I’m pregnant. After 2 years and 11 months of trying, my husband and I finally got a positive pregnancy test. We spent a lot of money on sticks that I had to pee on, went to doctors, had fertility tests (all came back fine), and even tried in vitro. All with no luck. But, as of 2 days ago, we are 17 weeks pregnant.
We found out the morning of October 11th. The day we left for our trip to Macedonia. I was about 5 days late at that point. I’m a superstitious person and after not just months, but literally years of getting excited every 28 days, and taking a test early only to be disappointed, I resolved to wait. Wait until I was really late, like reeeaallly late. I didn’t want to jinx it. My husband Kruno was getting more and more excited as those late days passed by. When I did take the test, I didn’t tell him what I was doing. It came back positive almost immediately. I called for him to come to the bathroom. Drudgingly, he came. He thought I needed him in to kill a bug. I showed him the test and excitement ensued.
The last 17 weeks have been enlightening. I learn something new every day. About my body, my abilities or lack thereof, and places I can, all of sudden, no longer comfortably reach because of my growing size.
And with every minute of research I’ve done since that positive test, I’ve become more and more aware that I know nothing about pregnancy, labor, and perhaps even babies. And I’d like to share with you all some of the more interesting revelations I’ve had.
WHATS HAPPENING TO ME???
This question came early and often. Google became my most used app. How could I have been so clueless? In movies and TV, pregnant women are portrayed in a certain way. Emotional. Vomiting, Bitchy. I thought I was mentally prepared for all of it, but the other symptoms and the pure intensity hit me like a wrecking ball
I get so emotional, baby…
The first to rear its ugly head was the elevated hormones. I’m an emotional person to begin with. But I naively thought “How much worse could this get?” Well… Let me tell ya.
Every emotion I feel, I feel it times a hundred, maybe even a thousand. If I’m sad, it borders on devastation. If I’m angry, watch out. But the most notable change is that I am loving harder. I love people HARD. Wicked hard. Over this past holiday, I looked at my young nephews, I just wanted to grab them and not let go. I wanted to look them square in the eyes and say sternly ” I love you, dammit!” (Picture Rhett Butler saying that to Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the wind”. But, I thought better of it. The boys are young and I didn’t want to scare the shit out of them.) And when I left my grandmothers house to come back home, I cried for a long time. She lives just a few hours away. I can go see her any weekend. And as I’m typing this, thinking about how much I love these people and how much I miss them, I’m crying. I’m a mess.
And my crying has changed. The act of it itself. These crying spells last forever. My tears have even gotten bigger. The amount of fluid that is falling from my eyeballs is astounding. My tears are the size of nickles, I kid you not. Isn’t that weird? Has anyone else experienced that while pregnant? And because of all these things. The dehydration from the size and quantity of tears, and the ease at which I cry, I have had to completely change how and when I view things. For example, I’m spending far less time on Facebook these days. I used to love watching the heart-warming videos. that would populate my newsfeed. But no more. I can’t risk it. I also haven’t been able to watch several episodes of “This is us”. I watched a few at the beginning of the season, but when I saw the previews of the one where Kate has a miscarriage, all bets were off. Now the second part of the season is supposed to start and I’m in a pickle. Do I devote an entire day to catching up on the season? Let’s do that math: 4 episodes I missed = 4 hours of viewing. + 2 hours of crying time (conservatively) + 1 hour of recuperation to let the puffiness in my face dissipate. That’s a big commitment.
My body is a wonderland
No, no it isn’t. While it is mystifying me these days, I don’t think that’s what John Mayer meant. You can read Pinterest posts, join the community group chats in your pregnancy apps and read “What to expect when you’re expecting” all you want, but I guarantee you, something is going to happen that will throw you for a loop. From my albeit brief experience, I’ve come to realize that it’s important to use the mentioned resources as merely a guideline. Most of my symptoms have occurred earlier than normal.
One of the most notable and noticeable changes were that things errrr… grew a bit quicker than I would’ve expected. Below is a screenshot of a conversation I had with a group of friends about my husband noticing a change.
My clothes got tighter right off the bat. And I thought “Ok, no big deal. This was expected I’ll go buy some new clothes.” But it isn’t that easy. Nothing fits right. Nothing. I’m not big enough for maternity clothes, but my stomach is too big for regular clothes. Everything I own at this point is frumpy. And because of the heightened emotions, the ill-fitting clothing sends me into a spiral of self-consciousness and frustration. There are days that I can’t even look in the mirror before I leave for work. Those days are the “Fuck it” days. And they are happening more frequently as the pregnancy progresses.
One other thing that I started noticing recently was my walk has changed. I used to have a confident stride. I don’t know why considering how clumsy I am, but I did. I used to be able to comfortably wear heels up to a certain height. But that’s all gone now. As the day goes on, and I get to feeling less and less comfortable, my walk transforms. Slowly, subtly, into a waddle. At work by 4 pm, as I go to and from the printer I notice my body shifting from side to side, with a brief but significant settle in each step. I will immediately correct it, but I know deep down that it’s going to come to a point when I’m no longer am able to. It is inevitable. The waddle is coming.
Don’t you, forget about me
“Of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most”. Mark Twain must have stolen this from his wife when she was pregnant. People talk about pregnancy brain often. But nothing prepares you for it. I am not just forgetting things, but I’m thinking I do things or say things that I don’t. “Didn’t I tell you that?” has become my most used sentence recently. A few weeks ago I had mentioned to my boss that I had forgotten to text some family members back recently. She was understandably concerned whereas my job is mostly following up with clients and remembering things. I assured her that I only let it affect my home life. And that is the truth. I noticed that this was starting to happen, so the moment I leave work, I totally shut off my brain. So far, it seems to be working. While this doesn’t thrill my husband, it’s a sacrifice we’ll have to make until I figure something else out. I haven’t written a post in a really long time. Not because I didn’t have anything to write, or I was too busy. I have been conserving all of my brain cells for work. This post, in fact, has taken an exceptionally long time. I’ve been storing up for weeks to finish it. Now, I’m no neurologist but I think there might be some logic to it.
While this is only a short list of the symptoms I’ve experienced, these are what has struck me as funny. I think it’s important to keep levity at the forefront. Because what awaits us at the end is going to be the most momentous experience of our lives. We are so excited to be parents and I am excited to share our little stories throughout the process. S
I have been working on this post for weeks. Today, I decided to start over. My post was long, and unnecessarily so. It didn’t accomplish what I had wanted it to. It’s tone and the overall message was lost with every paragraph. So here we are. At the beginning.
One year ago, my brother was in an accident. It has been a long three hundred and sixty-five days. I don’t want or need to rehash every sad, upsetting detail. But, I do want to share with you all some of the more poignant moments and some observations that have stuck with me over the last year.
I remember when I got the call from JJ’s foreman, Ian. But more so, I remember the phone call I got from dad shortly after. I asked Ian if JJ was alive. When he answered “yes”, there was no denying the uncertainty voice. I knew what he was saying without saying it. I knew what the tone of that “yes” meant. JJ WAS alive when I left him, but I don’t know if he still is. My dad asked me the same question just minutes after. I wanted to be strong and say sternly, confidently “Yes!” but the words had, unintentionally, come out the exact same way Ian had said it. Unconvincingly.
After I arrived at the hospital, I talked with the nurses and then found the ICU waiting room. I opened the door and was immediately taken aback. The people in the room were talking loudly, laughing, eating. All these things, I couldn’t fathom happening in a place like that. This was supposed to be a place of tragedy, a place for reflection, prayer, and quiet whispered voices. I hated the waiting room with every ounce of my being. I couldn’t stay in there. I honestly, truly couldn’t. Luckily, there was a private waiting room we were told we could use. And by god we did. It was supposed to be for doctors to have consultations with the family of patients. I thought about the tough questions asked and some even tougher answers given in that room. I prayed that that wouldn’t be us. We stayed in that room for three days. And just when we had gotten a little less sad, enough to where we could tolerate talking, and smiling we gave up the room to someone who needed it more. It didn’t last long, we were back in there by day 5. The day JJ’s artery gave out.
That first night, we had been told, that it was going to be a long one. The first time we got to talk to a doctor was around 8 or 9 that night. JJ had been in surgery since one o’clock. Dr. Brown told us that he was the orthopedic surgeon that had been working on JJ. He was impressed with the double femur break JJ had suffered. He said that if you had to have a broken femur (or 2) this is the way to do it. It was a clean break. Flat across. He told us that the bones would be able to fuse with little to no problem, he believed. He said that if all this injury was, was a couple of broken femurs, JJ would be out of here in a few days. But that, as we would come to know, wasn’t the case.
A few hour later we got to talk to the second surgeon. He told us what he had seen and maybe more importantly, what he hadn’t. JJ had lost a lot of tissue, muscle, nerves, and lots of blood. He went through 107 units that day. But most distressing were his arteries. They were completely shredded. I asked the doctor if there was anything I could do. If there was anything that he could take from me to give to J. I told him that he could have whatever he wanted. The doctor smirked and shook his head a little. I could tell he had thought of it. I have no doubt. Maybe not my arteries specifically, but someones. His face said it all. That very thought had come to him. I didn’t delve any deeper. But my father and I both let him know in no uncertain terms that whatever JJ needed, we were happy to give.
At 2 am we were told that they were wrapping up the surgery and they’d be bringing JJ up soon. From the room we were in we could see JJ’s. We stood on chairs, we craned our necks. Did whatever we had to do so we could catch a glimpse of him. And at 3:30, they told us we could go in to see him. He didn’t look like himself. He was so swollen. But I have never been so happy to see someone in my entire life. We asked the prognosis. Torn between the desire to know and the dread that may come with the answer. JJ was, without a doubt, still in critical condition. When the doctor talked about the prognosis, he wasn’t referring to if he would lose a leg or both, it was if JJ would survive. I will never forget that moment.
After a few days JJ had started to come to. Never for long, only a few minutes and then he’d be back to sleep. But when he was awake, he wanted to communicate. It was a tall order with the breathing tube in. Someone got him a small dry erase board. He would try and write something, sometimes falling asleep in the middle of writing, and we would be left with the task of deciphering it. We may as well have been decoding ancient hieroglyphics. And when we couldn’t figure it out, we would start guessing like we were playing a game of charades. Is that an I? No? Ok, is it an L? No? Shit, is it a J? Nope. Then after a minute or two, when all of the energy he had, had drained out of him, he would let his hands drop from equal parts exhaustion and frustration and his eyes would fill with tears and he would shake his head as if to say “I give up”. That was, without a doubt, one of the hardest parts for me. There he was helpless, relying on us to help him, and I couldn’t. I was not a good guesser.
One of the first things that we were able to read was the word “boots”. Mom said, “your boots are right here, J. On the shelf”. She showed them to him. The sense of confusion on his face was unmistakable. My mom and I looked at each other. She knew right away why he was confused. Call it mothers intuition. She said “J, your boots are fine. Your feet didn’t go into the chipper.” His eyebrows became unfurrowed, almost like at that very second, everything came back to him. In fact, one night after the boots incident, mom asked him if he remembered the accident. He nodded as best as he could, and then wrote: “They didn’t believe me.” Later he would explain what he had meant. When his co-worker had been on the phone with 911, JJ told him to tell the dispatcher to get life flight started. He knew that they carried blood on the helicopter and that he was going to need it. But what he either didn’t know or didn’t think about at the time, is that patients can’t request life flight, it has to come from the paramedic.
The hardest day was undoubtedly the day JJ’s right leg artery gave out. It was the first Monday after the accident. The nurses would come in every few hours and pull out this black box that had a stethoscope in the shape of a pen connected it to it. They would put it on the top of JJ’s feet, one by one, and move it around until they heard a swishy sound. That sound was his pulse. That day, they had checked it before he went down to surgery. A process we had already come to know well. And when he would come back. One nurse tried, then another. No swishy sound. They called for the doctor. The room was silent.
The doctor confirmed what we all had suspected. At the very beginning, we had been told that the repair to his arteries was a kind of one and done deal. They weren’t sure if the gore-tex that had put in would hold. Each leg had a 50/50 shot they told us. But it didn’t matter. We wanted a second opinion. We asked that his file be sent to mass Gen to see what they said. JJ had woken up, and I think it was dad who explained the situation to him. He took it well. You could tell he understood and agreed.
A couple of hours later a report came back from Boston. There was nothing that could be done. The right leg would have to be amputated. We cried. A lot. I went to the chapel for a while. Eventually, we all reconvened in JJ’s room. J woke up and motioned for his dry erase board. He wrote, what I made out to be “ambulance or helicopter.” He wanted to know how he was getting to Boston. I read it aloud so he could confirm my guess. He did. This was, for me, the hardest moment of JJ’s hospital stay. I looked at him and said “J, you’re not going to Mass Gen. I’m so sorry. They said that there was nothing they could do.” He stared at the ceiling for a minute, cried only a couple of tears, and fell back asleep.
Not long after, the doctor came back in to explain the procedure for the amputation. We were all listening intently when I looked over and noticed JJ had woken up and was listening too. The doctor started over from the beginning to make sure J heard everything he had said. Nurses came in to start the pre-op prep like they had done earlier. They gave J and an extra dose of whatever powerful concoction he was already on. He fell asleep immediately. One of them asked dad to sign a piece of paper allowing them to amputate. And that, I have no doubt, was dad’s toughest moment. He said he didn’t want JJ to hate him for making that decision. For signing that piece of paper. More tears came.
Now, looking back, the days that follow sort of melt together in a way. But certain moments stick out. The bigger ones, certainly more at the beginning and then start to taper. Like when he got his breathing tube out. There was a nurse on duty that J had taken a liking to. He said to her, “Can I ask you a personal question? Why do I get the feeling that you like me?” Listen, I’ve seen my brother interact with women, and I must say, this was, surprisingly, one of his more charismatic moments.
One of the only times I have seen JJ cry was one of his first nights in his regular room. Everyone was concerned about his mental state. Probably because we were all such a mess we assumed he must be too. It was just him and I and I can’t remember the exact wording I used but I asked him what and how he was feeling. He told me that the hardest part was that he would never be a firefighter again. He cried real hard, and so did I. I told him that if there was something he wanted to do, then he would figure out a way to do it. I had. and still have, no doubt of that. I found a video of a firefighter in Ohio who had an amputation almost exactly like JJ’s. He had been outfitted with a special prosthetic that worked perfectly. He wasn’t on light duty, the guy was fighting fires. I watched J watch the video and then we cried some more.
On Sundays, we would have football parties in his room. We’d bring a cooler and whatever JJ wanted to eat. He had lost so much weight. He was already thin and didn’t have much to lose. When he was able to eat, which was about once or twice every other day, he didn’t eat much. He wanted a special soup. We always called it green soup. Our nanny would make it for us. Kruno went and bought every box Hannaford had. That’s what he’s eating is this picture. He was so happy to have that green soup.
Next came his time at Spaulding. They do some truly amazing work there. And JJ was the incredibly lucky to be the recipient of some of that amazing work. He has said several times that he doesn’t believe he’d be this far along if he hadn’t have gone there. It was hard, him being so far away, but it was for the best. We all knew it. I got this photo one day while I was at work.
I was so proud. JJ has made us all very proud throughout this experience. His resolve has been something to be admired. He would be a great role model for someone who’s gone through a similar experience.
He has worked very hard to get to where he is. I got to go with him to a physical therapy appointment a few months ago. To the naked eye, the unknowing person, it may have looked like he wasn’t doing much. Lifting a leg up and down, moving side to side. But to us, to know where he had been such a short time ago. The condition he was in. How hard he worked. It was nothing short of a miracle. We almost lost him…a few times. But here he is.
So many moments and memories stick out. Things that I want to share. But this post has again, turned out to be very long. They will have to be told at a later time. Maybe on his two year anniversary. The weird thing is, and I think I can speak for most of my family. We are now running on a different calendar. To me, and I’d bet to JJ too, tonight at midnight, marks a new year. With I’m sure, more milestones to conquer and mountains to move. He will continue to progress and heal, hopefully sharing his progress along the way. This past year JJ has been the recipient of more prayers and blessings then could ever be counted. And for that, our family is so incredibly grateful.
Yesterday, I made the decision to quit smoking. I wouldn’t consider myself a heavy smoker. But, I have about a half a pack a day. But regardless, I know it’s going to be incredibly difficult so I figured I’d ease myself in a little bit. With the goal of being completely done with them in a week or two. So, yesterday I had one at 6:45 in the morning. I went all day at work without one, and easily, I might add. I had one at 5pm, and after I thought “I didn’t need that”. I wish I wouldn’t have had that one. The real test came when I got home. I tried to keep myself busy. I did dishes, cleaned the kitchen, made dinner and prepped lunches for my husband and I for the next day. And, I almost made it.
At one point Kruno came into the kitchen. Poor guy. He never saw it coming. “Babe! Listen, this is going to be really tough! I don’t know if I can do it! I don’t know how I’m going to do it! I’m going to sound real needy right now, but I need you to give me tough love. And a lot of positive reinforcement.” Kruno’s eyes had gotten real big by this point. I was erratic, loud and probably slightly dramatic. But I continued on. I told him that I needed encouragement, and often. And that I needed him to be mindful of timing. I told him that he should tell me things like “Hey, Darci. You’ve done so great today!” I stopped talking and there was a pause. He didn’t move. Frozen from fear I’m sure. Slowly he opened his mouth and in small, uncertain voice said “You’re doing so great, babe”. We both had a good laugh at how unconvincing he was.
After dinner, I gave in. I had one and it tasted awful. But I still liked the act. It’s hard to explain. I really enjoy the act of smoking. I find it so calming. And in the same breath (ha!) I also find it almost embarrassing. I get self-conscious when I smoke as I walk down the street. Or outside my office building. Times have changed so much. For the better, of course. But, it just seems like there is a stigma attached to it, that never really used to be.
Cigarette Count for 6/21/17 – 3
Today I woke up and didn’t have a cigarette. I didn’t have one in the morning, or when I drank my coffee, or even when I took a walk at lunch. And I still haven’t had one at 4:09, as I type this. I’m not going to promise I won’t have one today, but I’m going to try real hard not to.
Cigarette count for 6/22/17 – TBD
If anyone has any tricks or tips for me. I’d really love to hear them!