"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Not so "phantom" Kicks

I'm convinced that the second best thing about being pregnant, and making it to at least the second trimester, is feeling the baby kick.  (Naturally, the best thing about being pregnant is the whole human being growing inside you thing.) 

Baby kicks are one of the not-so-insignificant-things you miss out on in adoption.  The biological mother has the baby in her womb.  Fortunately for us, we know that our adopted son's older biological brother talked and sang to him while he was in the womb. 

This baby that I'm carrying now, his oldest brother has named him or her "little apple."  Little Apple gets hugs and kisses from the big guy most nights.  And biggest brother talks to him pretty regularly.  Plus, even when someone's not using my anterior abdominal wall as a megaphone, Little Apple hears us talking all around him.  When he comes into this bright new world, he'll likely have some recognition of our voices. 

Little Apple kicked hard, for the first time several weeks ago, when his littlest big brother stepped on his head.  Neither Mommy nor Little Apple liked that much. 

Yet, it was a thrill for me. 

As you know, I've experienced real baby kicks with my first pregnancy, sometime around 20 weeks, which is pretty common.  In my second pregnancy, I thought I felt her kicking but lost her at 16 weeks which is about as early as you might feel a baby kick, so those sensations may not have really been her. 

After that, I had the sensation of "phantom kicks," for which I've named this blog (see my first explanation of this via blog, here), with some regularity.  As I explained back then,
Much like phantom limb pain, a pain an amputee feels after he looses a limb, I imagine this sensation has come to me, and others, as a subconscious reminder of what once was.  Although I'd never heard the term before I started using it, you can do a google search and find other moms, those who've lost and those who haven't, who use this phrasing to describe similar feelings.
My memories are fuzzy now, but I believe I had phantom kicks through most of the five pregnancies I lost.  I was embarrassed about this, ashamed really. 

I knew they couldn't be real.  It was too early for them to be real.  I didn't even tell my husband at first. 

I knew they weren't hallucinations.  That's one of the funny things about being a physician, and a patient.  I think I can say with confidence that I'm not a hypochondriac.  But having an abundance of medical knowledge definitely influences your thought processes when you do have medical symptoms.  For instance, when I had my first flare of Rheumatoid arthritis, I knew pretty quickly what the possibilities were.  I hoped for a viral migratory polyarthropathy but knew with the stiffness, that a chronic disease was more likely.  Unfortunately, I was right.  When it comes to mental health, however, the medical knowledge that you know in your brain is even harder to interpret. 

As a general rule, I don't suffer from anxiety.  I'm on the care-free side of the spectrum.  Things that probably should worry me, generally don't.  Rose colored glasses; my daddy's daughter.  Call it what you want -- it goes back to that whole excessive optimism blog I posted recently ;).  All this to say, that when I began to suffer from anxiety, which was triggered from grief over multiple consecutive miscarriages, I didn't recognize it at first. 

I felt crazy... and yes, I know that's a word we shouldn't use when talking about people who suffer from mental health problems.  But, since I'm talking about myself here, and trying to be honest, that's how I felt. 

I didn't want to admit it.  I didn't understand why these little bursts of panic would hit me like a small train, over trivial things.  I think I've explained this before, but most commonly, my version of panic attacks would occur when someone would ask me if I was pregnant, or if we "wanted more kids," or when someone would tell me their miscarriage story.  My heart would race and I would feel claustrophobic.  I couldn't get enough air.  "This is irrational," I would tell myself.  And no rational ME would step in or take over.  Once I got outside, I could breathe a little better. 

Then the baby would kick like crazy.  He or she would go nuts in there.  And that would make me smile, or it would make me cry.  But either way, I would usually start to calm down.

Phantom kicks came at other times too, when I was driving or doing nothing.  They felt like real baby kicks.  Even when I wasn't pregnant, sometimes I would get them.  But they made me worry that I had a psychiatric disease.  As a physician, I knew that they weren't equivalent to a hysterical pregnancy.  I was pretty sure they weren't hallucinations. 

At some point along this continuum, I told my husband. 

Near the end of it all, the first time I met my therapist, I told her. 

That's when I told her that I was also thinking about blogging.  She encouraged the blog as a therapeutic journal and suggested Phantom Kicks as it's name.  It seemed like a perfect fit!  Bravely, I began.   

When I got pregnant this time around, I started having phantom kicks around 8 weeks. 

I started having real kicks between 15-16 weeks.  They came slowly, irregularly, and usually only when a 25 pound toddler stood on Little Apple's head.  I was craving more.

Now, I have these lovely kicks every day.  What a delight!  They are the best.  They make me smile, no matter what I'm doing when they come upon me. 

I'm not sure who woke me up first this morning (a Saturday) around 0540.  Was it the toddler cooing on the monitor, or the baby in my womb kicking my iliac crest?  I couldn't be mad at either of them.  All I could do is smile. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Baby 8. Journal 2

I am finally starting to feel pregnant... and boy am I thankful!

Praise God for breast tenderness. 

I love this odd fatigue, it comes suddenly with a "collapse in a heap" sensation over my whole body, and then it passes several minutes later.  This is separate from the constant starvation and occasional nausea.  

Welcome - oh so very welcome - changes.  

I even had a temperature of 99.1, yesterday... 
what strange things to be joyful over.  

Genuine and true, I am thankful for each and every one of these pregnancy symptoms.  They serve to reassure me.  And I am finding myself smiling.  

My mind is getting out of the way of my spirit, and I am getting excited!

I have always believed that that excitement is what's best.  Even if the worst still happens; and I know that being excited now will make the worst happening even harder; I know it's worth it.  Because the fact is, there's a tiny human in there.  And I love him or her.  Big love, brave love - kid, that's the love I have for you.  My baby number 8 deserves that love and excitement.  It might even help him or her thrive.  

Him or her... hmmm... 

I couldn't care less.  I've always wanted a girl but now, I truly have no bias.  I am excited about the potential for another member of our family, period.  

Happy and healthy... ehhh... 

I care; of course I care.  I hope our baby is "normal" or "perfect," whatever that means.  But truly, I know that God's got a beautiful plan for my family.  I embrace what and whomever comes.  

Today, I am excited.  


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Baby 8. Journal 1.

I cried as I walked out of the OB's office this summer.  Well really it was a GYN visit, nothing obstetric going on at the time.  No longer suffering from anxiety or depression, this took me by surprise.  Given my history, though, I wondered, would I ever be able to visit the OB/Gyn's office without crying?  Without remembering? 

My pregnancy losses aren't something I think about everyday anymore.  I don't think of them often at all really.  But they're still part of me, like a bad ankle that gets sore pretty easy when you roll it off the curb the wrong way. 

Conception comes easy for us.  A few short months later I find myself needing to call the OB's office for another appointment... Let me tell you how it happened:

Well, we were trying to get pregnant, using Natural Family Planning.  Unfortunately, my temperature curves were not showing a definite shift.  Everyday I had an excuse about why one temperature might have been higher or lower than it should have been, if I were in an ovulatory cycle.  More quickly that I should have, I got discouraged.  Fearful that my ovulatory years had passed, I am thirty-five after all.

Nevertheless, I took a pregnancy test six days before my missed period each month, just like the box says I can.  My rationale behind this early testing was to start hormone suppositories as early as possible to support the pregnancy, should it occur.

This month, six days before my missed period in the absence of a clear temperature shift, I took another negative pregnancy test and felt discouraged again.  We left that afternoon for vacation and I didn't think much about it again.  Two days into vacation, my temp was higher than it had been all month, and so my spirits lifted.  I'd brought tests and hormones with me, so I tested, and one pink line again I saw. 

That afternoon I enjoyed the hot tub with my little kid and I thought only a little about my family planning.  Let go and let God, right?  We enjoyed the rest of our vacation. 

When I returned home unpacking, I saw the pregnancy test I had taken while we were away.  I didn't want to throw it away in the trash there because I didn't want anyone to see it and know how seriously we were trying.  So before I threw it out I glanced at it again, and noticed a very faint, second pink line. 

Shocked, I grabbed another test and peed again.  Quickly, two lines appeared.  I ran outside to show my husband in disbelief. 

How quickly I had become discouraged.  I am ashamed of myself. 

How quickly we conceived, again.  It is surreal.

We are excited, but not like before.  We talked about names once and I toss names around in my head from time to time.  But, I am cautious.  I'm not trying to be cautious, I just am.  I am only a little excited.  A protective layer of caution surrounds me.  I think I might have a baby next summer, but I'm not daydreaming about him or her too much. 

I wish I wouldn't have gotten in that darn hot tub.

I am religious about my regimen.  My hormone, anti-inflammatory medication, aspirin and vitamins.  One caffeine per day, no more.  I am eating really well. 

But I don't feel any pregnancy symptoms and boy I wish I would. 

My temperature remains up but not up as high as I think it should.  I remember it being higher during my previous pregnancies... but of course those didn't end with babies in my arms, so maybe I don't need to worry about that. 

I have no pregnancy dreams like before and yet I know I have sufficient progesterone, because I'm injecting into myself each night.  My boobs are smaller than ever.  I do have ligamentous left pelvic pain - thank God for that. 

I wait a couple days to call my OB's office and make the first appointment. 

"Name, birthdate... First day of your last menstrual period..."

"And, what pregnancy is this?"

I stutter, "Seven, I think."  Seven?  Seven?  Can that be right?  I have one biological son.  I had five miscarriages.  I am pregnant now.  1 + 5 + 1 = 7.  Yes, seven.  Wow, seven. 

I have less children than many of my friends but I have been pregnant many more times than most of them.  So many times.  The disbelief persists.  I cannot explain it.  I try to explain it to my husband. 

I don't call my sister or my mom.  I hope my friends don't ask. 

So back to the phone call with my OB's office.  I make the appointments and get off the phone.  They had to call me again and asked those same four questions.  I giggled the second time they asked what pregnancy this is.  A nervous giggle - that's what I do.

The absurdity that this is my seventh pregnancy.

After that phone call with the OB office, I am anxious.  For the first time in many months, actually it's the first time in two years, I have chest tightness and near panic.  My breaths are quick and rationale thoughts don't calm me down.  In about thirty minutes it subsides.  It's been a week since then and I'm thankful that it hasn't returned. 

That night I told my husband the whole story.  My anxiety and all. 

Here we are.  Waiting, time passes slowly.  I know this feeling. 

I don't know what's next.  How will it end? 

I decide to do therapeutic journaling on my blog.  I may or may not publish once we know the chromosomal compliment of this baby. 

Date written: 10/20/15.  Naming this journal "Baby 8," to include my six previous pregnancies, my adopted son, and this, my eighth baby. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Utter Optimism (pre Pregnancy Journal, Summer 2015)

Summer 2015

Optimism, according to dictionary.com, is 
1.  a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.

2.  the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world.

3.  the belief that goodness pervades reality.

4.  the doctrine that the existing world is the best of all possible worlds.
Whether I like it or not, Number 1 is basically a definition of me and my personality.  

Okay, so Number 4 is a little off the deep end, even for me.  And "predominates" and "pervades" sound just a bit strong.  But, hard as I try, I cannot deny - I am an optimist.   I wear the 'rose' colored glasses.  The glass is half full; mostly full really, I mean really.   

To make matters worse, I call myself a realist.  I've often claimed to be a realistic optimist.  I guess that's when you really know it's bad, you just cannot believe those naysayers. 

This picture is something I saw recently on the internet, by Zhou Jixuan, and when I saw it, I instantly felt bad for those poor pessimists.  I just know in my heart, that life is so much more fun as an optimist. 

But of course that's not the point of this blog post.... 

I wonder, oh I wish, I could just not be so darn optimistic sometimes.  I actually don't think that whether you're an optimist or a pessimist is much of a choice.  For me anyway, it feels like how I am hard wired.  

Not exactly the same thing, but I've always been a cheerleader.  Although I didn't have the physical coordination or talent to actually be a great cheerleader, my "late bloomer" status through middle and high school helped me early on.  Plus, I'm just naturally enthusiastic.  As my best friend from college recalls well, I would cheer my teammates along while running, even if I was being lapped!  (Yes, I know, this makes me sound a little crazy! -- but it's true, and I just cannot help myself.) 

Maybe a nicer way to describe it, is that one of my spiritual gifts is being an encourager?  But, I digress. 

To the point of this blog entry, many times, through the emotional rollercoaster of our family planning, I've wished I could be more pessimistic.  Building up walls to prevent further heartbreak sounds like a pretty wise choice to me.  And I'm scared of another pregnancy loss, yes I am scared.  But I'm also optimistic that it won't happen.  And there is no good reason for that kind of crazy optimism. 

After my miscarriages, more than a year ago now, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sjogren's, which theoretically could have impacted things.  To get pregnant, I had to come off my disease modifying agent over the past few months -- this alone should be reason to be wary.  Instead, I can't wait to see what will happen.

Pessimists may call me a fool.  Sometimes, I feel like a fool.

My husband and I are planning another pregnancy attempt.  The final attempt.  The all hands on deck, go big or go home attempt.  And I think I probably shouldn't be, but I'm feeling optimistic.