Monday, August 24, 2015

It's a .......!!!

Before the gender reveal...
A very BIG
I can't say it enough.  Last week, at this exact time, I was just beginning to start pouring my heart out, and tell our story.  All of the sweet, heartfelt words that were sent our way were so beautiful.  I was so touched, and had tears in my eyes as I read each of them.  It was so therapeutic to sit and type the night (and morning) away and feel complete peace.  It was healing to relive the past months and allow myself to feel everything, and be so honest and open.  I truly thank you for all of the well wishes, compassion, and love.  I'm very, very grateful I have this outlet to let it all out and express myself.
Thank you.  All of you.  It means so much.
I don't need many words for the gender reveal.  I will just tell a quick story about the four photos below.  On the day we got the news, Steve, as I mentioned in my last post, found out the gender when the doctor called him.  He came home from work that day and surprised us girls. 
He and I had discussed how he could reveal it!   One day I sent him a text - "Since Piper is so obsessed with "surprise eggs" (surprise egg - basically any plastic, piece of crap, egg filled with any small piece of crap toy) and My Little Ponies, why don't you fill it with a blue or pink pony, and let her open it!"  He sent a text back saying he was thinking the same exact thing! 
So, that was nice and simple.
Once he got the egg filled (he also added some colored gems and candy), he called us down.  Piper and I sat in the same exact spot that Steve and I sat in, the night we opened up our card, revealing that we were having a girl (Pippy)!
I was shaking and felt extreme deja vu.  I was giddy, full of nervous laughter.
I truly had no preference on the gender, whatsoever.  With everything we had just been through, and been through in the past, it was hard to feel like I really wanted a certain gender.  As cliché as it sounds, all that mattered was that the baby was healthy.  The first week I found out I was pregnant, I was certain the baby was a boy.  But it only took a week to switch to GIRL!  Certain, I was.  Just as I was when I was sure Piper was a boy.
Anyway, I won't type much longer.
Here is Piper opening the egg.  (Our easy-to-see reveal photos are just below this one).
If you have great eyes, you'll notice the color of the pony.
I was shocked as soon as I saw that pony fall out of the tissue paper. 
Beautiful shock.
We told Piper over and over that she was going to be a big sister to a baby ___ and I screamed Steve's name and laugh-cried so hard.
(Video to come soon - it's still on Steve's phone)


A sweet baby boy!!
Tearing up as I type that.

My mom took these photos for us at the park, yesterday.
We couldn't have asked for better weather.  It was so nice to not be sweating like crazy.
Piper was great, funny, and quite the diva, requesting breaks for Reeses Pieces and sips of water.

A boy!  A boy!  A boy!

We can't wait to see Piper with her baby brother!! 

Feeling very blessed.
I'll be posting more soon.
Thank you again.
Lots and lots of love.

Baby Lovin',

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Next Chapter

Okay, it's way more like a short novel than a chapter...

I've used this song in one very significant post I wrote years ago...

"Say" - John Mayer

I'm just gonna "say what I need to say"...

Hi.  It's been a long, long time since I've sat down and given this blog some attention.
I've been itching like no other to write this post.
Until 11 days ago, I had no idea which way this post would go. 
Would it kill me to write it, as I wiped the saddest of tears from my eyes?
Or would it bring me complete joy and contentedness as I let grateful tears run down my face?

I'm so overjoyed that the tears tonight are, and will be grateful ones.
They're more than grateful. 
Tonight, I finally feel I can take some quiet time and truly relive the past two months.

Sometimes, reliving moments, months, and past years in your life is so exhausting.  So much, that it feels like it takes the very life out of you.  Other times, it's therapeutic.
I need this happy therapy tonight.

The past months (basically, this entire summer) really threw us for the surprise(s) of our lives.

With that being said, I'm just going to jump right into our story (after a little preface).

If you haven't read this blog before, here's a little bit on the past five + years - just the facts, because the emotions would take days to write about...

In the fall of October 2009, my husband, Steve, and I began trying for a family.
I found out I was pregnant within two months.  I miscarried early on in December 2009.  Again in the spring of 2010.  And again in September 2010.  It was then that my doctor recommended we see a reproductive endocrinologist.  The appointment was made immediately and testing on both my husband and myself began.  We found out in November 2010 that Steve has a balanced chromosomal inversion on chromosome four.  It's complicated and very rare - a link on some info on it HERE
Our doctor suggested with our drive to keep going, that we continue to try a bit longer.  I was given Clomid (a medication to give me a higher chance of producing more eggs).  The next month, in December 2010, I was pregnant for a fourth time, but miscarried.  We met with a geneticist who gave us his opinions on it all.  He suggested using a sperm donor.  We decided to continue with the Clomid and began IUIs to increase our odds.  I was pregnant again in February 2011 and miscarried.
We continued with IUIs until the summer, and after not falling pregnant again, we decided to take it easy and still try without the doctor through the summertime.  In September 2011, we told ourselves if we weren't pregnant by the next cycle, that it was time to close that chapter.  And when I got my period in October, we did just that.  We took a few months, enjoyed the holidays, and in February 2012, we began our journey using donor sperm.  I went in for blood work during my period the following month and to our surprise, my period was really an early miscarriage (as hcg - the pregnancy hormone - showed up in my blood work).  Of course we were surprised, as of all times I get pregnant with Steve, it was when we were more than ready to get pregnant with the donor sperm.  I had to wait another month, and in May 2012 I had my first IUI with donor sperm.  I found out I was pregnant two weeks later.  I miscarried for my seventh and last time, two weeks later (my doctor deemed it as a complete case of bad luck).  The next month, I had another IUI using the same donor sperm, and in July I found out I was pregnant for an eighth time.  Our daughter, Piper, was born on April 1st, 2013.  We knew, without an ounce of doubt, that when we were ready to try for a second child, we would use the same donor sperm and see our fertility doctor for IUI(s) and monitoring.
We planned on beginning to try with the sperm we have in storage, around this time, next year, by the end of summer/beginning of fall 2016, when Piper was a little over three.

Okay, now that I stated some facts.

The next fact.  (That most of you know, as we made the announcement last Wednesday night.)

I'm pregnant.  Right around 14 weeks pregnant.

And with this picture, I'll truly begin this story.

(If you're uneasy about TMI (too much information), a few (or maybe more than a few) curse words, and even more TMI, now's when you might not want to read any further.)
It's been quite some time, but I like to keep it real.  Especially when it's something that's so close to my heart. 

The day it all began - June 15, 2016.

We had just returned from our vacation with friends, on June 11th.
We were happy and refreshed, and ready for a step we talked about right after Piper was born.

Steve had a vasectomy scheduled for the day after vacation, on June 12th.

We had a consultation at the end of April with a urologist. Piper joined us.  The first question the nurse asks, after she tells us that it is very rarely reversible -  "Are you still sure this is for you guys, and how many children do you have?"
Steve replied "Yes. We're sure.  None."
The nurse gave us a laugh and look, like "Um, I can see your daughter sitting on your lap, guys!" 
We explained the donor situation and our future plans, and shortly after, we were watching a very, very bad 80's video on the process of a vasectomy (Piper watched Mother Goose Club on YouTube), and signing papers for the procedure in the next month and a half.

Our consultation...

As I mentioned above, it was a decision we made even before Piper was born.
And then she was born, and there was no question.  She is our dreams come true.
The love we have for her is infinite, and the fact that she "isn't Steve's" biologically, has no baring whatsoever on the immense love we have for our Pippy.

I had a consultation with my ob last year, and she suggested Steve get one within the next year.
So we could fully enjoy our sex life, and not worry about getting pregnant.  Because, as it can be read above, Steve and I just "didn't mix well" and his inversion could, and very likely would cause me to miscarry, or carry a very unhealthy child, that may or may not make it to birth.

After seven miscarriages, I could and can say seven is enough. 
I have never been on the birth control pill, and my doctor strongly urged me to not go on it, since I've made it this far in my life without going on it.  She asked me about our form of protection and we both laughed like hell as we shared stories of being a new mom.  "I'll type somewhat abstinence down here," she said, as we both laughed again at what it's like to be a new mom - sharing stories of that first year of plenty of exhausting nights, and very few of hot, passionate love making (I promise I don't call it that). Sex.  Sex.  Sex.  Now of course, Steve and I have sex (Ohhh, I just told you my husband and I have sex :))  But if I'm being honest (and I have and want to be honest - it's a part of our story), our sex life is all or nothing.  A whole week of WOAH, or a whole two weeks (or more, sorry, hunny) of "I'm tired.  My back hurts.  I feel like a crusty, five-headed monster, who hasn't shaved in 798 years."
We don't use condoms. (They don't agree with me.  Promise it isn't an excuse.)  But, we do use a method.  Look, I can type "sex" a gazillion times and have written a whole post before on cervical mucus in the past, but I won't write the slang term for our method.  You guys aren't stupid.  You know what I'm tryin' to say here.  So, we've used that method for a very, very long time.  It's been "good to us," you could say.

Okay...moving a little forward...

Just a few pictures from our vacation (as one day I'll dedicate a post to it)...

So, Steve has his vasectomy bright and early on Friday, June 12th.  Piper and I dropped him off and went to Target.  Before we even had two My Little Pony "blind bags" and a bunch of clearance crap in our cart, I got a call from Steve saying he was all done.  Woah.  That was lightening fast.   Like, he's truly spent more time in the bathroom than what it took for them to "snip snip snip" and be done.
The weekend was a pretty uneventful few days of Piper and I hanging out, and delivering lots of bags of frozen vegetables to DaDa.  He did make it out for some pizza with Dee Dee, Pips, and I, and grilled Sunday night. 

On Monday, June 15th, Steve returned to work.
I woke up (after he left) to the sound of Piper calling "Mama" through the monitor.
My feet touched the ground as I made it to the bathroom.  I was only three or four steps in, when I instantly felt an all too familiar feeling.  I felt like I was going to puke.  I felt light and a bit dizzy. 
 I felt pregnant.  I can't explain what went through my head in that half a second, but it wasn't good, and it was scary.  It was like I already knew.  And yet, I had not even a quarter of an ounce of a thought that I could have been in the previous weeks. 
Months before vacation, I mentioned to my friend, Kim, (we vacationed with her and her family) that most likely my period would be coming by the middle or end of our trip.
By day three of vacation I was pretty crampy, and kept telling her "It just needs to get here!"  Not in any way thinking I was pregnant.  Just annoyed that I kept feeling and preparing for it to arrive, without it showing up.  It didn't show up at all during vacation and I thought nothing of it, but chalked it up to working out a lot the month and a half before and losing a few pounds.  My period has always come a little late or early when I switched things up.
I was so busy tending to Steve's swollen you-know-whats over the weekend, that I didn't even think about how my period hadn't come.
But when I dug through my bathroom cabinet to see if I had any straggler pregnancy tests, I was thinking loud and clear "Shit!! My period still isn't here.  I have to be close to a week late!" 
I found a test.  I stuck it between my hip and pants and went to get Piper.
I said "Good morning, Piper!  How did you sleep?  What are we going to have for breakfast?" like I always do as we walked down the steps.  My knees were buckling.  I was shaking.  I almost felt like I could collapse.  I got her in her booster seat.  Found a good episode of Handy Manny (one of her favorites on "Net-fix," put her milk, cereal, and fruit in front of her, and told her Mama was gonna go use the potty. 
Can I just take a second and say that as I'm typing this, my heart is pounding as it did in that moment.  And I'm typing about 500 words a minute.
Ok, so Piper's happy.  I go into the powder room.  I rip open the test.  I begin to pee.  Pee splashing everywhere.  Shoot.  Okay, Shit!  This is nothing like all the other 8,442,234 tests I've used in the past.  Maria, you need something to pee into and then dip the stick in.  I bend down and reach into the cabinet, and find a 97% used dollar store candle votive.  Yes, you know it...I peed in it.
I dip the stick in.  The pee starts moving across the testing strip.  The line that should be any shade of blue indicating a positive, might as well be black.  I kinda remember hyperventilating.  And saying "OHMYGOSH, NO, WHAT, NO, NO, NO, WHAT?!" for at least thirty seconds.

The only time I saw a nice, super duper dark line, indicating LOTS of hcg in my system was with Piper.  Or when I was pretty far along.
I go out to check on Piper.  I look like a maniac.  I'm crying.  I'm sure my eye makeup, that I never washed off from the night before, was running all over my face and neck.  Piper looked at me and giggled - "Mama's funny!  Mama's funny!"
She had no idea the state her mama was in, thankfully. 
"Happy Monday, Instagram!"
Yeah, not so happy.

"Mama's gonna call DaDa, Piper.  I'll be be right back. 
I know the only way I'll get Steve is if I call his work line.
Dialing.  Ringing...
"Hello, name of his company, Steve speaking - How may I help you?"
"STEVE!!!  STEVE!!!  I'M &*#&*$*(@$(&$(&&&* PREGNANT!!!  I'm sending you a picture."
Shrieking.  Loud shrieking and crying that sounds like a pack of wild turkeys being stabbed with 539 knives."
And then I hung up.  Collected myself.  Kinda.  And sat with Piper as if everything that just took place never happened. 
Now I'm laughing out loud as I type.  Because that was by far, was one of the craziest 5 minutes of my life.  And I was beyond insane.
I'll get to the other emotions I was feeling in just a bit.  I mean, what I just typed sounds pretty bad and horrible doesn't it?   I mean me, of all people, feeling so sad, angry, and every other feeling under the sun, over being pregnant. 
Okay, no longer laughing out loud.  Onto crying...
Because it's a terrible, sad, and strange feeling to be so upset to be pregnant with "your" husband.  Literally, shaking-scared, more than terrified to be pregnant with the man you love and plan on spending your life with.  It instantly brought up feelings from the past and a rush of emotions I wasn't prepared for.
But that's what I felt.  That's what I we knew we'd always feel had it happened.  (Because of our high-risk situation)
And of ALL the times to get pregnant - to find out literally three days after he got his vasectomy!!!
No.  Almost unbelievable.  No way.  This was a trick.  I was dreaming.  The test was old and expired and wrong.  But of course, that wasn't the case.
And I truly felt the biggest "What the you-know-what" of my life! 
Now, for some more TMI.  Obviously, like I stated above, I'm not on the pill, we don't use condoms, and we do use that method that we always have. Every single time.  I know.  Sad.  But true. It's been very good to us, but wow. The fact that while Steve was lying on that table, I was pregnant, unbeknown to us!!  Had I taken a test the day of his vasectomy (or even during the vacation, probably) I would have found out I was pregnant.

A vasectomy to prevent pregnancy while your wife is pregnant.
Nuts.  Nuts.  Nuts.  (no pun intended)
I thought back to around the week I would've been ovulating in May. 
And I remembered two pretty "nice" nights that stuck out in my head.  And I know, without a doubt, that's when we conceived.  Because (as mentioned above) the nights are either "WOAH! or "WAMP WAMP!"
With that being said, we used "the method"...but kids, no method is 100% effective except abstinence.
So, after Piper finished her breakfast, we went upstairs to get ready.  We had plans with my friend, Kelly, and her kids, to meet at the mall.
The whole drive to the mall, I was a zombie, just going through the motions.  Get there safe.  You can tell Kelly when you see her and let it all out.  How was I going to tell her? I had the pee test in a Ziploc bag in my purse.  We met and walked towards the play area.  I was shaking, but I could tell she didn't have a clue I was so emotional.  The kids ran off to play, and she started talking.  When she finished her last sentence, I whipped out the baggie. 
Instant snot-covered ugly-crying - "I'm (&#)@_)#&& pregnant!!"
Mom placing her daughter on the green and purple caterpillar glares my way.
Mom of the year award goes to Maria Marino.
Kelly sits stunned.  She may have pooped.  I'm not sure.  I couldn't see through my tears.
Addison comes and asks what's in my baggie.  I tell her it's a snack, and shove it back in my purse. 
The kids play some more, and I calm down.

We go to the food court and I stuff my face with a crispy chicken sandwich from Chic-fil-a.
I look at these munchkins and feel a little better, but also, like everything isn't truly happening.
Kelly makes me feel better and also makes me feel "normal" for all the feelings I'm blurting out.
I went home, and soon it was Piper's nap time.  Steve and I get to talk a little more through text and email.  He's shocked, and of course, finding it hard to concentrate at work.
I asked him if he believed me when I called him.
"UMM, uh, yeah, Maria, by your tone and cries, I would hope this isn't some mean kind of joke!"
I took some time to myself and just wept.
I just couldn't still believe it.  I wanted to tell more friends.  I wanted to tell my mom.  But, it was weird.  I was scared to, almost.  Not scared, like I'm gonna get in trouble.  Scared to make everyone worry.  Because everyone close to me would know what this meant.  They would know of my past odds of those seven pregnancies and seven losses with Steve, and they would know that this was far from what we, or the doctors "recommended" for us.  And, of course, they all knew Steve just had a vasectomy so this wouldn't happen.

I laid in bed and curled up in a ball at one point and cried so hard, talking out loud, and praying.
I can't help but cry when I say this out loud, or have to write it, but honestly, I prayed I'd miscarry so I and/or the baby would and could not feel any pain. I prayed I would miscarry sooner than later.  I prayed for those things, because I honestly had no hope so far and in that moment.  Tears are streaming down my face right now. 
Because where I was two months and two days ago, is so very far from where I am right now.

I didn't think it was carry a healthy child with Steve.
And when all you ever know is miscarriage and loss for years and years with your husband, it's hard to imagine anything different.
I guess I can't say I didn't have a at least a little hope.  Because I did.  Somewhere deep, deep down, I kept thinking "Maria, you've always believed things happen for a reason.  Maybe this was meant to be.  This is a sign.  This is a gift.  What are the odds of this timing?  It's gotta be a good thing, right?!"  I kept thinking about all we went through to get to Piper.  And I kept giving thanks, as I always do, that things did go the way they did.  Because if they didn't, Piper wouldn't be here. 
And imagine a life without our Piper.

Neither of us ever could.

It's true...that saying - "Once you have a child, it will be hard to imagine life before them."
It is hard to imagine life without Pippy.
And on June 15th, 2015, and many of the days that followed, it was hard to think about some really tough, heartbreaking moments that Steve and I experienced together in the years before our daughter.
Because though I rarely had thought about them, they swam right up to the surface in a split second, the moment that test showed a positive.

Steve came home from work.  We hugged.  We cried.  We picked ourselves up and played with Piper.  I sat at the dining room table with my pee stick.  I know, so sanitary.  I took this picture.
I sent a text to Kim and asked her what she was doing.  She responded "Folding laundry.  Are you jealous?"  I responded, "Are you?" along with this photo attached.

She didn't text back.  I told Steve I was sure she passed out.  And a few minutes later she told me she had to sit down.  She was shocked, of course.
We met at Dunkin Donuts and closed the place.  And then we sat in front of my house in her car while I alternated laughing at Kim's hilarious jokes and dance moves to Justin Bieber, and crying.
By the end of the night I had a very strong feeling I wasn't going to miscarry.  Kim, of course, given my history, thought I would.  I also had a horrible, gut-wrenching feeling that our baby was very, very sick.  And I was scared, like all the books and the geneticist had said five years ago, that the baby was very, very sick and could be carrying a lot of genetic abnormalities.
I eventually fell asleep that night.

 I woke up with that feeling like "There's no way yesterday really happened!"
I knew I had to put my best fake smile on and go on with my day.  I mean, and it's hard not to truly smile around this girl.

I knew I needed to make a call or two, but I didn't know which doctor to call - my gynecologist or my fertility doctor.  I called my gyno first.  The receptionist (who knows me fairly well) answered.  I told her the story.  She was shocked.  And told me my doctor was going away for the week starting the following day.  Greaaaaaat!  She told me she'd speak with her and ask her her opinion on what my next move should be.  She also asked me three different times if I was sure this baby was my husband's.  Thanks, lady.  What's written in my medical records??!
She told me she'd call me back, no matter what, by the end of the day.
I decided to call our fertility doctor's office.  Yay!  He was away on vacation for two weeks! 
They still wanted to see me immediately, and recommended we see his "sidekick," as she has worked along side him since right after we "graduated" from their office while pregnant with Piper.
I quickly said "yes" and they got me an appointment for the following day - Wednesday.

Piper and I went to my mom's.  I didn't tell my mom.  I wanted to wait until I got to a doctor's and could get some blood work or anything at all that would prove even a little bit, that this pregnancy was on the right start. It felt really, really weird keeping it in.
Piper sat and devoured an ice cream cone.  Sprinkles and melted ice cream running all down her body.  This.  Moments like this, with my little girl, are truly how I made it through the really trying days ahead.

My phone rang while at my mom's (Dee Dee's), and my ob's name came up.  Piper went to answer it, and my mom saw who it was.  It wasn't until a few days later, that I learned my mom thought Piper had accidentally dialed my doctor.  When my mom saw my doctor's name come up, she said "Oh it's Dr. ___ calling about your baby brother!"  Totally joking, of course.  But ohmygosh, I could've pooped my pants.  I thought, "Oh if you only knew!"
The receptionist left a voicemail saying my ob said she needed me to get in with my fertility doctor asap.  Thankfully, I had my appointment all set.
Piper, Dee Dee, and I spent the rest of the night together.  I was glad to give Steve and I some alone time to process it all.  I felt pretty good that night.  Well, at least while with Piper and my mom.
I was with two of my favorite ladies.  It was hard not to.

The next day, I geared up for my appointment as best I could.  Kelly, so kindly took Pips for me while Steve and I headed to the office.  I had a sick feeling in my stomach, more from nerves and anticipation.  I truly didn't know what to expect, but at the same time knew all too much about the sequence of events that would take place.  We'd walk in.  Sign my name.  Wait.  Be called back.  Blood taken.  Go to bathroom.  Undress, from waist down.  Hop on the table, cover myself up with the rectangular, paper sheet, and wait for the vaginal ultrasound.  Then, wait some more.  Get called back and talk with the doctor.
That was our life for a couple of years.
And when we walked in the office, so many familiar faces were there to greet us.  They were excited, and a lot of them, already knew our new story.  I felt a bit more at ease.  But I didn't feel pregnant.  I didn't feel excitement.  I didn't feel like it was really happening.  The nurse took my blood and I filled her in.  She was our nurse for two years and just couldn't believe it.  She was so positive.  I so wanted to be.  Next was the ultrasound.  I was trembling but trying to put on a tough act.  I laid down and Steve went to take a picture.  We always used to take pictures just like this.  Well, kinda.  I didn't want a picture.  He was smiling and almost laughing and I got mad.  "Really, Steve?!  I'm so glad you can laugh right now!"  I gave him the finger.  Lovingly, while giving him "the face" he knows means business.  When he turned the phone to show me why he was laughing so hard, I lost it, laughing.  Steve and his damn corny apps.  He sometimes takes pictures of himself and Piper like this...her face could be floating in a heart or some shape above or below everything else in the photo.  So cheesy, but hilarious.  He couldn't have timed his dorky grin and my finger at a better time.  And he accomplished what he had set out to do - he made me laugh, and lightened the very uptight mood.
Kim told me this picture had to be in the blog post, when Steve sent it to her.  So, here it is.
I "hearted" my finger for your viewing pleasure.

The ultrasound tech came in (again, a familiar face) and got right to business.  I didn't really have any time to think.  But I looked right at the screen. I knew what I was looking for.  I knew that as of then, if I was still in "healthy pregnancy" status, that we should see at least a gestational sac.  And within seconds, there it was.  "Wow, both sacs are present already (the yolk sac, too)," the nurse said.
I looked at Steve, took a deep breath, and looked back at the screen.  I didn't cry.  I felt numb, but also felt so many feelings come over me.  It just got really real.  But at the same time, it didn't feel real.

A cute, peppy, young woman approached us as we waited to be called back.  It was our doctor's "sidekick," and I could tell I liked her right away.
She had my giant stack of records on her desk and told us she read over everything, and heard a lot about our journey over the past years.  She even showed us our birth announcement and Christmas cards we had sent, attached to everything.  I was again, reminded of how much I loved this place and how much they truly care about their patients.
She told us it was early, but that after seeing all the aftermath of what Steve and I went through, that this baby looked like it was headed in the right direction.  In fact, she was beyond positive.  She told us once she got my blood work later that afternoon, she'd know even more.  She said the fact that both sacs were already showing was a positive sign that we'd see a baby the following week.  I just sat and listened and smiled.  She told us she couldn't wait for our doctor to hear the news, and that she'd see us again in a week.  Our doctor would be back for our third appointment.
Steve and I walked out to the parking lot.  We hugged in silence.  We kissed and just looked at each other.  We didn't say anything but "I love you," and then he headed back to work.  I sat in my car for ten minutes.  It seemed like hours.  I just stared at the ultrasound photo, almost unable to blink.
And I drove to get Piper, absolutely numb.

Later that afternoon, I got the call from the nurse.  "Congratulations, Maria!  You are very pregnant.  Your numbers are amazing.  We are all so happy for you!"
I thanked her, didn't ask to know the numbers, and hung up.
I was just so terrified.  "Terrified" is the best word to describe what I felt many times that first month.  I was terrified of losing the baby.  I was terrified our baby was very unhealthy and clinging on.  I was terrified of one day it being all over, and it being far in the future.  I was terrified that if the baby "hung on," eventually we'd get news he/she wasn't going to make it.  Or worse.
But more than anything, I was terrified of getting attached to our baby.  And when you see that ultrasound screen, it's extremely hard not to.  Still, I was still in so much shock, I was just absorbing it all.

This would be one of my many sick/terrified/or crazy maniac selfies.  Forget about bump shots.
This is where it was at the first month for me.

I knew I had to tell my mom once we finished our appointment.
And once Steve came home from work, I told him I wanted to tell her.
He told me to please go.  And so without even thinking, I stuffed the ultrasound picture in my bra, and headed out.  I knew she wasn't home, because I called her beforehand.  She had mentioned to me earlier that we could meet for a run.  So, I drove to her running spot.  And found her right away.  I drove up to her.  "You look ready to run," she said, sarcastically, as she laughed at my dress and big earrings.  I told her I was going to park and she met up with me.  She was talking and all I heard was "waaawaaawaaa," because I just needed to spit it out. 
"I have to tell you something," I said, with the look of fear plastered across my face.
Her face instantly matched mine.
"What, Maria?  What??"
I still don't know what she was thinking in those moments of silence, but she looked...terrified.
"You're not going to believe it, mom. You're not!"
And then she gave me a look, and I knew she had guessed it.
"Maria!  You're not pregnant, are you?"
I could hear the fear in her voice.  She knew.  She had the same fears I did, at first.
And then I took the ultrasound picture out, showed her, and cried.
We walked a lot.  She told me over and over again it was a gift.   I told her I hoped so.
I didn't tell her just how terrified I was.  But I know she knew.
We drove to GiGi's.  And after a couple hours of gabbing, we surprised her.  GiGi knows where all the deals are, and was telling us about her recent consignment sale findings.  I asked her if she saw any good double strollers recently.  She said "yes" and asked who was looking for one.  I gave her a look and a small smile.  And she instantly cried, hugged me, and was positive as ever.
It was hard not to feel a little excited and hopeful when you had two people so close to you feeling excitement and joy.  It was also hard not to feel guilty.  Because I still didn't exactly know what I was feeling. 
I'm so grateful Piper had her Dee Dee and GiGi to stay with while Steve and I had our appointments.
Piper cheerfully waved goodbye to me each week, as I headed out to our appointments, and had a blast with them.

That week between finding out the news and the following week, was one of the roughest weeks I've ever had.  I can truly say it was rougher than any full week in Steve's and my entire journey to Piper.  If one week comes close, it's the week we learned of Steve's inversion.  But we had the facts then.
We didn't have facts at this point. 
I felt like a hypocrite, because many, many times in my life...okay, every single rough patch in my life, I have relied on my hope and faith to get me through.  Like the quote - "Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see."
I knew all along what I was hoping for - a healthy, happy baby.
But I didn't think it was a possibility.  I felt like I needed to see it, somehow.
As the days went on, I got through my days fairly well, with the help of Piper, Steve, and loved ones.  But the nights dragged on and on.  And I knew our next appointment was approaching fast.
I laid in bed at night, wide awake, praying, not knowing what I was going to see on the screen in a few days.  Steve was amazing.  Not only had I been exhausted from finding out the news, but exhaustion and nausea, and puking began.  And when Steve would come home from work, he'd tell me to take some time and relax while he spent time with Piper.  At night, he'd crawl into bed.  Sometimes I'd already be crying or there would be mascara and eyeliner trails all over my face.
"I'm so scared.  Help me!  Help me, please!" I would say, as I wailed into my pillow, stretching my body out in crazy ways and grabbing his face and shoulders.
Those moments are hard for me to relive. 
I remember crying to Steve that in some strange way, the way I was feeling was exactly the way I felt when my father had his heart attack, and the months that followed.
In fact, I was acting the same exact way.  Somewhat appearing calm, cool, and collected during the day.  And full-fledged maniac at night.  When everything can come out and be felt.
I just kept screaming "NO," just as I did with everything with my dad.
No, meant I felt helpless.  No, meant I felt scared.  No, meant I felt shocked.  No, meant this isn't happening.  No, meant I want things to be okay.  No, meant take this insanely painful feeling away from my soul, because I can't breathe, and I want to be able to know my dad/the baby are going to be okay.
But that's not how life works.  And I knew I needed to try to be as patient as possible.  I knew I wasn't going to make it if I just laid around and cried my days away.  And I also knew that I couldn't.  I have a daughter to take care of, and she deserves the best I could give her under the circumstances.
As the pregnancy symptoms came on full-force, I began feeling a little more attached.  I mean, I definitely felt pregnant. 
The following Wednesday came.
And we had our second appointment.
Ultrasound time.  Steve breaks out the app again...

This is a look Steve sees often.
This is right before the nurse knocked on the door.

And this is what we saw a minute later.  Our baby.  With a strong heartbeat, that was blinking on the screen.  I looked at Steve.  And cried the hardest silent cry.  I don't think he even realized. 
We squeezed hands so tight.  The nurse was so pleased.
That was it.  The baby was alive inside of me.  There was a baby.
Instantly so much more attached.  Yet, still so, so, so scared.

 We met with the same doctor we saw the week prior.  She was ecstatic.  The first thing she asked me was if I was feeling any better.  I cut the tough girl act, and cried.  I spilled out all my feelings.  She looked like she was going to cry, and I was so happy I shared everything with her.  She told us that the fact we'd only once ever gotten to see a heartbeat before (besides with Piper, of was during our second pregnancy, when we naturally became pregnant with twins.  My ob at the time mentioned the theory that twins will often "help each other along" and he believed that's why that pregnancy lasted a little longer than the rest) I was saying, she said it was a good sign that this baby had a strong heartbeat.  She also asked me if I wanted to know my blood work numbers from my last appointment.  I did.  They were amazing.  And nothing like any previous pregnancies with Steve.  My hcg was through the roof, and my progesterone was 20.  Progesterone is needed to sustain a pregnancy, and with Steve, my numbers were always under ten...sometimes, 4 or 6.
Those high numbers did carry a lot of hope.  They did make me feel happy.  But they also made me feel scared.  At this point, it's where the fear was all about losing the baby, because we knew there was a baby.  And so far, the baby was seemingly a healthy one. 

How to drown your fears the best you can...
Pray.  Keep those you love close to you.  Ask for help.  Pour your heart out to the ones you love and trust.
And most importantly, eat lots of Taco Bell.
Seriously, those 6.3 minutes it takes you to inhale two soft taco supremes, one cheese quesadilla, a small coleslaw (because KFC is attached to Taco Bell), and a crunch wrap for later...
that will mask all your fear.  Add as many Fire Sauce packets as you'd like.
Eat it all in bed.  Yes, bed.  And watch really dumb game shows or Extreme Weight Loss episodes on YouTube while you're eating your fiesta of fun, and I guarantee you'll be feeling no pain...for those 6.3 minutes.

Seriously, though, Taco Bell, I love you.
Thank you for helping get me through.
And making my waistbands extra tight.
And Steve, thank you for going out whenever the craving or stress-eating-desire kicked in.
Also, thank you for going back out that one night, when I was one soft taco supreme in, and realized they gave you someone else's order.  That second soft taco should NOT have been a Baja chalupa.
But the chalupa was quite tasty.  Yes, I ate it.  I want a chalupa right now, dammit.

Some summertime photos of happy memories...

Our third appointment - the one where we'd get to see our doctor that was with us during our journey to Piper.  They took my blood.  I took a visit to the bathroom...

And then we had our appointment.  I was about 7-7 1/2 weeks at this point.  I was nervous when the nurse began and told Steve I wasn't going to look at the screen.  We held hands and he was giving me a bunch of squeezes soon after.  The baby was there.  Heart beating.  So much bigger than the week before.  The nurse was yet again, happy.  We waited to be called back by our doctor.  Minutes later we heard "Maria!"  I turned the corner to see our doctor.  "There she is.  Smiley!!  How are you guys?" he said, with so much WOW kind of emotion in his voice.
He always called me "Smiley" and commented on our positivity.
Well, mister, today might be a little different.
Despite it all, it felt wonderful to see him.
He had a student sitting in with him, and asked if we'd mind if she stayed.
He asked if I'd tell her the full story, as it was evident he was very filled in on our past weeks.
So I told the story, as she sat wide-eyed, nodding and smiling.
When I finished, our doctor said "Yes, this is definitely one for the books and one that will be discussed during my future meetings.  You guys need to write a book or make an LMN movie!"
An LMN movie!!!  How did he know?!  My favorite.  :)
In a few years, Steve and I will be casting our actors and actresses.  Let me know if you're interested in a role.
Our doctor was truly happy and I should've called him "Smiley!"  I told him I knew it was still early, and asked what his thoughts were at that point.  "I think you guys got it right this time.  I think it looks really good.  The whole office and team do." 
I remember taking my first extremely hopeful breath right after he spoke those words. 
Surely, he isn't God.  He doesn't have superpowers.  But, I trust and respect that man so much.  I mean, in a way, we love him.  He is so awesome, tell-it-like-it-is, and we've always been able to tell him everything.
"Let's get to next week!"
And so that's what we did.

At this point, I was so tired and puking sometimes numerous times a day.  I was in survival mode, and some days just barely made it until Steve would come home.
There were plenty of afternoons where Piper would come trotting behind me as I ran to the bathroom.  "Mama, you not feeling good!" 
She caught me puking weeks before and she asked "Mama, what you doin'?"  Steve would rub my back and tell her it's what I do when I'm sick or not feeling well.
I always wondered what it would be like when I was pregnant again, while taking care of a very energetic toddler Pippy.
Some days, it didn't phase me all that much.  I feel, most of the time, that getting out and keeping busy actually helps me feel less sick.  Not to mention, think less about it.
But oh, some days...
Some days, this is the kind of mom I was...
You wanna chug Mama's gingerale and let it run down the onesie you've been in for the past 22 hours...sure, sweetie, knock yourself out.
I laugh out loud whenever I see this picture.
I mean, is she experiencing pure satisfaction, or what?!

Some days, Steve would come home, and it looked like every single one of Piper's toys exploded all over every inch of the house.
He'd find my bra on the dining room table, or the bottom of the steps, or his favorite, next to the kitchen sink.
I forgot to mention that my doctor put me on progesterone for a full month.  Though I was far from needing it, he said it couldn't hurt and was just precautionary. 
Not only did he prescribe a single dose, but a double dose.
Hence, my bras being everywhere.  Those pills are no joke.  They made my boobs throb even more.  And they made them gigantic in what seemed like overnight. 
See, I was due for some more TMI - "throbbing boobs" should do the trick
Speaking of my TMI, Piper sees me naked on plenty of occasions, and a few weeks after starting progesterone, one day I was changing in my room.  Piper was sitting on my bed watching me.  She gave me a look, when I took my shirt off, and very matter-of-factly said, "Mama's boobies are hot dogs!"  Yes, people, apparently progesterone turns your boobs into hot dogs.  I would've preferred cheeseburgers, but I'll deal with it. 
She says it still, and I crack up every time.  What a compliment. 

Another stellar post-puke-post-shower selfie

 And another trying night.
I spot some old mascara stains on my face.
But I had my Pippy by my side.
I remember this night.  I laid in bed, while Steve gave Piper a bath.  I placed my hands on my bare belly and prayed so hard.  There wasn't much fighting the strong feelings of attachment at this point.
I loved our baby.  This was the first night I said out loud to Steve "I want this baby so bad!  I need this baby to be okay!"  He told me how happy he was to hear me say that.
His face said it all.  I knew he felt the same despair and love I did.

When I was getting the pictures arranged for this post, and came across this picture, I got teary.
Because my face speaks for itself.  I look truly happy.
I was really excited.  I remember telling Steve that I wasn't even scared that the baby wouldn't be alive on the screen.  I was still very scared of the future, but in that moment, I felt good, sure, and most importantly, faithful and hopeful.

 And my faith didn't lie.
A little bambino, taking the shape of a tiny baby, rather than a microscopic blob.  It was so neat to see the growth over the weeks.

Our doctor, again, was very positive.  He told us that in the next week of so, if there were any "markers" for abnormalities, he may be able to start to spot some.  Excited and nervous were my emotions on that subject.  He had us go visit the same geneticist we saw five years ago.  He told us the geneticist would be able to give us our odds way more than he ever could.  And he told us we'd be able to get answers to questions about the possible abnormalities, diseases, and deformities our baby could possible carry due to Steve's exact inversion.
We met with the geneticist and had Piper with us.  She kept the mood light and comical from the start.  The geneticist was so, so much warmer than I remembered.  In fact, when Steve and I left the appointment, we looked at each other and said the same exact thing - "Woah, I love him!  He's so different than last time!"
Now, I need to cut the guy some slack.  When we left our appointment five years ago, we had just gotten the news of Steve's inversion.  There also was very little research for the geneticist to go by, on Steve's exact inversion.  And, with the facts he did have years ago, and our crappy lots of pregnancies/no healthy babies ratio, he had every right to come off negatively.  I remember being mad we left with no answers, as if he could've told us exactly how our life would play out.
But that's how you feel sometimes in insane moments of uncertainty.
This appointment was so different.  He had more research and cases to rely on.  And like he said, most importantly, he had the fact that I was around two months pregnant, with what still was appearing to be a healthy, strong baby.  I had no signs of miscarriage whatsoever.  I had no spotting and no cramping, though I know those aren't always a sign you will miscarry.  I had amazing numbers, the baby's heartbeat was strong each visit, and was growing beautifully.
He read the letter our fertility doctor sent him, and checked out all of my numbers. 
He kept saying how pleased he was.  He told us the fact that I hadn't lost the baby yet was an incredible and positive sign.  He said with the fact that I always had miscarried Steve's babies before this point was also a very promising sign.  I began to feel some weight slip off my shoulders.  Still very guarded, but somewhat giddy in that moment.
He told us that when and if I reached 11/12 weeks, he'd like to perform a CVS, if we agreed to it.

Here's some info on a CVS - HERE
I knew that he would recommend one, from the moment I found out I was pregnant.  I knew, if we ever made it that far, that would be the route our doctors would recommend.  I knew from our past, and I knew because (I forgot to mention, but) because for the first month of this pregnancy, I researched the ever lovin' out of Steve's inversion and all the cases involved with it.  To the point of obsession.  I knew a lot of the syndromes and possible outcomes if a baby was to survive or almost survive.  Of course, I mainly found the sad, heartbreaking cases.  But I knew our geneticist would be able to give us more.
I told him, we knew we'd do the CVS.  Because I know it's a pain in the butt to have to read the link, in Maria terms, a CVS is an invasive test performed through the belly or vagina (depending on where the mother's placenta is located).  A very long, thin, straw-like needle is inserted and chorionic villi (CV) is grabbed from the placenta for testing.  Those tiny villi carry the baby's exact genetic makeup.   They allow the parents to learn of any chromosomal abnormalities, inversions, translocations, and other illnesses, including genetic deletions and/or additions.
Our geneticist explained that it came with a very small chance of miscarriage, and stated that he's performed thousands and thousands over the past almost thirty years.  I truly wasn't worried about miscarriage from the procedure.  I felt strong enough to handle the procedure, and knew it would give us answers, and most importantly the peace we longed for.  Even if the news was horrible.
And then I asked him the question I'd been dying to...
"In your opinion, with all you've seen, and with all of our facts and numbers so far, what do you think the odds are of this baby being unhealthy?"
He paused while he thought for less than ten seconds.
I was certain he'd say 50-75%.
I know that sounds so high, and very negative of me.  Especially, with my new positivity at times.  But I was just going by our odds so far.
He started to speak and I heard "Fffi"
"Fifty" is what I thought he was about to say.
But he didn't.
He said 5.
My jaw literally dropped.  So did Steve's.  Piper was busy playing with her sandal and talking to a student the doctor had sitting in with him.  (We always seem to get those sit-in students.)
"Really, five!  Ohmygosh, I thought you'd say at least fifty!"
He smiled this genuine, warm smile and told me he had a good feeling on this one.  He told us, with Steve's inversion being so large, and taking up almost the whole chromosome, that the risks were just as large, should the baby be "unbalanced."  So large, that in our case, the baby would not most likely survive until birth.  He told us that if the baby did survive the entire birth, it could possibly not be compatible with life, be stillborn, or be very, very sick.  And because of all those facts, he told us, what our fertility doctors (and many of our loved ones kept telling us)...that I would have most likely lost the baby by now, as I did in the past, because my body would know to get rid of pregnancy.
He told us he was happy for us.
He was happy for us.  The fact he felt confident enough to say that gave me so much hope in that moment.
He told us that there was always a chance that I could carry a healthy baby with Steve, but that our odds suggested a very low chance of not miscarrying.  And again, the fact that almost the whole chromosome carried the inversion, was a big factor for genetic abnormalities.
Still, he was smiling and positive.
We left pretty happy and scheduled our CVS for July 30th.
The next few weeks were long, waiting for the test.
I was in a much, much better place a lot of the time.
I was also looking like this, after major puking took over.
Way more than with Piper.
I felt like a pile of garbage many days.

But I also felt like this...

This was our second to last appointment with our fertility doctor.  The baby was clearly a baby.  We saw him/her wiggling on the screen.  I cried, and felt so in love.
More weight lifted from my shoulders.
Our doctor was all smiles, and told us as long as the next week went well, that I'd graduate the following week.

My belly popped right away.  I was an early show-er with Piper, and my doctor told me I would show super fast, after being pregnant so many times.
I think there's another big baby growing in there.
His/Her name is Taco/rita Bell/a

Some more summer memories...

we graduated right around ten and a half weeks (the same time we graduated with Piper)
There was a part of me that felt like screaming to my doctor, "NOO, please don't let me go, I need you!!"  But there was also a part of me telling me that it was a good thing.
We knew our CVS was in exactly a week, and that we'd get to see the baby more than ever during the procedure.

This was the baby the day we graduated.

And this was me the day after.
Already showing like crazy.
A lot of my friends told me I looked like I was still in the "iffy stage" I eat too many Baja chalupas?  Or is there a bitty baby in there?
I definitely felt and looked pregnant, and when I'd be out in public, I'd wonder if I'd be running into people I knew.  And I wondered what I'd say.
I wasn't ready to announce it to the world.  It was just too complicated and unexpected, and where I knew the support would be wonderful and amazing, hopefully from most, I just didn't have the energy to put it all out there from the very beginning.
I would never say it out loud, except to Steve...
But I loved feeling and looking pregnant at this point.  I felt more connected to the baby.  I felt more hopeful.  I felt in love.  Scared to be in love, but definitely in love.

And definitely thankful for crackers by my bed.

The night before my CVS, I laid in bed and prayed.  I whisper-talked out loud, even.
"I know I haven't been very positive these past couple months.  I know I haven't been as thankful as I could've been.  I know I could've scared a psychopath at times.  But God, please know that deep, deep down, a part of me from the very beginning has felt that this just has to be something good.  Something miraculous.  Something amazing and meant for our family.  Please know how much I love and want this baby.  And forgive me for being too scared to admit it most of the time."
I'm crying again.
Because the very long seven weeks before our CVS put me through hell.  Steve, too.  And I'm sure, scared the hell out of our loved ones. 
But the day of, as frightened as I was, knowing it would take up to two weeks for the results...I woke up feeling more weight lifted. 
We were one step closer.

Steve and I arrived to our appointment, and within minutes, were walking back to the procedure room.
I wasn't all that nervous.  I felt a weird sense of calm.
There was a 37 inch screen on the wall across from my bed.
And when the nurse came in to check the baby, and find out the position of my placenta, this is what we saw.
It was incredible.  The baby looked more like a baby than it ever had and looked "formed" and older than 11 and a half weeks on that giant screen.
Steve was even more mesmerized than I was.  Right away, the nurse started measurements.  I saw her words as she typed - "Right arm, left arm.  Right leg, left leg!"  Inside I was screaming "Thank you, Lord!"  Might sound crazy, but missing limbs are just a small fraction of what the baby could face if unbalanced.

The baby was dancing all around.  Another positive sign.
My placenta is anterior (in front) just like it was with Piper. 
It could change later in the pregnancy, but this meant the doctor would be going through my belly.
I was so happy for this, as I felt I'd be less scared for recovery, rather than if he had to perform the CVS vaginally.

The doctor told me I needed to chug some water so my bladder would push my placenta closer to where he needed it to be.  I had guzzled a bottle of water on the ride there, and then guzzled another bottle and a half for him.
In ten minutes, my bladder was where it needed to be, the lights were off, my belly was exposed and almost ready.
The nurse sat with her screen, while the large screen ahead of us acted as our doctor's guide. 
He told me everything as he was doing it, and I felt pretty calm.
He rubbed my whole belly down with alcohol, and then with iodine that was on a swab-stick.
I was laughing to myself, and then Steve said "Look at that, you thought you were coming for a procedure, and you get a free bath!"  I started busting out laughing, as did the doctor and nurse. 
And then I apologized as my belly was moving all around from cracking up.
"No, no, laughter is great.  Just don't laugh while I'm going in with the needle!"
More laughing.
Laughing ends.
I see a needle that looks about as long as half my arm come out.  And though, I want to watch on the screen ahead, I decide to take both of my hands and clutch Steve's right hand.  The needle goes in and it feels like a needle would.  And then I feel it go through more and more "things" and my fingers do a dance all over Steve's hand.  Steve is talking through his amazement at what he's seeing and I'm now holding my breath as the doctor suctions out what he needs to.
And then it was over.  And I actually smiled and laughed.  Because it was almost as fast as getting your ears pierced.  Hey, I always said I wanted more piercings.
After they cleaned me up, he turned on the lights and showed me the tube of villi.  I was amazed.  It really is amazing.  The doctor then showed us the baby.  Heart still beating.  Baby moving all over.
The doctor (and Steve) said the needle came nowhere near the baby. 
And I believed them.
I mean, does the baby have my and Steve's humongous forehead, or what?! :)

Afterwards, the geneticist had to get Steve's blood work.  Just in case the lab didn't have our records from five years ago, when he was tested for his inversion.  I told the nurse she could stab Steve real hard "after what I just endured!" ;)
When the doctor asked how I felt, right before leaving, I told him I felt great.  And so much better than I had expected to.  Again, more weight was lifted. 
The last thing he said to us was "I'm really so pleased.  I'm so happy for you guys.  From what I can see on the ultrasound, everything looks good."
Of course, we knew there was a lot that could be detected during testing.
But, I thought to myself again, "He would never say something like that to us if he felt the least bit hesitant about what he thought."
He told us the results would take up to two weeks...usually ten days.
He told us, that regardless of the results, he would call us as soon as they came in.
I knew from the time we made the appointment, that I just couldn't be the one to get that call...not while I was alone with Piper.  Steve gladly agreed to be the one to receive the call.
The doctor took down Steve's number and told him he'd call him within two weeks.
He also let us know we could find out the gender with the results, if we wished.
I told Steve days prior, that I thought it'd be neat for Steve to find out the gender before Piper and I.
I could tell he was excited about that.
We also mentioned to each other, that though Steve said he planned on coming home one day with the news, that if the news was good news, he would never be able to hold it in.  He said he could see himself calling me if the news was positive.  The good thing about all this, was that we had no exact date on when we'd get the results.  So, I would not expect a call, or a certain expression on his face on a specific date.
Oh Steve.  He really was awesome during this whole thing.
I knew he was so scared, but too scared to show it.  He kept his head on straight and kept mine from falling off.  He gave Piper so much attention, when I couldn't.  He told me what an amazing mother I was, when I'd cry that I felt guilty for not being able to be "the normal Mama" I usually was to her.  He held me tight when I needed a shoulder to cry on, and he gave me distance when he knew I needed to be a caged, ferocious beast, alone in our room.
I couldn't lift anything heavier than 15 pounds (over two Pippys) for the next 48 hours, and had to take it as easy as possible.  Steve took off the day after the procedure (a Friday), and then had off the weekend.  We are so glad he had that time, because it was a rough weekend.  Never ever did I feel any pain from the CVS, but I was violently sick, and couldn't keep anything I ate down.  I pretty much laid in bed, watching LMN movies, dreaming of the one we'd direct and produce on our own one day. ;)
I had no spotting or cramping.  I just felt very drained and sick.
Steve returned to work on Monday, and Piper and I resumed our normal routine.
We kept busy, and I took it easy when I could.  I napped during her naps and didn't think too much about the results, because I knew we possibly had over another week to wait.

The weekend and week after...

 On Thursday, August 6th, one week after my CVS, I had my first appointment with my ob.
I dropped Piper off at Dee Dee's.
As you can see, she was excited as ever to spend the morning with her.

I got to my appointment and waited for some time.  Peed in the cup.  Waited some more.  Weight and blood pressure.  Waited some more.  And then my doctor knocked on the door.
"Still pregnant.  Still pregnant, Maria" she said, as she wheeled in her computer, with a big smile on her face.  She, like everyone else, was beyond positive.  She pulled out the doppler, to listen to the baby's heartbeat.  And soon after, we were listening to my baby's heartbeat at a strong 158 beats per minute.  I'll never get tired of that sound.  My doctor was grinning.  She knew the whole story, but had me tell it to her again.  She told me that at this point in my pregnancy, it's rare she sees a patient lose their baby.  She kept saying "Praise, God!"  She told me she needed to give me a hug.  I choked back tears, as she told me to call her as soon as I get good news, because there wasn't going to be bad news.  I left smiling, and also kicking myself for not feeling the super, king-kong, mega positivity everyone else was feeling.  There were so many times in the past months, that loved ones would look at me and say "Maria, I'm telling you, the baby is okay.  I just know it."  In those moments, I believed them.  It was like I trusted them way more than I trusted myself.  I was my own worst enemy.
So, after texting Steve about my great appointment, I drove home.
I found Dee Dee and Pips in the backyard having some fun.
These girls can really hula hoop.  Me, not so much.  Not even with the added help from my bump.

We hung out for an hour or so at Dee Dee's and then headed home for some lunch and a nap.

I used this song years ago, when I wrote a post after Steve and I "found" our donor sperm and got ready for the next chapter of our journey.

And it couldn't be more fitting for this part of the post...

A Thousand Years - Christina Perri

It was around 2:30, and Piper still needed some lunch.  I had just gotten back to a few texts and set my phone down on Piper's table in the living room.  I went into the kitchen and grabbed a yogurt from the fridge.  And my phone started ringing.  I peeked my head in the living room, and could see that it was Steve.  His picture comes up on my phone when he's calling.
It was only a week after the CVS, but he very, very rarely calls me from work.  Especially from his cell phone.  We usually communicate through texts and email.
Even though it was early for the results, I had a gut feeling.
My heart starting pounding.
Piper knew it was Steve calling, as she could see his picture.
"DaDa's on phone!!"
I looked at Piper, put my hand on her head, and picked up the phone.
My voice was quivering.
Steve said "hi" back, with his voice cracking.
I said hello again and was bawling at this point.  I just knew he had the news.
He said "Hello, Hunny!"
And I could hear he was crying.
I lost all of my composure, and knelt down next to Piper, with my arm around her waist, as she ate her orange yogurt.

"Why are you calling?" followed by such nervous laughter and tears.

"You know why!"

And again, I knew.

I knew in that moment that our baby was okay.
I cried so hard.  About as hard as I'm crying right now.
I shook just as hard as the first time I heard Piper's heartbeat. 

"Steve, ohmygosh, please tell me!  Do you know?  You know!  You wouldn't call me if it was bad news.  We talked about this.  Ohmygosh, the baby is healthy?!"

Steve cried hard for about ten seconds before he could speak...
"Dr. ___ just called me.  The baby is 100% healthy.  The baby didn't inherit my inversion."

And then we sobbed for a good minute. 
I kept saying "Thank You.  Thank you!"
I kept repeating "This is a miracle!" as I told Steve I loved him a hundred times.
I kissed Piper so hard and put Steve on speakerphone.
I told her she was going to be a big sister.
To which she replied, "I'm havin' a baby sister!"
Steve and I laughed so hard.
I asked him if he knew the gender.
He did.
And he was going to surprise us when he got home.
Steve had to get back to his desk, (as he received the whole call at his desk, and had to excuse himself because he was so emotional).

I don't know if we even said "goodbye," because I think we were just laugh-crying so hard, that we let our happy tears hang up for us.

All of the weight still left on my shoulders diminished.
I was in shock all over again.  But a different kind of shock.
The fact that the baby didn't even inherit Steve's inversion is amazing.  It had a 50% chance of inheriting his exact inversion, and being completely healthy.  The side effects being that he/she would have the same infertility problems due to the inversion.  Still, the baby would have been healthy.
But all of this amazing news.
Is miraculous.

I felt so light.
I instantly felt like myself again.
In a sense, I felt like I just found out I was pregnant (with all the good news included).
I felt more than grateful.

I got Piper down for a nap, and went downstairs.  I sat down and breathed in and out.
I wasn't gasping for air.
I was alive again.

I called my friends and blurted out the news as soon as each one picked up.
I cried and said "I know" a million times, as I joined them in their shock, joy, and excitement.

I sat in silence and just took it all in afterwards.

That night, I had plans to go out with my mom, GiGi, and our friend, Lesia.  We had made these plans weeks ago.  I had thought to myself when we made the plans how awesome it'd be if I was able to know the results before our girls' date.
With it only being a week from the procedure, I pretty much ruled it out.

I was so excited, as I sat there, knowing I'd be able to tell them all in just a few hours.
I got out three sheets of paper and wrote the same thing on all of them...
 "Found out some news around 2:30 today.  The baby is 100% healthy.  It does not carry Steve's inversion.  We know the gender.  A True Miracle."

I tucked them in my purse and waited for Steve to come home.

Now, the gender reveal/surprise will in my next post.
It will be this week.  Promise.  I won't make it that long of a wait.
But after such a long summer, and such exciting news all at once,
we want to keep it to ourselves for just a few more days.
Plus, if I included it in this post, you'd have at least a whole extra encyclopedia to read.
Feel free to guess. :)

So, onto that night...
I kissed Piper goodbye as she ate her dinner.
She was mad she wasn't included in nacho night.

We headed out for nachos.  This was one of three plates. (For the record, I could've easily plowed through a fourth.)
My mom sat across from me.  Lesia, diagonally across from me.  And Karen (GiGi), next to me.
My heart was racing again, as they had no idea we got the results.
My mom began talking, and we began eating.  I think I went through a cup of jalapenos, and then there was a quick silence.  I knew it was time.

I quickly went into my purse and grabbed the three sheets.
I passed them out one by one, as I nervously giggled.
Within seconds, tears started rolling around the table.
Everyone was smiling with happy tears, looking at me.
I told them about our afternoon, and told my mom that I found out not even an hour after I had left her house.
"You know the gender?!" she asked.
I smiled and nodded.
I asked them their guesses.  Two guessed right.  One guessed wrong.
I stated their guesses.  And then said "Two of you are right!"
More tears.  Lots of hugs.  Happy screaming.  And four crazy, hormonal ladies giving quite the tearful show in a Mexican restaurant.  It was perfect and beautiful. 
And the only thing that could have  made it better was that fourth plate of nachos.

We stopped at TJMAXX, next door, afterwards and I picked out the baby a few outfits to celebrate.
It was so real.

The next days were spent celebrating and breathing in peace and normalcy.
Oh there was (and still is) plenty of nausea and puking, but it's different now.  Because I can breathe easier, even if I'm hanging over a toilet (or screaming "I need a bag now!" - like, right after the pictures taken below).

Again, the lyrics in the song above couldn't ring more true...
"Every breath, every hour has come to this.  One step closer."
One step closer to meeting our next child.
One step closer to Piper becoming a big sister.
Every single breath, minute, and second has brought us here.
I titled my very, very first blog post after one of my favorite songs - "Crazy Faith"
And though my faith was shaken these past months, it wasn't completely lost.
I could never, ever lose it.  Because every day, I had one sweet, amazing, little miracle to remind me that I am strong.  I am capable of running, crawling, and digging through some really tough battles.
The toughest moments, (sometimes even years), in your life,
may just bring you the greatest gift(s) in your life.
The greatest gift in our lives.
"I have died everyday, waiting for you."
In a sense, a  little bit of us died every day on our journey...until Piper.
She was born, and it felt like a dream. 
Our dream come true gets to be a sister in February.
And all of our doubt has been erased.
I was so afraid of the love I was feeling and the love that grew stronger each day.
I was so terrified of losing that love.
"How can I love when I'm afraid to fall
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt, suddenly goes away somehow
One step closer
I have died everyday, waiting for you
Darling, don't be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more"

I love this baby.  We love this baby.  I'm so thankful.
I'm so grateful for this amazing blessing and all of the bumps along the way.

Never, did I ever imagine my life would be like this.

I can count on at least a couple of hands, how many times I've made that statement in my lifetime.
I've said it in times of happiness and times of great sadness.
I say it tonight (okay, the wee hours of the morning) with pure joy and tears streaming down my face!

Never, did I ever imagine our lives would be like this.

The timing.  The insane shocks along this journey.  The pure insanity.

They brought us here, yet again - somewhere so beautiful.
Somewhere that doesn't make sense, but makes so much sense all that the same time.

This is our life. 
And we're not always in charge.
I'm learning more and more that some of the sweetest blessings come from not being in charge.

I believe and trust that this baby is our second meant-to-be.
And we look forward to taking in these next six months together, and getting ready to welcome Baby Marino #2.

I always think of Piper when I hear these lyrics. 
And now I get to add another child to my thoughts when I hear them.

"And all along I believed, I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more
One step closer
One step closer"

Thank you all.  From day one, you've shown us love and support like we never could have imagined.
We are so grateful for the love, thoughts, and prayers you've sent us along the way.

If you can believe it, there are so many more feelings I have to share.  And I'll be sharing them very soon.

Grateful, Happy, Blessed Lovin',

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