Singing in the Dead of Night

So I have this app. I don’t like it, so I won’t mention it. Suffice to say, I have an app that knows when I’m due, and therefore offers “helpful” observations on Chick’s* development and how I should be feeling. Early on, I realize that this was mostly ridiculous. But it is still on my phone, and I check it from time to time if only to know what type of fruit I am currently carrying.

A few days ago, my not-so-friendly app told me that Chick can now hear so I should start talking to him/her. This will help us bond as mother and baby. This sounded reasonable enough to me, and if I am to be honest, I’m feeling a little detached from this whole “harboring human life” business. Bonding, it is.

On the way home, I tried talking to Chick. At first, it was basics like “I’m driving to our home from my job. On your left is a park I’ll take you to later…” I ended up feeling like the world’s most ridiculous tour guide. I quickly devolved into more comfortable topics, like the gender wage gap and universal health care.

Talking to Chick just doesn’t feel right yet, but I also get the value of communicating while in utero. So the other night, I started singing instead. I was home late and trying to fall asleep. Mr. O was in the office doing heaven only knows what, so I was by myself in bed.

While rubbing my little belly, I started to hum “Asleep” by The Smiths. “Sing me to sleep/Sing me to sleep/ I’m tired and I/I want to go to bed…” The melody is really quite nice, and this felt ten times more natural than explaining to complexities of gender inequality. A few lines in, I realized I couldn’t remember the rest of the words. A YouTube search later, I pressed the speaker of my phone up to my belly and performed my best (or worst) duet with Morrissey.

In case you are not a rabid Smiths fan, here are the lyrics:

Sing me to sleep

Sing me to sleep

I’m tired and I

I want to go to bed

 

Sing me to sleep

Sing me to sleep

And then leave me alone

Don’t try to wake me in the morning

‘Cause I will be gone

Don’t feel bad for me

I want you to know

Deep in the cell of my heart

I will feel so glad to go

…..

About half way through I thought, “Oh my god, I’m turning my child emo before they have a fighting chance,”and I turned it off.

I went through my internal catalog of songs I love and know by heart. After a few false starts, I settled on “Blackbird” by the Beatles.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Somehow, with everything we’ve done to get here and with all the heartache of the last few months, this seems like the most fitting, natural lullaby.

*Henceforth, the tiny human growing in my uterus will be known as Chick.

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UPDATE: Letter to Robin

Some of you may recall that I was debating how I would tell a coworker about my pregnancy. Robin and his wife had just experienced a miscarriage late in their pregnancy. This is that note. Short, and hopefully sweet. 

Robin,

I wanted to tell you before word gets out publicly- I am pregnant. While this is is exciting for me and my husband, it comes at a difficult time for me personally. As you may be aware, my mother passed away in January so my feelings are complicated, ranging from happiness to sadness on any given day (or hour.)

This news also comes at a very difficult time for you. I was so sad to hear about your own loss. Though not the same as yours, my recent experience has made me realize that there are no words for this sorrow. None. So I will not offer any platitudes, only to say that this is the hardest thing.

With this in mind, I respect any and all reactions you have to my increasingly pregnant self. Though we are not terribly close, I know you to be a kind-hearted person so I won’t be upset or offended by anything you do. You are not one to act out of malice, but may need to exercise some self preservation. Please take care of yourself, and know that I am here for you regardless.

My very best,

Ostrich

*********************************************************

Robin responded to my letter with the most generous email I could have expected. An excerpt:

I am truly and entirely happy for you!  The joys and challenges of parenthood are something I looked forward to for years, decades really.  Having my first child keeps me focused on the present moment and keeps my priorities straight.  And, as you say, taking care of myself is one of those priorities.

Maybe it is the baby hormones, but his note has me crying like a maniac. In a good way, I swear.

Body Shoptalk

I would like to talk about my body for a minute. Because of all the weird things that accompany infertility and pregnancy, my changing relationship with my body was one thing I hadn’t anticipated.

If you had asked me how I felt about my body before all this started, I would have said fine. Maybe even great. Like most women, I have one or two things that poke at when I’m feeling low, but on the whole I’ve never really had a problem with my physical appearance. Through some miracle, I had escaped a lot of the self-loathing so many women experience about their bodies.

Or so I thought…

I realize now that I’ve been pretty blessed in that I have been effortlessly thin. I know a lot of people out there are going to hate on this, but this is a fact. I’m naturally skinny and have a kick ass metabolism. I also like eating my greens and genuinely love physical exercise. It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t exposed to screwed up societal expectations of women’s bodies. I simply skirted the issue through the genetic lottery. I could rant and rave about the exploitation of women’s bodies, how harmful unrealistic beauty standards are, why we need to embrace all body types… and then eat a slice of chocolate cake and not bat an eyelash.

Pregnancy has hijacked this body of mine, and with it exposed me to a whole lot of stupid insecurities I didn’t know I had. Early on while I was experiencing the joys of bloating and constipation, I rolled around on my bed lamenting that I was “getting fat.” Mr. Ostrich reminded me that I was, in fact, pregnant. But it still felt like my body was betraying me.

The bump is definitely making its presence known at this point. While on vacation in CA, I wore a few maternity dresses. On one hand, I felt great- it was nice not to be under layers or wearing increasingly ill-fitting pants. On the other hand, I had this compulsion to run around telling people I was pregnant, not chubby.

To be clear, I am not proud of this. In fact, it makes me feel icky. Objectively, I get that my body is doing something really amazing right now. It is building a fricking human. That is some badass shit. At the same time, I now understand I’ve internalized that bigger is badder, and it is hard override the instinct to feel ashamed.

In a strange way, I’m reminded of when I first realized I was infertile. In a whole different way, I was also ashamed of my body. It wasn’t doing the *one* thing it was biologically put on this earth to do. Everyone else seemed to have perfect reproductive organs, whereas mine were clearly less than ideal. I remember feeling betrayed by my body every month, compounding all those other feelings of grief, frustration, and disappointment.

I’m just going to come out and say it. Being pregnant doesn’t make me feel magical. It makes me feel out of control. It was like I had this pact– I was good to my body, and it would be good to me. Now the definition of what “good” is changes daily, and I don’t know how to keep up with it all.

I’m getting bigger which is a good thing when you’re pregnant, but how do you erase a lifetime of voices telling you that your body is better when smaller?

Well, Hello There!

To make a long and painful story short, Incompetence denied the request to go through the lab for the Panorama test. I will spare you the gory details, and summarize:

My doctor’s office says that there is one lab (Natera) that does this test. Nope, no one else.

My insurance says their preferred lab does the test too, so won’t accept Natera.

They are incorrect, but I’m fairly certain they have yet to update their files to reflect the change. This, sadly, has happened two other times, resulting in delays in treatment.

Sigh… This left me with only one Downs screening option and exactly two days to do it in. This screen, consisting of an ultrasound and blood work, has to be done between 11 weeks and 13 weeks 6 days. Today I am 13 weeks 5 days. If ever there was a reason to utter the phrase “Fuck my life,” now felt like the time.

So I spent the ENTIRE DAY running around signing consent forms and finding the one office that had an opening today for an ultrasound. (Weather in my next of the woods is shit right now, so many offices are closed.) Luckily I was able to get an appointment at 1:30 today– again due to the weather, this office had a cancellation so I could slide right in.

I walked into the office and thanked them profusely for getting me in. I was exhausted, had not showered, and was hungry because I hadn’t eaten anything except some oatmeal I picked up at Starbucks between stops. Not to mention that I was anxious because I was worried that they would tell me there was something less than perfect* about my wee one.

I was, essentially, a train wreck.

And then. Oh, ladies and gentlemen, and then… I saw the little thing that has set up camp in my uterus. It is real. Like, really real. It has hands and feet. Hands! And it waved. (Okay, it was probably passing gas or something, but I prefer to think of it as waving.)

It waved at me. It said “Hi, I’m here.” (Okay, it didn’t saaay anything, but I was having a moment.)

That’s when this whole pregnancy thing became so motherfucking real to me. This is happening. And it is awesome.

As should come as no surprise, there were some oddities. Mostly that it is on the longer side. Depending on which range you use, it is either a wee too long or just right. Baby Ostrich is either right on schedule or 14 weeks 1 day.

I couldn’t figure out why this mattered, so I kept pressing the nurse. She gave me some pat answer, so I made it completely clear. “What I’m asking is there anything I could Google and freak-out about later?” She assured me that no, there was nothing to freak out over. And she is right. I have Googled and there is nothing terribly conclusive about these ranges.

[Aside: This seems weird to me. Different labs use different ranges? Wouldn’t something like baby growth be fairly standard and generally accepted?]

But in case you thought I couldn’t find something to panic about… I learned that I have actually lost weight in my first trimester. Lost weight. Aren’t I supposed to be gaining weight? I suspect this is because I have been backed up a lot, what with the rampaging constipation. To put it bluntly, it is really hard to put food in when it won’t come out. Or maybe it is grief. Because, you know… I’ve heard that can put a damper on one’s appetite.

Again, I find myself wondering if the cause even matters. Ultimately, I need to find a way to get more in my belly.

Barring a natural disaster, I will be heading to California tomorrow. It seems like a delightful way to spend the week wait until I get the results of the blood work back. Not to mention, I hear they have amazing food trucks where I’m headed.

And I could certainly use the sunshine.

*I hesitated to use this word because I don’t think there is anything wrong with people who have Downs or other disabilities. If I am being honest, there is a part of me that would be upset if my child had Downs. Not that I wouldn’t love them or care for them. But every parent wants the easiest road for their child, and I would be disingenuous not to recognize that this was all tumbling in the back of my head in the waiting room.

The One Where I Cry at My Insurance Company

Before I left for the memorial service, I met my new doctor, Dr. Egret, for a check up. At this practice, I’m basically alternating between my doctor and my midwife until I make a decision about delivery. And I’m sucking at decisions right now, so I will continue to flip flop until I get my brain back.

Any way, I liked Dr. Egert a lot. I had to move up my appointment because of the memorial, so the office knew my mother had passed. It was the first thing Dr. Egert asked about. We spent about 10 minutes talking about how I can get the emotional support I need. She talked to me first as a person, secondarily as a pregnant person. Which I appreciated.

While we were there, we discussed Downs testing. Because I have a geriatric womb (i.e. over 35) they recommend testing, which I’m on board with. I’d like to know my risk factor so Mr. O and I can be prepared.

There is one in particular I’m interested in. Panorama Prenatal is a non-invasive blood test that helps determine your level of risk for Downs. It doesn’t confirm, but it does identify if the pregnancy is high risk. From my understanding, other tests are more conclusive but also more invasive and come with higher risks to the pregnancy. So this non-invasive test sounds perfect to me. The trouble is not all insurance companies cover this because it is still fairly new.

Enter Incompetence insurance.

I hate this company. So much. So so so much.

First, I check with the company to see if they cover this test. I am not given an answer. Nope, I am given a policy number. After searching for the policy and breaking down the insane jargon, it appears that because I am old, they will cover this test. They even list the brand name, Panorama, in the policy.

But I know better. I really do. Because though the test is covered, they may not cover the lab that performs the test. Soooo, I’m a good health care consumer, and I called Incompetence to see if the lab is covered. This led to yet another completely surreal discussion with an insurance rep (I’m going to have a collection by the time this is over.)

ME: I’m calling to see if the Panorama test by Natera is covered under my benefits. According to policy 12345,…

REP: Oh, I’m not allowed to review the policy with you, ma’am.

ME: Er… Why not?

REP: Those are written by medical professionals. I’m not a medical professional so I can’t discuss them with you.

ME: So you can’t discuss policies written by your own company?

REP: That’s correct, ma’am.

I lost my shit a little. After giving my “I’m trying to make responsible financial decisions when it comes to my health care!” speech, the rep finally conceded that  the lab does not appear to be in-network so would not be covered. But she can’t confirm this. However, if my doctor can call and receive prior authorization they will count it as an in-network request.

Okay. Fine. I have had enough painful conversations about my medical care for one day.

A few days later, I called my doctor’s office and explained that they need to get approval on the lab. Not the test, but the LAB. They thought I was crazy. It was like no one had ever asked this before. Given how stupid my insurance is, this is probably a first for their office.  Still, they took the information and did their best.

An hour later, I got a call back. They’d put in the request, but Incompetence takes 15 business days to review all approval requests. This seemed off to her, so she collected all the information I need (CPT, NPI, Tax ID, etc.) and suggested I call them too.

15 days?! 15 DAYS?! God created the earth in less than half the time, assholes!

I can’t wait that long because I’m taking a trip next week, then almost immediately heading to my mom’s funeral mass. I have 3 days this week when I’ll be able to get the test done. Not to mention, this is just stupid.

So I called Incompetence again. I got this rep who is clearly not into her job, which I can’t blame her for. She has to deal with people like me all day. I started off warning her that I’m getting frustrated because this is the 3rd time I’ve contacted them and cannot get the help I need. I patiently (okay, maybe not so patiently) explained what’s happening.

  1. I need to find out if the lab is covered because no one has been able to confirm this for me.
  2. I need to expedite my doctor’s request because a 15 day wait is not feasible.

Fairly quickly, I’m punted off to the “Patient Management” team, which I suspect is a euphemism for “Deranged Policyholders.” Here a woman calmly explained that Dr. Egret’s office did not specify that it needed to be expedited so there is nothing they could do, and the doctor was the only person who can request that. As a patient, I cannot.

I lost my shit again. Only this time I told them that my mom just died.

I started sobbing. Like those chest-heaving, snot-oozing sobs that come from the depths of your soul. I haven’t been upset like this much over my mom’s death. It isn’t that I’m bottling it up. More that there are a handful of occasions when I’ve felt truly pitiful about where I am in life right now. It turns out that arguing with my insurance company about prenatal testing is just such an occasion.

I started babbling about how this is my first pregnancy, I have no idea what I am doing, and though I respect that they have policies, this is just not working for me right now. (Yes, I actually talk like this.)

Ladies and gents, there was SILENCE on the phone. We now know what it takes to leave cold-hearted bureaucracy jockeys speechless: a first-time pregnant woman who has just lost her mother.

Perhaps their small hearts grew three sizes that day. I don’t know. What I do know is that in an instant two reps were on the phone, conference-calling their managers, and approving my request for expedited approval for my lab. I cried some more. I hung up the phone.

Wait? What was that? Yes, you read that correctly. All that drama did was lead to approving my request for expedited approval which should take 2-3 business days. I still don’t know if they will approve the lab.

I haven’t played the “Motherless and Pregnant Card” a lot. It feels icky and manipulative. I don’t want to be pitied, I just want things to stop being so fucking hard. Next thing you know, I’ll be audited. Or my car will spontaneously blow up.

The thing is I don’t remember my life always being so shitty. There have been long stretches when I felt down right fortunate. I do not feel fortunate right now.

I feel Rocky Balboa’s face.

The Reveal

It’s that time, folks! The time when I have to tell my manager and team that I’m carrying.

And as should come as no surprise, I feel very uneasy about this. On a certain level, I’m still convinced that something will go terribly wrong. Like at my next ultrasound, my doctor will confirm that I am having a garden gnome, not an actual human. But I’m also getting to that point where it is going to be very obvious I’m not getting chubby, but getting babied.

I’m also just feeling a lot right now. My life is a whole lotta messy, but I’m finding a place of calm I can process this from. I’m coming to terms with the fact that my first pregnancy happening just as I lose my mom. To quote the immortal Whitney Houston, “It’s not right, but it’s okay.

With my mom’s death now common knowledge at work, I feel a little conspicuous. People come up to me and tell me that they’re sorry. I get hugs, invitations to lunch, random “Just thinking about you” emails. It comes from a place of kindness, I get that. But I’d really like to get back to being a normal person, thank you very much. Just as it looks like “normal” is on the horizon, I will be outing pregnant self. With this brings a whole new level public attention that I’m not really interested in, and yet is totally inescapable.

The workplace is weird. Not just my workplace, but any workplace. We’re thrown together with a bunch of people who we may or may not have anything in common with. Because we spend 8+ hours together 5 days a week, there is a false sense of intimacy. We see each other a lot, but we don’t really know each other that well. Not everyone gets this, and so sometimes boundaries are crossed. Which is part of the reason I’m queasy about this.

My manager, who I will tell first, is the bomb. He’s in the top 5 of people I’ve ever worked for. Part of the reason I adore him is that he gets the idea of privacy, while also being one of the most supportive managers I’ve ever had. He has never asked for justification for all the time I’ve needed off to go to my many, many medical appointments, and he has given me free reign to visit my family over the past year (which is part of the reason I feel at peace with my mom’s passing, if I am to be honest.)

All of this is to say that I’m okay telling him. He’ll give me the space and the support I need. He is like magic. My direct report will be over the moon. Truth be told, I think she may have already figured it out, but I could be wrong.

There are two colleagues who I am most concerned about. 1) Myna, and 2) a coworker I’ll call Robin*.

Myna should come as no surprise. In her book, boundaries are for chumps. She is the kind of person who will tell me about her labor horror story. Or how she worked up until the last possible minute, and was emailing between contractions. In short, there will be a lot of over sharing and insistence that I do my pregnancy exactly like she did hers.

My plan for Myna: I’ll accept her hearty congratulations and offers to throw an office baby shower. I will even thank her. However, I will not accept stories intended to terrify me or shame me into thinking that I am bad parent. I’ve been practicing this exact line in my bathroom mirror:

Thanks for sharing your experiences, but pregnancy is such a personal subject I’d rather not talk about it at work.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll cry at her and through post-it notes.

Robin is another conundrum altogether. You see, Robin and his wife lost their second child when they were 36 weeks pregnant, about a few days before my mom died.  I do not know the details- I’ve been respecting his need for privacy because I totally get it. Okay, I don’t get what he is going through at all,  but I do get the need not to have your grief on display.

When he returned to work, he sent an email to the team saying that if anyone wanted to talk with him about his loss, set up a meeting with him. He would talk about it with us, but he didn’t want to get approached in the hall or at his desk. (Which was the most gracious and mature thing I’ve seen a grieving person do.) Clearly, Robin understands workplace boundaries.

My plan for Robin: Uh… I’m not sure. I want to tell him about my pregnancy before it gets out. I want him to know that I understand if he doesn’t want to sit with me at lunch or hang out around the water cooler. I understand that the sight of my growing belly will likely trigger some hard emotions for him, and I do not blame him for any reaction he has. But I can’t decide if that is being presumptive or respectful. Obviously, I’m aiming for respectful.

So what do you think? Should I tell him personally? Or should I email him? Write him a letter? Send a messenger pigeon? Or should I let word get out in the usual grape-vine-y sort of way?

Advice and opinions are welcome.

*Nope. Not his real name.

What, Me Pregnant?

I am very fortunate in that my first trimester has been mostly without incident. Except that time when my mom died. Other than that one massive tragedy, I’ve been in pretty good shape.

I’ve had minimal nausea, one or two flair ups of acne, and some seriously tedious constipation. There was that time I experienced cramping, called my doctor’s office in a panic, only to become “that patient” who freaks out over nothing. But honestly, this pregnancy has been fine. So fine that I was almost in denial that this was happening. For serious, there were times when I sort of forgot that I’m pregnant.

That is until “things” started growing. My body is a-changin’, kids. This all started about a few days before I left for my mom’s memorial, and realized I had nothing to wear. I have two pairs of pants that fit me without considerable grunting, and exactly one bra. In my heart of hearts, I know that this situation has to change or I’m going to end up naked. Which will be fun for NO ONE. Even when not bloated and pimply, I still look better fully clothed.

I’m not sure if it is my state of pregnancy denial or my general glumness at losing my mother, but I have no desire to go shopping for maternity clothes. It isn’t how ugly they are or how expensive they are. I just can’t imagine walking into a store, taking things off a rack, trying them on, walking over to the cashier, making small talk about the weather, taking out my credit card, putting it back in my wallet, and exiting the store.

Did I make that sound sufficiently boring? Because that’s exactly how it sounds to me. Why do that when I can frantically build work appropriate outfits around sweatpants?!

I also don’t like this eating business anymore. This is, perhaps, my biggest complaint. With the exception of a brief animosity toward brussel sprouts when I was 5, I have always been an excellent eater. I like to eat with relish (ha!) and in quantity. Now I have to eat these teeny tiny meals or I end up like a groaning beached whale.

I know what so many of you are thinking. “Stop complaining, ass hat. You’re actually pregnant so you should just shut it.” I know you’re thinking this, because I too have thought this. There are times when I find myself whimpering, and I think “But oh, I should just be sooooo thankful I am here.”

Yes, I am grateful to be pregnant. But I am not grateful that I cannot take a shit. This doesn’t make me a bad person. Nor are you a bad person for thinking I’m an ass hat. All these things can coexist in a happy little ecosystem of emotion. There is no right or wrong here.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint the “Why” behind so much of what I’m going through. Why am I tired– is it because I’m emotionally exhausted over my mom’s death or is it because I’m hosting a tiny person who is sapping all my energy? Do I not want to buy maternity clothes because most are legitimately horrendous or because I’m feeling a little depressed because my mom just died?

On one hand, I’m a firm believer that understanding the “Why”s help me get to the root of the problem. On the other hand, what does it matter? I can’t make myself less tired, or more excited about muumuus with bows on them that are always in colors like “Tahitian Sunset” or “Key Lime Pie.”

Do you ever wonder what it would have been like to get pregnant like a normal fertile person? Would you be less crazy and anxious? Or just crazy and anxious about different things?

I ask myself these questions all the time, and toss in a few more. If my mom hadn’t died, would I actually be happy by now? Would I feel excited rather than hollow? Would I have accepted that I am actually pregnant?

I can’t answer these questions, and I don’t think any of us can. I know that this path– which is totally fucked up and messy– is the only one I’m on. But I can’t help but wonder if it could have ever been simpler.