The Baby Bean Blog

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Week 20 Progress Report

We've made it to the halfway point. You're halfway baked, my little bean!

Maybe I shouldn't call you my little bean anymore. You've gotten to be quite a big bean since the week 5 and week 10 progress reports I wrote. At week 5, you were a teeny-tiny bean, barely over 1 mm. At week 10, you'd grown into a very good sized bean, about 1.5 inches. Now, at week 20, you're about 6 inches from crown to rump. That's one big bean!

So what have you been up to since the last progress report at week 10? By week 12, you were completely formed, although your organs obviously needed to mature a lot. In the first quarter of your gestation, your head was very large in proportion to the rest of your body. Now you're starting to look like a baby, although you're still very thin. For the last week or so, you've really be concentrating on fattening up rather than getting longer, and from what I've read, it looks like you will continue a pattern of growth in length followed by layering on some more fat in preparation for your next growth spurt.

You've really been moving around a lot in the past week. Of course, you've been moving around a lot for a long time now, but only since week 19 have I been able to feel you in there kicking and punching and turning and giving your muscles a good work out. The first few days after I knew it was you poking around inside me, I only felt you move about once a day, usually after I ate dinner. But the last few days, I've felt you in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. Sometimes I can't help but think it's a little weird, that you are inside me, bee-bopping around. It's not just me. It's me and you. Feeling you moving has really brought that to my attention.

We've been talking to you a little bit, but starting this week, we're going to make more of an effort to talk to you since you're brain has developed enough that you can hear and even recognize our voices. Will we put headphones playing Mozart onto my tummy, pumping straight to you the type of music I've never really liked but always felt like I would be a better person if I did? Will you like it if I play it for you now, in utero?

Besides being able to hear us, you've been busy putting on little flourishes like fingerprints, fingernails and toenails, and growing hair, including eyebrows and eye lashes. You've also started to practice breathing, inhaling the amniotic fluid that surrounds you and then exhaling it, stregthening your lungs and diaphram.

I can't wait to meet you. 20 more weeks seems like a long time to wait. I know I have to be patient. As your other mother tells me, we wouldn't want you to be born now, would we? No, of course not. We want you to stay right where you are and hope that the time flies until mid-August.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Movement....

I'm pretty much sure that I've started feeling the baby move. It started two days ago, on Thursday. The continued feeling leads me to believe that's what's going on. It's kind of weird, in a lot of different ways. For one, it feels like little bubbles in my stomach. I'm not sure why that is. You'd think it would feel like tapping or something. But maybe that's how the nerves translate it. There are no nerve endings inside the uterus, so the baby has to kick/push hard enough to move the outer wall of the uterus so that it triggers the nerve endings out there. Another thing that is weird is that I basically didn't really feel anything up until two days ago, and now I feel it every day (although I might have felt the baby first move nine days ago, but since I didn't feel anything for the next week, I wasn't sure). I guess there must be some sort of threshold for the nerve endings. Anything less than this bubble feeling registers as nothing.

I'm excited to be feeling it move myself. Sort of weird (again) to think of a little creature in there bee-bopping around. But I'm really looking forward to when I can share it with my partner, when the movements are strong enough to be felt by feeling the outside of my stomach. That's supposed to be in a few more weeks.

One final weird thing: When I feel the baby moving for a little while, sometimes I put my hand on my stomach to see if maybe I can feel it moving from the outside, and the baby stops moving. Or maybe the pressure of my hand stablizes the abdominal cavity so that the nerve endings don't respond. Because I don't know how the baby could know that my hand was there.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Buddha Baby

I was ready to make my big announcement: It's a boy! or It's a girl! Alas, it wasn't meant to be. The baby sat cross-legged on its feet. It wasn't giving up the goods. So I guess I'm going to wait until August to find out after all. I might breakdown in a few weeks and go to one of those ultrasounds-in-the-mall places I've read about. But I'm thinking that I won't.

I have to tell you that the ultrasound experience was less than I had wanted it to be. I really had my hopes up for this. I was so excited. And then I almost couldn't see anything because the monitor was turned towards the tech at such an angle that I could barely make out anything. I asked if I would be able to see, and the tech said that she had to keep the monitor turned towards her at first to get all the measurements but then later I could. And she did turn it a little more towards the end, but it was very frustrating to be lying there and seeing this little sliver of the screen from an extreme angle while she talked about what was happening. I don't know. It just wasn't great. What is it with me getting my hopes up about stuff and then having them dashed these days?

I did get three pictures that are pretty cool. So without further ado, here they are:


The baby wanted to keep its hands up around its face. A little camera shy. S/he gets that from me. The round thing on the left is the head, of course. The line pointing up towards the right is the left elbow. If you know what you're looking at, you can see the right forearm sort of along the line of the torso and a little hand along the baby's right cheek.


This one is a little fuzzier, but it's actually my favorite because the baby is sucking its thumb. The head is still on the left, and you can see the arms more clearly. The baby almost looks like it's in a fighting stance with both of its hands up. The baby is sucking its left thumb. The right hand is still up around its right cheek.


Here is the one picture of the baby without its hands in front of its face. The baby's mouth is a little bit open and it looks kind of weird to me (sorry, baby), but at this size image, it's actually not bad. And we only got three pictures, so I thought I'd post them all.

So that's it for that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Third Prenatal Visit

Today was my third prenatal visit. Honestly, there's not much to talk about on that front except that I did a little rebellion thing, but I guess I can bow down in the end. The midwife I met with last time wanted me to fill out a sheet of paper detailing what I ate over the course of a day. Now, I know what I'm supposed to eat. I've read all the books, etc. And I also know that I don't quite live up to the expectations. I'm not a horrible eater, but I'm sure I eat too much sugar and too few vegetables. I really don't need the midwife to point that out to me. And her pointing that out to me won't change my behavior. I need to change my behavior because it's the right thing to do. Again, let me emphasize here that I am not being a horrible eater at all. I know of plenty of pregnant women who eat much worse than I do. It's just that I could be better. And who couldn't say that anyway? So I didn't do the thing, and I told the midwife why I hadn't done it. She basically said that she understood, but she wanted me to do it anyway. Okay then.

The highlight of the visit was getting to hear the baby's heartbeat, of course. And then the midwife started poking my stomach. When she finished, I poked where she had poked (about an inch or two below my belly button), and I felt something in there. I've read about feeling the top of one's uterus, but I hadn't really be able to figure out exactly where that was. So I asked her if that is what I was feeling, and she said yes. So that's a new trick I learned. I hope the baby doesn't get annoyed at me poking it from here on out!

By far the most exciting news of the day is that I got my prescription for an ultrasound (they don't do them at the birth center), and I made an appointment for Thursday--that's right, two days from now! I can't wait to see the little bean again. And of course to find out the gender. My partner is going to come, and we're both looking forward to it. I just can't wait!

So in a couple of days, I will have more pictures of the little bean to post!

Monday, March 21, 2005

I Think It Must Have Been Those Pregnancy Hormones I've Been Reading About

Well, here's how the weekend went. We got to the hotel in Washington, DC, Friday night around 10pm. I was so excited about sleeping in the Tempur-pedic bed. I haven't slept without pain for weeks. The idea that this could be the night, I would sleep and wake up refreshed; this bed would be the answer to all my prayers!

We entered our hotel room, and we both sat down on the bed--not to try it out, but because it's a hotel and there is limited seating. We were taking off our shoes or organizing things or whatever. Anyway, we sat on the bed, and it was like a rock. I kid you not. When you sit on a normal bed, you expect some spring to it. Not this bed. You sat on a hard surface, and then gradually, your ass sank into it a bit. And what my partner did had no effect on the part of the bed I was on. Again, usually adding or removing 100 pounds to a bed causes the whole bed to react. Some react more, some less, but you feel something. Not this bed.

When I actually got ready to get into the bed to go to sleep, I couldn't help but notice that it seemed harder than the ones in the store. I know there is a "softening process" with Tempur-pedic beds, but I was surprised that a hotel bed would not already be softened. Was it possible that we had gotten a fairly new bed? Whatever the reason, I settled in for the night and went to sleep.

I woke up several times during the night, per usual, to go to the bathroom. I didn't notice any pain...until about 4am. Then I woke up and my back hurt. It wasn't worse than it had been in our bed at home. And to give the mattress credit, the pain didn't start until 4am, as opposed to the 2:30am pain I woke up to early Friday morning. I went to the bathroom, a little disappointed. It was when I came back to the bed that it happened.

I sat down on the bed, and I looked at it, and the little voice inside my head said, "No, no, it's going to hurt." That's the voice I've been hearing for weeks. And it's sad to know that you will be in pain but not to have any other choice. At least when I'm at home, I can go to the sofa. But in this hotel room, I had to return to the bed. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I sat there, hunched over, with my head in my hands. My partner woke up and asked, "Are you okay?" And that did it.

I crawled into bed beside her and broke into tears. Not little tear drops rolling down my face. Oh no. Huge sobs. She kept asking me what was wrong, but I couldn't speak, I was crying so hard. I knew I'd been looking forward to this, but I didn't realize just how much I had been counting on this to be the solution to my problem. Finally, I managed to choke out that my back hurt and to tell her how disappointed I was and how I was terrified of spending the next five months in pain every night.

The next day, as we were wandering around the Smithsonian museums, I reflected back on my...breakdown for lack of a better word. It seemed so extreme to me in the light of day. I couldn't help but wonder, Had that been the result of pregnancy hormones? I'm not a big crier. Or maybe I should say that I wasn't a big crier. I've been crying more than usual since I got pregnant, but actually the crying started last July when my grandmother died. Mostly when I've cried during the pregnancy, it's been because of missing her. Since I was already crying about that before I got pregnant, I haven't been able to tell if the continued crying is related to the pregnancy or just the trauma of that event by itself. However, crying about my grandmother makes sense to me. But this bed thing. That's another story.

To wrap up the bed storyline, it was actually better the second night. I still woke up with some discomfort, but it was better than our bed at home, and it was better than the first night. They say on the Tempur-pedic website that the bed can take time getting used to, and they ask that you give it at least two weeks (before using the 90 day return policy). So believe it or not, we're going to get one. The bed in the hotel was the "classic" which is 8 inches thick. We're getting the "deluxe" which is 10 inches thick and softer.

It should come next Tuesday. We've decided to try it out for 60 days (of the 90) before deciding whether or not to send it back. Maybe it won't help anything, but I figured out that we could sleep in it for up to 90 days for under $200 (that's the shipping and set-up fee which they don't reimburse), as opposed to sleeping in the bed for 2 nights, like we did last weekend, for close to $400. Clearly, it would have been cheaper to just have done that in the first place. But we had a nice time in DC, so it was worth it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

New Mattress Time?

My bed has been killing me lately. My hips hurt. My back hurts. My shoulders hurt. Ouch. As you may know, I've had back problems for about 10 years now, so back pain is not a stranger to me. However, it's become a daily (or should I say nightly?) event these past few weeks. Actually, the development of this problem nicely lines up with the start of my second trimester. The problem is further compounded by the fact that I am only supposed to sleep on my side now, preferrably my left side. Something about the weight of my uterus pressing on that big ole supply artery if I lie on my back. For some reason, cutting off the blood supply to the little bean is discouraged.

This pain caused by my bed has been quite distressing to me. I love a nice, long, satisfying sleep. It hurts my heart to look at my bed with suspicion. To be afraid of the pain that awaits me there. So what to do?

Our current bed is not that old, only about 5 years old. And actually, it hasn't been slept in regularly for more than about 3 years (two of the years, it was a guest bed). It's a nice bed, too. But it sinks a bit in the middle, making me sleep on a slant. And it's just not supporting me enough in my current condition.

So I've turned my eye towards one of the most expensive mattresses out there. The Tempur-pedic mattress. I've already got their Neck Pillow, which has basically eliminated my shoulder pain. I've also got this pillow that fits in the curve of your waist when you're lying on your side, and it has reduced my hip pain. But the back pain. The back pain lives on.

This weekend, my partner and I are taking a little trip to Washington, DC, where we will be staying in a hotel that has Tempur-pedic mattresses, so I'll get to try out the real deal for two nights. I haven't heard anything bad about the Tempur-pedic mattress yet. And it's got a 90 day home trial. If it doesn't do the trick, we can send it back (we'll only be out the $159 delivery and set-up fee). I can risk $159 on the prospect of comfortable sleep from here on out. It's also got a 10 year full warrantee (then another 10 years of limited warrantee).

We shall see... We shall see...

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Results Are In!

I got the quad screen results on Thursday....and they are fabulous! My chances of having a baby with one of the three abnormalities (spina bifida, Downs syndrome, and trisomy 18) are less than 1 in 5000. Actually, that's the lowest that the odds go. They don't put out higher odds than that. I feel very relieved and quite excited. The next big test will be in a few weeks when I go in for the ultrasound and they check the baby's anatomy and development....and we get to find out the gender!

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Quad Screen

Well, I haven't written in a while because I've been sick for the past week with a cold. Talk about a double whammy. There were a couple of days where I couldn't stay conscious for more than two hours at a time! I'd meant to blog about many things this past week, but instead I opted to lie on my couch with a throat lozenge, a box of kleenex, and intermittent sleep.

But back to baby stuff. I decided to go ahead with the quad screen. So what, exactly, is the quad screen? Well, it is a little test that gives you odds on whether or not your baby has a few specific defects/abnormalities: namely, spina bifida, Downs syndrome, and Trisomy 18.

So what about these defects/abnormalities?

Spina bifida is a neural tube defect. Basically, it's when the bones and skin don't completely cover a portion of the spinal column. The degree of this defect varies from poor leg control all the way to no chance of survival. 1/1000 babies are born with spina bifida.

Downs syndrome is a form of mental retardation. What happens is that the baby gets an extra chromosone. Instead of having 48, the baby has 49. The chromosome that is duplicated is number 21 (which is why Downs syndrome is also referred to as trisomy 21). The degree of retardation varies from mild to severe, with most falling somewhere in the middle. However, most who have Downs syndrome will never be able to live on their own. 1/800 babies are born with Downs syndrome.

Trisomy 18 is another situation where the baby gets an extra chromosome, this time number 18. Babies with trisomy 18 are often miscarried or stillborn, and for those that are born, few are likely to live more than a few years. 1/5000 babies are born with trisomy 18.

So how does the quad screen work?

The quad screen poses no risk whatsoever to the baby, which is why most women will have this test first before proceeding onto other tests, such as an amniocentesis (which carries a 1/200 chance of miscarriage). All that happens, which is what happened to me this morning, is that some blood is drawn from the mother (usually from her arm). The blood is then analized for the levels of Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP), Human Choriogonadotropin (HCG), estriol, and inhibin A (the four different things measured give us the name "quad screen"). These are all hormones and proteins produced exclusively by the baby and transferred to the mothers bloodstream via the placenta. The level of these hormones and proteins in your blood is compared to "normal" amounts found in women of your age, weight, and race.

So what will the quad screen tell you?

The quad screen is not a diagnostic tool. It will not tell you whether or not your baby definitely has or does not have one of the three defects/abnormalities mentioned. What is tells your is a probability of spina bifida, Downs syndrome, or trisomy 18 occuring. For instance, as a 30 year old white woman, my chances of having a baby with Downs syndrome are somewhere around 1/800 - 1/900. So the test could come back and say just that. Or it could come back and say that my baby has a 1/1200 chance of having Downs syndrome. These would be "negative" results (more or less). If the test came back and said my baby had a 1/200 chance of having Downs syndrome, that would be a "positive" result (more or less). However, even if the test says that the baby has a 1/1200 chance of having Downs, that still means that 1/1200 mothers end up having a Downs baby. Conversely, if the test says that the baby has a 1/200 chance of having Downs, that means that only one baby out of two hundred will actually be born with Downs.

So why all the stress about this test?

Well, I want to have a healthy baby with all the "normal" parts and the "normal" number of chromosones. I'm scared that I won't. Not for any reason. Just because that idea frightens me. I picture myself as a mother with a child that grows up without pain and progresses through life in the same general stages that I did: childhood, adolescense, leaving home, forming his or her own family. I'm taking the test because I want to be reassured that that is the most likely future for my baby. But I'm scared that it will say that it isn't.

So what happens if the test comes back bad?

Then we have to decide if we want further testing. Although I went through a lot of internal debate about whether or not to have the quad screen, I'm 90% sure that if it comes back bad, I'll want further testing. The first step is something called a level 2 ultrasound and then probably an amniocentesis. The amnio is the only definitive test, as it actually checks the baby's DNA. Again, the reason that people don't just start out with the amnio is because of the risk of miscarriage associated with this test.