Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The big 4-0

And here we are. 40 weeks today.

Funny how the number 40 has so many different significant meanings -- the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years, Noah's flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights, Ali Baba had 40 thieves, freed slaves were given 40 acres and a mule. Of course, it's all well and good to consider a pregnancy 40 weeks long, because the average human gestation is actually 41 weeks and a day. Though not everyone knows the date of conception as precisely as some of us. I know that 38 weeks today, 23 eggs were retrieved. Of those, 11 fertilized and two were good enough to transfer. I'm hoping to meet one of them in the next week or so.

After two failed pregnancies and way too many hours spent watching Discovery Channel shows about preterm labor, I'm not sure I ever thought I'd actually make it to 40 weeks. Yet here I am at the end of what's been a largely unremarkable, uneventful pregnancy. No preterm labor, no bedrest, no preeclampsia, no gestational diabetes.

The hospital where I'm delivering recommends induction at 41 weeks, because they feel the outcome of induction at 41 weeks is better than at 42 (read: fewer stillborns). Over the weekend we thought I was going into labor -- I was having what I called cramps and what others called contractions about every 3-5 minutes. But then things calmed down. Still, I'm getting anxious to meet this little person and find out if he or she is okay. So today I'm seeing an acupuncturist in the hopes she can get labor started sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Adventures in antenatal testing

Don't get me wrong: I have been, in many respects, fantastically lucky. At 38-plus weeks, I have managed to avoid all matters of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, bedrest, preterm labor, and other unpleasantries common to pregnant ladies of my advanced age.

That said, the last week has been full of surprises. First, there are the amniotic fluid index adventures. Each week, I go for a non-stress test, thanks to my status as an elderly IVF patient. The test measures two things: the baby's heart beat (always fine) and the level of amniotic fluid. The latter was deemed to be declining over the past few weeks, and last Friday the nurse decided the lowish level warranted a physician's opinion. Said physician eventually determined that a) the baby seemed fine, if on the smaller side; and b) if the fluid continued to decline, which she felt was likely, we were looking at an induction sooner rather than later. "You will not be two weeks late," she decreed.

In preparation for my next non-stress test, I hydrated the hell out of myself, and with good results: the fluid level rose. Higher fluid level = no cause for concern = no imminent induction. Good stuff.

Less good, though, was the double-header news that: a) I am positive for group-B strep, requiring me to take antibiotics during labor. I'm disturbed by this because I have a few antibiotic allergies. And b) I seem to be positive for tuberculosis. This news is rather flummoxing, given that I haven't traveled to many exotic locales since I was last tested nine years ago, and I haven't had any symptoms of consumption. Which, like, I think I would have noticed. The doctor now wants me to have a chest x-ray, but I'm not particularly eager to do that at nearly 39 weeks. Seems possible they'll put me on some crazy drug regime to treat what might be latent TB, but I don't really know.

Again, don't get me wrong: I have been very lucky. The antibiotics thing will probably be fine, and the TB is most likely a fluke. Still, when did I become a magnet for infectious disease?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Suspension of disbelief

I am sitting in the nursery. In a beautiful glider intended for breastfeeding, next to a crib filled with blankets and stuffed animals and adorable bedding, across from a changing table filled with baby clothes. There are also strollers (yes, multiple ones, I regret to say), a carseat, a swing, a bouncy seat, and assorted other items on the premises. There's a breastpump, a set of BPA-free bottles, diapers, wipes, kid books, and baby first aid stuff. There are baby carriers, a breastfeeding pillow, and books on every table advising how to get through labor and get a baby to sleep properly.

There's also a creature in my uterus that's stirring around right now. S/he is quite active and seems to have a definite schedule.

All of this seems to point to an actual live human being entering my family in the next month or so. In fact, at nearly 37 weeks, the kid could arrive tomorrow and probably be just fine (but, note to kid: please don't come yet. The world is harsh and cruel, and you could probably stand to cook a little longer.).

But I still find all of this pretty impossible to imagine. Yesterday, a friend asked about setting up some of the baby gear, and -- partly in an effort to keep my living room looking normal for another few weeks, and partly out of a self-protection mechanism I'll get to in a sec -- I said no, let's wait. She laughed and said, wait until what, you're in labor? And I thought, yes, perhaps labor will be an excellent time to fuss with poorly written instructions for items made in China. Or maybe when we're home from the hospital, sore, and overwhelmed and exhausted? That sounds perfect.

Maybe if I knew the gender this would seem more real. Or maybe if I hadn't spent two and a half years trying to get to this point, agonizing over infertility and watching two pregnancies go down the drain, I'd actually feel able to really connect with the being inside of me. I haven't sung to it as I imagined, haven't played the music for the fetus as I always planned. (In fact, I don't like calling it a fetus at this point. Isn't it a baby by now, asked the staunchly pro-choice feminist as she cringed a little inside?) I talk to the baby sometimes, occasionally encouraging it not to head-butt my cervix and asking it to consider going to sleep when it's 11 pm and I'm tired of the constant fluttering. But I don't know that I've connected with this baby in the way that I imagine others must do with their children. Can it really be the case that I'm going to be a mother?

Last October, just after my IVF procedures, a friend asked, when will you know if it worked? And I answered, in about nine months. It's coming upon that time. Even though all evidence points to success, I will still believe it when I see it.

PS Some stats:
Number of pounds gained: 29
Number of sympathy seats provided to me on BART: 4
Number of sympathy seats provided to me on Muni: 0
Number of people who've said I look small or even "tiny" for where I am in the pregnancy: 10+
Number of times I've run into people I know in the last two weeks and have had to tell them I'm pregnant: 2
Weeks of gestation it took for a woman I see once a week to realize I'm pregnant: 36
Percent of gender-specific dreams I've had where the baby turned out to be a boy: 0
Share of close friends surveyed who think this baby a girl: 4/5
Weeks since the amnio that I've managed to not call the perinatologist to find out the gender: 20
Number of non-stress tests performed thus far: 4
Number passed: 4
Times I've had heartburn during this pregnancy: 0
Number of contractions I've felt: 0
Weeks the baby has been head-down: 8
Pairs of work-appropriate pants that I can comfortably wear all day: 2
Pairs of work-appropriate shoes I can tolerate wearing all day: 4
Percent of rings that no longer fit me: 100
Number of days officially left in this gestation: 24