5 Weeks Pregnant: Peeing on a Stick

July 20 – July 26: 5 Weeks 0 Days – 5 Weeks 6 Days

The Test

The first day after I got back from Wanderlust, I took a pregnancy test while my husband was at work. Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock Pregnant! I did a legitimate double take and felt my eyes bulge. Then I smiled and laughed. I put the pregnancy test back on the bathroom counter where it had matured and paced around the apartment with my hands on my belly and a flurry of thoughts running through my head: Yay, I’m pregnant! Oh my God, I’m pregnant… How did this happen so quickly? How far along am I? How should I tell Richard? When am I allowed to tell other people? My dog, Foxy, diligently followed at my heels as I aimlessly ambled back and forth down the hallway.



The Announcement

I finally decided I would go to a baby clothing store, get a shirt that said “big sister,” and cut leg holes in it so Foxy could wear it. The first thing Richard does when gets home is greet the dog at the door, so it would be the first thing he saw.

Foxy and I walked up to Noe Valley in San Francisco, which is a hotspot for babies and dogs. It didn’t take us long to find a baby clothing boutique with a big sister shirt. The woman helping me asked me what size I needed. “Ummm,” I stalled guiltily, “Well, it’s actually for my dog.” She looked at me like I was nuts. “Okay, here’s what’s going on,” I admitted, “I just found out I’m pregnant and I want to tell my husband in a creative way, so I’m looking for a big sister shirt for my dog.” She was giddy that I’d let her in on the plan and proceeded to look through every single one of their used tops for me to try to find a cheaper used version of the shirt that I could justify cutting holes into. No luck. I almost bought the pricey brand new shirt, but I knew Richard would start obsessing about how we were going to pay for the baby’s college education as soon as he found out we were pregnant, so I decided to reformulate my plan.

When Richard came home Monday night, I had a couple homemade, hand-decorated cupcakes waiting for him with a sweet interactive picture book I found.

Daddies are for Catching Fireflies

Cupcakes and an interactive picture book I set out on the table to let Richard in on the joyous news

I was curled up on the couch reading when he got home, trying to hide my anticipation. When he saw the set up on the table, he asked, “What’s this? …Wait… What? Are you…” he met my smile, “Are you pregnant?”

“Yeah,” I admitted, sheepishly.

A little overwhelmed, he came and curled up beside me on the couch and we read “Daddies are For Catching Fireflies” together.

Once I got that positive test, my hint of nausea turned into overpowering nausea. I made the mistake of telling Richard that I suspected the nausea was at least partly psychosomatic, and he never let that go. Maybe it is just in my head, but I certainly don’t know how to turn it off!

The Appointment

It had been over eight weeks since my last period started. I didn’t think I was that far along, but I thought I’d better see—see—um, wait, who do you see when you’re pregnant? That was the first thing I had to figure out. Google told me to make an appointment with an OB/GYN. I found one that was close to our new house, had pretty good Yelp reviews, and happened to have an appointment available. In that moment, I was too overwhelmed to consider anything beyond those criteria for choosing someone to potentially deliver my baby. I just wanted someone with authority to tell me everything was going to be okay.

I didn’t have a full enough bladder to get a urine test at the beginning of the appointment to confirm my pregnancy. As such, the whole appointment was phrased in terms of “if you’re pregnant.” She told me that at my age, there was about a 15% rate of miscarriage. If we found a heart beat on the ultrasound, that risk would drop down to 3%. We didn’t find a heart beat on the ultrasound—it was too early. (Side note: If you’re going in for your first appointment, Google transvaginal ultrasound ahead of time to set your expectations. I did not even know this was a thing, and it caught me off guard). The doctor pointed to a tiny black dot on the screen and said, “If you’re pregnant, that’s the baby. If all goes well, we’ll see that spec grow over time.” Obviously the doctor needed to protect her liability, but the language of the appointment left me feeling detached.

After finally confirming I was actually pregnant via a urine test at the end of the appointment, she sent me home with some reading material. I read a small booklet about screening tests when I got home. All of the ones recommended for my age detected 50-90% of chromosomal abnormalities, and had the proviso “most women who test positive [for chromosomal abnormalities] give birth to healthy babies.” I couldn’t help but think that getting tested might not be worth the stress of getting a false positive. Richard and I would discuss more in the weeks to come. The other book was a manual on pregnancy and childbirth, and the longest chapter was about common discomforts of pregnancy. I got used to reading, “There are no safe medications to relieve X during pregnancy.” However, there were a ton of alternative suggestions for each discomfort, which turned out to be invaluable!

17 Weeks Pregnant: Big Feelings

October 13 – October 19: 17 Weeks 0 Days – 17 Weeks 6 Days.

I may have freaked out this week.

A few years ago I took a yoga training with Hala Khouri about teaching at-risk youth. She explained kids’ emotions in a way that stuck with me: kids have big feelings. When little Jimmy drops his ice cream on the ground, his emotional response is not the same as an adult’s. We may dismiss him: “Don’t get so upset. It’s just ice cream;” but for him, it’s a death in the family, an amputated limb, the rapture and he was left behind. In order to hold space for little Jimmy to process this experience, we must acknowledge that what he’s feeling is enormous. A more compassionate response might be, “I understand that it’s hard to lose something. It’s okay to feel upset.”

I don’t know if it’s the yoga or just my personality, but I usually have the opposite of big feelings. Rage and jealousy are rare for me, I can’t be bothered with grudges that last more than a couple hours, and I’d describe my experience of excitement more as joyful anticipation. Pregnancy put an amplifier on all that.

In my first trimester I was introduced to pregnancy crying. I’m okay with shedding some tears and all, but, just like little Jimmy who dropped his ice cream, once I start crying I can’t stop! On top of that, it escalates: sniffling progresses to sobbing, sobbing progresses to wailing, and when I was at the height of my nausea, wailing progressed puking. That equanimous part of my psyche that stands back to observe my experience understands that my reaction is way out-of-proportion to whatever the trigger was, but instead of doing anything about it she stares on in helpless disbelief and mutters, “WTF.”

This week wasn’t my first freak out: early on in pregnancy, I got mad at some movers for having too long a truck (our apartment building had two large parking garages, and they either had to block one garage door or the other). When I confronted them I wasn’t trying to leave the building, I was just upset on principle. Maybe this reaction would be normal for people with a more confrontational disposition, but I wouldn’t usually expend energy and circulate a bunch of stress hormones over a problem that would most likely solve itself. Sure enough, after moving the truck back and forth several times to let tenants in and out, the movers separated the cab from the trailer to accommodate both garage doors. What happened this week had less of an external me-telling-people-off component, but the internal emotional experience was immense.

Patio before and after

I replaced my patios wood mulch gardens with black Mexican pebbles.

When we were looking for our new home, the intention was to find The House. You know, the one you pour blood, sweat, and tears into making your own, raise your kids in, and retire in. The house we bought and now live in has plentiful outdoor space, and my first blood, sweat, and tears project is to zen-ify the front patio.

Last Saturday I picked up my fourth and final 200-300 lb load of black Mexican pebbles, which Richard diligently loaded and unloaded for me (my low back hasn’t been tolerating heavy lifting well). As soon as I poured the first bag into the garden, I knew something was wrong—they didn’t match the other rocks. I dug them out of the garden and put them back in the bag. A couple days later, Richard loaded the rocks back into the car for me, and I took them back to landscaping store first thing in the morning to suggest that my pebbles may have been mismarked. After examining the rocks through the dusty bag I’d packing-taped shut, the man at the landscape store kindly insisted that the stones were black, but offered to exchange the bags for different ones anyway if I really wanted to. “No, it’s okay,” I sighed, feeling kind of silly, “I must have overreacted.”

Mismatched stones

I poured water over the stones compare their colors. The stones on the left are the ones in the rest of the garden, the ones on the right are the last batch. (See, they -are- different!)

I took the bags home (where Richard had to unload them yet again), and immediately dumped all six 50-lb bags into the garden. And then I really overreacted. The new rocks definitely did not match the others. The old rocks were exclusively shades of gray, the new rocks included shades of green and orange. Overwhelmed, I ran back inside the house and took a couple deep breaths, then went back outside hoping to have a fresh perspective. I kid you not, when I saw those motley stones my life literally flashed before my eyes: I saw 5 years, 30 years, 50 years into the future, how every time I stepped out into my patio for the rest of my life I would cringe at the sight of the rocks. I put my hand over my mouth and ran back inside.

I repeated this melodramatic (but very real to me, at the time) sequence several times, each round featuring a different train of thought tragically crashing in an explosion of big feelings and sending me running back into the house near tears:

Maybe it was just the lighting… Oh God no, they’re so different. Why do they only have men working at the landscaping store?? Men are much more prone color blindess!

They look like rainbow-colored aquarium pebbles! My patio is lined with giant aquarium pebbles. I can’t even…

The colorful rocks aren’t so bad. I can just mix them in with the others so the garden looks more uniform. Then I looked at the side of the patio that was completed to my vision. No! Green and orange accents were not what I had in mind. These rocks are a bastardization of my vision. I hate them and I can’t even handle looking at them! But they’re already all in the garden. What am I going to do??

By the time Richard told me it was time for me to drive him to his bus stop I was beside myself, fanning a hand next to my temple like a swooning southern belle. While driving, I tearfully redirected my frustration toward myself, “Why didn’t I trust my intuition? I knew those rocks weren’t right, but I didn’t exchange them even though the guy said I could. Why didn’t I trust myself enough to just exchange them! I was right there, it would’ve taken less than ten minutes.” I don’t think I was actually expecting an answer, but I got one anyway. Richard said plainly, “Because you don’t like asking for help, and you didn’t want to make those guys unload and reload the rocks for you.” In that moment, that didn’t make me feel better and didn’t stop me from continuing to lament (I think Richard was pretty glad when he got to get out of the car), but wow, how accurate.

In retrospect, that clear statement from my husband, my mirror, was invaluably informative. I was willing to completely disregard my knowledge and intuition to avoid inconveniencing someone, even if the result would be life-shattering (or at least feel that way for an hour). I will have to reverse that habit before attempting a natural birth in a hospital setting where medical interventions may be offered as often for your health as for convenience, comfort, and liability reasons. From everything I’ve read and learned, natural birth is all about intuition and self-trust; one of my affirmation is: my body knows exactly what to do.

By the time I got home I’d calmed down and started focusing on the solution rather than the problem. I went to work digging the rocks out of the garden and repackaging them. I put my low back out of commission for the rest of the day by lugging one of the bags down to the landscaping store and exchanging it for a bag of black Mexican pebbles that beautifully matched the rest of my garden. The next day Richard obligingly loaded the rest of the offensive rocks back into the car and then unloaded the ones I exchanged them for. I tried not to feel guilty about asking him for help.

My patio

Here’s how to patio looks now. Looking forward to adding more plants!

My matching rocks were all in place or the housewarming party on Saturday and I even had time to put in some more potted plants. My vision is coming together! As for the big feelings: I’m continuing to take them in stride, allowing myself to laugh about them in retrospect, and trying to remember to thank my husband for being so incredibly supportive.

Succulent cupcakes

Succulent cupcakes for the housewarming party to match the plants in the patio.

ps – If you’re interested in making the succulent cupackes, I used this tutorial.