women

1. 10 WEEKS PREGNANT

Share the News and Document the Experience

This week, you can
• Decide when and how to share the good news
• Begin a keepsake journal for your child
• Use digital photography to document your pregnancy
IN SOME CULTURES there is a specific time to share the news of a baby’s impending arrival. If you have had miscarriages or waited years for this moment, you may wish to hold off on contacting family, friends, and colleagues until more time passes. On the other hand, you may have already spent a week calling, e-mailing, and publishing the news on Facebook. There is no right or wrong, as this is a highly personal bit of news to share.
My only word of caution is to remember that once the cat is out of the bag, the news is going to spread like wildfire. Who isn’t excited to hear that a baby is on her way? Unfortunately, it’s a given that someone is going to be a little miffed by the way they found out. Uncle Ned is going to be surprised he heard the news from Cousin Melba rather than directly from you. Aunt Edna is going to be shocked you posted on Facebook before calling her. And your brother will wonder why you called your baby sister first. You can’t make everybody happy. Don’t try. Just do the best you can!

GUESS WHO’S MAKING A LIST AND CHECKING IT TWICE?

The first thing you need to do is to write out a list of everyone you wish to contact. Try doing this in Microsoft Excel. It’s so easy to delete, cut, and paste. Then, make categories of folks who need to know the news. The most common categories are: immediate family, other family, close friends, colleagues, and other contacts. Between your and your spouse’s family, it is probably quite a long list. Do you want to divide the list between you and call everyone on it personally? Or do you want to personally call a few key people (think future grandparents and your siblings) and then let them each make a few calls for you? You and your husband may have very different relationships with your families. What works for one of you may not work for the other. Don’t let a difference in family protocol become a bone of contention.
You will probably want to call your closest friends, but don’t dismiss the power of e-mail to let the vast majority of your buddies simultaneously hear the good news. Write out something special and include a photo of you and your partner. Do you have a favorite poem? Include anything that will personalize the announcement. If you are a stepparent, you might want to have a photo of the two of you with your stepchildren. This will surely make them feel more a part of the experience.
After the phone calls have been made and the e-mails sent out, then it’s an appropriate time to post at your favorite social networking site, provided of course that this is part of the way you like to communicate on a daily basis. I’ve got friends who post their ultrasound photos on Facebook so their community of friends can all see the first images of Junior. It’s your pregnancy. Share it the way you see fit.

DOCUMENT THE JOURNEY

Go shopping for your journal. You will no doubt pick up a baby keepsake or pregnancy journal. First-time mothers are generally great at recording everything so their child will know exactly what happened when. As the family grows and the novelty of pregnancy wears off, subsequent pregnancies tend to be less well documented. If keeping such a record for your child is going to be fun, I invite you to start a book today. If you are not much of a writer, consider an audio diary. Or you can set up a small video camera on a tripod and speak directly to your child. You don’t need to do any of these every day! Once a week or even once a month will provide your child with a lovely memento. And don’t think for a minute you have to turn into Hemingway or Scorsese to make these interesting for your child. In this case it really is the thought that counts.
Are you at a loss as to what to share? Record your feelings about the changes in your body. Tell him how you feel about his dad. Tell her how much you love to dance and that you can’t wait to teach her. You are unique. Allow this keepsake to reflect who you are. Above all, keep it positive. My mother told me the excruciating details of her twenty-five-hour labor every day of my life. Some things are best kept private.
Some women like to document the changes in their body. Stand in the same place once a week and have your spouse take a casual photo. A profile shot can best reveal the more dramatic changes. At the end you will have a fun collage to share with family, close friends, and eventually your child. (But save any nude photographs you might wish to take for your private album.)
If you are a devotee of scrapbooking, you might want to use some of the scrapbooking techniques and special products to enhance the baby keepsake you are making for your child. If this is a new world to you, you can contact a local scrapbooking store like Creative Memories (e-mail listings are in the Resources section) or check the yellow pages for your area. And you don’t have to worry about how far your artistic abilities will take you because all stores have classes.
I’ve had many clients who are very involved in this style of scrapbooking, and it certainly provides an incredible outlet for your creativity. Many women form groups and get together weekly. If you are more of a solitary person, there are extensive guidelines for digital projects. These of course take up no space in your physical home and can easily be shared with family and friends. (For more about photo organization, see page 328.)
This week, explore the possibilities. There are many choices when it comes to documenting this experience. It’s easier than ever to instantly share it with those who are far away and relive the memories for yourself for the rest of your life.

START YOUR JOURNAL

As this week draws to a close, I hope you have picked out your baby journal and keep it handy. If you are a very organized person by nature, you may not want to give up your calendar or your Blackberry. Nor should you. The journal is meant to be an adjunct to any tools you have used up until now to keep your life on track. Some of my clients personalize the pages with doodles or stickers. Many keep them after the birth for reference on the chance they decide to have another child. They won’t be starting from scratch. It’s also a great source for your friends who may become pregnant in the future. Women are passionate about this experience and the people, books, and blogs that proved useful to the journey.

2. 11-12 WEEKS PREGNANT

Examine Which Medical Tests You May Need

This week, you can
• Research the various tests you may be asked to take
In today’s world, you have at your disposal an array of tests that can tell you a great deal about your child before he enters the world. The question is, which of these tests do you need? You will of course decide this with your physician, but I believe that being informed can only make your experience better.

AVOIDING TEST STRESS

Since you won’t see your care provider very often during these first few months, it’s a good idea to think about all the genetic tests available to you early on so you can research and discuss them with your care provider before you schedule them.
The tests available to you are twofold: screening and diagnostic. Screening tests determine whether your baby is at an increased risk of having a specific condition, while diagnostic tests can actually detect the presence of anomalies and diseases like Down syndrome and spina bifida. You might be inclined to sign up for everything “just because.” But there are emotional considerations to take into account.
First let’s talk about tests that may have emotional consequences. These fall under the category of screening tests. Even the closest couples who are in sync about everything need to have a conversation about screening tests. Let’s take a practical example. The information you get from a test that screens your baby’s risk of having Down syndrome is pretty much useless unless you know what you’ll do with that information. If you would not then opt to go through with a diagnostic test such as amniocentesis, then the results of the screening are only good for creating a lot of worry (or possibly false confidence). Also consider: if you do get a definite diagnosis, will you do anything differently than you otherwise would? All the possibilities need to be considered before you venture down the road of genetic testing. Women over thirty-five or those with previous histories of specific genetic/chromosomal disorders in the family are more often advised to get the tests.
Here’s a breakdown of commonly performed early tests, what they’re for, and when they happen. The first two are screeners; the latter two are diagnostic.
 
The AFP (Alpha-fetoprotein) Test
This blood test screens for the risk for neural tube defects like spina bifida and Down syndrome. It is also called “maternal serum screening,” “triple screen,” or “quad screen.” It is usually performed between the 15th and 17th weeks of pregnancy.
 
Nuchal Translucency Screening/ Nuchal Fold Testing
This early ultrasound (done between 11 and 14 weeks) measures the “nuchal fold,” a translucent area of skin on the back of the baby’s neck. A fold that departs from the “average” size may mean an increased risk of Down syndrome or heart abnormality.
 
Note: It’s important to reiterate that both of these tests only screen for risk—they don’t diagnose any conditions. For a diagnosis, the parents would have to follow through with the more invasive CVS or amniocentesis.
 
CVS (Chorionic villus sampling) Test
This diagnostic test determines whether a baby has a chromosomal disorder. A needle or catheter is placed through the vagina near the uterus or through the abdominal wall to collect a tissue sample. There is a small risk of miscarriage from this procedure and it can cause cramping or bleeding and, rarely, other complications. It’s done early—usually between 10 and 12 weeks. It can diagnose Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and several other chromosomal conditions. It does not diagnose neural tube defects like spina bifida.
 
Amniocentesis
This test, probably the most widely known of the four, is done between 16 and 20 weeks. It can detect nearly all chromosomal disorders with 99 percent effectiveness and can also diagnose hundreds of genetic disorders and neural tube defects like spina bifida. A needle is inserted into the amniotic sac through the abdominal wall. (The amniotic sac is the “bag” of water protecting the baby within the uterus.) A small amount of fluid is withdrawn. Amniocentesis also carries with it a small risk of miscarriage and cramping is a common side effect.
 
In addition to genetic tests, you’ll have several mundane blood tests done throughout the course of your pregnancy. These are generally done to check your overall health and are usually not optional. Most blood tests can be done in a care provider’s office, though sometimes care providers will send women to the local hospital or lab for routine blood work. This is something women should ask about when they set up their first appointments. For example, is it inconvenient for you to travel to a lab or hospital? Would you rather have everything done in one place? In addition to your comfort and preference, check your insurance coverage. What if the lab or hospital is closer to your home but neither is covered under your plan? There you are trying to be the most prepared mom in the world and the fact that you opted for convenience could cause you to have an unexpected bill to pay.
These issues take the romance out of being pregnant, don’t they? And you thought nausea and touchy relatives were a pain.

REWARD YOURSELF

What a first month! You probably thought you were going to research fun things like cribs and strollers. Now I’ve plunked oddsounding medical tests on your plate. But don’t panic—we’re taking this journey one step at a time. By the time you go into labor, you’ll be an old pro. (And the volume of medical jargon you’ve learned will simply amaze you.) And instead of having information on scraps of paper strewn about your home, you have it organized all in one place!
It’s time for you to have a reward. Why not plan a romantic evening out with your spouse? His life is changing at lightning speed along with yours. You both deserve some R & R. If you’re a single mom, this is a good time to start making a habit of caring for yourself. Join a book club or go see a movie with a friend. Make sure you’re building relationships with people who will act as your “village” once your baby is here!

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