For those of you hoping for a pregnancy self-portrait here, sorry to disappoint, but there will be no intentional posting of pregnancy pictures. Ever. This is not a state I'd like to immortalize on the internet. It's not even a state that I'd like to immortalize for family records. We all know what pregnant women look like ("someone who swallowed a watermelon," according to Brandon) so there's no need to get personal with what I look like pregnant. You can all just use your imagination.
So I've got less than a month to go before baby number five arrives and I remember again how amazingly uncomfortable it is to have five plus pounds of baby crammed into one's abdomen when I need to bend over and tie my two year-old's shoe. Or my own shoe. Or roll over in bed. Or pick up toys. Or read a book. Or really, actually, anything. I clipped my toenails last week and I'm really hoping that they'll grow slowly enough that I can hold off clipping them again until I have a little more bendability in my mid-section. We'll have to see. Kathleen told me a few weeks ago that fingernails grow twice as quickly as toenails, so maybe I'll be okay.
But other than the usual complaints about pregnancy, I haven't had it too bad especially when I stop and consider that 1. I'm 32 and 2. this is my fifth pregnancy. By the time she got to her fifth pregnancy, my mother had amazing varicose veins and her feet swelled so badly she couldn't wear anything but flip-flops, so I'm doing pretty well. I even wore three-inch high heels when I went out to dinner this week.
However, I am starting to realize that 1. I'm not getting any younger and 2. I'm pregnant with my fifth child. My first four pregnancies were absolutely textbook boring. Every single visit was the exact same procedure: give a 'sample,' get weighed, have my blood pressure taken, and tell the doctor that I didn't have any questions. I remember wondering why exactly I needed to go in so frequently by the end when I was just doing the same thing I'd been doing the entire time. The most exciting anything ever got was when Kathleen went (very predictably) a week overdue and I got induced. The subsequent pregnancies didn't even have the excitement of waiting for contractions as I just got induced on my due date for all three of them.
But this one has finally provided a little bit of excitement. I am, after all, getting old and this is, after all, my fifth baby. One can't just keep having babies into eternity without something starting to break down. The first time I ever had any doctor ever tell me that anything abnormal was going on (okay, I did have a few cavities once. Those were a real shocker) was after my 20-week ultrasound in Baku. I didn't understand anything the tech was saying because I don't speak Azeri, but after I was walked back to my very nice British doctor, he looked at the pictures and frowned politely. "It looks like you have a low placenta and..." he turned to confer with his go-between nurse, "placental lakes." He looked up at me with a reassuring smile, "but, nothing to worry about. Very common. Just make sure to get another ultrasound when you get to the States."
Thanks to Google, I discovered that placental lakes weren't much to worry about, just as he said, so I didn't worry just like he told me.
After four weeks of home leave and settling in to our new apartment, I went for that follow-up ultrasound. And since all of the paperwork from both my London medevac and the following appointments were missing, my next doctor ordered a full anatomical scan along with a check on the placental position.
I got treated to another Azeri ultrasound, minus the chatting in Azeri. After I asked the tech in the placenta had moved up and he confirmed that it was somewhere in the region above my bellybutton, nothing more was said for the rest of the ultrasound. I didn't even get a view of the screen. After twenty or so minutes of blue-goo sliding around my abdomen he looked over and announced that I was all finished. Impatient of waiting the week and a half before my next appointment, I asked him how everything looked. "Oh, just fine," he shrugged his shoulders, "yeah, and the baby's breech."
Visions of recovering from a c-section while four children laid waste to our apartment danced through my head as I drove home from the hospital. I comforted myself with the thought that at least I'd get an extra day in the hospital to read trashy novels and order room service food. All considering, though, I decided that the extra day probably wouldn't be worth all of the trauma of recovering from having my abdominal muscles severed and so put in quite a few prayer requests that the baby turn on her own, or at least be turned with some help.
So when I went in for a follow-up ultrasound this past week that first thing I checked with the tech was the baby's position. And much to my relief, she had turned. Part of me was a little sad about one less day in the hospital, but that's the impractical part that also deludes itself into thinking that bed rest would be nice (I know, it wouldn't). I happily called Brandon on my way out and I'm pretty sure he was even more relieved than I was (the same visions of four children laying waste to our apartment were probably dancing double time through his head because he would be the one to pick up the pieces every evening after coming home from work).
My appointment two days' later was back to routine and we were doing well (well, other than having to wait for a doctor to come and see me while being covered from the waist down with a large paper towel. Good thing the belly hides most things anyway and really, my shame died several pregnancies ago) until the doctor looked at the ultrasound report.
"Looks like the baby has turned... that's good...." Silence punctuated by laptop clicking. "But your placenta... looks like it's calcified...hmmm.... stage three..."
I looked at her. Aren't placentas supposed to be made of blood and other squishy stuff and bones made of calcium? I waited for an explanation.
"Well, basically it means that the placenta is aging faster than it's supposed to and the baby may not be getting enough nutrition and growing properly. So we're going to have you go and visit an at-risk OB every week so you can get a non-stress test to check how the baby's doing."
At this point my first thought should have been something along the lines of 'my baby! My precious baby!' but it was more like 'oh crap. That's another appointment I have to schedule and arrange to have the children watched for. How incredibly obnoxious.' And then the little impractical voice whispered 'but at least you have some more time to read books all alone.' And then I felt guilty because that meant that Brandon would be paying for that alone time with his alone time. Obviously I'm a very concerned and caring mother. Whenever a child injures themselves I always think about how far away the ER is and wait times and what I would have to do for dinner and who I could shuck the other three children off on. When you have four children, life is all about logistics.
So now I get to spend even more of my time for the next four weeks at Virginia Hospital Center seeing more doctors. I really have no room to complain, however, as it took four pregnancies and eight years before things started getting just a little bit complicated. I know lots and lots of ladies who had complicated pregnancies from the beginning and they've never gotten any better. One of my neighbors had her pelvic bones separate and couldn't walk for several months after her first baby. And then she went on to have another! That is true devotion to your children.
But I'm faced with the reality that I really am getting old. And five children really is a lot of children. Sadly, I'm not going to get any younger and the size of my family is not going to get any smaller and this is really just the beginning of the (hopefully gradual) downhill slide into increasingly difficult pregnancies that will eventually result in me getting out of this business and leaving it to younger, fitter women with smaller families. It's kind of like a sneak peak into what my life will eventually turn into - more doctor's visits and more complicated procedures to get things done that were once routine.
In the end, I'm grateful that I've had four and most of a fifth normal pregnancies. I'm not complaining at all. Hopefully this one will just turn out to be more of a logistical annoyance than any major trouble. And if it isn't, that's life, right?