Head Case

I think when you have been dealing with infertility issues as long as I have, it seems entirely reasonable just to expect that you are going to keep getting negative results to things.  It is hard to fathom that a good result is possible because I have been dealing with negative results for so long.  Last week I had two doctors appointments – a regular checkup at my ob-gyn, and our fetal echocardiogram ultrasound.  Everything was fine at both.  From what the ultrasound tech and the doctor could see, both Baby A’s and B’s hearts looked fine. Of course, that doesn’t account for things that they cannot see, as no ultrasound is foolproof.  Both babies growth measured just fine, if slightly ahead of schedule.  At my ob-gyn, based on my fundal height measurements, my uterus was already measuring 32 weeks.  When you are halfway through your 22nd week, that isn’t necessarily something that you want to hear.  I am trying to imagine what the size of my uterus will be when I am actually 32 weeks.

Of course, I will take being enormous and uncomfortable at 32 weeks any day over my babies coming prematurely. I hope to be large and accepting of it right up to 37-38 weeks pregnant, at which time I have a normal induction/C-section, whichever is better. Ever since last week’s appointment, I have been obsessing about pre-term labor. There is no medical reason right now that I should be obsessing over preterm labor.  To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t been experiencing any of the symptoms of preterm labor, although I am constantly fretting that I don’t know exactly what a contraction would feel like, so how would I know if I have had one or not?  At the ultrasound, I was told that one of the babies is incredibly far down, which the doctor said wasn’t anything to worry about, as with twins, they are just trying to find any space that they possibly can find.

In the past week my comfort level has dropped off tremendously with this pregnancy. Every day I feel new aches and pains, and I feel so much pressure in my belly, I freak out about what is normal and what isn’t normal.  I have never been at this point with a pregnancy before and I will never be at this point with a pregnancy again, so I just don’t know how things are supposed to be feeling and I know I will never be expert at it. I know with two babies the discomfort level at this point in the pregnancy is much higher than what it otherwise would be, corresponding with my much larger uterus size. I just freak out because I don’t know if any of this means anything about premature labor.  I hate being so obsessively worried, but I am, so there you go. I don’t think it is an irrational fear, as I know multiple pregnancies put a woman at a much higher risk of premature labor.  I just wish that I could force myself to think about something else.

The good news is that my doctor scheduled a biophysical profile for me tomorrow, so before I head out of town to speak at a conference, I will hopefully get yet another reassurance that things are fine. Then, I have another follow-up at my regular ob-gyn on Monday.  Seriously, some people get annoyed at how many doctor’s appointments they have, but I find them incredibly reassuring. It was a stark shock to my system when I stopped seeing Dr. Fritz, my fertility doctor, on a near weekly basis, so I am incredibly thankful for living in a place where it is easy to access good prenatal care, as I am so grateful for what modern medicine has done for my life. Without it, I certainly would not have made it this far.

Here is a picture from my ultrasound last week of Baby A (Baby B we couldn’t get as good of a shot, because he is so far down), trying to valiantly shield himself using his arms and legs from the blows and kicks of Baby B. Yes, those two are still going at it in the womb. I hope they will be less violently-disposed towards each other outside of the womb in 14 or so weeks when they make it to the outside. (I apologize if you are one of the people who find ultrasound pictures made public distasteful or 3D ultrasounds creepy).

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Fully Vested

   I know it is pretty trite to say “I just am sooooo busy, I haven’t had time to blog,” but I don’t know of any time in my life when that has been a more true statement than in the most recent interval of time for me. I feel like this fall semester has been busier than ever as in addition to teaching, I am chairing a professional organization committee, working on two faculty committees, trying to write a book review that is due next week the same time I have to be presenting at a conference of municipal law attorneys in Baltimore, writing an article for publication that is long overdue, and serving on a search committee.  That is just the major work obligations.  After work, David and I have been interviewing nanny candidates, attending birthing and childcare classes at the hospital (in addition to my multiplicity of doctor’s appointments which are double the amount of normal prenatal appointments), and just decided to throw in tackling some fairly major home improvement projects we would like to get taken care of in advance of the babies coming. Thankfully, when David isn’t travelling for work he has been able to field the parade of workers coming to our house to offer bids on such exciting things as tree removal, floor refinishing, and installing new HVAC systems.  I have a feeling once the actual work starts on all of those things, it will get even crazier. 

   Yet in spite of the busy, I feel pretty good about things right now.  I had a bizarre moment today that put some small perspective in my life that had been lacking.  It happened on the line at Brueggers Bagels this morning. The line was ridiculously long and slow-moving, which is the kind of situation that makes me seethe with internal rage under normal circumstances. I don’t know why I have so much hostility towards inefficiency, but there it is.  At some point while waiting in the line, I noticed that the law school dean was a few people behind me in the line. Now, it isn’t unusual for me to spot him at Brueggers in the morning, as I have seen him many times before. I have seen him so many times, in fact, that I know it is ridiculous for him to have to wait in line, because he orders a certain type of bagel plain, grabs a cup for coffee and that is it. There is no elaborate dozen bagel cutting with fifteen different types of toppings.  It is straightforward and he should be in and out of there in about two minutes, maximum.  So when I finally got up to order my more elaborate Skinny Zesty Egg White on Whole Wheat, I first asked for his bagel in a bag so I could give it to him and so he could get out of that ridiculous line.

After that, my mood turned and I started thinking about why and this is the conclusion that I came to – all of this business is attributable to something that I love, and that I feel like I have lacked up until now; that I have a community to which I belong to. See, this year marks the start of my fifth year working at UNC.  That is the longest I have worked anywhere. Before now, I flitted about the country – New York, to Seattle, to DC, to here, and I never felt the need to be a part of anything termed “community”.  But now, here we are worried about making our home a safe, comfortable place for the babies and I know the dean’s bagel order by heart.  One sister is in town, my other sister is only three and a half hours away, and if only may parents were closer, I would get to feel entirely like how it feels to be home with family.  Sure, I might temporarily be losing the community feeling of all those North Carolina basketball games, as we give that up for a year to focus on other priorities, but it never has felt better to be a Tar Heel. My doctors know me by name, not by chart (thanks in part to my extroverted medical school sister who is universally beloved).  David and I have the first yard political sign of my lifetime (Kay Hagan for Senate). We are invested in where we are and in making it better.  That feels good. It only took a bagel for me to realize that.

Sporting Sacrifices

I have decided I am not going to renew my men’s basketball season tickets this year. I spent a considerable amount of time pondering this decision, and I came to this conclusion, reluctantly but decidedly. First off, in considering how many new expenses David and I have headed our way related to babies and child care, I cannot really justify spending $1,300 on season tickets this year (Interesting how priorities change considering a few short months ago I had no problem spending $1,300 for tickets to one single Chelsea match in London). Furthermore, I am doubtful I would even be able to take advantage of the tickets once I purchased them, considering how winded I was yesterday just teaching my class. I cannot imagine how I will have the energy to saunter down to the Smith Center and walk up the stairs when it is November or December. Then, after the babies come, I doubt I would even be able to go to a single game for the rest of the season.

So those are the entirely practical reasons I decided to take the season off. However, that really isn’t the end of it. Lately, I have become more disillusioned with university athletics generally. I am not thrilled with the NCAA’s plan to let the big six conference in essence, “regulate themselves” when it comes to things like paying players or making rules regarding relationships with agents. I have disliked all of the conference realignment and how it has changed the character of the games. Remember the good old days when every team played every other team in their conference at home and away and that determined who was the conference champion? You know, kind of like how the British Premier League still works for soccer? Well, all of that is out the window now. I hate broadcasting and network contracts for college sports. I hate how Bubba Cunningham wants to raise money to redo the Dean Dome to create more “luxury boxes” for even more revenue. I hate how UNC’s once pristine reputation has been dragged through the mud over a never-ending series of sports scandals (including the newest one involving the football team and alleged hazing just this week). Basically, I am tired of what college sports have become (at least the revenue generating ones).

In the past couple of years, I have completely replaced watching College Game Day with watching the Saturday morning British Premier League coverage anyway. Sure, I realize that big money infects European soccer in a major way, but at least it isn’t some racket that is claiming to “educate” students at the same time. At least Roman Abramovich isn’t claiming to offer a first rate education to his select group of “scholar-athletes.” And also, at least in the Premier League, every team plays every other team twice, once at home and once away so there never is the level of controversy over who the real champion is.

I don’t know if anything can save my once beloved activities of watching college sports now that money has pretty much ruined everything.

The Beach Summer Ends

Unfortunately, the past week and a half of my existence has been nonstop work and other obligations, which is normal with the start of another school year. The week prior to that was our week spent on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks, and it was pretty fantastic.  In spite of a couple of days of rougher-than-normal seas, for the most part we were treated to pretty perfect weather for the beach, which meant we spent a lot of time just hanging out.  Our days were interspersed with beach time, pool time, tennis time, and some time for work from a distance in-between. As always, it was pretty great to spend time with Melissa and her two young’uns, although we lamented the fact that more family couldn’t join us because of bad timing. Thankfully, we were graced with the presence of friends from DC for part of the time, which was an absolute delight.

Other special parts of the trip were that on the trip Phoebe as a toddler became official, as she finally took those first steps without holding on to objects which quickly became running steps by the end of the week.  Knightley had his best week ever at the beach with mild temperatures and his love of a beachside doze in the shade.  We didn’t do a lot, but what really needs to be done when doing so little is so perfect?

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The waters were quite rough at the start of the week, but calmed down by the week’s end.  We had a grand time sitting and watching the Yankee tourists who overestimated their swimming abilities tumbling in the waters.

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We spent plenty of quality good friend time, which was well-worth it.

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My body is completely in that awkward stage of pregnancy where nothing quite looks like it should fit together that way.

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I much prefer the up-close pictures with Knightley looking distinguished as he usually does.  Seriously, every day I love my dog a little bit more.  I cannot imagine my life without him in it.

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We had three adorable children to also provide us with some human cuteness of course.
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Melissa always made sure that there were plenty of goldfish on the beach for all to enjoy with sandy hands.

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Other beachside sustenance was also enjoyed, like an ample supply of hot dogs and hamburgers, which really is what summer should be all about.

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It was a great week, far too short, but great.  I am already looking forward to next summer’s edition.

One Obligatory Picture

Over the years, I have become somewhat critical of all of the cliché things that pregnant ladies do, like taking excessive numbers of photographs of themselves holding their bellies. I am not one to memorialize my progress a week at a time, but here I am with an obligatory belly-holding photo at eighteen weeks.
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Hopefully one photo will suffice. When I look at this picture, I still don’t see cute pregnant lady, I see lady who is going to need to pay for a breast reduction and lift in 2-3 years time. So yes, the posting of pregnancy pictures will not be abundant.

Nonetheless, we received good news from my amniocentesis last week. Not only did the FSH results come back clear, meaning no trisonomy 13, 18, or 21, but the microarray came back Friday completely normal too.  Today’s 18 week ultrasound came back the best of any that I have had so far, but we still are waiting for a few more test results as well as our fetal echocardiogram at 22 weeks to rule in or out other problems. Today, though, the boys were generally good and behaved themselves to get some good anatomy views, although twin A was doing some pretty terrible kicking of twin B in the head. Hopefully, that isn’t any indication of what things will be like when they are on the outside.

It feels good to make it this far and have some good news for a change, but I am still so wary of getting overly excited.  I think this is the lingering effect of so many failures and so much bad news, I am so nervous that I don’t know when it is actually proper to be excited. I just want everything to be well and the boys to be healthy.

This whole experience up to this point in time has taught me even more how important compassion is, though. Seriously, the range of things going through my head after the bad ultrasound when so many terrible things were possible – I just decided then and there, I will never judge a woman for the reproductive choices she makes. I just get so angry when people presume to know better than a woman who is actually experiencing all of these things, and whose body is the one who has to deal with the repercussions of those decisions.

The only other big decision (outside of work) that I am really allowing myself to deal with right now is where to go on our last trip that David and I will take together before the babies come. Unfortunately, since I am teaching on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the fall, the trip is only going to be four days.  Also, my doctor told me I cannot travel out of the country, which totally disrupted the trip we were going to take to the new Westin resort in the Dominican Republic.  I really wanted somewhere hot and beachside, where I could be in a swimsuit most of the time. Of course, the Caribbean during hurricane season is not the best idea.  We were looking at some other Stanwood resorts in South Florida, but I have an inherent bias against South Florida’s beaches compared to the Gulf Coast. Also, I am just not the kind of person that really fits in South Florida, not with the elderly northeasterners that makeup the clientele of the St. Regis Bal Harbor in late September… (we have to complete our travel before 27 weeks, says my doctor who insisted on domestic travel only).

Yes, this is an obnoxious “problem” to write about, but in my defense, the amount of stress that I have shouldered with regard to this pregnancy this summer is deserving of some kind of release.

 

Water-Based Visits

Since I last wrote, I have been to Virginia Beach two times and to the sweltering nightmare of San Antonio.  The first weekend we went to Virginia Beach, it was for the fourth of July.  Our first evening there coincided with the arrival of some passing hurricane, that was so non-eventful, that I already forgot the name of it. I don’t think Atlantic Coast hurricanes compare to Gulf hurricanes in intensity or memorability, at least they haven’t so far in my experience.  There’s my judgmental view of things.

Nonetheless, the next morning we ventured out to survey the vast, catastrophic damage to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Just who is going to lift that sign up again?

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To paraphrase George Costanza, “The sea was angry that day, my friends.”

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Nevertheless, Knightley was rather unimpressed by the whole affair.

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We took an evening walk at a different beach and noted the mild beach erosion.

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In between Virginia Beach trips, I had to go to San Antonio for a work-related conference. Let me tell you something about San Antonio in July: it is terrible. Let  me tell you something about Texas in general: it is the worst. On the first day of the conference, I was attending some leadership training at the Marriott across the street from my hotel, the Grand Hyatt, and a friend texted me that someone was murdered in our hotel. Sure enough, I came out of the Marriott to go back to my hotel to find 40 police cars surrounding the place. Let me note, this was not some Motel 6 in a sketchy part of town. This was the Grand Hyatt next to the convention center. Basically, between this experience and my terrible experience with the Hyatt in Seattle last summer, I have sworn of the entire hotel chain. However, I have also sworn of the state of Texas with its lax gun laws that basically allow people to open the door to their hotel room and shoot someone and escape all criminal charges. 

When not attending the mandatory sessions I had to attend for the conference, basically I hung out at this place:

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Swimming a few laps in between conference sessions is always a good antidote to conference and networking fatigue (I will be honest, this year I did not have the energy to put into even a modest attempt at networking). Also, did I mention it was really hot? 

Once my final conference session was done, I rented a car and headed up to New Braunfels to go tubing on the Comal River.  I needed another water-based activity, and the spring-fed water was actually quite pleasant. On parts of the river, you actually could spot some local wildlife.

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We also tubed past the Schlitterbahn, which to be honest, is where I really wanted to be. However, I figured I should play it safe with the whole pregnancy thing and avoid the waterslides, however much I love a good waterpark.

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The Schlitterbahn might be the only reason I ever consider returning to the state of Texas.

I know it certainly won’t be for the rodeos. At the West customer appreciation party, they took us out to a ranch north of town to watch some rodeo action (and line dancing and other Texas-related nonsense).  Note the ratio of Texas flags to American flags:

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That picture could just about sum up Texas, with this document (the Texas GOP platform for 2014)as its accompanying caption. That document also sums up why I never want to return to that state. I cannot even begin to explain how terrifying the Texas GOP’s vision for the future is.

The trip to the ranch did provide me an opportunity to meet my favorite Texan of the trip -

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That longhorn looked as about annoyed with everything as I felt.

Luckily, in addition to the pool and the river, there were some good times with good people to moderate the fact that I was a sweaty mess the entire time I was there.  Here are a group of well-liked law librarians invading some hipster Texas bar, called “The Esquire Tavern” looking entirely out of place.

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What is Texas hipster? Tight jeans and large belt buckles, worn in an ironic way complement plenty of exotic animal taxidermy. 

On the last night, I did manage to eat at one legitimately good restaurant called The Granary ‘Cue and Brew, which is the only legitimate thing I can recommend about the entire city.

I will take Atlantic hurricanes any day.

Boys

I am using this new Jenny Lewis video as a way to announce that David and I found out at our amniocentesis on Monday that we are expecting two boys. (Assuming that all goes well and that both turn out to be okay, of course. Don’t you love how I always have to qualify everything?)

I thought this video was the perfect way to announce for so many reasons -

1. Owing to my fascination with the machinations of the British class system, I love how the actresses in drag are all wearing Adidas track suits. I would be lying if I didn’t say that one reason that I am excited about boys is that I can now buy a baby Chelsea home kit.

2. The lyrics feel entirely autobiographical. I mean the whole being rude to child brides bit and being the lady without a baby, yes, Jenny Lewis, I really get it. I really do.

3. I will have to adjust to living with a lot more testosterone than I ever have before. It is more than just not having a daughter to whom I can bequeath my hat collection (niece Phoebe will be the designee for that now), but the fact that I am not so sure how to handle boys, considering I didn’t grow up with any myself.

The boy thing will take some getting used to, but right now, my main concern is that we will get good test results back and that they will both be healthy. Whether or not they become Chelsea fans will just be gravy after that.