Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holy flaming nipples, Batman!

I woke up to find myself moaning and clutching my breasts.

My nipples felt like they were on fire!

I had to take a shower and then rub moisturizer on them so I wouldn't spontaneously combust.

Is this going to happen often?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Family Reactions

My family has reacted very positively to the news of my pregnancy.

Friends and family were aware that I've not been feeling well the past couple of months so it seemed important to let them know that there wasn't anything terribly wrong. We've had 3 deaths in the family around this time in the past 3 years so everyone has been holding their breaths wondering what was going to happen next. One of my sisters is dead and the other has literally descended into madness, so needless to say, my parents are giddy with relief. My step-sisters and my friends have all been supportive and congratulatory.

M got a more mixed reaction from his family.

His father is pleased, his sister is very happy, and his mother is upset. She's had a rough year, economically, and she had to take in her elder mentally-handicapped brother, and she wants her son back home in Canada, someday. Him buying a house here in the States and then getting an American knocked-up puts a damper on that idea.  Hers is a disappointing reaction, but I'm sure she'll come around. Now that he's told her and she's gotten upset, he has a good excuse to stay at his father's house, where he grew up, away from all the cats he's allergic to and the uncle he has difficulty relating to. It's too much uncomfortableness for someone with his level of sensitivity.

Meanwhile, M is a bit of a nervous wreck and can't wait to get home. To me, in the States.

Meanwhile, I miss him. Home isn't quite home without him.

M will wait to tell his extended family and friends until after the amnio results come through in a few weeks. It doesn't make sense to let everyone know and then have to retract the announcement if it turns out we're going to terminate the pregnancy. It could be rather painful, actually. I'm trying not to regret letting most of the people on my side know, since they're all so positive and excited and I'd hate to have to give them bad news.

Ah well.  Telling others about the pregnancy helps the reality of it sink in. I'm still partly in a state of disbelief. How could something that was never supposed to happen to me suddenly happen after 20 years? Life is weird. Life finds a way.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas tide

As per usual, M and I are in different countries during this holiday. He is in Canada visiting his family and friends, and I am in Central California, doing the same.

I'm staying with my friend Nettie again this Christmas, outside Santa Barbara. I've known her since she was in the womb. I literally laid hands on her mother when she was in labor and prayed for Jesus to take the pain away. I was 4 and a half at the time, and I was already in the flower of my grandparent's evangelism :)

We've lost contact intermittently over the years, Nettie and me. I moved back East after high school while she got married and made babies. We didn't see each other again for 14 years, and that was for my grandmother's funeral. I had every intention of remaining in contact, but at the time I was involved with a very possessive woman, and in the couple of years after Grandmother passed I also lost my mother, my mentor/mother-figure, and a good friend. With each death I withdrew more and more, and about a year after the last death I realized that my coping mechanisms weren't working for me, so I started grief-counseling and therapy. I was really starting to live life again when my sister took ill, died 2 years later, and then my family was hit with a series of cancer diagnoses and deaths. Yeah, that ugly.

Anyway, I found Nettie again through that wonder of social networking, the big FB, and in the past 2 years we've gotten very close. Close like sisters. She had been close to my sister Tammy, the one who died, so I find that I can share the grief of her loss in the company of someone who isn't going to make a drama or tragedy of it.  It is what it is. What happened, happened and we miss her.

And boy do I miss her during Christmas. It was her favorite holiday. She tended to go all-out with hosting and entertaining, cooking, decorating, gift-giving. She loved a good party, Tammy did. And Nettie is a lot like Tammy that way. She is unfazed by the presence of 30 or 40 people in her house all talking and carrying on. She's got that Portuguese family thing going on -- the more the merrier.

But even with all the people mobbing the house she still found time to talk to me about the pregnancy, to reassure me with regards to some of my fears, and to offer to be there for me in the delivery room, if I wanted. I feel very touched by that offer. M has surprised me with his fortitude regarding hospitals and home health care, etc, after my battle with septicemia but I'm not sure he's up to being my full-time partner in the delivery room. He's just too empathetic. Even if my sister Terri wasn't, well, indisposed, I probably wouldn't want her there. As an RN she can be particularly nasty when her nursing standards aren't being met. I've seen (and heard) her in action and it is not pleasant.

Even though I've only been here for a couple of days, I've spent some time with my mother's brother, another friend of the family, and saw my parents and step-sisters and nieces and nephew. I noticed that spending time with my family still feels awkward at times. I never really bonded with my step-sisters (twins are a unit sufficient unto themselves) and my father and I had such an abusive, tumultuous relationship that the truce we worked on just before hell broke lose still feels fragile. I know he's wary around me, like he expects me to behave like my sister Terri does, but we're world's apart, temperment-wise. On the plus side, my step-mother and I are finally comfortable together, which is a blessing. Despite my mild discomfort it was a good Christmas. Everyone was full of holiday cheer and excitement for the baby, and I collected a lot of recommendations and advice.

Given that I worked very hard this year to slim down, one of my fears is of gaining the weight back during my pregnancy. My doctor and nutritionist have been working with me on a 0 - 10 lbs plan, but hearing about the 50, 60, and 70 pounds that my sisters and friends gained during theirs really freaked me out. It doesn't matter that most of it came off during breastfeeding, etc. With my PCOS-related hormone issues weight reduction is nightmarishly difficult and with my luck, breastfeeding would not cause the weightloss they experienced. So my goal is 0 - 10 lbs net gained. So far I'm at 3.

M still hasn't told his parents about the baby. He doesn't want the news to get out to the extended family until we're sure of the status, so he's waiting until after Xmas. That, and he's certain his mother is going to react poorly to the news, which makes him even more reluctant. She's one of those... hmm... glass half-empty types, with some over-protective tendencies. In other words, she's a fairly typical mother ;)

Ah, the Holidays. Such a love-hate relationship most of us have with this Season. To quote my father: "Smile goddammit, it's Christmas!"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Career confliction

Friday I had a second interview for a start-up company that really has exciting possibilities. I think it went well and I'm hoping they'll call me back.

I initiated the job-hunting process in late November, when I knew that the company I was working for was being acquired as of December 1st. This means that I applied for this position before I knew I was pregnant, and now that I know I'm pregnant, I'm feeling conflicted.

Should I tell my prospective employer that I'm pregnant when I'm not sure if I'll be proceeding with the pregnancy?

Should I continue looking for work when I'm in a high-risk pregnancy, knowing that complications may require quitting or taking a leave of absence prior to my due date in May?

Can I realistically take on a new role in a new company when I'm already experiencing the blank-outs and memory lapses that I'm told is called "pregnancy brain"?

Some of my women friends are urging me to refrain from working if I can, especially for several months after the baby is born. The first few months after the baby is born are supposed to be exhausting, with frequent feeding and diaper changes interfering with sleep and personal hygiene and housekeeping, nevermind work. It is a crucial time for the baby, and finding someone who is as invested in my child's care and development as I am is going to be difficult and very expensive.

Now that the economy is starting to come out of free-fall and things are heating up in Silicon Valley, I really want to get back into a career-groove. I've spent the past 3 years idling, working part time and pursuing creative interests, recovering from 3 deaths in the family and the related financial hardships, and dealing with my sister's crumbling mental health. Plus M's start-up and buying a house and acting as head contractor for the updates.

Having a baby really throws a spanner into the works, but everyone assures me that things work out. Ugh.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Decisions made, decisions delayed

Since this pregnancy is entirely unplanned, and given that M and I have operated for the past 6 years under the assumption that accidental pregnancy was impossible and that I'm not the get-married-make-babies type anyway, it was necessary that we have a serious talk.

I told him that, after some thought, and after seeing the reality of the baby on the ultrasound screen, I wanted to proceed with the pregnancy -- but only if it is healthy.  I also told him that if I have a choice as to whether or not to terminate the pregnancy, so does he. I don't want to be a single-parent, and if he's not on-board, I'm considerably less eager to have the baby. I don't want him to feel trapped into parenthood. I'd never want to force that on anyone. There are enough unwanted children in the world already...

He said that if I wanted to have the baby then he was inclined to agree, provided that the fetus doesn't have any birth defects like Down's Syndrome. He has an uncle who developed mental retardation due to environmental factors in early childhood, and though he loves his uncle, he has difficulty relating to an adult child, and so he can't imagine bringing a child into the world with that sort of disability if it can be prevented beforehand. In choosing to have a child with a serious disability, parents aren't just choosing to take on the added burden for themselves, they are choosing it for their family members as well. The child, he knows from personal experience, becomes a responsibility for entire family to care for -- not just the parents. Now that his grandmother is incapacitated with Alzheimer's, his uncle has moved in with his mother after failed attempts to place him with assisted living and foster families -- a move that has altered her life and that of her family in very fundamental ways.

I'm no Sarah Palin, and I certainly don't have her financial resources. I'm not up to raising a Down's baby.  The lifestyle changes I'm going to have to make will be difficult enough as it is. I've scheduled a genetic counseling appointment and then on January 3rd an amniocentesis test. We've agreed that if the tests all come back clear, we're having a baby.

It is good to have agreed on something, but it also leaves us hanging for a few more weeks. It takes 10 to 14 days for the cells from the amniotic fluid to be cultured and grown and for the genetic test results to come back.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holy cow! I'm 15 weeks pregnant!

When I was in my early 20's I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and told by the fertility specialist I was seeing that I could not get pregnant without IVF (in vitro fertilization) or similar fertility intervention.

For 20 years I operated under the assumption that I could not get pregnant, which relieved me of the need to take the oral contraceptives whose side-effects had been the bane of my existence.

For 20 years, his diagnosis held true.

Until four months ago.

Sometime in early September, I got pregnant, but didn't know it.

I didn't notice it, either, until about mid-October. Once I got back from vacation in Bali, I started feeling felt pretty rough.  For 8 of the past 9 weeks, I've been feeling exhausted and my body has been doing unexpected things. In the past 6 weeks I've had 3 doctors appointments and 35 lab tests, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

I stopped taking most of my meds because I thought I was getting some weird drug interaction, and when I stopped them, I did feel a little better. I little better, but not well. I was convinced I had an infection of some sort, because the blood tests were coming back with odd results. Results that said something like "This is normal in pregnancy, otherwise, patient may have X, Y or Z and should be tested further." When tests for X, Y, and Z came back negative, it occurred to me that I hadn't had my menses since August (not unusual for women with PCOS) so perhaps I should have a pregnancy test, just in case a miracle had happened and I'd gotten myself knocked up.

I went for the blood test on December 13th. Yesterday I got the news that I was pregnant. And today I got the news that I was more pregnant than I'd initially thought. 15 weeks based on the ultrasound measurements. I saw a fully-formed fetus on the screen. Boy did that rock my world.

The obstetrician and the nurses started asking me questions they'd normally ask a woman who is 15 to 16 weeks pregnant, but I asked them to wait, saying "I may be 15 weeks pregnant, but psychologically I'm 2 days pregnant. Babies have never been on my bucket list. I need some time to get used to the idea."

Right now I'm feeling pretty shaky, I'll admit. The impossible has happened, and I'm at a loss. I used to say that if I ever got pregnant it would be a miracle, so I'd have to have it. But at my age, the risks of birth defects are much higher. And then there are the various reasons why I was glad I couldn't get pregnant -- the hereditary difficulties that run in the family like smoking-related cancer and PCOS that I didn't want to pass on. 

I told M that I was pregnant shortly after I got the lab results. I thought about putting it off until I knew more, but I knew he'd be upset if he discovered I'd kept it from him.  After the stress of the past couple of weeks, this hit him pretty hard. He's always wanted to get married and make babies, but he also knew that choosing me meant that wasn't going to happen as long as we were together. Now he's got an unplanned baby and all those related expenses to think about. Poor dear. He seems overwhelmed and anxious and it's only just beginning.

Shock. Disbelief. Excitement. Terror. Awe. These are the things I am feeling right now. So much ambivalence.