I've heard a lot of people say that they kind of enjoyed keeping their pregnancy a secret during the first trimester. That they loved having something special and sacred between just them and their partner. That it was fun to whisper about it and think of excuses for things in front of friends.
I did not feel that way. I did not like keeping it a secret. Maybe you might have noticed, since I do have this blog and all, but I like to talk about things. I draw great comfort and benefit with sharing experiences and questions with friends and community, and getting advice and commiseration in response. I don't like lying or covering things up, and I found it very challenging to say "not much" when someone asked what was new, considering that VERY MUCH was new and exciting, and I couldn't say anything. I found it frustrating to think of excuses when people asked why I was so tired, or say that I was "fine" when really I was incredibly nauseous and also running to the bathroom to pee every twenty minutes.
(Also, when I have something to complain about, I like to voice that complaint.)
I felt like I was lying, basically. And to all sorts of people--family, friends, acquaintances, blog readers. The only people I could be open with was my immediate family and my doctors. It felt very strange to discuss things that I wasn't even telling close friends about with doctors I barely knew. Though of course I know them better by now.
But also, I was so glad to have them. When I called my endocrinologist to tell her I was pregnant and ask what I should do about my medication dose, she said, "That didn't take long!" because I had told her only a couple months prior that we were planning to start trying. And then I was able to say to her all this stuff I'd been feeling about how lucky we were to get pregnant so quickly and easily, all these things that I was feeling every day and couldn't say to anyone. And when I called my surgeon to tell him that I was pregnant and ask what I should do about my band and fills, he told me that in his religion (he's Jewish), they don't say congratulations until the baby is actually here, and then he said something in Hebrew that I didn't understand, but he translated it and while I forget the meaning, it was definitely very nice. And my midwives--there are four of them in the practice--have been so great.
I had some brown spotting at six and a half weeks, and it scared me. Of course it was after hours, so I called the nurse line at the hospital and they reassured me that most likely everything was fine, but paged the midwife just so I could have a more in-depth conversation about it. When the midwife called back, it was late but she was very patient and reassuring. She told me brown spotting is fine, brown is reassuring, brown means old blood rather than active bleed. She told me what to keep an eye out for (red blood, more than a teaspoon of blood of any color, abdominal pain/cramping), and said she wasn't worried at all, but that if I was worried I should call back in the morning and they'd schedule me for an ultrasound.
I said OK, I felt much better, I thought I could wait for the ultrasound until my scheduled appointment two weeks later, and thank you, but then the next day I started panicking and overanalyzing every little symptom (example: I'd only woken up twice the previous night to pee instead of my usual three times; did that mean my hormones were dropping?), so I called my midwife back. I told her I felt silly and I knew everything was probably fine but I was tying myself in knots and could I have an ultrasound? The nurse I spoke to first said they wouldn't be able to fit me in that day, but when I talked to my midwife she said she would write up the orders, they would find time for me, I would come in that day, not to worry if there wasn't a heartbeat since it was still early and a lack of heartbeat wouldn't necessarily mean there was a problem, and that of course I was worried, it was natural and there was no reason to feel silly. Then she told me that if the ultrasound department hadn't called to schedule an appointment within the hour, I should call her back, and she gave me her direct page line.
I hung up the phone feeling reassured and already more confident that the baby was OK. The ultrasound department did indeed call in under an hour, and scheduled me for a 1 p.m. ultrasound. Obviously, since I'm still pregnant, you know how that went. Torsten came with me. The ultrasound tech was great, reassuring and professional. She did an external ultrasound first, and could only see the gestational sac, but reassured me that this early in the pregnancy, that was totally normal. Then she sent me to pee before doing an internal ultrasound, where she knew she would be able to see everything.
I lay on the table in that dark room, clutching Torsten's hand as we both watched the blurry images on the screen. We saw the uterus, then the gestational sac, and then, with a bit more probing from the tech, we saw what was inside the sac. We saw the yolk sac first--it was big and round and obvious--and then, at the exact same moment that the tech said it, I saw the little flicker of a heartbeat. "There's the heartbeat," she said, just as my eyes registered the white flickering in the midst of the blob, and I laid my head back against the table and said "Oh, thank god," and Torsten squeezed my hand and then asked where exactly the heartbeat was, and I pointed out the flicker to him at the same time as the tech did.
She showed us the fetal pole, told us the baby was measuring on target at 6 weeks and 1 day, measured the heart rate--a perfect 126 beats per minute--and then checked blood flow to the area, examined my ovaries, and announced that everything looked great. I didn't care about that, once I heard that the heart rate was where it should be. I just lay there squeezing Torsten's hand and feeling overwhelmed with relief and love for this little tiny blob with a beating heart that would eventually turn into our baby.
This is the image we saw that day. Of course in the still picture you can't see the flicker of the heart, so it just looks like a blob, but the tech helpfully drew an arrow to exactly where we saw it, and, adorably, added two exclamation points to the caption.
When we left the hospital I wanted to call everyone I knew, to tell them about the fear and the panic I'd dealt with the previous night and all that day, and how beautifully it had ended, how lovely this little baby's heartbeat was, how lucky we were to have a baby with a beating heart. But I couldn't. I called my parents and I called my sister, and then I set about pretending to everyone else like everything was normal and my emotions hadn't been through the ringer over the previous 24 hours. I forced my mind off that flickering heart inside me and onto my work. It was nearly impossible but I had to do it.
I'm so glad that now we're past that part where I have to keep it all inside. I guess I'm just not the secret-keeping type.
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