That’s the God’s honest truth. It feels weird to say since we are somehow in the position we dreamed to be in, but wondered whether it would ever happen. Or how. But now that the news is out there, when people run up to me and ask “are you so excited?” I pause and think “Kind of? Not really. Is that weird?” It’s not that I am not excited, but it’s not on the top of my list of emotions. It’s like 4th down the list behind shock, disbelief, and terror. This is not the oh crap I’m scared to be a parent fear (that is legit too). This is like I am just waiting for this to crash and burn because I don’t know any other result, fear.
Now, let me go backwards and maybe I can explain. Kenny and I were taking a break. Part of the reason I hadn’t written in a while was because I didn’t have too much to update at the beginning. We decided that mentally, and physically, we needed a break completely. We couldn’t handle anymore heartbreak, and my body needed some time to recover. We had a trip planned to Paris in April, so in December we decided that we would actively try not to get pregnant until we got back from our trip. That way we could eat, drink and be merry, and then come back refreshed and be ready to make decisions about trying on our own, IVF, donor “product”, etc.
Because, the interesting thing about our fertility journey was that getting pregnant was not necessarily the issue. We had managed to have that happen 5 times. So, we actually needed to try not to get pregnant in order to “guarantee” a break that we felt like we really needed. Other people’s “break” might be more of the rolling the dice, just not mapping things out, ovulation kits, timing, etc. Well, we tried that break one time (last September) and we know where we ended up that time…
So, as much as it pained me to be “wasting precious time” I also knew in my heart we needed some time to not worry about whether or not I was getting pregnant, and whether or not something sad would happen after. So, that was our plan.
On Monday, January 15th I should have gotten my period. I didn’t, thought it was kind of weird but also knew there was no way anything could be going on. Figured it was just a slight delay. Next day, also nothing. I texted one friend being like this is weird, but whatever. And mentioned to Kenny that maybe after another couple of days I should take a test to just check. But both of us were very confident it was nothing.
Then, tragedy struck. On Wednesday, January 17th I was working from home because of snow-and my commute is kind of a hike. I had texted my mom and my dad separately asking for my cousin’s last name for a reference letter I was writing-sounds weird I know, but he has a different name than the rest of the fam. Didn’t hear back from either of them, not that weird since they’re old and don’t have their phones attached to them.
But, then I got a text from my mom asking how to check the voicemails at the apartment. I thought it was a weird question because I had just taught my dad how to do it in their new place. So I told her how to check it from the home phone, knowing she works from home often. Then, she asked how to check it from work. I explained it. But, paused for a second because, I thought, Dad is retired, so he is home all the time, if she is at work why would she be calling home to check the voicemails? Back to that in a moment.
I thought it was kind of odd, but neither are technically savvy so who knows. About an hour or so later I got the worst phone call I’ve ever received. It was my mom, crying, telling me she thinks my dad was dead. She said she called 911 and all I said was “I’m on my way.” Dropped everything, through a coat on and ran out into the snow.
The next few minutes are a complete blur. There was substantial snow I had to clean off my car and thank god for an SUV I just plowed over what was on the driveway. I dropped my phone in the snow while trying to call my friend. For better or worse she had been through something similar, and she was the only person I could think of to call in this moment. I finally got a hold of her (although felt guilty for calling anyone) and luckily she talked to me for what felt like forever even though it was only 2 miles.
The whole time I thought maybe I heard it wrong, maybe I was overreacting, or maybe my mom didn’t see what she thought she saw. But when I pulled into the apartment complex and saw 6-8 fire trucks, ambulances and police cars I knew it was bad. I hung up and went up the elevator with a first responder who was in no rush at all which made it all that much more real. When I ran down the hallway mum was waiting outside the door.
She said she went to the office to work that day. When she left my dad was sleeping. But something inside must have had her guard up because she left one of the cordless phones on the bathroom counter, which she never did, and she left the apartment door unlocked which she also never did. *Just in case*
When she called the apartment and he didn’t answer she left a voicemail. She called again, no answer. If you know my dad, this is odd. 1. because he is home alone and bored and 2. because dude loved to chat. The reason she asked me how to check the voicemail is because she thought maybe the visiting nurse had called and maybe she was there keeping him from answering the phone, but nothing. Mum was supposed to go to lunch with a friend, but decided it was weird she hadn’t heard from him so she decided to go home instead. She went upstairs to find him on the bathroom floor, called 911, started chest compressions and called me afterwards. Unfortunately, she already was pretty confident that no intervention would work.
That was the worst day. Except for maybe most of the days following that. The medical professionals stayed for a while, they tried everything they could. But also felt that he had a massive heart event and that the result was instant. His cause of death was cardiac asystole coupled with long term coronary artery disease, diabetes and advanced kidney disease.
The thing that was crazy was that my dad was not a healthy man. And his health had gotten worse over the last few years. He lost several toes, he had several hospitalizations due to heart disease and retention of fluid, and eventually had a below knee leg amputation after battling chronic life-threatening infections. But despite all of this, he was always somehow “fine”. So, even though we knew he wasn’t well in general, he was just kind of normal Big Cat. I was just there Saturday while my aunt and uncle came by, and my brother and niece, to help hang pictures in their new place. It just seemed impossible. My dad was gone. How?
The next several hours and days were pretty much a whirlwind. When the responders determined that they did everything they could do, they called the medical examiner, and then next thing I know I was on the phone with a funeral home. (Blessing in disguise, the funeral home staff were unbelievable and made an incredibly horrible situation somehow bearable.) I made tons of phone calls that day delivering this terrible news, telling people was maybe worse than hearing it myself. My dad was the best. Wicked funny, super generous, charming AF. People loved him. This was the worst.
That night my tiny house was filled with people. It was sort of fun? If that is even a thing. I drank an entire bottle of red wine (don’t worry it was organic. lol). Mum was staying with us, our place became kind of the meeting place for everyone. The next day was already planning mode, going to the church, planning services, asking people to speak, planning the reception. Can’t have an Irish funeral without a party, duh.
After all of the errands, mum wanted to be dropped at home. To have a moment to herself and do some packing. Kenny went to get a haircut. I headed to Walgreens to buy some poster board and glue to make some collages for the wake, while I was there, I told Kenny I was going to just pick up a test. Just to confirm what we already knew which was I wasn’t pregnant because it wasn’t possible. But, since I drank an entire bottle of wine and felt I would likely be drinking a lot of my feelings for the foreseeable future, I figured I should just know for sure.
I came home, to an empty house for the first (and last) time in a few weeks. Casually peed, and went about my business. When I walked back into the bathroom and saw PREGNANT on the stick. I legitimately screamed. Not in excitement, joy or anything, but with utter shock and fear. What I thought was “I really don’t need this right now. None of us can handle any more sadness right now.” I Facetimed my friend, and just held the phone over the counter. I just had to show someone, she was the one I texted earlier in the week saying it was weird I was late. Turns out she was a good ally for me over the weekend in multiple ways, but including giving me fake drinks. Then I Facetimed Kenny and just yelled:
I legitimately didn’t understand how this was possible. Granted, I was a math major. I get that statistically some prevention methods are more effective than others. But, now we know for a fact, there is a reason they tell you in health classes that some things don’t always work. Let’s just say, we may have some type of Olympic ski jumper on our hands.
Anyway, my head was a cluster-eff to say the least. But now there was this other big thing going on while I was prepping for my father’s sudden wake and funeral. The timing could not have been more insane. Dealing with the wake and funeral and all of those emotions whilst having this on the mind was something else. I decided not to call the doctor or tell anyone else. In my history, within 5 or 6 days of a test things were already going south. So, I figured if, given everything that was going on in my world, I could avoid going to the doctor every two days to find out more sad things, then maybe I could avoid it.
I somehow managed to get through that weekend with the support of amazing family and friends and lots of story telling and memory sharing. And a healthy dose of me keeping busy being in charge of coordinating things, which is my comfort zone. But the following Tuesday, 7 days after I was supposed to get my period, and 5 days after my test, I had a little spotting. So, obviously, DOOM. I figured I needed to call my doctor and check it out.
They had me come in Wednesday morning for blood work which was also my first day back to work. Super casual day at the office post dad dying and awaiting this fate at the same time. They called, and to my surprise said my HCG was something like 2300. Now, to put in perspective, the highest I think my numbers had ever gotten before was like 700 and that was after days and days of testing. So, I was like wait what. The nurse said this is a good start let’s see what happens Friday. All the while I am still spotting on and off and I know this is my downfall. Friday I go to a conference planning meeting in Boston. Was kind of nice to be “working” but be outside of the office after that week. I am heading straight from there to a cooking class I got for Kenny for Christmas and on my way out the nurse calls. Remember, the key is your HCG should be doubling every 48 hours. So, even though my first count was good, it would only matter if it kept being good. So, as always, I had the number it needed to reach in my head all day. When the nurse says 5400. I almost choked. I had NEVER gone above the 48 hour rule minimum. I had barely hit it, come close or halted completely. I had no idea how to react to this. She reassured me spotting was still ok (LIES. I still don’t believe that even now, but.) my numbers were so high I didn’t even need to come back! WHAT? Who even am I? They scheduled me for an ultrasound for Tuesday, which would be about 6 weeks.
You know you have had trauma when you tell your husband not to even bother coming with you. I figured it by some miracle it was good, then he’d have to miss work more later. And if it was bad, as we had been trained to expect, then I had experience dealing with it already. Talk about hardened.
So here comes my favorite light saber and she tells me that she sees the yolk sac, that I am measuring at 6 weeks 0 days (my count would have been 6 and 1) but the difference was minimal. She also saw a small implantation bleed which was not concerning…TO WHOM?!?! The doctor spoke to me afterwards, fertility specialist, so she is very cautious. “Nothing we see here points to anything other than positive, but it is still very early and considering your history I’d like to keep you with us and check in 2 weeks. And let’s put you on some vaginal progesterone support”
I said please keep me as long as possible. Then I proceeded to fight with insurance and the TERRIBLE specialty pharmacy that shall remain nameless for hours who tried to not give me this medicine and almost made me commit crime. See, at this point I am nauseous, hormonal, stressed, and grieving. Do. Not. Mess. With. Me. Finally after my savior at the insurance company, Matthew, got it taken care of for me, I drove an hour into God’s country to pick up my medicine. Because, you see, even though I wasn’t taking it before, now that I was supposed to take it, I needed it IMMEDIATELY.
When I picked it up, I had the pleasure of inserting it in a disgusting gas station bathroom, because I didn’t want to delay it another hour. So, then, I wait another 2 weeks. This time Kenny comes with me. Now we are at February 13th. I go in, my regular ultrasound tech isn’t there. The new girl says, “I know your difficult history so I am going to tell you what I see as soon as I see it.” I appreciated it, because I just needed to know either way. Sometimes the hardest part in my previous experience was just knowing something was bad but not actually knowing for so long.
So, me and the light saber become friends again and as soon as she is there she says “OK there it is. And we have a heartbeat.” I was like WWWWAAAAIIIIT. Then she shows us on the screen the heartbeat. Here’s the thing. No one ever told me this was even a possibility this early. I pictured hearing it later on in the process. I had no clue. So, shocked it was possible and shocked it was happening. Then she tells us the heart rate and says everything looks great. I couldn’t believe it. Then she says “I have to be honest. I was nervous to do this one because I was really hoping I would have something good to tell you.” You and me both sister.
I didn’t get emotional until I walked into the hallway and my nurse was crying. She had been there with us this whole time. And then our medical assistant hears the commotion and walks down the hallway to hug us. That was actually the moment I was like oh shit this might actually be real. These people escorted out of the office multiple times sobbing before. These are medical professionals, so if they are excited I must be able to be excited. Right?
The nurse practitioner called me afterwards. She gave me all my instructions, what was allowed and not, what to expect, it was all very matter of fact like this is real. I was still uneasy. It was still early, I was still spotting. Had even passed a clot which was terrifying. They doubled my dose of progesterone so I got to insert this medication up the hoo ha twice a day and had to lay down for 30 minutes so it would stay in. So hot. Always wanted to know what progesterone suppositories twice a day for 8 weeks looks like? Well, you’re in luck:
And, yes I kept them all and I have no idea why. So, then they just give you the boot back to a regular OB which made me nervous. Because, well everything does, and because fertility people only deal with stressed, sad people so they GET ME. But, I called and made an appointment for the following week.
In the meantime, I told my mom. I made her a little valentine with the ultrasound pic in it. I wanted to wait because I knew no one needed anymore bad news, but I also wanted to loop her in if it was good news then at least something positive to think about. So, that was scary but exciting at the same time. We told people very slowly. Part of me felt like it felt more real when we told Kenny’s parents or siblings, etc., but there was always this fear lingering. Turns out, that hasn’t gone away slash might not ever.
When I went to the OB, they were so nonchalant I didn’t know how to handle it. I guess that should be a good thing, but I keep wanting to ask them “you know this is impossible right? you should be more careful with me”. The only thing I got from the midwife during my exam was. “WOW those must be really tender and sore, huh? Great nipples though.” Alright, lady. Thanks???
Appointment went well, got another little picture. Another check point, but then had to wait until 13 weeks for my appointment with the doctor. FOUR WEEKS. Damn that’s a long time.
But, the following Monday I came home from work. My mom had actually fallen and unbeknownst to any of us fractured her elbow. When I went over there I had blood. Not spotting but blood. I was like well shit here we go. Every time I had a glimmer of hope seep in, there came blood to check me back to reality. I called the doctor knowing they were going to tell me to wait and watch it. But, the next day I woke up with a horrendous stomach flu. Grossness coming from everywhere, fever, the whole 9. The doctor, understandably, didn’t want me to come in like that but waiting during that was even worse. Finally the next day I stopped puking violently and they let me come in. Everything again looked fine, albeit hard to believe.
The next week I flew to DC for a conference, was staying with a good friend thank God. After a snow storm was predicted I changed my flights to leave earlier just to be safe. Normally I’d be like whatever, but in my current state I really wanted to be home, was worried about having enough medication, and didn’t want to get stuck. Then, on top of it, had blood again that Monday night in a restaurant so I was a wreck.
Called the doctor when I got home and they took me in again to check. This time they did an exam to look for reasons for bleeding and there were none. “Sometimes women just have unexplained bleeding’. But again everything looked fine.
At the end of that week I was done wth my progesterone. On the one hand I was grateful because that was no fun and I was looking forward to not ruining more underwear with black discharge (TMI, but facts). On the other hand, I felt like that was my lifeline and it was scary to let go of it. But, since then *knock on wood* there hasn’t been any spotting.
But sure as shit, I did call and ask if it was reeeeeeeally ok for me to stop. Up next was the appointment with the actual doctor. And waiting impatiently for our Cell Free DNA testing which checks for several chromosomal abnormalities, including Down Syndrome. The nurse tells me she is surprised I haven’t gotten the results yet, says she’ll go check the computer and be right back. But never.comes.back.
When the doctor comes in I’m already on edge, she asks if something is wrong and I was like “no this is just what I always look like when I am here.” She laughed and then said well I guess I should tell you your results with a smile on her face. So, she is either in the know and our results are good orrrrrr she hasn’t seen them and is terrible about facial expression management. Luckily, everything came back good to go. She gave me a rundown on my upcoming appointments and then went to check for the heartbeat. Previously we could see it, but couldn’t hear it yet because it was too early. So, she told me not to be alarmed if it took a while but then there is was. It was so cool. It was a good rate and she found it right away. PHEW. Good results plus heartbeat=I should be totally stoked now right?
Nope. Not even close. We did reach out to a couple of friends to take some potential announcement photos for us, and that was fun. But I still felt like I was playing dress up. I was playing the character of someone who was 13 weeks pregnant but I was not myself 13 weeks pregnant. I was having my very own imposter syndrome moment. Like I didn’t belong in this situation even though I was somehow there.
I decided a funny way to tell my coworkers at a potluck because even though I would love to be showing more because it would continue to solidify the realness, it was getting difficult to hide it all day, every day. And then at that point, I told Kenny we needed to just “bite the bullet” and share it widely. I had been dragging my feet even though we passed the danger zone threshold. I realized I would never feel fully comfortable or excited. See, I walk into every appointment expecting bad news and still jump when my phone rings expecting it to be them telling me there is something amiss. I don’t know any different and I don’t know how else to feel. I would love to be naive and walk in expecting for everything to be great. I just don’t think I am capable of that. So I keep being pleasantly surprised and that is good for now. Our next appointment isn’t until early May, so I have 7 weeks between finding out any information which is a FREAKING LIFETIME. I knew everyone and their mama would know well before that so I might as well have my moment in the sun of finally releasing my long-ago-created idea for a baby announcement that I never thought I would actually be able to do.
Because that is fire and you know it.
I am not a particularly religious person (understatement). But given this timing and all we’ve been through, it is pretty difficult to think this isn’t some type of heaven sent, divine intervention, guardian angel, miraculous, universe working in mysterious ways, whatever type of situation. And I say to whoever or whatever…thank you.
Everyday I convince myself to enjoy it. To hope for the best. To feel as though this is different. Kenny has nicknamed the baby Anakin because…The Force is Strong. I don’t do Star Wars, but I’m into the analogy so I am rolling with it.
Sorry for the incredibly long and emotional post, but I imagine the emotional rollercoaster of reading this is a tiny sliver of what it has been like living it.
Nonetheless as much as I am terrified I also feel incredibly blessed and grateful and meditating on the mantra The Force is Strong has somehow been working for me.