Amnio

by Jen on November 5, 2012

*I don’t usually write posts that are drawn out for weeks at a time, but in this case, I didn’t feel it fair to take you on the roller coaster ride with me until I at least had an idea of the way the story might end.  This story began on October 16th and didn’t have any sort of resolution until today.

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As of today, I don’t know the end of this story.  It’s not meant to be a cliffhanger, but as it often goes, I’m unable to wait for resolution to get this off my chest.

When my grandfathers died, I carried a lump in my throat for two weeks until I finally sat down and put my thoughts to paper.  I waited for the “good cry”.  I wished for a release valve to rid the pressure from my heart.  I hoped for pained screams to escape.  Something.  Anything.  Just so I could feel like I wasn’t going to suffocate on the lump.

A similar situation happened when I put my sweet Libby to sleep, and again when we miscarried the first time, and then the second.

The lump in my throat is an expanding, painful balloon, inflating inside a space too small to accommodate.  I need it to inevitably burst.  I need that pressure to subside.

George and I opted for nuchal translucency screening early in my pregnancy to determine our likelihood of having a child with different sorts of abnormalities.  The results didn’t matter.  We would love our child regardless, but if we had a high likelihood of dealing with Down Syndrome, we wanted to be well researched as to be the very best parents of a child with such a condition.  Within a few days, our results were in and looked flawless.

Exhale.

With nothing but positive test results, ultrasounds, and OB examinations, I stopped with all the worry and finally focused on a positive outcome.

On October 16th, my OB called with the news that my alpha fetoprotein was highly elevated and he wanted to repeat blood work and an ultrasound.  My crowded mind failed to comprehend details of the rest of our conversation, but the words “neural tube defect” and “spinal bifida” and “anencephaly” and “elective pregnancy termination” echoed in my head like the reverberations of a gong.

I ended the call.  Hung up the phone.  And stood in the tiny kitchen of our apartment while my face burned like fire.

I didn’t know much.  Only that neural tube defects were typically prevented by the folic acid in prenatal vitamins, and I’d never feared a defect of this sort since I’d been taking those long before George and I ever got married.  I gathered from context clues that neural meant brain and tube meant spine, and both were parts of the anatomy that our baby needed.

My instinct sent me running to my laptop, as Dr. Google could help shed some light on this unknown area.  I stopped short, realizing that while I may be able to handle the truth in most scenarios, stumbling across images of misshapen newborn babies might not be the best for an emotional pregnant woman to absorb.

I thought of my Sophomore year in college when I wrote a public interest piece on a Creative Care Living facility for the school magazine.  The facility housed approximately 10 disabled adults who were unable to live independently.  Some of the residents were high functioning, while others were not, and I searched to the far depths of my mind trying to remember the specific afflictions that ailed each person I met.  Most clearly, I was able to see a man who lived reclined in a special wheelchair.  He ate through feeding tubes, eliminated through a colostomy bag, and showed no sign of life in his eyes.  He drooled and let out sporadic cries and sucked incessantly on the back of his pale, bony hand.

What did that to him?

Why couldn’t I remember?

Was his condition related to a neural tube defect determined within the first few weeks of his conception?

My mind went to places too dark to explain.

I called George and told him the news through broken speech.

I rushed back to my OB’s office, holding on to every ounce of hope the elevated result was caused by a lab mistake and that giving more blood would rectify my fears.  My OB gave me paperwork to pass along to the ultrasound tech the next day.  After I left his office, I opened the envelope to decipher the results.  A table discussing risk factors before and after the blood work detailed my chances of giving birth to a baby with Downs Syndrome, Trisomy 18, and ONTDs/VWD.  The results read:

Downs Syndrome:  Results within range.
Trisomy 18:  Results within range.
Total ONTDS/VWD (Open Spina Bifida, Anencephaly, Ventral Wall Defect): **SIGNIFICANT ELEVATION**

My hands shook and the paper prismed as I fought away more tears.

Our baby’s risk for Down Syndrome is 1 in 46,430.  Our baby’s risk for Trisomy 18 is 1 in 163,606.  And our baby’s risk for Open Spina Bifida, Anencephaly, and/or a Ventral Wall Defect is 1 in less than 5.

LESS. THAN. FIVE.

I googled those conditions and after one image of an infant with a hole in his back appeared, I closed my computer and decided that the fears in my head might actually be softer than the reality the internet may offer.

My night was filled with hypothetical scenarios of what the future might bring.  Would we be urged to terminate?  Even after experiencing fertility woes that seemed to never end, I strongly believe in a woman’s right to choose.  But for me, for now, there is no choice.  This is our baby.  He is our son. George and I have fought hard for him.  I’ve watched his legs kick and arms wave on ultrasounds.  I’ve listened to the sound of his heartbeat as though it is the work of Mozart.  I’ve felt his gentle thumps from inside, reminding me that he’s alive and well and ornery.  Electing to end my pregnancy is unthinkable.

But then…

My mind drifts to thoughts of him forever living in the confines of a chair.  Forever living without tasting food.  Forever living without running aimlessly through the park.  Forever living in the dark.  Forever living without the ability to tell me that he’s in pain, or that he’s unhappy, or that he’s scared, or tired, or cold.  As his mother, it is my job to protect him.  It is my job to keep him safe and warm and comfortable.  It is my job to speak when he cannot.  It is my job to react when he is unable.  And the possibility of having limited or no ability to communicate with my son is devastating.

The next day, I had an ultrasound to review the baby’s spine and brain stem.  The tech spent nearly an hour examining every section of his spine and brain.  She was quiet and calculated.  As my appointment neared the end, she softly spoke, “I think he’s perfect.”

Exhale.

“Yeah?” I sobbed.

“I can’t see a single thing wrong with him.  I’m going to have our doctor review the scan, but his spine looks beautiful.”

She alerted the perinatoligist who greeted me with the same results.

“There is a small part of his back that hasn’t ossified yet, but that’s normal for a 16 week fetus.  We can check you again at 20 weeks, but I’d say he’s perfect.”

I thanked them a thousand times and left feeling as though I’d been given winning lotto numbers.

Faulty lab results.  That had to be it!

I spent Wednesday night and Thursday breathing a little easier, waiting for the results of my second set of blood work to reveal a mistake with my first results.

But when my OB called the next morning, he confirmed the blood work continued to show high levels of alpha fetoprotein.  He ordered genetic counseling and an amniocentesis for early the next week.  He explained the amnio would help pinpoint the alpha fetoprotein in the placenta to determine if this elevation is being caused by the baby or by me.  He reviewed the ultrasound results and said he agreed with the perinatologist and the tech and thought our baby’s brain and spine looked fantastic.  He explained that if the amnio showed a lower number, we’d deduce the problem is being caused by my body rather than the body of the baby.  He also explained the odds of the results meaning absolutely nothing, and told me that biomarkers like this can swoop in, scare the crap out of us, and not result in a single problem.

Elevated alpha fetoprotein can be a tumor marker in adults- most commonly related to liver disease or cancers, ovarian tumors, or types of hepatitis.  Being a patient of infertility, I’ve seen my ovaries a thousand times.  Regardless, I’ve researched the common possibilities of an elevated AFP upside down and backwards and have zero of the symptoms described.  Yes, the AFP could be coming from my pituitary tumor, although it is presumed unlikely.

Our appointment with the genetics counselor came early the following week.  As we are becoming accustomed, we met with one of the best in New York.  She took an hour explaining the risks and rewards of opting for an amniocentesis and how the procedure often comes with more anxiety for women with a history of miscarriage.  She discussed possible reactions and treatments if the levels were, in fact, being produced by our son.  She was kind, empathetic, professional, and extremely intelligent.  I left her office feeling we had another advocate rooting for our success.

Despite her assurances that an amnio was not required and that many parents who opt for the “wait and see” method don’t regret their decision, we decided we are more “need to know” than “wait and see” people.  (Of course we are.)  After the perfect assessments of our son in an extremely detailed ultrasound, I was able to rest easier knowing this problem was most likely unrelated to him.

That night, I ate dinner like a champ, watched TV like a champ, and slept a full eight hours like a champ.  It wasn’t until the next day that I realized George wasn’t feeling the same relief of stress I was.  It wasn’t until the next day that I realized that good results for his son, meant possible negative results for his wife.  It wasn’t until the next day that I stopped basking in my own confidence to hug him and assure him that no matter, I am stronger and more resilient than our unborn child, and I was going to be absolutely fine.

I felt like such a dick.  All the while, I’d been cheering for two of the three possible results.  One, the problem was not a problem- merely a flawed testing system that often results in false positives.  Or two, the problem was a treatable and curable, and existed within me.  For George, rooting for the second scenario was as unthinkable and the third.

The day of our amnio arrived.  With few nerves, we entered the procedure room ready to do whatever we needed to find answers about what may or may not be causing our results.  An ultrasound determined the location of the baby, and allowed the physicians to find the best entry point for the needle, as to avoid the baby at all costs.  With George by my side, we watched a large television monitor of our son cuddled on the left side, leaving a nice pocket of fluid on the right for the doctor to collect.  Betadine was applied to my abdomen, from ribs to pubic bone, and the doctor, monitoring the baby’s subtle movements, inserted a hollow needle into my stomach.  As she pierced through my skin, Henry stirred and quickly moved to the right side of my uterus.  She paused, needle in my skin, but not yet in my uterus, and used two fingers on her other hand to prod my belly in hopes of getting him to move back to the left.

“This’ll hurt you, buddy.”

I liked that she talked to him.

With little luck, he navigated his way toward the center of my uterus, giving her a tinier space to gather fluid.  She decided to continue, and I watched the needle pierce through my uterus on the ultrasound screen.

Before the fluid could be extracted, our stubborn child, wiggled his way toward the needle.  Curious maybe?  Or totally defiant?  Both?  We joked about his non-compliance, but rather than risk it, the doctor decided to remove the needle and try to gather fluid on the now vacant side of my uterus.

I watched the needle pierce into my uterus on the other side, and as if magnetized, Henry swam toward it again (an attraction to shiny things?  Oh lord.).

“Does this child have a name?” the doctor inquired.

“He is Henry.” I replied.

Laughing, she spoke to him again.  “Henry, you are kind of a jerk.”

George and I smiled and looked at one another, curious if his lack of cooperation meant a lifetime of parental headaches.  Insights into the personality of our boy, good or bad, make me smile.  George and I were good kids.  Maybe our son was meant to be more like our mischievous parents?  We welcome it, no matter.

In the end, Henry waived his white flag, and two vials of amniotic fluid were extracted from my uterus.  Both the ultrasound tech and the doctor commented on the dark, cloudy color of their collection and asked about my bleeding from earlier in my pregnancy.  The doctor explained that sometimes the bleeding from the mother mixes in the amniotic fluid of the baby, resulting in an elevated AFP.  In which case, not a single thing would be wrong with either Henry or me.

Yes, that has to be it.

Following the amnio, I was instructed to take a cab home and rest for 24 hours.  I was to report a fever, major cramping, bleeding, or a loss of amniotic fluid- all highly unlikely, but possible reactions to the procedure.  I spent the next four days overanalyzing my underwear and stressing over fluid loss.  I called my OB to discuss my neurotic behavior and he brought me in for an ultrasound just to prove all was well and good.  It was.  And my baby put on a show the way he usually does.  Maybe he’s not defiant at all?  Maybe he’s just bored and wants attention???  I don’t care.

The results of our amnio were supposed to be back Wednesday, although Hurricane Sandy destroyed the power at NYU Langone Medical Center, leaving my results impossible to obtain until the medical offices are up and running again.  So we wait.  A little longer.

But it doesn’t matter to me anymore.  The scary no longer seems scary.  I have feelings deep within my gut telling me everything will be just fine.  I have the track record to know that our baby is a survivor, just like his parents, and our parents, and their parents.  And these results are going to confirm the relief we already feel.  And our baby is going to be awesome.

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11/05/12:  Despite the damaged communication systems that plagued Midtown and Lower Manhattan (thanks Hurricane Sandy), I heard from the geneticist today!  Part of my amnio results are in, showing a lower AFP coming from the amniotic fluid than was discovered in my blood.  The AFP in the fluid showed a “borderline elevation” which most likely means all is fine and dandy with Henry!!!  This could indicate a tumor marker in my body, but the most likely scenario comes from the false reading caused by the bleeding earlier in my pregnancy.  Having blood in the amniotic fluid makes the tests wonky.  So until we know otherwise, I’m going with that.  :-)  I meet with my OB tomorrow to discuss results at length.  I’m breathing a big ‘ol sigh of relief, either way.  

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Nineteen

by Jen on November 4, 2012

As happens every Sunday, I woke up early and immediately grabbed my phone to research the coming attractions for our baby as he enters his 19th week living inside my stomach.  

Another week down, another weight lifted from my shoulders!

In the last week, his movements have become unmistakable.  I feel him multiple times a day, almost exclusively on my left side.  Most everything I read on the internet says my uterus isn’t high enough for me to be able to feel him in my ribs yet, but no doubt, he’s in there, twirling and twisting his day away.

I’m not having any particular food cravings.  I’m still dying for “something”, eating it like it’s going to give me wings, and then never wanting it again.  Makes eating leftovers laughable.  Makes meals expensive.  Makes George cringe.  My grandmother sent two substantial containers filled with the fudge she usually spoils me with at Christmas, but when she heard through the grapevine that Henry wanted to try her famous fudge out a little early, she had containers in the mail within the week!  That woman… is a saint.

My skin and hair seem to finally be reaping the benefits of pregnancy.  I’ve felt like a hot ass mess most of my adult-life, so never in a million years did I expect pregnancy to enhance me.  I expected I was too fat to “show” until I was two days from delivering.  I expected pale, pimpled skin, bulging veins, and dull, lifeless hair.  But truly, I feel like a million bucks!  My skin feels soft, I love every inch of my bulging belly, my hair is thicker and shinier than usual, and I feel slathered in happiness.

Am I jinxing myself?

Shit.

I’ve lost weight in my pregnancy, which…. I know.  Gasp!  It’s not been because I’m not eating.  I’m eating.  Trust.  I’m healthy.  And I weigh about seven pounds less at 19 weeks pregnant than I did when I started this whole thing.  Isn’t that strange?  I’m a girl who can pack on pounds by just looking at Pinterest, yet has lost ten pounds and gained back only three in nearly 5 months of pregnancy.  I’ve talked to my OB to make sure the baby isn’t in any sort of jeopardy, and he’s not the slightest bit concerned since I was too heavy when I got pregnant anyway.  It’s just odd.  It does lend substance to the argument that my hormonal issues may have caused more weight gain than I realized.  My hormones are now that of a “normal” pregnant woman versus an abnormal non-pregnant woman with elevated prolactin and a pituitary tumor.  Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking and tomorrow I’ll start gaining weight like a fiend???

I’m jinxing again, I know.

Either way, I feel grateful for so many things.  Being pregnant in general.  Being healthy.  Being loved.  And being confident.  The feelings I walk around with every day are indescribable.  When I feel Henry move, I know he’s having a blast or is getting comfy or is playing games with me.  Each thump from the inside is reassuring and entertaining.

I’ve registered for baby supplies and have started picking out pieces that will soon become the contents of Henry’s first bedroom.  This stuff excites me beyond comprehension.

Currently we live in a one bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of a walk-up on the Upper East Side.  Our lease is up at the end of this month, and after tedious deliberation, we’ve decided that in order to expand our space and stretch our income, it would be prudent to move out of Manhattan.  The thought originally broke my heart, but in the end, our NYC dream truly began as a way to pass time until we achieved our baby dream.  Leaving the City makes the most sense.  We have put an offer on an apartment in Queens (Forest Hills specifically), but won’t know for sure if we get the place until the middle of next week.  The commute from Forest Hills to Midtown Manhattan is a 20 minute express subway trip, not extending George’s commute to work much more than 10 minutes.  Forest Hills maintains the feel of the city, meaning the streets are bustling, there is a Duane Reade and a Starbucks within a stone’s throw, the subways still hum under the sidewalks, and the conveniences are still a plenty.  Only in Forest Hills, we will be able to afford a room for our son, an elevator in our building, laundry facilities on site (not in the apartment though, as we aren’t that fancy), and my ability to take a little time off work to enjoy these long-awaited precious moments with the little boy who already rules my world.

I really fell in love with the apartment, so I’m incredibly hopeful it works out.  I shall keep you posted, of course.

I return to work this Wednesday.  The City is rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy with impressive momentum, although there is still so much damage yet to be reconciled.  If you haven’t read about this or heard about it in the news, the NYC Mass Transit Authority is astounding!  Those mofos have worked at breakneck speeds to get this place movin’ again.  I find it fascinating.  MTA employees, you deserve Oprah-style vacations once this chaos dies down.  I used to work in property management, and let’s just say the construction crews used to erect those luxury buildings could learn a thing or two about work ethic from a team like you.  My hat is off.

And my baby is dancing for you.  Or maybe that’s because of the fudge I had for breakfast?

Hehehe.

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Sandy And The City

by Jen on November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy came and went leaving her nasty mark on the city I love.

It comes with an odd sense of guilt, in a way, because George and I were spared any hardship aside from being confined to our neighborhood induced by the suspension of mass transit.  Our power flickered a time or two, but never went out.  Our countertops and furniture were coated in strange mud-like substance that blew in though our window screens.  Our apartment rocked and the water in our toilet sloshed from the wind.  Our dogs trembled from the sounds of the storm whistling through our apartment and knocking down curtains.  But otherwise, we were untouched.

I can’t say the same for many of my friends, who remain powerless three days later.  Communication has been spotty at best, but I did hear from a friend living in Rockaway Beach whose home was severely damaged and whose spirit was left traumatized by the blazing fires that surrounded his neighborhood.

When the wind gusts settled Tuesday evening, we ventured from our apartment to assess the damage done to our block.  Limbs and lattice littered the street, shop awnings were damaged, a large tree was uprooted, a few cars bearing the brunt of said tree, and the flooring company at the base of our building was left with a tattered sign and shattered glass.  Unfortunate, but all in all, East 73rd Street  was lucky.

The suspension of mass transit lends a tiny piece of insight into the post 9/11 world in New York City.  Sure, you can walk most anywhere, but the knowing the bustling underworld that usually hums beneath your feet is quiet and still is an eery, isolating feeling.  We offered a landing place for our friends and family without power, but discovered our resources were rendered moot without a means of actually getting to our apartment.

George and I are both employed by NYU Langone Medical Center, which as it turns out, is the hospital in the city whose back-up generator failed leaving them to evacuate over 200 patients from their facility.  The articles of nurses manually pumping air into the lungs of premature babies in dark stairwells as they fled the building humbles me.  The effects of the storm were scary in the safety of my warm, dry, well-lit apartment, so I can’t even begin to imagine the adrenaline keeping those nurses from losing it while the tiniest of lives rested in their hands.  My admiration overflows.

The Medical Center is still without power, and George and I have been off work all week.  Under most circumstances, a spontaneous vacation is a dream, however, this situation doesn’t feel nearly as celebratory as one might think.  We hope to be back to work next week, but haven’t been given the green light just yet.

On the whole, New York City is a resilient beast and makes me proud to call her home.  I wish a speedy, painless recovery to the rest of the country affected by the storm, and say a thousand “thank you’s” to the medical teams and service men and women who helped us keep it together.

And thank you to my dear friend Kim (The Wanderlustee) for letting me steal a few of her photos from the aftermath of the storm.

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Hurricanes, Infertility, and 18 Weeks

by Jen on October 28, 2012

They say Hurricane Sandy is going to be hitting New York some time tomorrow.  Emergency preparedness plans have been implemented.  The Brunos have purchased bottles of water, candles, Cheez-its, and an ample supply of PB&J.  What more could we need???  I kid.  I bought a few cans of Spagettios too.

I lived in Florida for over eight years and never “prepared” for a hurricane.  Having a baby in my stomach changes things.  I gotta make sure he’s hydrated and fed, if for no other reason than he’s more playful when his belly is full.  I ate ice cream for the first time this pregnancy, and my son went spazztastic.  Coolest ten minutes of my month for sure.  Until then, I’ve felt his slight thumps and subtle flutters, but the ice cream episode sent him into a frenzy I can’t wait to experience again.

Feeling him assures me he is growing and gaining strength.  The thought makes me smile, without warning, every single time.  Far be it for Hurricane Sandy to interrupt these moments of bliss, so we are over-prepared and ready.  I think.

In the last week, I’ve thought a lot about infertility.  Don’t misunderstand.  I think about it daily, often hourly, but this week the memories of struggles and heartaches has been magnified.

In the beginning of my blogging “career”, I made friends with a large group of “infertiles”, or  ”IFers” as we often refer to ourselves.  The group was a great place to turn when the outside world didn’t seem to understand, a great place to look for inspiration, as we had front row seats to watch some of our friends transition from IFer to motherhood, and a great source of education when Dr. Google didn’t provide a detailed enough description of optimum cervical mucous.  And the very best part?  Nearly three years later, the group of IFers has dwindled from many to few.  (To be clear, “we” always consider ourselves infertile, just sometimes, if you are very lucky, you can become a pregnant infertile, and in the very best circumstances, you can become an infertile with children.)

Just yesterday George asked me if I still kept in touch with some of my infertile friends.  And I do, in the way people who spend their lives with a backlog of e-mails and phone calls to return do.  I’m always behind, never as involved as I would like to be, and living each day with valiant intentions.  Translation:  I don’t keep up with them the way I should.  Especially with the ones who have not yet experienced family building success.

Some of my friends have conceived with the help of thousands and thousands of dollars in fertility treatments, some have thrown their entire savings into adoption plans, others have written large checks for egg donors, sperm donors, and surrogates.  And with all of that, there are a few of my friends who remain childless and hopeless.

One of my greatest fears of infertility was that George and I would get to the point that we’d tried everything but the “big ticket” procedures, and we’d have to make the financial call to keep on truckin’, or to throw in the towel.  This fear crept into my life very early, giving me crazy anxiety about not agreeing with George on when we should say “when”.  In the throes of infertility, I had many irrational days.  There was no price too high, no procedure too invasive, and no way in hell I’d be convinced that living childless was my plight.  George is a realist, and a financially responsible one at that.  Spending $12,000 on a 30% change of IVF success seemed crazy at times- beyond logical at others.  And when I had my first miscarriage, the fears of spending the big bucks increased, as I learned that a pregnancy does not necessarily equal a child.

So, I feel like I cheated in a way.  I feel like somehow, some way, in some bizarre universe, after 2 years of doing everything short of standing on our heads, George and I became pregnant three times in a row with relatively inexpensive medical interventions.  How?  How did this work for us and yet so many of my friends, who are deserving beyond deserving, have lost their savings, their hope, and in some extremely unfortunate instances, their marriages.  I don’t want to trade my situation.  I just want for the “unfairness” of being prohibited from building the family you dream of, to subside for everyone.

When people announced their pregnancies amidst my repeated failures, I was always thrilled for them.  Always.  Whether they struggled to conceive or not.  But there was still a sting.  I never wanted my sting to show.  I never wanted for any woman to feel they had to hide their joy from me, or feel guilt for attaining something I could not.  But still, the successes of others often invited the ache from my heart to the surface, making my reality more grim.

And as I relax into this pregnancy, I think of those who have offered loads and loads of support, stuffing away their own sadness to join me in my happiness, and I want their pain to end.  Today.  Tomorrow.  SOON.

October is SIDS, pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.  On October 15th, we lit a candle for the babies we lost, one of which was predicted to arrive November 2nd.  Next Friday.  That will be a difficult day for me, even with the flutters of hope and life dancing around inside me.  I can’t begin to imagine how I’d make it through that day had I not conceived again.  That baby, like the one I carry today, means more to me than was possible to imagine in the years before he existed.

As far as Henry is concerned, he is the most fun person I have never touched.  He’s a ham in ultrasounds, but clearly values his naps.  He’s a fan of my left side, likes Indian food, Cap’n Crunch, and apparently, ice cream.  I am 18 weeks pregnant, and it is said, he is now able to hear what’s shaking on the outside.  Poor guy has to endure my singing now.  I can’t imagine how annoyed he must be.

And this weekend, as a break from Hurricane Sandy preparations, George and I hit the Babies R Us at Union Square and the Target in Harlem to register for his spoiled butt.  These moments are ones I’ve looked forward to for a very long time.

These moments are some of the best of my life.

Infertility be damned.

Same to you, Sandy!

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Nice To Meet You!

by Jen on October 21, 2012

One of the infinite responsibilities that comes with being a parent is providing your human with a name.

What. Pressure.

Like it or not, names come with prejudices.  I have met very few wimps named Hulk and very few airheads named Einstein.  Some names conjure bitchy images or lazy images or images of the smelly kid from second grade. It is highly unlikely your child will have an awesomely unique name without having an awesomely butchered spelling or an awesomely misunderstood pronunciation.

I’m a Jennifer.  Depending on the poll, my name ranked first or second most popular in 1980- which, was the year I was born.  Hearing “Jennifer!” shouted in a crowd rarely made me turn around, as the likelihood of someone calling for me was slim.  I didn’t stand out.  I was often referred to as “Jennifer E.” as a way to keep all of the Jennifers differentiated.  But on the flipside, my name was never “weird”.  Jennifer wasn’t turned into sing-songy phrases that my peers used to taunt me.  I was always able to find pencils and name plates and lunch boxes adorned with my name.  And, my name also provides nickname freedoms that have proven fun over the years.

For me, finding a name for a son proved much more difficult than for a daughter.  George and I had a favorite in mind from the start, but watched the popularity name lists like hawks as our name began to climb the charts.  Wanting something a little less popular, we created lists upon lists of possible contenders that we liked, but never loved.  Someone we loved had either already chosen names we liked for their own children, or we feared our son might endure years of bullying for our attempts to be creative.

It’s like wedding dress shopping, I think.  (I have heard this from my friends a thousand time, but this did not prove to be the case for me since wedding dress shopping was one of my least favorite times of life.) But no matter how many dresses you try on, your heart is always set on that very first one.  And even though we both tried to talk ourselves into something else, our baby’s name seemed decided before we even realized it.

His name, Bodhi’s name, is now Henry Elliott Bruno.

And I feel awesome about that.  I love every syllable, and every image that comes to mind when I say it aloud.

Henry is my George’s middle name, shared by his grandfather who is one of the greatest people on this planet.  I share a bond with his grandmother when she speaks of the man she married, because I know, the man she married and who provided her with a life made of dreams, is the same man who built the things that make my husband great.  If I want to picture my life in 50 years, I can look to them and smile about the decisions I’ve made.

Elliott is my maiden name turned middle name.  This was a strong contender for our son’s first name, but in the end, fit better in the middle.  Elliott makes me think of my family and my childhood and the people who helped build my life.  I believe it’s a strong, honest, hard working name, and our son will be completely worthy.

So that’s that.  He is named.  Check, check, and check!

Bodhi will never go away.  It’s not in my nature.  I’m a nicknamer- usually favoring “B” names.  I’ve had a Becky and a Bug and a Bear and a Buffy and a Bunkin and a Brito and a Bennay, and a Beezus, and a Bruce and a Bink and a Bodhi.  And probably more.  So although Henry lives, Bodhi never dies.  In truth, the kid may never hear me call him Henry.  ’Tis possible.

We are 17 weeks pregnant today!  I feel better and less “pregnant” every day.  The baby’s flutters and nudges are getting a little more frequent and a little stronger.  Every time I feel him, I can’t help but smile and wonder what he’s up to in there.  The mystery and miracle of growing people is fascinating beyond measure.

The baby is roughly 5 1/4 inches long, still loves milk in the mornings and long walks… to the subway.  Last week we received quite a few baby gifts which have made our apartment the most fun place to be!  Our friends are INCREDIBLE!  I wore my first pair of maternity jeans yesterday and have decided that jeans without elastic in the waist should be outlawed.

Thank you again for following our story, which is now Henry’s.  And will forever be my favorite story to tell.

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Motherhood, Milestones, and MOVEMENT!

by Jen on October 14, 2012

Pregnancy, at least for me, is succession of milestones.  First you get through the two week wait, and then you hold your breath until you pass former miscarriage dates, and then you look for the end of the first trimester counting every single solitary second, and then, you reach for 16 weeks, and then 20 where you know you are half way through, and then 25 where you feel “some” confidence that if you went into pre-term labor, the medical masterminds that be would be able to assist your baby into the world, and then 32 weeks seems like a celebration, and then 40… well, that’s the real goal, isn’t it?  Point is, every day is a celebration.  And, quite honestly, every day is a reminder that I’ll never feel totally in the safe zone.

But today I’ve reached one of my milestones.  16 weeks!!!  That’s four teensy weeks shy of being half way there!

Breathe.

I now know our baby is a boy, and that he has two arms and two legs and ten fingers and a four chambered heart.  Ultrasounds are incredible.

And here is the next exciting piece of news…  I felt him move!!!  It’s very subtle and very seldom, but I am certain it was him.  It happened the first time on Friday night (15 weeks and 5 days) and then three times yesterday.  To be honest, I always thought I was a bit too… fat… to feel him moving around so soon, but glory be to Oprah, I felt him!

It feels selfish in a way.  I get to experience this stuff and can’t yet share it with anyone else.  I think George will pee his pants when he’s able to feel him on the outside for the first time.  I probably will too.  We are an emotional pair, the two of us.

The world has suddenly become a place of emotional wonder, and everything from a mother wearing her baby on the subway and watching shows like The X Factor, and Parenthood, and even America’s Next Top Model (I know?!?!?) are making me weep.  I used to leave the emotional stuff to George.  Now we are both sappy asses.  And I hear it just gets worse after the baby is born.  Makes me sorry for all the years I made fun of my mother for crying during movies.  Poor Bodhi is in for a real treat.  I hope he’s compassionate.  I’m gonna need it.

We are still working on names.  I blame Facebook for making it such a challenge.  I know a heck of a lot of babies through social media, making me paranoid of “stealing” someone else’s name.  But truly, if we aren’t going to name our kid something like “Tennis Shoe” the likelihood of us not choosing a name that someone already has is slim to none.  I have no intention of naming the kid Tennis Shoe, sooooo….  We’ve got our list narrowed down, and my gut tells me which name is “right”, but we are going to marinate on it a bit longer.  We’ve got some time, right?

I’m not really a fan of having my picture taken (or at least not when I’m 400 pounds outside of my goal weight), but I’m finding the changes to my body to be pretty cool.  I may look back one day and wonder what the heck I was thinking, but for now, I feel really good about myself.  I feel healthy and strong, and somewhat superhuman for growing a baby.  I know, I know, people have been growing babies for years… get over yourself, Jen.  But I can’t.  I’m excited.  And proud.  And I have no tolerance for anyone minimizing our “success”.  Suck it, infertility!

So here are a couple pictures of my progress.  My stomach is large, and has been for a while now.  It makes me happy.  True story.  I’m 15 weeks in both of these pictures, bee tee dub.

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Oh Boy!

by Jen on October 9, 2012

All my life, I thought of you.
And wondered who you’d be.
Will you love animals,
and writing just like me?
Or will you prefer to read,
and follow sports just like your dad?
And will your very first dachshund be
the best friend you ever had?
Or will you paint new pictures?
And not be our little clone.
Will you find new interests,
And be a person all your own?
Maybe you’ll have his blue eyes,
Or brown just like mine?
You may be rowdy or reserved;
And either way is fine.
Although we’ve not met you yet,
we are enamored by your charms.
You have one great big family,
waiting with open arms.
And today we got exciting news,
and feel like we have won.
Today we found out we shall be,
the parents of a son.
                                          -Jennifer E. Bruno

Well, that’s that.  A boy!  We are going to have a boy!

We had no gender preference whatsoever, although as soon as I saw his penis on the ultrasound screen, I felt that things were exactly as they should be.  I teared up on the table, as our unclear future gained a little focus.  I feel fortunate beyond all measures, and want nothing more than to raise a strong, healthy, compassionate, tender, loving, contributing, and intelligent human being.  The opportunity to try is an honor greater than any I’ve ever been given before.

I’ll be honest, if Bodhi would have been a daughter, naming her would have been far simpler.  Boy names are HARD!  George and I had three or four girl names in our back pockets just waiting to declare.  Boy names on the other hand???

Crickets.

Thank goodness for a long gestation, I suppose.

I’d love to have the opportunity to parent both genders in my lifetime, however, my history of infertility leaves me feeling so completely grateful for this experience that I won’t get ahead of myself.  Little boys are special.  Little girls are special.  Children, are very, very special.

Rayden came into my life when he was maybe two and I was maybe twelve?  ”Technically” he became my stepbrother, then my ex stepbrother, but “realistically”, he’s my brother.  Like blood.  No two ways about it.  And when he came into my life, my laundry baskets were graced with teensy super hero underpants and my bedroom floor became an obstacle course of tiny figurines and Matchbox cars that would cripple me daily.  And with all that, the most unforgettable, most remarkable, life changing part, was that no one had ever looked at me the way he did.  No one had ever made me feel so important and so valued.  Those eyes could change the world; his warmth on my chest changed my world.  And truly, the power of little boys never evaded me.

And ever since, my world has been flush with special little boys who make the world a better place.  You know Caleb and Noah?  And Easton?  And Spencer?  And Jayden?  And that’s just a  small example.

Bodhi will be no exception.  I’m sure of it.

Our son is already lucky in more ways than I ever imagined.  He’s loved by people I have never met in person, and people I’ve not seen since I was in grade school.  His family has been rooting for him long before he was ever conceived, and his parents aren’t taking a moment of his existence for granted.  But the luckiest part?

George is his dad.

That’s a pretty cool thing.  Clearly, I’d not have fallen in love with George and married George had I not had high hopes for his parenting chops, so I am biased.  But regardless, I can’t imagine a greater role model for any child.  Bodhi will be who he will be, and I know that.  But with any luck, he will inherit the things that make my George great.  I hope he observes the selfless way he treats me and his own mother.  I hope he learns to work hard and play hard.  I hope he copies George’s values in his friendships and responsibilities, and I hope he tackles his dreams with the same carefully planned, but curiously spontaneous gusto that spark George’s senses of adventure.

The longer I am pregnant, the more I realize how little faith I actually had in ever being pregnant.  I’ve lived the last 15 weeks feeling that at any moment, I’m going to wake up realizing I’ ve been dreaming.  For 15 weeks.  I used to say that I knew I’d be pregnant some day, I just didn’t know when.  But now, I know I was kidding myself.  I didn’t really think that. I thought my charmed life was going to hit a reproductive road block, and I’d never know what it meant to see the results of our genetic combination in the eyes of our child.

But today, my fetus is no longer a fetus.  He’s our son, and we’re going to meet him some day.  And he’s going to be healthy.  And happy.  And perfect.  For 100 years or better.

I’m not dreaming anymore.  I’ve not experienced any bleeding since Friday morning.  Not a drop.  I got to watch our baby curl up and stretch out and wave his arms and cross his feet and move his mouth for almost 20 minutes on ultrasound the other day.

I bought a onesie and stuffed monkey rattle.

That’s pretty official, right?

I am so lucky.  And so grateful.

Here’s to another 24-ish weeks!

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Fourteen Weeks in Florida

by Jen on October 6, 2012

Hi guys!

Guess what?!?!?

Still pregnant!

Still bleeding (mildly now), but still pregnant!

I’ll take it!

As I sit, I am 14 weeks, 6 days, and some odd hours pregnant.  But who’s counting???

I can still button my pants.  However, sitting makes me feel like I’m cutting off circulation to my lower extremities, so I’m opting for wearing a belly band on the regular.  So comfy, this pregnancy business.  I have spent a lifetime looking for an excuse to wear elastic waisted pants, so I feel I’ve won the lottery.  Twice.

My appetite went from nil in the first trimester to turning on overnight.  I’m hungry pretty much ALLLLLLLL the time, yet I’m still a little nauseous and apathetic about food.  It’s a conundrum to feel like I must consume food by the buckets, all the while kind of wanting to barf at the thought.  I have only one constant, and that is the rabid need for a giant glass of chocolate milk first thing in the morning.  I also have a pretty steady craving for salami and hot dogs.  Gross, right?  I can’t eat salami and probably shouldn’t eat hot dogs, so I’m fighting those cravings on a weekly basis.

Now that I’ve entered the second trimester (holy shit, that sounds so cool!) I’m trying REALLY hard to train myself to sleep on my side (this helps blood flow to the baby, they say).  I’m a hard core back sleeper, so this has proven to be a challenge.  In the middle of the night, George will often sleepily whisper things like, “Hit your side, Jebbee.”  He’s on top of things.  It’s Tenacious D-style  teamwork, really.

Last weekend, we flew to Tampa.  We have a ton of friends who live there and a ton of others within driving distance.  Florida State happened to be playing the University of South Florida, so it worked out that most of our friends congregated to the area and allowed us the opportunity to spend time with a bunch of them.  I was nervous to go.  All the bleeding and all the cramping and all the stressing made home seem like the only logical place to be, but we talked to our doctor twice, and he assured us that flying posed no potential risk on the pregnancy or hematoma.  In fact, he said the break from our routine would probably be good for all of us.  So, we went.  We had fun, we stayed up late, George drank too much, I played with our friends’ babies, and best of all, I came back to New York feeling a little more relaxed about my bleeding.

The power of friendship is impressive.

George’s group of friends, who have, as it goes, turned into my group of friends, have been his friends for nearly all his life.  I think the longevity of his friendships actually expedited our falling in love.  I found assurances in the fact that he’d managed and prioritized a lifetime of loyalty and commitment to them, so my faith in his ability to manage and prioritize a lifetime of loyalty and commitment to me strengthened far quicker than I think it would have otherwise.

In addition, his friends, both male and female, married or partnered well, bringing extra friends to the group that have felt like they were meant to be there all along.

I came into our relationship with a relatively small group of friends.  I have a quality over quantity scenario, I suppose.  My friendships are long lasting, intensely intimate, and loyal to the core- I just don’t have a ton of them (maybe because I’m lazy???).  So, experiencing George’s relationships has always been special to me.

The weekend was a blast.  Our friends delivered as always (even Kester who predictably gave us a reason to tease him, and Giraffe who talked smack on the killer party I threw for him before he tied the knot).  Ass.  (See Giraffe, I told you I’d blog about you!)  I got to spend an evening with Shayna, who by simply touching my stomach infused her brilliance and grace right into my fetus.  And, my MIL visited and got to catch a glimpse of the damage her next grandchild is causing to my bangin’ ass body.  Hehehe.  Her enthusiasm makes reproducing even that much cooler.

So, the trip was therapeutic.  And makes me wanna go back.

We are back in New York and back to the grind.  I’m slowly taking off my training wheels and am gaining confidence in the fact that walking isn’t going to cause me to miscarry.

We have an anatomy scan scheduled for this coming Monday.  I can’t wait for a little a window to the womb action.  I am nosy.  I wanna know what’s going on in there.  If we get SUUUUPER lucky, we might catch a glimpse of Bodhi’s “business”.  Being pregnant gets more “real” every day, but learning the gender of our baby seems like such a cherry on top.  My fingers are crossed, but my hopes aren’t too high.  (Okay, I’m lying.)  Can you imagine the burden of my poor George?  His greatest struggle in life might be keeping me grounded.

I’m pretty sure it’s a battle he’ll never win.

And now I leave you with a few photos of the newest member to our group of friends.  Introducing Liam Hurley and Jacob Shawhan!  I can’t wait until they can pick on Bodhi.  :-)

 

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Lucky Number 13

by Jen on September 23, 2012

This past week has been a difficult one for both George and me.  I experienced near hemorrhage-like bleeding that had me dangling from the edge of sanity.  I clutched my belly, crossed my legs, and did nothing more than ride a bus, go to work, ride a bus home, sit on the couch, pee 947 times, and go to bed.  The end.  George, in addition to his own stress of what my bleeding might mean for our baby, has been working his butt off to keep me sitting still and relaxed.  Poor fella has a severe case of dishpan hands and tub scouring scars.  He’s been the sole dog walker, mail checker, grocery getter, and laundry putter-awayer.  (And before he reads this and gets all defensive, I must clarify that he is ALWAYS helpful- just more this week than ever.  Satisfied, George?)

The morning after I posted about struggling to keep the faith in my pregnancy, I suddenly stopped bleeding.  I think Bodhi may have been embarrassed by the graphic details I used to describe the state of my underwear, so he decided to get it together.  (He must get this from my mom, because she’d be mortified about it too.)  Either way, I’ve been blood free for two whole days!

You can’t imagine how quickly my anxiety has settled.

Yesterday, I even felt ballsy enough to get my ass off the couch to take the girls to Bark at the Park at Citi Field.  It felt nice not to be scared to leave the house.

We got to walk the dogs around the field and then took our seats for the game.  All the dogs (and their people) sat in one section in the stadium, so that made for a different spectatorship than I’ve ever experienced before.  I may be able to get on board with being a sports fan if animals were allowed at all the events.

I woke up today with Christmas morning-type excitement.  Today marks the milestone of being 13 weeks pregnant!  If I’m being totally honest, I’m not sure what truly marks the beginning of the second trimester.  Some sites and books say it’s the 13th week and others say the it’s the 14th week.  Who to trust, who to trust?  But no matter, 13 weeks is better than 12 and 12 is better than 11, and so on.  I feel like celebrating!

I don’t feel like I’ve said this in a while, but our baby’s cheering squad is huge… and loud… and really, really  important to us.  I post these details about our life, that really, aren’t terribly extraordinary.  People have babies ALL. THE. TIME.  (Trust me, I counted every single pregnancy announcement, every single day I struggled to conceive, and even more so after miscarrying.)  People have pregnancy bleeding and scares and anxiety and stress and triumphs and celebrations every single day, and most of them do it with discretion.  Most people endure these situations privately, or among a group of their closest friends and family.  And while it may not be “the way” for everyone, I’m not so private.  I’m not so… decent, maybe?  But for all the full-disclosure, and indecency, and details of my sex life, and peeing on sticks, and testing George’s sperm, and putting my feet in stirrups, and bleeding through my sheets, I have found so much strength and enthusiasm, and will to keep the hope alive through all of you who read and support and keep us in your thoughts.

So today is a day worth celebrating.  Let’s celebrate a 13 week-old Bodhi, dancing about and actin’ a fool, and let’s celebrate all of you who have supplied overwhelming support and encouragement and prayers and advice.

I ate a cupcake for Bodhi earlier.  I shall have one after dinner for you.  It’s my pregnant equivalent of pouring out some liquah for my homeys.

Cheers!

Annnnnd, here are a few shots from Bark at the Park.

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Hematomas, Hope, and Hanging On

by Jen on September 21, 2012

I’m so happy to be pregnant.  You know I am.  Every day I wake up, I feel like pinching myself.  I walk by the collage of ultrasound photos arranged on the door of our refrigerator.  I pause each time.  I smile, and I feel lucky that that person lives inside of me.  I wouldn’t give up a moment- not the time I barfed at the bus stop, not the 40 times I puked on my toothbrush, not the hellacious first month of starting a new job and fighting like mad not to fall asleep in my training, and not the nights I lost sleep because I was bleeding and terrified of losing the baby.  Not one moment.

But with all that said, I must admit that I want all my bleeding to stop.  I never bled this much when I wasn’t pregnant, so being pregnant and losing blood by the buckets is frazzling my nerves and chiseling away at my enthusiasm.

Most of my life I’ve had to take medicine to have periods.  Without pituitary tumor medication, I’d go months- sometimes seven or eight months at a time- without even the slightest hint of blood.  And then, when I’d have periods, they’d be light and easy.  Three days of bleeding- four tops.  But get me pregnant?  And I’m a bleeder.

I bled off an on in my first pregnancy, was diagnosed with a hematoma, and miscarried at 10 weeks.  I started bleeding at nine weeks with this pregnancy, was diagnosed with a hematoma, and spotted until Tuesday.  Tuesday morning, in the middle of a presentation, I felt my insides rush out of my body.  I excused myself, went to the bathroom, and sat on the toilet while a stream of blood spilled into the toilet for a good three minutes.  Had you been in the stall next to mine, you’d have thought I was the longest urinator of life.

It finally slowed.  I called George and left a message for my OB, went back to my classroom and tried to relax.  Ten minutes later, same thing.  An hour later, same thing.

The doctor called back, said he wasn’t terribly concerned and that with hematomas, some bleeding will occur.  I assured him this wasn’t “some bleeding” and rather more bleeding than I experienced in my entire twenties.  He had me come in for an ultrasound, only to see my sweet little Bodhi wave to us on the screen.  Or maybe it wasn’t a wave?  Maybe it was a, “Seriously guys, can’t I get a little peace and quiet up in here?!?!”  But either way, my heart relaxed.

The doctor explained, as we’ve heard so many times before, that if we are bound to miscarry, there is nothing any medical professional can do to stop it.  I know this.  I do.  It’s just hard to hear.

We were sent home with the continued instructions to limit my activity, hydrate, and try to relax.  The gushes of blood stopped Wednesday afternoon, but I’m still bleeding more than I’d like.  I’ve gone through an entire package of super duper, heavy duty diaper-esque pads since Tuesday.  I mean, where in the hell is all this blood coming from?!?!?

I’m still rich with pregnancy symptoms.  My stomach is stretching- probably more than it should at twelve weeks and five days.  And I’m feeling confident our baby is still swirling around and making a party of his uterine palace.  But I’m nervous.

I’m nearing the end of my first trimester.  I’ve had that goal in sight from the moment I saw two lines on  my pregnancy test. And now, I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean we are safe.  I realize that doesn’t mean I’ll get to coast though the next several months.  I’ve been visualizing reaching my second trimester like it meant crossing one finish line and getting the endorphin boost to cross another, and another.  But what if this bleeding doesn’t stop?  Or worse.  What if it ends in tragedy?

I can’t even imagine.

There is nothing I can do.  I’m powerless.  The doctors are powerless, and no matter how many times I try to relate the bleeding to the hematoma, I can’t smoosh the thoughts of it meaning something worse out of my mind.

Every night, when my head meets my pillow, I think, “Tomorrow is the day this is going to stop.  I’m going to wake up in the morning with clean underwear and unstained sheets.  I’m going to pee a million times tomorrow and each time, it’s going to be reassuring rather than terrifying.  Tomorrow is the day I will have full confidence my baby is safe.”

And then I wake up realizing that day isn’t today.

I’m alternating between feelings of complete gratitude and fear.  I truly believe, in the deepest part of my soul, that I will meet this squirmy, awesome, miraculous little person in March.  I do.  Maybe it’s mother’s intuition, or maybe it’s because I’m not sure I can handle another loss?  But either way, I feel in my bones that Bodhi will be the first member George and I add to our family (aside from Ramona, of course).  So when I have these scares, it doesn’t make sense.

Regardless, we will be 13 weeks pregnant on Sunday!!!  The final week of the first trimester!  Bodhi is about 3 inches long (the size of a peach), and his teeth and vocal cords are forming.  We have another appointment on Tuesday and an anatomy scan on October 8th.  Those reassurances- er, appointments, can’t come soon enough!

Until then, I’m trying to reprogram my brain and trying to stay positive.

You keep on keeping on, Bodhi.  You aren’t allowed to go anywhere for another 27 weeks!

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