Hello, internet! Here I am, after letting two full weeks go by yet again! Sigh. Feeling much more sprightly and in the mood to write today, though, probably due to having had a headache yesterday, ironically. I get fairly solid headaches, sometimes weekly, sometimes a bit less often, and I usually feel splendiferous the day after them because it doesn’t hurt anymore! Hooray! (Side note: this also always serves as a reminder to me that people with chronic pain or other chronic health situations are actual superheroes, in my opinion. I have a close friend with a chronic pain condition and whenever I recover from a headache, I think good lord, she gets so many fewer days like this and so many more like yesterday and yet she still does so much stuff! Actually, so far this first trimester of pregnancy experience has kind of brought home a similar lesson: is this what it’s like when you just can never count on waking up and feeling good? I mean, I have been blessed with good health in life in general, and apart from the fact that in my 30s I have definitely started to experience various things feeling stiff and sore and creaky – yikes – when I wake up sometimes, I can more or less count on the fact that as long as I am not actively sick, and have gotten more or less enough sleep, when I wake up every morning, I’ll probably feel pretty good. Now I have not woken up feeling good since, like, the end of December, and as you can gather from anything else I’ve written here since, I have found the experience wearing and demoralizing, to say the least. And that’s just barely two measly months! So again: people with chronic pain just going about their daily lives are the true superheroes of this world, in my opinion.)
Okey dokey. That was quite the digression. So, the past two weeks… the first of them, as I mentioned, was my last week working at home during university exam season before starting up the new semester working in person, and so it was spent wrapping up that to-do list I had made in early January (more on that later, perhaps) and featured, most prominently, some pregnancy-related appointments.
First up, a genetic counseling-esque appointment that actually involved no counseling. I managed to get into a study the region is running on NIPT (non-invasive pregnancy testing/free fetal DNA testing, for those of you not currently devouring pregnancy-related literature) whereby I would get it provided for free (instead of privately for 900 euro, so… win!) along with the nuchal translucency testing that is routinely provided for free but is less accurate. I believe the actual of objective of the study is to see if availability of NIPT reduces recourse to the riskier amniocentesis (wow, this is a challenge to spell!). In my case, it does exactly that: I’m 35, so I feel that the level of accuracy of NIPT is good enough for me. Perhaps I’ll feel differently if Bean has a sibling a couple more years down the road, but for now… long live non-invasive procedures that do not risk little Bean’s wellbeing. (Caveat: a bad news results on NIPT might well have altered that mental calculus, but – spoiler alert – as you will see below, that did not become necessary in this particular case.) So, anyway, this was the appointment where I would have the consent form and the study explained to me and the appointments made for the necessary blood tests. What actual happened, was that the consent form was handed to me (comically stapled in the wrong order) already flipped to the signature page.
Now, I had already read about the study online (I specifically researched NIPT and wanted to get into the study before the gynecologist even brought it up), I had already read about the various types of prenatal testing (thank you, Emily Oster), and I took quite a few biology/human genetics/biochemistry courses back in my days as a pre-med, so I was not fazed by the lack of further explanations. However, part of my translation work involves translating medical consent forms and I also used to administer them in the lab where I worked as an undergrad, so I happen to know that… that is not how you administer them. You’re supposed to briefly outline the study, specifically spend time on the possible risks and benefits, and the voluntary nature of participation, and then ask if the subject has any questions. In fact, the part where the physician or whoever else signs usually states something like “I have explained to the subject all of the possible risks and benefits… etc.” So, that was… different. I mean, it’s a fairly low-risk study (physically, it just involves a blood draw that you’d be getting anyway for the nuchal translucency thing that is standard), but still. I feel like they should have spent a little time explaining NIPT and what it can and can’t tell you with what level of accuracy. Or otherwise handed people the translation of an Emily Oster article explaining it, ha. Anyway. The next day involved the related blood test. Went fine, an acceptably efficient interaction with the healthcare system, which is not always the case. However, having to wake up in time for the appointment meant I was exhausted the whole rest of the day. Ho-hum.
Other features of the week included:
- Mid-week breakfast out with two friends (ahhh the beauty of working from home)
- Lunch out with two ex-colleagues (I had a delicious whole-wheat pasta with broccoli, potato, and pine nuts that I really want to try to recreate)
- Coffee with another friend (really leaning into this socializing while I can situation)
- Lots of translating (looking at my time logs, I put in 8 full hours one day, which, I suppose is most people’s regular work day, but is a bit unusual for translating)
- Planning for the first week of classes (*cue ominous music*)
- A lovely evening with the boyfriend (should I start calling him something more permanent? It’s awkward, because we have a plan in place to get married probably spring 2023, but we are not officially engaged in the traditional American sense because there hasn’t been the official ring/question moment… anyway… the fella I live with who is the father of the Bean in my uterus) that involved pizza and watching the seventh Harry Potter movie (we decided to re-watch them all and are sadly nearing the end of that adventure)
- A lunch with my old friends from when I first moved here (during which I told two of them the news; the rest already knew) followed by a dinner with the boyfriend’s old friends (my newer friends) during which we also told them the news… was lovely but exhausting. Note to self: two social things in one day is too many.
- A walk during which I tried a new loop near our new house. I still miss my old loop (it featured in probably 60% of the few times I posted here until about July of last year) but this one shows promise too. This was also the first significant walk since becoming pregnant. I was excruciatingly slow but at least I did it!
- Finally, our anniversary! (Of getting together-ish. We were friends for a long time before being a couple, so choosing a specific date is a bit hazy.) Anyway. This was definitely an expectations vs. reality thing, and no, I am not about to complain about the boyfriend’s anniversary planning skills (which, also… why would only he be responsible for the planning? That has always seemed weird to me). Expectations: we had planned (together!) to book lunch at a restaurant in the hills; have lunch there; then go for a nice walk in the hills. Low-key, but featuring things that we like (walking in the hills and eating good food). Reality: I woke up with a blistering headache that would not let up even with drugs. Drugs controlled it enough to make getting in the car to drive to the hills bearable; the restaurant was not our first choice (fully booked, but we decided the first choice is nicer in summer anyway because you can sit outside); the food was delicious but tragically I felt nauseous the whole time I was eating it; the walk was also nice but somehow the cold made me feel even more nauseous (what? why?) so we didn’t go as far as we had originally planned. Ah, well. Such is life. There’s always next year… with six-month-old Bean in tow?! (Or maybe you get other people to watch your kids for your anniversary? Actually yes, that’s probably it.)
Week 2: First week back teaching in person
Again, cue ominous music. I thought that after a solid two months of winter break + student exam period (which, in this session, meant I had to go in and administer in-person exams a grand total of two times!), I might be feeling well-rested and looking forward seeing the students again. Not so. I mean, I probably would have been if I weren’t pregnant, but as it is, I was ready for a nap one class into the first day (sad, because I had two more classes to go). I mean, to be completely truthful, I was ready for a nap upon arrival in my office: getting up, getting ready, and driving there seemed like enough effort for one day, let alone three classes to teach and a few translations to finish up in between (decidedly unwise not to finish them on Sunday, self).
However, I survived the first day, and curled up on the couch immediately upon getting home. Oh, by the way, this getting home also involved a heroic stop at a bakery to pick up a heart-shaped cake because Valentine’s day! There has been so much variation in life in the time we have been together (one Valentine’s day when we were barely a couple yet; one where we had been together about a year and got each other gifts and everything, one or two during covid, who even knows at this point…) that we haven’t really settled on a rhythm, so I figured a cute (and hopefully delicious) cake was a good middle-ground. Sort of like a gift, but not enough to be awkward if we weren’t on the same page there. It worked out – he picked up dinner on the way home, and brought flowers and a box of chocolates. Note to self: also get him some chocolates or something in the future. There we go. That’s settled. So it was a low-key but very pleasant evening for us.
The next day was slightly less of a shock to the system, aided significantly by the fact that it unexpectedly snowed! Just enough snow to be a fun surprise, and not enough to cause any real problems. And then there were two blessed days working from home, where I got significantly less done than I had hoped (isn’t that always the way), but I did manage to fit in another solid walk, quite a bit of admin, and breakfast with a friend. And, crucially, refilled the old energy reserves somewhat.
Friday was intense, involving driving to where I teach (half an hour west of where I live), then to the town a half an hour in the other direction from where I live for the NT scan, then back to where I teach for a second class, and then home. I then spent two hours on the couch watching Emily in Paris (which annoys the crap out of me but somehow I keep watching it anyway, I think for the glimpses of my beautiful city in the background – I would usually have taken at least one trip there since Christmas to visit my grandmother, and it feels very strange not to anymore now that she’s gone… I think this is the longest I’ve been away in a while, except for the lockdown months), rallied for dinner, and then fell asleep approximately five minutes into the soccer game the boyfriend was watching. (A foot massage was involved, so that certainly didn’t help me stay awake.)
And so here we are… yesterday was a groggy, muscle-crunching, sloshy-stomach, head-vibrating sort of day that finally mercifully ended, and today has dawned brighter but with lots of work leftover from spending yesterday mostly horizontal with the lights off. However, a nice walk to a cafe for breakfast awaits, so I shall sign off here and wish you a good week up ahead, world!