Are You By Any Chance... Related?

So John and I met with a genetic counselor recently to discuss our respective family histories including any incidences of cancer, defects, mental abnormalities due to chromosomal issues, etc. Our lovely counselor was mapping out a chart that looked a lot like a bizarre geometric family tree to establish whether or not there was cause for concern. The conversation when a little something like this:

Me: My dad's mother died from cancer when he was 10.

GC: What kind?

Me: They think it was liver.

GC: Oh, but they don't know?

Me: No, unfortunately not.

GC: How old was she? 30s?

Me: I think so.

GC: And when she died? 30s?

Me: Probably. Oh - and I had an uncle with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

GC: And he died?

Me: Yes, but he was diagnosed at 21 and died at 42 from a heart attack. They think it was from the chemo and radiation... weakened his heart or something.

GC: Okay - so nobody else with cancer?

Me: Actually - yes - but from smoking. Lung cancer - grandmother and grandfather.

GC: Anyone with developmental disabilities or delays?

Me: (to John) Don't you have a relative with Down Syndrome?

John: I think so... an Uncle? (Intentional question mark)

GC: On which side?

John: On my mother's.

GC: So was it on their maternal or paternal side?

John: Good question. To be honest, I'm not sure.

GC: Okay... Is he alive today?

John: I think so. I feel like I would've heard about it if something had happened. I don't know. We're not really close - but then again, I don't exactly have a stellar reputation for keeping in touch with my family in general.

GC: So how old do you think he'd be today?

John: 70s maybe?

GC: Okay.

GC: So other than a bit of cancer that mostly looks like isolated incidents or the result of smoking and the one instance of Down Syndrome, it doesn't really look like there are any issues we need to be overly concerned with. (Pause). Oh - wait... is there a chance that you're related?


Me: Um - highly unlikely. I'm an Ashkenazi Russian, Romanian, Polish Jewish mutt and he's a French/Dutch Protestant or something.

John: (Still laughing). Does that um - come up?

GC: Yes.

John: So you have patients that are related?

GC: Yes. First cousins and the like. Sometimes, I'll be doing a chart, and I'll start to see the husband's and wife's sides converge - and I get an inkling.

Me: Wow. Okay, well, I think that's a non-issue here.

Anyway, in other news, IT'S A GIRL!!!


You Take the Good, You Take the Bad...

I found out I was pregnant on a Monday. 5 days later, my first 'baby' Otto Potato got sick - and not just kind-of sick either... the sick where it was written all over his sweet little face that something was seriously wrong. While I was excited and nervous about the pregnancy, (having gone through a miscarriage about 6 months prior), I was overwhelmed by the notion that I was might have to say goodbye to the pup that literally changed my life. About 11 years earlier, during a time when I was desperate for change, Otto was my catalyst. He instantly became my best friend and would become my Cupid soon thereafter.

I had been ecstatic about the positive pregnancy test - but that was soon overshadowed by the news about Otto, which was completely unexpected and just plain awful. His body was destroying its own red blood cells. The only treatment that had a 50/50% chance of working was a painful and expensive transfusion that would likely only buy him a few days if they couldn't pinpoint an underlying cause. Sadly, they had already searched for tumors and the like and had come up empty, so the idea of subjecting him to even more tests was not attractive. Besides, Otto told us everything we needed to know. He was done. We knew the humane thing to do was to let him go, which we did that same day. I was in shock and bawled on-and-off for about a week, but I felt like something in my body kept reminding me that stress and sadness couldn't possibly be good for the pregnancy - and somehow, I'd manage to pull myself together. Needless to say, it was a strange flurry of emotions - intense happiness and intense sadness all at once. As I write this, I am still conflicted. I immediately well up when I think about him, but have mastered the ability to shut it down just as fast.

John hasn't had it as easy. Otto worshipped him and the feeling was clearly mutual. In fact, the minute Otto met John, (about three months after I brought him home), he climbed up onto his lap and didn't want to get off. That was when I knew John was a keeper. If Otto approved, well... so did I. Like I said, Otto was my Cupid. In fact, John and I met online, where he responded to my headline, "I Have the World's Cutest Pup," which he appropriately and enthusiastically agreed with. Anyway, John didn't have a surge of pregnancy hormones to help combat the sadness that came with Otto's absence like I did. It was hard to see him break down. It still is.

John and I went in for my first ultrasound shortly after we said goodbye to Otto. When they told us that they could see the sac, we were over the moon - but it was too early to detect a heartbeat and they told us to come back in 10 days. Doesn't seem like a long time to most people, but given the fairly recent miscarriage and the loss of a beloved family member, 10 days felt like eternity.

In that time, John came up with a name for the embryo - "The Maybe Baby." I loved it right away because it suggested cautious optimism. We continued to grieve for Otto, but spent inordinate amounts of time doting on Anna, our other adorable pup. At first, we'd been worried that Anna would be depressed without her partner-in-crime. We had never seen Anna sad - not once - and are convinced that she is the happiest pup alive. She exudes joy - so the thought of seeing her despondent for the first time ever petrified us. Thankfully, it didn't happen. A wise friend, (Melissa), suggested that perhaps she knew that Otto was gravely ill even before we did and had already come to terms with it. Who knows? Regardless, we were thankful that his death didn't break her adorable and contagious spirit.

10 days finally passed and we went back in for another ultrasound. I don't know that I've ever been more nervous. Fortunately, they picked up a heartbeat and John and I both cried. I was then about 7 weeks pregnant, still clearly in the "danger zone" for miscarriage, especially due to my prior and my age - so we weren't quite celebratory - but we were ever-so-slightly more optimistic about The Maybe Baby.

Another two weeks passed - slowly but surely. Another ultrasound - another strong heartbeat - and yet another ultrasound just one week later at 10 weeks. (When you're of "Advanced Maternal Age" they monitor you quite closely). John and I kept expecting the heartbeat to disappear, but it didn't. Much to our surprise, The Maybe Baby was thriving. This time, it had teeny tiny little arms and legs that it was waggling about! WHAT?!?!?! It moves?!?!?!? We were in a state of disbelief. Happy, blissful disbelief.

I was told I'd have to wait another 18 days until the next ultrasound, (a new one this time - the Nuchal Translucency test to look for indications of chromosomal abnormalities). Anyway - 18 agonizingly slow days of more waiting! In fact, because my OBGYN was out of the office for about a week, I'd have to wait until the 12 week 3 day mark to finally get the verification that The Maybe Baby had graduated to "The Baby."

Fate intervened however, and since two of my blood tests came back as "inconclusive" and have to be retested, we were fast tracked for the NT scan at 11 weeks and 5 days and all looked good! Yesterday, we had another ultrasound, (also good), and redid the blood tests. I've decided to err on the side of optimism and post this regardless of what those results may show.

And so it goes. You take the good, you take the bad... It's been a rough handful of months, but things are looking up.

P.S. - Yes, the formatting on this blog layout is a mess. I will work on it. Special thanks though to John Fountain, (baby daddy) for the wonderful new cover art.