Monday, July 7, 2014

20 Weeks - Gender Reveal

We had the sonogram this morning. By we, I mean the whole family. +Liam Shepherd and +Cora Shepherd and +Jason Shepherd were all there too. I think Cora may have strained a check muscle from all the smiling. lol

One of the benefits of such a small community is that the tech had all the time in the world to be incredibly thorough. It was the longest sonogram I've ever had. She was at it for over an hour. She wasn't satisfied unless she had clear pictures of absolutely everything on the checklist. No matter how wiggly the baby was, or how hard it was to find a good angle. The only thing she couldn't do is take a good 3d image. There just wasn't any way to get the angle needed for that.

First, the important stuff. Everything is developing healthily. It's all the right size. It's all functioning incredibly well. And that goes for me, as well as the baby. They check on Mom's cervix and the placenta and such during sonograms. The cord is incredibly well placed. The blood flow within it is about as strong and healthy and ideal as anyone could want. Organs are all correctly organized, properly sized, and those with obvious function are doing their jobs quite well. Bones, limbs, fingers and toes. Everything is as perfect as it gets. She also checked for markers for chromosomal abnormalities. It wasn't on the checklist, but I asked her to check, as my age puts the baby at a higher risk. She took a good look, and there are absolutely no red flags. Everything looks perfect.

Now for the gender reveal. It's a boy! No, there is no chance we were mistaking something else. This kid isn't shy. We saw confirmation from multiple angles during the exam. It is absolutely a boy. We've had a name picked out for years now. Since our first pregnancy together. Patrick Alexander Shepherd. Patrick was my dad's name. I have a leaning toward family names....except that I don't actually like most of the common names in my family. lol I've always really loved the name Patrick, though. Lucky for me, +Jason Shepherd does too. ;) Alexander is Jason's middle name, and his favorite part of his name. He doesn't mind Jason, but he really like Alexander. So, he was very excited to name the baby Alexander. I hope Patrick likes the name as much as +Jason Shepherd does. lol

We talked about it as a first name, but I have some strong feelings about actually naming a child after another person. While it can be great to have that tool to create a kind of instant bond between them....it's often really not that great. It almost always saddles the kid with a sense of responsibility to either live up to or overcome some set of expectations of similarity to the name-holder. I think that's likely the whole point, but it's really not a weight I want to put on my children's shoulders. They have enough internal and external expectations to live up to already. I don't want their names to make them feel like they have to be someone they're not....just to prove they aren't someone they're not. In this world, the last thing they need is any more pressure not to be themselves.

So, in conclusion, Patrick is healthy. I am healthy. Everything is progressing, not just normally, but ideally.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Autism and Pregnancy

OK. I'm about to discuss how two things that vary intensely from person to person happen to mix for me. Don't think for a moment that my autism or my pregnancies, or how they effect each other within me, are some kind of standard. This is one of those things that isn't discussed much, though. So, I feel a kind of compulsion to get that conversation going. ;)

As common as both these things are, you'd think they'd ever end up in the same conversation, right? I know, I know. It's a controversial issue *eyeroll*. With organizations that claim to be autism advocates claiming parenthood is unfair to both us and our children (both because we're incompetent and that we are likely to pass along our "disease") ... it's a subject that is often avoided for fear of flamers. The thing is, it's not really possible to flame on this without sounding like a moron, so they don't really scare me....plus, I'm totally comfortable deleting comments. ;)

I'll do a point by point thing here, because it helps me organize me thoughts. If there seems to be particular interest in one area, I'll jump in with a more thorough post at some point in the future.

BACK PAIN. This isn't usually much of an issue until later in pregnancy. Applying some of the techniques I've developed over the years, for dealing with daily sensory input, actually make this easier for me than most pregnant women, I think.
BRAXTON-HICKS CONTRACTIONS. For whatever reason, I don't really have these...at least not noticeably. The sole exception is if I have a pelvic exam. That always causes me issues, pregnant or not, and can cause very painful Braxton-Hicks, or even real labor in late pregnancy.
BREAST TENDERNESS. I'm going to blame this one on my sensory issues, too. This is one of the most consistently unpleasant parts of pregnancy for me. Far worse and more present than most pregnant women claim.
CONSTIPATION. This condition sucks, not matter what. I'm just as prone to it as any other pregnant woman. Thanks to my special interests (in alternative health and natural living) I am not suffering through this problem, so far, this pregnancy. =D I'll definitely offer up a post on this one, because it deserves it! 
CRAVINGS / AVERSIONS. It is often referred to as a symptom of autism, as well as pregnancy. Cravings and aversions certainly have an effect on my eating habits when I'm not pregnant. They actually became less common with my previous pregnancies. They're so intense and constant that they are practically my sole consideration when eating, this time around! I think the autism and pregnancy food issues have multiplied each other.
EMOTIONAL SHARING. I'm not great at this to begin with. Pregnancy brain has made it almost impossible. People are feeling left out. I'm feeling guilty. I want to include them, but I really have no idea how to do so. It's a big thing right now. =/
FATIGUE. My inclination toward habitual behavior is making this worse on me than it has to be. I keep just doing things I normally do. I don't realize until I've already pushed too far that I probably should have just delegated or done things a different way. Like walking to the lab for my blood work. I was in bed for like 2 days after that stunt!
INTERPRETING IMPLICATIONS. Man, do people say a lot of WEIRD stuff to pregnant ladies. I'm an having a really hard time knowing when they're serious, when they're joking, and often what the heck the point of the statement was in the first place! Taken literally, most of it is either really insulting, or downright threatening. I certainly hope they don't mean what they say.
JOINT PAIN. This one is driving me nuts. I retain an unusual amount of fluid when pregnant, mostly in my joints it seems. It starts early, isn't a symptom of anything other than my body's desire to retain a lot of water. I have tricks, but this post is going to be long enough with just summaries. I do think my sensory issues are making me less tolerant of this one, though.
MOOD SWINGS. Holy cow! Think swing, like those really fast spinning ones they have at fairs, not the cute little kid things at the park. As I've gotten older, my mood has been more and more sensitive to my progesterone levels. Do you know how much progesterone is in a pregnant women???? I'm a basket case.
NAUSEA. This is not something I've had a lot of in life at all. Generally, it is only caused by extremely nasty illnesses, or forcing myself to eat things I have aversions to. Admittedly, I spent a lot of my childhood nauseous because my family didn't understand aversions. As an adult, I have full control over my food choices, though, so even pregnant it's really rare that I make myself nauseous. 
NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION. This takes a lot of processing power, for me. The worse the pregnant brain gets, the worse I am at it. My light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that I get so bad I can't even tell when people are using it. Right now, the mood swings just about putting me into tears that I can't interpret whatever communication it is they are clearly sending at me. This includes vocal tones, so I'm even avoiding the phone. *eyeroll*
ROCKING/FLAPPING. Oddly, I'm very still and calm when pregnant. If I want to move, I want to walk or do some other socially acceptable thing. Clean, cook, decorate??? Mostly, I'm just still.
SENSORY ISSUES. Other than amplifying sensory related pregnancy symptoms, these are much reduced. I can even stand to tuck ice packs down my shirt during the little heat wave we have going on right now! That'd usually have me screaming in pain. 
SLEEP ISSUES. This is also much reduced. I have had trouble sleeping, especially on any kind of set pattern, for as long as I can remember. Now, I fall asleep quickly and easily at roughly the same time every night. I wake at roughly the same time every morning. I wake less often, and am back to sleep in seconds instead of hours. 
SOCIAL ANXIETY. This is really amping up. It's not just instinctual, like normal. It went away almost entirely at first. The absolutely constant awkward conversations, miscommunications, and undecipherable language and behavior of others is getting to be too much though. 
URINATION. This is a complicated subject, actually. My sensory issues, and my coping techniques for dealing with them, made this a real struggle when I was younger. The lessening of withholding ability and control that are normal with pregnancy turn this into something that take more thought and planning than anyone without some kind of bladder disorder is likely to understand. =/
VERBALIZATION. I have to admit, I'm having trouble understanding this method of communication. There is soooooooo much more to it than just the words. And, even the words sound different out of every single person. It's like living in Babylon. No two people actually speak the same language as each other...or me! Ya, I have a translation key that applies to almost every word in almost every English language. Pregnant brain keeps forgetting how to read the key though. I just stand there, making people feel unwelcome with my lack of communication, when they talk to me. *sigh*

My husband. Well, frankly, he's so busy lately that he isn't even aware of most of this. So, it doesn't bug him at all. He just kind of rolls with whatever is going on.
The kids. The kids are on the spectrum too. I do have to explain some of the more pregnancy related issues to them a bit repetitively. The autism stuff is just how people work, to them. My going nonverbal or something is about as much of an issue to them as being a hugger would be to an NT. lol 

Here's the really controversial stuff for you. It's the truth that I hear autistic parents say to each other, in private, but that we are all so careful not to say in public. You wouldn't want an NT thinking that we might judge them as cruelly as they judge us. And they would surely assume our emotions mirror theirs if they heard this kind of thing. --- My one real fear is that this kid might not be on the spectrum. It is so rare for me to see an NT in this world that I wouldn't feel like a total failure for having raised to be the person they are. I wonder how much of that is caused by their having NT parents (which my children don't suffer from), and how much is caused by them being NTs. Do NTs just naturally lack depth of personality, and the ability to empathize with people or creatures that are unlike them? Is there some kind of natural deficit that makes logic and reason impossible for most of them? Nature or nurture? If they are raised in a less melodramatic and more honest environment, can they overcome these common NT struggles? Even if they can, do I have the patience to bare with weaknesses in these areas (weaknesses I don't understand any better than they understand common ASD weaknesses) and teach them the coping techniques it takes to interact with the world at large with compassion and respect? Honestly, I hope and pray that I never have the opportunity to find out. The thought of trying to raise an NT absolutely terrifies me. As offensive as I find the idea, part of me wishes they had any kind of accurate way to test for ASD in utero. It would be a huge relief to get a positive....but it would also give me time to prepare myself emotionally if it was negative. I had enough trouble bonding with my ASD daughter because she had very typically NT social and emotional development until toddlerhood. How on earth will I connect with a kid that only every has typical NT thoughts and emotions???? 

OK. Emotions shared. Real and not sanitized for easy public digestion. Disagreements are fine, if presented in a respectful manner. Flamers will be simply cease to exist. Poof! It does feel good to just get it out there, though!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

19 Weeks

I've actually had a couple doctor's appointments since my last post. If you haven't been pregnant, you may not realize just how quick and uneventful prenatal visits are. They weigh you, measure your stomach, take your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level. You pee in a cup, have an quick but invasive internal exam (where they may actually POKE at your cervix, or take samples of it. Sounds like a great idea, right?). Then, you are rewarded for your patience by getting to hear the baby's heart beat for 5 - 10 seconds. At some point during the pregnancy, some other tests are often run, but that's the standard visit....and I don't even do all that. (I'll explain below) I suppose I could come on and post "Another visit. Everything's good." but I really prefer not to post unless I have some content to convey.

Everything is pretty standard at my visits.
- WEIGHT. My weight doesn't actually change much. At 19 weeks, I've gained about 8 lbs. That's more than is recommended for someone that started overweight, but even my doctor thinks the recommendations are ridiculous. How realistic is it to tell a pregnant woman to gain less that the total weight that the pregnancy alone causes? Most guides say I should have gained less than 4 lbs. by now. That's baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, 50% increase in blood volume in my body, constipation (which seriously accounts for more than 4lbs at this point in most pregnancies, alone!), etc. I don't see it, but my husband insists I'm actually losing roundness in my face and such, even with the fluid retention. He's convinced I'm actually going to lose weight, all said and done, from this pregnancy. lol (It's his first baby. I'll just take the compliment and let him enjoy his delusions.) ;)
- FUNDAL HEIGHT. I have no issue with this, but my doctor did it once, was massively confused, and hasn't bothered since. I don't measure anywhere near accurately until I'm like 8 months. The last 2 pregnancies, the doctors were months off in their estimates until the ultrasound. Even then, they went with an extreme end of the date range that gave, when right in the middle would have been correct. This pregnancy seems consistent. We know the exact date of conception, so anything that conflicts with that info is being considered inaccurate. 
BLOOD PRESSURE. Mine is consistently a bit low, with the occasional really low spike. (I think 85/47 or some such is my record. Most of the time it's around 110/70 or so) High blood pressure is a worry. Low blood pressure is normal and healthy in pregnancy. The changes in blood volume and such usually causes a slight decrease in blood pressure. Up to 15 points lower than normal (and my normal is about 120/80) is common, but even my sudden drops are only a cause for concern if they cause concerning symptoms. Mostly they just make me really run down and fatigued. Loss of appetite when it drops low. Intense craving for strong coffee (which I've never actually liked, even when I drank the stuff all the time) right before a sudden drop. And, of course, if I'm in any kind of social setting I'm likely to have an autistic shut down. Trying to process all that communication (talking, body language, vocal tones, whatever) is beyond my ability and my mind just shuts it all out.
HEART RATE. That's always spot on. Even when my blood pressure drops, my heart rate is always dead in the middle of healthy.
OXYGEN. That's always really high. That's a good thing. Super super healthy levels.
URINE TESTS. Sugar and protein are always very healthy. That in particular is always a comfort, since my pcos makes me statistically more likely to develop gestational diabetes. 
INTERNAL EXAM. This one I skip. Every time I've ever had one of these while pregnant, it's triggered contractions. Just braxton hicks early on, but that's what triggered both of my previous labors. I've always assumed this is due to my sensory processing issues. My experiences with these kind of exams do not match up with other women's descriptions of their experiences. I have had a single exam this pregnancy because of some light spotting. We ran a PAP as long as we were at it. That came back normal, as expected. The spotting was super light (though the first time I've ever had spotting during pregnancy, aside from the days before miscarriage), and likely caused by a very mild infection as I had a slightly inflamed cervix. I had painful cramping and braxton hicks for hours following it....so, that's consistent in this pregnancy too...still not having those without a good reason.
BABY'S HEART BEAT. We don't actually do this one every time. The purpose is really more to calm my miscarriage fears, more than anything. There's no reason to expect it to be anything but normal. The heart beat has been consistently at the high end of normal. Some people think this indicates gender, but both my boy and girl were the same....so mainly I think that just means it's my kid. Phew! Good to know! =)

We hemmed and hawed a bit about doing another ultrasound. The first one looked good. It wasn't technically connected to the pregnancy though, so another is part of the standard pregnancy package if we want it. We're going to go through a few months without insurance, though. Not to worry....insurance will be back before I'm due. But, we decided that we'd feel better going into that period of self care with as much information as possible. So, the ultrasound is next week. Neither +Jason Shepherd nor myself really wants to know the gender ahead of time....but we keep going back and forth on it anyway. We're going to be moving into a place with less than half the sq ft of the one we're in now. Which furniture even comes with, let alone which kid goes into which room, would be a much easier decision if we knew the gender. We'll probably find out the gender, put I still feel quite torn. 

Well, that's long enough for today....
Until next time....

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

13 weeks

I had an excellent doctor appointment. Let's see if I can remember everything! Lol

- All the previous testing came back inconclusive or negative. That means all my weirdness was almost certainly just a mix of PCOS and pregnancy. I gave blood for the standard run of pregnancy testing.

- We brought the kids with. They heard the heart beat. He had trouble finding it with the doplar. So, they even saw the baby wiggling around a bit on the very low end ultrasound they have at the clinic. It's far too low end to see gender. That will wait for the real ultrasound.

- Even though there isn't a real medical need for another ultrasound, I'll be scheduled for one around 20 weeks. Dr feels it can't hurt to have the extra info (though I got the feeling he might not have suggested it if I hadn't brought it up), and we're anxious to find out who's room needs remodeling before I hit my inevitably third trimester uselessness.

- I love love love my Dr. I can talk openly to him about things that would normally get me kicked from practice just for mentioning. Best example ever:  He's totally comfortable with the idea of my having an unassisted home birth. The fact of the matter is that I'm giving birth wherever my water breaks. If I'm at home, I'd give birth in the car if we tried to get me into town. If I'm in town, the kid will still probably be half out by the time I get to the ER. The thing I love though is how he was totally comfortable with it all. I told him flat out that if there were no major red flags, I was more comfortable with an unassisted home birth than a hospital birth...and that baby and I would come in for a post natal visit "when I felt up to it". He didn't get antsy. He didn't try to control whether that meant hours or days. He just said that it was a good idea to be prepared for any circumstance (as an agreement, not warning) and " sounds good " when I gave him a run down of what the basic game plan was on my end. He even thought it was really cool that I was going to have the kids read doula/midwife reference books so they were prepared to help out or even for the chance I go into hard labor while Jason is at work.

- Also, he laughed and told me it was "perfectly reasonable" when I told him he could have all the blood and urine he wanted, but I wouldn't be drinking glucose or having anyone poking around at my cervix while I was pregnant without a damned good reason. I'm fully aware that there are far safer and gentler ways to carefully monitor a pregnancy than the standard methods...assuming you are inclined to carefully monitor. It's nice to finally meet a doctor that does too! Lol. He doesn't seem inclined towards carefully monitoring unless there is an unusual risk factor though.

- I'm taking the maximum dose of my raw foods probiotic instead of a normal prenatal. At the maximum dose, it meets the minimums suggested for pregnancy... Plus I'm not suffering from constipation even at 13weeks. That alone is all the endorsement it needs! :D

- Normally, I would be having monthly appointments right now but we're a little behind schedule so my next appointment is in just a couple weeks. Friday, June 6th. I'll update again for sure after that appointment. Maybe in between. I was going to update before today but cell service has been really choppy out here the last week or so.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Here we go again

Well I've certainly had a roller coaster ride lately. Things have been going absolutely haywire with my body. I tried adjusting my diet and exercise levels. I tried every home remedy I could think of. I finally broke down and went to the doctor. We began running tests. Each round ruled out less and less preferable issues. Before I knew it, I was scheduled for an ultrasound to look at my ovaries. I won't go into much detail but with my symptoms and testosterone levels (117. Healthy can range from 2-45), ovarian cancer was looking pretty likely. It wasn't my first cancer scare but we really ruled everything out first this time. I was going in pretty sure of the outcome.

All of one second into the ultrasound, the world was tipped on it's side. That's how long it took to find the baby...because it's pretty decent sized. At twelve weeks, it's a little over 2 inches long. The tech really took her time and thoroughly checked out the baby and both ovaries from every possible angle. Everything is incredibly healthy and well developed. We still have a few tests to run just to be sure, but with this added information it looks likely that all the weird symptoms and such are just a result of my hormone disorder interacting with the pregnancy. I haven't had a baby survive past 7 weeks in over a decade. And frankly we weren't monitoring my systems at all until about three years ago. Add to that, I didn't suspect I was pregnant with my first until I was showing... And the Dr insisted I wasn't pregnant with my second until I was around 12 - 18 weeks. Clearly I don't have any idea what's really normal for me in the first trimester. Lol.

What I do know is that I am well past my personal miscarriage zone, and still have a healthy and very active baby in me. And it seems that the pregnancies that are easy to detect are the ones that self terminate, with me. The healthy ones throw off all the wrong signs in the first trimester. Since I'm clearly not incapable of having more kids without fertility treatments, as previously thought, I'll have to keep that in mind in the future!

As for pregnancy updates...
- I can't drink anything but bottled water without getting nauseous. That includes our awesome well water at home. I'm going to give my favorite soda a try tonight though. Fentimens rose lemonade. It's pricey so it's a rare treat. I'm hoping the touch of ginger in it will allow me to still enjoy it.
- I crave raspberries and raw goats milk cheese. I know raw dairy can be a crap shoot during pregnancy but it's soft cheeses and milks that are the real issue. With harder, drier cheeses the risks aren't any worse than eating pasteurized. So I found myself a nice hard goat cheddar (tastes almost like string cheese though, with a texture almost like fresh Parmesan). It comes from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company and is available for a nearly reasonable price at the discount grocer in the nearest big town. I'm eating like 12+ oz of raspberries and 8+ oz of cheese per day and not much else right now.
- Weight gain. I'm like 70lbs above my personal healthy weight range to begin with. At 5' 8" that's not quite as bad as it sounds, but it's still a serious issue. I really shouldn't need to gain much weight to support this pregnancy. I gained about 5 lbs the first month. Then, plateaued. Around week 10, I gained almost 10 lbs. I was bloated with water weight at first. Then, it all just kind of absorbed into my body. My comfy jeans are now snug. :( I haven't gained anything since then, though. So, I am figuring that was just my body increasing blood volume. The body increases blood volume significantly during pregnancy. Not normally so fast, but my body tended to handle changes in sudden shifts with my first two kids. So it's not a red flag.
- Although the baby doesn't have a gender yet, I am beginning to suspect it might be a boy. I'm having truly insane pregnancy dreams, and the one constant is that I'm always a man in them. That's very weird for me. My dreams are usually third person. Occasionally I might be myself or even someone I know for part of one. I'm never just some random guy my mind makes up though. I might share some of the dreams with you, but I'm not sure how well received they would be. They are increasingly disturbing and graphic. The consistent theme is that the guy I dream I am is witness to or the sole survivor of some kind of weird tragedy where he loses whoever he cares most for. They were almost comic at first but are getting to be more and more twisted and intense. The only upshot is that I wake up feeling like I just read a thriller novel, instead of like I just lived through it. The story lingers with me, but without any kind of emotional attachment.
- My next Dr appointment is Tuesday. My last batch of test results will all be in by then. I'll update you once I process whatever I learn then.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Been a While

Well it's been almost a year since my last post. We moved into our absolute dream home. It's so far from civilization, though, that the only way to access the net is over a very old and very slow 3g network. We've played with other options but finally broke down and upgraded to smart phones when we renewed our cellular contract. I still have far too much livestock and gardening and teen drama in my life to spend loads and loads of time online but I've always enjoyed blogging. So this is one of the first things I decided to start back up with.

Friday, March 1, 2013

My First Guest Post

How exciting! I was chatting with my friend, Jae, who owns Essence Through The Ages. (which is full of awesome, btw) As the parent multiple children on the spectrum, she also has an autism blog. Her readers often express concern about how their own ASD children will get be as adults. What will life be like for them? Are they capable of full independence?

Well, it just so happens that Jae knows a very independent ASD adult blogger. So, she asked if I'd be interested in writing a guest post or few. I agreed to post once per month until either I run out of material or she tires of my prattling. I encourage you all to check out my first guest post, as well as the rest of her entries.

Read my Guest Post here!

This month, I discuss some of my tricks for handling social communication.