Baby Starks: Week 25

Happy week 25, friends!

IMG_0157

How big is the baby?

Baby is now the size of a papaya! It’s been a long week, so no produce for comparison, sorry.

The other day one of my tracker apps told me that my uterus was now the size of a soccer ball, and I literally laughed out loud because, no kidding! I’m so big that I’m afraid I’m going to have my own gravitational pull soon.

How am I feeling?

The hormones are raging these days. On one hand, I am not sleeping well. No matter how exhausted I feel during the day, I have difficulty going to sleep, and then half the time I wake up at 3 and can’t go back to sleep. With me still working four 12-hour shifts per week with an hour commute each way, this equates to very little sleep for mama. Which, as you can imagine, is extremely frustrating.

Then, in addition to – or possibly due to – the lack of sleep, I’ve been having major mood swings. I haven’t been teary so much as just filled with rage. I get angry so easily now, and I have very little patience for anything inconvenient. And then pretty quickly anger turns into “fuck it” and complete apathy for anything. Which creates stress because I didn’t do what needed to get done, which turns into anger, which turns into continuing to not care about anything. Oh depressive cycle, how I know you well.

IMG_0112

I’m also constantly hungry, yet I seem to have no room left for food. I’ve been having to take breaks in the middle of meals because I simply can’t fit everything in there at once like I used to. Scoot over, little man! I’m also uncomfortable pretty much all the time. Sciatic pain is a real thing, and I’ve become good friends with the tennis ball and the wall. There is also this one spot on the left side of my belly that randomly tightens every now and then for no apparent reason – it’s very distracting!

On the plus side, baby continues to kick away like crazy in there, so much so that Robbie actually got to feel him kick for the first time last week! James is very excited to feel soon, too. He keeps hoping he might even be able to see a little footprint, but I told him that’s not likely to happen, lol.

IMG_0143

Meanwhile, I’m putting the finishing touches on our baby registries in anticipation of our baby shower next month. I’m so excited! My lovely sister-in-law, Chrystal, is throwing it for me, and my mom, sister, and grandma are all flying out to come! Plus, picking things out is so much fun! I’m trying to stay practical and register for really useful (and hopefully not too expensive) things, and staying away from all of the adorable baby clothes that I could easily fill 5 pages with. I don’t even know if I should register for baby clothes at all, since I feel like people will inevitably buy them for us anyway. And how many newborn clothes do you really need? Who knows how long he will even fit into that size? Maybe he’ll be a complete chunk who fits into 3-month clothes after like 1 week! So many things I still don’t know!

IMG_0152

I feel like I’m really getting into “Plan all the things!” mode, too. I’ve been doing some homework on maternity leave for work, and that has me really wanting to nail things down. And since it’s looking like my leave may be shorter than I would really like, lately my brain has been all abuzz trying to learn about increasing breastmilk supply and pumping schedules and how to store it. Again, there is so much to learn, and I feel like there are way more opinions and strategies on it than I could ever possibly hope to master. So I have a feeling baby and I are just gonna have to figure it out as we go along, which isn’t easy for my type-A brain to accept, especially with a short amount of time to figure it out in. But I’m trying not to stress to much about it.

I’m also pretty sure I’m driving Robbie crazy by brainstorming about other things that don’t need worrying about yet, like what to pack in the hospital bag and where to put our not-yet-existent gliding rocking chair. But hey, I’m a Capricorn… planning is what I DOOOO!

Anyway… that’s pretty much it for this update. See you all back in a couple of weeks!

Advertisements

Learning to be grateful.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, and just haven’t known where to begin. Now seems like a good time, so I suppose I will try.

Disclaimer: there’s going to be period talk up in here. Feel free to see yourself out if you don’t want to hear it.

But the road to becoming pregnant wasn’t an easy one for us.

IMG_3267

Robbie and I got married in January 2015. We knew immediately that we wanted more children and we didn’t want to wait, especially with Robbie being 9 years older than I am and with James becoming almost too old to appreciate having a younger sibling. But we decided that, if we had any choice in the matter, we’d like to not have our baby in December (haha), since James’ birthday is already close to Christmas – spacing them out seemed the smartest, kindest way to do it for everyone involved. So we waited until April to start trying. No big deal.

I had been using hormonal birth control in one form or another for 10 years when we decided we were ready to try. I expected my body to take a few months to readjust before it would be ready to function normally without any synthetic hormones to tell it what to do, so I wasn’t all that surprised when I still wasn’t pregnant by the end of the summer. What did surprise me, though, was how completely irregular my cycles would become. At first, they were like clockwork – every 28 days, just like they’d been when I was on birth control. And then they gradually became longer and longer, until by January I had gone over 8 weeks without a period.

IMG_3863

It was extremely frustrating. Each time my period was later than it should have been, I was convinced I was pregnant. I don’t even want to know how much I spent on store-bought pregnancy tests. And then, of course, I was devastated each time it turned out to not to be true. I began to really take it personally. I began to feel hopelessly broken, as if my body were not capable of doing the one thing it was so obviously designed to do. What was the point of having these giant breasts since age 12, or these wide, child-birthing hips, or the horrendously excruciating periods that plagued my adolescence with regularity, if not to be able to have a baby? Was God playing some kind of cruel joke on me?

And, as anyone who has ever really played the conception game knows, having irregular cycles makes it extremely hard to plan when to “do the baby dance,” as people like to delicately put it. It’s hard know when the window for conception is even open if you can’t tell when you’re ovulating, or if you even are. It begins to make you wonder how anyone gets pregnant accidentally, when you have to try this hard to do it on purpose. Not to mention the tremendous strain it puts on a relationship when you turn an intimate act that used to be fun and spontaneous into a chore that has to be scheduled.

So by February, we were ready to really get serious about figuring out what was going on. I had started tracking my basal body temp every. single. morning. and bought a large pack of (rather expensive) LH ovulation test strips to see if I could pin down whether I was ovulating at all and if it was actually happening with any kind of regularity. I figured if I went to see a specialist, these were the first steps they were going to have me take anyway, so at least I could walk in with some information already in hand. The temperature readings were somewhat reassuring, showing a relative pattern that mimicked what my body was supposed to be doing, but I wasn’t getting any positive LH results anywhere in my cycle. All signs pointed to the idea that I simply wasn’t ovulating.

Then, in a last-ditch effort to try anything before we gave up and saw a fertility specialist, I decided to try acupuncture. I wasn’t honestly convinced that it was going to help, but I figured it was worth a try. The first thing she did was start a lab work up for PCOS. Along with the irregular cycles, I was having other symptoms, like hormonal acne and increased facial and body hair, that pointed to a PCOS picture. Then she did her acupuncture voodoo, including hooking a couple of the needles up to this interesting electric pulse stimulator thing, and I went on my merry way.

Maybe it was all in my head, but the results seemed almost immediate after that first appointment. I saw her in the morning, and by afternoon I felt like something was going on with my hormones – I was emotionally very sensitive, almost like PMS. Then later that week, it happened – my first positive LH test. Maybe I wasn’t broken after all.

A few weeks later, it was time to find out. I woke up early one morning, anxious to test, but I’d had enough negative pregnancy tests before to know that I should wait another day or two to avoid a possible false negative. “It’s going to be negative,” I prepared myself as I took the test out of the package anyway. I put it on the counter to do its work, and walked away, not really wanting to even look at the negative result I knew would surely be there. I came back to the bathroom a while later and glanced at the test, and there it was – the faintest little line in the positive column. I literally laughed – no fucking way. And then I cried. And then I proceeded to take 3 more tests over the course of the day, because there was no way it could be right. Completely at a loss for how to tell Robbie, I left them all on the bathroom counter, all lined up, and waited for him to simply come home and see. (You would think months of trying would give me time to come up with a fun way to tell my husband I was pregnant, but nope, lol.) And then, like a crazy person, I tested again every morning for the next 4 days, just to be sure.

IMG_3879

Given how unreliable my hormonal regulation seemed to be, I wasn’t convinced that my body would be able to sustain a pregnancy yet. I continued to go back to acupuncture almost weekly during the first trimester, in the hope that it might help. But aside from that, I tried hard not to focus on fear. I know enough about the law of attraction to know better than to focus on what I don’t want. So instead, every day I repeated this little mantra to myself and to God: “Thank you for my perfect, healthy body. Thank you for my perfect, healthy pregnancy. Thank you for my perfect, healthy baby.” Pray with a grateful heart, as if it has already happened, right? It might seem a little “woo-woo” for some, but it helps me. I still say this little prayer every day.

However, I’ve still had a few reasons to be anxious. I’ve had high blood pressure for most of my adult life, which got worse when I worked nights, and I’ve been on medication for it since 2012. And I work in the NICU, so I see first-hand what high blood pressure can mean during pregnancy. The last thing I wanted for any of us was to wind up with a micro-preemie due to pre-eclampsia or to have a baby with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). But I thank God every day that so far my blood pressure has been 100% normal (which was unusual for me pre-pregnancy, even on medication), and even sometimes low. And there’s been no concern for IUGR yet, as our little man has actually been measuring almost a week bigger than his gestational age.

With extra concern for gestational diabetes – due to a strong family history and being already overweight – I’ve had a glucometer for a while now, too. (I work in the medical field, so forgive me for wanting all the information I can get, lol.) I’m extremely grateful to report that so far my blood sugars have also been normal. I know that can change going into the third trimester – as can blood pressure – but it’s reassuring to feel like I’m already keeping an eye on it.

Then, of course, there is always the nagging worry about congenital anomalies that comes with seeing heartbreaking cases at work every day. We chose not to do the early blood tests for chromosomal abnormalities, since it wouldn’t have changed our minds about anything anyway, and I’ve known people who’ve had false-positive results on these tests and spent the entire pregnancy needlessly worrying about a baby who turned out to be perfectly normal. We figured we could get all the important information we needed from anatomic ultrasounds, which would most likely show if there’s was anything structural to be worried about. But of course my NICU traumatized brain went into each ultrasound terrified of what we might find. Gastroschisis? Diaphragmatic hernia? Heart defects? Again, I tried not to focus on those things too much beforehand, but I know too much not to wonder. But everything has been perfectly fine on each scan, and I say a huge grateful prayer every time because I know just how lucky we are.

IMG_4279

And after all the frustration of trying to conceive, and after all the worry about whether we’d get this far, here I am, with an active, healthy, viable baby boy kicking away inside me. It makes me cry with gratitude just to say that.

I try not to take any part of this experience for granted. I know how lucky I am to be having it.

I still don’t full understand why it took so long to regulate my cycles enough to conceive. Maybe it was the long-term use of hormonal birth control, though medical professionals say that shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Maybe working nights for so long messed up more than just my circadian rhythm. Who knows. And it’s anyone’s guess what any of it will be like after our baby is born.

IMG_3973

Or maybe it was God’s way of trying to teach me something. Maybe it was a just a big slap in my control-freak face to show me that I’m not really in control of anything, least of all when a new soul gets to come into this world. Maybe our little guy was just determined to be a Sagittarius no matter what we wanted, and he had to wait this long to make it happen. Maybe I needed to be grateful that I have James to raise, even if I didn’t give birth to him. Maybe first I had to learn what it really means to be happy for someone else when they get what I can’t have yet – Lord knows that was perhaps the hardest lesson of them all.

All I know for sure is that I am immensely grateful. I’m grateful to be pregnant at all. I’m most especially grateful that my baby is healthy, and so am I. No matter what lies ahead, I’m not taking any of it for granted anymore. Maybe that was really the point all along. 

I’m sorry for long-winded post, my friends. But I know I’m not the only one of us here who either has dealt or is currently dealing with fertility issues or PCOS. For those of you still in the throes of it, know that you’re not alone and I that I wish you all the best as you continue forward on your journey. We may never fully understand it, but I hope you are able to find some peace or learning in whatever you’re going through.

Love and peace, friends. ❤

Baby Starks: Week 23

Happy week 23, everyone!

IMG_0075

How big is baby?

Baby Starks is now the size of a small eggplant! He also weighs about one pound now, and everything I read tells me that he will continue putting on weight rapidly from here on out.

People familiar with NICU life will also notice that this week marks another milestone: viability. Heaven forbid, if our little man were born today, he could survive with excellent medical care. But we have no reason to suspect that he will do anything but stay put and keep cooking just as long as he’s supposed to, so we’re not going to focus too much on that. 🙂

IMG_0078

How am I feeling?

These days, the name of the game is overall discomfort. Even though I generally don’t feel sick, heartburn aside, my body is just never comfortable anymore. Bending over to pick things up or tie my shoes is becoming quite the chore. Sleeping has become difficult again, even with the giant body pillow, especially since whichever arm I wind up lying on is always numb by the time I wake up. I’ve also noticed that I feel generally warmer than usual, too, which means more sweating and panicky feelings if my surroundings seem too hot or stuffy – and it’s summer, so of course this is the case all too often.

Despite regular visits to the chiropractor, I usually wind up with some kind of back or hip discomfort by the end of the day, too. If I sit too long, the right side of my back hurts. If I walk around more, I wind up with shooting pain down the left side of my butt. Either way, most days the very center of my back winds up tight and uncomfortable.

And true to all the pregnancy horror stories we’ve all heard, I have to pee all the time. I’ve always had a small bladder, but now, with a tiny human putting constant pressure on it, I find myself in the bathroom every 15 minutes if I’m doing a lot of standing or walking around. For instance, at the gym I get about 15 minutes of cardio before I have to run to the bathroom, and then I usually have to take another break somewhere in the middle of my weight routine, and then again before I stretch. Annoying! And I have now officially become that person who asks whether there will be a bathroom where we are going and how close it will be, and who has to use one right before we leave. Between that and food, sometimes it seems like all I think about!

IMG_0014

This last week in particular has been extra difficult, too, because I came down with yet another cold. Coughing, sneezing, body aches… waking up choking, and getting winded just walking down the hall… it’s even been kicking Robbie’s butt for the last several days, too. Most years I get one cold in the spring and one in the fall and I’m good the rest of the year… this year I seem to catch everything that goes around, as this is the fourth time I’ve been sick in 6 months. I take my vitamins, I wash my hands on the regular, I get as much rest as I can… and still sick. I hear that sometimes a woman’s immune system becomes suppressed during pregnancy to keep her body from attacking the baby. And if that’s the case, well… good thing you’re worth it, little man.

Any other interesting things happening?

IMG_0028

Baby got to go to his first baseball game! Robbie and I went to see the Giants play the Nationals, and the little guy kicked me the whole time. It’s hard to say whether it was baseball or the garlic fries that had him all excited, but he seriously didn’t stop moving during the entire game.

And because of course, we bought him his first Giants gear! We settled for generic (aka, inexpensive) onesies, but it was really tempting to get him a Buster Posey jersey or an adorable letterman-style jacket. (Don’t worry… big brother got a cool shirt and a backpack, too.)

IMG_1205

Thankfully we agree on baseball teams, because football… football is a different story. Please send all the adorable Broncos stuff you can find, to drown out the disgusting amount of 49ers gear Robbie is sure to inflict on this poor kid!

We’re also slowly acquiring some nursery furniture (even though the “nursery” is going to be a corner in our bedroom). We’re trying to be smart and frugal, so we’re getting a lot of these things second-hand. I’m part of a local “garage sale” Facebook group, and it’s been great for finding gently-used things for a good price.

For instance, we recently picked up this dresser, which will do double-duty as a changing table once we put a pad on it.

IMG_0065

There’s also this MamaRoo swing, which we got for less than a quarter of what it goes for new. We use these things in the NICU, and they are awesome! Once I wash the cover, it will be perfect. (Also, I’m honestly surprised I haven’t found one of the cats in it yet, haha!)

IMG_0063

And yesterday we picked up this Ikea crib for only $60! The people who we bought it from say that their son only used it a handful of times, so it’s basically brand new. And after pricing new cribs, it’s a relief to have acquired one for so cheap! We still have to pick up a mattress (this picture was before we took it apart to transport it), but that will be easy now that the bulk of the cost is out of the way. And another cool bonus: it came with the rail to convert it to a toddler bed when we’re ready for that. Score!

IMG_0052

We also got this awesome Pack-N-Play set for a steal during AmazonPrime Day last month. It’s still in the box since we won’t need it for a while, but again, really nice that we didn’t have to shell out full price for it.

And before anyone asks, don’t worry, the car seat will be one thing we definitely buy brand new. 🙂 I might also suck it up and buy the stroller new, too, since it will get so much use and we’re likely to be hard on it.

IMG_0076

And that’s pretty much it for this week! We’ll just keep growing and preparing until next time… see you for week 25!