Bliss and a Monkey-wrench

Getting past our little scare was relatively easy. My growing belly, the movement and kicks we felt each day, the fact that; now moms reading this, please try not to hate me too much, I hadn’t experienced any morning sickness or aversion to any foods or most smells, and the fact that we found out that we were having a girl as expected, everything was pretty blissful. I was due December 27th and after a talk with my doctor, we planned an induction for December 21st so that we would all be home by Christmas and avoid having our daughter share her birthday with a major holiday as well as avoid the bare bones staff at the hospital during the week of Christmas. Somehow, having an actual date to plan for made things much more real and satisfied the little bit of OCD and major planner in me. We told everyone when we were expecting to have our baby, all the while keeping it a secret that we were having a daughter.

We began shopping for her and putting together our baby registry and I traded in my two door coup that I leased when I thought I was never going to have a child to drive around. We stopped by one of our favorite stores, Lush, for some lotions and potions and got some great advise on a massage lotion bar for my growing belly. And when we left, we found a note and a gift congratulating us on our new baby! It was that generous gesture that will keep us going back to Lush forever.

When you stop for all the best lotions and potions and come out with a Therapy Massage Bar that kept all stretch marks at bay and some Sleepy lotion that works like a sleeping pill without the hangover. https://www.lushusa.com/body/massage-bars/therapy/03865.html

We were floating on a wave of bliss as Summer started to draw to a close and fall was on the horizon. Feeling good, strong, and excited for this massive adventure we were on, I was excited by every movement and kick and every inch that my belly grew. I was feeling comfortable in the fact that this miracle baby was growing perfectly and was going to be a beautiful, healthy little person and had forgotten any worry I may have had. Rounding out a year of many concerts of our favorite bands, I couldn’t help but see my favorite band, Foo Fighters, one more time. It was the third time in 11 months that we had seen them, and the only concert we didn’t travel for. It might be one of the last big nights we would have out, so we jumped, carefully, at the chance. While I sang along with every song, my Belly Bean became more and more active until she finally mastered her first drum solo on my pelvis. I grabbed Kevin’s hands, put them to my belly and said “Babe, I think you finally have your drummer!” As soon as the song was over, she settled down a little until the concert ended, as it always does, with “Everlong”. This is my song. This was always my song. And when Kevin and I first started dating, we were talking about music and he asked me, ” What song do I remind you of?” I immediately said “Everlong” without even thinking and from then on, it’s been our song. My Belly Bean moved around as Kevin and I kissed and shared the moment. The fact that our she was there to share that moment was one I will never forget. Looking back, I should have focused a little more on the possibility that she chose the songs she did to be the most active, because she knew something we didn’t. In a few weeks my 29 week ultrasound and check up would go from exciting and “regular” to a day that I would never forget.

Four weeks earlier the ultrasound had shown very minor pleural effusions (fluid around the baby’s lungs), but on this day the ultrasound showed that those effusions had grown. This is a condition called hydrops. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=hydrops-fetalis-90-P02374

My doctors were now much more concerned and they referred me to the University of Washington Medical Center’s Materal Fetal Medicine specialist. They were serious about transferring my care to UW, and I began to understand how serious this was when UW called me a couple of hours later to come in the next day.

The next day Kevin and I spent around 5 hours having a very thorough ultrasound, meeting with a doctor, seeing a genetic specialist and having an amniocentesis.  By the end of the day, we had heard more information than we could process. The one thing we heard loud and clear was that our little girl was in trouble. Her prognosis wasn’t clear, and we were told to prepare ourselves for anything from perfectly healthy to needing immediate intubation to the possibility that she may not survive at all. Also, one of the side effects of hydrops was the fact that I was accumulating a lot more amniotic fluid than normal, and that was making me a pretty big and a little more uncomfortable than I would normally be at 29 weeks along. My heart broke into a million pieces at the thought that my miracle baby, the product of an amazing love, and a baby that was so wanted, may not even have a chance to take her first breath. Kevin assured me that even if our girl had problems when she was born, she was strong, we were strong, and the three of us would come through this. The annoying thing about Kevin is that he is usually right. It is really annoying, but amazingly reassuring.

We agreed that we wouldn’t tell our family and friends until we knew more; with the exception of my mom. I suggested that maybe we cancel our baby shower that was scheduled for about a week and a half later. Thankfully Kevin was completely against that idea. He reminded me that our little girl was coming home. Maybe not a day or two after she was born, but she would be coming home and we needed to celebrate and be ready for her upcoming arrival. He was right, of course, and we had a beautiful baby shower! All of our friends and family were there to celebrate us and our Baby Bean. And while we basked in the love we held the knowledge that our little girl might be in for a rough start.

The next week we had another ultrasound and nothing had changed. The concerns remained that her lungs might not develop completely before we was born, that even if the lung tissue did develop as much as possible, the pressure that the fluid put on the lungs might damage the tissue and make it stiff, making it difficult for the lungs to expand and take in air after she was born and even after the fluid was drained off the lungs. We spoke with a neonatologist and she was amazing. Gentle, kind, knowledgeable and patient with all of our questions. Kevin, being the sponge of all knowledge and having a quick mind when it comes to science and anatomy, asked a lot of amazing questions. I sat listening, and acknowledging the conversation, but I was quiet. The doctor asked Kevin if he had any more questions and then turned to me. “Do you have any questions?” I took a breath and tried to stabilize my voice, and she stopped me, “I can tell you the answer to your question, and the answer is no.”

The tears welled up in my eyes and started to spill over onto my cheeks. A concerned Kevin asked “What was the question? Are you ok, babe?” And I let him in on what the doctor knew, that I wanted to know if my age (44) had anything to do with what was going on with my daughter. The doctor reassured us that my age had nothing to do with this. Sometimes it’s a genetic marker or a deficiency in something, and sometimes they never really know what causes hydrops, it just happens. It happens to 20 year old women and 45 year old women and everyone in between. And there is nothing that I did to cause this. While it was still very scary that this was happening, there was some comfort in knowing that I didn’t cause this.

So, there it was. Our daughter had hydrops. We didn’t know what caused it or why it was happening, we just needed to take care of me and her, watch her like a hawk, and get her and especially her lungs, to grow as much as possible before she makes her appearance. I was told that if we could make it to 34 weeks, that would be great. And if I could make it further, that would be even better. If the situation with the amniotic fluid became too much to handle, they could do a reduction, but it wasn’t something we could do more than once or twice, and it wasn’t a quick procedure. And the option to do a procedure to drain the fluid off the baby’s lungs was basically a non option. We had as much information as we could possibly have until she made her debut, and now I just had to get her to 34 weeks, let her lungs develop as much as possible and then see what our path would be from there.

As we drove home from the hospital, a familiar song played. It was the Foo Fighters tune that Belly Bean had played drums on at the concert. Now I knew why she chose this song. She knew something I didn’t, that there was about to be something thrown into our relatively easy pregnancy and lives, and something was a “Monkeywrench”.

The Reassuring Kick

Somehow, while pregnant, I believed that I would instinctively remember every moment of my pregnancy; when and where every little moment occurred, but sadly, somehow, with the amnesia that follows childbirth, so go some of the details of the most intense moments of my life. I do remember that first flutter of my growing baby, I remember the way my belly felt as it grew (that slight tugging on the muscles and skin; and I instantly knew why pregnant women rub their belly’s-because it feels soooo good on those stretching muscles) I remember sitting at my desk at work and feeling that first real kick. That first solid hello from my little one! With excitement, I texted Kevin to tell him that our little one is now kicking “hello”! He was thrilled! And now, we had a way to tell that our baby is alive and well and thriving, without the help of an ultrasound. Every time the baby would kick, Kevin would try to feel it from the outside. He could hardly wait for the day when he could feel our little Bean move around, and when it finally happened, the wait was totally worth it! And the first time we saw movement across my belly, we laughed through our tears of joy. Soon, BellyBean’s activity became an everyday occurrence, and we felt reassured with every movement and every kick that our little one was growing healthy and strong.

Each ultrasound showed that we were correct in our assumptions that BellyBean was growing exactly on track. I was due December 27th and my OBGYN, in an effort to keep me from having a Christmas baby and so that she would be the one on call at the hospital to deliver my baby, we set my induction for Friday, December 21st–if I made it that far, because this baby was growing fast.

Full Disclosure: I am 5 feet tall. Some doctors or nurses may try to sell you on the actual fact that I am 4’11.5”, but that just isn’t true. I’m 5 feet tall. At the time I got pregnant, I weighed about 92 pound. Please save all the “weight shaming” and comments that I really should have or should be eating more. I’ve heard all the short, skinny girl comments possible: “well you just ever grow, did you?” “do you ever eat?” “I wish I was skinny like you…” “where do you find clothes you fit you, the kids section?” ” how can you possibly be healthy, being so skinny?” “You need a cheeseburger.”

My answers progressively get shorter with each year of age. I don’t find I need to explain myself. I don’t need to tell people that “everyone in my family is short. My mom is 72 and skinny too. I have a fast metabolism. No, I find clothes that fit just fine and they aren’t from the kids section. And I’m very healthy, thanks. And I had a cheeseburger last night.” My answers came down to pretty much; “nope. yeah. not really the problem you would think it is. I’m very healthy-how about you?”

If you have ever been pregnant before, or had a parter that has been; you understand when I tell you that once you become pregnant, the outside world does not respect your personal space, autonomy or privacy any longer. I work at a doctor’s office, and many of our patients are regulars, every 4-6 weeks or every few months. While 90% of them were happy for me, excited for regular updates and filled me in on stories of their own kids or grandkids, there was the 10%. Ahhhh, the 10%. Can I be honest? These people were assholes. Rude, invasive, know-it-all assholes. Because I’m fairly small, and my growing baby was hitting all the growth milestones perfectly, I was showing very quickly and getting bigger by the day. And I was all belly. The 10% would regularly ask if I was sure I wasn’t having twins. Was I actually farther along than I thought? Was the baby freakishly big? How big is the baby’s dad? And my answers started out as, “no, just one. No, I’m (insert however far along I was). No, the baby is right on track. And not really, dad is 5′ 10″.” Towards the end of my pregnancy, my answers got more aggressive: “Wow, I don’t know. I should ask my doctors if I”m having twins, it’s never come up. And, I might be farther along than I thought. You obviously know my body better than I do, so I should talk to my doctors and see if you are right. And one woman was particularly awful in her line of questioning, so I responded “Well, if the dad is who I think it is, he’s not a giant.”

Then there were the women, and a couple of men, who found it appropriate to grab my every growing belly. A couple of people that I knew did so, caught themselves and asked if it was ok. Then there was the lady in the grocery store, around my age, who exclaimed “OMG- you’re pregnant! How cute!”, and then reached for my belly. Using the shopping cart as a shield, I stepped behind it and gave her a “touch me and die” look. I don’t want you touching my belly or my baby once he or she is out here in the world. I don’t know you!

In saying all of this, I want to remind you, dear reader, or maybe inform you for the first time, that pregnant women are still people. They are not some freak show or member of a petting zoo, and unless they invite your touch, criticism or advise, please, please keep it to yourself. Share stories of when you or your partner were pregnant, share the wondrous stories of your grandchildren, but save the horror stories or tales of sick children for a later…much later date. Women who are pregnant are doing their best to stay healthy, learn how to deal with their ever-changing bodies, and protect the little life they are creating. They are too busy creating an ear or an eyeball to worry about what you think of how they look or what they should be eating, or if they should still be working. The first couple of times you offer unsolicited advice, you may get a kind response, but after that, you may get an answer resembling a kick.

Not Everything is Black and White

At nine and a half weeks along, I had my first ultrasound. That magical moment I saw that little bean growing in my belly. Right there in black and white. In that moment, I understood this unexpected surprise was real. My eyes welled up at the joy of this amazing blessing and I couldn’t wait to tell Kevin about it, as he was unable to be there. I walked out clutching the first pictures of my little one and still couldn’t believe that this actually happening to me!

I went back to work and during lunch my phone rang. It was my doctor. I answered excited and nervous, and totally unprepared for what I heard.

I was nine and a half weeks along as I thought and the size of my growing baby was right on track. However there was something that caused concern. In measuring everything the radiologist noticed that the nuchal fold, which is at the nape of the neck, was thicker than normal. It could be nothing or it could mean that there were come chromosomal issues with the baby. After all…I was considered a geriatric mother. Anyone over 32 is, apparently. And that, quite frankly, is bullshit! Yes, I was 44, so that definitely put me as an older mom, but to call me geriatric is just mean!! I knew the chances of something being wrong with the baby were higher due to my age, but to hear that something could actually be wrong was jarring.

A week or two later I met with a specialist for older moms and babies who may be facing some issues. He suggested a blood test that would show if there were any chromosomal abnormalities with the baby. Kevin and I agreed to do that, and though we were scared, we decided that unless there was something so wrong with the baby that he or she would have no quality of life at all, we would be having this baby no matter what.

About 10 days later the tests came back; and with the exception of some anomaly on the X chromosome, everything was perfectly normal. The doctor said that we could do an amniocentesis to see exactly what the anomaly was, but we decided not to take the extra risk. In 4 weeks, at our next ultrasound, the nuchal fold thickness was gone and we were looking at a very healthy baby who was growing perfectly.

On Father’s Day, we made the announcement to all, that we were pregnant. We had felt an outpouring of love and excitement from all of our family and friends. And with that, this thing was real. My belly was growing, I was starting to make plans for my baby registry and maternity leave, and all the things that all moms-to-be do, but all the while I had a little something in the back of my head that was bugging me about that anomaly on the test. I hoped everything was ok. And then I somehow convinced myself that everything was. Besides, what could possibly be wrong?

Not So Broken After All

I came home from work one evening in early May, to a giant hug from Kevin. Had he gotten stronger, was my bra too tight or am I getting my period, because my boobs hurt from that hug.

Huh, that was weird.

We had made plans to go to dinner, so we headed out to a restaurant and proceeded to have a really great dinner. During dinner, one of us brought up that we would like to see Avengers: Infinity War that had recently been release. I checked for showtimes and the movie theater next to the restaurant had seats available. We saw the movie and on the way home had a lively discussion about it and our now shared hate for that dumbass, Quill, aka Douchelord. We went to bed feeling happy with our date night.

The next day at work, around 10:30am, I suddenly felt really sick. Not enough to actually vomit, but I felt sweaty, dizzy, and my stomach hurt. I texted Kevin to see if he was feeling alright, thinking maybe something I ate the night before wasn’t agreeing with me. He was fine, so I thought it was just me and that maybe I was getting the flu-which wasn’t even going around. I continued to feel sick all day, even to the point of thinking maybe I should see a doctor. Then around 8:30 that night, as quickly as it had come on, the sick feeling left.

Ok, again, that was weird.

The next few days I felt fine, but I started to think about when my last period was and I couldn’t come up with even a week, much less a day. I thought it should be coming anytime now, so I bought a box of tampons, and waited.

May 12, 2018-the day before Mother’s Day. I was in Target and as I walked down the main drag, looking at things on the endcaps, I walked by the aisle with pregnancy tests visible. I slowed down to a stop and turned down the aisle. I stood there for a minute taking in the purple and pink boxes, some with pictures of tests with visible lines; one line for not pregnant, two for yes. Digital test that actually say the words “pregnant” or “not pregnant”. I thought back to the disappointing tests I had taken in the 20’s, and almost couldn’t believe that at 44 I was now considering setting myself up for one more likely disappointment. There was no way that I could possibly be pregnant, not at this stage in my life. Why would I even think that I could be? The tender breasts, the day of feeling like death-warmed-over, and the probably missed or very late period all held up a big neon sign that said “YOU’RE PREGNANT”. So, convinced that I would jinx myself and wake up to a period, I bought a box of two pregnancy test. And I bought the expensive ones. The digital ones that would tell me, in words not lines or hieroglyphics if I was pregnant or not.

That night Kevin and I babysat his nearly 6 month old niece, Quinn, while his sister went out for dinner and a movie as a pre-Mother’s Day night out. We were playing and having a great time. He loves that little girl and is so great with her, and I was enjoying watching the two of them together. As Quinn began to settle a little bit, I asked Kevin “what would you do if I got pregnant? I know we talk about it sometimes, and you say you would be thrilled, but in all honesty, how would you feel?” He responded the way every woman wants their guy to respond “Babe, I’d be so happy. It would be awesome.”

Sunday. May 13th, 2018. Mother’s Day: I woke up ready to discover I had started my period. But nope, that had not happened. Ok, so I guess I have to take this test.

I read the directions; because you know there are at least a dozen ways to pee on a stick, and completed the test, I put the test in a drawer in the bathroom, and set my timer for 3 minutes. I proceeded to pluck a few stay eyebrow hairs, pull my hair into a pony tail and tidy up the counter space. When the timer went off, I braced myself for bad news, opened the drawer, pulled out the test and saw the word:

PREGNANT

My breath got sucked out of my lungs. I stood there, staring, waiting for the word “NOT” to be added to the screen. And after about five minutes more, I started to believe. Instead of coming up with a fun way to tell Kevin, I put the test in the pocket of my cozy, purple robe and walked into the bedroom where Kevin had just woken up a few minutes before.

“I have something to tell you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I’m pregnant.”

“FUCK OFF!! You are not! Wait, are you? NO! You can’t be!”

I took the test out of my pocket and showed it to him.

“Yes I am pregnant.”

“OH MY GOD!!! BABE! THAT’S AMAZING!!!”

He grabbed me and hugged me and neither of knew what to do. We just kept hugging and kissing and jumping around until he reminded me that I was pregnant.

He got me a glass of water and started to make breakfast and we spent the rest of the day telling our mom’s, Kevin’s brother, sister and cousin, that we were going to have a baby and shifing between “oh my god” and “holy shit” we’re having a baby!!

We discussed baby names and watched Ail Wong’s Netflix special “Hard Knock Wife” which freaked us both out, and made us laugh a little too hard to hide the fear we were feeling from the other person. (If you haven’t watched this special, do it now. NOW! No wait! Read the rest of the entry first, THEN watch it!)

Later that night Kevin said “see babe, you’re not broken. You were just waiting to have a baby with the right person”. I teared up at that. After nearly 20 years of feeling like I was broken, damaged, not a full woman; one moment, one day, changed everything. I was not as broken or damaged as I thought I was. All the disappointments of the past faded away. I was finally going to be one of those pregnant ladies waddling around, eating all day and picking out nursery themes while reading books that were supposed to make me feel prepared, but only freaked me out. How can this possibly be? Oh my god, I’m actually going to be a mom. Whoa…I’m going to be a mom.

Best Mother’s Day Ever…for now.

Why Do You Want To Be With ME?

I had met a man while I was still married and working at a massage therapy school. We instantly had chemistry and had the most fascinating conversation about everything from Nirvana to Bernie Sanders. He was younger than me…much younger…20 years younger. He was jealous that I had seen Nirvana and I was jealous that he had the guts to backpack to California and Mexico at the age of 19 and seemed to have lived at least 4 of my lifetimes by the time he was 21. While he was a student we had brief conversations here and there, and after a few months, I left that job and I heard that he left school soon after due to some family issues that needed his attention.

We followed each other on Facebook and commented here and there, but a few months later he texted me out of the blue to ask if I was going to be at concert that he at. That began months of texting and a couple of meet ups for drinks and conversation. When my marriage was over, we met for drinks and began the most surprising and amazing love affair that I could imagine. I had never felt the things that he made me feel. I had never experienced that overwhelming, passionate, “they make movies about this kind of love” love before, and it was just that-overwhelming. He told me that he had been in love with me since the day we met. He wanted to spend his life with me. He said things that I had only fantasized about hearing a man say to me. The fact that he was younger than me, gorgeous, could have anyone he wanted, and had his whole life ahead of him, made me suspicious – why is he spending his time with me? So I asked him: “Why do you want to be with me?”

He began to tell me all the reasons he wanted to be with me. And for the first time in my life I had someone see me. Really see me. See the things that I didn’t like about myself as interesting and powerful. See the strength that I had as something rare and amazing. See my age as a benefit, not a curse. He didn’t see me as broken, or damaged. It was my scars that made me beautiful. To finally have someone treat me as if he had found a treasure was unnerving. It was unexpected to find this depth in someone relatively young, and to this day, I still find it difficult to believe everything he says about me. But the scars aren’t so fresh anymore, and the tremendous self doubt is ebbing, and I’m starting to believe.

Beginning a new life with someone so amazing was exciting and scary and at times uncertain. I had already told him that I may be unable to have children, so if that is something he couldn’t live without, he needed to be honest with me and with himself. I had someone take the choice to have children away from me, and I found it hard to forgive. I didn’t want to be the reason for a sense of loss or missing out or pain, down the road. He assured me that he was ok with not having children and floated the idea of possibly adopting someday. And then he said something that would be prophetic-“maybe you weren’t the reason you didn’t get pregnant. And maybe if it’s right, you’ll get pregnant.” I blew that idea off, but the thought was now in my head. Maybe it wasn’t me that was “broken”. Maybe we could have a child. Maybe.

We moved in together and reveled in our new life together. He met my family and friends-who loved him- and he went back to finish massage therapy school. We started to think about trips we wanted to go on and goals we had for the future. Then on Mother’s Day 2018, Kevin and I got the surprise of our lives and EVERYTHING changed.

The Road That Brought Me Here

Growing up, I dreamed of being a mom. I wanted to be the TV version of a wife, mother and neighbor; living in the perfect house, married to the perfect guy with the perfect job that would support our family, and the perfect 2.5 kids and a dog. I carried that vision with me until I was 20 or 21, as I watched some of my friends get married and start families. The image of the perfect family with the seemingly perfect bank account that would allow a woman to be a stay at home mom if she wanted to became a little harder to see as the reality of the cost of things started to hit home.

I got married at 22 to a man that I thought would be a “secure” bet. He was a couple of years older than I was, he seemed pretty stable, personality wise, and he had long term goals for a career. He was training to become a fire fighter while working a full time job, and met that goal after about 3 years when he was hired on with our local fire department. We immediately began trying to get pregnant. After a year of trying, I saw an OBGYN who voiced some concern that I had a heart murmur…that began a nearly 18 month long path from a diagnosis of pulmonary stenosis, a congenital condition that had gone undiagnosed, to open heart surgery and recovery, after which I was finally given the green light to start trying to get pregnant again. I was excited to start trying and believed that I would now easily get pregnant, but after another year and much frustration, I was still not pregnant.

Over that year, my husband seemed to conveniently have to work, had a migraine, or was too busy or tired to be a part of the process of getting pregnant. And he decided to go back to school for nursing because he was no longer happy with his chosen career of fire fighter. After much discussion we ended up selling our house, and decided to move from Spokane, WA to Portland, OR so that he would have more opportunities for nursing school. Gone was the security of a well paying job and a home and a place that I was familiar with. So after about 15 months of erratically trying to get pregnant, we put the possibility of having a baby on the back burner until he was done with school and we were in a better place financially and more time and all those things one tells themselves when they are forced to give something up or are not in a place to make that dream happen. That was 2003.

Fast forward 10 years. Ten years of believing that I was unable to get pregnant, and telling a million people that we just didn’t have kids because we never got around to it, or sometimes I would just say “we tried and it never happened”, but believing that I was broken somehow because I never got pregnant. After 10 years in Portland, minus a miserable 10 months in Missoula, MT, and years of my husband being in school and getting his LPN but never finishing his RN, multiple disappointments, a cancer battle (his), a suspected affair (his), and a disintegrating marriage, we chose to move to Seattle, WA in December of 2013. The opportunities were better here, for him, and I was trying to do anything to hold the scraps of our marriage together. After a year and a half of doing things that interested him when he had time off, and being the understanding wife when he worked long hours and weekends, and listening to him complain about everything to do with his job…the job he uprooted our lives and plans and dreams for – on top of the previous 10 years – I had reached capacity. I told him things had to change. We needed counseling, I needed him to acknowledge how he had hurt me in the past and I needed him to fight for me. I waited for him to consent to counseling with me, and waiting for him to do something, anything to get me to stay, and it never happened. So, I started making plans to leave. The last year and a half we were basically living separate lives and living as roommates.

In May of 2017 I finally told him that I was leaving. I had a move out date scheduled, I had a place to live arranged, and I was already going through all of my stuff, getting rid of things I didn’t need anymore, getting ready to move. When I told him I was leaving, he reacted the way I’m told a lot of men do; surprised. WTF? You’re seriously surprised? You have to be kidding me. I’ve been as clear as I could be about what I needed from you and been distancing myself from you for about a year and a half now, but you’re surprised? Ok. Well, I’m sorry to surprise you, buddy, but I’m done and gone. And so, in June of 2017, I left. And that was the beginning of the greatest adventure of my life.