Coming Out…(Or Staying Put, Hopefully!)

Vote for me! I make sure kids like Das Big Boy get coverage their whole lives regardless of preexisting conditions. Also, even 27-week fetuses know that the trickle-down economic policies supported by Romney/Ryan are a load of crap.

I’m using my blog to come out as pregnant. Sure, super-close friends and the people I see on a regular basis know, but I’ve kept it a secret from my larger social network. I was waiting to come out triumphantly with a witty line like “More pregnant than I’ve ever been!” As it turns out, election day is the magical day on which I’ll be 27 weeks 5 days–the gestational age at which Das Baby, who will now change his name to Das Big Boy, was born. What I really wanted to do was post the day after and say something like, “Baby-Girl-Has-a-Real-Name-but-not-a-Blog-Moniker (BGHRNBM) is excited to emerge into a second Obama term!” (With apologies to 1) jinx freaks like me and 2) the two Republicans with whom I’m friends, and the five Republicans to whom I’m related. By marriage.)

But things have gotten a little scary. And I’m not talking about poll numbers. WARNING: Apologies here to casual friends and former students who might not want to think about my cervix. I’m going to talk about my cervix. I had been sailing through my pregnancy with weekly progesterone shots (coupled with anxious questions for Caitlin, the amazing NP who takes care of me) and cervical length checks every two weeks. The truth is, I saw two doctors before I got pregnant, and several after, and none of them though my cervix was the problem. Sure, we agreed to watch it. But the uterine bleed from my last pregnancy (the horror, the horror) was blamed for my membrane rupture, which caused my early delivery. We all agreed it was an unlucky fluke. Wrong-o.

The prime time for the cervix to start misbehaving is 16-24 weeks. After that, they can’t sew you shut, but most problems are caught before then. My cervix was a bit shorter at 24 weeks, but still normal, so we thought perhaps I was in the clear. Then, at 25 weeks 6 days, my cervix was a whole cm shorter. It measured two centimeters total. So they put me on immediate bed rest (more on that later). And today, at 26 weeks 6 days it was a tiny bit shorter, but, of greater concern, had started to funnel. (Remember when funneling was fun?) In this case, funneling means dilating from the inside. Bad. Not yet a disaster, but significantly worse enough for doctors to want to take a more proactive precautionary approach.

Funneling was better in the late 90s. Now it sucks. Like, a lot.

So they sent me for steroid shots for the baby’s lungs. A road I have been down before with Das Big Boy. Steroid shots are most effective 1-2 weeks before labor. So it’s a bit of a gamble to get them too early, but a much bigger gamble to not treat a young baby like BGHRNBM (Moniker suggestions welcome). Das Baby got his ‘roids at 24 weeks. And then when I delivered at 27.5, he only had time to get another dose eight or so hours before he was born; it takes 48 hours for the two rounds of shots to “get on board.” This second “rescue course” that he failed to complete is of somewhat debated merit anyway, and Das Baby was in more lung trouble regardless, what with the no amniotic fluid, but we always felt cheated that he didn’t get more ‘roids, especially because I thought I was in labor but the medical staff didn’t believe me. So this time part of me wanted to wait and see if I went into labor before doing the shots so as not to waste them, since drugs can often put off labor for the time required to get them on board. But since this is her most vulnerable time, we decided to go for it.

I got to the hospital expecting a quick shot and run. Papa was in the car with Das Big Boy, and Herr Husband came up to L&D (Labor and Delivery) with me. It was my third time there this pregnancy. The first for a fall, the second last week after I had a total panic attack following my crappy cervical diagnosis and felt crampy and thought I might have broken my water. It was ultrasound goo. I, of all people, should know the difference.

Das Big Owl and Gigi. Candy and money!

Instead of stab and go, they also insisted on strapping me to the monitor, and kept me there for hours for painless (or totally unfelt) contractions that the monitor was picking up. It also seemed to notice when I cried because I worried that Das Big Boy wouldn’t get to trick-or-treat. He wound up going with his Gigi, and saying “Trick or treat,” and “Hoo, Hoo,” and “Happy Halloween,” and “Thank you!” and also, “Candy and money!” because my mom told him how they needed money ready for the UNICEF boxes. Anyway, it took forever for me to get out of the hospital because of the excessive contractions. But they finally decided I wasn’t in labor and let me leave.  I also got a fetal fibronectin test, which looks for a hormone secreted as the body prepares for labor (my second such test in six days). A negative test means you only have a 1-5% chance of going into labor in the next one to two weeks, a positive one means you have a 40-60% of going into labor in the next one to two weeks. My test was negative, so that was good.

So where am I? Home. Scared. Sleeping downstairs. Moving only from bed to couch to bathroom to kitchen for a quick snack or water refill, but only if I’m up already. And don’t worry, there is obsessive hand-washing between bathroom and kitchen, in case that sounded gross.
My parents and Herr Husband have been amazing, since I can do almost nothing and can’t parent effectively from the couch. We’re in the process of hiring a nanny. There’s that practical stuff. Then there’s the emotional stuff like how sad it makes me that I can’t be a real mom to my son in what were supposed to be our last months of just-us time. And then there’s the terror of having another preemie. Now the extant preemie is doing amazingly well. He turned two on October 21. He made his first joke last week. He sings songs and plays out simple skits with his toys. He cuddles and laughs and smiles a ton. He kisses my belly and says “Hello, baby.” Other than eating like a pukey one year old, he’s doing great. Testing at or above his actual age in cognition and language. And he knows his letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. He can count to ten, even if he has decided that three through six are sometimes superfluous. (I’m owed a tiny brag, right?).

Herr Husband and Das Baby celebrate turning two!
Elmo also celebrates.

But let’s not forget how excruciating preemie parenting is–the constant worry, the health crises that might be nothing or might spell long-term problems or worse, the indescribable wrenching of abandoning your baby every night. And how much worse it would be with a toddler missing me every time I’m with the baby. I’ll just feel like a shitty mother to not one, but two, children.

So we don’t know what will happen. I could stick it out to 34 weeks and beyond or I could deliver tomorrow. But now you know what has happened. And I’ll use this space to keep you posted. And to tell you other stuff, like how I made new friends or how I might (fingers crossed) get a beloved former student to be Das Big Boy’s nanny.

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5 Comments on “Coming Out…(Or Staying Put, Hopefully!)”

  1. Artie says:

    Ok neighbors, what do you need for help, just name it?

  2. Dear hipster hausfrau,
    First of all I can’t tell you how good it is to hear your voice. Strong, clear honest…you are a great writer, mother daughter, wife.
    Secondly…god damn it!
    This round you know a lot more which is both a gift and a curse. Theo is surrounded by love and will be fine. As you know I was completely effaced and dilated at 21 weeks with the twins…cervix, schmurvix!
    I will be thinking of you and your family. Here if needed. Even though there is only ever NOW, pregnancy gets us all in the future and planning state and even more so when we are scared shitless. You know what works for you so do it (writing which is a gift to the rest of us). You keep being required to be heroic. And damn you do it. Love you Leda and to john and everyone. Would love to come visit if you are looking for company. Xxxx char

  3. Laura Thomas says:

    Leda (cannot say that in my head w/out a Senor Brown voice)- First of all, CONGRATS! Second of all, while through your words I feel your pain about not being a good mom, just from your voice here and on fb (not even in person, which I’m sure is all the more apparent), you love the h*ll out of Das Big Boy and will love and protect the h*ll out of Das Baby #2 just as much. You are strong and courageous and with such an awesome fam will make it through. A nanny would help a bit too 🙂 Sending big hugs- Lauda

  4. Heather says:

    After reading this post, I have so much I want to say to you. Also, you make me want to share my own feelings (i.e. sadness, inadequacy) from being a mother-of-restricted-movement-with-a-two year old.
    First, consider the Woodbuckels in your corner. My positive thoughts and prayers are with you. Colin is most eager to serve your family any way he can. I think it’s good you’ve found a nanny, because in that position he’d have Das Big Boy enjoying hot dogs in mac and cheese 5 days a week. Second, I marvel at your strength. I know that writing is cathartic, but still, your honesty is invigorating. It reminds me that we are all human, and it makes me want to be part of your conversation.
    I felt so sad to need so much help taking care of Miranda while I was pregnant with the twins. Adding a baby (or babies) was taking me away from my first precious baby! Laying on the couch instead of playing beside her on the floor made me sad. Sending her to story hour at the library with her Nana also made me sad. How could fostering literacy and a relationship with her grandmother be undesirable? I felt like I didn’t have the choice to take part, that our final days of mother and first born were not our own as they should have been. But, a sibling, a sibling! It’s such a gift you give to your children that they will have each other throughout life. This is what I remember, even now. When I feel like I cannot give each child the individual attention I imagine I should, or when I have to admit I really need extra help to “do it all.” It doesn’t always make me feel better, but it does remind me that everything is temporary, that life is ever moving forward.
    I’m excited for you that you’re in your third trimester. I’m happy that you have so many wonderful people helping you, watching out for you and Little Miss and Das Big Boy. You’re strong and determined, and you’re going to keep moving forward.

  5. lisa tucker says:

    NO FAIR!! I don’t know you well (though I am now intimately acquainted with your cervix), I still think about you every time I hear “NICU.” I am sending good vibes to you that Baby Girl stays put until after the inauguration. I am not going to even come close to comparing your NICU experience to mine, but I do want you to be able to experience the jolt of fear of getting kicked out of the hospital two days after giving birth. “What? You want me to take this giant (almost-7-pound) baby home. Today? Can’t we stay for a few days?” So, Baby Girl, stay put!


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