Here’s a quick post to document how much has changed in the past year.
Here I am on my due date 40 weeks pregnant on Christmas Eve last year in 2012. And here we are one year later–what a difference a year can make.
Christmas Eve is one of my favorite holidays because I love the anticipation of Christmas. Last year I was anticipating something else entirely, but it was by far the best gift I could have ever asked for–even if it was a few days late. For the rest of my life, Christmas Eve won’t just be Christmas Eve. I will always remember it as Porter’s due date–the date we hoped to meet him and welcome him to our family. Porter truly is a gift and he brings so much joy into our lives. His smiles and laughter are little presents that we are lucky enough to receive each and every day.
Here’s one more picture to show you what a ham Porter can be. And yes, Porter is wearing two different socks.
I’ve written a little about Diana before, and I asked her to share her experience/perspective about something that created a visible wedge between our friendship: my miscarriage (written about here and here and specifically in reference to Diana here). Want more of Diana? Visit her blog, Losing It where she writes about weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle after pregnancy.
On a Sunday in January of 2012, I found out I was pregnant. The next day, I told only my family and one very dear friend, Rachel. I will never forget our conversation. I sat down in her classroom before school started and I said, “So, I am pregnant.” She responded with a “Shut-up!” It was an awesome BFF moment. All throughout the day via email, and later that night over text, she asked me a variety of questions. Actually, she asked me A LOT of questions, things like “How are you feeling?” to “How dark was the line on the pregnancy test?” I just assumed she was curious.
The next day at school, Rachel came into my room and shut the door. I didn’t think anything of it: we do stuff like that all the time. She handed me a card, which I assumed was a written congrats. Rachel is a generous and thoughtful friend, and one of her trademarks is surprise gifting and affirmations. I read the card quickly and looked up at her. Then I said, “Wait!” I read it again. The card was not from Rachel; it was from Baby B. My own personal joy of being pregnant had just been amplified. My best friend was pregnant, too! She energetically pulled out multiple pregnancy tests from her purse and showed me each one. She told me that she found out she was pregnant on the exact same day that I found out I was. Suddenly, all of the questions from the day before made sense. I had never felt so connected to a friend. I already had so much in common with Rachel, but we were about to experience the most amazing time in our lives, together.
Rewind just a bit. I typically am difficult to get to know. I would imagine that my first impression can sometimes be read as stuck-up, standoffish, and distant. I don’t always do well during social situations and I don’t open up for a long time to people. So, you can imagine my surprise when I first met Rachel and I immediately knew we would be friends. We have joked about how we are seriously like friend soul-mates and that we were meant to meet each other by working at CHS. Another coworker actually bought us a paper gift for our first friend-iversary.
Rachel started trying to get pregnant around the same time that I started trying. This was not some weird pregnancy pact thing, although multiple students have asked me if it was. We just happened to be in similar places in our lives. (We each got married in June of 2009.) We spoke a lot about how exciting the prospect of becoming pregnant was, and we shared concerns that it seemed to be taking longer than either of us thought it would. One day at lunch, I remember Rachel saying, “I hope that no matter what, we can be happy for each other.” I never felt like it was a competition or a race to become pregnant, but I did wonder how I would feel if she got pregnant first, or vice-versa.
Over the next two weeks, Rachel and I exchanged emails throughout the day guessing at each other’s due dates and speculating on the size of our tiny babies. We talked about birth plans, names, worries, maternity leaves, etc. It was so nice to be able to talk about it with her because I was keeping it a secret from everyone else until it was appropriate to share.
One day during the last block of the day, Rachel came to my room. She asked to talk to me, so I went out into the hallway and shut the door. She told me that she had spoken to her OBGYN office, and they asked that she go to the hospital for some tests. She was fighting back tears, and I could tell that she was trying very hard to not jump to any conclusions. I did not want her to drive herself, so I insisted that I drive her home so she could leave for the hospital with her husband. I had a team teacher in the room with me during that class, so I told her I was leaving and we got in the car. It was an icy day. The roads were not clean and it was snowing. I don’t remember exactly what Rachel and I talked about in the fifteen minute car ride, but I do know that I was trying to stay hopeful for Rachel. Like Rachel, I had been pouring over pregnancy articles, blogs, and books from the moment I started trying to become pregnant. She had shared her symptoms with me, and the word we avoided saying out loud was bouncing around in my mind. I was very scared for her.
Later that night, Rachel called
me. She did not have any results back, but she told me a few details from being at the hospital. While we were on the phone, her doctor called her, so we hung up. A while later, Rachel sent me a text telling me that the worst had happened: she was miscarrying. I don’t remember how I responded, I just remember feeling so sad for my friend. I do remember suggesting that she take some time off, but she told me that she needed to move on and live as normal, and I knew in that moment that she was incredibly brave.
The next day at work, I knew that something had shifted. I did not know how to act around Rachel. She was visibly drained. She was broken. I was the only one at work that knew what she was going through, but I also knew that I was probably the last person she wanted to be around. I couldn’t help but feel like the enemy. I was pregnant, and she was not. I decided it would be best to give Rachel space. I felt so conflicted. I argued with myself. I thought, maybe I should do something for her. I should pamper her. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that just my presence pained her somehow. I tried to consider how I would feel. If she did have any negative feelings towards me, I completely understood. I read the signs as best I could and I tried to give Rachel space while letting her know I was there when she was ready. This strange friendship limbo went on for awhile. People at work started to notice. After I announced my own pregnancy, a coworker actually approached me and guessed the entire situation. She somehow knew just by our actions that Rachel had experienced a miscarriage. I, of course, did not share Rachel’s story, but I dismissed the claim. Women know.
It felt very strange to be so happy for myself and so very sad for my friend at the same time. Although I was not mourning the loss of my pregnancy, I was mourning for a friend, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was mourning the loss of our friendship. The overwhelming emotion during this time was guilt. When it was safe for me to announce my own pregnancy, I felt guilty that I did. I wanted to be happy for myself. I wanted to tell everyone. I wanted to do all of the things I planned on doing as I waited to become pregnant. I told myself that I couldn’t continue to compare Rachel’s situation to mine and I needed to enjoy the experience I was having. Every time I did though, I felt like the most selfish person alive. I convinced myself that I would also suffer a miscarriage. In a weird way, I felt like I almost deserved it. At one point, my husband confronted me and told me that I was never going to experience being pregnant for the first time again, so I had to stop analyzing everything as though I had had a miscarriage. I knew that I had to just try to separate our two situations.
I eventually had distanced myself so far from Rachel that she confronted me. “It seemed like you stopped being my friend.” I was so afraid of hurting her that I actually did. I continued to hope that after some time, Rachel and I would be able to be as close as we were before. It was through honesty and a few letters that we were able to express to each other how we each felt about the situation. As time went on, things started to feel more and more normal between us. When Rachel found out that she was pregnant with Porter, I was overjoyed. I know that she was very worried and did not have the easiest pregnancy, but I felt so happy that she was going to become a mother, and that we would still get to go through the process together.
Now, Rachel and I talk daily about the joys and struggles of being new mothers. Rachel and I get our babies together as often as we can. Porter is the most amazing little man. He has beautiful skin and eyes, just like his momma. She is Auntie Rachel in our house. Although our friendship has mended, that difficult time has not been erased. Whenever I share something with Rachel about McKenna, I worry that I might be reminding her of what she went through. If Rachel did not experience a miscarriage, our babies would be exactly the same age. I can say that Rachel and I are now very honest with each other, and we are able to share these thoughts instead of letting them stew.
I can’t say that any of my other friendships have been through something like this. I am forever thankful that I met Rachel. I am a better teacher, friend, and person than I would be never having met her. She challenges me. She gets me. She is my sister, a supporter, and an incredible friend. Most of all, she is an amazing mother to Porter. I have a lot of regret from how I handled myself during this complicated situation, but I know that Rachel forgives me. That is what sisters do.
Thank you, Diana for sharing your story! Be sure to check out her blog, Losing It!
Also, don’t forget to enter my first giveaway! You have until August 3 to enter and you have three chances to win!
To sound cliche, I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was a Monday–July 16–the day after my birthday. I was exactly 17 weeks pregnant and I was starting to show enough where people thought I was pregnant and not just a little pudgy. It was a beautiful day and I was excited to celebrate my birthday with some colleagues that evening. After teaching my first day of summer school, I checked my phone and had a message from my OB office. I didn’t think much of it and assumed they wanted to reschedule an appointment or something.
I drove home with the windows down and once home, I changed into a maxi dress that would help show off my bump for when I met up with my friends that evening. I casually called the OB office and was immediately put on the phone with a nurse.
“We need you to come into the office immediately. Your first trimester blood work came back and it tested positive for Down Syndrome. Does 4 p.m. work?” I dropped the phone and when I put it back up to my ear, I didn’t know what to say.
“Okay…so what does that mean exactly?”
“Dr. Short will explain everything when you come in. We have an opening at 4.”
“Okay. I’ll be there.”
Then the tears came.
I immediately called David and told him the news and he said he’d come home as soon as he could. About a half hour later he came home, and I contemplated cancelling my dinner plans with my friends. David said that we shouldn’t cancel and that we should just go to the appointment to see what Dr. Short had to say.
We got in the car and drove to the office. I couldn’t stop shaking, and I had no idea what emotions I was suppose to be feeling. It seemed like I was feeling everything from doubt to anger.
As soon as we got into the room, Dr. Short got straight to the point.
“Even though your nuchal fold tests came back looking normal, your blood work came back positive for Down Syndrome.”
I guess I should mention that we willingly got this first trimester testing done. During one of our first appointments, we were asked if we wanted to have the quad screening done which tested for things like Down Syndrome and neural tube defects and other chromosome abnormalities. We were told that most insurance companies covered the test, and we thought “Why not?”. Since my brother is mentally handicapped, we thought that we would like to know ahead of time if we were going to be parents of a mentally disabled baby. We thought we would want the time to prepare–not only for ourselves, but also for our friends and family.
“Okay, so what does that mean?”
“Well, it’s pretty deceiving, because a positive test doesn’t mean your baby 100% has Down Syndrome. It just means your baby is more likely to be a Down Syndrome baby.”
“What does ‘more likely’ mean?”
“Well, according to your blood work, you are 8 times more likely to have a Down Syndrome baby than the average woman your age. Your chances came back as 1/150.”
“Okay. So we have a 1/150 chance of having a Down Syndrome baby?”
“Sort of. If we were to line up 150 women who had your same genetic make up, 1 of them would have a Down Syndrome baby.”
“So that seems like our chances are good that we won’t?”
“Well, maybe, but your risk is still considered to be quite high.”
“How often do these tests come back positive like this?”
“Very rarely. We might get 3 or 4 positive tests in a year.”
“So, what do we do?”
“Well, we have some options. The first thing you need to ask yourself is that if your baby DID have Down Syndrome if you’d want to continue on with the pregnancy.” My stomach immediately dropped and tears welled in my eyes. I looked over at David, even though I already knew his answer.
“Of course. We would never terminate.”
“Okay, then here are your options. One option is genetic counseling. A genetic counselor would go through your family histories extensively and then would determine a more accurate likelihood for you guys. This is pretty expensive, though, and doesn’t tell you anything for sure.”
“Okay, what other options are there?”
“You could get an amniocentesis which would give you exact results. You would know 100% if your baby had Downs or not, but the test is pretty invasive, and there are risks involved like miscarriage or pre-term labor.”
“That doesn’t sound like something we’d want to do.”
“Then your last and least reliable option would be to get a level II ultrasound. These ultrasounds are very extensive and detailed and take up to two hours to complete. We would search for traditional Down Syndrome markers such as heart defects and the amount of spacing between the eyes.”
“And why is this the least reliable option?”
“Well, 80% of Down Syndrome babies look ‘normal’ on these ultrasounds. The ultrasound could be free of any markers and your baby could end up having Downs.”
So we decided to go ahead and schedule the level II ultrasound, because while we thought we would want to know for sure, when it came down to it, the risks weren’t worth it. My level II ultrasound couldn’t be scheduled until the 22nd week of pregnancy, so they killed two birds with one stone so to speak and checked all the other things that they would normally check approximately mid-way through a pregnancy. It was at this ultrasound that we could have found out the sex of the baby. The ultrasound technician asked us two or three times if we wanted to know, and each time we said no. She even offered to put it in an envelope in case we changed our minds later, but we denied that as well. It was so exciting knowing that she knew whether we were having a boy or a girl. Anyway, she didn’t find any Down Syndrome markers during the ultrasound, but we knew that this was only somewhat reassuring.
And so, for 23 weeks of my pregnancy, we worried about whether or not we would have a baby with Down Syndrome. At first, I was terrified. David has a second cousin with Down Syndrome, so we knew it was “in the genes.” Of course we wouldn’t want our baby any less and we would love him/her just as much, but like all parents, we wanted what was best for our child. Since my brother is mentally handicapped, I know that mentally handicapped individuals are able to live long and fulfilling lives, but is his life different? Yes. Does he get excluded from a lot of things that “normal” people get to do? Yes. We just wanted our son or daughter to have the best possible life he/she could.
Like I said, at first I was terrified, and I did a lot of reading about babies and children with Down Syndrome. I also read a lot about what it was like to parent such a child. I found numerous stories of women who had the same exact odds as I did. Some of them ended up having Down Syndrome babies, and some of them didn’t. I also read plenty of stories of women who gave birth to Down Syndrome babies who had better chances and were less likely to have a baby with Down Syndrome than I had. However, with each day, I became less and less afraid of what it would be like if our baby was born with Down Syndrome. Did it still cross my mind? Of course it did, but towards the end of my pregnancy, it was not something I feared or thought much about it (and this says a lot, because I’m a person who tends to over think, over worry, and over analyze everything.) I was at peace with it, and I knew that no matter what we would be happy and our baby would be happy.
On the day of Porter’s birth–when I knew for sure that it was the day I was going to meet my baby–I can honestly say that it was not something I was worried about. All I wanted was for our baby to be healthy and I wanted to meet him/her so badly. It truly didn’t matter. Even when Porter was placed on my belly for the first time, I didn’t search his face for any Down Syndrome markers. (And if I’m honest, the first thing I looked at was his crotch anyway).
If we ever decide to have another baby and if we are able to get pregnant again, I’m not sure whether or not we would get the same first trimester testing completed. As of now, I don’t think we would. For us, it caused a lot unnecessary worry and grief, and if the outcome wouldn’t change my mind about wanting the pregnancy, then I don’t see much of a reason to get the testing.
I was unsure for a long time if I was ever going to share this story. In fact, aside from our families, we didn’t tell very many people about it, even when it happened. However, an old friend of mine just recently told me that my post(s) about my miscarriage have really helped her get through her own miscarriage. In fact, I’ve had many people–some of which I haven’t talked to in years–reach out to me to tell me about their own experiences or to tell me how much they appreciated my honesty in my posts. Some people even called me brave (me!) After this friend recently contacted me, I thought about sharing this story. I realized that it’s impossible to really know what people are going through or have been through, and I thought that maybe my story could help someone. That’s my hope anyway.
Stay tuned for a 5 month update (with pictures, I promise!)
What a difference a year can make. It’s a saying that may be heard quite often, but in this case, it really holds a lot of truth. One year ago, on April 9, 2012, I found out that I was pregnant. (Confession: I still have the positive test in one of my bathroom drawers.) When the little pink line first appeared, I wasn’t even sure it was a positive test. It was barely there. I had to hold it up to the light, just to be sure that there, in fact, was something there. I was only 11 days past ovulation, so I knew it was early (but possible) to get a positive test.
I was excited, but after miscarrying in January, I was a little hesitant to get too excited. Knowing that Porter was already growing inside me at that point makes me feel a little badly about that now, but I’m sure it’s pretty common among women who have miscarried.
I’ve told the story of how I told David I was pregnant the first time, but I don’t think I’ve told the story about the second time. Of course, I didn’t want to make as big of a deal the second time around. Yes, it was a big deal, but it was difficult for me to celebrate after our first loss. I knew that I wanted to tell him in some way without actually saying the words “I’m pregnant,” but I wasn’t sure how. Eventually I settled on buying a book with a silly title. I don’t even remember the title exactly, but it was something along the lines of My Boys Can Swim. So I bought the book and hid it away for when the time came to use it. I thought for sure that if I gave him the book that he’d understand what I was trying to tell him, but it didn’t exactly work out that way.
Let’s rewind a little bit. On the morning of Monday, April 9, I did take a pregnancy test but it was a big fat negative. David had stayed home from work that day because he had gotten severe food poisoning over the weekend and was still recovering. I came home from school and immediately went to the bathroom to take another test–I had been holding my pee for several hours by this point. I had purchased a huge pack of pregnancy test strips off of eBay, so I had plenty of tests to spare. I took the test and waited a few minutes and saw the fainest of pink lines. I didn’t know what to do. I stayed in the bathroom for several minutes. I wasn’t mentally prepared to tell David, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to NOT tell him. I located the book that was hidden away in my nightstand and walked into the living room where David was watching tv. I handed him the book and sat down next to him on the couch. He looked at the book, literally said, “Oh, thanks,” and continued watching tv. My plan failed. I thought to myself Now what? I sat there for a few minutes and went to the bathroom to retrieve the positive pregnancy test. I came back out into the living room and with a smile on my face threw it at David’s chest. He picked it up and said, “Is that a line?” and I said, “Yes!” About 15 seconds later he said, “Oh, is that why you gave me that book?” I laughed and said yes and he replied with, “Oh, I thought you were just giving that to me to read.” So my plan didn’t go exactly as planned (Do plans ever go exactly as planned?) but it ended up being special in its own way.
I’m about to get TMI here.
I started bleeding the very next day, and my doctor sent me to the hospital to get a quantitative pregnancy test. After getting the numbers back, I was told that the pregnancy was likely not viable because the number was too low. My number was an 11, and a 10 is a negative pregnancy test. Since I was already bleeding, the nurse on the phone said that it was likely an early miscarriage. I was told to go back in 48 hours to get re-tested and to see if my number at least doubled. My second test only came back as a 44. I thought this was good news (it quadrupled instead of doubled) but the nurse said that according to the first day of my last period that my number should be much higher than a 44. Again, they warned that the pregnancy may not be viable. I continued to bleed for a few weeks and when the bleeding increased, we were sent to the hospital for an emergency ultrasound when I was about 5 weeks pregnant. A sac was visible but nothing was in the sac. However, this was not abnormal, as a perfectly fine pregnancy would not show anything in the sac at 5 weeks. I continued to bleed for a few more weeks, and we were never sure if I was miscarrying again or if I was bleeding for some other unknown reason. I continued to take a pregnancy test every day until I was 30-some days past ovulation, and I loved watching the line grow darker and darker. However, this was not complete reassurance since hcg (what a pregnancy test tests for) stays in a woman’s system for awhile even while and after miscarrying. It wasn’t until I was about 8 weeks pregnant when the bleeding decreased and eventually stopped. This was also around the time that we heard Porter’s heartbeat for the first time.
Despite the worries early on, we didn’t keep our secret to ourselves for too long. My sister’s birthday was the weekend following the Monday I tested positive and I was planning on going down there to help her celebrate. I knew that she would be suspicious if I wasn’t drinking, so we decided to tell our immediate families later that same week. The memories of telling our families are some that will stay with me for a long, long time, and it was a great feeling to be able to give Karin such a wonderful birthday “gift.”
So…long story (not so) short, a year ago today was the first day of this journey called motherhood, even if I wasn’t sure it would end up that way. As I reflect on the past year, it seems to have gone by so quickly but so slowly at the same time. I am so amazed by what has happened in the past year. I am amazed by what my body achieved and was capable of; I am amazed by David and his natural
abilities to be a good father; and every day I am amazed by Porter.
We are blessed.
Disclaimer: This picture was NOT taken one year ago today, but it was taken a few weeks later. I am holding the first positive test in the picture, though.