How far along? Twenty-three weeks. I had to go and look up how far along I was because in the total chaos that is now my life I had lost track. One more week until viability!
Vital stats? When I last saw my midwife (on the 10th), my blood pressure was still ridiculously low (82/56) and my heart rate was good. Phaselus’ heart rate was 148 bpm. S/he was head down, but it’s way too early for that to be the end position. Still, nice to know s/he is thinking about being sensible. The missing kidney is really not a concern for me anymore, mostly because we had the two extra scans and I have been reassured by countless doctors that the existing kidney looks great and is functioning just as it should. My uterus was measuring half a week ahead at the appointment, so all growth parameters look good.
How am I looking? Bigger every day. It’s more of an all around bump than a basketball, and I remember feeling the same way about E’s bump (although I am still bigger than I was at the corresponding stage of E’s pregnancy). I suspect I am going to have fewer options for work clothes in the second half of the semester because most of the shirts I’ve been layering under my sweaters are not going to fit as well. I finish teaching right as I hit the third trimester, so I should squeak through without having to do any more shopping.
How am I feeling physically? I have some rough points, but generally I still feel well. My hips have been a bit sore- I think I’m reaching the stage where I’m going to want to sleep with some extra pillows at night. I’ve also been woken up a couple of nights this week with leg cramps- I just get out of bed and walk around a few steps until they settle down. I’ve spent this week basically sitting in the hospital or sitting in a car going to and from the hospital or sitting at the house after being at the hospital, so I suspect I’m going to find all my usual walking a bit of shock when I return to my normal routine on Monday.
My jaw hurts, even with my mouth guard. It was fine the last two weeks but has been a mess this week, which I think is indicative of the extra stress I’m under, given I’ve spent the last week as the daughter representative for Dad (I’m heading home this afternoon and my youngest sister is getting in tonight to take over). It is hard, physically and emotionally, to be in the hospital all day. I am also not used to having to spend this much time with my stepmother without my father (or my sisters, or Q. and E.) as a buffer. She’s not my favourite person in the world. I’m sure this is part of the reason why my jaw is only now causing me problems.
How am I feeling emotionally? There is no easy way to answer this question. What’s happened to my Dad has obviously affected me (understatement of the century) and it’s also obvious that my emotional state is transmitted to the pregnancy at least in terms of my uterus getting very agitated on days where my body has been flooded with adrenaline and cortisol. My midwife and I talked about this, and she has reassured me that this is very normal- essentially the uterus is just a big, highly reactive muscle, so of course it’s going to respond. I know when I need to take time out to lie down or have a shower, and I’ve been prepped on the signs that things are not so normal. I’m trying to keep to an even keel as much as I can, but this week has been stressful, as my Dad has been on the full ICU roller coaster, and my stepmother has decided we need to enter a new stage in our relationship of total honesty, which, as far as I can tell, consists of her ambushing me on a daily basis with things I have done or said that have made her feel like her feelings are not important. I am not finding this helpful in the least, especially since my priority is my father, so I’ll be glad to go home this afternoon on that regard, although I’m finding it hard to leave Dad because I know I won’t be able to come back until I finish teaching in six weeks.
I’ve been referred to a program that specializes in pre- and post-partum depression and anxiety run out of one of the hospitals in our city. My midwife and I had discussed this program way back, before the anatomy scan and before the accident, because I felt like my anxiety probably had been at unhealthy levels after E. was born, and I was worried about coping this time around, especially since I wasn’t looking forward to the baby phase. I was going to make sure to ask for the referral after we learned about the kidney, but the accident happened first, and she and I both agreed that I am no longer having a normal pregnancy in any stretch of the imagination in terms of anxiety and stress levels, and that I needed to have some extra support in place. I had my initial interview over the phone this week and the questions the nurse was asking me (and my answers) made it clear that I do run on the high end of normal for anxiety usually, and getting help right now is the right thing to do. I should hear back in a couple of weeks about my first actual appointment.
I am concerned about the baby’s health. Not in terms of the kidney, but just in terms of how my anxiety and stress could be affecting him/her. I am hoping now that my father has come through surgery and is much more stable that I will be able to compartmentalize a bit more- the days where my uterus has been agitated have all been days where we’ve had a big procedure happening or he’s been fighting pneumonia and a high fever. I did find out the baby’s sex at one of the follow up ultrasounds. Q. wasn’t with me, and he doesn’t know I know (or at least he hasn’t asked me if I found out- he knew I was leaning towards finding out), so for now I have a secret. It has definitely helped to be able to think about this baby as a little person rather than just a baby.
Movement? Phaselus has been very cooperative at giving me regular, frequent movement. My midwife reiterated at my last appointment that they don’t expect us to feel consistent movement until 28 weeks. She told me just to enjoy it when I felt it. I had been worried because I’d felt the movement had been different from the previous week, but she said it was probably I found it harder to concentrate on the movement because I’d been so stressed about my father. I can tell when s/he moves around because the anterior placenta muffles the movement in my lower abdomen- I mostly then just feel kicks/punches to my cervix. If s/he is up higher, I get hammered all over (s/he is giving me a kick as I write this). I tend to get punched if I sit down and then lean over (like to tie my shoes). Thus far, s/he is a very sensible baby, as when I’ve been up in the wee hours of the night there’s been nothing. But Phaselus does seem to like to have a good old wiggle right around 10 p.m.- hopefully that will not continue on the outside because that is just not baby dance party time. It is nice though because it means Q. gets a kick or two right before we go to bed. My sisters have also both felt a wiggle while we were in the hospital two weeks ago waiting for our father to arrive.
How does it compare with E.’s pregnancy? The big difference between pregnancies (other than how giant I am) is in the movement. Last time around I said this:
Pretty steady- I still notice something each day. Q. hasn’t felt anything yet, though.
Q. was able to feel the baby most nights before I left to spend this week with my Dad, so he had consistent movement before 22 weeks.
It also looks like I was an anxious mess at this stage (just like now) although for different reasons:
The problem is that I was never able to convince myself that this was going to work out. I’ve spent the entire time anticipating something was going to go wrong. I would miscarry, or have an incompetent cervix, or the 12-week ultrasound would show some terrible problem, or the anatomical ultrasound would suggest horrible anomalies. SOMETHING, according to my messed-up post-infertility brain, had to go wrong. I was just starting to ease up when we found out about the cyst, and that’s been enough to set me off again. Even though I know that it is likely meaningless and our baby is probably perfectly fine, I’m right back to where I was in the first trimester.
The cyst that caused so much stress last time around was, of course, a totally meaningless choroid plexus cyst on E’s brain. I think I eventually calmed down after I next saw my primary midwife and she reassured me that it did not mean anything in the absence of other markers (it is a so called soft marker). A couple of the mums on my June 2016 birth club have had a similar result and they’ve also freaked out, so I do understand where I was coming from. I’m just glad E. had two kidneys. I don’t know that I would have been able to handle that diagnosis the first time around.
I also said this:
In the meantime, I am trying to make my peace with the fact that it is probably just not possible for me to truly enjoy this pregnancy. My main hope is that once I get through it and the baby is healthy, maybe we will be so lucky as to get pregnant again. And maybe I will be able to enjoy that one. With this one, I’m just trying to survive it.
That makes me sad, but I also know that I did calm down about the cyst, and I did end up enjoying the pregnancy, especially the third trimester. When I look back at E’s pregnancy I don’t remember the anxiety and the insomnia. I mostly remember how great I felt all the way through, how happy I was to be pregnant, how much I loved feeling him kick and wiggle, and how amazing my birth experience was.
I know this pregnancy is going to be different because there is no escaping the fact that my life changed overnight when my father had his accident. But I am trying to take the time to enjoy being pregnant, rather than just worrying about the baby. I will not be pregnant again. It’s why I’ve made the time to do another one of these updates- my weekly posts from E’s pregnancy are so precious to me now. And this baby deserves the same love and attention, even if I’m incredibly distracted by other things.
On my mind? I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year in terms of how long a maternity leave I’ll be taking, or what I’ll be doing the year after. The unexpected wrinkle is I found out this week (Q. opened the envelope under the promise not to tell me unless it was time sensitive and then got excited once he had opened it and called me anyway) that I’ve won a major postdoc. It’s extremely competitive- I think this year the success rate was around 15-17%. I can defer it if I’m on maternity leave, but Q. and I have to think about whether it is strategic for me to step out of the contract system at my home institution for two years in order to do the postdoc. Yes, it’s prestigious, and yes, it’s a guaranteed income, but if taking it means I will never get teaching at my home institution again because I will have let other people get into the courses and build up their seniority, I may need to be more strategic. We’ll see. I need to email my prospective supervisor when I get home to tell her I’ve been offered it and tell her about the baby. If she’s happy for me to defer it (which she should be) then I can put the decision off for another year. I’m also allowed to teach one course a year while on the postdoc, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in the official guidelines that says that course has to be at the university where you’re holding the postdoc. So I might be able to keep my seniority ticking over AND take the postdoc, which would be the best of both worlds. Lots to think about. I’m still not even sure I want to spend another two years focused on research, although I can definitely see how this would be an advantage in terms of getting my book revisions done (which, as Q. pointed out, are not likely to get done anytime soon if I continue to teach three courses a semester).
Best moment? Anytime the baby moves a lot. I just love that reassurance that all is well in my uterus even though the rest of my life is crazy.
Other stuff? Not much on the horizon now that we’ve had all the extra scans and I’ve had my phone interview for the mental health program. I need a week without appointments as spending my reading week at the hospital means that I am heading into the second half of the semester (to say nothing of next week in particular) woefully underprepared.