Happy Happy 2018!

There was a lot of pressure on 2017 to be a good year since 17 is my lucky number (haha). And for us it was. Sure, it started with a miscarriage and the inauguration of one of the most pathetic humans on the planet as president of my country — which didn’t bode particularly well — but we ended the year with my husband a US citizen and my belly 28 weeks pregnant. Whatever’s happening in the world at large, our little corner of it feels happy and blessed.

2018 comes with no particular expectations, which is relaxing to be honest. It can just unfold how it will. The shock of having a Toddler in Chief has worn down to a dull resignation (though I still contribute how I can, from supporting to ACLU to voting religiously, even in small local elections, attending town hall meetings, and contacting my representatives). No offense to toddlers, whom I’m told can actually be lovely with the right kind of parenting 😉

I’m reading Bringing up Bébé right now, about the more laid-back yet respectful style of French parenting. It really shines a spotlight on how neurotic American parents tend to be — and I’m right there with them, even in pregnancy. Trying to cut back.

Meanwhile, according to this website’s guidelines, I’ve passed my home glucose monitoring challenge, which is a relief. Always nice to see when something is working just fine. It involves a lot of finger pricks, but it’s a fascinating peek into how my body handles food. Each of three days starts with a blood glucose test before I even get out of bed, then tests after various meals:

• Day1: FASTING: 78
2 hours after breakfast: 89
(pear, cream of wheat, 4 dried apricot pieces, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, cinnamon)

• Day2: FASTING: 86
1.5 hours after lunch: 92
(eggs, toast, sausage, avocado, feta, clementine)
(I had to go to a yoga class, so didn’t wait 2 hours)

• Day3: FASTING: 76
2 hours after dinner: 102
3 hours after dinner: 80
(huge meal of roasted cauliflower and sauteed spinach with toasted bread crumbs and lemon butter dressing, baked sweet potato fries, steak. Elderberry zinc lozenge after meal. Had a snack of chicken fingers and chips before cooking)

Today I’ll make cinnamon rolls as a kind of “sweet start to the New Year” treat, and because I think Ahmed is feeling a bit deprived since I’ve been avoiding sugar so carefully since the UTI. We’ll see what that does to my blood glucose. I am curious how I handle those (fairly) rare indulgences.

[UPDATE: Ugh. It’s good to remind myself now and then why I don’t go for empty carbs too often. It’s not a good feeling. My blood sugar was about 130 an hour (hour and a half?) after having two large cinnamon rolls. Then I had another half a cinnamon roll for no good reason. Just because it was there. Those first few bites are great, though. I should just stick to those, but 5 cinnamon rolls come in the can…]

My cold is almost gone, though with lingering minor cough and plenty of blowing my nose (the latter of which is par for the course during cold weather in general for me; though my ancestry is Irish and Swedish, I’m pretty sure my soul is Equatorial). Baby boy is still kicking like a champ. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I can feel his back pressing against my belly, though I still can’t tell top from bottom.

Yesterday I finished the book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, and at one point the author asked, “What would you change in your life if you could?”

I realized that there’s really not much I would change. I mean, sure, if I could snap my fingers and make things appear, I’d get prenatal massages twice a week, we’d have a second car, I’d get a top-of-the-line stainless steel pan set (though ours is totally adequate), I’d get our cat a bigger cat condo (though he seems to enjoy the one he has now), and I’d be more likely to get an ultrasound on a paranoid whim.

But in broad strokes? I wouldn’t rather be in any other place, with any other people, in any other condition. I love our fuel-efficient, safe, reliable little Toyota Corolla. Even our apartment, while small, is in the perfect location by the river, and we don’t really need (much) more space — certainly not enough to pay the money and carbon footprint for heating and cooling a bigger space.

I told Ahmed, “If there’s one thing I’d like more of, it’s a bit more storage space.” So we spent a couple hours cleaning out our coat closet and bedroom closet, stashing what we could under the bed, et voilà, now both closets seem tidy and spacious instead of cramped and disorganized. (No bets on how long that’ll last once the bébé gets here. We’ll see how that all works out, space-wise. Already we’re storing quite a stash of baby stuff, but there’s no shortage of more to come. I really hate moving, though, so I hope we can manage to stay here ’til the kid gets to be about one and a half.)

I do, finally, feel a little more secure in the third trimester. At 28 weeks, there’s already a 90% chance of survival. I feel like the worst that’s likely to happen now is expense and hassle rather than heartbreak. It’s a good place to be.

My resolution for the year is to complain less, worry less, and generally focus less on what’s going “wrong” or what could go wrong. I don’t mean to become a mindless rose-colored zombie, but to look around and notice the gifts.

Did I spill coffee all over the couch? Well, it was a $50 couch anyway (from a rich family’s garage sale), it’s served us well, we have a washer and dryer a few feet away to take care of the cushion covers, and guess what? I have a husband who was willing to drive out into the cold night to get me coffee just because I said I had a headache. And the reason I’m insanely, maddeningly clumsy these days is because I’m pregnant — which is exactly what I want to be. On balance, that’s a lot more to be grateful for than pissed off about.

Did the cat get into the cabinet again and rub his wet little nose against clean dishes? Well, he’s safe and sound, not lost in the grasslands, and I have all the dishes I need and good food to cook any time I want it and hot water and soap to wash dishes whenever I need to. Those are all miracles, not to be taken for granted.

Somehow, when it comes to car accidents where no one was hurt, I’ve mastered this skill. Because I was in a bad car accident several years ago in which I could easily have been killed or paralyzed. There were moments when I was keenly aware that my life could change profoundly — or end — in the next few seconds. (I wasn’t driving, I was in the passenger seat.) When the car was “only” flipped up on its side and totalled, our plans for the night (and those of people counting on us) “just” ruined, all I could feel was profound gratitude. Because I was alive and only very minorly injured. And it could easily have gone the other way.

The two accidents we’ve had with our new car? (A deer running in front of us when we were going 65 miles per hour, and some probably drunk idiot with no insurance smashing off the left half of our rear fender and running off.) Both times I felt inexplicably giddy. Calm and happy. Just glad to be alive. (Though admittedly not so giddy handing over a credit card to pay the thousand dollar deductible each time.)

I should cultivate that more. Even when I spill coffee all over the couch.

Love and light to all!

Bump 28w4d IMG_1135

January 4, 2018
28 weeks 4 days

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Christmas Cold but Warm Feet

Dodgy holiday eating (especially of dairy, which inflames and en-phlegms my throat) mixed with arctic temperatures inside my parents’ house (I’m always surrounded by people who like it five degrees colder than I do during the holidays) plus the fluid in my ears did develop into a winter cold that cemented my sinuses shut, makes sleep difficult, and occasionally causes a bout of painful hacking cough.

I’m slowly getting over it using the nasal steroids plus my special “sick tea”* a friend from India taught me how to make (and a concoction of lemon juice, pressed ginger, jalapeno juice, and oregano oil I got at the health food store). So far I’ve managed to resist taking Sudafed (which is probably safe, but I thought I’d try a more natural route first).

I got lovely frames for my parents with ultrasound pics in them that they can swap in for baby pics once he’s here. I thought they were really cute. Can’t wait to fill them in with his sweet face.

The adults in my family have mostly stopped exchanging gifts in any kind of big way. We’re just happy to see each other, and most of us either have whatever we need or just get what we need when we need it. Getting random “stuff” we don’t really need has become more of a burden than a joy. We’ll still grab something if we’re sure the person will like it or if it’s really meaningful or useful, but all in all — except for making sure the kids have enough stuff to open to keep them happy — we’re quite content not to make it a festival of consumerism.

My most exciting gift this year was super snazzy ankle socks. I’ve been using drug store socks for about 25 years, so it’s exciting to finally upgrade. Combine that with my silky Kindred Bravely under-the-bump underwear and I feel like the Queen of Sheba! (The underwear runs small, so order a size or two up. I was a size 6-8 before being pregnant, and the Large fits me perfectly.)

Bras are the missing element, since the girls grew three sizes overnight (like the Grinch’s heart), and God knows what they’ll do once the milk comes in. I’m patching it together with sports bras and $15 bras from Target. In general, I’ll try to avoid spending a fortune on nursing bras. I’ll just try to keep ’em contained without being too miserable. If all goes well and I have a second kid in a couple of years, it’ll be a good four or five years before I can start thinking about a more stable bra situation. (And if I’m really honest, a part of me dreams of an elective double mastectomy.) Oh well! 😀

* Sick tea recipe: Steep one sliced clove of garlic, sliced fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about 7 cloves for ten minutes in boiling water. Add honey and a squeeze of lemon. Sounds weird but tastes like a delicious Asian broth. And works wonders!

Oh What Fun

Finally got a diagnosis for my ears, which have been acting weird for a few weeks: otitis media with effusion (i.e., fluid in the inner ear with no infection yet detected). Thanks, Dr. Woodson!

Now that I know what it is, though, it’s bothering me even more. I can feel all that heavy fluid just hanging around, and my inner ears have started itching lately, which can’t be a great sign (and certainly isn’t pleasant).

Gonna use a nasal steroid for a week and try to get my eustachian tubes open enough to let that junk drain out. So gross to think it’s been sitting there for weeks, and I can’t help but fear it could turn into a full-blown infection at any moment.

Normally fluid in the middle ear resolves on its own after a few weeks or even months, but pregnancy can cause inflammation in the nasal passages and eustachian tube dysfunction. I may be out of luck until after I give birth. Such a wide variety of ways pregnancy can be “fun”!

If anyone else has hot tips on draining middle ear fluid, I’m all ears (no pun intended).

All in all I’ve been pretty lucky, though (knocks wood). On Wednesday, Dec 30, I was 26 and a half weeks, and my uterus measured 26 and a half centimeters exactly. Doesn’t get more textbook than that. (And it was fun catching up with my midwife!) He’s been kicking stronger and stronger lately. I’ve even seen the kicks from the outside a few times, and he’s managed to shake my whole body slightly on occasion.

Third trimester begins on Christmas day 🙂 Such an incredible feeling. Honestly never knew if I’d ever have the privilege of experiencing a third trimester.

DNA, Stars

All the cool kids seem to be writing this week about their thoughts and feelings about carrying a donor conceived child. 🙂 Reading through some of the posts made me realize how little I think of it in any way other than “That’s just who he is.” To me he’s just my miracle son.

I do sometimes wonder how he might feel about it, though. I imagine him swimming around in there thinking, “Who am I? Where is this? Who’s outside? Are they my people? Is it safe? I didn’t ask for any of this, and I hope the people who called me in from the void know what they are doing…”

Of course, this would be true of a genetic child as well. Genetic children can feel out of place, unsafe, misunderstood, or disappointed at their lot in life. They can be nothing like their parents in the most important ways, even if they may share some traits.

And while I admit it would be fascinating to see a child who shared my and my husband’s DNA — to see what traits were passed on, how they mixed, how the child was like and nothing like us — fascination is not the same as love. I see other people’s (genetic) children and how they are like and unlike their parents, and there’s a moment of, “Oh, interesting,” and then life goes on. The kids are still wholly themselves, even if their facial structure happens to mimic another human’s due to a stacked genetic lottery.

And I see people with their adopted children, and sometimes the love there seems even “thicker” because of all the parents went through to get their children, how badly and singlemindedly they wanted them and fought for them. There’s no such thing as unplanned adoption. It’s less easy to take it for granted.

And it just underscores 100% that love is about more than genetics. (As if it needed an underscore, given how much I already love so many people who don’t share a drop of DNA with me.)

God help me, I joined a few Facebook groups of mothers due in March, and all too often it’s a parade of horrors. Women with abusive or absentee boyfriends, cheating husbands, bad jobs, no jobs, not enough money for food, regrets, body image issues (including one pregnant woman horrified to have gained four pounds after seeing posts about people losing weight in pregnancy — not realizing those people were either overweight to begin with or were horrifically sick in the first trimester), or just hoary old gender stereotypes lacquered in their minds (like one woman being appalled when I mentioned we got some pink stuff for our son).

Not all of it is like that, but enough that I fear for a lot of those innocent kids. And Oh My God do those ladies like to bitch about pregnancy — something I fought so hard for and appreciate so much. When getting pregnant is easier than getting your hair done, if you’re not careful, it can take something holy and turn it into a nuisance.

All the kids, whatever their genetic origins, are coming into an uncertain situation. And call me crazy, but I’d rather be born to stable, healthy, happy people than share significant DNA with the people around me. Easy for me to say, I know. I have the luxury of taking my genetic ties for granted. And my son may feel differently.

But as for me? He’s just my son, another innocent being called forth to take his place among us mortals for a spell, an individual with a number of things written in his DNA and in his developing brain but enormously wide potential based on how securely he’s brought up, how his horizons are broadened, how his gifts and interests are nurtured, how his weaknesses are acknowledged but not shamed and ideally transformed into strengths. Whether or not we take the time and effort to teach him Turkish as a second native tongue.

He’ll rely on us totally during his young life and be shaped for the rest of his life by how we handle those young years. (He may one day transcend us completely, but those early years are powerful for sure.) It’s an absolutely awesome responsibility. As a first time parent, I have only the vaguest notion of what I’m getting myself into (as I did when I was first traveling the world). But I truly believe it will be one of the great adventures of my life — perhaps the greatest. That doesn’t mean it will be easy by any stretch. The truest adventures never are. They force you to grow, and growth can be painful.

All of this would be true of any child. Our son just gets a little blanker of a slate in the minds of his parents than most. Which may turn out to be an incredible blessing. We won’t waste time trying to find ourselves in him. We can focus more on just finding him.

A few more thoughts I shared on other blogs:

My comment on Don’t You Want To Have Your Own Child?

My OB actually asked me about the age of “the mother.” He meant the egg donor. I just told him her age; I didn’t think fast enough to say, “I’m 37, and the egg provider is 31.” I knew he didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just the way he’s used to thinking of things. But it did sting for about half a second.

As far as I know, my husband and I have a chance to get pregnant “naturally” after we have our donor embryo boy. Probably not a huge chance, but a chance. (I’ll be 39 when we’re trying again, and we’re unexplained.) Does that thought thrill me? Mainly in the sense that it’ll be free! Otherwise I totally agree that our first child is getting a genetic upgrade. It’s fated that the second doesn’t get the more exciting adventurous backstory (or the price tag that goes with it), we’ll accept it. If not, we’re delighted that we know what can work for us!

And yeah — this baby in my belly is our own baby. As you said — who else’s? Who else wanted this baby, dreamed of this baby, went through hell to get this baby, is carrying this baby, and will raise this baby? Just us… with a little help from anonymous friends.

My coment on Why Does it Feel Right?

Reading posts like this helped me not take it so hard when IVF didn’t work for us after 3 tries. I’ve never cared much about genetics, but it can still be daunting to think about this path and all it entails. But with so many people blazing the trail — and writing honestly about it — I was quite ready to pick myself up and forge ahead after not a long time at all of licking our wounds (which were more about finances, painful experiences of bad luck, and fear that nothing might work than losing genetic ties).

By a few different twists of fate, our donor embryo baby won’t share an ethnicity with either of us. (We’re Northern Euro/Turkish, our boy is East Indian/Mexican.) If by some reverse twist he ends up looking like either one of us (he may have my husband’s long eyelashes or my high cheek bones?), and people remark on it, I’ll just beam and say, “Thanks!”

After all, it doesn’t always take genetics for people to look like other people…

And yeah every kick by our little soccer-player-in-training (or cricket player, or flute player) is definitely like Christmas morning 🙂

I just hope our son feels special rather than lonely for being (probably) the only half-Mexican, half-Indian on earth who speaks Turkish… I hope it’ll drive home the fact that we’re all ultimately children of the stars.

26 Weeks

Tomorrow I’ll be 26 weeks, and I’m definitely starting to breathe easier with each passing week. 28 weeks will feel pretty solid, I think. Survival rates are quite good then. An early birth will have to take place in a hospital, and will no doubt involve NICU time, which will together cost us about 15 grand, but that’s small potatoes compared to how much worse things could turn out.

Meanwhile my urine just tested negative for white blood cells and bacteria but positive for blood. My midwife and I are hoping it’s just the lining of the urinary tract irritated by the antibiotics and maybe even the d-mannose, and that now that the infection is knocked out, it’ll just fade away. I’ll keep a close eye on it until my next midwife appointment on Wednesday, and we’ll go from there.

My back is not hurting at all anymore since I figured out that all I need to do is fold my leggings over one time and put them under my hip/waist when I sleep on my side and the pain goes away. Go figure. Glad I didn’t pay for massages and chiropractors to try to fix the problem. (I will get a prenatal massage in January, though, woo hoo!)

I was able to randomly weigh myself today (we don’t have a scale at our house), and I’m at 144, which is a 19 pound gain from baseline. If I continue gaining a pound a week and go to term, I’m set up to gain a total of 33 pounds, which is just about right.

We finished our Birth with Confidence class, we’ve installed our infant car seat, and we got the last must-have item on our first-three-months list: a lovely fuchsia pack n play. With all that plus a 24 hour Walgreens nearby and free two-day Amazon shipping courtesy of my awesome sister (she got us Prime for a year) in case we find we need anything else, I’m ready for March to get here already! Stupid January and February, always in the way…

UPDATE: As of Monday (two days later) I’m back to normal-ish after quitting the medications (and d-mannose) and pumping myself full of high-powered probiotics. Jarrow Formulas Fem Dophilus is my favorite, though I don’t get them routinely since they’re pricy, usually more than $20 for a month’s supply. I also splurged on Ultimate Flora Women’s Complete 90 billion. Feels good to feel like myself again, just in time for Christmas!

Progress, hopefully

Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions. I tried again last night with putting something under the top of my hip bone and my waist as I lay on my side (a pair of leggings very loosely rolled up), and I was able to sleep through most of the night with a lot less pain, and none in the usual spot. Now the pain has switched to a slightly different spot.

Ahmed also gave me a massage two nights ago (and I’m working on scheduling a professional prenatal massage), but without some kind of mechanical correction to the problem, I have a feeling it would have gotten progressively worse even with massage, so I’m glad this idea seems to have panned out. Tomorrow night I’m going to make the roll a little thinner and see how the pain changes.

UPDATE: I tried rolling the leggings differently to get rid of the pain in the new spot, but it only made things worse. Trying again tonight. I haven’t had back problems before, so this really came out of nowhere.

As for the UTI, I came *this close* to going to urgent care to pay at least $150 to be told what I already know and given drugs to power-zap all the bugs in my body. But so far I’m not in pain, just mild discomfort. And I tend to have unpleasant side effects on antibiotics, and there’s a certain failure rate with antibiotics anyway (up to 20%), and antibiotics can lead to resistant / persistent infections.

So I think giving it 48 hours with d-mannose (which in any case should slow or stop it from worsening, if not cure it) is worth a shot. If it’s not significantly better by Tuesday, I’ll go to urgent care. If it is significantly better, I’ll continue the protocol for a week and see where we’re at.

UPDATE: The good news is, the teeny tiny spotting I’ve had for a few days isn’t coming from my cervix. Bad news? It’s coming from my urethra. My back-up midwife gave me the name of a DO who can prescribe antibiotics and has reasonable rates. I have an appointment with her at 5:30 today. Nice to have a back-up and not have to go to one of those impersonal (and over-priced) urgent care places, or go back to my OB just yet. 😉

FURTHER UPDATE: Symptoms have only gotten worse after 24 hours of d-mannose. Don’t know if it’s because it’s moving things out or because it’s not doing much at all. Either way, I got antibiotics and started them tonight. Nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) twice a day for 5 days.

My urine dipstick actually came back pretty clean, but maybe the d-mannose is masking certain indicators? Anyway, she said since I’m pregnant and symptomatic, it’s not worth risking it. If the antibiotics don’t work, I’ll need to come in again for a urine culture, I guess to see exactly what we’re dealing with. (I think 90% of UTIs are caused by e. coli, but some aren’t and may need different drugs.) Good times! 😛

UPDATE 2 DAYS LATER: Feeling somewhat better, and the spotting from my urethra (!) has at least slowed down if not stopped. Also, folding my leggings over just one time is apparently enough to firm up my mattress (right at my waist) enough to prevent the first back pain without causing the second back pain. Sleep feels awesome!

Mid-Back Pain

As a blessedly uneventful second trimester is close to winding down, I’ve suddenly been laid low by back pain. It’s not lower back pain, as I expected it might be, but right at the mid-back, kind of at the level of my bra strap. I wake up every morning and that whole area just aches. My bed, which used to be a refuge, has become a torture chamber.

Until yesterday, the pain has kind of worked itself out during the course of the day, leaving me just fine by the time I have to go to bed and do it all again. (Though it still kept waking me up at all hours in pain, making sleep really difficult and days quite bleary.) But yesterday the pain persisted all the way until it was time to face sleep and renewed pain once again.

I’ve tried different things to get it to stop. I tried wearing a sports bra at night to contain my comically enlarged mammaries. I tried using my wedge belly pillow. I tried sleeping at an angle to the bed, on my side with my knee over a pillow in front of me and my torso leaning over at a 45 degree angle. Nothing has worked.

I started to wonder this morning if it was because my belly was dragging my spine down into a crooked position. (At first, since it was right at my bra strap area, I assumed it had something to do with my mammaries.) I tried lying on my side and putting a very small pillow under my waist to try to straighten the spine, and there was some mild sense of relief, but I think it was too big, because the relief didn’t last long. And now I face another day achy and exhausted.

If anyone has ideas or similar experiences, I’m all ears!

Also, I’m pretty sure I have a urinary tract infection. Peeing has become uncomfortable and frequency has increased (which I didn’t even think possible). The urine tends to be dark and smell different than usual. I also feel weak and shaky. My (substitute) midwives are suggesting D-mannose, cranberry extract, and a gallon of distilled water per day. But a big part of me wants to zap this ASAP. Infections during pregnancy can cause serious problems.

Advice or anecdotes are appreciated about that as well.