The Two-Week Wait

The longest two weeks of any planned pregnancy are the two that stand between the tiny twinge of suspected ovulation and the twenty minutes spent staring at the positive pee stick and muttering “holy shit” as it slowly dawns on you that sex really works. Sometimes! But not every time, hence the 336 interminable hours of wondering whether your martini and brie binges are turning a bundle of cells into a knubbly carrot stick or whether a free-floating blastocyst can be psychologically damaged by your repeated viewing of the season finale of The Walking Dead.

The hardest part of the first two weeks of a pregnancy—or a non-pregnancy—is that every little blip and flip your body creates is both a perfectly ordinary function of a non-pregnant person and an absolutely positive sign that you are pregnant. These 14 days create a comforting symmetry to the final few weeks of pregnancy, when every flip and flop your body creates is both a perfectly ordinary function of a third-trimester pregnant person and an absolutely positive sign that you are in labor and your water is about to break all over your conference room chair during your quarterly all-division staff meeting.

Take heart. If you are pregnant, you are in the first days of a 40-ish week journey filled with tummy-clenching uncertainty, heart-palpitating second-guessing, and insomnia-inducing Googling. Also, insomnia, heart palpitations, and a clenched tummy are all possible early signs of pregnancy, while also being perfectly normal bodily functions of a non-pregnant person with a moderate anxiety disorder or a penchant for drinking too much wine on weeknights.

Because the only thing any woman in the midst of the two-week wait wants to know is whether or not this or that vague feeling is an early sign of pregnancy, I will share a few of the signals my body was sending before it was time to take a test. Keep in mind that scientifically speaking, the only way to know for certain that you are pregnant is by giving birth to a human infant.

Things I Vaguely Recall Feeling Very Early in My First Pregnancy (Before the Double-Lined Pee Stick):

  • Like I was definitely not pregnant.
  • Like just in case, I should probably drink up all the good wine in the house.
  • Like everyone on the planet was pregnant but me.
  • Cramps that were not at all dissimilar to pre-period cramps, and only after I learned I was pregnant did I discern a possible difference in that pre-period cramps feel more “squeezy” and these cramps felt more “stretchy.”

Things I Felt Very Early in My Second Pregnancy that Caused Me to Drink Up All the Good Wine in the House:

  • Nausea—All of the real official medical websites say that morning sickness does not begin until at least three weeks after conception, and all of the ladies on the message boards claim they started puking the moment sperm met egg. The first week of waiting I felt pretty yakky, but I think that was the six or seven cups of coffee I was drinking per morning. The second week I felt differently yakky, like the way I imagine a panting cat feels, but I figured that could’ve been the metric ton of leftover Easter candy I consumed.
  • Cramps that felt maybe stretchy, maybe squeezy, maybe just the quart of Pad Thai I ate last night.
  • Like I was definitely not pregnant.
  • Like I was definitely pregnant.
  • Like all of the same people who were pregnant last time were pregnant again.

Intuition is incredibly reliable in hindsight.

Of course, both times I eventually confirmed that the cramps were not PMS and the queasiness wasn’t the leftover Pad Thai, it was a microscopic embryo burrowing into my uterine lining and doubling her HcG like a champion. No matter what you hope or think or feel or read on the internet while you’re waiting to build up enough good, concentrated pee to whip out a stick, there is no way to know until you know. The nail-biting uncertainty of the two-week wait is maddening, but as I learned, it is excellent training for parenthood.

Written by: Kathleen

The Second Trimester: Pregnancy's Middle Child

Second trimester is supposed to be a period of rainbows and sunshine and zen-like bliss. You’re over the first trimester with its puking and crying and 2pm naps, yet you’re miles away from the third trimester, when you can’t get out of bed without a decent rolling start and you’re pretty sure your baby’s head is actually poking out of your vagina most hours of the day. Oh second trimester, you mythical 13 weeks of superhuman energy, teenage sex drive, and beautiful maternal glow, why do you dangle your sparkling wares in our faces, dragging us through these middle weeks whispering sweet lies in our desperate ears? While the second trimester is perhaps not as abjectly miserable as the first or third, it still has many unique traits that remind you that pregnancy has no pause button. Below are just a few of the ways the second trimester shines own its special star over the 40 week shit-storm that is growing a human:

  • Nausea II: The Revenge—All of your pregnancy apps and weekly emails begin to inform you around Week 6 that nausea and vomiting may soon be upon you, but each is quick to reassure that morning sickness disappears the moment the clock strikes midnight the day you enter the 2nd trimester. Then when you’re actually in the 13th or 14th week (because no single resource can agree when ol’ 2T really begins), your app is all like, “JK, BTW, nausea often recurs until 16 weeks, and sometimes it lasts the whole pregnancy, but it will DEFINITELY be gone by the time your kid starts kindergarten, trust us, winky face, heart.” I have found that there are some notable differences between first- and second-trimester nausea. Whereas my 1st trimester morning sickness arrived after breakfast and just kind of hung around in the background all day like your pot-head college boyfriend, my 2nd trimester nausea has been a sneaky little bastard, leaping in with a karate chop in the afternoon and forcing me to mainline tortilla chips and Gatorade ‘til dinner.
  • Weight Gain—Those same hateful pregnancy apps that lied about morning sickness may also welcome you to the 2nd trimester by telling you that it’s OK if you haven’t gained any weight yet, but you’ll probably start adding a pound or so a week going forward. For both of my pregnancies, I gained 5 lbs the moment I saw two lines on the stick. Something about the act of peeing on a pregnancy test sends my body into a spiral of carb collecting and calorie hoarding that results in an impressive accumulation of back fat by Week 3. But the real fun starts at about 15 weeks when your wee one begins the journey from tomato to watermelon and you being your own journey from freshman sorority girl to hibernating grizzly bear.
  • Bleeding Gums/Nose Bleeds—Apparently Nature has her reasons for absolutely ensuring no father will ever get laid during his wife’s pregnancy, and boy is she thorough.
  • Braxton Hicks—Braxton Hicks contractions are like real labor contractions in that they both involve your uterus, and otherwise they have absolutely nothing in common. But you won’t necessarily know that, so it’s OK to panic the first time your stomach seizes into a hard knot for several seconds. For me, BH contractions feel like a charley horse in the uterus, and while they may be uncomfortable, they don’t hurt (just an FYI for first-time moms looking for a comparison: no matter what Ina May Gaskin says, labor contractions hurt, and not in that “holy crap, that really hurts” kind of way, more in that “holy crap, I am being eaten by a tiger” kind of way). Mine show up around 18-20 weeks, whereas some people don’t feel them until the end of the 3rd trimester, and a few lucky ladies won’t experience them at all. Exertion and dehydration make them worse, so if they are frequent enough to ignite the twinge of worry that inevitably leads you to WebMD, park yourself in front of a House Hunters marathon with a bottle of SmartWater and tell your spouse you can’t do the dishes until next week. As always, if you feel something is off or funny in that general region, don’t be afraid to call your doctor’s office so that the nurses can have a good giggle behind your back.
  • Frequent Peeing/Heartburn/Aches & Pains—So begin the minor foibles of pregnancy that by 38 weeks will have you feeling homicidal, if only you could get off the couch without grunting like your grandpa. I have to pee about 45 times per day, with approximately 80% of those times occurring in the 20 minutes between turning off the lights and falling asleep at night. I am only up twice per night, however, which is a far cry from the bi-hourly pee breaks that will begin around week 30 and make you twitchy with rage every time some moronic jack-hole in your office elevator says, “Sleep now while you still can!” Also, I generally have to pee far less often this time around because I spent the first few months of my son’s life only getting to pee once every four days, thus re-training my bladder for the lifestyle of a cactus. The heartburn has started, but again, it’s merely a harbinger of misery to come—the canary in the mineshaft of my esophagus is still tweeting merrily with nary a premonition of the volcanic hellfire that will erupt in late September. Likewise, the back and hip aches are only just beginning to flare up, most often when I have to carry my two year-old home from the park because he threw his $40 sneakers in the creek again. 

Despite my rage against the machine of lies about the glories of the second trimester, I must note that many of these discomforts become relative in your second and subsequent pregnancies. First-time moms are delicate flowers, dedicating most of their days to sensing, experiencing, and Googling every single symptom of their magical journey. Second-time moms are often a bit heartier and/or more distracted—is that sciatica I feel or just the result of crawling under the electronics display at Target this morning to retrieve my toddler and the armful of women’s underwear he sprinted off with while I tried to find a belly band? I imagine third-plus-time moms are downright Amazonian about the whole process, and I’m surprised more of them don’t accidentally give birth while waiting in line at McDonald’s to exchange the Minion toys in their kids’ happy meals because they already have the purple one and want the caveman one that supposedly swears. And to be fair, second trimester has its perks, like you’re allowed to have an occasional glass of wine, assuming you live in Europe where they’re cool like that, and you’re probably wearing maternity pants now, so feel free to belly on up to the buffet at Golden Corral for thirds because you’ve got room to spare. And sleep while you can, because seriously, the whole house of cards is about to come crashing down, and also you’re about to get hemorrhoids. 

Written by: Kathleen

The best part about the 2nd trimester is getting to find our your baby’s sex so friends and family don’t lose any time imposing ridiculous gender stereotypes!

The best part about the 2nd trimester is getting to find our your baby’s sex so friends and family don’t lose any time imposing ridiculous gender stereotypes!

The Birds and the Bees Revisited

The moment you go from actively not trying to get pregnant to actively trying to get pregnant, your sex life changes. Often it’s not a single moment but a month or more of inactively not trying, the birth control equivalent of slowly stepping into a freezing cold swimming pool rather than closing your eyes and jumping. You pull the goalie then forget to invite the other team to play. Or the other team is so freaked out they don’t even try to score. Or they do try to score but don’t, and then you start to wonder if there’s something wrong with the other team, if they’re too old or too stressed out or smoked too much pot in college. That’s when you go from dipping your toes in the water to doing a running cannonball off the diving board—Geronimo, kids, it’s time to get busy.

Unfortunately, despite what the Lifetime Movie Network and your high school guidance counselor want you to believe, making a baby is not as easy as a six-pack of Zima and a rec room couch. I went to a progressive school that prided itself on a liberal and comprehensive sex education curriculum. I remember writing anonymous questions about boobs and periods in fifth grade, a particularly horrific slide show about STDs in seventh grade, and a series of heated arguments throughout high school about whether legalizing prostitution would empower or oppress women. At the age of 32, when my husband and I decided to close our eyes and jump into the baby-making pool, I could argue the constitutionality of abortion, gay marriage, and pornography. I knew how HIV was transmitted on a molecular level. I could recite statistics on the risks associated with advanced maternal age as they related to miscarriage, infertility, and chromosomal abnormalities. But I didn’t truly understand that I could only get pregnant on four, maybe five days of the month, and probably fewer, because I was a maternal dinosaur and my husband smoked a lot of pot in college.

That’s the annoying truth of it. While it seems like every teenager on reality TV can get pregnant 26 days a month, and you swear your best friend occasionally gets knocked up in the shower, you and your old “career oriented” eggs have only a 12- to 24-hour window to get fertilized after ovulation. Your husband’s boys may be able to survive longer, depending on whether your fallopian tubes resemble a mahogany-paneled man-cave with a built-in beer tap and 60-inch plasma television or a women’s studies class at Smith, but at most you have five days during which sex leads to baby. Five days is the best-case scenario, and let’s be honest ladies, at our age, we have to aim for the bull’s eye just to hit the target.

So if you’re done testing the water and you’re ready to dive in, don’t waste your energy shaving your legs the first day after your period ends. Start spritzing your fancy Versace perfume a few days before you think you’ll ovulate, and save date-night at your favorite martini bar for the day before. And if that night happens to coincide with a major sporting event or highly anticipated episode of The Walking Dead, you might as well throw on your yoga pants, open a bottle of pinot, and wait ‘til next month.

Written by: Kathleen

PS: If you've been doing cannonballs for several months and are starting to get antsy, or if you're just trying to be more precise in your baby-making so you don't end up with, say, a Christmas due date, I highly recommend and the accompanying app for more comprehensive information and tools to maximize your chances of getting pregnant regardless of who dies in the next episode of Game of Thrones.


Oops! I did it again . . .

That’s right, round two here we come!! We did it, and now we are nervous. The decision to have a second child now seems completely irrational when you look at the hard facts. You couldn’t afford the first one, your social and professional lives have suffered, and you will never again have furniture that isn’t stained. It’s like crawling out of a poop tunnel after escaping from prison, deciding freedom isn’t for you, and turning around to go back through for more. That is the stinky trip I made the sober(ish) decision to embark upon.   

For those of you still in the throes of your first pregnancy or recent delivery of 1.0, you can’t imagine signing up for another round. The sneaky part is that you completely forget about all the physical discomfort and emotional havoc that comes with pregnancy, labor and postpartum. This is called “postpartum dementia”, because I just decided to call it that. This is where you lose the ability to connect with any of the pain and feel completely fine to go through all of it repeatedly until you lose all feeling in your lower extremities. Hence a world birth rate of 255 babies per minute—that’s 134,028,000 placentas hitting the floor or field, depending, every year people!!!  You are welcome world. I am doing my part to contribute. 

You tell yourself that your little one will only be able to feel the full joy of life if she can share it with another child who is blessed with the exact same set of amazing parents. WRONG! Do you know how amazing it is to be the only child in your parents’ and, if you’re lucky, grandparents’ lives? I am surprised we don’t have more first born children marching on Washington petitioning that 2nd and 3rd borns be pushed off the highest peak! Don't take this as me saying we should all come from single-child families. As a middle child myself, I am very thankful that my parents drank the same crazy juice as everyone else and decided to double down (they even went for thirds later), but I am certain that my older sibling spent the better part of my youth trying to figure out a way to feed me to the fishes, and can I really blame her? She had a world that was completely run by her giggles and scheduled around her potty breaks. When I showed up, it put a huge cramp in her style. She would have likely been a Mensa candidate if my parents hadn’t dispersed their attention and wisdom across all three of us.  To my first child: I apologize for ruining your chances of being exceptional.  

In all seriousness, we are thrilled to have the chance to give this parenting thing another go. Surely we can’t screw up two children. There’s always one that’s good right?  

D is completely underwhelmed by the idea of a sibling. 

D is completely underwhelmed by the idea of a sibling.