Pregnancy with a toddler in the summer

… Kind of sucks. Growing a human is beautiful and I can’t wait to meet this little boy, but oh my goodness this is so much harder than the first time. 

I’m 34 weeks pregnant and we’ve been going through a heat wave here in NYC, with lots of hot, humid days with a heat index above 105° F. I’ve never been a summer person, preferring cool weather or even a rainy or snowy day to the clear skies with the burning sun. 

So this summer, with the heat wave, the third trimester, and the challenges of parenting a toddler… I’ve felt a bit like I’m melting to pieces. Many times it’s all I can do to get through the hour or the day. Tears seem to fall more easily. I go to sleep when my daughter does most nights, spending 10 hours in bed, and often still want a nap. 

I’m getting better at managing, though. I’ve been frank with my husband about the support I need, lowered my expectations of myself, set an earlier start to my leave (less than 3 weeks to go!), built more rest and refreshment time into my days, and also spoke with my doctors and increased my anti-depressants. All of this is helping, and I’m feeling more stable and ready and in control. We’ve made it to mid-August and there’s just a little summer left. 

One day soon, I will walk outside into a cool fall breeze, holding my new baby and watching my toddler and husband play, and it will be beautiful. 

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Halfway Day!

Today I am 20 weeks and 0 days pregnant – halfway through the pregnancy!

I’m starting to feel more distinct movements; what started as flutters now can sometimes feel more clearly like a kick or a jab. It’s still faint enough that I usually only feel it if I am trying to.

Husband and I often lay down with his hand on my belly, and he feels our baby’s movements more regularly now too. I love that he can share in some of the sensations of growing a life! Last night he fell asleep with his hand there. It took me a bit longer to fall asleep, and I felt it so precious that he is building this bond with the baby too.

I was marveling recently that I haven’t felt depression symptoms in months. Instead, I am motivated to get things done and I feel really happy most of the time. It’s wonderful!

We are so thrilled to be bringing a baby into our family and cannot wait to meet her!

My experiences so far with pregnancy and mood

As a dysthymic person with a history of almost yearly dips into depression, and as a planner, I took many steps before getting pregnant to prepare myself. I read articles and spoke to numerous psychiatrists in my search for one who I felt knew as much as there was to know about managing mental health and pregnancy and birth.

I know the statistics. As one who has had so many incidences of depression, it is very likely I will have more. My brain is used to this pattern, and it takes careful care to keep it from slipping back into that state where bed seems like the only place to be and life looks like a long gray stretch of things one has to do, or is supposed to do, just so that one can keep living to do more of those things one has to do. So, as such, I am at increased risk for postpartum depression.

As one doctor told me, at this point it’s more a question of when I will have another depression and for how long it will happen than a question of if. The best thing I can do for myself is to stay in regular care, take care of myself and watch my moods, and get help at the first sign of any symptoms. Knowing myself, I know the best way to do that is to have a doctor I feel comfortable talking to.

So I am glad to say I now have a good doctor that I am very comfortable with. She’s a reproductive psychiatrist and a mom of young children, and I feel I really couldn’t have better care at this point.

She and my OB told me that there was really no way to know how my brain would react to pregnancy. Some women’s moods get better, some stay the same, and some get worse.

Well, at about 3 months pregnant, I’m thrilled to say that so far, I’ve been feeling better. I can hardly remember a time when I felt so calm, confident, and at peace. I am filled with anticipation and excitement for the future in a way I haven’t felt since we got married (almost 7 years ago!). I feel the best way to describe it is that I feel overwhelmingly content.

The low-grade, nagging worry that I felt for years as I wondered if and when we would finally have the children I’d been wanting desperately since my baby fever days (see posts in 2006 and 2007!) is gone. I worried we’d never have the stability or health we were waiting, I worried we’d have trouble and I’d worry it was because we waited too long; I worried I we would be one of the 10-15% of couples who would have fertility troubles.

The sane side of my brain knew that I was and am lucky, being in a committed and strong relationship, with two capable individuals on solid career tracks, who earnestly look forward to having children together. Still, while I might bury it at times, it was hard to completely rid myself of those worries.

Until now. At nearly the end of my first trimester, with Husband recently starting a new, salaried job with great pay, and with me a year into a job that is my favorite yet and where I’ve earned recognition for my excellent work, all of those concerns are gone.

The anxiety that I wrote about in the trying to conceive and early pregnancy days has faded. Women in my forum groups write about their worries and nervousness, about their screenings and the baby’s health, and I don’t feel it. I know the odds and am confident that we are making a healthy baby. Our healthy baby.

I feel happy, healthy, confident, and excited. I know I am extremely lucky, and I am thankful.

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Can I keep my sanity during the two week wait? Episode 1

In my last post I talked about my first cycle charting my fertility signs. At the end I felt more confident in my fertility than I ever have, knowing that I was lucky to ovulate and have a normal length cycle in my first cycle after birth control pills.

So that was last month. This month, after finishing my plan to transition to just one, more baby-friendly antidepressant (Zoloft), and after saying goodbye to the last symptoms from my most recent depression (which occurred fall/winter 2012), we decided we were ready to actually try to conceive, or TTC as it’s called by many.

After last cycle’s experience, I’d gained a better sense of how to classify my cervical fluid, so the waiting to ovulate part of the cycle wasn’t too stressful. If you’ve never done this, just imagine rubbing mucus from your hoo-ha between your fingers and trying to stretch it, and then asking yourself, is this more like lotion, raw egg whites, or overcooked rice? Or, when it doesn’t clearly fit any, searching the Internet for more examples, descriptions, or pictures. Oh, the things we do when we want a baby!

So I was excited this cycle to see my first days of fertile cervical fluid. My temps are still fluctuating so without that and an ovulation predictor test, it would have been harder to say which day I ovulated, but I was able to determine it was likely day 18 (with a chance of day 20).

After a number of raised temps confirmed ovulation, I found myself in my first two week wait (2WW) – the time between ovulation and either a positive pregnancy test or your period. We had very well timed intercourse and I had some fertile cervical fluid, so the possibility of conception was very excitingly real.

While some pregnancy symptoms can show up before a test would turn positive, they are mostly caused by progesterone, the same hormone that causes many PMS symptoms. It’s almost impossible to tell in any given cycle if what you are feeling is because you have a tiny little blastocyst in you or because you are about to menstruate in full force. And there-in lies the rub.

Basically, the two week wait is like PMS in a pressure cooker!

I have felt daily cramps and lower backaches all week, and I haven’t had a lower backache from PMS since I was a teenager. I’ve had headaches and some nausea and some serious irritability. Add to this the fact that I’ve wanted a baby for years and am ecstatic to finally try, and you get an over-sensitive woman who is somewhat in pain yet hoping that every little twinge is a sign of possible pregnancy rather than the return of unregulated menstruation.

I found myself looking at my chart multiple times a day, going back to note whenever I felt a new symptom, and talking with others online in the same situation.

These days, many tests turn positive before you would miss a period, so based on the advice in some books I read and having experienced these symptoms more strongly than I have in years, I tried to take a test on Saturday. That was ten days past ovulation (10 DPO) and 3 days after a temperature dip which if I was pregnant would be called an implantation dip. I say tried to test because I basically failed at peeing on a stick properly. I got no control line, because I had soaked it. Who knew it was so easy for one’s first TTC pregnancy test to end comically?!?!

I talked to husband about the situation in general – how crappy I was feeling and how while he’s trying to think of it in terms of months and cycles, I am feeling these things in my body every day. He suggested we take a more chill approach and assume always that I am not pregnant, until one day my period doesn’t come and we realize that I am. I am thinking that approach may be less of a roller coaster, so I want to aim for that, but I live in my body with my mind and I’m not sure how well I will achieve that state of mind.

So after Saturday’s invalid test, I tried again Sunday morning (11 DPO). It was negative. 11 DPO is during the time in a cycle when a positive always means a positive (though could become a very early miscarriage) and a negative sometimes means negative and sometimes means you tested too early. Still, I managed to change my thought patterns from “I hope I am” to “I’m probably not, but some day I will be” and that made it easier. But I held out hope for this cycle, because my temps were still rising and last cycle at this time they were falling already.

This morning, my temperature dropped .5 degrees, which usually signals menstruation is on its way. At this point I’m looking forward to the end of this cycle, this two week wait, and ready to try again next time, which is probably about 3 weeks away. Oh, and I’m shamelessly popping pills for the PMS. If I can’t escape it, I’m at least going to dull it!

We’re finally ready to start a new journey

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I’ve been feeling the need to write again lately, and today feels like a great day to start.

So much is different from the last time I wrote. About a year ago I got my energy up and my resume together and started applying to jobs. I got a good amount of interest and interviews and ended up with opportunities at several places, most of which were great and 2 of which seemed like dream jobs. After consideration I picked one, putting the opportunity to work on a team of people who I could learn from above my initial interest in the industry, and also keeping in mind how well the role and culture would likely work with our plans to start a family.

Almost a year ago now I started there, and I couldn’t be more happy about it. I’ve grown tremendously, get to do important work for the company, and really enjoy the company of my coworkers, who are smart, hard working, and fun. On top of that my income has nearly doubled! (I’m still amazed to be able to say that!)

It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I feel so lucky.

During this year, we continued working on lowering my antidepressants, because we wanted me to try going off them before getting pregnant. At the time I was on a significant dose of both Wellbutrin and Prozac. All told I think I’ve been working on reducing that for over 2 years! As I got to a minimal dose of both and then just one, I realized I was struggling again. But when I saw my doctor in the fall in that state of mind, I didn’t have the strength to tell him no when he, not bothering to ask how I was feeling, suggested we take the final step and drop it altogether.

As the fall continued I slipped further, having a harder time talking to my husband about what was on my mind, worrying more and more, ruminating often. Life was stressful as we filed to sue his former client and my former employer for nonpayment of a considerable sum, and as he worked less while dealing with the case money was getting tight again, but I didn’t share my fears of being broke again. Instead, I stayed in my head, worried and sad.

As fall turned to winter I stopped getting up to go to the rink. Still loving work, I managed to keep it from affecting my job performance more than a little, but it definitely affected my relationship and my marriage.

One day it came to a head, and I realized I could and should do something about it. So I went back to the doc and told him this wasn’t working, and I wanted some meds again. He gave me meds but sighed and acted like he didnt want to, and he didn’t consider that we should try the safest one because I might need to stay on it. He just said, “This is going to delay you further. You will need time to get this out of your system again before you start.”

I started crying, quietly, and he either didn’t notice or didn’t care, because he said nothing. So I left with my prescription and a plan to find a new doctor, crying on the train and in the park before collecting myself to go back to the office.

That’s when I found a reproductive psychiatrist – someone who specializes in mental health and medication during events like pregnancy and breast feeding. She has deep knowledge in the area and gave me lots of information about all of the studies on both SSRI’s and Wellbutrin during pregnancy. I am so glad to have her to work with me, and with her guidance we’ve switched me to Zoloft, as it has less accumulation in the baby’s system than Prozac and is better for breast feeding than Wellbutrin.

If you check my archives you’ll see that I had baby fever over 6 years ago, and I’m elated that everything is in place now. I have no depression symptoms, am happy with my job, we moved to a nicer, more baby-friendly apartment and neighborhood, and husband is ready and excited too.

So, I’m super excited to say that as of tomorrow, I will have completed my medication transition plan, and we are ready to try to conceive!

Lost some momentum

After my last significant update from October, I lost some momentum. There are a lot of reasons why, but suffice it to say I went through the holiday season in a state of grasping for things to make me feel good.

Do you know that feeling where you start eating cookies and you can’t stop until they are gone, because with each one you think “I’ll stop after this one” and then “but it tastes so good” and “just one more” and before you know it you’ve had a thousands calories and untold grams of fat, and all just for 10 minutes of enjoying the deliciousness? And you feel as though you can’t stop yourself, that it’s a compulsion really, but there is some quiet voice in the back of your head saying “well you could fight it” and the rest of the voices just sort of tilt their heads to listen to that one and then just shrug and say “too tired to fight it…”

I felt that way all too much in the last few months. And I don’t really feel the energy and strength to pull out of it now. But I’m trying – at least. I’m trying to break the changes I’d like to see in myself into very small steps. I know with each small step I can feel a little more proud, a little stronger, and a little more in control. Whether it’s 5 minutes of meditating or getting up within the first two snoozes, I think the little changes are the first steps. Now, to take those steps…

Making changes

I’m writing now from a workout bike … i’ve been thinking a lot lately about my lifestyle now, how it has evolved since taking this job in January, and what I want it to look like. I’m thinking about health, both physical and mental (which has a physical basis of course), and how I can be more healthy.

You see, I fell into another clinical depression this summer, known as a double depression for a dysthymic, and after feeling it’s pull for sometime, I began looking around for new information, for new approaches that might allow me to at least avoid falling into depression annually.

I felt myself falling into negative thought patterns that I had not experienced since my bulimic days more than 7 years ago – getting trapped inside my head and doubting that even those closest to me, such as Husband, wanted to listen to my worries or help me find ways out of them. I felt so unsure of myself it became difficult to ask for help for basic things. I slept more and more, by the end often more than half of the day on the weekends. I let the mail, dishes, bills, clothes, and clutter pile up. And I struggled to get out of bed on weekdays and get to work on time. I would always stay late and work on weekends to make up for missed time, but my bosses started showing displeasure at my late arrivals.

So I cast about, wondering if there was some way to stop this cycle. I finally got sick of it enough that I found some energy within to try to make a change. I downloaded some books on modern approaches to depression and dysthymia, and I started to think that maybe if I learned more I could construct my lifestyle in such a way as to ward off full-blown depression.

Just beginning to believe this made a difference. I knew that one of the strongest things I could do was to exercise regularly, but trying to start a new exercise routine was intimidating. So I started with Kinect (Your Shape, Adventures, Sports, etc) and just did 15 minutes at home on Saturdays. Even that left me sore for a few days, but I kept it up and felt myself getting stronger.

This slow change has been enough to help me see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am gaining momentum – reading about yoga, meditation, and mindfulness-based stress reduction. And Husband is on board now too. So, where will this lead? I look forward to finding out.