Pregnancy is a precious thing. As a woman, it often feels as though we spend so much of our adult lives doing anything we can to avoid getting pregnant; that is, until one day, when, we decide we want to have a baby.
Should be easy, right? I mean, you have sex a few times with your partner and BOOM that little miracle of life finds itself in your womb and let’s you know it’s there by triggering uncontrollable nausea, breasts so tender it feels like they’ve been used as punching bags, or perhaps just a little positive sign on a pee stick.
But often times, we soon realize (whether we experience it first hand or not) getting knocked up is not as easy as our parents, teachers and peers warned us it would be when we were younger. I mean, maybe getting pregnant at 16 would have been hella easy, but, fast forward 15 years and I’ve learned that it’s not.
I’m not sure if it’s simply because I’m more in tune and aware of the sensitive topic of pregnancy than ever before, but, to me it feels as though more women are becoming more open and honest about their personal experiences and I find it both refreshing, comforting and also heartbreaking. More and more am I beginning to understand how and why women are truly warriors.
There are constant conversations within my inner circle that surround the frustrating search to find the right partner, especially when biological clocks are ticking. Recently, my friend Catherine Sugrue opened up about her experience exploring the option to freeze her eggs. Well known Toronto-based blogger Alyssa Garrison of Random Acts of Pastel has been open about sharing her choice to become a single mother at 27-years old (and not waiting for “Mr. Right”) and has taken us all along for her ride into motherhood. Mama-To-Be Natalie Ho of My Little Secrets (and one third of our #EastSideMamas crew) announced her pregnancy news a few weeks ago, revealing that it has taken three years of trying to get pregnant and help from IUI. In my case, as some of you may know already, I shared at the start of last year that I had suffered a miscarriage two years ago.
It took me a long time (nearly a year) to talk openly about my miscarriage. Although some close friends knew, I didn’t even tell my parents until the day before my story came out because of the emotional instability that was triggered any time I thought about what had happened, or tried to talk about it. In other words, I was a hot mess. Even now, at 24-weeks pregnant, I get choked up when I think about it at times, and every single time I have to let a doctor, nurse or midwife know that “No, this is not my first pregnancy. And no, I do not have any children,” I have to hold back the tears.
So yes, I’m now pregnant again! YAY! Genuinely, Halle-fucking-lujah.
And, although this happened the “natural” way (many people have asked if we had any help to get pregnant), it hasn’t made our journey so far any easier. After my first pregnancy ended with a miscarriage, it’s no surprise why I would feel just as nervous as I was excited. Maybe even more nervous than I was excited (to be totally honest) because I really did not want to go through that again. I kept saying, “let’s see what happens” as I tried to take it easy and think as positively as I could. “SEND GOOD VIBES!” was what I would tell my close friends and family who I had shared the early news with.
Then, just a few days into the New Year, on the morning I woke up in Quebec with my parents for a week-long ski trip, I discovered I was bleeding.
I left the bathroom with a blood-drained face and looked at my mom and said “I need to go to the hospital, right now.” My dad and I raced to the nearest emergency where we found ourselves sitting in the waiting room for the next six hours. Every ten minutes I would visit the bathroom to check if the bleeding was getting better or worse, all the while hysterically crying in fear of an impending miscarriage, again.
Once I finally got to see a doctor, I was told: NOT MUCH. They couldn’t hear a heartbeat but said “this could be normal because you’re less than 12 weeks” followed by, “well, you could be having a miscarriage, but also maybe not.” GREAT. After waiting half a day, I was told to go back to my hotel, stay in bed, and come back if “the bleeding and pain gets worse.”
THANKS FOR THE ADVICE, DOC.
Thankfully, it didn’t. The bleeding went away and I barely left my hotel bed for exactly one week. Which was actually kind of a nice way to catch up on some much-needed rest that I wouldn’t have otherwise let myself indulge in.
Once we got back to Toronto, I decided not to call my GP as I had my first appointment coming up with my midwife and I figured she would be the best person to help check on the baby and advise what I should do next. Instead, the “Military Midwife” (as I later nicknamed her) scared the shit out of me and told me I needed to go “determine the health of the baby” before coming back to see her again as they only deal with “healthy pregnancies”. Not exactly what I wanted to hear in my already fragile and completely terrified state.
So, next, I called my GP for help to book me in for an early dating ultrasound (something the midwife could have and should have done, but didn’t), which then lead to a follow-up ultrasound and blood work to screen for Down Syndrome. My GP reassured me that there was an extremely small chance that this would come back with anything to worry about, after all, I am “young and healthy” as she described.
A week later, she called. “Well. Your results are positive! There is a 1 in 40 chance of Down Syndrome.” I nearly dropped the phone.
To give you an idea, the risk of Down Syndrome is 1 in 1,000 at the age of 30, and 1 in 365 at 35. My current age? 31.
The numbers were not good, and I did my best not to let her hear my voice crack as I asked what the next steps were. She informed me that, because of our results, she had already sent everything over to Mount Sinai Hospital and they would follow up with an appointment. “The next tests are far more accurate” she shared, as she tried her best to reassure me.
I was shattered, and a blubbering mess. Was this really happening to us? I cancelled everything in my calendar and stayed in bed for days crying, sick with worry.
Finally, about a week later, I got an update from Mount Sinai Hospital with an appointment for our Genetic Test. Our appointment wasn’t until early February, nearly a month after my bleeding scare had occurred, so you can only imagine the emotions and thoughts that had run through my mind during all of that time.
At the hospital, we were asked to fill out multiple forms detailing our family health history which was then followed by (what felt like) an intense interview with our Doctor. She went on to break down our initial results from the genetic screening, to help us understand how the algorithm had come up with our results. I actually found this process to be incredibly helpful, and although I couldn’t diagnose my own baby, I was able to clearly see that no aspect of the test’s individual results were showing numbers that were a major cause for concern.
She then presented us with our two options for the next phase of genetic testing we needed to go through. First, the “non invasive” option that simply involves more blood work, waiting another two weeks, and then getting a black or white answer of either “yes” or “no” when it comes to the risk of Down Syndrome. Second, the “invasive” option of the dreaded Amniocentesis where a needle is inserted into the amniotic sack to withdraw its fluid and screen for abnormalities. This more invasive test is also the most accurate way to screen for Down Syndrome or any chromosome-related problems or diseases. It also involved waiting another 2 weeks until I was 16 weeks pregnant.
MORE WAITING, my favourite.
Since, she shared, we could choose one or the other, or both (we would have no choice but do to Amniocentesis if the blood work results came back positive), we decided to start with blood work (since it could be done that day) and make a decision about going through with Amniocentesis after getting our results back (especially since they would arrive around the same time as when the invasive test would need to take place).
After what felt like a legitimate eternity, we finally got the call from the hospital. Our blood work results were back and had come back in the clear–the baby did not scan positive for Down Syndrome! Obviously this was a huge relief, but, at this point it had felt like I was three quarters of the way to the finish line, and I just wanted to cross it and truly know if there was anything to worry about.
Josh and I both decided that going through with the Amniocentesis appointment was how we wanted to move forward. There are risks involved (including miscarriage or damage to the fetus), but, knowing we were in the care of one of the best hospitals in the world (and that their risk rate is less than 1%) helped us feel more confident in our decision. Amniocentesis is also covered by OHIP if your initial screening results come back high risk, as ours did.
As someone who is not generally afraid of needles or finds them too painful, I felt (somewhat) confident going in for the appointment. The reality, however, felt like an episode of C.S.I.; I entered a dark room at Mount Sinai where a Doctor and nurse were waiting for me–there was one hospital bed in the middle of the room and computers all around it. The process itself didn’t take too long, and the Doctor walked me through how they would look for a clear spot before inserting the needle, and what they would do if the baby suddenly got too close. Even though I don’t have a fear of needles, I could bear to watch the process. Instead, I looked towards Josh’s face and watched as his eyes widened at what he saw.
The needle was “huge” as he described it, and it honestly hurt a helluva lot more than I expected it to. Although I took time to rest for about 20 minutes afterwards, it felt so uncomfortable even to just get into a car to head home. Thankfully, the pain passed fairly quickly and I was able to carry on with my day by the afternoon.
It took another two and a half weeks to get our results back and by this point I honestly felt like I was going to go crazy. I JUST WANTED TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH MY BABY.
Finally, we got the call.
All of our results had come back clear, and, our Doctor shared that we are having a BABY GIRL!
I nearly jumped for joy in the middle of the restaurant, tried to find a stranger nearby to high five (I was alone when I got the call) and started crying tears of joy immediately.
So, there’s our story so far. The beginning of this journey felt like going to hell and back, but, I couldn’t be happier to now know that we’ve got a healthy baby girl who will be arriving in early August.
Still, I do ask for you to help send positive vibes our way for a healthy (and a little more chill) experience through the last half of this pregnancy. If Joelle Anello of La Petite Noob‘s recent post has taught me anything, it’s that you really never know when shit might hit the fan. But, let’s hope it doesn’t.
(Story by Editor-in-Chief, @GracieCarroll)