So, this happened. And for those of you who didn’t get the hint, the non-hip hippies started reproducing 🙂
This is our first ultrasound, done two days ago, at eight weeks. I know that most people wait until the end of the first trimester to announce their pregnancy, and for good reason. The rate of miscarriage is roughly 20% in the first trimester. Our midwife told us that after you see a heartbeat at eight weeks, the risk drops at 5%. The reason that we decided to start posting about the pregnancy so early on, is that we want to share with you all the stress and agony that goes hand in hand with the thrills and the joys. It would have been much easier to present you a healthy newborn after nine months, but this not how we do things here.
First things first
We decided to get married because we wanted to start trying for children. Of course there are many wonderful families out there without a marriage and we totally approve of that. It’s just that with a civil union, like the one we had, things become so much easier, when it comes to legal issues. And especially since we live a abroad and we have to do double paperwork in both countries, if a marriage makes things simpler, why not? Of course, we also wanted to celebrate our love with the people who love us and we wanted our families to meet as well. So in June 2013 we got married. We enjoyed an amazing honeymoon in Paris, Athens, Alexandroupolis and Istanbul and we came back to the Netherlands.
Since February 2013 that we decided to get married and start trying for a child after our marriage, I started taking prenatal vitamins, to make sure that my body was in the best possible conditions. Being vegan, I wanted to make sure that there wouldn’t be any deficiencies by the time I would get pregnant. N. was taking his regular B complex supplements, mainly for the B12 that can only be found in animal products. I have also stopped drinking coffee at home and we didn’t drink alcohol more than once every two weeks or so. That is in general our lifestyle, so we didn’t really do anything to limit our alcohol intake. And even though I have done everything right, during our honeymoon I caved and drunk and smoked and ate unhealthy stuff. Well, what was done, was done. Once we came back to the Netherthalds, I was back to my no-coffee, healthy food diet and decided to cut out alcohol completely, just in case I would get pregnant the first month. And that was a good decision, because I got pregnant just a month later.
The positive test
I got my first positive test on the 17th of September, even though I tested early. I tested the same day with two more tests. Still positive. I told my mom and waited for N. to come back from work to announce it to him. I have been giving him a handmade postcard every day that month, so for that day I put a picture of the tests in the envelope. He was very happy when he realized what it meant. I also shared the news with my best friends here in the Netherlands and back in Greece. N. also told his immediate family but we decided to wait until the first scan before telling anyone else.
When I first saw the positive test, I was thrilled. About three minutes later, I started fearing a miscarriage. The main reason for that is that during my research on how to prepare for a pregnancy, I have been frequenting a few fertility forums and usually the people there are people with fertility issues, including multiple miscarriages. My mom said that we have no such history in the family and I shouldn’t be too worried, but somehow this didn’t sound scientific enough. Plus, as I told my mom “I don’t think you ever had the amounts of vodka that I had while in college”. She said “Well, I am sure you had less than the average student”. No, mom. Sorry.
So I started thinking all the little things that I have done wrong in my life and all the times that I have behaved irresponsibly and even though I wanted to be thrilled, I just couldn’t. Surely enough, every week I was checking online to see the expected growth of the fetus each week and I was feeling a bit reassured with the first signs of my body changing, but the stress just wouldn’t go away. One moment I was daydreaming about how great N. will look with a baby on a baby carrier and the next I was feeling that I shouldn’t get attached to this fetus, in case something happens. I was taking my supplement religiously, was super careful not to lift anything during the move and was eating healthily. But was constantly scared. Has that changed now? To some extend.
After seeing the heart beat of our little one, I felt some reassurance that I am not crazy and that my body has so far been doing well. I still have in my mind miscarriage as a possibility, but having a very calm midwife that gave us all the information we wanted made me feel a bit more secure and cared for. I think that for N. seeing the ultrasound was a big one, because having no physical symptoms at all, it is harder for him to realize this pregnancy. Even I do not feel pregnant. I just feel sick because my nose is stuffed all the time, due to to increased blood flow that causes the capillaries to swell, my stomach is upset due to morning sickness, I pee all the time and my breasts hurt. Oh, and every evening I have a belly, because I am bloated. But by the morning the belly is gone and I cannot feel anything moving inside me, so no, I do not feel pregnant. I have to consciously think of the baby, look at pictures of fetuses and pictures of kids and every day realize from the start what is going on in our life. And of course every time I go to the bathroom I check to make sure there is no blood. If all that is Too Much Information for you, I am sorry that you feel this way. The reason that I share this information is because I feel that pregnancy is presented as either a magical time in a woman’s life or as vomiting hell. I haven’t found many realistic descriptions of what is really going on out there. And as I am the first of my friends who got pregnant and my mom is thousands of kilometers away, I am really exploring unknown territory here on my own, without a community of experienced women around me. And I feel that with more and more people moving away from their families to get a job nowadays, many other women out there are in the same position. Scary but challenging.
You have read on here more than once that I am a vegan. Well, I have to be completely honest with you. Since I got pregnant, I decided to eat eggs once a week, which makes me an ovo-vegetarian, if we absolutely need to put labels on things. The reason that I did that is because there is no safe plant-based source for vitamin B12 and even though it is in my multivitamin and I drink fortified almond milk and fortified cereal, I just didn’t feel confident that the fetus could absorb those forms equally well. Vitamin B12 is made from bacteria, and this is why my vegan prenatal has it. But as I said, I am not convinced that the fetus can absorb it, so I decided to incorporate eggs into my diet during pregnancy. We chose organic, free range eggs and even though I am well aware that “free range” most likely means “packed to death in a dark room with concrete floor” instead of “packed in cages”, it is the best choice that I have right now. I surely hate the fact that all male chicks get ground up alive in egg farming facilities and I know that egg consumptions has a lot of suffering as a consequence. This is why I will limit it to once a week, in an attempt to keep the animal suffering to a minimum. When it comes to the other key nutrient that is important for the healthy development of an embryo, DHA, fortunately there are vegan sources for it. Most people get it through consuming fish or by taking fish oil capsules. We can however get it the same way that fish do: via micro algae. Surely enough micro algae capsules cost about twice as much as fish capsules, but they do not cause death, pain and suffering, so I am OK with paying more.
Before the next ultrasound, that will take place at week 11, we need to take some serious decisions concerning prenatal testing. Here is how it goes: if you are less than 36 years old, the health insurance company does not pay for testing for down syndrome and other trisomies, as the risk is considered low. We decided to leave the financial aspect aside and decide what to do without taking that into consideration. The first step would be to do a blood test and take a measurement at the back of the baby’s head. I believe it is fold that they measure. If this fold is large, then the baby has a 1 in 200 chance of being born with Down syndrome. So, what next? Then there is the option of one of the two invasive tests: chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis. They both carry and increased risk of miscarriage of a healthy embryo. Of course, since there are 199 out of 200 chances that the baby will be healthy, the parents can choose to not have any of those two types of invasive testing. But could you ever sleep in peace again until the day of birth? And if the amniocentesis results show that the bay has a trisomy, do you choose to terminate the pregnancy on not? I will not go into that because it is such a heavy, personal issue and I have huge respect for families who support children with such syndromes and I have no clue if I could be a good caregiver for my child in this case. Of course, as my friend said, people find so much strength that they didn’t know they had. But let’s say that you decide to do the blood test and fold measurement, that are non-invasive and it turns out that you have a high marker (1 in 200 chance of Down syndrome). Could you relax and just wait and see, without doing the invasive tests? I feel that I personally couldn’t. And what if you do amniocentesis and a healthy embryo suffers a miscarriage due to that? Horrible decisions… We are leaning towards letting nature do its thing, since neither me nor N. have a medical history of Down syndrome in our families and I will turn 29 just a few days after birth. But I mentioned all that just to illustrate how parenthood and taking decisions about your child start before they are even born.
As you can probably imagine, we dream of raising a healthy, happy child that will respect nature and the environment and won’t do the mistakes we did, which is a ridiculous dream, because everyone needs to make their own mistakes and we can’t protect our child just by talking about our own mistakes. Oh well… From now on you can expect to find quite some kiddo related posts, varying from vegan diets for toddlers to different types of education, breastfeeding, natural childbirth and the like. I will tag all those posts accordingly, so if you are not into that stuff, you can just skip them 🙂
P.S.: Next week we are expecting a dear friend and relative of hours, with whom we will visit quite a few cities around the Netherlands, so more travel posts will show up soon!
*You can check out all the “Family and Parenting” posts here*