Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pain in the... breast

I have a very high pain tolerance, and I'm very good at ignoring pain. So good in fact that I almost died a few years ago. I've since learned to listen to my body better, and to make better determinations as to what pain means (ie something is wrong) and when it is time to do something about it.

For about 6 weeks I've been experiencing pain in one of my breasts, the kind of pain that wakes me up in the middle of the night, moaning and clutching at myself. It took me about a month to determine why one breast was hurting more than the other -- a recurring inflammation / skin infection that I've been trying to get rid of for over a year. It hadn't occurred to me that the infection had penetrated beyond the subcutaneous level until I started feeling pain deeper in my breast.

I told my doctor I wanted it excised but she insisted on trying antibiotics again to clear it up, mainly because it didn't look like much on the surface. After 10 days of Keflex and my second-ever yeast infection I told my doc that the infection had no subsided and requested an outpatient surgery appointment. I got one the next day, and when I went in the nurse who did the preliminary examination said she didn't think it would need to be opened up. I just smiled.

When the surgeon examined me and heard my story, he agreed that the infected area should be removed, but didn't think that the infection went beyond the subcutaneous level. I figured once he had the wound opened, he'd see for sure. And sure enough, the infection had reached into the underlying breast tissue, which explained why I was experiencing so much pain. Fortunately, the high dosage of antibiotics had reduced the inflammation, etc, so the debridement was fairly straight-forward.

Now it's just a matter of more antibiotics and careful watching of the wound. And because I'm pregnant, no oxycodone, just Tylenol for pain. Meh.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Did a wish get me pregnant?

I've loved several people in my life, deeply, with passion and tenderness. I've been in love just once.

I'm still in love. It's an incredible thing to be so open and vulnerable, to love with so few reservations or fears, and to experience for myself the biochemical effects of being emotionally, mentally, and physically all-in with another person.

How could I get pregnant when my infertility was actively demonstrated year after year for two decades? I think it has something to do with the effects of being in love and the power of a wish. For me, anyway. M thinks my theory is a bit silly, but his areas of expertise are mathematics, software development, and computer science. Mine are genetics, biochemistry, and loving.

The more religious members of my family believe that the child is a blessing from G-d, like the son of Abraham and Sarah. I'm not one to believe in divine intervention in the affairs of man, but as a nod to their conviction, perhaps we should name the baby Isaac :)

My doctor says it probably has something to do with the 40# I dropped in 2011. And that could be. Weight loss affects everything from metabolism, to hormone levels, to psychological well-being. But I'm still heavier now than I was in the 1990s, and my partner during those years was quite virile and I swear that we had unprotected sex at least 3000 times in the 6 or 7 years we were together. So while my sudden fertility could be attributed to changes in weight causing changes in my endocrine system, I don't think that's the whole story.

There is a lot of research out there about the biological and biochemical basis of love, and the measurable changes in neurochemistry, hormones, and cellular structure that feeling "love" can produce.  I know that for the first time in my life I've felt content with settling down with a specific someone. Not just comfortable or it's cousin complacent, but truly content.

Of the two other men I've been involved with long-term, only one of them I could see myself growing old with, and we were very comfortable together. If we'd been more developed as people and in our communication, we'd probably still be together. But with M there aren't any ifs. We communicate incredibly well. We really get each other. We talk about unmet needs and expectations and ways to fulfill them, including reaching out to others as needed. When we're experiencing our quiet, connected moments the cats come sit nearby and purr, like they just want to be inside that sphere of happiness and well-being. D and I had something similar, but the depth of intimacy with M, and the feeling of harmony and peace, are beyond my prior experience. Being with M makes me feel bone-deep happy and giddy with love.

I'm also a believer in the power of wishing. People often say to be careful what you wish for because it might come true. Wishing or praying or meditating -- focusing the thoughts and the mind intently on something -- is incredibly powerful. From practicing hypnosis I know that the unconscious mind can do amazing things, from creating illness to healing it -- and everything inbetween. I've wished things away and wished things into being and even converted some doubters into believers over the years. And I can't help thinking that a wish made me pregnant.

Back in June or July 2011 M was in a bit of a funk. He seemed sad. I asked him what was up with him and he finally told me: He was doing well financially, he'd bought a home with extra rooms, and at his age (34) he couldn't help but feel like he should be starting a family soon. Choosing me meant being childless for as long as we are together and he didn't want to consider life without me, so he wasn't going to be a father -- and that made him (understandably) sad.

I felt sad, too. Very sad. His happiness is vital to my own, and I have offered numerous times over the years to help him find someone else to love and make babies with. I offered again, and again he said no, so I told him that for the first time in my life I could actually see myself raising a child. I wished aloud, with power and conviction, that I could have a baby with him. I offered to contact my younger cousin to be an egg donor so we could --  but if he wanted to do that, it would need to happen in the next year or so, because the older I get the harder pregnancy would be on my body.  He thought about it for a moment and said "Let's talk about it next year, once the work on the house is done and the start-up thing is settled and life is less stressful."

I made that wish and even contacted my cousin, who expressed an enthusiastic willingness to be an egg donor if I needed one. And then I tabled it for revisiting sometime in 2012. I didn't think about it again until I realized I was pregnant.

And thinking about it, however bizarre it seems, I can't help but think that of all the possible factors in my getting pregnant, the greatest of these was the power of a wish made out of love for M.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

And reason falls by the wayside...

This whole baby-thing is intimidating me. I'm slowly becoming irrational, and I know it.

Physically, it helps that I now understand that what is happening to my body are pregnancy-related changes, and yet, even with the various online newsletters coaching me through what is happening week-by-week, I'm still experiencing disquiet. Sometimes I even feel hijacked.

Mentally, I'm foggy. I feel like a sharp knife that is going dull. I sometimes struggle with putting words together when I'm speaking. My clarity is slipping. I'm not quite bovine but I'm terrified that I'm on my way.

Emotionally, I find myself engaged quite often in conversations with myself, trying to reassure myself that these emotional surges are just pregnancy-related and not really meaningful. I find myself just reacting more and more over silly things that don't really matter and it disturbs me because I normally have my finger on my emotional pulse and head off outbursts with validation and rational self-talk.

I'm trying to keep myself under control, trying to minimize the external expression of what is going on internally. I'm trying to minimize it, because I know that pregnant women can be notoriously moody and capricious, and I know that it's difficult for the people living with them day after day. I'm trying so hard not to put M through this "perfect storm" I'm in. He's accustomed to something very different.

But it's getting more and more difficult, and I'm feeling irrationally resentful about the effort I'm going to in order to keep the boat from rocking. I feel that there isn't any recognition from him, just upset when I fail to be my usual calm, rational self. Telling him I'm pregnant and I'm trying so hard not to externalize all this turmoil doesn't seem to make a difference. He's caught up in his own emotional world right now--his world is unsettled, too. And that's okay. I get that this is all probably normal.

But normal for us is me making things easy. He's the intense one, I'm the easygoing one. To use his words, I'm the accommodating one. He's used to me recognizing when he's in a mood or stressed or whatever and giving him space and not pushing his buttons. Not taking it personally. He's used to me letting him know when I'm feeling upset before I start acting upset. Only my capacity to do those things and be that way is diminishing as my pregnancy advances. And communication is the keystone of our relationship. Argh.

An hour from now I'll probably feel differently. Maybe. Hopefully. I'm sure we'll weather this and everything will be okay in the end. It's not like this problem is unknown to most couples during pregnancies.  I half wish I was more of a "typical female" in our relationship, because at least he'd have coping mechanisms in place for when reason falls by the wayside.  But he doesn't and I'm not and I guess we'll learn how to cope with these changes along with all the others we have to look forward to as unintentional parents. Ah hell... ;)

Friday, January 27, 2012

My Greatest Fear

When I was a kid my parents often hurled a curse at us: "I hope one day you have a child just like you!"

I didn't understand what they meant when I was grammar-school aged (except that I was somehow "bad"), though later I decided it was an expression of frustration resulting from their obvious incompetence as parents. Being a teenager, I knew everything, of course, and my parents, though older and more experienced, were somehow stupider. The hubris of youth, eh?

Today, though, as I find my bladder shrinking and my breasts expanding, I've starting wondering about what my son will be like, with my parent's words echoing in my mind. And more and more, I'm hoping he'll be like M. His parents say he was an easy baby and an easy child. He wasn't fussy or demanding, he wasn't a trouble-maker, and he wasn't accident prone. Just a little contrarian. And he's still contrarian. And given that I'm contrarian too, I will not be surprised if our son is as well.  I'm ok with that.  Contrarians don't follow the herd. We are comfortable questioning the majority (the status quo, the conventional wisdom, the common practice) when it doesn't make sense to us, and we'll often do the opposite just to demonstrate our disagreement. I can handle contrarians. I are one :)

I understand that a child's behavior and psychology are heavily influenced by their parent's behavior and psychology, and M and I are both pretty self-aware people, so I'm not too concerned about our child picking up passive-aggressive behaviors and the like from us. I'm not sure how much having a child will affect our relationship, but right now at least, we don't play the typical gender-role based mind-games many couples do. We're both too pragmatic and efficiency-minded to waste time with such counter-productive forms of communication. Our son will probably be very direct and verbally articulate, because that is how we are with each other.

Back to fears:
M's greatest fear is having a stupid child. It sounds like a terrible thing to say, but I understand. Heritability of intelligence is polygenic and highly variable depending on environment. So that M and I both have IQs over 140 doesn't mean our son will qualify for Mensa from birth. In his experience, it is difficult for people of very different intelligence levels to connect, and he's afraid he won't be able to relate to his son if he's not "bright."

Meanwhile, my greatest fear is of having a child like the one I was.

My friends have heard the stories over the years, and they are amusing. Except if you think about being the parent of a child like I was. Now I recognize that much of my early childhood behavior and psychology was influenced by my parents and my environment (the former being disinterested and the latter being quite odd), and I know that the environment I provide will be very different, but I can't help but wonder if the the way I viewed, experienced, and interacted with the world is something that will be passed on.

I was a terribly bright child. I heard it again this Christmas from the woman (Susan) who taught me to read and tell time and tie my shoes before I was 4 years old.  I was rather solemn and observant, active but not hyper, and very very curious. I wanted to know. I wanted answers. And I didn't hesititate to act in my pursuit of those answers. I was a budding scientist, always seeing connections and causality and wondering if the patterns I observed could be applied to other things. Put that way, it sounds innocuous enough but in many ways it wasn't.

A month ago at Xmas Susan and I were laughing about "The Water Hose Incident" It was interesting to hear about it from her perspective, and to remember it from my (then child's) perspective. Putting the two together made for a comical story.

It goes something like this:

Adult perspective: Pregnant Mother was out in the garage doing laundry and talking on the phone. While she was doing this, Kelly fed a garden hose through the mail slot in the front door and flooded much of the house with several inches of water. She splashed water everywhere, getting the TV, the stereo, and even her sister in the playpen soaking wet. When Mother discovered the mess she called Susan to come take Kelly away for a few days so she wouldn't kill her. The carpets had to be torn up and replaced, the TV and the stereo were ruined, and the water had to be pumped out of the house. It was a mess!

Child's perspective:  Oooh look! When you water a lawn, brown grass turns green. My carpet is brown, if I water it, will it turn that pretty green color? The mailman puts things through the slot in the door, can I put the hose through the slot in the door? If I can put the hose through the slot in the door, then maybe I can turn the carpet green! I'm watering the carpet but it isn't turning green yet. You have to move the sprinkler around to water all of the lawn so it all turns green, so maybe if I water all of the carpet, then it will turn green. Things are in the way, but I have to get all of the carpet watered, so I am going to have to water them too, I guess. Oh no! Tammy is screaming and crying. I like playing in the sprinklers, why doesn't she?  Uh-oh, Mommy is yelling. I'm not supposed to water the carpets? Why not? And if I'm not supposed to, why didn't anyone tell me that?

Amusing, isn't it? Only it wasn't an isolated incident. Long before I could be shipped off to kindergarten I was already dismantling things to find out how they worked. Crawling into places to see what was there. Trying to use grown-up tools to do grown-up tasks.  The world was a puzzle and I was determined to solve it.

Now admittedly, I was left unattended a lot, and my parents often resorted to "I don't know" and "Because I said so" and "Go away" when it came to my endless questions. So I tried to learn things  by myself. My parents, young as they were, didn't know how to cope with me. I scared the hell out of them many, many times. And back then, thorough spankings were legal, so I was spanked a lot for reasons I didn't understand, which brought out the contrarian in me and made things even more difficult all around.

Ok, so... maybe... thinking about it... my "awfulness" as a child was less about me and more a function of my parent's lack of preparedness to handle a child like me. But then again, is it even possible to prepare for a child like me? I'm not going to have 3 children under age five like my mother did, and M isn't going to have the PTSD that my father did when he came home from Viet Nam. I'm 20 years older than they were when I was born. I've had years of training and experience working with children -- but those were other people's children. I'm a calm person, not a reactive one, and I know not to let kids push my buttons. But still...

I guess my greatest fear isn't so much that I'll have a child like me, but rather, that I'd lose my mind trying to be an adequate parent for a child like me. A nice, sweet, quiet baby like M was -- no problem. But a double-handful of a child who is impossibly bright and contrarian and always on the go and getting into things... I don't know. I suppose time will tell if this unintentional mother has what it takes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mini-freakout #1 (for January)

The other day I watched a woman unpacking a baby from her SUV. Out came a bulky stroller from the back. Then the baby-seat, with baby inside, was attached to the stroller with no small effort. Then came the coup de gras that flipped my anxiety switch: She slung a massive bag over her shoulder.

I've detested purses and the like ever since I was a child. Every woman I knew seemed to be burdened by massive bags. I was allowed, even encouraged, to carry them in order to relieve my mother, and especially my grandmother, of the weight, but the contents were forbidden to me most of the time. As I grew older and came to understand the questionable purpose of all the junk women carried, I swore to myself that I'd never carry a purse. And I haven't. The only purse in my possession is a little black clutch for formal occasions. Everything I need to carry on my person is contained within a functional little plastic wallet that usually hangs around my neck, inside my clothes.

And suddenly, watching that unfortunate woman sling that huge bag around, I realized that one day soon that would be me, walking around with the straps of a diaper bag digging into my shoulder, pushing an equally heavily-burdened stroller toward the goal-of-the-moment. It literally stole my breath from me. Wanting a baby, having a baby, caring for a baby -- the enormity of what I was taking on -- symbolized by a silly diaper bag -- slapped me hard in the chest.

I allowed myself a momentary indulgence in my anxiety and resentment, reminded myself to breathe, and then firmly, but gently, told myself to get over it. Diaper bags and purses and so much more baby gear was soon to be a part of my daily reality and no amount of pouting on the part of my inner-child was going to change that.

Anxiety attack averted :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Opinion: Circumcision is Genital Mutiliation

Last night, as we snuggled up in bed, father-to-be M spoke quietly into the darkness.

"I don't want him circumcised."

I was shocked by the flood of emotions that swamped me, mostly a mixture of rage and sadness. When I felt like I could speak, I responded.

"Absolutely not. Even if you wanted him circumcised, I would not allow it."

And then I lay there in the darkness and fumed, knowing that I might not be able to stop my son from being circumcised even if I explicitly told the hospital not to, because babies are circumcised "by mistake" all the time.

I consider circumcision to be genital mutilation. It is illegal to circumcise female children, and yet this leftover practice from the days of barbaric rituals performed on helpless male infants is still encouraged here in the US. I just don't get it.

I don't get why anyone could think it is a harmless practice to cut off the skin protecting an infant's penis. I remember years ago overhearing friends of my parents talking about how their new baby boy was so much fussier than their daughter had been, and I remember someone else saying knowingly "They always are."

Well DUH. Not only did he have the pain of an open wound, but it burned like HELL every time he urinated. And his parents and doctors did that to him for no medically sound reason. "Just because."

I just don't get why anyone would think it is ok for a baby to start out his first days in the world with a deliberately inflicted injury. Some people justify it by saying that they don't want their son to feel different from the other boys, or from his father. That's stupid. Some women say they aren't comfortable with the idea of having to clean an uncircumcised penis. That one really pisses me off. By that rationale it should be ok to circumcise girls, because girls are much more difficult to keep clean, especially during the diaper stage, because of all those folds of skin. Some people say they do it for religious reasons, and I consider that idiocy, too. If it is that important to your religious principles, then by God wait until he's old enough to consent to both the religion and the genital mutilation ritual.

Given my experience with male partners the past 20 years, I can say that uncut men are more sensual and enjoy better sex lives. The sensitivity of the foreskin itself is immense. The protection it provides for the head of the penis, which is supposed to be a mucus membrane, keeps all those nerve-endings alive and functioning optimally. Men who are circumcised are at a greater risk for erectile dysfunction, probably because their penises have been chafed by underwear for decades. I have yet to come across an intact male who needs Viagra.

I think that parents should be required to be present to witness this procedure being performed on their child. I've a feeling that there would be far fewer circumcisions then. I also think that requiring the presence of a guardian would eliminate the occurrence of "accidental" circumcisions like the well-publicized one that occurred in Miami a couple of years ago.

I feel a little better after this rant but I'm still angry and afraid. Angry that we mutilate helpless infants, and afraid that it might happen to mine, no matter how hard I try to protect him. I imagine myself in the delivery room screaming at the staff not to mutilate my son's genitals, over and over again, threatening to sue them, or even mutilate them myself, until I'm hoarse. That shouldn't be necessary, but it just might be, because bottom line -- hospitals have a financial incentive to perform circumcisions.

And that, my friends, is the saddest reason for circumcision of them all.

Articles and discussions on circumcision:
Male Circumcision and Quality of Sex Life (Psychology Today) by Gad Saad, PhD.
NOCIRC: Making the world safer for children

Monday, January 16, 2012

Introducing a new blog on unintentional parenthood and pregnancy at 40-something

I'm not sure where to start, so I'll just write. I usually arrive somewhere that way.

I've been journaling since I was 10, and blogging off and on since 2004. I find that writing about internal turmoil gives me clarity, and I really need clarity.

I'm struggling with an issue as old as mankind: pregnancy and motherhood. But as always, there are a few twists: this is an unplanned first-time pregnancy. In my Forties. And the father is several years younger than me.

Over the years, I've learned that hearing about the experiences of others gives me perspective on my own life. And visa versa. So I've decided to start a blog about this new journey I'm on, beginning with posting entries from my personal journal to a public forum. I hope that others find clarity, comfort, and commonality in my attempts to discover these same things for myself.

Friday, January 13, 2012

We're having a baby!

Earlier this afternoon the phone rang. It was the genetic counselor from Kaiser, calling to tell me that the amniocentesis results came back normal. By all accounts we've got a healthy baby on the way.

I thanked her tearfully, had a little cry, and then pulled M away from his travel preparations to give him the news.

He was relieved, but the news heightened his stress-level. Now he has to start telling people. Like his grandmother.

M is one of the most intensely private people I know. He's a closed book to most people because he shares so little of himself. I know that it is a habit formed in childhood: he was the small kid in classrooms with kids a couple of years older than himself, kids who resented the protective delight their teachers took in him. Mentally, he was light-years ahead of his peers, but socially, well, he wasn't ready for the older age group. In addition to being incredibly brilliant, M is a highly sensitive person (HSP), and his sensory processing sensitivity makes him uncomfortably aware of what other people are thinking and feeling. It's always just been easier for him to keep to himself than to push through the discomfort of relating to and with others unlike himself.

Fortunately for him, his father (and grandmother) understand this about him.  His mother, not so much. She's often upset with him for not telling her things she thinks are important, but as he's reminded her, she does the same thing, so she's one to talk :)

So... M keeps to himself. Small social circles, few overlapping, with little information exchange. His introversion means he has difficulty determining where his differences from others lie, and since being different was always a painful thing, I think it is just easier for him to assume that other people think and feel the same way he does. He's never been one to talk about his romantic relationships, not to anyone. I think I'm the only exception to the rule. And, interestingly enough, he prefers not to hear about others' relationships, exploits, etc.  It makes him uncomfortable, the thoughts and mental images that scroll through his mind, so he prefers not to know the intimate details, and has difficulty understanding why anyone would want to know such details about him.

Which is where telling people about the baby is difficult and stressful for him, I know. I'm trying not to take it personally, trying not to make it about me or the baby, when it's really about him. Telling others about the baby means he has to reveal the true nature of our relationship to people who, in the absence of details, will fill in the blanks themselves. It is one thing for people to assume he's sexually active. It's quite another for others to know that he is, to know who he's with, and for them to imagine what may or may not go on in the privacy of his bedroom. He says he's prim. I say he's prudish and quaint. It's a part of who he is, and I get that about him, even though we're quite opposite in that way. Hell, I'm a sex educator, among other things  :)

He's taking his grandmother to Vegas this weekend. She loves casinos and slot machines, and seeing as she's 89, he isn't sure how much longer she's going to be able to travel and get around under her own steam. So he's planned a fun, memorable weekend at the Mirage in Vegas. He's thoughtful that way.

On our way out door, M asked his grandmother how many great-grandchildren she wants. I think she said four. He reached out and put his hand on my belly and told her she'd have her first great-grandchild in May. She lit up and looked sly. She said she'd thought I was pregnant -- she knew the signs -- and was very happy to know she'd read them right. We've spent a week together and had some conversations, and she's seen us together, so she knows the love that is there between us.

Hopefully, they'll have an uneventful flight to Vegas, and I'll have an uneventful weekend. I'm feeling a bit tired. Must have been all the flowerbed weeding I did.

Friday, January 6, 2012

He moves!

As I was waiting at the airport to pick M's grandmother up after her long journey from Winnipeg, I felt the baby moving around for the first time. It was a fluttering sensation just above my pubic bone. Very cool!

19 weeks. Almost half-way through the pregnancy. I'm feeling so much better than I was in November. I've got my energy back. But being at the half-way mark, everything is starting to loom large (except my bladder). The planner in me wants to start putting together the baby-stuff and getting prepared for his arrival, but since we're still waiting on the genetic screening results before making a final decision, I'm sort of in limbo.

I'm doing my best to be okay with that.

Meanwhile, I'm getting excellent prenatal care through Kaiser. The follow-up is amazingly thorough -- or at least that is my experience. Then again, mine is classified as a high-risk pregnancy. I'm taking my blood pressure daily and they call once a week to go over the numbers. We're watching out for toxemia/preeclampsia.

So far, so good. I was in pretty good health before the pregnancy, so its a matter of maintaining that. I've got the prenatal vitamins, the Vit D and B-12, calcium chews, and thyroid meds to help with that.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Amniocentesis Day

I've had a fair amount of impatience and anxiety leading up to this day.  I'm nearly 19 weeks pregnant and nearly 44 years old. I didn't plan to get pregnant. In fact, I was told I couldn't get pregnant.  But I did get pregnant, and I was taking some medications you don't want to take when you're pregnant, and I was on a serious weight-reduction regimen that might have not been nutritionally optimal for early pregnancy.

And I'm nearly 44. I mentioned that, right?  My eggs are 44 years old, too, and cells that old have a greater likelihood of developing genetic transcription errors during fertilization and cell division. In other words, birth defects.

So what makes all this so difficult is that I need an amniocentesis to determine with greater than 90% accuracy the presence or absence of certain birth defects. And you have to be around 16 weeks for amniocentesis, and the Holidays limited the number of slots available, and it can take 2 weeks for the results. And the longer I carry this baby the more attached to it I become.

I'm also anxious about M being there for the appointment. I don't want to do it alone, and I want him to be there because I hope it will help make the reality of the baby more real for him, as seeing the fetus on the first ultrasound did for me. He's not really engaged yet. I think he's trying not to become attached to it in case we get bad news. At least I hope that's it.

I think of the two of us M is the most nervous and conflicted. I think the responsibility for 3 people on a single income freaks him out a little, as does the concern about birth defects. The age difference between us is also a matter of concern.  I think he's worried if something happened to me he'd be raising a child on his own. As it is, I'm looking at being 65 when this baby would reach 21, and he'd be 56. My grandmother was 45 when she brought my mother home, and I've many friends who were raised by 'older' parents. This is a situation that is becoming more common and accepted as women delay childbearing in favor of establishing careers, and I also know that there is longevity in my family -- It is possible for me live well into my 80s and 90s.

Impending lifestyle change is also a major concern for us both. In his case, he has always wanted children, so the adjustments on his part would have to be made eventually, but for me, well, most of it has never been on my radar. Peace and quiet will no longer reign, and spontaneous trips won't be possible for a long while. Baby-related expenses cutting into discretionary spending. Sleep shortages. Baby-proofing. M's penchant for leaving electronics and whatnot laying around would have to change. Residency and Visa concerns. The baby's citizenship.  The list seems endless.

But back to today... This morning I drove down 101 to Kaiser Permanente's Santa Clara medical center, passing the campus where M worked, and hoping he wouldn't be too late. Just as I passed the exit for his work, he pulled onto the highway, right behind me. I didn't notice, even with him honking and waving at me from behind, so he called my cell phone. I felt such gratitude and relief that he was there, that he had my back, so to speak, that I wanted to cry.

We had a bit of a wait for our room, about 45 minutes, but once we got in, things happened pretty quickly. The ultrasound technician was great. Sweet and professional. She told me every move she was making in advance, so I'd have a moment to prepare myself. The ultrasound equipment was amazing. We got to see 3D images of the baby, inside and out. The halves of the brain, the chambers of the heart. Watched as it swallowed amniotic fluid that traveled down the esophagus. Counted fingers and toes. Saw nice long legs stretched out. And saw the external plumbing. (Yes, it's a boy!)

The perinatologist came in afterwards and reviewed the ultrasound image and video captures. She confirmed that the measurements for the baby were in line with the original due date of May 31, 2012 and that there we no obvious birth defects showing on the ultrasound. (Yes!)

And then they started prepping me for the amniocentesis. M seemed pretty anxious so I invited him to leave and he stepped out. Which made it easier for me to relax. There are times when having a strong connection with your partner is detrimental, and this was one of those times. I'd read up on the procedure, so I knew what to expect, but even so, I twitched when she pushed the needle through the uterine wall. I watched her draw the faintly yellowish fluid out, and then it was over.

I experienced some twinging cramps for about 30 minutes afterwards, and that was all. Minimal discomfort, really, and worth it, every moment of it, for the lab results I'm hoping to get in the next two weeks.

More waiting. I'll be well-distracted though. M's grandmother arrives in three days. She doesn't know about the pregnancy. It would be her first great-grandchild and he doesn't want to take that away from her if the tests come back with bad news, so he's waiting, too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

One thing I'm not afraid of...

One thing I'm not afraid of is one thing I know many younger women fear when they learn they're pregnant: the fear of being a bad parent.

The interesting thing about finding myself pregnant in my early 40's is that I finally feel that I'm grown-up enough to be a parent.

There won't be any regrets. I've sowed my wild oats aplenty. I've lived my life powerfully and with gusto. I've done things I never thought I'd do, and I've done things people wish they had the courage to do. I've explored intimacy and connection and sexuality in many of their myriad forms, and helped others along the way. I've cared for the dying and suffered through injury and loss. I've traveled to Europe and Asia. Made friends all over the world. Seen my writing published both online and in print. Been gratified to know that tens of thousands of people every month listened to my recordings.

And finally, in the last couple of years, I've settled down. Settled down in a monogamous (gasp!) relationship with a wonderful man, bought a house and a kitten, and given thought to what I want to do next in my life.

In other words, I'm not a twenty-something who, finding herself pregnant, regrets the things she'll have to put off doing for 15 to 20 years. I'm not a thirty-something just hitting her stride in her life/career who will resent the lifestyle she's giving up. I'm a grown woman who finds herself pregnant at an age when many women are finding out they're going to be grandmothers. And I think that being older -- being truly adult, knowing who I am and who I can be -- greatly improves my chances of being an excellent parent.

That, and the fact that I'm a nurturer by nature.

So, no, of the many fears I have with regards to pregnancy and motherhood, being a bad parent isn't one of them. I know what a bad parent looks like. My own parents were way too young when they had me, and they came of age during the sexual revolution. They were far too preoccupied with having a good time. Especially my father, when he came home from Viet Nam. He had his own demons and partying was an escape, I think. I've never understood the urge for extreme levels of intoxication and ego-obliteration, but he was pretty single-minded in his pursuits for many years, as was my mother and my step-mother. To say it affected their parenting assumes they did much in the way of parenting. Which they did not. But to give them credit, they've openly admitted their shortcomings and done their best in the past 10 years or so to be there for their now adult kids in whatever capacity we'll have them. And that's something I admire. It takes self-awareness and courage and more than a little humility to own up to our mistakes and try to make amends.

Tomorrow is the level two ultrasound and amniocentesis. I've practically begged M to be there, even knowing that he's got a business meeting running right up to the appointment time. My biggest fear is that there will be something wrong with the baby, and if that's true, I don't want to be alone when I get the news.