Friday, May 30, 2008

needles coming from every direction

Yesterday I had an amniocentesis.

This is kind of a controversial subject, so I'm not going to go too much into the Whys and What Ifs. Despite the fact that French Fry looks terrific in all his ultrasounds, the blood test came back with enough of a risk factor that we decided it was appropriate.

I have so much confidence in my doctor that I'd been pretty relaxed about the whole thing, calling it a glorified gender test, ever since we made the decision, but yesterday morning was hard. It was a mental hurdle to get over, that's for sure. I made sure to practice some deep breathing and I stole the mantra of another amnio patient I found online: "I trust in my doctor, I trust in my body."

The procedure was done in my doctor's office, which also happens to be in a clinic. Stéph was with me the whole time and kept me from wigging out. I couldn't look at the needle - and I have no problem with needles but I knew this one would be huge - and I didn't take a local anesthetic, either (not that one was offered!). I think the the alcohol solution on my tummy was worse the the needle - that stuff burned! When it was over, I burst into tears. I think this was more of an emotional release than anything else.

After that was over, we went upstairs to the maternity ward where I laid down for an hour. I wonder what it says about our bed that I found the hospital bed to be rather comfy? Anyway, we went back downstairs and had another ultrasound. I had a moment of panic when he turned on the heart monitor and we didn't hear anything for about ten seconds, but other than that all seems to be well.

We went home where I stayed in a mostly horizontal position for the rest of the day. This was interrupted by a quick visit to our local nurse because I had to get a shot. Since my blood type is A- and Stéph's isn't, I have to get a shot to protect French Fry in case his blood type isn't the same as mine (which I find totally bizarre but that's the magic of nature). The last time I had to get this shot was after my miscarriage and it was delivered through a vein in my arm. Not this time, oh no! So I got a needle in, erm, both sides of my torso yesterday, if you catch my drift.

I'm still taking an antibiotic and a medication to keep my uterus from contracting, so we're doing everything possible to keep French Fry right where he is. To tell the truth, I had some uncomfortable moments yesterday but that may have been from the unfortunate side effects of taking an antibiotic than anything else.

We also think we may know whether French Fry is a boy or a girl! My doctor felt pretty sure but still advised that we wait for the results of the test, since it is 100% accurate. So, if you haven't placed your "bet" in our baby pool (see left sidebar) yet, you still have about a week to make a guess!

Pictures and stories about Spain are coming soon!

Monday, May 26, 2008


We are back safe and sound, though a little worse for wear. Our program was so stuffed to the gills that I noticed on Friday night that my feet had started to swell and by the time we were in the shuttle home from the airport yesterday my hand had started to swell as well. After a four hour nap yesterday afternoon and staying awake for a couple of hours to eat some take out before crashing for another eleven hours, I'm feeling a little more human this morning.

That being said, je ne regrette rien, as they say. The Costa del Sol is an amazing area and I'm so glad to have discovered it, even if it was in this rapid fire way. I have so many good memories and can't wait to share pictures and stories, but first I need to find a balance between getting to the grocery, starting laundry, going through the papers that need to be turned in to the school and resting, as the swelling keeps threatening to return. Bear with me and I'll be back to share very soon!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've come to terms with the fact that check out girls at grocery stores don't pack your groceries for you and that bag boys flat out don't exist in France. I'm a little O/C anyway, so I welcome the chance to pack my own groceries. I bring my big French basket and a large plastic reusable shopping bag with me and go to town, happily making sure that bread isn't squished at the bottom and separating the cold things from the pantry things to better facilitate the putting away of things when I get home.

But something has been bothering me about the way the French pack up their things in line. I see quite a few shoppers doing as I do with their reusable shopping bags (little plastic bags have pretty much gone the way of the dodo in these parts), but there are still those who simply stack their items back in their cart. Then, if you were to follow them out to the parking lot, you'd see them packing them in bags they've left in the trunk of their cars. This seems particularly odd during inclement weather.

This is a really small, nitpicky thing, but it always makes me tilt my head like a confused dog when I see it. A chacun son goût, as they say.*

Meanwhile, preparations are in high swing for our trip to SPAIN. I've spent the morning hunting down delicious goodies to bring to share with our fellow conference-goers, including bouchons de champagne and biscuits roses de Reims. Then it's packing and such for the rest of the day. And certainly no sleeping tonight. SPAIN!

*Literally "To each their own taste," or "To each their own".

Friday, May 16, 2008

on a lighter note

On Monday we went out for lunch. We chose a brasserie here in Tiny Town and sat on their terrace under a tree with a big canopy of leaves. It was so lovely there in the shade with a light breeze that I didn't want to leave.

Until, towards the end of our meal, a tractor-trailer filled with hogs pulled up at the stop light about fifty meters from our table.

Yeah, sorta lost my appetite after that!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

three years

I've been dreaming a lot about my mom lately. Usually, there are two scenarios in which she shows up in my dreams: either I need help or advice or I meet her (and Dad, too) in some kind of transitional place, like an airport. It's never a shock or surprise to see her in my dreams. It's only when I wake up that I realize that I got to spend some quality dream time with her. Whenever I see her in the airport dreams, I give her a nice long hug, like the one we shared when I said goodbye before moving to France. That was the last real hug we shared; I'm glad it was a good one.

Today marks three years since she died. It fills me with even more sadness that she died in May, a month that was once full of celebrations - our birthdays are a week apart, plus Mother's Day.

I often think back to our last telephone conversation. Her health had been steadily fading but suddenly in this conversation she agitated and excited as she urged us to start trying to have a child as soon as possible. She was concerned because of my history of PCOS and her own history - it had taken her and Dad three years to conceive. In the end it took us two years. Both she and Dad were anxious to become grandparents. They would have been good ones, too. But above all, she knew how much I wanted to be a Mom.

I miss her so much. I need her now more than ever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

meanwhile, outside my womb....

Oh, hello. So I did promise to talk about things other than the petite frite, so let me share what else has been going on.

This last week we've had something of a heat wave (for May, anyway), with highs reaching about 26°C (right around 79°F). Sounds like heaven, doesn't it? Except that we don't have air conditioning and our apartment faces full west, meaning it turns into a nice little hot box every afternoon. One afternoon I'm sure the bedroom got up to 85° when Stéph opened the shutter in the bedroom thinking he'd let in more air but only let in a total beat down of afternoon sunshine. Otherwise we've managed to keep the place livable through a complicated schedule of opening and closing shutters and clever use of oscillating fans. I am so very happy that we've got rain coming - not that the weather hasn't been gorgeous and we did manage to get out and enjoy it, but I was afraid that the temp would just keep climbing.

Since I can't stand the heat of the office in the afternoon (thanks to two computers running when Stéph is home all day), I've been retreating to the much cooler downstairs and camping in front of the tv. I'm very happy to report that I've finally got my knitting mojo back. I've finished a sock (yes, just the one, but I'm casting on the other one tonight!) and I'm also working on a gift for a little girl that was born three months ago, which means I am terribly behind. I'm also going to start cross stitching again with two or three projects in mind.

We are also starting to think seriously about what we need to bring to Spain. Stéph came home from work yesterday and said that they got a message from the Spanish hosts that we are expected to bring bathing suits for an afternoon at the beach. Besides the fact that I have a deep desire to apologize in advance to the people of Spain, I also need to go buy a bathing suit, since mine no longer fits. I'm embarrassed to say that I look like I'm about two months further along than I am so it looks like it's going to be a maternity suit for me. At least if it has little babies and crap on it, I'll look more pregnant than fat, right? Right?? *sigh*

Saturday, May 10, 2008

the third month

Ok, even I'm getting sick of hearing about my pregnancy, so let me tell you about the last month and we'll move on to other things, mkay?

Week ten: Broke out the Supa-Fat jeans today. Bought these jeans in the States and by some fluke ended up with jeans a size bigger than what I needed even at my heaviest weight. Still ridiculously large but super comfortable. These should do me for a couple of months (I hope!)*. Stéph and I work out how to turn the office/guest room into French Fry’s room. (End of the week) I look like I’m six months pregnant. I don’t want to leave the house. Ever. /weep

Week eleven: Received first set of baby clothes from MIL. They are impossibly tiny. Morning sickness has shifted to morning/afternoon. Had a couple of nausea-free evenings but it’s really fluctuating right now.

Week twelve: Stéph asks if I want to go to Spain next month but wants to know if morning sickness will be a problem. Wait, lemme look in my crystal ball… Then we have the shower incident.** Weekend in Paris – my last?***

Week thirteen: Surprisingly a quiet week, considering I just wanted to get to Friday and my OB appointment, knowing I was going to come home and call my grandmothers with some good news.

*The Supa-Fat jeans still fit, and I still have to wear a belt when I go out of the house. Yay, Supa-Fat jeans!

**The Shower Incident: On the morning I went to the Préfecture to get my residence card, I thought I'd take a shower before eating breakfast so my hair could dry a little before I left. Big mistake. The shower itself was fine but as soon as I got out of the shower, I caught a whiff of something that French Fry didn't like, so it was dry heaves sans respiration for me. Good times. So yeah, breakfast mandatory first thing in the morning.

***When I got home from Paris, Stéph was all, "Okay, you've had your fun, it's time to stop these weekends in Paris for French Fry's sake." What on earth does he think we get up to, anyway? I'm trying to negotiate another weekend next month with my jailer husband, so we'll see. I'm very conscious of the fact that I have six more months to be selfish before it stops being all about me!

Next time: Something (anything!) unrelated to pregnancy.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

French Fry baby pool

Just for fun, I've created an online baby pool for French Fry and you're all invited to participate. Winner gets bragging rights - and maybe a prize, but by the time French Fry gets here I'm not sure I can be held accountable. There is also a permanent link in the sidebar to the left with the game name if you want to check up on the game. Good luck!

PS - Yes, both Stéph and I have guessed the same gender but I swear we have no inside information - it could be a couple of months yet before we know!

on toxoplasmosis

After my last post, I received several comments and emails about toxoplasmosis. I was kind of surprised at first, but then I realized that since I'd wanted to put a lot of info in that post, I didn't really go into details, preferring to let the diary format stand on its own. Now I can see that it seems like I'm still floundering around, wondering what my body is doing/has done.

I've been aware of toxoplasmosis since my first pregnancy, which started last November, thanks to three different pregnancy publications (two in French) and a couple of pregnancy websites (one of which is in French). I found out that I was not immune from my very first blood test and set out to avoid everything under the sun that could potentially harm the baby, from cats to dirt. I find it very strange that I had never contracted it in the first place, since I got my first cat at 14 and had another cat as an adult. One of my favorite sayings of my Grandmother is "Nobody ever got into Heaven without eating a little dirt first" and I reckon I've probably ingested enough in my lifetime to fill a flower pot.

The irony about toxoplasmosis is that if you're not pregnant and contract it, you probably won't even notice it. It only becomes dangerous when you are pregnant, so it's best to avoid cats (and then if you have a cat, it's best to let someone else clean the litter box), shellfish (in order to avoid that one shrimp that was undercooked), unpasteurized cheeses, smoked meats and fish, any meat that hasn't been cooked all the way through, and fruits and veggies that haven't been carefully washed. Of course, some of these are not good during pregnancy anyway. Once you've contracted toxoplasmosis, your body develops antibodies which protect your unborn child - you're considered immune.

Now, whether or not toxoplasmosis caused my miscarriage, well, it's hard to say. I had a blood test two days before I miscarried that said I did not have toxoplasmosis, but the detailed test that was done a couple of months ago confirmed that I caught it before this pregnancy. There is a relatively short amount of time between the time I miscarried and became pregnant again, so who knows?

The good news is that I'm now considered immune and can relax a little bit with the vigilance. I may even partake in a bit of seafood when we get down to Spain, if my Super Pregnancy Sensors indicate that it seems alright (believe me - they are real!). Of course, that doesn't mean that I can indulge in the really good French foods - stinky cheese and foie gras are right out. Guess I'll have to wait for Christmas before I get to taste those delicacies again!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

the first two months

Wow, I am completely overwhelmed by your response, thank you so much for your good wishes! And just to answer Nina's question, yes, we do call him French Fry around the house. I started calling him that immediately and eventually Stéph chimed in as well. It will come in handy in the coming months when we pick a name, as we won't be sharing French Fry's name with friends and family until he's born (and will likely remain French Fry here on the blog!).

Since I couldn't say much about what we were going through, I started keeping a short diary from week to week. In order to better preserve it and to share it as well, here's what the first two months were like:

Week three: Operating on the assumption that my cycle is regular and doesn’t have an extra week (har har), I strongly suspect that I am pregnant. Take the test two days after my “missed period” which results in a farce worthy of a bad sitcom. After seeing a very faint second line, I march into the bedroom where Stéph is still sleeping, turn on the light and ask how many lines he sees. After declaring him blind for only seeing one, he finally grabs the box for the pregnancy test and confirms that he’s not looking for two lines in the test window, but two lines in total. Hilarity and pregnancy ensues.

Week four: Blood test confirms that I’m knocked up.

Week five: My first appt with the Dr. First ultrasound – baby’s in the right place but we can’t hear the heartbeat. Dr suspects that I am not as far along as we think and asks me to come back in ten days for another ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy. Meanwhile, the second blood test comes back positive for toxoplasmosis. Rather – I have the antibodies associated with tp and it seems I had tp recently but before this pregnancy. Second test is ordered for more details.

Week six: Second ultrasound, this time Stéph is with me. We hear the heartbeat for the first time and I nearly burst into tears. Dr confirms what we discussed in last appt that I ovulated a week late, putting me at six instead of seven weeks. Dr wants to see me one more time before we do our declaration, making this pregnancy official. Still waiting for results of detailed tp blood test. Dr suspects that toxoplasmosis caused miscarriage in December.

Week seven: As Stéph says, it’s going better because it’s going worse. Morning sickness is taking the form of making me want to vomit if I don’t eat something every couple of hours. The mornings are perfectly fine, but by late afternoon the nausea starts if I’ve been sitting in front of the computer too long or forget to have a snack. By evening I’m freaking sick of eating and am choking down biscuits (not proper southern biscuits, unfortunately) just before bedtime. Detailed test confirms that tp happened before this pregnancy.

Week nine: Third ultrasound. This time FF is movin’ and shakin’. I think he’s shaking his booty while Stéph says he was waving ‘bonjour!’ Dr gives us the papers for starting our declaration. Later in the week, I swear I hear my breasts scream in pain. Regular monthly blood test comes back positive for tp antibodies again but with “no significant increase.” Still no talk of taking medication*. How did I get tp in the first freaking place, I’d like to know. Bought my first piece of maternity clothes on eBay – a black skirt (though it’s not the first maternity clothes in my possession, as Doc has given me some of hers).

*I had forgotten at the time, but it seems that once you've contracted toxoplasmosis, you're thereafter immune to it, so it's normal that I would still have the antibodies. It wasn't until the secretary reminded me at my last appointment when I asked why I didn't get another perscription for a toxoplasmosis blood test that I remembered.

Next time - month three and where we go from here.

PS - I started the second trimester yesterday. Woo!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

a confession (and an introduction)

The time has come, my dear readers, to make something of a public confession. These last two months I have been keeping a secret from you. This is certainly the hardest secret I've had to keep in my life, but it is neither unusual nor particularly negative in its secrecy. I can only hope that the introduction of a new character here in the DfF world will make up for it.

Ladies and gents, I give you French Fry:

French Fry

French Fry is currently gestating in my lower abdominal region, as he has these last thirteen weeks, and plans are being made for his appearance outside my body sometime in the beginning of November. I should note that while I do refer to French Fry as "he," we don't know yet if he is a He or a She. I just prefer "he" to "it." And while it looks like French Fry is doing the Funky Chicken in his first photo sent out in the world, this is only because he moved around so much during his most recent photo session (yesterday) that this was the best of the lot. A baby that can't sit still? Definitely my kid.

As most of you know of our struggles, you can imagine how thrilled we are! I hope I won't bore you all to tears about our impending parenthood, and if nothing else I can shed some insight into what this process is like in France as opposed to what I remember from the American experience (albeit anecdotal since I never had a child there).

Next time I'll have more about what I've really been doing these last couple of months.

Friday, May 02, 2008

It's May! It's May! The lovely month of May

That's right, it's May, arguably my favorite month of the year. There is a bunch of stuff going on this month, personally and nationally. Such as:

Yesterday was la Fête du travail, or Labor Day. This is the only day of the year that anyone can sell lilies of the valley on the street without paying taxes on them, and while it has often been children or the poor who find the flowers in the forests to sell, loads of people are now in on the act, from charities like the Red Cross to folks with a bit of extra land looking to make a few extra bucks. Labor Day is also traditionally a huge day of manifestations in the larger cities in France, and yesterday saw plenty of folks from labor unions to retired groups taking to the streets. Lots of people faire le pont, or "make the bridge" and take today off, since the holiday took place on a Thursday, resulting in a four day weekend.

Next Thursday is Fête de la Victoire 1945, or WWII Victory Day. Another national holiday, there are usually parades and wreaths laid in front of the memorials found in every town, from the largest metropolitan city to the smallest village, remembering those who died during World War II. Next week, Stéph and a few other teachers that live in Tiny Town will represent the school at the ceremony, and of course I'll be tagging along. Also, the school will be closed next Friday so they can faire le pont as well!

In addition to May being my birthday month (woohoo!!), Stéph and I will be heading off to SPAIN!!! in just a few weeks, where I will be participating in my official capacity of translator (even though most of the people from the other countries speak French but nevermind). I haven't seen the schedule yet but it seems that at least one meeting will take place on the beach. Try not to weep too hard for me and my hardships, friends!

Finally, the whole country is commemorating the huge manifestations that took place forty years ago in France which are simply referred to now as Mai 68. Many Americans will remember that 1968 was a turbulent year, with political assassinations and students protests. This was also true in Europe and especially in France, where student protests often turned violent and at one point the government was on the verge of collapse. When I asked Stéph what finally changed because of Mai 68, he sarcastically said, "nothing." This is the question that many French people are asking themselves this month. In my opinion, since the student protesters of 1968 are the ones running the country today, it seems like they're extra proud of their protests and are patting themselves on the back this month. You can read more about the events of Mai 68 here.