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08/06/2004

Back in the saddle stirrups again

I spent the last week at my parents' house. I'd hoped to spend more time with my mother, but between the boisterous presence of my nephews, who live down the street, and the arrival of my aunt, who brought my cousins up for a visit, it was seven days of nonstop chaos, instead of the relaxing interlude I'd imagined — you know, when I was in a heroin-induced fugue state.

Although I managed to sneak off under cover of darkness a couple of times to check in on a handful of blogs, I'm far behind on others, and way behind on correspondence. If you've sent me mail and I haven't responded, please forgive me; if you've asked to be put on the great big list of blogs, please look for an update over the weekend.

...

I am tired. It's the only pregnancy symptom I've had. No morning sickness, no breast tenderness, not even the crippling constipation Tertia has wished upon me. In the first several weeks, the fatigue took the form of sleepiness. Now I'm no longer especially drowsy, but my body tires easily.

I thought it had abated, but this past week found me sitting helplessly on the sofa while my 60-year-old mother and my severely arthritic aunt prepared meals for 12 and shepherded five active children into an activity more productive than racing each other up and down the stairs, over and over and over. "You rest," my mother kept saying, shooing me into a kitchen chair while she unloaded the dishwasher for the third time in a day.

And I did, because I needed to, but, oh! The guilt.

...

I have completed the first trimester. Depending on how you count, I passed that milestone either a week and a half ago, at 12 weeks, when a major developmental phase ends, or yesterday, at 13 weeks 3 days, a third of the total gestational period.

I am supposed to feel home free, or close, but I'm still uncomfortable telling people about my pregnancy. I feel uneasy among the low-grade fuss that ensues, and it's hard to act as enthusiastic as people expect.

If I had to name my feelings, I could not accurately say I'm happy. "Happy" suggests a sunniness that I can't quite summon, an optimism that feels somehow immature given what I know. "Pleased" comes closer. "Relieved" is good, too, having gotten this far. I am pleased and relieved. Replieved.

...

I have convinced my nephews and cousins that Paul and I are going to name the baby Batman.

Nephew 1: What are you going to name the baby, Aunt Julie?
Julie: Well, that's a good question. I was thinking Batman would be a good name. What do you think?
Nephew 1: But what if Uncle Paul doesn't like that name?
Julie: Oh, we've discussed it and we're in agreement.
Paul: Yeah, I think it's a great name.
Nephew 2: Why?
Julie: Because we both admire Batman a lot. He's a hero who spends a lot of time helping others, and I think that's important.

[Silence. Time passes.]

Nephew 2: [Aggrieved and incredulous with a sudden realization.] What if it's a girl?
Julie: Even if it's a girl.
Nephew 2: Oh. [Remains thoughtful for several minutes.]

Little kids are kind of dumb.

...

Yesterday I took a 6:10 AM flight so that I could be back in town for a nuchal translucency scan. This is a detailed ultrasound used to measure the fluid behind the baby's neck. A thicker-than-usual measurement suggests the possibility of Down Syndrome and indicates the need for further diagnostics (if, in fact, you want to know for sure).

The scan took place on the same floor as my local RE's practice. It was the first time I'd been back since my baseline scan at the start of IVF #4, and I felt panicky just pushing the elevator button, returning to the site of so much sadness.

But yesterday I turned right off the elevator instead of left, and sat with a coterie of women in various stages of pregnancy, instead of with women in obvious states of distress. Need I say I did not feel at home?

The scan went beautifully. The nuchal fold measurement was normal. The heart rate was normal. The baby's growth was normal, measuring a few days ahead. We saw fingers waving; two hemispheres of a developing brain; and a spine that could be nothing else, knobbled with tiny vertebrae.

The tech couldn't find my cervix, so she thought I might have placenta previa, in which the placenta completely or partially covers the cervical opening. This is a complication you don't want; it can cause a range of problems from benign vaginal bleeding to preterm labor to — ulp — fetal and maternal death.

Not exactly the words you want to hear when you're flat on your back, jellied to hell.

The tech said she'd like to get a look with a transvaginal ultrasound, and went to show the pictures to the doctor while I emptied my bladder. When she came back, she said the doctor wasn't concerned, and that we'd try again transabdominally. Maybe with an empty bladder, we'd be able to get a better look.

And we were. There was my cervix in all its bendy glory, unthreatened by an encroaching placenta intent on achieving its Manifest Destiny. However, the placenta is still somewhat low-lying, which calls for careful monitoring. Because of this, I should have another scan around 18 weeks.

I should point out that every transabdominal obstetrical scan I've had has featured ultrasound gel brought to a comfortable temperature by an electric warmer. By contrast, every transvaginal scan I had during infertility treatment included a frigid dollop of gel born somewhere high in the tundra of the Rockies, then carefully stored on an Arctic floe.

If you're pregnant, you get nice warm gel lovingly slathered onto your distended belly. If you're infertile, you get an unceremonious poke into a cooter full of permafrost.

Make of that what you will.

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