Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Boy, OH Boy!

So let's start off with the obvious, if you've read the title. Yes, it's true. The little guy is, in fact, a guy... well, he will be. For now let's go with the standard verbiage of, "It's a boy!"

I guess it's true what they say about mothers being very in-tune with the sex of their baby. Although, I thought it would be nice to have a girl (only because it's fun to dress them up), deep down inside I somehow knew it was a boy. Steph is naturally taking all credit for being the first to call the sex of the baby. But by the end, everyone except Javier's mom had guessed boy.

Even Javier, Mr. "As long as the baby is healthy" finally spit out the night before the ultrasound that he thought it was going to be a boy. I didn't even have to drag it out of him.

I invited my parents to the ultrasound and naturally Javier came too. It was a packed little room full of nosy curious family, me, and the technician. The lady started off by telling me that she would be taking somewhere around 70 pictures. This would be the second screening for down syndrome and trisomy 18.

The first thing that she mentioned was that the baby was laying face down, which would be a little difficult for picture purposes. Here's a picture of him face down. You can really see his developed spine.
She was very patient, explaining a lot of the the stuff that she was seeing on the screen which at some points looked more to me like an ink blot test, rather than an ultrasound. We saw the baby moving a lot, and now there's no doubt in my mind that the "spasms" I've been feeling in my stomach are actually fetal movements.

She spent a lot of time focusing on the head and measuring limbs. Near the end, she had been trying really hard to get me a nice profile picture, but he just wasn't moving from his favorite face-down position. In a last attempt, she suggested that I go to the bathroom and relieve my full bladder and then "jump around, shake, or dance" to see if I could get the baby to move out of that position. I must've looked like an idiot in the bathroom, but it was kind of fun :).

As I left for the bathroom, my dad started asking the technician questions about the baby and if we would know the sex. She replied, "I already know what the sex of the baby is...." then everything got muffled because I was in the bathroom, but I'm pretty sure that my family was trying to get her to tell them before I got back from the bathroom.

When I returned from the bathroom, and we tried again there was no luck. She said, "You have a stubborn baby." But she did manage to get a picture of his face full-frontal. Although it's a little scary because it's skeletal, it reassured me that he was not going to be a cyclops. There are definitely two eye sockets in this picture:
Finally, she focused in on a picture and pointed to something on the screen. "Do you know what that is?" she asked. My whole family couldn't tell what she was pointing at, so she drew an arrow on the picture. I said, "testicles?" and my mom said, "penis?" and the lady said, "Yes, you're having a boy."

I looked over at my husband whose attention had suddenly perked. He quickly got up from his seat to get a closer look at the screen. He asked, "Are you 100% sure? You won't come back to me a month later and say sorry, it was a mistake, will you?" To which the technician replied, "Well, girls don't have that!" and we broke out in laughter. I debated whether I should include the next picture; maybe it's too x-rated, but I can barely even tell what it is. Plus, I don't want to wait until he's a teenager to start embarrassing him in front of girls, so what the heck! You'll notice the arrow and that the technician wrote, "I'm a boy!"

The funny thing is that he was just kicking me as I uploaded this picture. Maybe we just had our first disagreement... LOL!

The technician tried her best to get a good profile picture, but he just wasn't budging. She decided to give him some time while she sent the results to the doctor. She was gone a few minutes, when she reappeared with both the doctor and genetic specialist. An already-packed room, became even more cozy with people.

The doctor began to tell me that I had great results. The results for down syndrome had decreased since the first screening. I was also looking good for trisomy 18. She said they found no risk for diseases. Then she began to tell me about something they had found. To which my heart began to beat fast, and I'm sure I did not hide my emotion on my face.

She said that for lack of a better term, they saw an "air bubble" in the baby's head, which they assured me is very common and safe (choroid plexus cyst). Apparently, 1 in 50 ultrasounds finds these bubbles. Unfortunately, they are also commonly associated with trisomy 18 and although I had spectacular results, they were an uber conservative bunch and preferred to take another look. The doctor had come in the room to view the ultrasound for the size of the baby's hands and overall body, which she said looked great as she inspected on the screen. She proceeded to console me by restating that the baby was healthy.

I wanted to believe, but a bubble in my baby's head was scary to think about, especially since I had no idea how that would affect him. While we had been discussing this bubble, the technician was finally able to snap a profile pic of him.
We were then escorted to another room to talk with the genetic specialist, Larry (the only name I remember, probably because he jokingly suggested that as the baby's name at the end of our discussion). In the room, he continued to talk about the bubble. He said that bubbles are very common, and that someone in the room probably had one. You could live your whole life with it, and there's no impact. I started to wonder if he was allowed to lie to me in order to keep me calm, I decided that he couldn't. He said that his team is just really conservative and they wanted to monitor the bubble since it's associated with trisomy 18. He re-iterated over and over again that he was not worried about my baby. He said my blood & ultrasounds from the first and second screenings were spectacular, so he was not worried at all. He wanted me to come in for another ultrasound in about three weeks to check in on the bubble. Then he added, "You don't have to but we recommend it, plus you can get more pictures and see the baby again."

He had a point, so I accepted. I started to take more of a quantifiable approach to the whole thing and decided that everything he was telling me was true, and I don't need to be worried for right now.

After the screening, Javier was so happy about the news that he suggested that the family go out and celebrate at Benihanas, the cool japanese restaurant where they cook and do tricks right at your table. Very fitting, since we all know that the baby has japanese roots!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Young and the Restless


If the world could be equated to an extra-fluffy pillow and down-comforter, then that's exactly what it is for me right now. I've been sleeping-in every morning, and I feel like I'm sleeping my life away.
This pregnancy does not have the characteristics of a "normal" pregnancy. For me, it's all about sleeping, drinking water and juice like crazy (I wake up with cotton-mouth every morning), and eating less (my sister's ban on many foods is really not affecting me as badly as I thought it would).
I have reached my 4-month mark and am currently 17 weeks pregnant.
Yesterday, I took advantage of my sister's photography skills and took the first photo of my pregnancy timeline. Here's how the photo came out:

I must admit although I've got a belly, so far it seems easy to hide, not that I'm hiding anything anymore. In fact, now that the secret is out for the most part I feel normal. Although I have experienced a few slick eyes that immediately go down to my belly in mid-conversation. I even thought to myself, "so this must be how a buxom girl feels when men don't look her in the eyes!" although in my case, the eyes divert a little bit lower.
To gear up for the inevitable weight gain, I went crazy shopping for loose-fitting shirts and flat shoes, and I borrowed my sister's "fat pants".
I was discussing with my sister whether we thought I was going to have a boy or a girl (Javier doesn't want to play the guessing game - he's giving me the "I just want it to be healthy" run-around). We decided to Google "old wives tales to determine baby gender". We put each tale to the test and the outcome so far is that I will be having a boy. And honestly, this is the feeling that I have deep down inside. I will know for sure in 2 weeks, so the next time I give a pregnancy update, I will know the gender!

Today, I have been feeling what I think are fetal movements. Last week I thought I felt it too, but I also thought they could be muscle spasms because I felt them mostly right after a good sneeze. They were more "fluttery" whereas today they are stronger, longer, and more defined "pushing" in my tummy area. I've always joked that Javier has Restless Leg Syndrome, and I think that baby Cyclops may have inherited it too! ;) Poor baby, I'm restful and he/she is restless...

The Secret is Out!

I'm somewhere at 14 weeks, which means most significantly that I'm through my first trimester. That's significant because the risk of miscarriage is now lower, and I'm supposed to be over most of the pregnancy symptoms (or lack there of in this case).
Javier came with me to my latest check up and heard the baby's heart beat. I also needed to get blood work done and another ultrasound to screen the baby for down syndrome. The results came back very good. "Better than a teenager" if I may quote the nurse.
During the most recent ultrasound, I was able to see the baby's hand. Each finger came through so clearly on the screen, but the technician didn't snap a picture of it :(. Actually, to be quite honest, she pretty much sucked at getting good photos of the baby this time, though she had many opportunities. Here is the best one, though I've been jokingly calling the baby "cyclops" because of the photo:
When I reached 13 weeks, I decided it was finally the best time to let out the big secret to friends, family, and co-workers. I had strategically sent out emails and updated my Facebook account with the news. Within minutes, emails from co-workers came pouring in, and yet nothing from my family members. I had sent a separate email to my family which included the video of my parents' reaction. I was surprised that no one had responded to me. Hours later I would find out that my family was too busy calling my mother to congratulate HER! I joked to her that she was stealing my thunder.

But honestly, she's been wanting grandchildren so badly, that I can see how this is her news too.

Long-Awaited Reveal


I am now 9 weeks pregnant, and I know I said that a lot of things happened last week, but even more happened this week!
Fourth of July came and went, and my family went the the Marin County fair to make a day of the holiday and watch the special fireworks show at the end of the day. My sister has been dying to tell my mother and father that I am pregnant, but we all needed to stick to the plan. I had been feverishly working on the reveal video for a week because we were planning to reveal the secret to my parents prior to my sister going on her trip to Australia.
While at the county fair, my father and Javier went to go buy some beer while my mother and I sat and ate at a table. A man walked by with a stroller that had two babies in it. The grandfather was playing with his grandchildren. Then my mother commented, "I wonder what kind of grandfather your father will be. I think he will be loving just like he is with the dogs." I just grit my teeth trying not to let out the secret.
A couple of days passed and it was FINALLY time to go to my first prenatal appointment. Javier has been putting in so much work now that we're pregnant, that my sister came with me instead of him. My doctor was very succinct with our conversation (I imagine she says the same thing every day). They gave me a bunch of prenatal vitamins, and papers for future appointments and sent us off to have my ultrasound. Did you know that you have to have a very full bladder to have an ultrasound? My GOD that was uncomfortable, as the girl pressed my stomach to get the image. But it was worth it when we saw the image on the screen. A little baby about 1 1/2-in big, with a big head like its father :) and a small bottom like me, and only nubs for arms and legs. Steph and I were mesmerized by the heart beat, which we couldn't hear but could definitely see on the screen. The lady told us the heartbeat was 180 beats/min, which is normal. The lady said that this is the time when they begin to be more active, so she held the ultrasound for a few seconds over my bladder without moving, and the baby waved with its entire body. I think that's when Steph and I got emotional though we only showed happiness (she later admitted to getting teary-eyed).

Steph had filmed a part of the ultrasound appointment as planned for the reveal video. We were given a picture copy of the baby and given a clean bill of health so far. My fears were resolved, but I'll still feel much better after the 1st trimester is over.
So the end of the week finally came, and Stephanie had elaborately lied to my parents about getting together at their house for a pre-Australia dinner. My parents were clueless about what was going to happen. I even went to the Outback Steakhouse and brought home Aussie Cheese Fries as a tribute to the trip. We were waiting for my father to come home from work before I played the reveal video.
When he finally came home, I announced that I had made a small video about our trip to Asia, but I needed their undivided attention for two minutes. My father looked puzzled when I explained that he couldn't talk or ask questions while watching the video because it was funny and he might miss the point. I played the video, meanwhile Stephanie, Javier, and I were all filming my parent's reaction as they watched the video. I think my father was stunned to silence as the only words that left his mouth were "You're pregnant!?", and then he just sat there with a smile on his face taking it all in. My mother on the otherhand, let out a whole-hearted laugh of happiness as soon as the revelation was made, which was quickly followed up with maternal tears. She had been waiting for this for a looooong time. My father finally regained his composure and congratulated us, and in his true fashion he finished it off with a fun, comedic question: "Made in China? or Made in Japan?"

End of an Era


I am now 8 weeks pregnant and a lot of things happened this week. I found out that my close cousin in Peru is 2 months pregnant. She is around my age, and years ago we had a fun little race to see who would get pregnant first. She is older than me and was finding it tough to get pregnant. I was just married so I had only just begun to try. Months later it would turn out that she was pregnant with her first child. She beat me back then.
So you probably understand why this time around, I was a little bothered with the fact that
1)She beat me again - less than one month before me
2)I will have to share my pregnancy time with her.

Even though she lives in another country, I still felt like this was MY special news, and I didn't really think of sharing the limelight. It had been so hard for me to get pregnant, that I just wanted this to be a unique, special time. I know that may sound so selfish, but I must be honest with my feelings, though I will never vocalize them in any other venue. I'm sure it will cause us to bond more, and I was just saying how I needed a support group, but right now that's not particularly what's on my mind.

In passing the news of my cousin's pregnancy through instant message to my sister, I was forced to come out with my secret to her. Hey! I can't lie to my sister, OK!

Shirley: Did u know Maura is 2 months pregnant?
Steph: No! Damn, she's poppin those babies out, isn't she?
Shirley: Yup.

about 30 mins. of time elapses

Steph: So how are your pregnancy plans coming along?
Shirley: I wish you hadn't asked me that.

And I proceeded to spill the beans. My sister was so excited and happy that she was finally going to be an aunt. Having a lot of pregnant friends in the past, she had a lot of advice (though the way she phrases things, it sometimes sounds like direct orders). According to Steph, I cannot eat ceasar dressing, lunch meat, and especially no McDonald's. I nearly fainted. No McDonald's? I pleaded with her and offered to give up smoking instead (this was a joke; I do not smoke). But she stated that she would be snatching many things out of my hand if she caught me. I loath these next few months.

She has, however, come up with a great idea on how I will break the news to my parents. I will edit a video/slideshow about Japan and make them think it's about our trip, however, in the video I will allude to the fact that something big happened there. And in the end, I will break the news that they will be grandparents with a picture of me at the doctor's office. This is going to be a fun video to make.

This week was also Qori's 5th birthday, and I wanted to make sure I gave him extra attention. Even though my furry baby has no idea of the changes that are to come, I still felt like I needed to show him extra love. When the 25th of June came, I had presents and hugs and kisses ready for him which he received whole-heartedly. Sadly, by the time afternoon came, he was sharing his special day with some very bad main stream news. The actress Farrah Faucet had died that morning - this was not a shock because she had been battling cancer but of course sad news. In the evening, the world - and I literally mean the world - was shocked when Michael Jackson suddenly passed away due to cardiac arrest at age 50. Chatter was everywhere: in the halls, on Twitter, on Facebook, on the blogs, on the news, even the radio stations played tribute music. It was so hard to fathom that this was real. I hold on to my memories of the 80s when he was big. I remember my cousin Jovan in a red leather jacket dancing for the family and trying to moon walk. I remember all his hits that made you want to just get up and dance or just sing along at the top of your lungs. Even though I never saw him live, Michael Jackson was the only living legend that I knew. There was ALWAYS Michael Jackson.
As the news broke, I was saddened of course because during the last 10 years of his life, he experienced more turmoil than anything else. Though not a crazy, devoted fan, I was nonetheless always on Michael's side through the scandals - which is not like me. I think it was because deep down inside I understood the feeling of being different than other people, psychologically. Michael was just an extreme case that in my mind should not have been judged simply because he didn't think like the rest of us. He led such a sad life in his last years, and this is why I was sad. Not really because he was dead. While watching all the post-news segments and documentaries, the only thing that I could do was sigh to myself and say, "Poor Michael".

My child will grow up in a world without Michael Jackson's presence. Who will be his or her living legendary figure? I hope it's not the Jonas Brothers...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Secret Irony


I am now almost 7 weeks pregnant, and there are thoughts I never would have thought I would've had once I found out I was pregnant. I thought that finding out that I was pregnant would be a joyous occasion and there would be nothing but 9 months of emotional happiness. So far, I find myself paranoid that I am going to inevitably have a miscarriage. This paranoia has increased since I have been spotting in weeks 5 and 6. Each time I go to the bathroom and see spotting, it's a devastating blow which leads to wild unanswered questions. I wonder if I have already miscarried. Am I still even pregnant? I haven't really had any real pregnancy symptoms. If I miscarry undetected, how long would it take a pregnancy test to say "not pregnant"?
I've Googled so many things like "spotting during pregnancy" "painless miscarriages" and "% of women that spot during pregnancy". This might all make me feel better if there were someone I could talk to. I've already made my doctor's appointment, but doctors don't typically see you until 9 or 10 weeks pregnant. My 1st appointment is 2 weeks away and it seems like a lifetime to wait.
I've decided not to tell my family until after the first doctor's appointment. I want to make sure that the baby is alive and fine before I tell them. I probably won't tell the general public until my 1st trimester is over. That would be in mid-August.
So I carry around this big secret that only Javier and I know. He's been helpful to talk to but it doesn't take the place of your mother or sister or any woman who has been pregnant before. I think I may need a support group for this.
This past weekend was Father's day, and the family reunited at my Dad's house. We carried on so normally that I almost forgot that I was even pregnant. My dad couldn't stop talking about our recent trip to Japan & China, Stephanie had come back from Vegas and had a small hangover, and Will was catching a cold. I worried that I should not catch his cold, but it would be difficult because we live in the same house.
Javier was not able to attend the get-together, but my mother passed me his Father's day gift, because he is already a father. The gift was in a bag with the image of a dog all over it. My parents love to find pictures of my dog's breed and pull them out of magazines, etc. Inside was a shirt and a framed picture of a dog wearing glasses that read, "We had to get rid of the kids because the dog was allergic". I quietly laughed at the irony of the picture - they have no idea.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

American Dreams


I’m sitting here on the floor in the sunroom of a luxury Victorian home in San Francisco that is undergoing a remodel. I’m staring at the beautiful antique wooden vanity missing its mirror. I obviously find myself in this home because it’s one of Javier’s projects. The house is worth around $5 million and owned by a young man who is probably not over 30 years old. I’ve come to this project a couple of times and caught glimpses of the owner. He’s always wearing sporty gear, including his sunglasses, shorts, and running shoes. Last week we stopped by for an additional estimate, and Javier took Qori with him while I stayed in the car. Rob, the owner was there with his own dog, a long-legged black female poodle, and Qori met her. After a few minutes, due to rowdiness, Qori and the female dog were banished to the outside of the house so their dads could focus on the objective of their meeting. From the car, I watched the dynamics between Qori and the female dog; Qori couldn’t have been the least bit interested in her.
Rob is a married man, and has a little daughter. Each time that Javier brings me to the project, I start to imagine a happy family living in it. The daughter’s room is being furnished with an animal theme and the walls have been painted with special chalkboard paint so that she can write on the walls. While I can’t understand the concept that the designers have in mind for the entire house (there are many things that are not to my taste in this house such as pink walls, leopard-print stair carpet, and very dramatic wall-paper) nonetheless, the house will still be someone’s home; someone’s American Dream.
While my own house is nowhere near $5 million, maybe not even 15% of that now due to the economic crisis, I’m still happy to have it. Even more so now that Javier helped us remodel the 1st floor. But as I sit here staring around at Rob’s dream and the memories that he will create here, I can’t help but feel excited for my own little dream that is now coming true.

Two days ago, I found out that I was pregnant. Javier and I have been trying to have a child since we got married almost 3 years ago. Before the US was hit with the economic crisis, before the US ever even thought it would ever have a black president, we were trying to have a baby. During that time, I learned a lot about my body, the lunar cycle, and how conception works. We officially became an infertile couple trying to have a baby, and began diagnostics procedures. The diagnostics came out that we were free of the typical obstacles that unfertile couples usually face. Though through the months, I realized that Javier’s swimmers were a little slow, while my paved roads may have been a little complex for them. We tried artificial insemination 3 times, took a break, and tried once more. We were bracing ourselves for the next step: In-vitro. Unfortunately, the next step would come with a hefty price tag: at least $12,000. Up to this point, we had been lucky because my insurance covered the inseminations.
We were healing from what the economic crisis had done to us, and gone were the days where Javier and I could spend $12,000 on something that still only gave us a 50% chance. I felt horrible that money was standing in our way and tried to justify how a couple that could not really afford to have in-vitro, could possibly be ready for a baby. Let’s put it this way, during our trying times, I read a lot of blogs and stories written by unfertile couples. It really made me realize that when the gift is bestowed upon you, you are truly blessed. And you can’t let time pass you by, economic crisis or not.
So we put this dream on hold until Javier could get more stable in his projects. The past 4 months have flown by. During that time period, a Swiss company bought out my company and all my stocks were forced to cash out. I also got some tax return money. This caused me to second-think a trip to Japan & China that my dad had been planning for the past 6 months. I talked to Javier and told him that I was willing to pay for the two of us to go to Asia with my parents. While it would be a $6000 investment, I truly believed that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had no idea the magnitude of this opportunity at the time, but now looking at my calendar, there is a very high likelihood that we conceived during the first couple of days in Japan. So you can probably say that I got a good deal or maybe even two deals: 2 for 1, and 50% off!
So after returning from our trip I kept a close eye on my calendar tracker. The first day of my missed period, I didn’t really think anything of it. Years of tracking my days, it was normal for me to be 2 days late. Only once before was I 5 days late. I waited until I was 6 days late before I truly started to believe that I might be pregnant. You may wonder why I didn’t just take a test on the 1st day of my missed period. The truth is that being disappointed so many times, I just felt like peeing on that stick was jinx and bad luck. I just didn’t want to be disappointed.
I had one stick left and decided that I would use it now. Javier was in a semi-bad mood and wanted me to order food from the Outback, our favorite restaurant. I peed on the stick and called the Outback to put in my order. For a split-second I forgot about the test while talking to the Outback guy on the phone. But my eyes glanced over to the test as I was telling him the type of car we had for the pickup.
I noticed there were 2 lines, one fainter than the other. Honestly, at that moment, I didn’t remember what that meant. I’d taken more ovulation tests than pregnancy tests in the past, and the ovulation tests required that your line be of equal or more darkness than the indicator line: therefore there was always a fainter line for the ovulation test.
Once I got off the phone I opened the test guide pamphlet and saw that 1 line=not pregnant, 2=pregnant. So I was pregnant?! But why was one line fainter than the other? Did that mean I was probably pregnant, or did that mean I was pregnant for sure? I went online and Googled images of other people’s pregnancy tests. Everybody’s tests had one fainter line, but it was the right one instead of the left one like mine. After reviewing many online photos, I was convinced the darker line was my line and the fainter line was the indicator line. Judging by the fact that my line was way darker than the reference, I was totally preggers! Everyone else’s line was fainter because they probably took their tests on the first day of their missed period, instead of waiting a whole week like I did.
The next day, after having brunch with an old high school friend, I immediately went to buy some more tests. I bought a different brand and type. This time it was one of those cool digital tests that simply read “Pregnant” or “Not Pregnant” on the LCD screen. According to the funny commercials on TV, it would be the most sophisticated state of the art technology – that you could ever pee on. I watched the screen as the hourglass was blinking and finally it concluded “Pregnant”. Seeing that word on the screen instead of typical 2 lines made such a psychological difference. I got nervous and queasy for a moment.
You can imagine the types of thoughts I’ve been having since. Should I change my diet? I need to schedule a dr. appt. Who is this little person going to be when he/she grows up? Is it a boy or a girl? Could it be twins? How long do I have to wait to tell people? How am I going to tell people? At what point is the risk of a miscarriage lower? Are my tight pants bothering the baby when I sit down? Does Qori know that I’m pregnant? It’s apparent that I don’t know the first thing about being pregnant.
Javier is happy and caught off guard at this news. He – like me – was not expecting to be pregnant “so soon” or so quickly. We had both sort of convinced ourselves that we wouldn’t be able to get pregnant this year either. Now he has increased pressure. We are here on Sunday at the Victorian house and he is wall-papering while I spend time with him. While Rob and his family are anxious to begin their new dreams, we are too.