I've Moved!

My new blog is called Reflections from a Global Nomad, in order to acknowledge that we no longer live in Maadi and that we are, in fact, global nomads, not staying in one place longer than two or three years. Please join me at http://DeborahReflections.blogspot.com

Monday, December 28, 2009

Prenatal Visit #1

This morning I had my first official prenatal visit at the health unit. Finally! It's only the third time I've been to the health unit since I knew I was pregnant ... but it seems like things are on track now. The doctors are acknowledging that there's a baby growing inside me, not just a miscarriage waiting to happen. As the doctor said, "You're never completely out of the woods, but getting that heartbeat was HUGE."

If you go by the date of my last normal period (off by a few days based on when I know I ovulated, but the doctor wants to go with it, so okay), I'm around 9 weeks along now. My official due date is 3 August 2010. I guess that means that officially, the baby is gestationally 7 weeks old, since the date of pregnancy is assumed to be two weeks before a woman actually ovulates and becomes pregnant. So, according to my pregnancy book, the baby should be about an inch long now. He or she should have elbow, wrist, and knee joints; fingers and toes; and external ear folds. Primitive neural pathways are forming. It's estimated that one hundred thousand new nerve cells are formed each minute. Wow! That's 100,000 a minute! What a HUGE little miracle God is working inside me!

Now on to the next big milestone ... early screening for potential problems. There are four options: (1) no screening, (2) an early invasive procedure--I forget what it's called--that risks miscarriage but can be done earlier than other screening, (3) amniocentesis, or (4) nucal translucency ultrasound plus blood tests. This ultrasound focuses on whether or not the baby has a nasal bone and on the thickness of the fluid at the back of the baby's neck. Apparently, this information, in conjunction with my blood tests and my age, is a highly accurate predictor of various problems with the baby, including Down's syndrome.

Jeff and I have decided to go with option #4, the only one that provides information about potential problems without increasing the risk of a miscarriage. We'll need to have it done in late January. We aren't at high risk, but the test is available and safe for the baby, so we've decided that we want to know. Many people want to know early so they can abort if there are problems; that isn't an option for us. No matter what, this is our baby, given to us by God, and we'll keep him or her as long as possible. But if there are problems, we'd prefer to have time before the baby arrives to prepare ourselves as much as possible. But of course, we aren't expecting problems--this is a routine screening that's offered to everyone, although the nucal translucency option is a new one. I don't think we would have had any screening done if the only options were the invasive ones that could potentially cause miscarriage.

Anyway, I just wanted to provide a pregnancy update. I'll continue to post updates as the situation warrants. Please continue to keep us in your prayers--as the doctor said, you're never totally out of the woods. We're so happy to know that so far, the baby is doing well and developing normally. We just pray that the baby continues to develop in a normal and healthy way.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


On our way back from Whale Valley, the chitchat was all about our upcoming offroading adventure and sandboarding experiment. We flew down the dirt track until suddenly, the driver swerved off the track and into the desert. The ride was still smooth--so smooth, in fact, that the driver started angling the vehicle to catch a few humps and allow us to feel like it actually was an adventure. Every time we hit a bump, most of us groaned as we jerked unceremoniously into the air. The exception was my mom--she loved it. I'm convinced she encouraged the driver to keep it up, but that's okay.

Before too long, we pulled up in front of a large dune and stopped. The drivers and tour guide got out and took a good long look at it, and a couple of us tourists got out and snapped some pictures. Then the drivers and tour guide all returned to the vehicle, rounding up their errant charges along the way, and we were off again. It wasn't until we stopped again that I realized what was wrong with the first dune--it wasn't large enough!

When we stopped again, we all piled out of the vehicles without waiting for permission. I looked in awe at the huge dune. We were supposed to climb that and then race down it on boards?

I wasn't too sure about that ... but there was no way I was going to not sandboard, either, so I compromised. I grabbed a board and headed up the dune, but I only went halfway up. I looked at those crazy people who were going all the way to the top. I may have muttered something along the lines of "I'd break my neck!"

I wasn't the only one who was hesitant to try full-fledged sandboarding from the get-go. A friend and her husband also went only halfway up, and it turned out to be a very good thing for me. We watched from our perches halfway up the dune as our guide showed those brave souls at the top how it was done. About the only thing we could make out was that you sit in the sand, put your feet in the straps on the board, then stand up and go. So I sat in the sand and tried to put my feet in the straps. Much easier said than done! The slippery board kept sliding away from my feet. Finally, my friend's husband stood in front of me and propped my board up with his foot. After that, getting my feet in was easy. But I quickly realized that I would not be standing up on my own. Luckily, the kind man who had just helped me with the board was willing to help again. Offering his hand, he hauled me to my feet and then prepared to send me on my way down the dune. Much to his surprise, I had developed a case of the jitters and didn't actually let go of his arm. As his wife laughed--and Jeff took pictures from the bottom of the dune--he helped me steady myself and eventually convinced me to let go of him.

I started sliding down the mountain ... and suddenly stopped. The front half of my oh-so-slippery sandboard was buried in the sand! Being unable to bend over to wipe it off without tumbling, I hopped around a bit and tried to lift it out of the sand. I slid a few more inches down the dune. Good enough. I stepped out of the straps, picked up the board, and turned to climb back up the dune, not quite sure what I had done wrong.

I went a little higher this time than I had the last time. I sat back down in the sand and tried--unsuccessfully--to put my feet back in the straps. I had no help this time, as my assistant was busy helping his own wife. About that time, I saw the guide fly past me from the top of the dune on his way to the bottom--and he was lying down on his board this time. Facefirst down the huge dune--I don't think so! He was followed by one of the kids, sitting on her board. Hmm ... now that looked like a position I could get myself into. So I positioned the board on the sand and plopped myself onto it.

As soon as my feet came off the sand and onto the board, I started sliding, faster than I had when I was on my feet. Excited, I leaned forward in an attempt to go even faster. The tip of my board promptly buried itself into the sand. Aha! That was the problem--if the weight is on the back of the board, the tip rises out of the sand; if the weight is redistributed to the front, the tip gets buried and the board comes to an inglorious stop, no matter how steep the dune. Armed with this new knowledge, I tried it again, starting from my highest position yet. It worked much better this time, and I got a good fast ride all the way down to where the dune started leveling out.

About this time, Jeff got tired of taking pictures. He grabbed his own board and started up the dune. After a couple of practice runs from halfway up, it became obvious that he was going to the top. I decided that it was time, and I was going all the way up too.

The going was easy enough for the first half of the dune. Then it got steep, and the sand fell away under my feet, preventing me from making upward progress. I had to use the board as a brace, shoving it into the sand ahead of me, then climbing to it. After several minutes of hard work--how did the others make it look so easy?--I made it to the top. I sat down beside Jeff and rested while he prepared for his run. I looked over my shoulder at the other side of the dune, just inches away from me--it was a vertical drop. I wished I had my camera, but it was at the bottom with Mom, who was happily documenting our adventures. Then Jeff was ready to go, and I cheered for him as I watched his ride.

Finally, I felt ready to make my own run. I carefully positioned myself on the board, making sure to keep as much weight as possible toward the back. I lifted my feet from the sand, and I was off! The board followed a path chosen by the contours of the dune, as I never did figure out how to steer. I looked ahead and saw the young daughter of Jeff's coworker, climbing the dune directly ahead of me. "Look out!" I shouted. "I can't steer this thing!" I'm honestly not sure if she managed to get out of the way or if the dune's contours altered my path or if both factors came into play, but I missed her by a good two feet, much to my relief. She just cackled like a madwoman as I passed her, so I knew she was fine. I sped on down the hill, gradually slowing and stopping at the bottom.

I decided that it was a good run to end on, especially since I was still a little out of breath from the climb. (I didn't know yet that I was pregnant, although I wondered why I was having a more difficult time physically than I expected based on my admittedly not-great physical condition.) I joined Mom and took over some of the responsibility for the pictures, watching as the kids in our group quickly became expert sandboarders. A few of the adults learned quickly as well, but most of the adults ended up coming down the same way I did--sitting on the board.

As the sun made its way toward the horizon, we realized that we were still many kilometers from Cairo. Because we were supposed to be back before dark--a goal we already knew we would miss--we decided to head back. Happy, exhausted, and incredibly sandy, we climbed back into the vehicles, wondering whether we'd find the opportunity again to participate in this fun, surprisingly painless (even when falling) sport.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

This won't be a long post--it will quite possibly be the shortest post ever--but I do want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Jeff and I are enjoying a lazy day at home. I hope that whatever you're doing today, you're having a wonderful and blessed time on this day when we celebrate the ultimate gift.

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" Luke 2:11

Sunday, December 20, 2009


We have one! I saw the flutter myself on the ultrasound. Hamdulilah, praise Jesus!

Now for the saga of the ultrasound ...

When I made this appointment two weeks ago, the saga showed signs of being more complicated than necessary. In the States, you'd call the doctor, make your appointment, show up, maybe wait a while, have the procedure, and then your various doctors would coordinate amongst themselves so the report ended up where it needed to be. No real surprises.

Not so in Egypt.

First, the health unit people called the local doctor. She told them to call someone named Magda. They tried to reach Magda, to no avail. Eventually they reached Magda. Magda said that the appointment had to wait for two weeks, until I was seven weeks along, and two weeks was too far out to make the appointment.

I like making appointments early.

I called the clinic myself, with the blessing of the health unit people. The operator told me to call back two days later, between certain hours, when Magda would be working. I called back during the set time. Magda wasn't working. I was to call back the next morning at 7:30 a.m. I got frustrated with the incorrect information I had been given previously and tried to clarify whether the information I was getting that time was correct or not. Apparently the operator's English wasn't good enough to deal with the non-Egyptian trait of not accepting what you're told and hoping, insha'allah, that the information is correct this time. I got even more frustrated and hung up.

I called the next morning at 7:30 a.m. Lo and behold, Magda was there! We spoke. I explained the situation and told her that even though I couldn't come in for another couple of weeks, I wanted to make the appointment. She agreed, and we made the appointment. I made it clear that I needed an intravaginal ultrasound, and I needed to take the report with me so I could give it to my embassy doctors. She agreed; there would be no problem.

Fast forward to today. Jeff and I showed up shortly before 9, the time set for our appointment. The receptionist obviously had no idea why we were there. I told him I had made an appointment with Magda. He told us to sit down. A few minutes later, he called us back over and told us that Magda was on the phone, which he handed to me. Magda didn't seem to remember me at first. Then she suddenly asked, "Are you pregnant?" When I answered affirmatively, it was like something clicked in her mind. She said, "Ok, you should sit down and wait. I'll tell them what you're going to have done." I handed the phone back to the receptionist, and Jeff and I sat back down.

A few minutes later, the receptionist called us back over. He told us to go to the cashier downstairs and pay LE100, then go to a different reception area and tell them that we were there for an ultrasound with a specific doctor. So that's what we did.

We were told to wait in the other reception area, which we did for a few minutes. Then the receptionist there came over to me and started speaking in Arabic. I looked at her blankly and said, "Ana mish fahma. Arabi schwayya-schwayya." ("I don't understand. Arabic little-little.") So she motioned me to follow her and led me to the other receptionist in that area. This one told me in English that the doctor I was supposed to see was running very late today, and instead I was to see Dr. Mohammed Someone-or-another. I told her I was supposed to get an intravaginal ultrasound. She agreed and said that Dr. Mohammed would do it. I declined. I told her I needed a woman doctor. Even in the States I have not yet been forced to endure a pelvic exam from a male doctor, and there's no way I will allow it with a male Egyptian doctor, not with the stories I've heard of doctors who apparently ask women to disrobe for no reason other than to see if they will.

Completely unsurprised, the receptionist told me to wait a moment, and she made a phone call. She then told me to go back to the first reception area and wait for Dr. Laila. So we went back and made sure the original receptionist knew we were back. He told us to go to a third reception area and wait for Magda. On the way, we had to pass by the second reception area. The English-speaking receptionist there stopped us and told us to go back to the first area. We explained what the receptionist there had told us. She shook her head, told us to wait, and picked up the phone. After a brief conversation, she told us to go back to the first area.

Back in the first area, the receptionist motioned us to go into a separate area that seems to be reserved for those who have paid. After a short while, we were called in to the ultrasound room. The technician/doctor/whatever she was took the basic information that all doctors apparently want when you're pregnant, then asked if I was still taking a medication that I'd been prescribed previously. I said no, because my research had shown that it was not appropriate for pregnant women. She told me to go back on it in order to avoid a miscarriage. I said okay, mainly to acknowledge that I'd heard her, because I will not go back on it unless my embassy doctor tells me to ... and even then I'd probably want to do more research on my own first. She asked if I was taking prenatal vitamins, then told me to only take them for the first trimester. (Somehow I think I'll be taking them longer than that.) All in all, this woman wasn't really acknowledging that she isn't my primary physician.

Finally, though, we got around to the reason I was there--the ultrasound. She turned the screen so I could see it. She pointed out the gestational sac, which I'd seen on the previous ultrasound (unbeknownst to her, because it was at a local hospital, not the clinic). She showed me the embryo--the baby. She pointed out the fluttering, which is the developing heartbeat. At one point, she had to explain why I suddenly saw two embryos where previously there was only one; apparently it's normal to get echoes. She measured, and I don't remember the size, but she said that the size was consistent with a mom who's 8 weeks along. She said that everything looked normal and good, and the baby appears healthy. At this point, I readily forgave any and all inconveniences that had occurred while making the appointment or earlier this morning.

Afterward, she wanted me to meet with a specific doctor. My choices were to wait today for "one or two hours," most likely meaning three or four hours, or to come back "tomorrow or after tomorrow," when there would be clinic hours. "Clinic" means I come and sit in the waiting room for who knows how long until the doctor gets to me. Um, no, thanks. I've got better things to do and more comfortable places to sit. So I just asked for the report so I could take it back to my doctors at the embassy.

This is the point where my temper almost made an appearance. She said no. I couldn't have the report. What they had done today was for their records. It didn't matter what Magda had said when I made the appointment (which Magda had apparently not actually made anyway, reviving all the frustrations of the morning). If I wanted a report for another doctor, I'd have to talk to the doctor here and ask for it. It wouldn't be a problem to get it, but I'd have to spend untold hours waiting for the opportunity to ask for it. I was furious a little upset to hear this news. But with a heroic effort I easily contained my anger, held onto my temper, and calmly announced that I would not see the doctor today.

My husband and I calmly left the clinic. Once outside, we agreed that, as soon as I got home, I would call the health unit and let them deal with this nonsense. Meanwhile, Jeff announced that unless it is absolutely necessary, we will not be returning to this clinic. I fervently agreed with that judgment.

To make the rest of the story short, the health unit people did their thing. The report will be picked up tomorrow, and I won't even have to pick it up. I will never have to deal with this clinic again.

Still ... they made it possible to see my baby for the first time. And there was a heartbeat. So even though I'm glad not to have to deal any more with their inefficiencies and absurdities, I guess they're not all that bad.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Loosely Held

We see it all the time with kids. They have something, and they want to keep it. We want to take it away for one reason or another--maybe it's dangerous, maybe they just took it from another child, maybe it's simply time to put the toys away and go to bed. So the child hangs on for dear life, gripping it tightly, curling his body around it, fighting tooth and nail to keep it. I saw it at least once every time I visited the orphanage. Most of the kids did it at one point or another. It always reminded me of that Charlton Heston quote, when he said that the government could take away his gun when they pried it from his "cold, dead hands." That's the attitude you see in children--you can take this toy away from me when you pry it from my cold, dead hands, because I'm not letting go of it while I still have breath and energy to fight.

Adults often have that attitude too. Sometimes it's appropriate. As a conservative, as a gun-owner, as someone who believes that the right to keep and bear arms is what keeps our other rights from slipping through our fingers, I agree with Charlton Heston's attitude. But this isn't a political post, so I won't say more about that. When you're protecting your child or fighting for justice, it's perfectly appropriate to fight tooth and nail, to never let go, to not give up. Sometimes the right thing to do is to grab hold, grip tightly, and fight to keep it.

But sometimes it isn't.

John, one of the first children I met at Mother Teresa's, had a game that he liked to play. He'd walk up to me and hand me whatever toy he had been playing with. He'd hand it over without hesitation, without being asked. Because he knew what was coming. Every time he gave me a toy, I gave John my biggest, brightest smile, and I would say "Shukran, ya John!" ("Thank you, John!") Delight filled my face and my voice as I commended him for sharing with me. His little face would light up with sheer joy. Often he'd laugh. He 'd just stand there and delight in being delighted in. Then, usually but not always, I'd give the toy back to him. He'd wander off, then come back and do it all over again a few minutes later.

A few times, when John handed me a toy, I didn't hand it back. I always smiled and commended him, but sometimes while I was doing that, whatever child was in my lap would pluck the toy from my hand, or it would be time to put the toys away, so I'd put it in the toy box. John never protested when he didn't get the toy back. But if I did give him the toy back, and then another child plucked it from his hand, he would weep and wail and hit and do everything in his power to get it back. If I had to take a toy away from him--one that he had not given me--he tried desperately to keep it. It was only when he'd given it to me freely, and then I chose not to give it back, that he didn't mind the loss. Once he made the choice to give me the toy, he was at peace with whatever I decided to do with it.

I've been thinking a lot lately about John. I think I'm a lot like him, in both good ways and bad ways.

You see, I was an authority figure to John. It shouldn't have mattered if he volunteered to give me a toy or if I told him to; he should have been okay with obedience in either case. I know that's a lot to expect from a one-year-old, too much to expect, but ideally, that would have been the case. But how different am I? During this pregnancy, I've been forced to contemplate the fact that the ultimate Authority--God--may choose to take this baby away from me. I should be okay with that. After all, I know that God wants the best for us, that He loves this baby even more than I do, and that there is no better place for any of us than in Heaven by His side, which is where this baby will go if God takes him or her away from me. But I'm often not okay with that. I weep and wail, internally, if not externally. I vow to do everything in my power to keep this baby--which admittedly isn't much. I rebel against His authority and demand that He do things my way.

But there is another way, a better way. I can give this baby to God, just as John gave his toy to me. When I'm able to do that, to truly give this child up, I feel a peace that can only come from God. I can put this child in God's hands and trust that God will do what is best, whether that means letting me have this baby or not. And I can be content with that. Don't get me wrong; there is still a deep sadness at the thought of losing my child. But there's also peace. There's a confidence--a rock-hard certainty deep in my soul--that if my baby dies, God is still good and God is still in control and, as a kind soul recently reminded me, God still works all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

So just like John, I have a choice.

I can hold on tightly and fight to not let go. My life can be a struggle to keep what's mine. Even if this baby survives to be born, I can worry all the days of my life about what's going to happen to this child, and if the child lives, I can teach the child to live a life of fear, anxiety, and struggle.

Or I can go to One who is bigger and stronger than I am, and I can say, "Here You go. I trust You. Do what's best." And then I can lift this baby up to Him, loosely held, ready to let go, ready to let God be sovereign. I can have peace, no matter what happens. I can delight in my God and know that He delights in receiving my trust. And if this child lives, I can teach the child to live a life of trust, joy, and peace.

The choice is mine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Trip to the Desert

My mom came to visit me just a few weeks ago, and while she was here, we did tons of shopping and sightseeing. Most of the places we went, I'd already been. I may do some blogging about those trips later on, but today I want to tell you about an expedition to a place I hadn't seen before: Whale Valley.

A couple of friends had taken a tour into the desert with Desert Adventures. They really enjoyed it and decided to organize a group trip to Wadi al-Hitan, or Whale Valley. It ended up being a pretty big group of us who went, including 12 adults and 5 children, if I'm counting correctly. Oh, and don't forget the dog. Cute little thing, isn't he?

So it was a pretty large group, which I think just added to the fun. Most of us met up with our tour guide and drivers in Maadi shortly after 7a.m. Then we went to Zamalek to pick up the rest of our group. Then we were on our way into the Sahara Desert. We traveled for around 130 km, or around 80 miles. On the way, we passed a huge "city" that appeared very well-kept and totally empty. Our driver told us that it was the burial area for all of Giza. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a picture. It was amazing--it just stretched for miles, block after block of mausoleums in the desert.

After driving through the desert for quite a while, we made it to Fayoum Oasis. This area was beautiful. It contained lush green grass, picturesque canals, a huge lake--it even smelled like the sea. Again, though, I wasn't able to get pictures. Our driver was on a schedule, trying to get us to our destination with plenty of time there and back to Cairo by dusk. He was flying. I barely had time to point my camera before we were gone; there was no time to actually take the picture.

Not too far outside of Fayoum, we came to another area where there were two large lakes. The literature provided by our driver indicated that the lakes were artificially created by agricultural runoff from the nearby oasis. However the lakes were created, they were beautiful, and we stopped to get some pictures.

Shortly after our picture stop, we left the paved road behind. The last leg of the trip to Wadi el-Hitan was on a dirt road through barren desert. The road was flanked with signs cautioning everyone to "Stay On Track." For now, we obeyed the signs.

Once we arrived at Wadi el-Hitan, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were in fact real bathrooms. Granted, there was no toilet paper, but we had been warned to bring our own, so that was no big deal. They even came complete with signs by the sink: "Water drop equals life. Conserve it." Very appropriate in this desert land.

After stopped at the restrooms, we took off up the trail to see the whale bones. After all, that was the point of the whole trip, right? Whale Valley is a protected site because of the fossils of ancient whales, which must be truly fascinating to see.

Okay, maybe not so much fascinating, those whale bones. However, there was still plenty to see. The rock formations were much more spectacular and beautiful. Take a look at some of those.

After a nice long hike, we enjoyed lunch in the picnic area before heading back to Cairo. W still had one more adventure: sandboarding. But I think that may be a post all its own.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Malya's Laughter

This Thanksgiving, Jeff and I again participated in his stepfather's family tradition--the annual Christmas Ornament Competition. This year I won't go into detail about all of the ornaments, but I would like to share mine.

My ornament this year was inspired by my weekly visits to Mother Teresa's orphanage and daycare. As I've said before, Mother Teresa's is located in Medinaat ez-Zabbaleen (City of the Garbage Collectors, usually shortened to Garbage City by English-speakers). Because the residents of this area are so poor, many of them are in great need of daycare centers or preschools where their very young children can stay while Mom and Dad both work. Mother Teresa's provides such a center, as well as functioning as an orphanage for abandoned children. Beginning last spring, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Mother Teresa's once a week until recently. (My pregnancy-weakened immune system, combined with the children's habits of rough play that include bouncing into my abdomen and occasionally hitting it, caused my husband and me to decide that it was best for our own child if I forgo my visits.)

Not long after I started visiting Mother Teresa's, I met Malya. This little girl is probably around a year old, and she stands out at the orphanage for two reasons: (1) Her face is just so incredibly beautiful, sweet, and innocent; and (2) she doesn't play like the other children do. She tends to just sit or stand where she's placed, even though she's capable of walking and running. She doesn't usually play with toys, although she'll occasionally hold one if it's handed to her. Her favorite activity seems to be sitting quietly in an adult's lap or--better yet--sprawling across an adult's chest and shoulder, lying quietly as if she's going to sleep, although her eyes stay wide open. If she's in a lap and other children try to join her, jostling her or making too much noise, she simply climbs out of the lap and walks a short distance away, where she sits or stands and looks mournfully at the commotion surrounding her previously peaceful refuge. She appears healthy, and she eats well, but she remains aloof from the other children, rarely smiles, and in general makes me worry about her.

One morning when I was at the orphanage, I was sitting with my legs stretched out in front of me. I had two children sitting on my legs, which I was bouncing up and down, much to the delight of the kids. My hair was pulled back into a low ponytail. Suddenly I felt someone behind me, pulling said ponytail. I tried to reach behind me to free myself, but it was difficult because of the kids in my lap and the fact that they were hanging onto my hands so they didn't fall off of my bouncy legs. I couldn't even turn my head to see who it was without my hair being pulled harder. I looked to one of the workers for help, but she didn't notice--she was too busy staring open-mouthed at the child behind me, who had started to emit loud, delighted peals of laughter as she shook my hair the way a child would shake the reins of a toy horse. During this process, her grip loosened enough for me to turn and see what was happening behind me.

It was Malya. She stood there behind me, laughing, shaking my hair. She even did a little dance, bouncing up and down herself in time to the rhythm she created with my hair. I was stunned. I just sat there for a moment, laughing with her as she pulled my hair out of my head. By then, the kids in my lap had abandoned me, since I wasn't bouncing them anymore, so I turned and pulled Malya into my arms. She just kept laughing, and I laughed with her.

My ornament this year made me think of that event. I chose this ornament to commemorate my trips to the orphanage, the relationships I developed with the children--with Malya, Mary, Najar, Julia, Nabil, Phoebe, John, and so many others--and most of all, to commemorate Malya's laughter.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Big News

So much has been going on that's prevented me from writing anything here for a while. First I was sick and didn't feel like doing much of anything. Then I was getting ready for Mom's visit, and then she was here (more on her visit in later posts, I hope). Right after she left, I was very busy getting the apartment ready for a newcomer whom Jeff and I are sponsoring. The day the newcomer arrived, I got my Big News, and since then things have just been a little crazy.

Most of you reading this probably already know my big news, but there are a few who don't know yet. Here goes ... I'm pregnant. Jeff and I are expecting our first child in early August 2010.

Of course we're excited. We've wanted a baby for a while, and we're as ready as a couple can be to become parents. But mixed in with the joy and anticipation is a significant dose of anxiety, even fear, for our baby. You see, in the week before I actually took the pregnancy test, I was spotting every single day. I had very painful cramping on the left side of my lower abdomen on four or five occasions. I didn't think anything of these symptoms before I knew I was pregnant; my menstrual cycle has always been weird, and my body occasionally experiences all sorts of aches and pains for no apparent reason. But once I knew I was pregnant, I realized that my symptoms were spot on for an ectopic pregnancy--a pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, the baby can't survive, and if the baby isn't removed, the mother could die too. So I became very worried very quickly.

I went to see a doctor at the embassy's health unit, and although he tried to be reassuring, it was pretty obvious that he didn't think my baby would survive. To make a long story short--I wrote another post as it was happening that contains all the details; I may or may not publish it some other time--I ended up having an ultrasound on Tuesday to see exactly where my baby is. Jeff and I both grinned like idiots when we saw the gestational sac firmly implanted in the uterine wall, exactly where it ought to be. It's still too early to see the baby him- or herself or to detect the heartbeat, but our major fear was eliminated. As I had been instructed, I called the health unit to schedule another appointment--my first official prenatal visit (or so I thought). I made the appointment for this morning.

Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from the doctor I was to see this morning. She just wanted to check on me and confirm that the ultrasound looked good. But the tone of the conversation changed when she found out that I had come home from the ultrasound only to discover more spotting. Then she started talking about how 20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and it isn't the mother's fault; there are just problems with the embryo, and it can't survive. She seemed to want me to be prepared for a miscarriage while also pretending that she wasn't expecting one (I think she is expecting one).

Over the next couple of days, I vacillated between being at peace and being anxiety-ridden. At times, I was able to acknowledge that God is in control, and He will do what is best for my baby, my husband, and myself--if this pregnancy ends in miscarriage, my baby will be waiting for me in heaven. At other times, I just begged God to let me have this child.

For my appointment this morning, I was at peace. It turns out that it's a very good thing I was at peace and accepting of the situation this morning. My doctor still acts like she thinks my baby is going to die. She won't do the first official prenatal visit until after my next ultrasound, in two weeks, when we should be able to see the fetal pole and the fluttering that indicates a heartbeat. In the meantime, she offered (and I accepted) a series of blood tests that will tell us if my pregnancy hormone levels are increasing like they should be--they were at 12482 on Tuesday, and they should roughly double by tonight, when my blood will be drawn again. But she was careful to tell me that if there's a problem with the embryo itself, my hormone levels will behave normally. She seems to want that heartbeat before she accepts that I may actually have a viable baby-to-be in there.

So I'm back to waiting. I'm still at peace, though I expect to struggle with that at times. I do believe that this baby is going to develop normally and that in early August I will hold a healthy baby in my arms. If God has other plans, I will grieve for my lost child. In the meantime, I'm trusting God and praying.

My next ultrasound is scheduled for Sunday, 20 December. I'll keep you updated.