Pregnancy and Hope
I started this blog as a way to cope with the loss of my previous pregnancy (amongst other reasons, but really… that was the main one). So, it seems appropriate to write about this current pregnancy, especially now that the news is out and the genetic testing came back normal. It also means that I can finally take a little bit of an exhale. I know parenting will never be easy, but getting past the 12-week mark and getting the testing back was a huge milestone. One that I had been desperately waiting and praying for.
But, let’s go back for a second. The past 41 weeks (not that I’m counting) were tough. Especially weeks 1-25 before we conceived. I knew we’d eventually want to try to get pregnant again, but it was real important to me that we wait until after the baby’s due date, which was in May. Low and behold my body and spirit were ready because guess what month we conceived in (yes, that’s right… May). My husband suspected I was pregnant before I did. I figured there was no way we’d conceive that quickly, especially since the doctors had warned us that it might not be as easy this time around. Plus, we chose to wait a bit instead of trying right away, which some people believe could make things more difficult. And we weren’t actively trying, but we also actively weren’t, I guess. After a day of debating whether or not I could be, I decided the extreme fatigue and boob soreness probably weren’t PMS and took a pregnancy test. 30 seconds later, our suspicions were confirmed by the positive symbol. We were going to have a baby. Except this time around, that’s not what I referred to it as. I took great strides to think of it exclusively as a pregnancy, and not a baby. That way, if G-d forbid there was anything wrong, I wouldn’t get too attached (good luck with that, right?)
That wasn’t the only thing that was different this time around. Last time I couldn’t wait to tell everyone. Sure, we didn’t make a formal announcement, but I told my best friends shortly after the pregnancy tests, our parents before our first ultrasound, and everyone at my office knew around Week Ten when I thought I was out of the danger zone of miscarriage. This time we were very selective about who we told, and for the people that did know early on, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my lifelines. And everyone we did tell, it came with the caveat of: But let’s just wait until we get the genetic testing done; let’s be cautiously optimistic.
I carried on as best I could as though I wasn’t pregnant (and with crippling morning sickness that had me losing weight my first trimester). Every doctor’s appointment, I’d take with a grain of salt. Sure, it was amazing to hear the heartbeat and see the baby moving around, but it had been amazing the first time, as well. I even asked my therapist if she thought it was problematic that I wasn’t bonding with my baby (who I referred to as the fetus or the pregnancy). But, when you go through trauma you learn to build up certain walls that protect you. Those were the walls I decided to build. And every doctor’s appointment was also a reminder that I was now a high-risk patient. There wasn’t even a question of whether or not I’d be doing the first trimester tests, it was now a question of how invasive I wanted them to be.
The countdown to the 12-week mark was excruciating. My poor husband had to endure the constant question: “Do you think everything will be okay this time around?” nearly daily. What could he answer besides yes. We had to remain cautiously optimistic, after all. So, I continued my routines, I went about my business, I did all the things I was supposed to do, and remained as tender as possible to the little bean growing inside me, but I tried not to get attached. And finally, the ten vials of blood were drawn, and two weeks later we were sitting in the same office where I had my CVS test waiting for the Nuchul Ultrasound— or “the first sign that something was wrong the first time” as I lovingly referred to it. I was scared. My husband said he was fine, but his leg wouldn’t stop shaking while we waited to be seen by the ultrasound tech. And this time, as the ultrasound tech took our baby’s measurements, she wasn’t silent, she was commenting how good our baby looked. That was the first good sign. Then we heard the measurement was only 1.4 cm, as opposed to the 4.1 cm previously (the fact that the numbers were exactly inverse was not a point lost on this pattern-seeking Virgo). That was another good sign.
Then the doctor came in and said they received the bloodwork back and did I know I was a carrier for Tay-Sachs.*
*Two things: 1) Tay Sachs is a horrible mainly Jewish genetic disease that pretty much kills within weeks. 2) I do not have Tay-Sachs. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s resume our story:
But, at the time, it was like the floor dropped out from under us. Once again, my darling husband reassured me everything would be fine, but I furiously text my parents triple-checking that they were not carriers and worrying that perhaps my previous test had been wrong. In the midst of all this, the doctor told us the chromosomal tests came back fine (phew) and we were having a boy. But, it’s hard to absorb good news when you’re now freaking out about potentially really bad news… again. After an excruciating fifteen minutes of waiting for a fax that would confirm or deny these claims, the doctor finally told us that the nurse had read the report wrong. Turns out I have an enzyme deficiency that doesn't metabolize a certain anesthesia. For some reason they include that in the same category they would Tay-Sachs (something the genetic counselor I later spoke to said they’d been trying to change for years). But, alas they sent us on our way with the news that the tests we’d been desperately waiting for were all fine and we were going to have a healthy baby boy. If I hadn’t been so worked up over the Tay-Sachs mix-up, I probably would’ve taken a sigh of relief right then and there. But, it took a few days and to be honest, I don’t know if I ever will be able to breathe a full sigh of relief.
In the weeks since, I’ve somewhat allowed myself to be happy and excited. I mean, how could I not be? But, I find myself constantly saying, “during my first pregnancy…” (how many times have I said it in this blog post alone?) It’s not meant to be morose, it’s just a fact.
I remember when we found out the bad news last time, a friend had said to me: “This kind of loss will make you appreciate your eventual baby more.” That is beyond true. More so than anything, I am so extremely grateful. Another happy side-effect of this pregnancy has been the amount of women who have reached out to me to thank me for writing about the loss of our previous pregnancy and how my current pregnancy gives them hope. Nothing warms my heart more than that.
Around the same time I was waiting for my genetic tests to come back, a woman on one of the message boards I frequent found out her baby tested positive for the same chromosomal abnormality my baby had. Her post was similar to the one I had posted several months before— the confusion, helplessness, anger, and sadness all there. I messaged her with my email address and we started corresponding. I wish I had that when I was going though it, but I was so grateful to be there for her providing her with some kind of hope.
Because really that’s all we could ever want for in our struggles to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and raise healthy, smart, vital children: Hope. That’s also a big part of why I started writing about my experience so openly and candidly— If there wasn’t a resource out there for me to feel some semblance of hope, I was going to create one. And while being pregnant with a healthy baby boy has given me that hope that’s been missing since November, it really was writing and connecting with others that paved the way. So for anyone struggling right now with pregnancy and these issues we don’t get to often talk about, please know that there is hope. Sometimes you just have to create it on your own.