One year ago, in December 2022, I had a secret (well, from most people except for my close family members). After four long, grueling years, we were finally expecting a baby. On New Year's Eve, I remember wanting to shout it from the rooftops. But, of course, it was too early, and we were nowhere near ready. And after the two losses we had endured, we were constantly worried that something would go wrong. So, we were excited but cautiously.
Well, one year has since gone by, and it's been quite a whirlwind. As New Year's Eve approaches, I'm reflecting on the past year in this first post of mine since June (sorry about my absence here -- I've been spending a lot of time feeding a baby, changing dirty diapers, and entertain said baby while trying to pay my bills, which doesn't leave much time left, unfortunately).
To go back further, four years ago to December 2019, I think back to some other new beginnings. Jared and I, along with my mom, had recently moved into our new home together, and we had a lot of plans for decorating and things we'd like to do in the house. We also had several empty bedrooms, and one, in particular, we deemed "the princess suite" for its ensuite bedroom, bathroom, and walk-in closet. I realized that I was very lucky to live here and grateful for what I had. Yet, day after day, I'd walk by that empty bedroom and be reminded of the family we had yet to create --- and, with the fertility issues I'd learned I had --- wonder if it would ever happen for us. We moved to this incredibly family-oriented neighborhood --- think parents wheeling baby strollers, kids shooting hoops outside in the driveway, you get the picture. I'd often feel isolated as if I didn't belong because I wasn't yet part of that club.
The end of December 2019, I reconnected with an old friend and met up with her at a vision board event. It's really crazy, but the vision board that I created that night is eerily similar to the life I live today. I included a picture of a baby girl and added the word "home," which I had cut out from a magazine (considering this was only several months before the pandemic, when we all spent A LOT of time at home, this was manifestation at its best, right?).
Well, over the past year (and definitely in 2020), I spent a lot of time at home, both working and taking care of my baby girl.
If I had to pick several themes of the past year, they would be family and new beginnings. If I had to describe several of the emotions I experienced most over the last year, I'd say that excitement, joy, fear, and overwhelm were among the most frequent.
January to February: First Trimester: Cautiously (And Not So Cautiously) Excited
As I mentioned, in the very beginning of my pregnancy, I was cautiously excited. During my first trimester, only close family members and a few select others knew. My first trimester was easier for me than it is for most; other than being incredibly tired, I felt okay, with no nausea, morning sickness, lightheadness. I was continuing my regular acupuncture treatments through the end of the first trimester, so this could be why I felt so good during this time. Jared and I would get so nervous before each ultrasound, just hoping that everything was okay. We continued to hear our baby's heartbeat and learn that everything was progressing well.
By 10 weeks, we had our first appointment with the OBGYN, a major milestone, and by the following week, I took a blood test to determine the baby's sex and to check for any genetic abnormalities. I was excited to learn the baby's sex, but scared for the other, considering my history of poor egg quality and chromosomally abnormal embryos. I felt like as long as we got over this hump, I would feel good and would feel more ready to share our news with the world (well, social media).
When I got an email about a week or two later that the test results were back, I eagerly told Jared, and we logged into the portal to see the results. However, what we read didn't make any sense. Ugh, why couldn't the results just be in plain English? I called the office, and we anxiously awaited a call back with the results. At last, the news we had waited for: The test was normal, and we were having a girl!!! Of course, when the doctor called, my mom was in the kitchen with me, and Jared was downstairs in the basement, making his way up to the main level to share in our excitement. My mom and I both screamed in excitement at the very same time. That moment on February 2nd was a moment I will truly never forget.
That night, I called my mother-in-law and told her the good news. She and my mom considered potential names, while I prepared our social media announcement, which I posted to Facebook and Instagram. The secret was out, and we let everyone else in on our happiness and excitement. Shortly after, I had my 13-week ultrasound, where everything looked great and was given the official green light to share if I hadn't already.
March to May: Second Trimester: More Symptoms Set In
By March, I had made it through the first trimester and was on to the second. Now, this is usually the time you tend to have fewer symptoms, though, for me, I had some new ones crop up that I didn't have in the first. While I was less tired and had more energy, I began to have occasional lightheadnesses (though not always in the morning). I started to get up more and more during the night to pee, so sleeping at night was getting tougher. And I experienced my first bout of heartburn and throwing up.
During this time, we had some additional important tests for the baby. Both the fetal echocardiogram and the 20-week anatomy scan turned out great! Whew! In April, I celebrated my 41st birthday with a free massage, and, in May, I got my first-ever Mother-Day wishes. That felt surreal.
June to July: Third Trimester: Close Calls & "Mild" Pre-Eclampsia
By June, I was in my third trimester and really in the thick of it. I was barely sleeping at all, with getting up every couple hours to pee, sometimes more often. I'd lie there awake at night just daydreaming, and in the bathroom, I'd get so bored from the many trips, I'd look down at the little hairs and dust on the floor and start seeing images of little people and things. Getting in and out of bed was tough, as I was super big by this point. My pregnancy pillow, which looked like a giant turd, made me more comfortable while in bed, but getting in and out of it was a pain in the butt. The baby had dropped really low, so with her head so low, that made it tough. At night, the heartburn would come on, so I'd be popping Tums or one of my doTERRA ginger drops.
Everything had been pretty smooth sailing until this point, but it wouldn't have been typical for me to just have an uneventful pregnancy, right? By this time, I had many more appointments. In addition to the monthly ultrasounds at the hospital's prenatal testing center (because I was high-risk), I started this weekly test at the OBGYN office called a Non-Stress Test (or NST). All you have to do for it is sit back in a comfy chair and chill out while the baby is monitored, but, let me tell you, this non-stress test soon became super stressful! During my first one, the doctor didn't see as much movement from the baby as she would have liked, so she sent me down to Labor & Delivery at the hospital (the doctor's office was in another location at the hospital) for further monitoring. I heard "Labor & Delivery" and seriously thought I was going to have the baby! But, no, this was just testing... that lasted for hours. I must've been there til 8:00 at night before getting discharged. It was so late they let me order dinner from the hospital room. The testing turned out well, although one test showed I could possibly deliver early --- as early as two weeks!
During this time, I was also diagnosed with mild pre-eclampsia, as my blood pressure had gotten much higher. A urine test also revealed that I had the protein for it. My legs and feet were incredibly swollen, and just walking around became painful. In the end, because my condition was considered mild (my blood pressure wasn't high enough to be considered severe), I, fortunately, did not need to undergo an emergency C-section right then and there.
During this time, I was also dealing with awful, debilitating headaches from the pre-eclampsia. I was hot all the time, so I constantly craved anything cold. I even bought an ice mask that I put over my eyes and another to bring some relief to my pounding head.
In July, I also did something uncommon at 8-months pregnant: I went for a job interview and aced it! Long story short, a friend of mine who is a professor of reading at a local community college was also gearing up to have her own baby. She would soon be embarking on her own maternity leave. This sparked an idea in that crazy head of mine: I could take over (some of) her classes! We have a similar background, and I had forwarded my resume to her at least once before for a possible part-time teaching position. But it seemed that this time was my in. With my current work as a freelance editor and writer for lifestyle websites with Static Media, I didn't have the luxury of an upcoming paid maternity leave. I knew I'd be working at least part-time. My friend would be going on leave in October, and with my mom with us, I figured she could watch the baby while I went to class. I ended up getting the job (more on that in a bit)!
Also, that month I threw myself a mini baby shower, aka a baby sprinkle. Being Jewish, I didn't plan on having a baby shower, but as the time grew closer, I realized I wanted to celebrate. It was a small but fun gathering and a good time had by all.
August to September: A Healthy Harper Amid a Scary Delivery
As the weeks grew closer, my in-laws down in Florida weren't sure when to book their flight to come stay with us. They wanted to be there for the delivery and a couple weeks beyond that. And I had no idea when would be the day. It could really come at any time.
Because of the pre-eclampsia, I was induced early, but because it was considered mild, I was able to make it to 38 weeks. I finally packed my bag and off we went to the hospital on Tuesday, August 1st for my induction. It was an uncomfortable night I'll say, and between the meds and the hard-as-a-rock hospital bed, I was already asking for drugs! I barely slept that night. The next day I was even more uncomfortable and in pain and kept calling in the doctor and the nurse thinking I was dilated enough to get an epidural. Finally, I was ready for it, and I had a momentary respite until the cramping pain was back. By the evening of August 2nd, I was ready to push. Jared was by my side the whole time and was great, holding my hand and helping me push. I was in tears from the pain (the epidural wears off after a while which it why they like to wait as long as possible for it). After many pushes of what felt like forever --- but, as I later found out was only about 25 minutes --- finally, at 8:50pm, I gave one final push, and we welcomed our sweet little Harper Reese Journi to the world. In that moment, I felt such a sense of relief and awe that this tiny baby had just come out of me! To our relief, she was totally healthy, weighing in at 6 pounds, 2 ounces and measuring 18 1/2 inches long.
That night, my blood pressure skyrocketed, and my pre-eclampsia was no longer considered "mild." I was treated with blood pressure medication and magnesium, which makes you feel like a wet noodle. It was rough. That night, I was also too exhausted to feed her and had her spend the night in the nursery so I could get some sleep. As I always say, you can't take care of anyone else if you don't take care of yourself first.
By the next morning, I felt like I could barely move. The magnesium made me feel as if it took every ounce of effort to move my body. At some point that morning, things took a turn for the worse. I got lightheaded, and we pressed the emergency button for the nurse. My blood pressure had dropped dangerously low. The next thing I knew, all these nurses had crowded around me to treat me. I was scared. In that moment, I actually wondered if I would make it.
The doctor and the nurses got me stablized. I was taken off the magnesium temporarily, as it seemed that the combination of the blood pressure meds with the magnesium was too much for my body to handle. From there, I was on my way to recovery, and we were able to welcome our family members to join us in celebrating and meet baby Harper. Two weeks later, we held Harper's baby naming ceremony, led by Cantor Kushner, at home. It was a beautiful ceremony and a truly special day.
Within a few days of leaving the hospital, the weight started to almost melt off of me. So much was water weight. The postpartum bleeding was nothing excessive so that was also good, but I was still dealing with the headaches, back pain, and swollen legs and feet. It was so bad I could barely get up the stairs. As part of my postpartum treatment, I had to continue the blood pressure meds and monitor my blood pressure at home, but both of the ones I ordered from Amazon didn't work. In the end, I decided to just go to Giant and check my blood pressure there with the help of their blood pressure-monitoring machine. Between my recovery and life with a new baby, I was overwhelmed. I was fortunate to have my in-laws there to help with took a big load off of us, though I was also itching to just get back to normal life. By mid-September, I returned to the OBGYN and was officially cleared of pre-eclampsia!
October to December: Family Togetherness and Life as a New (Working) Mom
The past few months have been a whirlwind: so much joy, so many smiles, but also a lot of fear and overwhelm as I navigate life as a new (working) mom. It's a lot, and I don't have the answers. I only had about two full weeks off before I went back to working (part-time and from home, fortunately). Then, in October, I started my teaching job. That has gone really well, and I'm now preparing for the spring semester, and it's gotten me stressed (not to mention, the state of the country and world affairs).
I really am just taking it all one day at a time because it's a lot, between feeding her every couple of hours and trying to put her to bed at night (though once she falls asleep, she's a pretty good sleeper, so we're lucky there!). I'm so thankful to have so much support. I couldn't do it without Jared and my mom. We help each other out and make it so we each have a bit of time for ourselves. It's a lot, but we make it work. We really are a team.
Then there's all the help from my brother and sister-in-law. Cheryl and Adam have been the best. They, along with Zach and Ryan, are totally in love with Harper. It's so funny, but I've started saying that Harper has a social media fan club because we get so many wonderful comments on every post/picture I share. She is the light in our lives and has truly brought our family together.
Thanksgiving was a lot of fun this year and thanks to Aunt Cheryl for holding Harper so we could get a little rest. It's hard to believe that at Thanksgiving last year, she was just an embryo being implanted in my uterus!
As of her last wellness medical visit, Harper is 11 pounds and 23 1/4 inches. She's started on baby food and is a good eater so far! She is the funniest baby and has started to develop a personality. She is a big talker (even though we have no idea what she's saying) and smiles constantly -- and laughs now, too! There's a lot more I can say, but this blog is already super long... I did not intend to write so much, but I guess after all these months, I was due!
It's New Year's Eve and our first with Harper (though we'll be getting her to bed before the ball drops). Hopefully, we'll have some quiet time once she falls asleep. New Year's Eve these days is nothing exciting, but that's what I love about it. No need to think about what to do and where to go, like back during my single days. I've got everyone and everything I need right here.
Happy New Year 2024! Wishing you all a happy, healthy, safe, and properous new year.