Tuesday, May 21, 2013

13 Weeks: Ultrasound & Testing

Yesterday Mark and I went to OSF Hospital in Peoria for some genetic testing.  There are several different screening tests you can have done that will check for abnormalities in the baby.  These are optional and are sometimes excluded by insurance.  I was really overwhelmed at first by all the tests...some are invasive, some aren't, some have better results than others, some have false positive results, and of course that nagging concern -what, if anything, can we do if they come back high-risk?  After talking to my sister-in-law and sister, we decided to go with the 1st Trimester Screening.  This test is a combination of an ultrasound and blood test via a finger poke.  It is done between 9 and 13 weeks of pregnancy.  This test was covered by our insurance and is non-invasive.  I read in one of my books that there are medications that can help with certain concerns they find in the baby, so the test was worth it to us.  We arrived at 1:15 and had to check in.  Then we met with a nurse who showed us a PowerPoint about the testing process.  I knew most of it already (I'm reading about 5 different pregnancy books right now), but it was nice for Mark to get updated.  The test doesn't come back saying "your baby will have Down syndrome" or anything certain, it just gives you a risk rate.  High risk results warrant more testing.  I asked her what the next test would be, because we decided we don't want to do any invasive testing at this point (CVS or amniocentesis).  She told us the next test would be the Harmony Prenatal Test.  This test combines ultrasound results (where they measure the baby's length crown to rump and check for extra folds of skin on the back of the neck) with a blood draw to assess your risk.  This one is more accurate (99% accurate in fact, with false positive rates at 0.1%), is also non-invasive, and was also covered by our insurance.  I think the only difference between the 1st Trimester Screening and the Harmony Test is the method of collecting blood (and personally, hook up to my vain any day before you poke my finger!) She said some people skip right to this test if it's covered.  We decided to go this route.  We figured we'd have to do it if the ultrascreening came back high-risk anyway, so might as well skip a step.  We had to sit in that nurse's office for a while waiting for an ultrasound room to open up.  I was surprised how nervous Mark was.  He looked like he was going to pass out.  We talked about how scary the possibilities are, and how heartbreaking it is for some babies and their families.  Just talking about our fears seemed to help him out.  I was terrified too, but something about having that baby inside me makes me feel braver than I've ever been.  I guess my maternal genes are already kicking in.  Finally she came in to take me to have my blood drawn.   Now, this is something I've had done numerous times in my life.  It doesn't bother me at all (give me a strep throat test and it's a different story!) but this one hurt and I bled like crazy!  I think it must be because your blood volume increases 40-50% when you're pregnant.  My arm is still sore today.  But all was quickly forgotten as we went into the ultrasound room.  Last time I could barely see baby.  This time it was crystal clear!  Baby was moving around a lot, it was so neat to watch!  It was trying to suck its' thumb, but was going after the 4th finger instead and couldn't get it in its' mouth.  Mark asked if everything looked normal, but since the girl performing the ultrasound wasn't a doctor she couldn't tell us.  Torture!  We were both looking for extra skin on the neck and trying to figure out if it looked like the "normal" baby in the PowerPoint.  Impossible to tell, but didn't stop us from trying.  What I could tell is that I've never felt as alive as I did seeing that precious baby moving.  I know this seems weird, but I was having a hard time believing there was a baby in my stomach that was alive and moving around.  It's so much easier to grasp when you see it with your own eyes.  Here's our peanut:

She did tell us what sex she thinks it is.  We're keeping it a secret for now until we know for sure (which will be when the test results come in- they only take 10 days).  When she finished I was very sad because I kept thinking:  how long until I see my baby again?  At least this time we got to take home a CD with 10 pictures from the ultrasound.  That will have to do until next time.  We left the hospital around 3:30 and headed over to Bass Pro for some shopping and lunch.  Then we stopped at Lowes to pick up an area rug for our living room (baby-proofing the house has already begun!) and then started for home.  We had to be back before the sun went down because someone was coming to pick up the motorcycle- yes, we finally sold it.  Very typical, I know, but we are in the market for a classic car that baby and I can enjoy too.  Times sure are changing! (and to tell the truth I couldn't be happier about it.  I loved my youth but I'm sure looking forward to this next chapter!)

**Update:  When running the Harmony Test, they did not test for gender even though I requested it.  We had to wait until my 19 Week Ultrasound to confirm the sex.  So if you have this genetic test done, make sure you remind them to test for the gender (if you want to know of course)!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Am I really going to be a mommy?

Mark and I are the type of people who (usually) make decisions very, very carefully.  We just feel so much better knowing things are safe and secure before we make the leap.  For the past few years we got the classic question a million times:  When are you going to have kids?  I would always tell them that it took us 11 years of being together before we got married, did they really think kids would come the month after the wedding?  That usually held them off for a while!

Our lives were just too hectic.  We both had time-sucking jobs that left us tired, stressed, and irritable at the end of the day.  Our free time was always spent working on our home.  Baby talk wasn't even on the table.  Our recent move back home changed all that.  When I left teaching, I really missed being around kids.  While our new house needed our own personal touch to make it a home, it didn't need any major work (a first for us!).  Mark's job had him working way less hours with much less stress.  I wasn't working at the time, so I was free to do all the things that had been neglected the past few years.  We started talking about having a baby.

True to our classic style, we wanted to make sure we covered our bases before we started trying.  I read "What to Expect Before you're Expecting", switched my beauty products to all-natural and safe (for my benefit as well as the baby's), and began eating very healthy (real food as opposed to so much processed crap).  We got the house unpacked and made a list of what would need finished before our family grew.  I went to the doctor to make sure everything was good to go.  And then we were ready, and oh so excited!! 

How did you find out you were pregnant?
On March 13th, I started coming down with a cold.  My throat and ears were miserable, and I could tell I had a slight fever.  I was ready to take some meds when I decided to take a pregnancy test first (before popping all that Advil).  I knew I probably wasn't pregnant, we had only been trying for a couple of weeks, but I had some tests on hand (from a sale, of course) so I figured it couldn't hurt.  I couldn't believe my eyes when it was positive!  I called Mark upstairs and he couldn't believe it either!  There wasn't much celebrating because it was still so early (and I was so miserable) so I called the doctor and set up an appointment for the next day to confirm.  And confirm she did!  Along with that test I was tested for strep and influenza.  They came back negative so she sent me home with directions to rest and take Tylenol to keep the fever down.  That was Thursday.  By Saturday night my fever was over 101, and I couldn't sleep, eat, or drink.  We ended up going to the ER and I had a double ear infection.  They gave me amoxicillan and I still couldn't function until the following Tuesday.  It was a miserable week.

How were you feeling emotionally in the beginning?
It didn't matter how much we planned, or how careful I was about my health, I still ended up sick and on medication.  Life doesn't go as planned, even when you take your time doing so.  Naturally I was upset in the beginning to kick off my first pregnancy like this, but that's life.  My sister-in-law, who is one of my best friends in the entire world, reassured me that taking medicine is better than the baby being subjected to an infection in your body, and that immediately made me feel better.  Gradually nerves and excitement replaced the disappointment.

Were you sick at all?
Other than the ear infections?  No!  Not at all!  I keep hearing how lucky I am, and since it's my first I believe them!  No morning sickness or nausea at all.  Around month two I was so so tired though.  We're talking falling asleep on the couch at 7:00 every night!  My usually clean house got out of control!  I was really lucky to not be working at the time.

Any cravings?
Grilled cheese sandwiches!  I bet I've had 50 since I've been pregnant.  While I haven't been sick, I haven't been able to eat the kind of meals I used to.  Mainly I crave comfort foods...pasta, mac & cheese, pizza, cereal.  Makes it difficult to eat healthy!  Now that I'm almost through the first trimester I feel better and am back to eating better.

How did you tell family and friends?
We told my brother-in-law and sister-in-law first.  We weren't going to tell anyone until the 1st trimester was over, but I was overwhelmed with the medical stuff...what tests do I want, insurance, is that really harmful to the baby?  My sis has had 4 babies, she's a nurse, and we share the same doctor.  I felt so much better after telling!  I also told my own sister, of course.  We waited until Mother's Day to tell everyone else.  We got our moms a "Grandma" card that said "Since I can't be here today, give yourself a great big hug and I'll see you in November.  Love Mark, Brooke, and Baby."  It was so exciting to watch their faces as they figured it out!  Then we put this picture on Facebook that night:

Spending my first Mother's Day studying with my little buddy.  6 months until the final...
When are you due?
November 26th.  Two days before Thanksgiving!  Going to have a lot more to be thankful for this year.

Will you find out the gender?
Yes!  Remember we're planners?  We already have names picked out too!!

Belly pictures?
I am showing already!  I'm only 5'3", so I'm sure I'll get huge!!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Homemade Laundry Soap

 One day my husband and I were discussing how many people lose their lives to cancer these days.  We then got to talking about processed food and all the additives in products we use every day.  While I'm not a doctor and unsure of a direct correlation between chemicals in our products/food and cancer, this discussion led me to do lots of researching.  Now, there is SO MUCH controversy over what is harmful and what isn't, so I'm not going to preach about that.  I think it's up to each person to do their own research and decide what they think is safe for their family.  One thing I did keep finding over and over was how much better people felt (and looked!)  after switching to all-natural and/or homemade products, food, etc...  Since I am only working part-time, I decided to start down this path during my free time.  Because it does take time. However, it can be, and is, done by full-time working moms.  I've read several of their blogs.  It's all about what's important to you and how you balance your time.

I began by researching websites and using Pinterest to collect my findings.  You can follow my Pinterest boards here for more homemade ideas.  I also purchased and read a few different books (more about those later).  It was overwhelming to say the least.  Rather than give up, I decided to switch things out one product at a time.  Baby steps.  One of my first adventures was making homemade laundry soap.  I viewed several recipes and sort of combined a few to come up with one that I liked.  Here's what I did:

I started with 1 box of baking soda, 1 box of washing soda, 1 box of Borax (all 4 lb boxes), and 3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap.  I found all these ingredients in the laundry section at Wal-Mart.  The Fels-Naptha soap is not all-natural.  However, I did check each ingredient on my favorite website, EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (which lists ingredients in most products and tells you what concerns have been found with each.  You can also check individual ingredients).  The only ingredient that concerned me personally was fragrance, which is a hard one to stay away from.  Mark and I have never had problems with fragrance, so I used it, but if it concerns you some alternatives are Castile Soap (all natural coconut oil soap found in the beauty section at Wal-Mart) or Dr. Bronner's all natural soaps.  I have heard these are more oily and have stained clothes, so do your research first!  I might try a different one next time and see how it works!

First I poured all 3 boxes into my container.  I used my hands to mix all the ingredients together.  I know it's hard to tell when they're mixed because all are white powders, but this problem will be solved later, I promise.  Then I used my grater to grate the 3 bars of soap:

Next, I used a big spoon to transfer the soap flakes to my blender.  I tried my food processor first, but I still haven't gotten the hang of it yet and I haven't met anything my Oster blender can't handle.  I blended the first bar for too long and it got clumpy, so with the next 2 I only ran the blender for about 15 sec.  Make sure you shut the blender off real quick to let the flakes settle after about 7 sec, then run again for another 7 sec and you should be good to go.  The flakes should now be powdery.

I added the soap to the top and began folding all the ingredients into each other with my hands.  It was now easy to tell when they were mixed because I had to make sure the yellow soap flakes reached all the way to the bottom.

I purchased this container at Wal-Mart for about $10, and the scoop is from an old jar of protein powder.  The lid rattled on the jar, which I didn't like, so Mark added a bead of window sealer around the edge of the lid.  Now it seals perfectly!

I'm not going to sugar-coat any post on here.  This took me an hour to make, I cut 2 fingers (thank-you grater and food processor), and my kitchen was a MESS when I was done.  But I guarantee that won't be the case next time.  Yes, next time.  I will make laundry soap again.  It made a huge batch for much cheaper than the store-bought stuff.  My kitchen smelled amazing afterwords, so clean.  I only use about 2-3 tbsp. per load, depending on how dirty the clothes are, so this will last a really long time.  I used the soap on my dog's muddy towels and they came out clean!  My laundry smells fresh, clean, and pure with this soap.  Honestly, I don't want my clothes smelling like Hawaii or a waterfall anyway.  That's what perfume is for.  Too many scents give me (and everyone else!) a headache.  I have an HE washer, and this soap is great for those because it generates less suds, which is what the HE soaps (supposedly) do since the washers use less water.  And next time, I know the process won't take so long, and I'll spare myself cuts in the future.  Practice makes perfect!

If you don't have time or patience for this:
When we moved in, I knew I didn't have time to make homemade soap yet.  I purchased this soap from Target in October and it just ran out now in May (I average 3-5 loads of laundry a week).  It's reasonably priced and way cleaner than lots of other brands.

Now, I'm off to do more laundry!