Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The bump

Anyone who knows me knows I am equal parts highly organized and totally scatter brained.  It seems like an oxymoron, but trust me that it's possible to be both, depending on the situation.  For example, I have a spreadsheet in which I track all my expenses.  I can tell you where every dime I have spent since 2004 has gone.  And yet, I still managed to pay the umbrella insurance bill late this month. Oopsie!

I had no idea how I would be pregnant - would I turn into one of those women who faithfully takes a cute photo of her growing bump while holding a perfectly painted sign indicating what week she was?  Would I be really clever and manage to wear the same outfit each time for maximum comparison purposes?

No.  The answer is a resounding no.  This gives me hope that I also won't be one of those moms who completely drives her Facebook friends crazy with a kid update every 5 seconds (but no promises friends!).

What I have done is taken completely random selfies, which is sort of odd because I do so hate selfies.  But I needed the photos - partly because a lot of people told me I'll want them later, and partly because I share them with the ladies on the message boards I am on.  In fact, I actually "host" the weekly thread to solicit bump photos.  I never miss a week of hosting (there's the organized part), but I often miss actually participating myself (and the scatter brain part).  

In any case, there has been a ton of weeks where I have participated, and this post is now my attempt to go back and dig up all those photos and put them in order (scatter brain turns organized!).  If for nothing else, then for myself to look back on so I can laugh at how huge I thought I was at week 20, and to also laugh about how huge I actually was at week 40.  

So here we go:

18 weeks:

20 weeks:

21 weeks:

23 weeks:

 26 weeks:

 27 weeks:

 28 weeks:

29 weeks:

30 weeks:

31 weeks:

32 weeks:

33 weeks:

35 weeks:

38 weeks:

40 weeks:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Is this real life?

I'm in third trimester.  THIRD TRIMESTER.  I never, ever thought I would get here.

My cute little bump is a little less "cute", a little less "little", and a lot more getting in the way of me bending over.  Tying my shoes has turned into quite the feat, and I side-eye anything I drop with a look of hatred before begrudgingly bending to pick it up.

A few days ago, I had this wonderful moment when my mother in law and both sisters in law all put their hands on my bump to feel kicks and hiccups.  The moment was only made sweeter when my 2 year old niece followed suite because she saw everyone else doing it.  It was awesome.

I'm secretly terrified.  I know a woman, an awesome lady, who recently went in to deliver at a very normal 38 weeks and 4 days, only to discover there was no heart beat.  Her sweet little girl was stillborn.  I have thought of this woman and her daughter every day since.  It's shaken me, both in my deep feelings of empathy for her pain, but also because it shows you that nothing in this life is guaranteed.  No mother should ever have to carry that weight.  Yet it happens, even to the nicest of people.

Ignorance would certainly be bliss, but ignorance is no longer an option.

Seeing my Facebook memories from a year ago has  not been helpful.  I see the posts I made when I was in so much pain, and it's hard not to relive it.  Sure, it's a reminder of how much (wonderful) difference a year can make, but it's also a reminder of some pretty dark days. My post from a year ago:

If you can't fly then run,
if you can't run then walk,
if you can't walk then crawl,
but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
― Martin Luther King Jr.

At the time I felt I was barely moving through life.  I suppose I fell into the crawling category - crawling up hill is what it felt like.  But crawl I did.

It feels more like a run now (albeit a slow, waddling run).  I only hope it feels like flying come 11 weeks from now. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Holidays and Mixed Emotions

Second trimester has brought with it easier days, both emotionally and physically.  I have been feeling fantastic and am finally understanding why some people say they loved being pregnant. Right now, it's no more morning sickness, a cute little round belly, and lots of energy and motivation to nest the hell outta my house.  I realize this won't last forever, but for the time being, I'm enjoying every (well, almost every) minute of it.

But the holidays have brought with it some other feelings I don't think I expected to feel quite as much as I have.  It's not the holidays themselves per say - they just happen to coincide with the timeline of my last pregnancy so well.  Last time, we found out we were pregnant shortly after Thanksgiving.  We squeezed in our first ultrasound before Christmas Eve.  We announced to our close family at Christmas.  We announced to close friends at New Year's.  We started the ordeal of loss just a week after New Year's.  And worst of all:  This was supposed to be our baby's first Christmas.  

I am so, so happy we are expecting; I can not imagine how much harder all of the above would be if we weren't.  But I would be lying if I said there wasn't an undertone of what we have lost as well.  It's so very true that getting pregnant again doesn't magically erase all the heartache.  There was a different baby, another little girl, and to think that this new little girl somehow erases her completely is just not realistic.  

With that, I'd like to share some photos.  When we told our family last year, my husband captured it on camera.  Neither one of us can bring ourselves to delete the photos.  They are a testimate to the joy our first pregnancy brought, even if the joy was short lived. 

Right when my husband spilled the beans.  My one sister in law (kneeling) had guessed the news, and we had shared a quick look of knowing before we announced. I think she's saying, "I knew it!".

You can't tell but it was LOUD.  All I was able to register was screaming, and it completely overwhelmed me.  All I could do was stand there covering my face.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Night of Hope

A couple weeks ago was Resolve's Night of Hope.  Clicky, clicky:

When I got there (super early, thanks nerves!), we kind of milled around for a bit.  I was then asked up to the stage area for some photos and some practicing of how the night would go.  I was feeling a bit like a fish out of water - you have to remember I won for writing a little blog.  Other people were there for doing amazing, wonderful things.  But when I met the President and CEO of Resolve, Barbara Collura, I instantly felt better.  She greeted me with a big, warm hug and said, "We love our blog winners!".  Here she is, and folks, she is honestly one of the most charming, warm people you could possibly meet.  She's one of those people who make all social interactions look like a breeze and a joy (how do they do that?!):

So I got my photo taken, practiced walking on stage, and then I was off to cocktail hour. My husband and I knew nobody, and pretty much kept to ourselves, so we wondered how awkward it would be at dinner eating with a table full of strangers.

But off we went to find our table, and almost right away, another couple came over that we instantly clicked with.  With our insta-friends, and with the rest of our table filled in, it was actually pretty great.  As it turns out, the wife of this couple had been asked to be there to share her experience with the audience.  She had a medical issue at 15 which left her unable to have children without the help of medical intervention and she and her husband have been heavily involved with volunteering with the organization.  (Perfect example of the the amazing, wonderful things I mentioned earlier).

Another girl at our table was there because she had petitioned her company to cover infertility treatment, as she herself had no coverage and guess what?  Someone in HR actually listened to her (imagine that!) and added coverage.  (Amazing and wonderful examples 2 and 3).

So get this - when I was speaking with Barbara, she actually told me they had a very hard time finding companies to agree to accept an award from Resolve.  There are a lot of companies out there that do a fantastic job of providing infertility treatment coverage and support for their employees.  Wouldn't you think they would be proud of it, and happy to accept an award?  Nope!  Why?  Well, it's an awful reminder that there are A LOT of people out there who still disagree with things like IVF, and part of that stems from the Catholic church's continued official stance against it.  So companies are leery of press that may show them supporting something that many of their customers may adamantly disagree with.  It's really kind of frustrating and depressing to think about so let's move on to a nicer thought:

I had no idea how beautiful I would think it was to be in a whole room of people who either experienced infertility themselves, or have dedicated their lives to helping people who do (or sometimes both).  Normally we are the minority, the 1 in 8, but in that room we were the 8.  It was pretty cool to have conversations with anyone we met where our experience was so freely asked about and discussed.

And last but not least, the host, Bobbie Thomas was AH-MAZING.  She hosted with such ease, and when it was her time to share her own story, she told it was such emotion and heart; she even brought up her doctors to the stage to honor them too.

Oh... and then I got an award ya'll!

For awhile, I had been in denial that I was going to have say anything.  I would just walk up, get my award, wave to the crowd, flash a smile, and off I go.  In the back of my mind I had a little voice that said that typically people getting awards say a little something but I consistently told that little voice to shut the hell up because I so, so hate public speaking.

But then, about a month or so before hand, I got an email saying I would (of course) be given time to say something (90 seconds) and some tips for what to do (and not to do).

I had so.much.time to write my speech, but there I was a few days before the ceremony, sitting in front of a computer screen ready to start writing.  Luckily, it had been on my mind (a lot), and I had a general idea of where I wanted to go with it.  The inspiration came from Mad Men (of all places), probably because my husband and I have been binge watching the episodes like it's our second jobs.

In Mad Men, they often use a two way mirror to watch a group of people react to a product.  The group on the side that can see into the other side must sit in relative darkness, as turning on the lights would cause the guinea pigs to be able to see these creeepsters watching them.  And so my speech was born (no pun intended):

Reactions to my blog can be categorized into one of two groups, and I see these two groups as being on either side of a two way mirror.  One reaction was something along the lines of, “I totally understand because I went through it too”.  These are the people on the side of the mirror that can see through to the other side.  They can see the other group – the group that responded with, “I had no idea.”  They can see this group growing their families, while they themselves sit in darkness, struggling month after month with infertility.    It’s my hope that in some small way, my blog is contributing to what Resolve has done such a wonderful job of doing, and that is turning the light on the 1 in 8, so that everyone can see through to the other side.

Thank you Resolve for being such a great resource for those dealing with infertility, for advocating on our behalf, and for this award.

And thanks to my husband, who when I started this blog, only asked me for one thing – to keep it anonymous.   I obviously failed at that request in a pretty big way, and still he has supported me the whole way, just like he always does.

Picture a girl clinging to the podium, reading in a shaky voice (not to mention a bit stuffed as I was recovering from a cold) and you have a pretty good idea of how it went.  Here I am looking much more composed than I actually felt:

It was a pretty great night, and once my speech was over I was able to enjoy it without the jitters.

I'll say it one more time:  thank you Resolve.  For everything.  

Monday, November 2, 2015

Another memory in California

I travel to California for work a lot.  Not quite so often these days, but there was a period of about 2 years of my life where my client would joke that they just should just have bought me an apartment out there.

As I walked around with a coworker on my latest trip there, I remarked that both the hotel and the office I work at there were the backdrops to many fairly big work/life moments.  I can remember standing by the window in the client's office as my awesome manager announced to me that he was leaving our firm after over a decade.  I recall being told I had made consultant at our firm, and then promptly walking to the Nordstrom across the street to buy myself a congratulatory present (a big expensive ring I still wear daily).  I remember standing by that same window a couple years later, feeling elated and a bit teary eyed while being told my bonus and raise information after a really successful year.

This trip was no different.

The one good thing about being sent for genetic counseling is that it also qualified me to have a special blood test, which tests for 3 various chromosomal abnormalities.  It also is able to tell the sex of the baby.  Right now our family has no idea that we even know; they all still think we are weeks away from finding out at the anatomy scan.

We had to wait a week for results, and I had to fill out a form that gave them permission to tell me the sex.  I was very clear on the form - tell me, tell me now!! And yet, when I checked the voicemail left for me from the hospital....no sex.

Now, the good news is, the nurse left the really important information, which is that our baby is not at  a higher risk for the 3 issues tested for.

That is awesome!

But...no sex?

I listened to the voicemail two more times.

No sex.

It was now 4:15pm EST.  I frantically called the hospital, as well as my OB (who also gets a copy of the results), but to no avail.  I was going to be in suspense for as long as it took someone to call me back.  At close to closing time, I wasn't hopeful I was going to find out before the next day.

But then an hour later, while walking back to my hotel room with some lunch, my phone rang.  I practically threw the food and everything I was carrying to the ground; I couldn't get to my cell phone fast enough.


Is this Karen?


Did you want to know the sex of your baby?


"Congratulations...you are having a baby girl."

I responded with something which I'm sure didn't even sound like English, raced back to my hotel room, and called my husband.  I just said over and over again, "It's a girl!"

The next day, after a long day of meetings with the client, as I was walking back to my hotel room, I passed by that same spot.  I smiled to myself and thought, "And that's the walkway where I learned I was having a girl."

That California memory is my favorite.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

oh hai, I won

A couple months ago, I was over the moon to have found out my blog was nominated for the 2015 Hope Award for Best Blog.  You can see my post about it here:

I never really thought I would win.  It's such a cliche, but I really was just so happy to have been nominated.  Clearly, I totally underestimated the power of the awesome community I am a part of at ThenComesFamily.com.

One of the admins of the site graciously posted about my nomination along with a link to vote.  But it wasn't until she pointed out that given all the support from those on the site, I might want to start thinking about what it meant to win.  I had kept my real life identity purposefully separate from my online identity.  In fact in the beginning when I first signed up for the site, I had been so paranoid about anyone knowing what we were going through that I had used my middle name, rather than my first name or my commonly used nickname, on the infertility support groups.  My blog remained completely anonymous; you may have noticed I never even refer to my husband by name.  I didn't even tell many people I was close to in real life what was going on.

As the months went by, I started to open up to some close family members.  My mom was shocked to learn all that I was doing each month.  Once the loss occurred, I really noticed a shift in my openness.  Sadly, a lot of this was out of complete despair - it was hard to act normal or talk about much else in those first few weeks after the loss - but it was something else too.  I was actually mad - mad that I didn't feel like I could talk about what had happened.  I felt like I had to be hush, hush, and that many people didn't know what an appropriate response is, because people typically don't talk about these issues.  Quite frankly, I stopped giving a shit, and decided that if I wanted it to change, I was going to have to at the very least, start talking about it myself.  And so I did.  I told more family, I opened up to friends, and I even spoke to some coworkers.  I could tell I made a couple people uncomfortable, and I felt silly in those instances, but now I don't give a shit about that either.

At this point, I was ready to "go public".  My husband was much more reluctant, and so I of course respected his wishes.

It's about at this point that I got the nomination.  So I shared my blog with more friends and family, still keeping the circle tight for my husband's sake.  To his credit, when I asked what we would do if I won, he was completely supportive.

And then...I won.  I actually won.

As I have said in previous posts, I always thought that my social media announcement of pregnancy would be coupled with a reference to what we had gone through to get there.  When it came time however, I decided not to.  I wanted our happy news to stand on it's own.  Every other step of the process came coupled with fear and thoughts of our loss - I wanted to separate the two. 

But here we are several weeks later, a month out from getting an amazing award (which I plan on posting about on social media), and it just so happens October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.  No better month to do my little part in bringing awareness.  Here goes nothing...