Friday, July 13, 2007

Powdered Ham

When I worked at the abortion clinic, people asked me if I ever felt angry or jealous, seeing all those fertile women giving up their pregnancies. I didn't. After all, if you're pregnant and you don't want to be, it sucks.

Before I'd call a client in for counseling, I reviewed her file, always glancing at the glossy little black and white ultrasound print-outs. Every now and then, I would see the ragged image of a miscarriage in the works. Once, the static starry-sky pattern of a molar pregnancy. In these cases, I'd read the nurse's notes and prepare to discuss them with the client. But usually, I found myself looking at the white shrimp-like blob of a growing fetus inside the dark abyss of an amniotic sac -- A healthy pregnancy. And that's when I'd feel it: a dull pang of longing.

I never got around to ultrasound with my second miscarriage, but I had two with the first. All you could see in the first was the little black hole, the sac in which a pregnancy would, presumably, grow. But it never happened. Several weeks later, the second confirmed what, by that time, I suspected, dreaded, knew: miscarriage was imminent.

Yesterday afternoon, I met J~ at the obstetrician's office. We sat holding hands in the waiting room, taking deep breaths, thumbing through a cooking magazine together. One of the recipes called for, of all things, "powdered ham." I wanted to throw up. Nerves? Pregnancy? I didn't know.

A nurse led us to the couch in the doctor's office. Assuming we wanted to check them out, she offered to tell us about the practice. "Actually," I told her, "the main reason we're here is to get the results from hCG tests." Surprised, she admitted the reports were not in my file. She left to call the lab about a fax. More deep breaths for J~ and I. She returned, reporting results were on the way. In the meantime, she launched into an introduction to the practice. beginning by listing numbers of doctors, midwives--

"I'm sorry," I interrupted, "I'm not able to concentrate on what you're saying." I briefly explained my history, my fears, my desire to hear the lab results first.

Finally, Dr. A~ appeared, and introduced himself. He sat, opened my file, clicked his pen to the ready position. "Let's see," he drawled, flipping pages, "I've got just a few questions for you."

"Can't you tell us the numbers first?" Meekly, I said this. Shaking.

"Well, okay," he shrugged, surprised, but, thankfully, understanding. He shuffled his papers, and then, before telling us, held up a warning hand and said, "I don't know."

Monday: 22153
Wednesday: 29156

My heart sank. I wasn't shaking anymore. I was numb. I looked at J~ and shook my head. Not good. Everything I'd read indicated that hCG levels should be doubling at least every three days. But at this rate, mine would take five.

The doctor was quick to say this doesn't mean much. Doubling rates slow, eventually. An ultrasound would give far more accurate information. "Your numbers are high enough that we should see a heartbeat."

"Can we do one today?" I was literally at the edge of my seat.

"Yes," Dr. A~ smiled. I sighed, relieved. He laughed. "Now can I ask you some questions?"

He clicked his pen again, collected some medical history, and then he, the nurse, J~, and I, trundled off down the hall.

There was a monitor mounted to the ceiling. In the dimly lit room, our eyes were glued to it well before the ultrasound wand was near my vagina. After some initial fumbling something came into view (Dr. A~ was like a nervous teenager with that thing, poking further and further from the mark -- I finally offered to put it in myself). Finally we saw it: the white shrimp-like blob of a fetus inside the dark abyss of an amniotic sac. A rapid flicker. "See that?" the doctor exclaimed. "Can't ask for better than that!" The nurse gasped (she later told us she'd had goosebumps, a chill up her spine). J~ drew in his breath, squeezed my hand. I corralled my tears, holding out for measurements. "How far along are you," Dr. A~ asked, clicking his mouse over the image, "six weeks, four days?"

I nodded.

"It measures exactly six weeks, four days."

Hello, waterworks.

I am sitting at the computer this morning in my bathrobe, with my Chinese herb tea and toasted rice bread, prepared by J~, and my very own collection of glossy black and white ultrasound print-outs, all contained in a cheesy little folder labeled, Baby's First Pictures.


J~ and I went out to dinner to celebrate, couldn't stop smiling, laughing, shaking our heads, incredulous.


I didn't sleep well last night, worrying over the hCG readings. But I found an article by Dr. Robert Warnock this morning that put me at ease, suggesting that once levels get beyond 6,000, it can take more than four days for them to double. "Once fetal activity has been detected by ultrasound," Warnock goes on to say, "the chance of miscarriage is usually less than 10%."

Holy powdered ham, people, I may be having a baby after all!


Anonymous said...

delurking to say great news!!!

Ollie said...

*CLAPPING!!!* YAAAAAAAAAAAY!! Isn't the image of YOUR little shrimpy blob's heartbeat the most beautiful thing in the whole world?

I'm so happy for you and J. I hope this is the beginning of many beautiful moments in this pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you as anything more than words on a screen, but today I am reading those words and crying along with you in your happiness!!

Congratulations!!!! And I pray that all goes as planned from here on out!!

Anonymous said...

WTG Amy!!
I'm a longtime reader delurking to say "Woohoowoohoowoohoo!" I was so hopeful as I skimmed anxiously through your blog thinking she wouldn't be so enigmatic with her title if it HADN'T worked, would she? Soo glad to hear this!! Phew!
I also wish you smooth sailing from here on out!

Cheers! Ann

Daniele said...

Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I type this. I'm so happy for you. You certainly deserve it. Congratulations, again, and all my best wishes to you and J!

megan said...

that's great news! congratulations!

Tanya said...

Delurking to say YEAH!!

MrsScrapDiva said...

Fabulous!!!! I am so happy for you. I had tears of joy too reading your post. Wishing you the best!

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, sweetie- once your HCG reaches a certain point- it won't double every 48 hours. Your numbers sound great to my foggy brain- but the ultrasound sounds even better! What was the heartrate- good and fast?

Anonymous said...

I suspected as much ... I had brown staining in the beginning as well (and now have a healthy baby boy). And the cramping comes and goes, it's never consistent in the beginning.
Yay oh Yay oh Yay!
Now make sure dear hubs back is in good shape for this, lifting baby is a lot of work! Whee!

Emily said...

delurking to say - oh YAY! Congrats! I have been checking in all week!!!

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you! Congrats! Glad to hear that you have your own black and white glossies to look at... Again, sending you the absolute best wishes.

Anonymous said...

I have tears in my eyes for you!! Congrats!! I know exactly how you feel. I'm currently 19 wks pregnant after having 2 miscarriages myself.
Take care of yourself and I wish you the best of luck!!

Limerick Gal said...

Congratulations!!! I'm so very very happy for you! Keeping my fingers crossed all goes well in the future for you!

Anonymous said...

A teary-eyed congrats from me! As a longtime infertile and IVFer I can tell you that my clinic says that once the beta levels reach 1500 they are not expected to double every 48 hrs, so don't worry a thing about that. Those numbers sound terrific!

And if I'm not mistaken, the chance of miscarriage once a heartbeat is detected ranges from 1-3%, even better odds! So excited for you and sorry that I continue to provide you with the pregnancy knowledge I have. It's just, I want you to be able to enjoy this!!

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you! and what a cute little shrimp :)

Ollie said...

Oh, and about the betas, if they had checked the first beta before ordering the 2nd one, they probably wouldn't have even bothered with the 2nd one. A number that humongous is already awesome. The numbers have to stop doubling so fast or you'd explode from the hormones. Pretty much the area that doubling matters is very early on. If you can see the heartbeat, doubling betas is of no more concern. So that means---shrimpy blob is doing GREAT.

I'm looking forward to your next u/s when you get to HEAR the heartbeat.

Amy said...

thanks to all of you!

I am still in shock. And happy.

Katalyst - the doc said it looked like about 150 bmp.

Felicia said...

Lots of Hugs,

Felicia and Samantha

Christina said...

I'm choked up reading this. So glad you got such great news from the doctor!

Anonymous said...

Yee-haw!! I'm usually a lurker, but had to say I'm so happy for you!

Anonymous said...

Another random stumbled-across-your-site lurker here, letting you know my heart jumped for you, sank with you, and now celebrates with you. Even though, as someone else said, you're only words on a page to me, I, too, had tears for you.

Congratulations and big hugs of support all the way!

Anonymous said...


I am so glad to hear you got happy news. 150BPM is right on target, and your odds of miscarriage do drop below 5% once they find a strong, healthy heartbeat.


p.s. Ginger tea and crystalized candies helped with the nausea.

Anonymous said...

After our first miscarriage we had an early ultrasound with the second pregnancy.

We had that ultra sound at 7 weeks 2 days and the heartbeat was 148 BPM.

We also experience some slight bleeding at the 10 wk mark and had another ultrasound - but everything was fine and now we have a healthy (super healthy!) 7 month old.

A good strong heart beat is the best sign, best of luck!

Patty said...

So does this mean the little one is going to be called HAMilton or HAMetta?

Sara said...

Oh, thank goodness! What a wonderful feeling. When I saw your numbers, I immediately thought, oh she's fine. They're too high to double anymore.

Enjoy that nausea.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to read your great news! Seeing a heartbeat is fantastic. Congratulations to you both!

Anonymous said...


This is very exciting news. I've been reading since before your divorce - what a difference a year can make!

All the very best to you.

Anonymous said...

Just so danm happy for you! Keeping my fingers crossed for J as well.

Anonymous said...

How absolutely freaking fabulous! Congratulations!!!!

Momma Mary said...

Sooo happy for you!! I am nearly in tears. I have only been reading a short while, but I have been thinking about you for days. I checked over and over.. and then I made myself quit.. until today!!

Sad to say the only food that didn't inspire nausea for me was a Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad with no beans. Gross, huh?? Can't wait to hear about YOUR cravings!

Anonymous said...

CONGRATS!! I"m thrilled for you.

Anonymous said...

Happy dance!!! Yay! I know you will continue to worry. I am 26 weeks pg and am constantly poking my belly to feel her move in fear something has gone wrong again. Your numbers are fantastic and yes, as you already have found out, at that high of an HCG number, there's no way you would double every 3 days. Trust me, after years of fertility treatments, I know. Hugs to you!!!!

Amanda said...

congrats. how exciting for you!

Snoops said...

Hey Amy!

Great meeting you today at our informal women's gathering (hopefully to soon be a formal support system in the CT area). Thank you for sharing your story so openly. As someone who has miscarried more than once like you, it really helps to know women who keep plugging away. You are so brave - I hope to soon have the strength to start trying again.

Looking forward to getting to know you better and also more women in our area (and beyond) that can benefit from our experiences and knowledge that we have absorbed along the way.

Cheers - and big congrats!
Suzi CE

Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you two. I recently suffered a miscarriage- just over ten days ago. I went in for my first ultrasound when I was six weeks, but there was nothing but a small black spot. The doctor said that I must not have been as far along as I thought, that this is common, many women mix up the dates of their period. But we have been trying for a very long time to have a baby. I knew in my heart that something was wrong- and it wasn't the dates of my last period.
I am in school to become a music teacher, and every day this pregnant girl sits next to me. I have to say, it's been very, very hard. All I hear is about how she feels guilty, because she's upset that she can't be her normal self anymore, and had she believed in abortion then, she definitely would have gotten one.
This leaves me to wonder why, after trying for so long, we still cannot conceive. As much as we want the precious gift of a child, it feels like all the undeserving tramps are becoming parents in our place.

I'm sorry for my rant- I want to congratulate you from the sincerest part of my heart. I know where you've been and I wish you all the best, and a happy, healthy life for you and your baby. [=