Post #25: Real-Life Rollercoaster

Millenium Force, Mind Eraser, Shiekra, The Voyage, Thunderhead, Tremors, Ultrasound. All but one of these is not a rollercoaster. And, yet, that one feels more like a rollercoaster than any other thrill ride I have yet to experience... and it’s a terrifying ride.

When I envisioned my ultrasound visits, I pictured limitless smiles and maybe some tears of joy as Kev and I watched our baby move about in my belly. I imagined counting ten little fingers and ten tiny toes and marveling at the flickering heart on the black and white screen. But ultrasounds have turned into one of the least exciting parts to my pregnancy.

It started back at my 20 week appointment in Italy. The exhilaration from learning that we were having a boy was cut short by the sonographer’s mention of “cisti” and “testa” in the same sentence only moments later. Medical lingo is normally beyond my Italian translation, but “cysts” and “head” were not. And in any language, those two words together in reference to your baby are terrifying. It didn’t help when the sonographer shied away from giving me any additional information. I left the appointment with a follow-up ultrasound scheduled in Torino for Friday. Three days seemed like an eternity. Kevin and I braced ourselves for news that we knew we couldn’t even anticipate receiving.

Fortunately, the doctor in Torino had only reassuring news in store. Choroid Plexus Cysts, as they are called, are fluid filled sacs in the head that can be a completely normal part of fetal development. Given the increase of technology available, they are becoming a more common finding, but are really only a concern when found in combination with other anomalies, or “markers”. He said that the isolated cases shouldn’t even be reported to the parents-to-be as they only produce unnecessary stress. And, from the looks of everything else, our baby was looking perfectly healthy. The cysts, he assured, should disappear early in the third trimester.

At my first appointment home from Italy, I was anxious to see if the cysts had in fact been reabsorbed. The good news was that they had. The bad news was that a new one had emerged, this one larger than the last. To get a better analysis of it and so my new doctor could confirm my Italian doctor’s prognosis, I was scheduled for yet another Level 2 ultrasound. We were less than happy about going through the whole thing all over again.   

And so we waited. Finally, the date rolled around for our fourth ultrasound in just over a month. This time, cysts were not a problem. We thought that this was the information we were looking for to find relief. Finally, we could stop worrying. Or so we thought… until a follow-up phone call informed us that I was scheduled for yet another exam, this time at Hartford Hospital. The cysts were no longer the focus of the scan, but the baby’s size was. And so were his heart and kidneys all of which were described as “slightly enlarged”.  Probably nothing, and don’t worry we were told. If only worry was something I could control. Clearly, there is no such thing as passing a test or ultrasound in this pregnancy with flying colors.

And that’s where we are now. 4,000 miles apart and following as best as we can my doctor’s orders of “don’t worry”. Honestly, at this point, I don’t think I have much worry left in my system. It’s been up and down and up and down, and I am ready to get off of the ride. The fact is, we will love this baby no matter what the ultrasounds imply. What do these endless tests accomplish beyond interrupting the normal excitement and anticipation we should be experiencing at this stage of pregnancy?

I haven’t written in a long time. I think a part of me wanted to wait until we knew for sure that everything was fine, or at least until we had a definitive answer about what was going on. But I can’t fast forward my life to the part where we hold our baby boy and learn that, no matter what, we are nothing less than the luckiest people in the world. So I can’t do that in this blog either. I can write, and I can continue dreaming about the wonderful little blessing that waits on the other side of all this worry.  


Post #24: A Week Ago Today

One week ago today, I woke up at 2am to a crying dog at the foot of my bed. I opened my eyes and Dylan’s tail started to wag as if he were pleasantly surprised that I was awake. As if his whining were in no way intended to stir me from sleep. In Italy it was 8am and an hour past his breakfast. He was clearly confused by our transition back to Eastern Standard Time. Afterall we had only just returned the day before…

In my final week in Italy, we were fortunate to share the company of my sister, T. It had been suggested that I might need some help bringing home over 200 pounds of luggage, eighty pounds of dog, and almost six months worth of baby. And she had graciously volunteered for job… a vacation in Italy that would wrap up with escorting Dylan, Baby R, and I back to the US. Her only condition was that she be provided unlimited opportunities to drink wine and eat pizza while there. Not a lot to ask considering I was living the land of wine and pizza.

We started her brief visit with an overnight trip East of the Milan airport. We first stopped in Sirmione, the southernmost town on Lake Garda that is over an hour away by car from the spot on the lake where I’d been in November. It was a foggy day, and because we were so far out of tourist season, the place was nearly deserted. This combination made for an eerily picturesque backdrop to our afternoon of walking along the lake, exploring the castle, and ‘getting lost’ in the town. We found a hot spring along the shore, and had lunch in a bustling little restaurant in a piazza overlooking the castle.

From the lakeside resort, we headed to Verona. Despite having been there before, the sights were just as lovely the second time around. I love ancient Roman ampitheater, the well-preserved collosseum, and the cobblestone walking streets leading through Piazza del Erbe and past some of the best shopping I’ve seen in Italian cities. Though we didn’t  feast on pizza for our first meal, we did share a meal of delicious homemade pasta at an adorable family restaurant near our hotel.

For the remainder of T’s vacation and my own season abroad, we spent time enjoying the simple pleasures of the little Valpe region with the rest of my little family. Apperitivi, pizza, farewell meals with my friends from the last two seasons, and a hike in Angrogna that Kevin and I had found previously and loved for it’s panoramic views of the region’s mountains. And then, just as quickly as T had come, and what felt like days after I’d arrived five months before, it was time to go...

Even a week removed from the chaos of international flight, it’s still difficult to grasp how a nine hour plane ride can bring you, not only back in time, but also into what feels like a world away from where you’ve been. There I was, a wide-eyed American in a small Italian village with a small group of new friends and my own little family of husband and dog. And now, here I am, in my childhood home surrounded by friends and family with Kevin a Skype-date away.  Just like that.