Getting Ready To Breathe

Two weeks ago, I woke up anxious, distracted. The way most women do the day of their amniocentises. The emotions were heightened by Nate’s heinous cold which conspired to keep him from joining me.

I sat down with the genetics counselor for my pre-amnio chat, gearing up for the enormous needle that would puncture my belly, penetrating muscle and tissue, and draw two tubes full of amniotic fluid from me. I answered questions. I smiled. I made jokes. I was ready.

And then I was told to go home and come back in two weeks. The amnio could be performed at 16.5 weeks, but for the toxoplasmosis test I’d have to wait until the full 18.

Suddenly I felt like one of those underwater escape artists in the final few seconds before heading to the surface for that first gasp of O2. I was ready for the air. I needed the air. I could go no longer without it. The top of my head emerged from the water–and yet there was now this hand on it, holding me down, telling me, “just two more weeks, okay?”

I hadn’t realized until then just how long I had been holding my breath, keeping my eye on the calendar for that blessed 16.5 week mark so that I could finally put to rest all fears of the toxo in particular, plus all the other general genetic worries that Women of Advanced Maternal Age are taught to lose sleep over. I had counted down those weeks, alternately anxious beyond belief and in a very comfortable state of denial. “It’s just six more weeks,” I told myself. “It’s just four more weeks.” “It’s just three more days.”

And now, my anxiety calendar had been reset back to “it’s just two more weeks.”

I was okay with it. Really I was. Until the geneticist herself, a woman who reminded me in equal parts of a beloved college professor and my own mother, looked at me with genuine sympathy and asked, “are you okay with this?”

And I responded by sobbing uncontrollably in this stranger’s office.

“So we wait a little longer,” Nate told me over the phone. “It’s not like they’re doing this to annoy you.” Wrong answer.

His second answer was an improvement – a long hug and a handful of Kleenex with aloe when I walked in the door.

For all these months, while I laughed and socialized and worked and cleaned and wrote and ate too many cheese calzones, there has remained this nagging, horrible fear in the back of my mind that my diseased body was poisoning my baby. I have functioned fairly well in a comfortable state of denial, which I wasn’t entirely aware of until this day. Mostly I’ve functioned by dehumanizing the fetus. (Not baby, you see? Fetus.) It sounds harsh, I know. But to get through this, I’ve behaved more as if I’m treating a condition than preparing for a baby.

I haven’t dared to imagine its due date, its features, its gender. When friends suggest baby names I just smile and mentally sing the whatever bad song is stuck in my head that day to block it out. I can compare pregnancy complaints with friends (and fellow bloggers), but I don’t allow myself to talk about “when the baby comes.” I have yet to set aside Thalia’s outgrown clothes. I have yet to think about nursery colors or cribs or even find a new OB in Los Angeles for the delivery. I’m an idiot, I know. But I just can’t bring myself to take that step it until I know that everything is okay. To have to call her back and say, “you know that appointment we made? Yeah, cancel that…” well, that would just be too much to bear.

But then things happen over the last few weeks that foil my otherwise perfect plan. Like feeling the first kicks at 16 weeks. Or seeing the baby clearly on the sonogram monitor at my monthly exam, kicking and squirming, waving like it was hailing a cab on 5th Avenue in the rain. Or friends and family who point to my belly and tell Thalia, “there’s a baby in there!” At which point, yeah, it’s a little hard to avoid thinking about this as a baby instead of a rare and unusual parasite that makes my boobs grow and my gag reflex work overtime.

This system is not working well for me, not one bit. I am a Virgo. I’m anal. I need things to happen in the proper order: Find out baby is okay, see baby, feel baby, get excited about baby. But that’s just not in the cards for me this time is around. Instead, we have moments of excitement, which we then have to temper with the potential reality of the situation. We make various “looking good so far” announcments to the family after OB checkups, but we have to follow each one with the now cliche disclaimer about waiting for the amnio results.

The results which were pushed off two long, arduous weeks.

Of course I know that none of this will matter if–when–the call comes announcing all is well, and let the baby naming debate begin. But for now, well, I’ve just been biding time.

Yesterday I lay on the table in the darkened hospital room as the doctor prepped me for the long-awaited procedure. He swabbed iodine over my belly and the tech then spread me with a coat of warm, gooey gel. I averted my eyes from the enormous needle, instead watching Thalia squirming in Nate’s arms, pointing and exclaiming “baby! Baby!” at every photo on the wall. Her new favorite word of the many coming out of her mouth these days. And I thought yeah. Baby. There’s a baby in there.

I saw it. I felt it. I feel it.

I was then surprised by the question, “do you want to know the gender right now?” I hadn’t even considered this option would be available to us yesterday.

The correct answer: “No thank you. I’d rather wait to know everything is okay. I want to keep saying it. I want to keep saying fetus instead of baby. I can hold out another 9 days.”

My answer: “Yes! Tell us! Oh my God, definitely!”

It’s an odd thing, calling family with news when there’s still the big news to come. But at least there’s something to keep my mind off the final stretch of waiting…for the good news. Right? The good news. Definitely good news.

It better be. Because now I know.

It’s a girl.


A Perfect Post - December


89 thoughts on “Getting Ready To Breathe”

  1. Congratulations! A little sister…a perfect little sister! I’m looking forward to hearing about your results when the time comes – I’ve never had an amnio (they’re really not done much here in Canada) so I’d also like to know what it feels like. I’ll be sending positive thoughts and vitual hugs and all that stupid stuff, but hoping that it works even though it’s kind of dumb.😉

  2. Do I EVER know, understand and sympathize about the waiting, the worrying. Oh tons of support to you in that.I’ve been < HREF="" REL="nofollow">blogging and blogging about our entire deciding-having-and are we done yet<> parenting travails.We’ve got two girls. So congrats, yahoo! A GIRL! It is fabulous.And…here’s more and more hopes that the good news keeps coming to you…and that time moves quickly…to get you…quickly…to the name debate stage

  3. Ugh, getting there to find out you still have to wait two weeks would be agonizing and frustrating. How much longer will you have to wait for the results?And congrats on another girl! We will hopefully find out at the end of the month.

  4. First, a tempered congratulations!!! I would not be able to wait either. Second, my fingers are crossed hard for you that all is OK. I can only imagine the stress and uncertainty of it all. I’m a total planner and that would be killing me. Also, I know how badly you want to bond with this child, but the logical side of you is telling you to wait.And I can so relate to depending on something on a certain date, only to have it put off. When E was in the NICU we were given a certain date for her to come home and a day or two before that date, this bitchy nurse told us she might not be ready. I completely fell apart.And what is with the “are you OK?” causing an instant puddle of tears? I don’t know how many times that’s happened to me – either while pg or shortly thereafter.Hugs to you, hang in there. Good news, good news, good news.

  5. We’re all thinking of you out here…praying for the best possible news.I have an only, a girl, and I always thought if I had another, I’d want another girl, because of hand me downs and so on. 😉 I’m practical that way (Capricorn). But now that my daughter’s best friend just started getting her period, I’m starting to think, hmmm…boy…maybe I should have had a boy….

  6. I don’t know why I’m in tears right now, sitting in my office and reading this, but I am. Sisters are the very best. Good for Thalia.Hoping for the very best of results.

  7. Beautiful post. Very moving. I’m now hunkering down for the next piece of (what I’m sure will be wonderful) news.Also… sorry to be annoying here… but you don’t yet know your baby’s gender. Gender is a social construct – assigning roles and behaviors to males/females. You know your baby’s sex, which is determined biologically.But I can’t wait to learn all about her gender – in the the future, that is.

  8. That post made my day. . . what a lovely post and such fabulous news at the end. As the oldest of three girls, I can say there isn’t much better than sisters.

  9. My toes and fingers are all crossed for you and that little girl; I’m sending virtual hugs and happy wishes for good news. Take care! We’re all rooting for you.

  10. Wow, congratulations!! Another girl. Great writing – you had me right up to that very last sentence which was so satisfying.Of course, I have 2 boys so I have absolutely no advice on how to raise girls (not that you were asking!) I’m sure everything will be all right. But I know those lame words don’t reassure you because waiting on the results of a prenatal test take longer than life itself. Good luck!

  11. Sending positive thoughts your way. I hope the wait is not too bad. Just play with Thalia a lot and let her happy, positive baby energy fill you up.

  12. When I got pregnant the first time around, I was mistakenly told that I had miscarried. That pregnancy was chock full of anxiety. When I got pregnant the second time around, I thought I would feel much more relaxed but I didn’t for other reasons (one of which was my age). Around 19 weeks, I was still saying “if we have a second child”. It is so hard.I wish you all the best and will be sending positive thoughts your way.

  13. Oh YAY!! Tiny girls, the sweet little things that feed a mother’s soul.And everybody knows: girls are waaay tougher. She WILL be fine, and strong.

  14. Congratulations on the girl – save all your patience now for when they are teenagers at the same time. Crossing my fingers for even better news in two weeks.

  15. Here’s to a lightening fast two weeks, and excellent amnio results. Your post really moved me. I am considering child number two, but am not sure if my fear of my advanced maternal age will prevail. I am sending all the good mojo I can your way.

  16. am a relatively new lurker and first-time commenter, but i thought i’d come out of hiding to say CONGRATS and that i have my fingers crossed for you and your family for the next two wks.also must tell you that i think you are hilarious and a fantastic writer and that as a fellow advertising industry freak i also roll my eyes at the people who think our jobs are OH SO GLAMOUROUS.

  17. You have been on my mind so much the past few weeks. I hope you get those great results quickly so you can get on with enjoying the rest of your pregnancy and doing all the fun things, like names, clothes, decorating, SHOPPING.A girl!! Weeeeee!!!!

  18. that is awesome! a girly girl to knit something girly girl for (and her big Sis of course). Knitting. it’s where i’m at. Sad, I know…All right? Of course it will be (big cuddle from me).

  19. This made me cry tears of empathy, anxiety and amazement at how happy I felt learning it was another girl for Thalia to play with. You really hit it on the head when you said things don’t happen in the right order. Find out if baby is okay, then feel it kick etc etc.. Life is so freaking disorderly, messy, painful and beautiful at the same time, isn’t it?I feel for you and hope all is well for your little girl #2.Lisa

  20. i have been thinking about you ever since i first read about the possible complications you were facing – sending you good thoughts, anxiously awaiting the all-clear, hoping and praying all would go wonderfully for you. this was a beautiful post, and i know that you will be okay. all four of you.also? poor nate… he’ll be overrun by hormones far too soon… just like my own dad was.poor, poor nate.

  21. A-G-O-N-I-Z-I-N-G. Hope the time goes quickly until more good news. Congrats on a little sister for Thalia. She will have a confidant-friend-playmate for life. And my OB told me yesterday that they had to ‘recode me in the system’ because with #2, I now qualify as AMA (Advanced Maternal Age ). Where’s my walker?

  22. Liz- I am bawling right now. That was so beautiful. Can you PLEASE submit that somewhere? I don’t care where. Call the NY Times. Or I will. That was so perfect. So beautiful. So geniuine and you and somehow I completely understood even though I have no idea what you have been going through.And no matter what, she is going to be perfect. She IS perfect. And so lucky. (MAN! Sososososososo lucky.) You are amazing. Mother. Woman. Writer. Your words capacity to overflow and reach distant friends and strangers…)Pregnancy and child-bearing is a miracle. The body’s ability to create something so perfect. You are anything but poisoning your baby. It would be impossible. You are far too full of light and love.

  23. Gorgeous post. I was sent into a frenzy with my second pregnancy because of a terrible nuchal scan. Specialists in the city. Genentic counseling. Would we want to terminate? I know how it feels to all of the sudden put the brakes on and consider that things may not be okay. You will be in my thoughts more than you know for the next two weeks.

  24. I’m praying for you, Liz. Good Lord, I had the worst weekend ever after my fucking tetra screening, I can empathize with what you must be going through right now.

  25. That was beautiful. Congratulations on a sister for Thalia (you are going to have so much glitter you’ll NEVER be rid of it!) and sending happy, happy thoughts for good results!Carrie

  26. Wow what a roller coaster post and I don’t think it could have been anything else. I can’t imagine what you are feeling but after reading this I have a better idea of the anxiety and mind set you’ve experienced. Actually I can in some way (being of <>that<> age)but your ability to tell this story, the words you chose, the emotions you captured, is amazing. Congratulations on another girl and I’m wishing you a trouble free pregnancy.

  27. This was really beautiful. I had three of my pregnancies show wonky and it was so, so rough. Hang in there, eat some chocolate and try to hold on.I’m keeping all my bendy parts crossed for you!

  28. You know that move that beauty queen winners do? The waving of hands in front of face to fan back the tears? That’s what I’m doing for you and your news. I’m thrilled for you and Nate, and of course Thalia too. Congratulations!(oh yeah, fellow Virgo here. I know exactly where you’re coming from when it comes to everything being neat and orderly. Kinda sucks to be a Virgo sometimes.)

  29. Oh, wow. Lots of prayers, good vibes, wishes, virtual hugs, and, of course, congratulations to you three, no, four… what a beautiful post.

  30. Audible gasp! I wasn’t planning to find that out today but I’m so glad you spilled the beans! Cautiously optimistically saying thats wonderful news.

  31. Ohhhhh–a girl! How wonderful. I have been thinking of you, and her, DAILY since your first “waiting for news” post. And will continue to do so until those amnio results show that everything’s FINE.

  32. I’ll just join the chorus and say “Yay! A girl! Don’t worry, she’ll be fine.” I didn’t think you were going to tell us the sex. Glad you did!

  33. tell nate jennster said he has girly sperm! LOLi love that you’re a virgo like me. i can relate to all things planned and anal. bless you. lol

  34. If that little chick can already hail a cab, I strongly suspect she’s all right.It totally sucks that they moved your appointment. I wish the medical establishment would get their [censored, censored censored] communication system together enough such that it might actually feasible for, say, one doctor to talk directly to another doctor for five minutes in order to find out the most medically appropriate date to schedule a test./end rantAnyway I am sending you my best wishes for a good result. Hang in there.

  35. A wonderful girl! I am so thrilled for you. We are all waiting with you for good news. With our first, we found out the baby had choroid plexus cysts, something we now know is quite common and usually totally benign, but my OB at the time freaked me out about it. I found myself always thinking about it, making deals, trying to find signs everything was fine. I would say “Okay God, if I don’t speed and stay at the limit, you’ll make everything okay, right?” It’s the worst form of torture to not know for sure that everything is fine. You’re handling it amazingly.

  36. I have thought about you every day and waited for your results along with you. I’m so sorry you have to continue to be on hold with all of this, I cannot imagine what you’ve been going through. Another girl, perhaps rather than the muse of comedy, this one will be the muse of all things patience, clarity, peace, all the things I wish for you, my friend.

  37. The waiting. Sigh. Pregnancy is such an exercise in surrender — a maddening one at times. So let these days be full of pleasant distractions. I’m thinking of you.

  38. COOL!!! A girl!!!! If I get pregnant again I want a girl so you can get those cool outfits! Does Prada make baby clothes yet? 🙂

  39. I sincerely hope that all works out and Thalia gets a little sister to torture, annoy and abuse.Well, at least that’s what my sis and I do to each other.Thinking happy, healthy baby thoughts for you and sending them in your direction…

  40. I’m on the same roller coaster ride and I admire how you have been able to hang on. I was able to get the early amnio (CVS) done at 12 weeks but now have to wait until 17 weeks for the heart scan and 18 weeks for the full anatomical ultrasound. Those weeks are very, very long. Congratulations on your girl and I am hoping for the best for you.I also want to thank you for writing about this and in particular the toxoplasmosis. After my genetic work came back clear there was a lot of shrugging of shoulders as to what might be causing the unusual ultrasound results I had. I asked to be tested for toxoplasmosis and a few other viruses that I might have been exposed to. I might not have thought to do that if I hadn’t read what you wrote. It might not be good news but at least we will know what we are dealing with if the tests come back positive.

  41. Mom-101, I can only imagine how difficult this is for you. I know it can be a roller coaster ride — mine being with Lyme disease as we were trying to get pregnant. I know there isn’t much any of us can say to make you fell better. Just know that we’re thinking of you and keeping our fingers crossed.

  42. Though the wait may be agonizing I’m sure everything will be fine. As a fellow AMA Virgo I too need order – you must be so frustrated. But with three little sisters I can also say there’s nothing better.

  43. That’s great news! Congrats on your little girl. BTW – I tagged you for a Meme.

  44. You have been on my mind lately darling. I’m so excited to hear about your little girl! Many hugs and I can’t wait for that moment when you can just sit back and enjoy this experience. Lots of love.

  45. Oh, CONGRATULATIONS!And all at once I completely and totally understood how you were feeling when I read one key thing: You’re a Virgo.I am too. I get it. 😉

  46. Liz,That was beautiful. We had an amnio (it was an emergency amnio and I will spare you the details) but waiting for the results – it was so hard. I’m rooting for you and your family!R

  47. That is awesome, congratulations on the good news! Which is the same thing I’ll say when the other good news comes back. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  48. Hooray! I got shivers reading that. Thalia is lucky that she’ll have a little sister. Wishing you more good news in 9 days.

  49. The anxiety surrounding the amnio (much of which is probably severe overkill) is probably one of the things that people who’ve never gone through a pregnancy at advanced age really understand. We’ve been there and made it through. You will too.

  50. I’ve been wondering and wasn’t going to ask becuase well it’s not my place or anyones place to ask, but I’m glad for the update. Oh and a girl. COngrats. Two girls rocks, I promise. And Liz I know you don’t know for sure, but alot of that, especially her waving at you looks pretty good. So I’ll keep you in my positive thoughts and hope that you’ll know for sure soon for your piece of mind and well…cause I love to help pick out names. 🙂And I’m still so excited that your moving out here. But I’m not a crazy stalker I promise.

  51. Oh my gosh, congratulations! That was so incredibly well written. I’m so into this with you. Because I hate waiting. Especially for such important news. 2 weeks = 4 hours in Hawaii2 weeks = Eternity in Limbo

  52. Pregnancy waiting sucks. Totally sucks.On a happier note, my 2 girls are 14 months apart, and now, at 2 and 3, are an absolute trip. You all will have a blast!And p.s. – I’m sorry you have to wait, because pregnancy waiting sucks.

  53. Congratulations on getting another step closer. This is a pretty vivid kind of fear, I think. It’s just so powerful and unknowable. Good luck.

  54. Liz, I’d love to just say “It’ll be fine. She’s fine. You’ll be okay.” But then I think that would minimize, make light of, all the fear and worry you’ve been trying to keep at bay.Instead, I’ll say “Fingers crossed. Good vibes headed your way. I hope it turns out that everything is perfect.”And leave it at that.You have my best wishes and hopes.

  55. Congratulations on finding out you’re having a girl. I pray you get good test results and that they come quickly.

  56. I know what you mean about wanting things to happen in the proper order. All chaos ensues and my little brain can’t comprehend the disorder.I’m so happy for you, and wishing you the best news when you find out. Waiting is hard. It sucks and is one of the worst things to endure.

  57. Congratulations Liz! I know I’m partial, but having two girls is DA BOMB, as the youngin’s are saying. Watching them as they grow up and the closeness they’re sharing is such a joy.I’m sending good thoughts and prayers your way that everything turns out fine. I know it will.

  58. Liz — I too went for my amnio, only to be turned away. We went through all the ultrasound, measuring, etc. And then the tech asked about my cough (which was really bad) and brought the head of the genetics dept in. He said no go, as my coughing could rupture the teeny, tiny hole made to withdraw the fluid. So they told me to come back the next week, only I was flying to visit family for Thanksgiving, so I couldn’t do it that week either (abrupt change in altitude can also rupture the hole). I had to wait for 2 weeks to do the amnio, at 19 weeks. So, even though I hadn’t been dreading it the way you were, w/the toxoplasmosis hanging over your head, I’d still been dreading it and to be sent away totally sucks. My heart goes out to you that you had to go through w/that, but now it’s over, and you just have to wait 2 more weeks (ugh!!) I’ve got another week to wait on my results, so I’m with you in the waiting sisterhood (or waiting hell, however you’d like to candy-coat it or not). But congrats on finding out you’re having a little girl, Thalia will be a great big sister, I’m sure! Good luck w/the results, I’m sure they will be fine.

  59. I can’t thank everyone enough for the good wishes and the support. It means the world. I only wish I could email you each individually, but that would take the better part of the week. It would be a good pay to kill time until my results come in though…Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

  60. what a beautifully written post. the arc of your story takes us on a mini version of the anxiety of your wait. and then boop! at the end! a baby sister! i wonder if anyone has ever analyzed whether the agony of all the waiting for different stages (and news) of pregnancy is made harder by the puffy body full of hormones. my husband never seemed as impatient as i was for each bit of news throughout my pregnancy.thinking of you with fingers crossed for all good results.

  61. I was holding my breath for you. And at the end I got goosebumps. Sending hugs and thinking of you LOTS!

  62. My thoughts are with you for the BIG news, but congratulations on a girl! Yay!I believe things are going to be fine. I know I sound like an over positive cheerleader, but I can’t think negatively because I want the baby to be well and healthy.-hugs galore-Dana

  63. So first I was crying from laughing with you at your last post. And now I have shivers and tears in my eyes from reading this. I don’t know what to say except I hope everything is well. Because it will be.And a girl!? YAY congratulations 🙂

  64. Oh my! I felt that way with KayTar’s MRI. I lived through every day repeating my mantra “Just wait for the 23rd…just wait for the 23rd..” Well, on the 20th I received a call to push back that appointment 1 full month and I lost it. I cried so hard I made myself sick…and I don’t cry often. The waiting can be KILLER. We also have to give updates that are not updates quite often..”Yes, this blood work came back normal, but we’re still waiting on the big tests to come back.” ect. Answers without real answers. I can commiserate. Hang in there.

  65. Joy.I am a Cancer. We are the nurturing, stomach-ruled, emotional members of the zodiac.When I stop crying in empathy for your situation, I will begin crying over the overwhelming emotional wave that just pulled me under reading this.

  66. Typing through tears to say “Congratulations” on your girlie and I’m sending all the “everything will be okay” and “healthy baby” vibes I can muster.

  67. Awwww…a heartfelt congratulations on your little girl! And keeping fingers, toes and legs crossed for good news next week.{{hug}}

  68. I could feel the stress oozing out of your post. I feel for ya! Let’s start a club — WAMA — Women of Advanced Maternal Age, as you blogged. Honestly, the medical people make you think you’re going to give birth to Frankenstein the way they go on about having a baby as a WAMA. Blessings for you, your family and your little girl!

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