7 Ways to Get the Most out of Fertility/Pregnancy Forums

 

I pulled an emotional all-nighter on the fertility forums a few years ago. I discovered that there is a right way and a wrong way to approach these sprawling archives of hypochondria and obsession.

Close-up of a positive pregnancy test.  Shallow depth of field.
photo credit: everydayfamily.com

 

Timing is everything

The subject of your worry undoubtedly occurs to you in the middle of the night, but don’t lose sleep waiting for someone in Europe to answer your anxious forum post at 3 a.m. Their advice usually involves the metric system and a 24-hour time stamp. It’s best to post, rest, and start refreshing your browser once people are waking up in Maine.

Let grammar be your guide

If someone is telling you, “trust me i c u having pain in adomen at 4 mo don’t worry it not ur baby u have gas,” followed by 15 emoticons that include fireworks and a soccer ball (?), then keep reading before you grab the Beano. This person is not an OBGYN.

Use the friend test

Is your concern something that you would share with a friend? If not, post on the forum and feel the exhilaration of anonymity. There are, after all, only a few people whom we can call to ask what the difference is between a hemorrhoid and anal prolapse.

If your concern is something you would ask a friend, start there and then use the forum as a second opinion if you think she is wrong. Be sure to follow up with that friend if you discover that 83 people on the internet disagree with her. She needs to know that you really can be 9 months pregnant without knowing it.

Don’t use your real name

The last thing you want is for your post about how many times per month you obsessively pee on a stick to go viral.  Unless, of course, you are prepared to explain to future employers that this behavior demonstrates your determination, your willingness to challenge the assertions of others (“Reliable up to 6 days before your expected period,” my butt!), and your ability to continue making an investment when the return is not immediate. Otherwise, stick to using the name of that former boss you don’t like or your mother-in-law.

Learn the lingo

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to decipher posts that read, “My DH and I are ttc after our DD. I have POS 2x PO, but BFN. Pixie dust, please.” I initially thought this person’s designated driver made a purchase order for something from Tinkerbell. Once you learn the shorthand, you can scan posts efficiently and feel like an insider. There are glossaries. Learn the shorthand and feel like one of the cool kids.

Avoid the snowball effect

If you search for a forum post about “feet swelling during pregnancy,” but land on one so worrisome that it prompts you to start googling “foot cancer” or “gangrene,” back up a minute, go to your bookmarks, and look it up on the Mayo Clinic website. There are always people out there who share their oddball scenario on a forum that just doesn’t apply to 99.99999% of the world.

Just call the #*^& doctor

As my sister would tell me repeatedly during my pregnancies, your OBGYN chose this profession. They signed up for something that requires on-call hours and anxious women. Make them feel useful. There is no way you can possibly have a question they haven’t heard before, and you won’t see them answering questions on forums. This is your one way to know for sure if you are a hypochondriac or not.

Seriously. You can fret and rephrase your forum question over and over about whether your extreme nausea is a sure sign you are carrying quadruplets, or you can make one phone call and get some help with the nausea as a bonus.

I am a fan of forums, and I use them for comfort, as long as they remain comforting. I use forums as a place to gather more questions, but I don’t use them as a place for answers. I can share my pain, my joy, and my hopes without a filter, and the community (usually) responds with support and love.

 

Not everyone has that kind of support in her life, so by all means- lean on each other, anonymous moms. Then go call your doctor.

8 Truths About a Second Pregnancy

1. You have amnesia

Unless you just had a baby and you became pregnant a week later, you have amnesia. The memory of your discomfort during your first pregnancy has been replaced by millions of new memories as the baby grew into a complicated human that falls apart when a graham cracker doesn’t break on the dotted lines and inserts the word “poopie head” into all of his favorite songs.

I can’t remember anything before my son was a year old. I was genuinely surprised this week when I turned heads in Barnes & Noble. No, not because I was rocking my flattering ruched shirt seams, but because I spontaneously farted in line with the gusto of a 14-year-old boy in a competition. I won.

2. Your partner does not have amnesia

After surviving 9 months of complaining and decreased sex followed by another few months of no sex after the birth of #1, your partner is wary going into this well-charted territory. He or she will put on a brave face, but don’t expect the same level of care and attention. My husband is concerned about me and our baby of course, but the farts aren’t as cute, the wrestling of pillows throughout the night is annoying, and he quietly accepts it when sex becomes more awkward and less frequent.

The bright side? It is comforting when his memory fills in the gaps and reminds me that Braxton-Hicks contractions and leg cramps are normal. Your partner now knows how to care for babies, and you need someone with a fully functional brain during the first weeks at home. You have your expert at your side.

3. Nobody gives a hoot

Unlike the endless attention of a first pregnancy, anyone who has met the aforementioned poopiehead is only curious about the sex of the new baby, and when will it arrive. They assume you have everything you need, especially if the baby is the same sex as the first. They have seen your bump before, and acknowledge it with the same enthusiasm I reserve for greeting my dental hygienist.

Strangers are the exception to this truth. They will fawn over you…right up until the point when they ask the dreaded question, “is this your first?” “No,” you say, “This is my second.” Their eyes will glaze over, and they will begin scanning your groceries more efficiently, regretful for the wasted attention given to your repeat performance. Just be grateful nobody wants to touch a previously used abdomen.

4. Delivery is still daunting

The mantra of my saint-like OB/GYN is worthy of note: every pregnancy is different. My water broke 3.5 weeks early the first time, and I was not contracting or dilated. I had wanted a natural birth, and ended up with Pitocin followed by an epidural after 11 hours of artificially induced labor. I don’t know what it is like to labor at home for hours before deciding that perfect moment to head to the hospital. I could end up having a cesarean this time. They may have to pull it out of my belly button as my son predicts. Amnesia mixed with ambiguity is unnerving, but again, nobody gives a hoot because you are a baby-having expert after one go of it. So get used to fretting alone. Or hire a doula.

5. You will vow to do things better this time

As I contemplate the coming group of firsts of my second child, I know for us this will be our last shot to get it right. I vow to properly document, organize and celebrate every milestone as well as the everyday things like his sweet voice speaking his first sentences. I will back up those pictures and videos (don’t ask). I will shush the inner worrier and enjoy those first weeks, savoring the feeling of his tiny sleeping body on my chest after nursing.

6. You are going to leak

My OB/GYN suggests diplomatically that our bodies are often “compromised” after a first pregnancy. Skip this one if you are one of the dedicated few who really kept up the Kegels after #1. Otherwise, march yourself into a drug store and buy a pack of Poise. If you haven’t yet, you will. There will come a day when you either tire of washing the extra laundry after sneezing/laughing, or you will pee yourself while in the grocery store like I did.

7. You are breaking a heart

Yours or theirs, it doesn’t matter. From the moment you discover your first child will become a sibling, you will obsess over this for the next 9 months. First, you wonder when to tell him or her about the impending intruder. Then you worry about how to help this transition occur with minimal psychological scarring. You can’t imagine loving another child as much as the one you have, and you wonder how you will split your time, affection and energy between two complicated little humans with different needs. You know that no amount of advice from books, forums, or friends will prepare you or the child for this change in the household. It’s the other ambiguous situation lurking just behind the birth event.

My own three-year old reacted to the news with excitement until his processing center registered that he would have to share his toys with his baby brother. This furrowed his brow. Several days later, while snuggling before story time, he looks up at me with big eyes and tells me, “I don’t want to share you with my baby brother.” He followed it up with a possessive hug, and I felt our hearts splitting apart in unison as we silently contemplated the future.

8. It will all be okay

The most important truth is that by now you have had enough parenting under your belt to know there is no manual, that no two pregnancies or children will be the same, and that you have the strength of heart and character to do this. Laugh at your farts, revel in knowing what you really need in the hospital bag, and take comfort that your heart will know exactly what to do when your family grows yet again.

I’m Pregnant and Grieving. Again.

During my last pregnancy 3 years ago, I kept Kleenex stuffed up all my sleeves like my grandmother used to do because I was always on the brink of tears. I once sang Christmas carols during my entire hour-long commute because everything on the radio made me cry too much to see the road.

You see, my mother had passed away in 1988, my father in 2008; I lost two uncles, in 2002 and 2008; in the past year, I lost my two remaining grandparents. Losses have a way of compounding, and when pregnancy hormones are in the equation the pain can be exponential. Powerful enough to make Guns ‘N Roses songs tear-jerkers.

I have walked around today in 2015 with my face unnaturally bunched, trying not to cry when I am in public. Now there are no grandparents or parents to call upon for help in the hierarchy of my family tree, and my own little family just moved over a thousand miles to a new city during my first trimester. This pregnancy, the grief promptly set up shop on the left side of our bed where I spend increasing amounts of time

When I look inward to self-diagnose the endless tears, I am reminded of a question posed by an insensitive former friend 6 months after losing my father, “Why are you still grieving?”

Here’s what I’d love to tell him:

Because when I found out the news of my pregnancy, my hand lingered over the phone after I called my siblings. Who do I tell now? There are no phones anymore on the other end of my instincts.

Because when other people have parents fawning all over them during their pregnancy, taking them out for pedicures and buying “My Grandma Rocks” and “Grandpa’s Little Slugger” onesies for the baby, I drive solo to Babies R’ Us to buy what I know we need: tiny fingernail clippers and those awful nose bulb snot remover thingies.

Because watching so many loved ones face death and miss out on the lives of their children makes me terrified it will happen to me. I worry that my beautiful 3-year-old and the one I haven’t met yet will have to grow up knowing too early what real grief is, and I that will miss out on the multitude of milestones that will lead them into and through adulthood. I worry that my husband will be left to try to do it on his own like my Dad had to.

Because my kids will never know these beautiful souls and will only be able to dutifully point to their photos and recite their names and associations.

Because when your loved ones were not lost recently, nobody anticipates your struggle, so nobody asks. It can be lonely.

 

[This is where my chin raises defiantly]

 

So how do I know it will fade (again)?

Because I know to ask for help. I have incredible siblings, friends, and in-laws who answer my calls when I need them.

Because my husband will sit and keep the tissues flowing for as long as I need him to do so.

Because when I held my first son for the first time, that little life became the most important thing to me, overshadowing my losses. I can only hope that in 9 more weeks, the immediate love of welcoming a second child into the world will again replace the pain I feel right now.

Mostly, because every once in a while, my son gets my grandfather’s glint in his eye, or my mother’s focused expression, and I know that they are all right there for me to silently appreciate and it’s my turn to be that person to another human being.

I’ve got this.

Pregnancy Through the Eyes of a Child

All kids have a real curiosity about the mystery of pregnancy and childbirth, and rightfully so. In addition to his questions involving how a fetus pees, our son has begun to ask more practical questions.

As I tucked him into bed the other night and walked to the door in the dark, he asked me, “Mommy, where does the baby come out?” I replied with the best answer I could come up with on the spot. “In the hospital, honey. Goodnight.” And then I ran like hell.

The next morning, he wanted to push further. “Mommy, why does the baby come out in the hospital?”

“Because that is where my doctor is, and she will want to make sure that me and your baby brother are okay. She will probably want me to stay for a day or two so they can give us check-ups.”

“Oh,” he said, “so the doctor pulls the baby out?” He points to my belly button. Oh dear. Here we go. Am I prepared to be factually accurate?

“Well, she helps to pull him out down here.” I gesture vaguely toward my nether regions.

“SHE PULLS HIM OUT OF YOUR BUTT????” Hysterical laughter ensues.

At this point, I do the wrong thing. Instead of being a 21st century parent, I revert to a more modest time and offer him a cup of grapes and try to dazzle him with the presentation.

I was sure I had properly distracted him. Later that day, however, I hear him telling my husband through belly laughs, “The doctor is going to pull my baby brother out of Mommy’s butt!” I have no doubt he told all his preschool teachers the same thing.

Let this be a lesson to you. Be honest. Face it, or your kid will tell everyone he sees in Home Depot his theories on childbirth and you will be the butt of everyone’s jokes.

 

“Does the Baby Pee Out of There?”

My three-year-old son has enjoyed feeling my belly as it grows to wait for kicks and punches from his baby brother. He has asked a lot of questions, although none about how he got in there. Whew.

Today he was pointing out my distorted belly button that no longer resembles the kind that holds a true function—sticking your finger in it. With wide eyes, he asks me, “Does the baby pee out of that?”

I must mention that my son’s verbal skills have surpassed his cognitive development, and I am often struggling to explain things in a truthful but age-appropriate way. I had anticipated the next questions, and I knew he would ask where the baby pees. We just finished potty-training again after a move-induced regression. He wants to know where everyone and everything pees.

As I contemplated the complexities of nutrients, placenta, amniotic fluid, and knowing the baby is swallowing his own urine at this point, I chickened out and said simply, “No. Nobody pees from their belly button.”