But I do know, today I am pregnant, and I am so grateful for that. Today I have an extra tiny little heart beating inside of me, vigorously pumping away, determined, surviving. And no matter what, I will love this one forever too. 

((For family and friends who read my blog – there is only a small group of you that have this link. I’m so sorry if you’re reading this and I haven’t been able to tell you about the pregnancy directly. As you can tell, this is a particularly vulnerable and terrifying period for me and I don’t know what will happen, so I am not ready for this news to be completely public knowledge. Please do me a favor and keep this information to yourself for the time being, until we (hopefully) hit that elusive 2nd trimester. I love you all!))