Thursday, March 31, 2011

"I'm not dead yet!"

I do hope you all read the post title in an English accent....

I've been really, really quiet here, I know. Bob would say that's okay because I'm not getting paid, but I still feel like I should be posting more often. There's been a lot of non-D, non-preggo stuff going on that's keeping me busy - freelance (to save up for the bambino), feeling kind of tired all the time, jury duty, work drama, and my birthday tomorrow - but it all pales in comparison to the D and preggo drama I'm focused on right now.

We had our second anatomy scan on March 24th. (Still a girl!) With Nan's creepy book in the back of my mind, I was a bundle of nerves beforehand and spent the entire exam with one pair of fingers crossed under my head. It must have worked, because they found nothing wrong - as far as they're concerned, she's perfect, right-on-target for size, and I haven't harmed her in any way with my high-risk Type 1 status (well, that's what I took away from it). I'm not going to relax until fetal echo #2 next week, but I was relieved to hear good news...even if it's not yet all the news.

But - there's always a but, isn't there? - the other shoe I'd been waiting for did actually drop. BabyH is safe and healthy, but I have "partial placenta previa". The dictionary defines it as:

an abnormal implantation of the placenta at or near the internal opening of the uterine cervix so that it tends to precede the child at birth usually causing severe maternal hemorrhage

This is all the horrifying 18th-century-bloody-birth sounding stuff B and I googled in between the scan and our OB appointment to go over said scan. (Which, ugh - a vaginal ultrasound to confirm. B offered to leave the room, but I figured this preggo road is only going to get more gross and awkward, so we'd better just suck it up and get down to brass tacks. Still. Ew.)

Note to self: never, ever google a condition like that again. Why? Because it may not be as bad as makes it sound.

Apparently, I'm in the small minority of women who, at 20 weeks or so, have the placenta attached too close to the cervix for everyone's comfort. At this point, it could still move - as the uterus expands and BabyH grows, the placenta could shift up much like a scar on your forehead would "move" as you grow from a child into an adult - and then there wouldn't be any problem at all. But if it doesn't? Well, that's potential for bleeding, a definite C-section, probable bed-rest, and it means everyone's going to be extra super cautious during delivery lest we have hemorrhaging and other awful complications.

Clearly, we're rooting for a very upwardly mobile placenta.

They'll check again in 7 weeks. In the meantime, in order to avoid prompting any bleeding, I'm under orders to take it easy - no strenuous exercise, no heavy lifting, no sex. It's like I'm back in Victorian times when pregnant women were seen as basically fragile and useless, and it kind of hurts my brain.

People have asked me how I feel about the whole thing, how I'm handling it. (It sounds really scary, right?) Knowing that at this point it's just a maybe-problem that could still go away has colored my response, I'm sure. But I find my overwhelming feeling is, weirdly, one of relief. I entered into this whole pregnancy fully expecting some sort of disaster to occur, but not being sure I could cope with it once it happened. How do you deal with the idea that your disease - one you've struggled with for years and years, but have pretty much accepted as your life - has caused problems for someone else? Bad enough feeling like a burden on B and all the other T3s in my life...but my unborn baby?

And yet that didn't happen. Once again, my daughter is a healthy little jellybean. I've done nothing to harm her and I have managed to tame my diabetes to the best of my ability. But me? My health? I'm used to having something wrong. I know I can deal with anything that's thrown at me - hell, diabetes itself has made me that tough person! So it's relief I feel. Relief that she's okay, relief that Nan is STILL in the wrong (suck it, Nan!), relief that I know I can be strong, that I'm able to take care of myself, that I have an incredible team of doctors working with me, and that I have B and an amazing support network.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Steel Magnolias effect

For better or worse, I think Steel Magnolias becomes a part of your life once you're diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. You all know the scene. Shelby's sitting in the beauty parlor chair getting an updo, when her incredibly dramatic low kicks in and she starts freaking out and shaking like she's having a seizure:

"Drink your juice, Shelby"

Then she has a baby and she dies. Or that's how it seems most non-PWDs and non-T3s remember the movie.

Steel Magnolias came out in 1989, a mere four years before my diagnosis. Back then, I'd get a lot of "Oh! Like that movie!" reactions when people heard I had diabetes, and it drove me absolutely bananas. Yes, I have lows but what you saw was a movie "reenactment" - I've felt like crap, I've shaken like a leaf, I've sweat and lost my temper, I've had alllll the symptoms...but I've never had a low like Shelby did.

I've also had a lot of people assume I'd never be able to have children thanks to that movie. Big Nan, of course, was a naysayer but even otherwise-supportive friends and family can't get Shelby's death out of their heads. For the record, folks: diabetic women can have healthy pregnancies and can deliver healthy babies. YDMV, naturally, and complications (like my mild non-proliferative background retinopathy) can make pregnancy more difficult and, yes, even unsafe - just like Shelby's was.

The fact is that - like most things in life - every person is different and these are always a case-by-case situation. But uneducated people often make incorrect assumptions, and I kind of dreaded "coming out" with my pregnancy for this very reason. I figured it would be the food police times a bajillion, and cringed whenever I thought of the pity-head-tilts or exclamations of surprise/horror/shaming that people would give when they knew I was diabetic and pregnant.

So, knowing how anxious I was about it, B was his usual amazing self and got me my very first baby gift:

Update: If you aren't Shelby either, click here!

So keep your head-tilt to yourself, buck-o, and stop judging me and my life by 80s movies. Shelby's life, her choices, her disease have nothing to do with mine. I'm not Shelby, because I'm me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paging Doctor X! And Y! And Z!

I mentioned all the doctor appointments that seem to be bunching up with BabyH on the way. This week was a banner one, with half of both Monday and Tuesday spent waaaaay uptown at the facility where my medical family lives. I failed to get waiting room photos each day, if you can believe it - I'm gonna plead for mercy, as my mind was just churning about the appointments themselves.

Monday wasn't too worrisome, as it was a visit with my ophthalmologist and I LOVE him - he was amazing when my first microaneurysms were found and I completely came apart in his office. Cool as a cucumber, warm and reassuring, I won the doc-lotto when I found this guy.

The point of the visit was mostly for a second trimester check-in to establish that everything was still all okay, and to plan my third trimester appointment. According to my doc, sometimes retinopathy can be completely unpredictable during pregnancy - they're not sure if it's hormones, blood pressure, fluid, or a butterfly flapping its wings in Omaha, of course, but for one reason or another it can escalate pretty quickly. As a natural worrywart, I was happy for the check-in and even happier after my dilation when I was told everything was holding steady: "You're actually down to just one dot in each eye, but I'm going to say you're the same since it wasn't a significant change."

Next up: the fetal echocardiogram. Per the American Heart Association, "some pregnant women are at increased risk of giving birth to a baby with congenital heart disease." Type 1 women fall into that category, so our OB referred us for the fetal echo. As gaping holes in a fetal heart were one of the lovely images in my head courtesy of Big Nan, the echo was a source of much angst and worry in the Hoffmanderson household the past few weeks - I'd been both dreading it and anxious for it to come so it could be over and we'd have answers.

We arrived at exactly our appointment time (curse you, A train!). The entire floor was insane - like nothing I've ever seen before. Such a high-end spa atmosphere that I felt like I should be wearing a fluffy white robe and drinking cucumber water, on the way to my massage in some private, quiet room! After the usual paperwork - which included a very informative brochure about what fetal echos actually are - we were lead to our scan room...which had a giant mounted flatscreen TV so we could watch the scan along with the doctor. A flatscreen, I kid you not - very unlike our OB's office, let me tell you.

On my end, the actual scan was basically like a typical ultrasound - the wand, the gel, the belly, the darkened room, the blobby picture of the fetus. The big difference is that the doctor occasionally used  color to see blood flow, and she also recorded the actual heartbeats. From what I could tell, she was measuring peaks and valleys in the beats and taking pictures of the heart and the brain to make sure blood was flowing where and how it needed to be - still, I'm not a doctor, and she didn't get into the nitty gritty of what she was actually doing. We just spent an hour watching her do it on the screen. A looooong hour. You'd think it would be exciting to watch your unborn baby's heart beating, but at some point it just becomes a super close-up of a grainy, moving blob on the screen that occasionally pulses red or blue. And after 20 minutes, that darkened room becomes a tempting place for a nap....

In the end, we got the same nonanswer answers we got at our anatomy scan last week. They were looking for thickened heart walls or giant holes - the typical issues for a Type 1 pregnancy - and they found none BUT I'm not far enough along yet to see everything they need to see so we have to come back in 4 to 6 weeks for another exam before we're officially cleared. To clarify, and because I needed to heart these wonderfully warm specialists say it out loud, I actually asked them "So as far as you can tell, my diabetes hasn't damaged her heart so far?!" and they said no. I still get a wave of relief when I remember their no.

So, once again, I walked away with enough of an answer to feel relieved that the very worst didn't happen. We're not totally out of the woods yet, as we have another anatomy scan in three weeks and our second fetal echo in April, but those woods are becoming decidedly less dark and scary.

See? Totally less scary. There's a path and everything.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Feelin' the love

Every Sunday, B and I have breakfast at The Usual, the diner up the street from our apartment. What started as a "ZOMG, I want some eggs!" trip for greasy goodness has become a beloved ritual, not least of all because of the two brothers, Mike and Johnny, who own and run the place and live directly upstairs from the restaurant.

As regulars ("Usualers," dontcha know) we're greeted with waves and hellos the minute we walk through the door. Mike comes over with our coffees (me, decaf with half-and-half and Splenda; B, high-octane black) before we're even done taking off our coats, and we're never given menus. He's quick with a joke or a story, usually naughty or about Canada (from which he hails). Not-Sundays, we get big waves and hellos whenever we walk by, or run into him or his wife as they come back from walking their dog or walking in Prospect Park. I often wave when I walk by in the morning on my way to work.

In short, these guys, this restaurant, have become part of our neighborhood family. I've never been in love with New York City - I'm a small-town upstater at heart, and I don't know that I'll ever transcend that. But it's people like Mike and Johnny, places like The Usual, that make me feel a part of things, like I belong, happy and content with our little community wrapped around us.

This morning, this warm-and-cozy feeling went to 11 when I was scurrying to the subway and heard "HEY, HON!" bellowed from behind me. I stopped, turned, and there was Mike chasing me down the street. "I saw you coming, and you looked like you needed this! Half-and-half and two Splendas":

I took this little gift, this gesture that was somehow SO BIG while being a mere 10oz, gave Mike a big kiss on his cheek, and went off to the Q feeling a bit misty-eyed and a whole lot loved and happy and just so grateful for my life.