Tuesday, May 31, 2011

18 Month Doctor Visit

Oliver turned 19 months old yesterday, but I wasn't able to get him in for his 18-month check up until today. Poor Oliver had a meltdown that lasted the entire time we were in the exam room. He wanted me to pick him up and carry him, but I couldn't do that. I just wanted to cry, I felt so bad, but instead I tried to cuddle him and distract him and then I tried being stern. Nothing worked. The moment we left the office, he stopped shrieking and crying.

Oliver's height is 32.5", which puts him in the 46th percentile. His weight is 22 pounds, 11 ounces, which puts him in the 9th percentile for weight. His head circumference is 19", which is the 60th percentile.

The doctor asked me if we'd started potty training yet. I was happy that her question seemed to indicate that it's perfectly acceptable to start teaching now. I told her we've started, but we haven't started working on it seriously yet. She told me that's good and gave me a little handout with a few tips (nothing really new). I decided that I want to start seriously working with Oliver on potty training after our trip to Chicago in June (since I think travel will just mess him up while he's learning).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Health/Pregnancy Update

This was the first morning I woke up without any bleeding since Monday. I was happy not to see any blood, but I was also sad because it meant I wasn't passing that clot. I'd like to pass the last of the blood if I can!

It's four in the afternoon, and I just had my first mid-day bleed. It was pretty heavy--not as heavy as Monday, but about on par with Tuesday's bleed. Part of me is nervous; did I re-tear something? Another part of me is hopeful; could I have passed the last of the blood? Unfortunately, I don't have anymore ultrasounds until June 22 (unless something goes wrong before then). So, I guess I'll be hopeful and hope I'm passing the last of this blood. That would mean no more stress on the amniotic sac!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ultrasound Check (16 Weeks)

Another small bleed this morning. I'd say it was about as heavy (or light, as it were) as yesterday morning and the morning before.

I went in to Pediatrix for my scheduled ultrasound at Swedish today. Based on my cycles, I'm exactly 16 weeks (although according to ultrasounds, the baby is older and will be 17 weeks on Monday).

I heard a lot of good news as well as some bad news. The good news is that the little one is thriving. She's definitely a girl, and she weighs about 5 ounces and is over four inches long from head to butt. They were able to get good views of her back, heart, diaphram and brain. Everything looked great!

They were also able to see some clotting near the cervix. The tech told me to expect a little more bleeding as that works itself out (she said it can also cause cramping). Later, the doctor came in and took a closer look at an area. She said that some blood has pooled between the amniotic sac and the uterine wall. Doing some research on the internet at home, I later determined that she was probably talking about a subchorionic hematoma. She told me that this puts me at increased risk of my water breaking early (thus going into pre-term labor). She said, "Hopefully, that won't happen too early."

After I got home, I started to think more about what she said and really wondered if it was actually likely that this would happen, based on what she said. I mean, why didn't she say, "Hopefully, that won't be a problem," instead of, "Hopefully, that won't happen too early?" Is it almost a certainty that it will break? If I don't absorb or pass the blood, then is it almost a certainty? Am I going to have my water break at any time? At this point, should I just be hoping that I can make it to 24 weeks? With these questions nagging me, I decided to call to get some clarification. A nurse is supposed to call back today, so hopefully that will happen shortly.

On the internet, there's a decent amount of information and even support groups for people with subchorionic hematomas. Apparently, if they occur in the first trimester, they can result in 40-50% chance of miscarriages (depending on the size of the hematoma). If they develop (or are found) late in the first trimester or in the second trimester, there are other concerns. I guess they can keep the placenta from implanting into the uterine wall, and they can irritate the amniotic sac, causing it to rupture. Based on what the doctor said to me, I'm guessing the placement of the hematoma in my body is in a position where it can irritate the amniotic sac (but hopefully not placenta implantation). Many women pass the clot or reabsorb it. One support group that I was reading had women commenting that it seems people who are diagnosed with this in the second trimester don't reabsorb it as often as women do early in the pregnancy.

I have a follow-up appointment scheduled in about four weeks to check to see how the blood is doing. Now that I know I'm not having any new bleeds, I'm actually hoping I can bleed this away. I've set a few goals. Although I know there is little I can do to help, I'm mentally shooting for the 24 week mark. That's July 22 (based on my cycle date, which is a little more conservative than my ultrasound date). Babies can survive as early as 18 weeks, but they usually have a rough life of infections, complications, chronic illness, surgeries, etc. Twenty-four weeks is my goal. September 2 will be when I hit 30 weeks. That is my second goal. My midwife told me, if a woman can't make it to full-term, they at least want women to make it to 30 weeks and for the fetus to reach three pounds. Full-term (38 weeks) would be October 28--two days before Oliver's second birthday. That will be my third goal. For now, though, I'm focusing on July 22. In my mind, I want my body to make it to July 22. That's what it'll take for me to have a good chance at having a baby girl who will have a good chance at being healthy. July 22.

Update: More good news! The nurse called back and said she'd spoken to the doctor. The doctor estimates my risk of "something bad happening" to be about 6%. Six percent! Those odds are about 1/16. I prefer to be an optimist and say there's a 15/16 (94%) chance that things are going to be just fine.

I'd also left a message asking about travel. She said the doctor says it is just fine for me to travel to Chicago next month. However, she said traveling later in pregnancy is probably not a good idea but to discuss it with my midwife. Apparently, women are advised not to travel at all after 36 weeks but especially if they're considered "at risk." This is not good, as I'm supposed to drive to Texas for my brother-in-law's Texas-ranch-destination wedding in mid-October. Of course, I would choose a healthy baby over travel anywhere for any reason, but it would be sad to miss the big event. I guess I'll wait and see.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Midwife Appointment

I went to see my midwife today as a follow-up from the ER. I got to hear the little one's heartbeat (in the 140s), and we had a good talk. She assured me that second-trimester miscarriages are very rare. She also told me not to stress my body out, but also wanted to clarify that everything is out of my hands. She really wanted me to understand that if I do miscarry, it's not my fault. I get what she's saying, but it's still not something I want to think about or deal with emotionally yet.

We set up an ultrasound for tomorrow morning with Pediatrix/Obsentrix, who have the really high-quality equipment. She's hoping we can see exactly what's wrong by going there.

Feeling Well

I tried to sleep sitting up last night, hoping it would help me avoid any further bleeding. I slept that way until 1am before throwing in the towel. I shoved a pillow behind my back and tried to sleep sideways (but leaning backwards) with another pillow between my knees. I definitely felt more comfortable with less pressure and fewer aches. In the morning, though, I still had a few drops of blood. I'd guess that it was about the same amount as yesterday morning. This might be the normal for this pregnancy. I guess that as long as the baby is thriving, then that'll be OK. Many women spot throughout their pregnancy--I guess a few drops in the morning isn't all that different.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

First Clothes

It might sound a bit depressing to other people (I'm not sure), but today, I decided I wanted to buy our upcoming baby a new outfit. I told Andrew that it'll help cement it in my mind that she'll be coming home with us in a few months.

Like a trooper, he went with me to Target while his mom watched Oliver (we found out later that they went to Costco where he enjoyed walking around, collecting free samples). We started looking at little girl clothes, and I swear he started having a minor panic attack. Andrew has just one sibling (a brother) and his mom has two siblings (brothers) and his dad has one sibling (a brother). I don't think they're very used to girls. I pulled out a few infant dresses and he declared, "That's not something she should wear until she's fifteen!" I finally selected a 6 month old yellow dress (on clearance!) for next spring and a little summer jumper (size 9 months) for next summer.


I took a nap this morning. When I woke up, I had more bleeding. It's still not as much as yesterday, but I wonder why sleeping causes the bleeding. It's a little upsetting, and it makes me not want to sleep! I might try sleeping upright on the couch tonight to see if that helps.

More Pregnancy Scares

So, Monday morning, I discovered I'd bled quite a bit. I filled the toilet with dark blood and went to an urgent care clinic run by Swedish Hospital. Yesterday (Tuesday), I woke up, and I dripped out as I got out of bed. I didn't bleed as much as the day before, but it was still significant, and I was terrified. Andrew took me straight to Swedish Hospital. The bleeding had stopped before we left the house.

Again, they ran tests. This time, they drew vials of blood, did an exam, and did an ultrasound. The ultrasound wasn't as detailed as the one I'd gotten the morning before, but it did let us know the baby was doing well, moving, and had a heart beat of 140. After three hours, I was sent home. The doctor talked to me and told me everything else looks good (my cervix is still closed, but he could see dried blood), but bleeding is not normal. He told me that resting is a good idea and might be able to help, but he also explained to me that everything is basically out of my hands. He said, "Rebecca, if you're going to miscarry, you're going to miscarry, and there's nothing you can do about that." I think that was something I needed to hear, but it was also something I didn't want to hear. I wanted to be told that if I did a certain thing, then the baby would be OK. He couldn't tell me that.

My mom came home with me again to help with Oliver. Poor Oliver has been quite a trooper through everything. He had a really, really rough time learning that I'm not going to be picking him up and carrying him around any more, but he's also really risen to the occasion. That little boy has learned to do so much by himself in a short amount of time. He climbs upstairs when he wants to play up there or get a diaper change, and he climbs back down. When we leave the house, the crawls down the front steps and even has crawled off the curb to get to the car. He's learned to hold my hand while crossing parking lots and has just been absolutely, completely amazing. I can't do as much house work, so I sit on the floor frequently to play blocks or bowling pins with him. He's definitely getting a lot of love and attention, but it's hard for him sometimes. He still holds his hands up to me sometimes to pick him up. I'll sit down and get on the floor with him, and (for the most part) he's stopped crying at this.

This morning, when I woke up, I had a few drops of blood, but it wasn't even enough to change the color of the toilet water. It was a lot less. I felt good this morning. I wondered if I'd torn something, and when I sleep, maybe my muscles relax enough for the blood to come out. A lot less blood is a good thing, and maybe it means the tear is really healing. If so, I'm hoping there is no blood tomorrow (or almost none).

People have been coming forward with so much support. It actually helps a lot. I've never really been in a situation where I needed people to rally around me, but now that I'm here, I feel so loved and cared for. In addition to my mom's help, Colleen (Andrew's mom) took the day off today and is going to watch Oliver. Andrew and I cancelled our road trip/camping trip with Oliver (which was supposed to take place from yesterday evening through Sunday), but he kept his days off to help Oliver adjust and to help me. I've gotten phone calls from friends and relatives--even Andrew's great-aunt called. People have given me supportive messages on Facebook and told me they were thinking positive thoughts and praying for me. While I'm not a religious person, I know that those things really do help people. For example, the "power of prayer" works for people when they know they're being prayed for. I keep reminding myself of all the people who want this little baby girl to make it through. Andrew keeps telling me to picture the end result, so I keep imagining this little swaddled baby being handed to me at the hospital with a pink cap on.

I also keep thinking of how remarkable and impossible it is that our baby girl is here. I think about how my ancestors had to immigrate from Denmark and Germany and Poland and Ireland, and they had to meet and get married and have kids at a specific time to create the gene pool that created me. Andrew's Welsh and Irish ancestors had to immigrate here. His parents had to move back to Denver, and mine had to move to Denver for us to meet. We both had to drop out of our universities and decide to go to community college to meet! Who would have thought that those actions would lead to something so amazing? Circumstances and timing had to be absolutely perfect for this tiny little girl to exist. I think about how she has made it this far, a statistical impossibility in some ways (if you think about it), and I'm determined to meet her. She's made it this far, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure she gets another five months in my womb to grow and thrive and have a chance at life.

In five months, I want this baby. It's past the first trimester. Miscarriages at this point in the pregnancy are so rare. The worst is over. Now I just need to take it easy and let her body grow.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Health Scare

This morning, I woke up and found that I was bleeding. I had passed a decent amount of bright red blood. It was only one episode, and the blood stopped. Terrified for my pregnancy, Andrew took me to the urgent care a few miles from our house.

The doctor spoke to me for a while and then ordered an ultrasound. I was glad she'd ordered it because I wanted to see that the baby was moving and had a heart beat. I was also terrified of what it could show.

When the ultrasound tech wheeled me into the ultrasound room, I could feel my stomach do a flip-flop. I felt so afraid of what I was about to see. It turns out, I didn't have to be afraid. The little one was wiggling all around, doing flips and rolls and moving all about! The tech also checked the heart rate, which read 154. That's a healthy rate!

After checking other parts of my body, from the cervix to the ovaries, the tech announced to me that my first ultrasound tech was right. We are having a girl! I was trying not to have ugly cries at that point. Our baby was OK, I was OK, and our baby's a girl!

The doctor later let me know that it looked like there was a very small separation of the placenta from the wall. She said it can heal if I take it easy, and it's important I don't make it worse. She told me I shouldn't bend over too much, and I shouldn't lift heavy things. She said I need to carry Oliver as little as possible and try not to pick up objects heavier than five pounds. She said I shouldn't do a lot of housework and shouldn't do strenuous exercise. She said I don't need to be on complete bed rest, but I do need to rest and try to heal.

My mom came and spent the rest of the day with me, helping Oliver adjust to a life of not being carried all the time. Thankfully, the little man has done quite well for himself. He looked so proud holding my hand and crossing the parking lot to the car to go home! It's going to be a rough few months for him, but I'm going to do everything I can to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby girl.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Aunt Doris's Chocolate Sheet Cake

My Great Aunt Doris's chocolate sheet cake is famous within our family. Aunt Doris is my dad's mother's sister. I guess that would make her Oliver's great-great aunt. Holy cow!

Her chocolate cake is moist and fluffy, and the frosting is like fudge. She gave me the recipe a few years ago, but I hadn't made it because we never have buttermilk in the house. Yesterday, I went on a mission to the store for buttermilk. Everything went pretty well with the cake, and nothing was too tricky. I did substitute butter for margarine. When I went to heat the frosting, it separated a bit when it boiled, but it smoothed out when I blended it with the powdered sugar. I'm not sure if that's normal, or if it wouldn't have happened if I used margarine.

Keep this recipe on hand for the next time you have a chocolate craving and a lot of people. It makes a whole cookie sheet's worth of cake, so you can easily feed a group.

Aunt Doris's Chocolate Sheet Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup cooking oil
4 tbsp (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
Aunt Doris's Chocolate Sheet Cake Icing (recipe to follow)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 10" x 15.25" x 3/4" cookie sheet.

2. Mix together the sugar, flour and salt in a large mixing bowl (or your KitchenAid bowl, if you're using one). Set aside.

3. In a saucepan, bring margarine, oil, cocoa and water to a boil. Mix into the flour mixture and beat. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Beat well. Mix in the buttermilk and baking soda.
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake 20 minutes. After cooling, frost with Aunt Doris's chocolate sheet cake icing.

Aunt Doris's Chocolate Sheet Cake Icing

1 stick margarine
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 box (approximately 4 cups) confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a sauce pan, bring the margarine, cocoa and milk to a boil. Cool slightly and stir in the confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Beat.
2. Let your toddler lick the disconnected beater paddle.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Midwife Appointment

I saw my midwife today for a quick appointment. She said my uterus is about the size of a cantaloupe and is about a finger's width below my belly button. I also got to hear the heartbeat--140bpm.

I didn't realize how much I wanted to hear that heartbeat until I heard it, and then I felt so much better! A good friend of mine from high school was expecting a baby with his wife, due about the same time as ours. They had their first child shortly after we had Oliver, but they lost the pregnancy this time. All the talk of high HCG and the weird, early kicks I've been feeling have had me on edge. I just wish I could fast-forward 6 months and have a good delivery and a healthy baby.

Meanwhile, my back is killing me this afternoon. It hurts so much! I finally Googled the symptom to see what was up. Apparently, the hormone relaxin (which relaxes your ligaments allowing for your hips to expand) peeks at week 14. I read that it can cause aches and pains. Boy, let me tell you! Ouch.

It's funny that my first pregnancy left me so exhausted. All I did was think of sleep. This go around, I have a little more energy and less exhaustion, but so many more aches and pains! I guess it's a good trade off since I have a toddler to chase around this time, but I have to say that I'm glad this pregnancy is passing quickly. Twenty-six more weeks to go!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baby Kicking? Part II

I'm still not sure what to make of the sensations I'm feeling. Two weeks ago, I started to feel an occasional spasm that felt exactly like a baby kick, but when a baby is much older (like 25 weeks). I finally decided that it must not be the baby because the feeling was so strong.

This morning, I was holding Oliver on my left hip and leaned to my right and felt a huge "kick" on my right side, near my belly button. It startled me so much! I was shocked how strong it was and felt more confident than ever that it wasn't a kick. No baby this early could kick so hard! I worried it's a weak muscle or something spasming.

Then, just a few minutes ago, my husband called. Oliver was playing with his bowling pins, so I took the opportunity to sit on the couch and rest. I sat down and talked to him for about two minutes when I felt a sudden, firm "kick" in the same place, about two inches directly to the right of my belly button. It was so firm and startled me so much that I let out a scream and dropped the phone. I tried to explain to my husband that it didn't hurt at all (it felt like a baby kick, but how could he know what I meant). He worried, though, which made me worry, so I called my midwife. She was telling me my "pains" could be gas pains. I understood she was trying to keep me from worrying, but I knew that I wasn't feeling painful gas. This was a momentary burst of sensation that feels just like a baby kicked me. It's not a cramping and extended pain. She told me it's certainly possible to feel a baby at 14 weeks, but I still felt like there could be no way that these hard "kicks" could be baby kicks this whole time. How is that possible?

Have any of you felt distinct, firm baby kicks this early? Enough to make you yelp in surprise?

Meatless Monday: Stuffed Peppers

Most people have their own version of a stuffed pepper recipe. Meat eaters often add ground beef or sausage, but, for Meatless Monday, you can have a flavorful dish without those additions. This dish is very affordable and high in protein. If you're on a budget, it's an excellent dish to add to your regular menu to save money without skimping on flavor or nutrition.

Feel free to add in whatever leftover veggies you have in your fridge. I've added diced bell pepper, zucchini, and onion to mine at different times, and they always come out tasting great.

These make four servings, but they definitely need a side with them. I've always struggled with what goes well with a stuffed pepper. They have enough veggies on their own! A quick internet search landed me the following suggestions: high-quality dinner rolls, garlic bread, nicely tossed salad with ranch dressing, or scalloped potatoes.

Stuffed Peppers, Serves 4

2 green bell peppers, halved and seeded
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 green onions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup cooked brown rice
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or Parmesan cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat, if you have one, or else grease a baking sheet.

2. Place peppers cut-side down on baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes in the oven until tender.

3. Heat oil over medium heat. Add the green onions, garlic, Italian seasoning and basil. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and black beans and cook for about five minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the rice, salt and pepper.

4. Stir 1/4 cup of cheese into the mixture. Stuff the mixture into the peppers (it will be heaping). Sprinkle remaining cheese over the tops of peppers. Bake stuffed peppers for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Per Serving:
Cost: Approximately $1.35
Protein: Approximately 17 grams
Calories: Approximately 240

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The $20 Toy

I don't believe in spending a lot of money on toys for Oliver. His favorite "toys" are pots and pans, measuring cups, ,our silicone cupcake holders, and the rice maker. Toys take up space, and he plays with most toys once every few days (with the exception of his stuffed animals).

On Thursday, I took Oliver to Toys 'R Us for two reasons. The first was to buy a bug catcher. We're going camping soon, and I thought it would be a fun activity for him and Andrew. The second reason was to motivate him to walk around the store, since he hates walking in public. It worked! Oliver found all sorts of good stuff, like a giant, stuffed monkey, and a jack-in-the-box (where "Jack" is actually a bear). I popped the bear out for him, wondering if it would scare him. He cracked up laughing! We played with it for five minutes in the store, and he couldn't get enough. I checked the price tag on the bottom. Twenty dollars. What?!

I put the toy back on the shelf. Poor Oliver was so sad. He kept pointing to it and asking me, "More?" I finally decided that it's OK to give in sometimes, and I put the toy in our cart. We bought the $20 "bear-in-the-box." Oliver loves it. Days later, he still plays with it all the time. He doesn't pop the bear out by turning the crank but instead flips the lever on top and squeals in delight when the bear pops out. Worth $20? For this one time, yes.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Second Trimester

I've reached the second trimester today! This is always good news for people who want children because the risk of miscarriage drops off at week 14. Hurray!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More on HCG

I finally heard back from my midwife today! Talking with her made me feel a lot better.

First, she explained to me about the fetus's risk for chromosomal abnormalities. She told me that the risk for Down Syndrome baby in a woman my age is normally 1 in 620. After my screen, it went way down to 1 in 3500. She then discussed the risk for Trisomy 18. She said the likelihood of a woman my age giving birth to a baby with Trisomy 18 is 1 in 2200. After my screen, my risk dropped to 1 in 10,000. She told me that the results from my screen are very reassuring, and my risk is very, very low.

She then went on to talk about the HCG. She explained that HCG is very important for at-risk women in the first trimester. It can indicate if a pregnancy is progressing well, if a woman at-risk for a miscarriage might miscarry (in the case of low HCG). She said it can indicate a molar pregnancy (in the case of high HCG). She then went on to say that I'm in the second trimester (well, almost), and she said that monitoring HCG is not really important any more. Kate said she doesn't know the exact statistic, but she'd estimate that about 10-20% of women have elevated HCG. Basically, she said, it's not a rare condition that causes a lot of alarm.

At this point, she said, we're not really worried about what caused the HCG, and the cause is unknown. She said we're now worried about the potential side effects from the high HCG. She told me that the place I went to for my screen, Obsentrix, deals with high-risk women all the time. She said they handle women who are pregnant with triplets and quadruplets, and she said they really know their stuff. She didn't call them experts exactly, but it seemed implied. Kate said she would never tell anyone to ignore their advice. She added that baby aspirin poses little risk to a pregnant woman, and they want me to take it to reduce my risk for high blood pressure. She said that research has shown that women who have pre-eclampsia often have high HCG in their second-trimester screen. She said they want to reduce my risk for hypertension later in the pregnancy and during delivery. She went on to say that the research is mostly on women who start the baby aspirin early in the first trimester. Apparently, women who are at-risk for the condition (based on past pregnancies) are often put on baby aspirin from the moment they know they're pregnant. Kate told me that there's not a lot of information out there on women who start baby aspirin during the second trimester, but she said she'd try to find an article on the subject for me.

I told Kate I was reluctant to take baby aspirin to reduce my risk for hypertension because aspirin can be so dangerous to the fetus and placenta. It's true that my blood pressure rose during my last pregnancy (my systolic went from under 100 to close to 140 during the second trimester but then dropped off again during the third), but I have very low, stable blood pressure right now and have a fairly healthy diet and lifestyle. I made a mental note at that moment to sign up for prenatal yoga classes, too. She told me that I am an adult and should be able to make that decision myself. She told me it's her job to arm me with information and then let me choose what is best for me. She said if this was absolutely vital for my health, she would tell me so. She said this isn't one of those recommendations that is an absolute must.

I'm so glad she said that. Sometimes, I feel like doctors give you their medical opinion and then treat it as the only option. In those situations, it's frustrating to not be able to have an opinion or a voice in the decision-making. I feel good to know that the baby aspirin is recommended to me as a preventative measure to help ensure my good health, but it isn't absolutely vital. There's a chance I'll kick myself later if I develop high blood pressure, but at least I'll know it was my choice.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Heart = Melted

I stepped out of the bathroom from my shower this morning, and I walked into Oliver's room. He had put his stuffed panda bear on his toddler rocking chair and was standing behind it, rocking the panda. How sweet! I'm emotional from my pregnancy hormones, I know, but my eyes welled up with tears. I told him what a good boy he is, rocking his panda bear. He looked at me and then ran and got his stuffed frog. He put that on the chair next to his panda and rocked them both. What a sweet boy.

Elevated HCG

I received a call back from the place at Swedish Hospital that did my ultrasound and screening last week. Most of what I was told was reassuring. The likelihood that our fetus has Down Syndrome is 1 in 3500, and the likelihood that our fetus has Trisomy 18 is 1 in 10,000. Both of these are very low risk, so my screening is over.

The nurse practitioner then told me that I have elevated HCG levels. HCG is the hormone your placenta releases, and it's what is tested for in those at-home pregnancy tests. High HCG levels can indicate many things that we know I don't have, such as twins/multiples, an ectopic pregnancy, or a molar pregnancy. I later read it can be an indicator for things like ovarian cancer (in non-pregnant women) or even Downs Syndrome. It can also (supposedly) cause pre-term delivery, low birth weight, and even still birth. Finally, it can also just be a normal pregnancy.

It's unnerving to hear that something is abnormal in a pregnancy, even if it doesn't seem to be anything dangerous. She said my levels were at 3.22, when the highest normal range is 2.88. She said it's not really a level that is very worrisome. She said it calls for extra ultrasounds to make sure the fetus continues to grow normally and that the placenta is OK. She then added that they recommend a take a baby aspirin at night because they found a baby aspirin helps the placenta work properly (and high HCG can be indicative of the placenta working too hard/inadequately).

I don't want to take a baby aspirin every night. I want the baby to be healthy, most definitely. However, aspirin is a big no-no in pregnancy. It can lead to growth problems in the fetus, bleeding problems in the mother, and problems with the placenta (including a detached placenta that can lead to the death of both the mother and baby). The nurse practitioner assured me that the levels of a baby aspirin are low enough that it's safe to take, but I can't find much information that says a baby aspirin helps the placenta. I read that it can help if a doctor suspects blood clots in the placenta. Conversely, I keep reading (everywhere) that a woman should never take aspirin, especially during the third trimester. It makes me so reluctant to take it. I was honest with the nurse practitioner, and I told her so. She said she understands my concerns and recommends I talk to my midwife (from whom I'm currently waiting for a call back).

I read that an abnormal HCG reading can also be a fluke. I read it should be tested again, so I think I'm going to ask my midwife to run that test one more time. I think that's a reasonable place to begin. I also am not entirely convinced that she hadn't run it previously. If she had, the levels were normal because all my blood work has come back normal until now. I'm just not sure if the HCG was ever run before this. I'm hoping that the results will come back normal. At this point, I'm nearly 13 weeks pregnant (according to the ultrasound, I already am 13 weeks pregnant), so the HCG levels should start declining naturally.

The thing is, I know that this news isn't that big of a deal. I know the nurse practitioner was trying to tell me it's really probably not anything at all. But, still, as a pregnant woman, I can't get my mind off of the fact that something isn't exactly perfect with the pregnancy, and I hate that. I'm hoping I'll have some good news to share soon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where Were You When...?

Our president announced last night that Usama (Osama) bin Laden was recently killed by a team of Navy SEALS. It's bringing mixed reaction to Americans. Most, of course, feel that justice has been served, and most feel happy for the families who lost loved ones on 9/11. There is celebration in cities around the country, including New York and Washington, D.C. These celebrations are also met with a lot of anger from fellow Americans who feel that it's wrong to celebrate anyone's death, even an enemy's. Still others are making the entire thing political, trying to say President Obama had nothing to do with it or simply had bin Laden killed to improve his ratings. A lot of it is silliness.

I feel conflicted about the death of bin Laden, as I'm sure most do. There is a sense of relief, for sure. And, although bin Laden was not the only person to declare a war using terrorism against us, I believe that he was the mastermind and the money behind the operations against us. Do I feel like we're out of danger? No, but I still feel a sense of relief.

The truth is, I think most people around the world have the ability to love and forgive. I think most people don't want war and don't want people to be killed. I think most people want compromise on all pressing issues, including those in the Middle East and the Holy Land. I think polarized, angry people are more rare than we think. They're just louder and more violent than the rest of us.

When there is a leader (on any side) who is unwilling to compromise and talk, it holds back peace for everyone. I suppose it is because of this that I do feel a small sense of happiness for what happened. I am not happy that a person died, but I am hopeful for what it can mean. Part of me (a foolish part, perhaps?) hopes that this might open talks amongst people who are willing to discuss options and genuinely consider compromises. Should we consider moving out of the Middle East? I think we should at least consider it. Should Palestinians and Israelis open discusses for compromise? I think yes. And I definitely think people on all sides should practice non-violence. Non-violence is difficult because it doesn't draw attention immediately as violent acts do. Non-violent protesters change the world, though, and they make an impact on history. It's a much more difficult route for us as passionate human beings, but I think we can learn from past leaders like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Time will tell.

Meatless Monday: Cheese Soup

Spring has sprung, and the weather has taken a chilly, wet turn in Denver. I swear, this is the coldest it's been since that cold snap in December!

To stay warm, I made a delicious cheese soup in the slow cooker. It fills the house with a spicy, earthy aroma, it's gooey and cheesy, and it's hearty and wonderful. I recommend this recipe on a chilly evening.
I've always used the carton of organic vegetable broth and have never used canned. I've heard canned broth is very salty, so choose your preference. I think you can always add salt to the finished product, but you can never take it away.

This soup is supposed to serve six, and it's better for you if you divide it into six servings. We enjoy it so much, though, that we usually eat a little extra and only get four servings out of it. I divided out the calories, cost and protein for both (you can find that information after the recipe information). Enjoy!

Here's what you do:

Cheese Soup (Serves 4-6)

4 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup peeled, chopped potatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1 (15 oz) can corn, drained
1 head of broccoli
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz cubed Colby Jack cheese

1. Combine carrots, celery, onion, potatoes, garlic and pepper in a slow cooker. Stir in three cups of vegetable broth and cover. Cook on low for 8 hours.

2. Stir in the can of drained corn. If the soup base is too thick for your preference, add up to 1 more cup of broth. Cut off the broccoli florets from the head of broccoli. Drop into the slow cooker but do not stir. Replace the lid and allow the broccoli to steam for 10-12 minutes or until it's bright green.

3. Stir the broccoli into the soup. Add cheese by the handful, stirring after each addition. Replace the lid and cook for 30-60 more minutes, until cheese is melted into the soup.

Per serving (4 servings):
Cost: Approximately $3.25
Calories: Approximately 620
Protein: Approximately 29g

Per serving (6 servings)
Cost: Approximately $2.15
Calories: Approximately 415
Protein: Approximately 19g