Where to begin? I suppose I should begin in the beginning.
We were in our last year of graduate school when we decided it was time to take the plunge and start a family. Clustering major life changes together (i.e., establishing new careers, possibly moving, having a baby) sounds like a great idea, right? In light of the chaos that had been the first year of graduate school, we decided that we were ready for more and would handle it with grace.
October 19, 2010. 4 weeks/ 0 days. The first round of drugstore early pregnancy tests, taken several days before, yielded negative results. I had plans that evening to share a bottle of wine with Ann and Timothy before heading to the annual departmental Hot Chili Nights event. On the drive home from class, Erin decided I needed to test one more time before indulging in any vino. She had a sneaking suspicion that my latest obsession with the hospital cafeteria pudding was not normal. Three EPT tests later, I hollered for Mark. We embraced, teared up, I left for the chili party, and he left for the ceramics studio. I began to develop an acute awareness of my middle section, imagining the tiny pin point of an embryo floating around. I beamed with pride, thinking of our future mini Mallory and all that we would share with and learn from him or her. I drove straight to the ceramics studio after the chili dinner. Mark was waiting for me outside. We hugged and talked about our hope and fears. It was a beautiful night.
November 5, 2010. 6 weeks/ 3 days. Our first doctor's appointment and sonogram. We had named the creature of the womb affectionately, peapod. Peapod's wide screen debut was orchestrated by a large goofy sonographer, who resembled Gene Shallot. Peapod was rather elusive, and Mr. Shallot had a difficult time registering a heartbeat. Mark and I squinted anxiously at the screen, searching through the gradations of black and gray for some semblance of our Peapod. Finally, we were able to discern a blinking dot and confirmation was complete: we were officially pregnant, and we had a grainy photograph to prove it!
December 20, 2010. 12 weeks/ 7 days. Having learned about the spectrum of catastrophic congenital anomalies in grad school, Mark and I opted for the ultra-screening ultrasound. We waited in a room full of pregnant teenagers wearing pajamas and slippers. And waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, we were ushered into a large room with 2 wall-mounted 52" TVs. The sonographer was apologetic for the wait, friendly, and chatty. While she scanned my uterus, she narrated. Abruptly, she clammed up, offering only a periodic tight lipped smile with sad eyes. She stepped outside the room and few moments later returned with another sonographer and two Maternal Fetal Specialists. She continued to scan, and the four of them conferred, exchanging knowing glances and hushed acronyms. All the while, I had ceased watching the TVs, instead focusing my attention on the foursome. Mark gripped my hand tightly. What followed is blurry. Dr. Hales asked us to join him in his office, where he apologetically admitted that he had bad news. Our little peapod had bilateral cystic hygromas (fluid filled pockets on both sides of his neck). He pulled out flip books with illustrations of chromosomes and explained that he felt the anomalies indicated on the ultrasound were likely consistent with a chromosomal issue. He suggested we schedule an amnio and provided the early age of the baby, we would have to wait until January 6th. In the meantime, he cautioned that the worst of these babies do not survive, but our baby's issues were not necessarily the most severe. All the same, we were devastated. Friends and family provided invaluable support and Mark and I clung to each other. And the frantic internet and scholarly journal research commenced.
January 6, 2011. 15 weeks/ 2 days. The three of us made it through Christmas, and finally we had another chance to get a glimpse of our peapod. We hoped that having put the tragedies of 2010 behind us, we could begin 2011 with refreshed spirits and great expectations. Our amnio ultrasound provided us with the miraculous news we so desperately longed to hear: peapod's cystic hygromas had completely resolved! Waiting for the initial results of the amnio was grueling. My comprehensive exams began the day the initial amnio results would be available. I was very fortunate to have outstanding support from friends, faculty, family, and most of all, Mark. Concentrating on my exams was mildly successful as I waited for the call. Finally, my professor motioned to me that I had a phone call and I sprung from my seat and out the door to hear the news. The initial results indicated peapod was a boy, which ruled out Turner's Syndrome, and that the initial study of the chromosomes indicated no anomalies. I was elated, with a healthy dose of caution, as the official report would not be available until later in the week.