Saturday, April 24, 2010

Subchorionic Hematoma AKA The Most Terrifying Fu**ing Thing Ever

So, I went in on Wednesday for my first OB appointment. They did the usual things: pap, blood tests, gave me a bag of baby magazines. The doc told me I might spot for a while after the pap.

This scared me a little because I had some spotting between 5 and 7 weeks. I had HCG tests and an early ultrasound and everything looked great. They said they didn't know what caused it, but it stopped, so all was good. Also, they said that since it was never bright red it was likely nothing serious.

So, Wednesday night, I had bright red spotting and assumed it was from the pap. Thursday morning I had more, and assumed the same. By Thursday afternoon it was heavier, so I called the doc, who told me to monitor it and go to the ER if it got heavier.

I woke up, as usual, in the middle of the night to pee. At 4:00 am I sat down to see a TON of bright red blood. I was certain that I had miscarried and was terrified. I rushed (sorta, for some reason, at 4 in the morning, we hit EVERY SINGLE red light between here and the hospital) to the ER. They got me in right away, did an ultrasound and (thank God) found a heartbeat. The baby measured 8w2d--right on target. The heartbeat was 162, also good.

Then they wheeled me out of ultrasound and back to the ER, where I stayed for hours and hours. They finally came and told me that I had a subchorionic hematoma--pooled blood between the placenta and uterine wall. This sounded pretty terrifying to me. They said that only 1-2% of women get them, but most of those go on to deliver healthy babies, so I'm trying to stay positive. There is an increased risk for miscarriage and an increased risk for some complications later.

I'm on complete pelvic rest and restricted movement (no lifting, no exercise).

Although I'm writing this blog as someone who wants to illustrate my ability (and therefore others' abilities) to have it all, this scare has had me in full mommy-mode for the past two days. I called into work Friday, missed a meeting this morning, and have put my school assignments on the back burner. Having it all does not mean losing focus on priorities, and my top priority is having a healthy, loved baby. God willing, that's exactly what I'll do.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pregnancy Brain?

Pregnancy brain is apparently a myth, but I wish I had the excuse today.

At the moment, I am supposed to be doing at least one of the following:
1) Reading the last few pages of a novel before class starts in two hours.
2) Writing a 10-page paper that's due in one week.
3) Writing a 20-page paper that's due in two weeks.
4) Scheduling summer workshops for work.

What I am actually doing is much simpler: avoiding 1-4. It's not that I try to avoid them. I pick up my book with gusto (okay, maybe not gusto). I read a page, maybe two. Then, I suddenly realize that the last two paragraphs haven't registered at all. Instead, I'm thinking about what I should do for dinner tonight, whether or not I remembered to mail off the bills I filled out last night, and--yes, of course--hundreds of fleeting, random thoughts about this human being growing inside of me.

I'm tempted to use the human-growing thing as a legitimate excuse, but it wouldn't be fair. I was not at all pregnant at the end of last semester, and I found myself watching back-to-back episodes of the British drama Skins on Netflix instant watch while considering the most effective way to reorganize my kitchen cabinets.

(This is Chris, the best Skins character.)

No, this is not pregnancy brain, this is just my plain-old-everyday brain, trying to trick me into avoiding work. I managed to get everything together at the end of last semester, and I'll do it again this semester. The procrastination just adds some excitement!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Morning Sickness

I puked for the first time in several years this morning.

I can, if pressed, count the number of times I've vomited on one hand. (I'm sure this wasn't true as a baby, but I can't remember it, so we're not counting it.) All of those times involved excessive amounts of alcohol (primarily vodka, damn vodka). Once I graduated college, binge drinking lost what little allure it had, and my digestive tract and I have been on good terms ever since.

Tomorrow is my 8-week mark, and I read that morning sickness usually hits between 6 and 8 weeks. I was foolishly starting to think I was in the clear. Sure, I'd been nauseous, and my suddenly bionic sense of smell could pick up the gum a woman was chewing from across the room (seriously, it was gross). But I hadn't put much thought into the whole vomiting thing.

This morning it hit me while I was in the shower. I had to rush out, dripping wet, and barely made it to the toilet.

What if this had happened at work?

My boss and the graduate assistant who work in my office both know. I told them early on because I had a doc appointment already, and I didn't want them thinking I had just suddenly started taking two hour lunches. They were both incredibly supportive and understanding.

But what about everyone else? I don't want to start throwing up in the middle of a staff meeting and have people think I'm drunk or flu-ridden. But I also don't want to tell everyone yet.

I have another doctor's appointment on Wednesday. I had originally planned on going public after this appointment, but I still don't quite feel ready. I've been telling friends and family as it comes up, but I'm not particularly close to many of my co-workers.

I don't want them treating me like I can't handle the workload, but I also (maybe selfishly) don't want to have to answer a ton of questions about how I feel, if I'm excited, and I don't want strangers sticking their hands on my belly. I'm a pretty private person, and there's something about a pregnant woman that just throws privacy out the window. I want to savor my normalcy a bit longer. I hope that the morning sickness doesn't give me away.

Is everything about money?

Despite the very determined, argumentative bent of my initial post, I can't say that the debate about working moms v. stay-at-home moms is one sided. I also recognize that this a longstanding debate that's rife with influence: philosophical debate from various feminist movements, cultural shifts in attitudes about men's roles, and--most recently--the recession.

Hopefully it is just the panicked rhetoric of economic stability filling the air and not a more sustained feature, but everything I read about working moms is focused on money. Literally, everything.

They fall into different camps:

1) Moms Who Must Work:
This view on the working mother seems to be sympathetic. Of course, the general underlying principle maintains, any one who is capable would choose to be at home, but many of us must work to make ends meet. The tips and advice in these articles center on how a mom can deal with the guilt she feels and recognize that she is doing all she can for her child.

2) The Cost of Staying At Home:
This article focuses on the amount of money "lost" by a mother who chooses to stay at home. This includes the paychecks they don't receive while staying at home, but also forfeited retirement plans and other benefits like health insurance. All in all, "Economists say that the stay-at-home parent who relinquishes a career may lose about $1 million over the years."
This article ends with the realistic (though, to me, depressing) advice to focus on prenups and consider the financial vulnerability of being a procreating woman.

3) The Cost of the Mommy-Track:
In this well-written, thoughtful article, Angie Kim discusses the concept of the mommy track. Among her points made is a description of her mother's reaction to the fact that she, after years of education (including law school), had become a stay at home mom:
At the end of the reunion evening, my classmates and I compared notes and discovered that only one woman (of the 30 or so in attendance) was still a full-time practicing attorney. "Is our whole class on the mommy track?" I wondered, a little relieved.

When I told my mom about the reunion, she had a different question: "I guess we're not the only ones who wasted a hundred thousand dollars in tuition, then?" Although her comment was punctuated by a good-natured chuckle, I couldn't laugh it off. She and my dad had moved to Baltimore from Korea, working 16-hour days in a tiny, vaultlike grocery store protected by bullet-proof glass, skimping and saving for my tuition. Had I squandered my parents' years of sacrifice?

Now, I get it. Money is important. It buys nice things like air conditioning, clothes, houses, and food. I want to be paid for the work that I do, and I like the stability that those payments bring me. But I am not reducible to a dollar amount and neither is the work that I do. If it was simply a question of how much monetary worth I would have if I stayed at home, I wouldn't care.

I want to work because it is fulfilling, mentally engaging, and interesting. I want to work because work lets me contribute to society. I want to work selfishly and altruistically, but money is only a tiny subset of that dynamic. Can't we talk about some of the other stuff? Please?

The Balancing Act Begins

One month ago today, I peed on a stick and watched the faintest pink line appear. This wasn't a "surprise" pregnancy, but I still felt surprised as I stood there staring at it. As someone who studies rhetoric and communication, it was fascinating to think about how much that one little line signified: a new life; a new role to play for me and my husband; diapers, bottles, and car seats to buy; a room to paint; maternity clothes; people to tell; books to read; excitement; nervousness.

One thing I did not think it signified, however, was the forced decision between baby and career. I have been in school for the last 20 (yes, 20) years. That is 80% of my life. I have a BA, an MA, and a few credits toward a PhD. I love writing, reading, and researching, but I also love teaching and working with students. That's why, a little over a year ago, I dropped down to part-time student status and applied for a full-time job with a University. Now I coordinate a program that lets me share my love for research and scholarship with like-minded students and help them reach their goals. I love my job. I'm going to repeat that because it seems to be difficult for some people to grasp. I love my job.

As soon as I told a few people that I was pregnant, I started getting questions about when I would quit my job. When I told people that I wasn't going to, they were shocked. My husband is about to graduate from law school, and they think that his income should be enough to sustain us.

It probably would be, but I'm not so concerned with whose bank account the bills come out of as I am the fact that I would be miserable if I couldn't work. It never occurred to me that I couldn't be a mother and a professional, and it hasn't occurred to me yet. I am going to continue working because I love it, and I know that I will be a strong role model for this child that I already love so much.

In the meantime, I am going to attempt to quiet the voices of those around me by keeping track of how this balance works out.