Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fear, Paranoia, Ultrasounds, and Heartbeats

Three days ago, my wife and I had our 20-week ultrasound. This is the appointment where they spend almost an hour with that messy contraption counting fingers, toes, arms, legs, and making sure the brain, heart, and the all-important liver are in working order. If you’ve been through this ordeal, then you know how nerve-wracking it can be. If you haven’t, well, stiff drink, old man. It gets intense.

Back when we had our first ultrasound for the baby that we lost, I remember walking in to the office with nothing but excitement and happiness (and a sense of overwhelming dread, but I believe that had more to do with the surgery that was on my calendar for a mere three hours later). We were there to hear the heartbeat! My 7-week old child would make their first appearance in this world through the wonders of technology! 

I didn’t know that there was another option, where you actually don’t hear the heartbeat, because the little guy didn’t make it. And that’s exactly what happened, as I was left standing in that room baffled and confused, as our midwife told us that there was no heartbeat, and that this tiny little thing that just moments ago had been the center of my world was no longer a thing. Shell-shocked heartbreak doesn’t begin to describe it.

The pain that came from that moment is still something that I carry with me, especially as we progress with this pregnancy. We have now been to four doctor’s appointments with sonograms, and every time we walk in to those offices, a sense of fear and paranoia overtakes me. My wife and I both experience this, however, we both deal with this in very different ways. I tend to sit in silence, hoping the seconds will tick by faster, so we can get in there already and hear whatever bad news is coming our way. I need that silence and alone time. My wife, on the other hand, finds comfort in talking about something, anything, just words that will fill the silence so she isn’t left alone with her thoughts. Which I totally get, but the waiting room of our doc might be the only time that we get on each others nerves; and Jesus, that’s a stressful way to spend 30 minutes.

When we went in for our first appointment for the child that my wife is currently carrying, time seemed to almost stop as we waited for them to get the machine working. At first, the machine was on and working, but there was once again silence. And then…

chick CHOCK chick CHOCK chick CHOCK chick CHOCK chick CHOCK chick CHOCK

Holy shit. I can hear it! But, is this kid running sprint intervals in there? Why is his heart rate so high? I’m lucky to get mine that high when I’m in the gym doing CrossFit. And he’s just hanging in there, with his drum-n-bass heartbeat banging away. 

Turns out it’s normal to be that high. Something about “building organs and bones”, and how it takes a lot of energy. Who knew? Certainly not me. You could fill an ocean with the things that I am not aware of. 

The rest of our appointments seemed to follow the same script: we walk in, stress each other out for half an hour, get into the room, hear the heartbeat, relax a bit, and then stress out about what ELSE could go wrong. Maybe this is normal, or maybe it stems from the loss of our first little bean. I guess it doesn’t really matter much at this point. But that 20-week anatomy scan was me sitting in a room for an hour watching that little screen looking for something, anything, that might be wrong. 

Of course, I had no idea what I was actually looking at, it’s mostly just blobs that are continually moving. The lab tech sort of helps, but also sort of doesn’t. It’s nice that they tell you when they find the good stuff. But their communication skills are mostly one-sided, which isn’t always ideal.

Lab Tech: “Yep, there’s his feet, and his toes, and his legs!”
Me: “Wait, that little blob there, or the other one? Stop changing the channel, I’m trying to focus.” 
LT: “And there’s his right arm…”
Me: “Arm? Where?…”
LT: “And here's his heart…”
Me: “That looks like a face”
LT: “I need another view of his heart.”
Me: “What? Why?”
LT: “Turn on to your side please, I need to get a better view of his heart”
Me: “Is this normal? Why are you spending so much time on his heart?!?”
LT: “And here’s his neck, and his ears, and his nose!”
Me: “Ok, so we’re off the heart, thank god”
LT: “Ok, I need a better view of his heart…"

That was sixty minutes of my life, until she left the room without uttering a word. A few minutes later, a doctor came in and was just like, “Ok, everything is fine, you have a healthy baby boy!”, and I almost fainted because Jesus, I was convinced she was going to come back in and say, “Ok, everything is fine, except for the fact that your baby’s heart is on the outside. We aren’t sure why, but we’re hoping that this doesn’t have any negative effects, so just keep doing what you’re doing, and we’ll see you in a few weeks!”

No, I can’t take much more of this. But we’re past the halfway point, have taken every test under the sun to make sure this baby its healthy, and so far we’re in the clear. I don’t think I will stop worrying until he’s born, and then I have a feeling that I’ll take that worry up to an entirely new level. But at least once he’s out, I’ll have final confirmation his heart is safely attached inside his body.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

And so it begins...

I won’t lie; when I first found out that I was going to be a father, I had just gotten home from the bar and was more than half in the bag. I sat down on the couch, and immediately received a text from my wife. I was confused by this action, considering she was sitting right next to me at the time, but I opened up the text message and there was a picture of a pregnancy test. Showing positive. Jesus Christ, I thought. What IS this?

It took me some time to actually understand what was happening, but when it hit me, I just looked up at her and asked, “is this what I think it is?” 

In hindsight, I’m not sure what else I thought it could have been, but it seemed like a logical question at the time. I got up and hugged her, but I was not feeling much excitement yet. The whiskey in my system seemed to be numbing me to the events occurring, and I was probably in more shock than I realized at the time. Still, there is video of me opening up that text message, and if you didn’t know the back story, you wouldn't be sure if I had just found out that I was going to be a dad, or if I had just seen that the final score of the Leafs game had ended in yet another goddam loss. 

But before I go any further, perhaps a little backstory is needed to make a little more sense of my nonchalant reaction to this life changing event. Context, if you will.

Almost a year earlier, my wife and I had been out all day at more than one party, drinking beer and wine continuously for what must have been twelve hours (which was not exactly common place, but I digress). We arrived home and put the TV on, and I continued to pour myself whiskey. She had disappeared for a few minutes, when suddenly she walked back into the living room holding something in her hand. I wasn’t paying attention that whatever was in her hand, however, as her right eye had swollen itself almost completely shut, and coupled with the bizarre grin on her face, I thought she had gone mad from too much wine. 

“Babe, I’m pregnant!”

I couldn’t understand her words; I had no idea if she even knew that her eye was swollen shut. What had HAPPENED to her eye? And what was she saying about being pregnant? At first, I was happy, and hugged her. But this was only a home pregnancy test. How accurate can these little buggers be, fifty percent at most? Sixty? This news seemed amazing, but I would wait until a real Medical Professional actually tested her and confirmed her hypothesis.

“No babe, these tests are accurate to something like 99% - if it shows positive, then there’s little doubt that I’m pregnant!”

Jesus, I thought. Was that true? I consider myself someone that watches a fair amount of TV, and most of my knowledge of things like this come from what I learned on Grey’s Anatomy. How did I not know how good these fucking tests were? These shows are really doing us a disservice by not giving us the full story. Fucking Shonda Rhimes.

When it finally hit me, I got teary eyed and immediately dumped out any remaining whiskey. I was going to be a motherfucking FATHER. The next 30 years flashed before my eyes and I vowed to get my shit together.

It’s unfortunate that miscarriages are still a taboo topic of conversation. They happen, and they happen more often than any TV show would have you believe. When we lost our first little one at the seven week mark, I was devastated. I also happened to be having major surgery on the same day that we found out, and so had little time to process the news. A steady flow of Percocet for the next week or two didn’t help, at least in terms of losing the little one. But nonetheless it was a difficult time.

All of this was in the forefront of my thoughts when I received that text message on the couch, drunk as I was. I wanted to be excited, that much I could be sure of. But I just couldn’t let myself get there. 

That was three months ago, and my wife and I just passed the 20-week mark. Slowly, I am coming to grips with the fact that I might actually be a dad this time. Maybe it’s the tequila talking or maybe it’s the fact that we have a bedroom already set up with a crib, changing table, and at least three hundred books for me to read to my not-yet-born son, but holy shit this is starting to get GOOD.

Back at it again, and the news still isn't good

Well, they say when you can't write, the best thing to do is just write anyway. Which sounds like gibberish, but it's worth a shot. ...