Monday, June 25, 2012

How We Got Our Twins

My mother has psychic dreams.  She tends to know when people are about to die.  She's had dreams about other things as well.  When I was about 15 she had a dream that I had twins.  She explained it in such detail it made an impression on me.  When I got pregnant the first time, I thought it may be twins.  Imagine my relief  when there was just one embryo on that first ultrasound. 
Fast forward a bit.  I tried for a long time to get pregnant the second time.  Okay, maybe it wasn't that long, but it felt long, especially when you are timing the pregnancy in relation to your first born.  We started passively trying shortly before her 1st birthday.  I got pregnant a few months later, but sadly lost the baby.  I was anxious to get started again, but my cycles never quite returned to normal.  All this time, my oldest is quickly growing.  I wanted my kids to be relatively close together.  Each cycle that went by, my closely spaced kids were getting further and further apart.  
I started charting, and it was blatantly obvious that I was not ovulating. After doing that for 6 months, I talked to my OB and she decided to put me on Clomid.  We had a trip planned to visit relatives in California around that time.  There was some blood work involved, and I had to find a place to do it.  I somehow ended up in the worst healthcare facility I have ever seen.  It took them weeks to get my lab results back and slowed our progress because so much depended on the questions those results were answering.  
I did 3 cycles of Clomid with no luck.  I still wasn't ovulating, so they referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist.  He was able to act quickly because I had such great charts.  We tried a different drug, Letrozole, which is supposed to have less chance of producing multiples than Clomid.  I got pregnant the second cycle.   
The day I found out I was pregnant, I saw a double rainbow.  In my mind, I knew that it was a sign that I was carrying twins.  It was as though God showed me his promise  of two babies, not only the baby we wanted, but also the one he had previously taken.  I had my HCG levels checked a few short days later.  They were okay, but not spectacular.  
Then we went back to California again.  They wanted me to do a follow up blood test a few days later. I was much more careful in choosing a lab provider this time.  It was strange how the fertility journey was book ended by lab work done in another state.  They did get my HCG levels back to my doctor the very next day.  The call from my doctor was cautiously optimistic.  My HCG levels had not quite doubled.  They were slightly concerned and warned me not to get my hopes up, this could put me at a greater risk for a miscarriage.  And here we had just told all of my husband's family the news.  We may have waited, but since we were there in person, we couldn't hold it in.  That, and the second I turned down a margarita they would have suspected anyway.  
Then on August 26, 2008, just after we arrived back in New York, my suspicions were confirmed.  My first ultrasound clearly showed 2 little heart beats, thumping away.  You could see them the second that the ultrasound tech put the wand on me.  She saw my jaw drop, and asked "Do you see what I see?"
I said "I think I see two!" 
My husband said "Two what?" 
My mother saw me get out of the car with the ultrasound picture in hand.  She could see the 2 sacs on that picture all the way from the picture window, and so she ran out to see.  Then she said it would be one of each.  Of course, she was right.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Emily Rose: A Pregnancy Story, Part 3: Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne
Dear Emily Rose,
Bringing in the New Year must have been uneventful because I don’t remember much about it. I wasn’t at a hip party or dancing in Times Square. In fact, I didn’t even watch the ball drop on television. I can guarantee I was in bed already. Midnight is past my bedtime and New Year’s Eve is not my favorite holiday.
But with the calendar change came an unavoidable first experience for us both. Our first OB/gyn appointment was upon us. I made sure to follow their instructions about what to do prior to the appointment and left the house with a clear head. The hospital and doctors would be new to me, but I was a seasoned veteran. I saw this appointment as one of those chores that would be over with soon enough and then easily forgotten.              
I walked into the waiting room and my first reaction was one of disappointment. My last doctor’s office was like the Cheesecake Factory of offices–huge, well decorated, and busy but run like a military operation. Comparatively, this new place was a hole in the wall. I’m not the type of girl that needs all the frills, but I felt lost and suddenly had the feeling that something was about to go wrong.    
I waited behind one other person and when it was my turn, I gave the secretary with a bad 1980’s haircut my ID and insurance card. Through her wide-framed glasses, she peered at me with a combination of annoyance and disgust. “Do you have a referral with you?”
I was ready for this question since they told me I would need to take care of this before the appointment. “My insurance company said I didn’t need one.”
“You ALWAYS need one when your primary care physician is in a different state.”
To make a long and rather uninteresting story short, I lived in Vermont at the time but had a Massachusetts primary care doctor, one I had never seen before. After spending a long time trying to get a referral anyway, I was relieved to find out from my insurance company that I was good to go without one.
I went into more detail about my phone conversation with the insurance rep. After my spiel, I waited in uncomfortable silence as she formulated her unfair judgment about my competence. I could see it in her eyes. Soon the bickering resumed and only ended when she decided to “check with her office manager.” do that...
I sat down in a corner as far away from humanity as possible. Trying to debate a secretary on a power trip is like trying to discuss evolution with a religious zealot. Both are immune to reason because their “word” is gospel. My argument would have been just as effective if I had broken into a chorus of Auld Lang Syne.
I stewed in silence until my name was called. The worst had to be over, right? Well, I wish that were true. The know-it-all nurse then had to say things like...this should have been taken care of may have to pay out of pocket....blah, blah, blah. She was clearly on team secretary.    
Now imagine this, Emily Rose: you are sitting on an exam table wearing only a disposable gown. You are about to undergo one of the most invasive procedures you will ever have done by a complete stranger. AND THEN, the nurse and your supposed doctor start discussing your insurance predicament (and your blatant ignorance) right outside the exam room door.  
Because the doctor was badmouthing me in the hall, I disliked him before he walked in the room.  And, of course, once he decided to grace me with his presence, he started his speech on the intricacies of the health insurance system.   
“I’m not an idiot,” I said unremorsefully when he was through, and I should have added, “or deaf either.” Then I asked who the expert was on the matter since my insurance company obviously gave me the wrong information. The nurse and the doctor exchanged glances and couldn’t give me a straight answer. It was just as I expected. They didn’t really know any more about my situation than I did.
Their attention then turned to my health and it was about time! I gave the doctor curt answers to his inquiries and endured his poking and prodding. The end was near. It had to be. I had been through enough for one day. When the exam was over, I put my clothes back on and tried to hold it together as I went to check out. 
I attempted to schedule my next appointment with the younger, more pleasant office assistant, but the process was interrupted by bad-haircut, power-trip lady. She had more to say. I had to tune her out. Adrenaline, nausea, low blood sugar, and pregnancy hormones were quickly becoming a toxic combination. My vision started to blur and not just with tears. While I was mentally trying to find an escape route, the infamous “office manager” stepped in. Her “we’re only trying to help you” speech wasn’t at all convincing, but at least someone had information with more substance than hearsay. She had called my insurance company and just as I had said from the beginning, I didn’t need a referral. So I was right all along! In essence, power-trip lady, preachy nurse, and uncompassionate doctor were just practicing their condescension at my expense.    
In the car on my way home, I called your father at work and gave him the tearful rendition of my story. When life seems overly complicated in my head, he has a way of removing the extraneous emotional variables. His conclusion was this: find a different doctor. The thought was empowering, but the second closest hospital was about forty minutes away. I felt stuck. For your sake, Emily Rose, I decided to give them one more chance, a chance they didn’t deserve...
Signing off,


Friday, June 1, 2012

Emily Rose: A Pregnancy Story, Part 2: Christmas Miracle

Christmas Miracle
Dear Emily Rose,
You gave me a two week grace period before “morning sickness” really kicked in. I should have made the most out of those early weeks while they lasted. Pregnancy, week 7, started the Monday before Christmas. Presents were still unwrapped, house cleaning had not yet begun, and on top of that, there were sixteen people coming to our house for dinner on Christmas Eve. 
The 23rd of December arrived with bells on. Most other mommies out there were probably putting on their red and green war paint and chugging strong coffee, whereas I had trouble motivating myself to get off the couch. And I remember thinking, “I don’t think I can do this...”
Your father’s Christmas pep talk finally got me on my feet. Like a good little soldier, I schlepped to the kitchen, downed a teaspoon of sugar (my fastest and most effective home remedy for nausea), and started rolling meatballs. By ten o’clock, I closed down the kitchen for the night. I knew going to bed meant that I’d have to do all of the gift wrapping the following night after a long evening of entertaining. But I went to bed anyway and had no regrets.
At three in the morning, I woke up hungry. I had about two minutes to do one of three things: go back to sleep, get something to eat, or face dire consequences. I chose option two because if option one didn’t pan out then option three would be unavoidable. I ended up munching on saltines while wrapping those daunting presents. I stumbled back to bed around dawn and slept more soundly knowing my nausea and insomnia proved themselves useful for once–Santa’s to-do list had a big fat checkmark next to “wrapping.”  
Christmas Eve was a blur of activity. Everyone in the family pitched in to help ready the house for the big event. Even you, Emily Rose, were with us in spirit and did not seem to detract from my wellbeing too much that day and for that I thank you. Somehow we managed to pull off a decent Italian meal in a charmingly tidy house. I call that a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!  


When Did I Become a Dinosaur?

     I just started my first graduate class.  I've taken a few post baccalaureate classes recently, in order to get my feet wet.  Now that I'm in the deep end, I find myself marveling at the technology that is available now.
     When I was an undergrad umpteen years ago, the internet was in its infancy.  We all had dial up, every single last person. Logging into an email account remotely was quite the task.  People used to pay for AOL accounts.  There was no wireless internet.  You needed a cable and a special card to use with your modem if you were accessing the colleges internet connection.  We used to save our documents on these plastic things called floppy disks, or if you were lucky enough to have a CD burner, you could write it to a CD, but not re-write depsite the label of RW on the CD case.
     I'm really marveling at the technology that's available for doing academic research.  See, there was no really good search engine back then.  The internet was seen as unreliable.  I remember being discouraged from citing internet sources in my Freshman English course.  I was a History major, and the majority of my sources were dusty old books, and I was just fine with that.  I was great at using a card catalog when looking for books.
     When I had to do a project on more current events, I got to use micro film or micro fiche. For those born after 1990, that is like a scanned document, but a negative of it that has to be magnified.  If you don't know what a negative is, just stop reading now.  I got to be quite good at going through those machines.  When I interned at a library, I got very good at trouble shooting when there were problems with said machines. I could probably include microfiche and film reader repair in my list of skills on Linked-In, not that anyone would find that skill relevant today.
     On occasion I used journal articles.  We felt very lucky that there was a computerized database that allowed us to search for articles.  This was a vast improvement over the old indexes that were in the Reference section. Still, once you located an article in said data base, you had to hope the library you were in had the journal, pull the physical book that housed the journal, and photo copy your article of choice.  Now, I don't even need to go to the library to do a search.  I can do it from my home computer.  Then once I find an article I'm interested in using, most of them link right to the PDF file.  No more trekking over to the SUNYA library for journals not in my college's library.  No more photocopies at $.10 a page.
     Today was the death blow to my ego.  I had seen online that there was a hold on my account for a signature on my financial aid forms.  I happily strolled over to the Student Services Center, only to be told they were no physical forms to sign.  The signature was required on an online form.  My mind was blown.  Signature no longer means your name scrawled out in cursive on a piece of paper.  It's an online pin number and check boxes.  It's official.  I am a dinosaur.