Thursday, January 14, 2010

4 Things Early Pregnancy Taught Me about Early Pregnancy

It feels much, much longer than the 3 1/2 weeks that have passed since I posted last. During that time, I went from west coast to east, and back, for the holidays, let the cat out of the bag to 15 people about the pregnancy, experienced a stint of morning sickness more hellish than anything I could have imagined, and (the one thing that made all the crappy stuff worth it) saw my baby's heartbeat. Throughout all this, I have gathered some wisdom I hope other women benefit from hearing. So here they are, my list of 4 things early pregnancy taught me about early pregnancy:
  1. Even if you're nervous about telling people too early, run (don't walk!) to tell one or two girlfriends who are moms. Early pregnancy can be lonely--in my case, I have been too sick or lethargic for my standard social calendar. Beyond opting out of the normal routine, the pregnancy routine itself has been a major adjustment. Suffering in silence is not a good strategy--what you lose in support is not worth what you gain by discretion. Doctors and books are good for answers and husbands/partners are good for hugs, but, during what is arguably the hardest phase of pregnancy, you need someone who has been through it before.
  2. Your partner has absolutely no idea what you're going through, and it's up to you to make sure he/she gets it. My husband was thoroughly surprised to witness that pregnancy symptoms weren't limited to the morning sickness and mood swings he'd seen in the movies. Though prepared (if not eager) to make midnight taco runs and sprinkle pickles on my ice cream, he's been caught unawares by a laundry list of complaints. The most confusing symptom, for him, has been my schizophrenic appetite. One moment I'm wailing with severe nausea, the next I'm demanding that he feed me food he knows I usually hate. If it seems like partners are frustrated, it might be because they don't get it, and since your pregnancy is unique it's your job to make sure they do.
  3. Once you start announcing your pregnancy, you will become the inevitable recipient of unwanted attention and unsolicited advice. And, yes, I mean you--not your partner. I liken it to getting engaged: when we announced that, everyone wanted to ogle my ring and grill me for hours about details of our wedding while my husband got away with brief congratulations and a pat or two on the back. With the pregnancy announcement, other women will immediately want to tell you about their pregnancies (warning: they may launch into horror stories). You will be hard-pressed to figure out how some of the things people tell you could possibly be considered helpful, and if your early pregnancy hormones are anything like mine, you may not be inclined to take it with grace. Advice: enlist your partner to listen for excessive pregnancy talk and to rescue you when this gets out of hand.
  4. Be prepared to slow people down. As soon as we announced, the people we told started doing/saying crazy things. Buying clothes, speculating on our housing needs and post-baby mother is currently scouring Amish country for a certain handmade bunting. "Is it a boy or a girl?" people want to know. "Have you considered the name Clyde?" Um, no. BECAUSE MY BABY IS THE SIZE OF A KIDNEY BEAN!! You would be surprised by how many people will ignore the simple fact that your pregnancy has just begun and that there are, literally months to make crucial decisions. In our case, we are planning to write an e-mail asking people to slow down, letting them know we will keep them in the loop, and describing ways they can truly be helpful.
So, those are my insights--what is your best advice for getting through early pregnancy?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Annnnnnd, we have a gestational sack!

Though I am a mere 5 weeks/2 days along, this morning I found myself at my first ultrasound. My OB prescribed it when she learned I was having pains in my upper left arm. Shoulder pain, it turns out, is a symptom of ectopic pregnancy, and even though it was a long shot, she (and I) wanted to be safe. I've spent the past 5 days getting various tests to check it out.

The Bloodwork: As a precursor to the ultrasound, my OB had me take two blood tests 48 hours apart. She wanted to determine whether my HGC levels were rising at a rate typical of a healthy pregnancy. My levels were at 1600 units on Wednesday and at 4800 by Friday. The Nurse Practitioner(NP) called me on Friday to let me know that was a good sign. That meant I spent the weekend being a little less nervous about today.

The Ultrasound Experience: I was instructed to show up with my bladder full (and was happy they took me on time!). I'd had breast and thyroid ultrasounds before, and the belly one was pretty much like those: warm gel on my skin to help the wand glide as it emitted subtle sound waves I could sense. The technician did the belly one first, but at 5 weeks it was hard to see much with the belly test alone.

...which is how I ended up with a vaginal ultrasound to round out the exam. This one was much different :) But a lot more sensitive and effective in showing the embryo in early pregnancy. So I sucked it up and climbed into the stirrups to see what we could see.

The Good News: We could see the gestational sack--it was black and shaped like a kidney bean and astonishingly clear and discernable in a sea of white. Inside the little bean (taking up ~5% of its mass) clinging to the top left wall was a whitish blur that the technician identified as the yolk sack. That it was visible was a good sign. The technician checked my ovaries and said they looked healthy. since the pregnancy was visible in my uterus, there is no more fear of an ectopic.

The Somewhat Disappointing News: Most women can hear the heartbeat between 5 and 7 weeks. I know I'm only at the beginning of 5 but I had hoped, hoped, hoped, but no dice...yet. The technician wanted me to come back in next week for a follow-up but I'll be doing the family vacation thing on the east coast. Now I need to wait two weeks, 'til Monday the 4th, to do an ultrasound again. By then, we should be able to hear the heartbeat loud and clear!

Confession: It has been nerve-wracking to have to worry about complications so early in the pregnancy. To be honest, I don't know how I'm going to handle the next 8 months of worrying about random aches and pains. On the other hand, this false alarm has afforded me the ability to get a "sneak previw" of my baby! My OB's "pregnancy confirmation" appointment isn't scheduled for another three weeks and i may well have driven myself crazy worrying about aches and pains until then. ::sigh::

Thanks for all the support so far! I appreciate all your comments and well-wishes as you hope, right along with us, for the best!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Scoop on Dollar Store Pregnancy Tests

My big sister T, keeper of the modern family pregnancy wisdom and mother extraordinaire, wasted no time giving me the skinny on HPTs. After TTC for more than a year before becoming pregnant with my niece, she knew all the tricks of the trade.

"But doesn't it get expensive?" I'd asked her when I first told her that hubs and I were going to try. I'd been late enough times before to know that a box of two tests cost at least $15.

"Yeah," she told me. "But the expensive tests are no more accurate than the cheap ones--you have to go to the dollar store."

I was understandably skeptical. How could First Response and Clear Blue Easy get away with charging more than six times per test for something anyone could get at Dollar Tree? I made every logical argument for why I thought I wouldn't work. But T insisted they'd been accurate every single time, so I did a little experiment, and here are the results!

What the Books Say: "What to Expect When You're Expecting" by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel says the following about the sensitivity of pregnancy tests:
To find out how sensitive your pregnancy test is, check out the packaging. Look for the milli-international units per liter (mIU/L) measurement, which will tell you the sensitivity of the test. The lower the number the better (20 mIU/L will tell you you're pregnant sooner than a test with 50 mIU/L sensitivity. Not surprisingly, the more expensive tests have greater sensitivity.
Yet, I could not find the mIU/L measurement on the leaflets that came with any of the tests I bought.

My Experiment: As soon as I thought I might be pregnant I began testing multiple brands: "Dollar Tree" (dollar store brand), First Response traditional, and Clear Blue Easy digital
  • Day 1: Faint line with First Response. Extremely faint line with Dollar Tree test. No digital test taken.
  • Day 2: Darker line with First Response. Faint line with Dollar Tree test. "Pregnant" reading on digital test.
  • Day 3: Full line with First Response (i.e., same color as test line). Faint line with Dollar Tree test. (No need to take digital test)
  • Day 4: No test :)
  • Day 5: Darker line with Dollar Tree test.
  • Day 6: Full line with Dollar Tree test.
The Verdict: Though the Dollar Tree tests were accurate, they were notably less sensitive (which corroborates what was said in "What to Expect When You're Expecting"). However, they were not six to eight times less sensitive despite being six to eight times cheaper :) That said, my conclusion is that you'll save a lot of money TTC if you surrender to the dollar store brand. Sure, this may make for an extra day or two before you know, but over time it will save you tons of cash.

And, now to you--what have you discovered comparing/contrasting HPTs?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Should I even attempt to conceal early pregnancy from relatives at Christmas? 7 reasons why not...

  1. I will get the "are you pregnant?" question just like I do every year, and it will be hard for me to lie.
  2. I will have to endure the "you guys really ought to start having kids" lecture just like I do every year, and I will be tempted to spill the beans just so they'll get off my back.
  3. I really like drinking and I will be under suspicion for not touching alcohol (I rave about my uncle's Brandy Alexanders all year and I am usually in charge of choosing the wine)
  4. In past years, I have joined my MIL in the occasional cigarette and I never mind when she smokes in her house or car--this year I will have to ask her not to
  5. I'm extremely tired and lethargic these days, and I can only pass it off as jet lag for so long
  6. I am already sensitive to smells, nausea, eating at strange times, and am having other "dead giveaway" pregnancy symptoms
  7. If anyone finds my prenatal vitamins (which I was taking anyway ::rolls eyes::), speculation will abound

Can I really get away with keeping this a secret? If so, how? Would love to hear thoughts and advice!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

OB visit for H1N1 vaccine turns into ectopic pregnancy check

My first "official" order of business as a pregnant lady came yesterday, when I headed out to see my OB. I'm not scheduled to go in for my "pregnancy confirmation" appointment (yes, that's what they call it and yes, I just rolled my eyes) until Jan. 11, which will find me in my 8th week. Since I will spend ~20 hours in airports or on planes this holiday, I wanted to get vaccinated against H1N1 sooner rather than later, so that's how I ended up at the doctor's early.

While there, I got the vaccine (the assistant didn't realize I was pregnant and almost gave me the nasal spray that contains the live virus instead of the shot that contains the dead virus--glad we caught that one) and asked my doc about some meds I take, two of which are for motion sickness/travel anxiety and one of which is a Salonpas pain patch for some arm pain I'm having.

"Arm pain?" she asks.

And we got into a discussion. Turns out that arm pain is a symptom of ectopic pregnancy, and based on my dates and lack of other symptoms it's a long shot (thank god) but since I'll be traveling for two weeks away from my regular medical care, she offered to check. I accepted. The program? A sonogram next Monday (by then the embryo should be visible in my uterus) and blood tests every two days to monitor whether my HGC level is going up at the right rate.

I'm nervous about the possibility of ectopic pregnancy (but relieved that it seems like a long shot). At the same time, I'm happy to be getting the sonogram early. I want to see my little sesame-seed-sized bean!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Barely a Mom-to-Be and already trolling for goodies for pee-wee!

I've only been blogging and tweeting in in the TTC world for a month or two now, but I've noticed a pretty clear pattern: the TTC/MTB world seems to be chock-full of awesome giveaways.

Today I came across a blog called Faithfully Frugal and Free. Today is the last day to register for a baby gift basket for your favorite Mom-to-Be!

Check out this blog posting for details and follow directions to enter!

The second test confirmed it. We are pregnant!!

Last month, the first month we went off of birth control, hubs and I joked that it would be crazy if we got pregnant right away. Then we had a false alarm and I started reading up on TTC and realized with discouragement that the road could be very long.

For the past month I have been stressed, wondering whether all my justifications for waiting to try for kids would turn out to be false. What if 31 was too old? What if I would follow my mother's and sister's footsteps and this was just the beginning of years of trouble conceiving? What if there was a problem with hubs' equipment? What if there was a problem with mine? But this morning I took my second pregnancy test in as many days, and for the second time it was positive.

We are feeling happy and blessed and more than a little scared. It was a tender and beautiful moment when I showed the test to hubs, but we have a lot to hope for and much to learn. I am symptom-free so it doesn't feel real yet, in many ways. Though, there is some tangible little piece that does.

Please send us blessings. Please wish us luck. Please embrace us as we embark on this journey. I am happy I have already begun to find a community to share this, one of the most important experiences of my life!