Adventures of Week 20

On Tuesday, we got to see our little fetus again!  I had been looking forward to this visit for several weeks, which is awesome and crazy because it’s only the second time I’ve ever actually looked forward to having an ultrasound.

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B and I got to the doctor’s office right on time, and I was gulping water in the car on the way.  I’ve been able to perfect the art of making sure my bladder is juuust full enough by the time I’m called in for the procedure.  If I’m too full too early, then I have to pee or risk soaking my socks.  If I’m not full enough (not usually my problem) then they yell at me and make me wait.  And I don’t like to be yelled at.

We sat down in the waiting room and one of my first thoughts was: Yessss!  No blood draws today!

Which was quickly followed by:  Frick!  No blood draws means no snacks!

I turned to Brian.  “Do you think they’ll give us snacks if we ask?”

“Somehow I doubt it.”

“Well, they really should provide snacks.  Maybe I’ll write it on a comment card.”

“You do that.”

The ultrasound tech came out to get us and brought us into the exam room.

“Hi, my name is Li-”

“WE DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE SEX!”  I blurted out.  I was terrified that the surprise would be spoiled for us.

She laughed.  “Well ok then, I’ll tell you when to close your eyes.  You sure you don’t want it in an envelope for one of those gender reveal parties?”

“NO!  NO SEX!”  …and it’s impossible for our baby to have a gender identity at this point in development.  Yarg.  I cringe when I hear people use the term gender when they really mean sex, especially when it’s a medical professional.  I bit my tongue.

The experience of this ultrasound was pretty awe-inspiring.  I especially loved getting to see the interaction between me and the baby – when the baby pushed on my bladder, I could both feel it (very much so) and see the corresponding movement on the screen.  And when the tech pushed on my tummy and we saw my baby get jostled around and get all annoyed – precious.  This isn’t the first time you’re going to get annoyed by me, Little Duck.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain and emotions around the concept (that I understand intellectually just fine) that I am growing an independent being – something that moves of free will and can affect me, and me fe.  Blows my mindgrapes.

I was also fascinated by the physical development of my little duck.  We got to see all four chambers of the heart in motion, and when the tech zoomed in and slowed the picture, we could see the freaking valves!  I never knew heart valves could be so freaking cute!!  We saw the aorta, the stomach filled with fluid, all the little toe bones, and individual structures in the brain.  All this made me want to go and take an anatomy class, or at the very least, to look up brain development in my old psych books, which was the part I struggled through in my undergraduate career.

Overall, the human body amazes me.

Everything looked normal (and cute).  The only thing of note is that my placenta seems to be attached very close to my birth canal – to the tune of within 1cm.  I’m told that, as my uterus grows, that the placenta will creep farther away from the birth canal, hopefully enough so that I can plan on a vaginal birth.  Looks like I’ll have to have another ultrasound later on to check on the status of this situation.

After the ultrasound adventure, I wiped off all the goo as best I could (it never all really comes off entirely), and we went to see our midwife.

Where are all the snacks?!

She ignored my unvoiced thoughts and confirmed that everything looks normal and we got to hear the lovely whoosh, whoosh of my baby’s four chamber heart, complete with valves.  I expressed random concerns, mostly about being uncomfortable because I’m pregnant.  As before, her responses were varied versions of take Tylenol, power through it, nothing we can do.

Again – awesome.

“So, did you find out what you’re having?!” My midwife asked.

Uh…a baby!  Is what I wish I had said, because I cringe at that question, as if a penis or a vagina is the single most defining factor of what makes up a human being.

Deep breath.  “No, we don’t want to know the sex.”

“Oh, ok!  Well I might go and peek at the gender after you leave.”

Cringe.  Bite tongue.

The end of the visit was a bit sad – we had to say goodbye to our midwife because our medical insurance is set to change on April 1 (if everything goes well….please, everything go well).  At least we knew from the beginning that this would be happening, so we were well prepared for it.

So, I’m glad I got to see you again, Little Duck.  Feel free to keep kicking, but please aim clear of my bladder.

Week 16 checkup

I’ve never been excited to go to the doctor before, and it’s a very welcome change.  Before, my yearly exams were preceded by dread and anxiety, hoping that I didn’t get any bad news.  And then I’d always have relief afterwards that would last for most of the year…rinse and repeat.

But now…everything’s different.  I couldn’t wait to get back there and get more information about my little developing fetus.  Not only that, but I’ve never had a partner to experience these medical procedures with me before.  Having Brian there with me is incredibly comforting and a fun bonding experience.  For instance, I’ve had tons of ultrasounds and blood draws and pelvic exams, but Brian’s never seen any of that.  He’s never had the opportunity to really know what it’s like, to be able to support me and distract me and joke with me and celebrate with me.  I guess I never realized just how lonely it was walking through my cancer checkups by myself until my whole medical experience was turned upside down.

First up for this appointment – a blood draw.  Ug.  I asked Brian to come in with me, for all the above reasons and because why not?  I mean, he did this to me, so he might as well feel my pain vicariously.

Fortunately, I got the same lovely phlebotomist I had had for my previous blood draws.  She recognized me, and I could tell she was trying to place me.  When we got into the room, she said, “Now I feel like you were…different somehow…?”  And I reminded her about the horror we shared during my last blood draw, where she ran into scar tissue from all my previous blood draws and had to stick me three times.  Together, we figured out that it’s best when she uses the kid-sized needle on my dainty little scar-riddled veins, and then I get juice and Goldfish crackers afterwards and everyone’s happy.

Thankfully, this blood draw went perfectly with one clean stick.  Boo-yah.

As Brian and I sat in the waiting room, sharing our celebratory juice and crackers and getting jealous looks from the two year old across the way, I couldn’t help but wonder if she treated all her patients that way, or if she babied me as the only adult who got the kid snacks.  Then I realized I didn’t care because yum.

Then we got to go see the midwife and we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.  I think that strong little whoosh, whoosh sound is one of the most amazing sounds in the whole world.  Incredible.

She asked if we had any questions or concerns, and just like I thought, the responses were all, yup, that’s normal, nothing we can do, just gotta power through it.

Awesome.

Then she felt my uterus, and everything felt good.  I like having more information about my body, so I asked her to show me how to find it on my own.  So start down here, and work your way up…oop, and there’s your full bladder, so your uterus is….here, off to the side because of all that pee.

The phlebotomist gave me juice, what do you expect?!  But thanks for the extra info, really.  At least we’re all friends here.

In conclusion, it was a successful and fun week 16 checkup!  Thankfully, I got to pee again before we left.  And by ‘got to,’ I mean I insisted on it.

I’m looking forward to the next one when we get to have the big 20 week ultrasound.  Squee!

Finding shapes in the clouds

I’m going to talk to you today about ultrasounds.

They are weird.  They are uncomfortable.  Sometimes, they are hilarious.

I’ve had roughly 20 ultrasounds over the years (about 19 of which were cancer-related, and one was to check for a blood clot in my leg after it swelled to the size of one of those GMO turkey legs at the state faire).  Each experience was like the first time you let a monkey kiss you on the mouth – a little bit different and a whole lot weird.

I’ve had two kinds of ultrasounds – the kind where my abdomen is made into a slip-n-slide for hairless mice, and the kind where my vag is made into a fleshy joystick that feels like the total opposite of joy.

Recently, I had what may turn out to be my last cancer-related ultrasound…ever (which is both exciting and scary).

First, the nurselady led me from the waiting room into a more private one-person waiting room and told me not to get undressed.  Under no circumstances was I to remove clothing.  I sensed that at some point she must have experienced an embarrassing misunderstanding with a newbie patient.  Don’t worry, lady, this is old hat.

I picked up a very tattered Ladies Home Journal and tried to calm my nerves.  Even though I totally know the drill by now, I always get white coat syndrome on account of the dreaded c-word.  Oh yeah, that, and my bladder was so fucking full that I could taste the pee in the back of my throat.  Long ago I learned that if I actually drink the 304,786 oz of water they tell me to drink before my appointment, I end up having to swerve off the freeway halfway there and run into a gas station bathroom before urine drips down my legs and soaks my socks.  All I have to do is drink the milk from my morning cereal and rinse my mouth out after brushing my teeth, and my percolator fills up that peesack like clockwork, no worries.

So I get called into the actual exam room where the undressing action happens.  Usually, I get a student tech and ve’s supervisor asking if it’s ok if a student pokes around in my nethers.  I support the sciences, so I usually shrug and tell them they can enter at their own risk.  This time, however, I guess I got a real tech because she was all I got.  Either that, or she was a student tech gone rogue.  I decided to take my chances.

Next step is that I undress from the waist down for that first kind of ultrasound (bring out the hairless mice!).  A tip to all you first-timers out there: make sure the towel they give you is fully tucked into your underwear unless you want to walk around all day with goo-covered chonies.  That tech ain’t watching where they are putting that paddle, and that goo gets frickin everywhere.  And it’s not even the good kind of goo you want up in there, anyway, so tuck it.

First good sign: this tech warmed up the goo!  She’s a pro, this one.  I lie back and enjoy the warm, sticky sensation as I watch the white snow on the monitor and wait patiently for Samara to emerge.

"help...I've been stuck in there for 7 daysss....and 9 months."

“help…I’ve been stuck in there for 7 daysss….and 9 months.”

This whole process, if you sit and think about it for a quick sec, is pretty magical.  A stranger wields a wand, adds some primordial goo, and – Expecto Patronum! – they can see inside your body, your innermost secrets.  They can see the absence of a second ovary (if I get a particularly naive tech, or a tech who obviously hasn’t read my chart, sometimes I’ll fuck with ’em:  What?!  You can’t find my left ovary?!!  WELL YOU HAD BETTER FIND IT!), they can see my scar tissue, and they can also see that my bladder is rapidly filling up and about to burst like Liz Lemon after sandwich day.  Talk about embarrassing.

I usually try to position myself so I can see the screen.  I’ve seen my ladyparts onscreen so many times that I fancy myself a real radiology tech – and by “real,” I mean that I point at blobs on the screen and ask, “Ooh, is that a spidermonkey?!”

A good tech will narrate the procedure for me: “…aaaand here we have your uterus, lookin’ good….and then we slide over here….and there’s your cute little ovary!”  A bad tech doesn’t say anything and just makes weird facial features at the screen as she pauses and measures the blobs.

This tech was a bad one (the warmed-up goo was just a ruse)….and she was freaking me the fuck out.  At one point her eyebrows raised and then lowered and furrowed.  I couldn’t stay silent. “What!? What did you see?”

She looked at me with a smile.

“Well, I found your ovary!”

Good news…

“…and it looks like an otter!”

It looks like a what now?!

“Oh, you know, it’s like finding shapes in the clouds with this thing, here look…”

And she points.

Funny enough, I could actually see it, right there, flippers and all.  Weird.

I’d rather my ovary look like this! From projectconnecta-gain.blogspot.com

We had a little moment, Madam Ovary and I.  I waved.

I never really know what to expect at these appointments…