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I woke up that morning, thinking of our upcoming trip to China and what I still needed to do to get ready.
One pending task on my checklist: peeing.
Well not just peeing, peeing on a stick.
It wasn’t like I was late or worried but I just needed to make sure I wasn’t going to discover any surprises once we were there.
So I carefully proceeded with the usual ritual and waited, with not much enthusiasm might I add, since my cycle is normally longer than most and I had absolutely no indicators that could lead me to think something was growing inside of me.
It was just a precautionary measure that hubby had insisted on because he couldn’t cut his trip short should I actually be pregnant. He was travelling on business and didn’t want to take chances.
The first line appeared very quickly, no drama there. The test was working fine.
Now we wait.
Actually I wait. Alone. So what? There was nothing to get excited about anyway, and my time would have been better spent googling Beijing’s weather and checking my closet for appropriately comfy clothes. I couldn’t believe I was about to see the Great Wall. My life was about to get just a tiny bit cooler!
And it did get just a tiny bit cooler.
Actually not just a tiny bit.
So much cooler than I was imagining.
So much cooler than the Great Wall.
So much cooler than all of China.
So much cooler than anything else in this world.
The second line appeared.
It was probably a bit foolish from hubby to think he could leave me all alone with a stick. No matter how small that stick was! I don’t really remember what happened next. All I know is that I was shivering and turning in circles trying to figure out what to do next!
A phone. I needed a phone. Where had I left my phone? It took me a couple of minutes that felt like an eternity but I finally managed to locate my mobile. Step two: dial. That took a little while too and it is when I actually realized I was shaking! My fingers wouldn’t obey my brain’s insistent instructions and type on the proper keys!
Finally I had hubby on the line. I am not sure I was making much sense and my voice was so pitchy and shaky it took a few sentences for hubby to grasp the simple word “Pregnant!”
I was so excited I couldn’t stand still. Or sit. Or just stop trembling like a leaf!
As I waited for hubby to come pick me up and take me to the nearest clinic for a blood test (false positives are rare but you never know) I almost went insane.
So I decided to call my mom despite the fact we had agreed to wait for the blood test results. By the time maman had picked up, I was crying, chittering, breathing heavily, sobbing all at once so of course she first imagined the worst (I don’t know what that would be but she probably thought I had some kind of disease or something!) and she finally heard THE word I managed to articulate once again in the most pitchy, shaky and annoying voice I had ever heard! She remained as calm as possible although I could feel the excitement in the silences between each of the words she spoke.
The blood test confirmed the cancellation of my trip to Beijing.
(Come to think of it, testing for potential pregnancies is a bit ghastly and violent: pee, blood, cold devices shoved in rather sensitive areas… Not very glamorous. Sounds more like torture! And yet, if you’ve been waiting for a *positive*, the disgust usually associated with such repulsive practices suddenly becomes fantastic, brilliant, magnificent!)
The Great Wall’s photo on the VISA stamped on my passport would be the closest I’d get to experience China (yet). And I loved it!
So here I was, a frantic, hysterical mom-to-be.That baby had hit the jackpot!
Actually that baby’s future shrink had hit the jackpot!
And it wasn’t about to get any calmer.
Because the most apprehensive was still to come: the ultrasound.
After two miscarriages predicted in advance by disappointing ultrasounds, I have developed a phobia of that already abusive device. First of all it forcefully violates parts of my body I’d rather keep private and to top it all, it’s become my own personal psychic with an emphasis on bad news! Bad news that would usually lead to me in pain, bleeding and cursing!
The minute I laid on the exam table, I started to sob! The technician must have thought I was borderline insane considering she hadn’t even turned on the machine yet!
She insisted on doing a belly view which I disagreed with several times but she just wouldn’t listen. My overwhelming fear was making the very rational argument that it was too early to “see” anything from the belly. And I was so worried the prognostic would be: it’s too small for the number of weeks you’re at. Indeed, she turned and turned and looked and turned again and looked again… Nothing.
My sobbing quickly turned into anxious crying, with tears pouring from my eyes like a fountain! The technician called my OBG who quickly got to the exam room and checked for herself before (finally!) doing an internal scan.
And there it was! I couldn’t resist spitting an “I told you so!” to the technician. Of course that didn’t put us any more at ease since the OBG told us usually we should be able to perform a belly view at this stage of the pregnancy. Well thank you for the reassurance, especially knowing my medical history.
That same anxiety followed me at each and every ultrasound since.
I guess I truly am sonographobic now!
The fear of an underdeveloped embryo or blighted ovum (anembryonic gestation / œuf clair) behind us, I developed more fears as the pregnancy progressed.
Yes, I am paranoid to the extent that I can never enjoy anything fully because I’m always worried about the worst! But that’s another story; I’m not here to psychoanalyze and get to the roots of my emotional dysfunctions.
As I had learned from my first pregnancy, one of the signs of a blighted ovum is when pregnancy symptoms suddenly end. Indeed, my first experience with child conception terminated at week 6 or so when the ultrasounds showed the embryo was not growing from one week to the next and so the doctor diagnosed an anembryonic gestation which is basically an empty sac. There was no need to be upset (or so they say) because there was no “baby” to begin with. Everything is relative and of course, to us, it was as tragic as death.
This experience alone shouldn’t have scarred me for life; after all many of my friends have endured a blighted ovum (some more than once) in between successful pregnancies. I was not the first nor the last to suffer from a miscarriage.
Then again, the doctor could have been less cavalier about it and should have followed up instead of leaving me with the news and travelling that same day for a one-month vacation! I ended up with a major hemorrhage at home that same evening; with contractions and pains I had never imagined before! We spent the whole night at the ER of the American Hospital in Dubai where they told me everything was OK and the last ultrasound showed a “clean” uterus confirming my body had expulsed the fetus entirely. It was probably sloppy from me not to request an OBG and I trusted the ER doctor and ultrasound technician’s verdict, allowing me to go home and even travel the next morning. I wasn’t about to undergo surgery in Dubai with my OBG out of town so I headed for a curettage in Lebanon. Apparently, ER doctors who handle night shifts shouldn’t be trusted as much as seven-month pregnant ultrasound technicians! Indeed, thirty minutes before reaching Beirut’s airport, contractions and the hemorrhage erupted again and I ended up leaving the airplane screaming in a wheel chair that rolled me straight to a Red Cross ambulance, and off we went as fast as lightening directly to the hospital. The bleeding lasted for a good week before my doctor decided to schedule the curettage (apparently, once we start, they leave us on auto-clean mode and only then proceed with surgical cleaning). He was so shocked afterwards to find the majority of the fetus remains were still “inside”.
And apparently some of it still stayed “inside” even after the curettage! We had waited six months before attempting to get pregnant again to make sure I had given my body enough time to be ready. And six months later, I was pregnant again. Hubby is very efficient that way. The oh-so-dreaded ultrasound also ended in paralyzing disappointment and a sea of tears.
The fetus looked underdeveloped but nothing was clear and we were advised to wait a week. Evidently, the curettage hadn’t been completed properly and the new images showed residues stuck on the sac. Or an ectopic pregnancy. Both options were completely devastating but the thought of an ectopic pregnancy even scarier so again, I flew to Beirut for curettage. The OBG who performed the previous one was furious my doctor in Dubai had dared criticize his work and was conclusive: it’s an ectopic pregnancy. It was a Friday. He told me to come back on Monday. I was in shock. I didn’t want to wait. I wanted it removed. Immediately. He assured me there was no danger and I could spend my weekend in peace (as he would) and I should return to see him on Monday first thing in the morning and he’d perform the surgery then. I did as advised… And waited until the afternoon for him! He never even spoke to me that day. When I checked with his secretary, insisting I had an emergency she replied that he had other patients and he was busy doing an ultrasound. I got furious. Insane would be more accurate. All this time I thought he had emergencies. Turned out he was receiving patient after patient for regular checkups, and none had any sort of medical emergencies whatsoever! So I left running down the stairs, screaming and cursing in all the languages I proficiently speak and headed to another hospital nearby, on foot mind you. I was so angry I could have walked all the way back to Dubai and not even feel a thing! The OBG they assigned examined me in between patients, as an emergency case, and concluded there was nothing to be worried about. My doctor wouldn’t bother hurrying simply because it wasn’t an ectopic anything. The Dubai diagnosis was correct: there were residues which prevented the fetus from growing. But of course the doctor who performed the curettage wouldn’t admit to that and instead preferred leaving me in panic for three days. The newly assigned OBG scheduled my procedure that same day and told me to admit myself immediately and get prepped for surgery. It would be both a Laparoscopy and curettage followed by an another long wait before trying to get pregnant again as hubby was often away on business and could only be in Dubai for the weekends. I asked him to explain to his boss and the clients that ovulations aren’t programmable on-demand but he wasn’t sure they’d appreciate the biology lesson.
Needless to say my personal procreation history had turned me into a major drama queen!
I have to admit all sorts of ideas were battling in my head as pregnancy symptoms were not showing. I was feeling suspiciously fine.
Unlike my first pregnancy during which I was forcefully put to bed by a fierce continuous nausea: no vomiting at all; just uninterrupted sickness 24 hours a day to the extend I had to bang my head against the wall to make myself fall asleep at night!
When it ended literally overnight, a sign my pregnancy had died too, I cursed the days I was lamenting about nausea and would have given anything to be nauseous again!
And this time was no exception. I was praying for signs.
Little did I know mother nature would be extremely generous with me signs-wise. Signs appeared. Nausea. All day. 24 hours a day. But this time, it was enhanced with vomiting. All day. Yes, it is possible to vomit a million times a day.
Everyone was telling me all that would end by the second trimester but I was no dupe. I knew my mom’s history. Continuous vomiting throughout her three pregnancies! Vomiting that would only end in the delivery room and only once the baby was out.
And in homage to ma petite maman, I too spent nine months puking, being nauseous and by month 7, added severe heartburns to the recipe.
Of course, I would try to console myself by thinking: “anything worth having should be hard to get” or “this baby will be that much more precious” or “it’s a small price to pay for the wonders to come” and most importantly “at least this time you’re getting a baby at the end”… All words of course. Not cures.
When I started showing symptoms, hubby was away all week and could only be next to me on weekends. He came home one day to find me just laying around, exhausted. I couldn’t keep anything down and was vomiting so much I ended up throwing up blood all week! He took me to the hospital where I got an IV which supposedly should have hydrated me and kept me from vomiting for a few days. Because vomit feeds on dehydration. And dehydration is caused by vomiting. A vicious circle which can only be broken with rehydration and the only way my body was going to take fluids was via intravenous feeding. I puked as I left the building. So much for a few days of peace!
Hubby had contacted mom and told her she had to come to Dubai immediately because I was in really bad shape and needed constant care which neither he nor my brother knew how to give or even had the time to give.
They all kept her arrival a surprise. When she entered my room where I was lying in bed, with the light off, depressing by myself; I screamed at her sight! And then burst into tears. Total hormonal craziness! I cried like a little baby in her arms for a while there. Until she decided to shake me up and get me out of the room. She was going to give me fluids and I would take them even if I was going to throw them up a couple of seconds later. This was the only way.
My OBG had prescribed a certain pill in case the vomiting wouldn’t stop at all. A pill which was developed for cancer patients on chemotherapy! Pregnant women suffering from severe vomiting are taking it in the US but it is still at its early stages and there are no pertinent studies to confirm or refute possible harmful effects on the baby. So I refrained. I would rather puke blood fifteen times a day than gamble with my baby’s health.
Yes, I did just get on my high horse.
And also, I did take the pill. Once.
I couldn’t smell anything or anyone and ended up sleeping in the living room with mom sleeping on the floor! She would wake up at night, clean up after me, and make infusion that should supposedly help. All night. I was looking at her, admiring her and wondering if I’d be able to be such a strong mother for my baby one day. After a few weeks, we decided to leave for Lebanon because hubby and my brother couldn’t bear to live in Dubai, in the summer, with no air conditioning which had become my rule at home!
So in order to travel, I had to get down from my high horse's back and took one "cancer pill". I did not throw up that day, thank God, despite my continuous nausea.
Once we reached Beirut, it was my dad’s turn to live by the crazy-fat-hormonal-bitch-law. Every time he or any man would enter the room, I would puke. Hubby would come to visit for a few days, and I never missed. I threw up each and every time we were together.
My mom and I ended up sequestrated at home for nine months, forbidding any and all kinds of visits, even when people promised not to wear perfume or deodorant. After all, my dad was doing that very thing (he had left his in the car and would spray himself on his way to work) and still, I got sick every time he entered the room in the evenings when his perfume had already faded away hours ago.
So basically I incarcerated my mom in solitary!
Visits were not allowed at the crazy-fat-hormonal-bitch-jail!
The most absurd symptom was vomit-by-phone.
I kid you not. Every time I would speak on the phone, I’d get so sick I’d have to throw the phone away and run to the bathroom! I discovered the reason why one day as my dad was watching TV and I was sleeping in another room. I was listening to the TV but couldn’t see anything. And I got nauseous. Apparently, when on the phone, my brain couldn’t comprehend why the voice it was hearing didn’t come with a face!
Hubby ended up getting news and updates from my mom who had to spend her time apologizing to the world and swearing on her life that I couldn’t physically get to the phone.
Sometimes some things are hard to understand. And believe. And I can see why some people would take it personally and be upset. Thankfully, those who I care for accepted the situation (I’m not sure they believed it completely but they respected my needs).
I couldn’t go out for nine months
I had absolutely no energy and anyway, what would I do out? I was too afraid to puke at every street corner! Car trips? No thanks! I used to get sick even when I was not pregnant, so with the preggo-nausea and the roads of Lebanon which are smooth as a wild mountain rocky track, outings were a total recipe for disasters. Every trip to the doctor’s was aggravating and I had to make superhuman efforts to get there for checkups and run back home to rest.
Embarrassing disasters did happen like when I surrendered to my family’s incessant nagging and finally went to have dinner just down the street at Hamra’s Crepaway. By the time we were seated, I had already snatched my plastic bag from my mom’s purse and puked my heart out! But we did stay and ordered dinner! That's the spirit of fighters just there!
I (and especially mom) did get a short break when I mustered up the courage to endure a car trip and got up to my hometown, Ehden. The mountain fresh air was very helpful and despite the fact that I never left home either, I could at least walk around my beloved grand-mother’s garden. The weather was becoming unbearable in Beirut, worse than Dubai (!) and we were suffocating without air conditioning. It was a really good month. I got to have fun with my téta*, her wonderful neighbors and most importantly, I got to see the sun! That didn’t prevent me from throwing up, mind you. I’d been very adamant about vomiting. When I set my mind on doing something, nothing can stop me and I was very keen on throwing up, yes, very keen I tell you! It was pure pleasure so why would I take a break, even for one day? (Am I pushing the irony to the extent of exasperation? Sincere apologies).
*téta: equivalent to “nana”; grand-mother’s pet name in Arabic
And so, as I survived my first excruciating miscarriage (and now I don’t even remember the pain I felt then) , I undeniably survived that difficult pregnancy.
There were some memorable moments, like when I felt a kick (or was it a punch?) for the first time.
October 27, 2010.I was so frustrated I couldn’t feel the baby even by the third trimester that it was an explosion of happiness when she finally hit me for the first time! Somehow, every time her dad was around, his hand on my belly, waiting for a sign, she just refrained. She knows her to make herself wanted, that one!
Another anecdote, just for the fun of it and also just a little bit to corroborate I am a certifiably paranoid phobic:
By the end of month 8, I could finally feel Mia but also hear her heartbeats thanks to a small monitor that works like a doctor’s stethoscope. Well, one night I went to bed thinking that I hadn’t felt her all day so I turned and turned in bed, lingering on the side she prefers, and still, nothing. It was passed midnight and I was starting to panic. So I went to my parents’ bedroom and woke my mom up. I told her what was happening and she told me to stop being paranoid and go back to sleep because babies don’t necessarily make their presence noticeable all the time. So I went back to bed but couldn’t fall asleep. I grabbed the heart listener and proceeded to "search" for Mia. I must have checked every centimeter of my belly. Nothing. I instantly remembered stories I had heard about babies suddenly dying in the womb and I burst into tears! My mom heard me and came to my room, checked what was happening and I told her I couldn’t “find” Mia so she woke my dad up and told me to get dressed. She was certain everything was OK but she knew I wouldn’t get to sleep if I wasn’t reassured first. So we went to the hospital where I was scheduled to give birth and we explained the situation. The nurses smiled and said first time moms always panic like that and it wasn't the first time they had "emergencies" of the sort in the middle of the night. Apparently no one was willing to take my worrying seriously! They took me to the monitoring room anyway and called a midwife. She was so sweet and gave me some tips as she installed the straps on my belly. Then she proceeded to look for Mia and find a heartbeat. Nothing. She searched and searched… Nothing. My eyes filled with water and I looked at my mom and saw she wasn’t doing a great job hiding her fear! I was holding back the water fountain, grinding my teeth, when all of a sudden, at the very second when two tears rolled down my cheeks (I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true) we heard the loudest “boom boom” ever! The look on my parents’ faces was priceless. They were both holding their breath and they confessed later that they thought the worst had happened! So did I. But it appears that Mia had just turned upside down and it took a little longer to locate her heart!
And now, two days before Mia’s two-month birthday, I can honestly look back and feel pure joy in spite of all these annoyances which have become so insignificant in the face of her presence near me. Just one look from her. Just one smile from her. And I'm ready to get pregnant all over again!