Becoming A Mom- Part 1: The Pregnancy Process

Pregnancy

I had always wondered how I would react to the news that I was expecting a baby.  Would I cry?  Scream and jump up and down?  Plan some elaborate surprise for my husband, Nick (which he was hoping for!)?  To be honest, when it happened, my reaction was much more subdued than what I had expected.  We were definitely hoping for a baby and I would not call it a surprise by any stretch of the word, but when that second line popped up confirming my suspicions, I still don’t think I understood the reality.  It’s really hard to imagine a little life inside of you when you have no visual proving that it’s there.

The day before the test came back positive, I came home from work and went to unlock the front door to our apartment.  When I did, I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen that I’d never felt before.  And I wondered…

Then, that evening, we went out for Mexican with Nick’s family.  Everyone was ordering margaritas, but since tequila and I have decided it’s best that we don’t see each other anymore, I ordered a mojito.  First, the waiter forgot my drink entirely.  Then, when I asked again, they brought me a what looked like a strawberry mojito… but it was definitely not!  The smell and taste of tequila was far more overwhelming potent than normal and there was no way I could have ever gone beyond that first sip.  I turned to Nick and whispered- “First they forget my drink, then they bring me the wrong thing… maybe this is God telling me not to drink because I’m pregnant!”  I was half kidding, but still I wondered… And I took a photo of it just in case my instincts were right and I could remember that night.

The next morning I woke up early.  It was Saturday, and normally my dog Violet would let me have an extra hour or so in the sheets before frantically asking to go for a walk.  But my curiosity and instinct were eagerly awaiting that test.  I quietly got out of bed so not to wake Nick and walked the ten or so feet to the bathroom.  I opened the test, followed the directions, and then, faint as can be, I saw the second line.  I was wide-eyed and just stared at it. I was thinking to myself, “Was it really there?  Maybe it’s just an evap line?  No- it’s definitely positive.  It’s light, but positive.  Wait… IT’S POSITIVE!  Oh my gosh.  I’m actually pregnant?! Shoot, what do I do now?”  I tiptoed back to bed, my mind running in fifty different directions.  I looked over at Violet who was still curled up at the foot of the bed.  I whispered to Nick, “you’re going to have to walk the dog a lot more soon.”

It wasn’t the grand surprise I knew he wanted, but how was I supposed to keep that news to myself!?  I mean, really.  And looking back, I’m sure I could have broken the news in a more exciting way even in the moment, but I think my shock overrode my excitement.  I couldn’t believe it was actually happening.

He just looked back at me, his mind still foggy from sleeping, “what are you talking about?”

“I’m pregnant.”

He looked back, maybe still not fully grasping what I was saying.  “Are you serious?”

I showed him the test.  It was SO, SO pale, but I had done enough research (hours upon hours of research) to know that a faint positive was still a positive and this was definitely not an evap line.

He squinted at it.  “Are you sure?”

“I’m definitely pregnant.”

“And this is how you decided to tell me?”  Shoot.  I should have waited.  I can normally be pretty creative with this sort of thing!  But again, how the heck can anyone expect you to just walk around with a teeny tiny baby and keep that news all to yourself?!

Everything that followed was sort of a blur.  I remember finding ourselves at Barnes and Noble pouring over the baby section and coming home with an armful of books on baby names and dad advice.

I took a few more tests in the days that followed to show him as the lines got darker (and for reassurance to myself until my doctor’s appointment).  Below is the progression (top being the very first one).  The first one I used was from the dollar store… I’ve heard they’re more sensitive than the others so they’ll detect the pregnancy hormone earlier.  Guess it worked!

Side note: I got lucky in that the first day I could take a test with a reasonable expectation of accuracy fell on a weekend.  If it is possible for you to wait for a day when you’re not working, I highly recommend it!  There was a lot to process and it would have been really hard to focus at work.  Nick and I were able to absorb the news that we were going to be parents before being bombarded with the rest of our normal obligations.

We decided to document my belly when I was officially 4 weeks along.  I wish I had made a little effort to put some makeup on and do something with my hair, but alas.  Also, looking back at this photo, Nick and I cannot believe how skinny I was!  When I’m able to start working out again (again… ha… like I was working out before!) I’m going to work on building some muscle…

I had a “confirmation of pregnancy” appointment soon after we got that positive test.  My doctor had me do the typical initial blood work and said that my progesterone was on the low side.  Progesterone basically helps the baby “stick” and it is prescribed most often for IVF patients but also those who have a history of unexplained miscarriage.  Since I’d never been pregnant and we weren’t doing IVF, I didn’t fall into either category, but she prescribed me a low dose of progesterone in an abundance of caution since I had a family history of recurring miscarriage.  And I hated it.  I got so emotional and upset when taking the supplement that I would burst into tears at random, inappropriate times.  It was so atypical of my normal behavior that I knew I did not want to stay on the progesterone if I didn’t have to.  I talked to my doctor about it and she did not seem to think the progesterone was responsible for the mood swings, but said since my levels were now just below the “acceptable standard deviation” that if I wanted to stop taking them, she was fine with it.  So I did, and I immediately felt back to my normal self.  I think it is really important to follow your instincts (after discussing them with your doctor, of course!) when you’re expecting.  Your mental health is so important both for you and your baby!

Once we got that first ultrasound, I was still kind of having a hard time believing there was actually a little life inside me.  We got to hear the heartbeat and in that moment I felt more relief than excitement just knowing that up to this point everything was okay.  I spent an unhealthy amount of time reading about miscarriage rates online and overanalyzing all of my symptoms that I drove Nick crazy and he basically banned me from reading about all the negative possibilities.  In retrospect, he was totally right, but it is SO hard to know you’re responsible for keeping this itty bitty delicate human alive, even if there are things outside of your control and things that you cannot change no matter how perfectly you adhere to all pregnancy recommendations.  My mom also helped to snap me out of the anxiety funk.  I remember her suffering multiple miscarriages when I was younger and the emotional toll it took, but she told me how joyful she was when she was pregnant that there was no room for worry.  She always ran out to buy baby clothes (as she did for this little one, long before I could even think about that!) I think it’s only natural to start worrying about your kids from the very first day you’re aware of their existence, but with each day that passed, a little bit of the weight was lifted and I was gradually able to take Nick’s and my mom’s advice and stop looking at all of the scary statistics and start focusing on enjoying the time with our new little one.

Below you can see that first ultrasound!  I remember being worried (again with the worry!) because it looked like there was a giant hole in the baby’s head, but the tech said that was just where its brain was growing 🙂  The shape of the sac also had me googling for hours since it wasn’t nice and round, but the doctor said she wasn’t too concerned because there was plenty of fluid.  Everything turned out fine there!  The heartbeat on the bottom part of the ultrasound was turned into a painting that we have hanging in the nursery (pictures to follow in a later post!)

The traditional advice is to wait until you’re out of the first trimester to announce your pregnancy because you’re allegedly in the “safe zone” (i.e. past the likely miscarriage range).  I think the reasoning for that advice is pretty stupid to be honest.  If you do suffer the loss of a child during pregnancy, I hate that so many couples bear that loss alone.  I think the culture of that is changing and more people are talking about pregnancy loss, so I say if you want to announce earlier, go for it! Nevertheless, aside from a few close friends and family, we did wait to announce.  Not for the reason above, but because I really enjoyed that time to ourselves with our news.  Once you announce your pregnancy you are bombarded with so many questions “When’s your due date?”  “Are you going to find out the sex?”  “Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?”  “How far along are you?”  “Do you have any names picked out?”  (I’m totally guilty of asking these questions myself, but not having to answer them for 3 months was worth the wait alone!)  We went to the beach for 4th of July and decided to do our announcement there.

Around 14 weeks I could start to see the evolution of the baby bump and that’s when the reality really started to set in.  I wasn’t seeing something on a computer screen or listening to an audio of a heartbeat that I otherwise couldn’t hear with the naked ear.  I could see a change… even if it was mostly bloat 🙂

AND THEN… I had to switch doctors.  My OB’s practice closed and she moved to another state.  Having to make that big of an adjustment  after already having developed a relationship with my doctor was the last thing I wanted to do.  Luckily Nick has worked extensively with a good number of the OBGYNs in the area so he had some great recommendations.  The one Nick preferred actually shared an office building with my previous doctor and he had offered to take on her patients when she left.  Nick recommended him based on his experience in surgery because “just in case you have to have surgery, he’s the one I’d want to do it.”  Since the two doctors shared the same office they also shared an ultrasound tech.  So call it foreshadowing or whatever you want, but his name was actually on my first ultrasound above even though he wasn’t technically my doctor yet.  Funny how that ended up working out.  He turned out to be an amazing doctor and I’m really grateful that the transition was so smooth.

I was miserably sick up until about 20 weeks. Before I had made my announcement I was in a huge trial (I’m an attorney) and periodically feared I was going to vomit all over the courtroom in front of the jury (that fear would later translate into my water breaking in front of a jury later on in the pregnancy).  The Diclegis my doctor prescribed me worked for the most part to help with the nausea and vomiting but there was one occasion I had to go to the ER for fluids because I could not keep anything down.  It was my first experience with the hospital I would be delivering at and I was super impressed.  The ER was empty, I got in right away, and I felt better almost immediately after the iv of fluids and Phenergan.

Fortunately I started feeling a little better right before we left for Italy and I didn’t have to take the meds while I was there.  And Nick got to feel the baby kick for the first time when we were in Florence!  We had our 20 week anatomy scan two days before we left.  Up until that point we were completely torn on whether or not we wanted to find out the sex.  To be honest, by the time we were in there, I was more concerned about all  of the other things they would be looking for, but the tech had a perfect view and it was obvious even to us. We were having a boy!  The craziest image we got out of that ultrasound was his face!  See below-

Most people say the 2nd trimester is the best because you stop being sick and still have a good bit of energy.  That was only true for me for a couple of weeks (mostly during our Italian Babymoon).  I was lucky the reprieve came when it did because I was able to climb to the top of Il Duomo in Florence… 463 steps! And not just any steps.  Look how steep these were!  I was exhausted afterward, but I made it!

We did our gender reveal in front of the Statue of David.  (Had baby been a girl the alternative was going to be in front of the Birth of Venus painting in the Uffizi Gallery).

We also went to the Galileo Museum where I got a view of what was going on inside me!  (This museum was really bizarre… it has one of Galileo’s fingers on display!)

After we were back stateside I started to get sharp pains where my ribs connect to my sternum and it was one of the absolute worst parts of pregnancy.  I would regularly wake up in the middle of the night screaming and Nick would wake up in a tizzy wondering what the heck was the matter.  The doctor said it was just the baby growing and my body making room- since I was pretty tiny pre-pregnancy, there wasn’t a whole lot of space for him, so I was bound to feel a lot of growing pains there.  Normally that pain wouldn’t show up until later, he had told me, but I suppose it was just a sign of things to come.  This particular pain subsided mid-third trimester but was replaced with all sorts of other fun pregnancy side-effects.

The heartburn started toward the end of the second trimester.  And it got worse. And worse.  And became totally unbearable in the latter part of the 3rd trimester.  I would max out my allotted Tums intake every single day and supplemented with a Pepcid Complete.  The reflux was so bad I would choke on it in my sleep and have coughing fits for 30 minutes until I felt like I could breathe again.  I ended up sleeping sitting up or just not sleeping at all on more than one occasion.  The heartburn lasted all the way through labor but miraculously vanished after baby was born. There’s an old wives tale that says heartburn means your baby will have a lot of hair…

Of course, it’s not all bad.  Being pregnant for the first time also means an opportunity to party!  My mother-in-law threw my baby shower (she and my sister-in-law always throw the best parties) and our little boy was incredibly spoiled (even if he didn’t get to join in on the fun).

My colleagues at work (led by my awesome secretary!) also threw me a ‘surprise’ baby shower. I say ‘surprise’, because I sort of ruined it.  I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for when the shower was supposed to be.  My secretary got word that I was going to be leaving for the appointment so she had to spill the beans about the shower!  I felt so bad, but they moved it up a little bit for me 🙂

One of the other perks of pregnancy is an excuse to take photos.  I managed to talk Nick into maternity pictures at 34 weeks.  He of course, like any other guy, was not excited about them, but when you start to get big and don’t feel like wearing makeup every day, the primping definitely helped to make me feel a bit better about myself. And I was not disappointed!  I absolutely love the fact that we have these to remember this pregnancy and how happy and excited we were at this point, filled with anticipation for what was to come.

 
Photos by Elizabeth Burris

We had another ultrasound at 34 weeks. I was measuring a couple of weeks ahead and my doctor wanted to know why (probably because he was already measuring 6.5 pounds according to that ultrasound!)  I was shocked when the tech turned on the 3D and I saw my boy’s face for the first time.  (I mean, when it didn’t look like a creepy skeleton like at the 20 week ultrasound :-p)  How crazy is it that they can get this image through your abdomen?  While I was watching this, he yawned and I swear it was the cutest thing I have ever seen… and all of a sudden, all of this became very real to me.  Soon I’d be pinching those cheeks and looking into those eyes!  The tech made a comment that he was extremely hairy and his head had more hair than her two year old.  HA!  Guess the old wives tale about heartburn is proving itself true.

But with every positive, of course there were more negatives.  The swelling was the other frustrating thing that got out of control.  It just showed up one day and then, all of a sudden, my shoes did not fit (I legit wore Uggs to work on a regular basis). Here’s a picture of them swollen versus when they went back down at the very end of pregnancy!

Shoes weren’t the only problem, though.  My wedding and engagement rings were stuck.  I knew the hospital made you take them off in case you had to have emergency surgery, so Nick and I desperately tried every trick in the book to get them off my finger.  Unfortunately, in addition to being swollen, my knuckles are larger than the rest of my finger, so my engagement ring had sizing beads in it.  That made the string method of removal impossible.  Windex (the preferred method by our jeweler) was also a failure.  So, after exhausting every other trick found in a Google search, Nick suggested getting some Astroglide…  He set off to the store with a list of other necessary pregnancy items (ice cream, Preparation H, prune juice…)- thank goodness for self checkout!  I can only imagine the side eye you’d get from the cashier as they ring up Astroglide and Preparation H!  Unfortunately, the Astroglide didn’t help get the rings off and I resorted to going back to the jeweler to have them cut them off 🙁  I did not want to risk having to have emergency surgery and the hospital chopping them off hastily.  Thanks for making me swell up like a balloon, little one!  Tip from my experience- remove your rings no later than 5 months!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Christmas/my Birthday (January 6)/ a “Push Present,” Nick gave me an incredibly beautiful aquamarine ring.  I’ve still yet to get it properly sized since my above experience.  I’m going to wait until about 6 weeks to make sure all the swelling has subsided.  Oh an the ring box was actually a duplicate of the one used when he proposed.  It’s from the Mrs. Box and he accidently ordered two, so now this beauty of a ring has a matching home.  If you haven’t heard of the Mrs. Box, they make beautiful vintage-looking velvet ring boxes in almost every color imaginable, and you can have a letter of your choosing in a few different metallic foils in script or print on the top of the box.  Talk about a great heirloom piece to pass on to our baby boy when it comes time for him to propose!

Overall, I think everything about my pregnancy was pretty textbook.  There were definitely extended periods of time where I was absolutely miserable, but I was so lucky to not have any issues with Pre-Eclampsia, bleeding scares, Placenta Praevia, or anything of that nature.  I’ve read so many stories of other moms out there on bed rest, extended hospital stays, or having legitimate reasons to worry about the well-being of their baby and I’m reminded of how fortunate we were and how strong those moms are!  I was also blessed that my husband was there every step of the way.  No task was too much whether it was getting a late night snack, cooking, holding my hair back while I threw up, or doing the laundry.  I didn’t even have to ask- he just took it upon himself to foresee anything I could possibly need.  Once when he was grocery shopping, I sent him a list of items as a joke (probably close to 50 different junk foods) and he actually came back with every. single. one.  I’m talking multiple flavors of ice cream, all different kinds of candy, pickles and tostitos and potato chips, etc.  I’m telling you, this man is a keeper!

Here’s a rough progression of my bump.  I never took pictures in the same outfit, which would have made the comparison easier, but I did my best to document it as it grew.

So there you have it!  That “due date” picture was taken about an hour before we left to go to the hospital.  Stay tuned for the birth story of Harrison James!

3 thoughts on “Becoming A Mom- Part 1: The Pregnancy Process”

  1. So beautifully written and you can feel the emotions from the mother that has written this. I can see this giving more insight to new mothers and it’s wonderful. Can’t wait to read part two!

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