Saturday, 9 February 2008

For a brief moment it was going to be three under three

Geege and I found out we were pregnant again in January 2008. Yet another unplanned pregnancy!

I actually got my period back in November 2007 (*fair punch* First one since July 2004!).

I know I sound blonde but I really did think that we were having unprotected sex at a “safe” time, but the world’s most fertile couple managed to do it again.

My GP has since explained that menstruation when you are breast feeding is not terribly reliable – the cycle can be long or short, but invariably is different from month to month. Maybe something I should have found out before I got back on the band wagon so to speak.

Anyway, I was about 8 weeks pregnant by the time we found out about it. I had suspected that I could be pregnant but was in a state of denial over the silly season. It took some getting used to – three babies in such a short period of time! The baby would have been born in August 2008. Nugget would only be three years, four months and Doo Dah 20 months. De ja vu!

We were still getting our heads around it – making mental lists of pros and cons – by the end of Jan this year. For the pros list was “getting it over and done with”, “Mum completes family at 35”, and as we have been sleep deprived for 3 years, we might as well keep going before we remember how nice it is to get some sleep!

On the cons list was “how will we cope with three so close together???” and “can we actually afford three children?”.

Added to all of this confusion and questioning, I had been feeling pretty unwell. I had not had any morning sickness with the boys, so I secretly started to think that I was pregnant with a girl! I was thrilled with the prospect, although the reality was that I just felt crap and had to keep going to work and caring for the boys and getting on with all the things that made up my busy life.

We went to dinner on the evening of Feb 1. It was a dinner we had been looking forward to for ages. B&R , R&G, Lisa and her beau, Dale, and us all together for the first time in awhile.

The kids came for a sleep over and we planned to kick back and enjoy ourselves once they were all in for the night. I was 10 weeks pregnant and we had discussed telling everyone.

Not long after we arrived and B&R's place (the first time I had seen the home that they bought in Jan) I started to bleed. It wasn’t copious amounts, just persistent. I spent the night making excuses for not drinking and further excuses for needing to go to the bathroom constantly. It wasn’t until after we had gone to bed that the serious bleeding started. By this time, Geege was pretty drunk and not very with it. I didn't really know what to do. I was pretty sure I knew what was happening.

In the end I had to wake B to get a pad from her (she was about 32 weeks pregnant and already had a stash of maternity pads, which was fortuitous.) She and R woke in a stunned state and promised to do anything they could to help. "Just wake us" they said.

I got through the night, without a wink of sleep. The bleeding continued.

The next morning, Geege had to go to work but I needed to get things sorted out. I was clearly having a miscarriage. B&R minded the boys and after many phonecalls to the emergency department at the local hospital in Balmain and back at Hornsby, I drove back to Hornsby, past my GP, who works on a Saturday morning, and stopped there. She arranged for me to have an urgent ultrasound and some blood tests.

I was still feeling hopeful as I entered the ultrasound place. My friend B had said that she had unexplained bleeding during her first pregnancy. Lots of people do. Maybe this wasn’t as serious as I thought?

I had to wait for awhile. It was excrutiating. I ended up calling my Sister B (also heavily pregnant) and she came to sit with me.

The reality was that I had been bleeding on and off for 12+ hours, but really I had not lost a lot of blood.

Could there be another explanation other than miscarriage?

I was called in to the ultrasound. What followed was even a little surprising to me. There was nothing there. I had an enlarged uterus that contained a sac, but there was no embryo. The doctor reported a “blighted ovum”, something Sister A had had a couple of years before.

I was devastated, although (truthfully) a little relieved. The relief came from not having to see a dead foetus inside my body.

I returned to the GP who explained my options, said I should come back on Monday and to arrange a week off work. I thought the week off work was excessive, but agreed to discuss this on the Monday at the appointment.

I had a pretty awful weekend. I felt as though I was poised at all times for the rest of the miscarriage to happen. It never did.

I returned to the GP on Monday and she took more bloods. We decided to sit and wait.

I got a call from her on Tuesday to say that my blood tests were not making sense! She arranged for me to attend the OB/GYN clinic at HKH on Wednesday morning. I did this. They too were confused about the blood tests and result of ultrasound. My blood beta-HCG level was not decreasing as you would expect with a miscarriage. It was coming down a little, but they expected it to halve every two days. They requested I have another ultrasound.

They arranged one at the hospital for the next morning, and I had to make another appointment for the OB/GYN clinic on the Friday.

I attended the ultrasound on Thursday morning. I went on my own feeling less nervous this time. I knew what to expect.

I was seen by a sonographer on her own as the Doctor was not available. She stated that I was “confusing” and I appeared to have “two embryos” and a least one heart beat! She concluded that I was expecting twins, but one hadn’t made it.

There was no blighted ovum and the uterus and sac size had increased since the ultrasound the week before.

I didn’t know what to think or feel. I think I held my breath for a full minute.

She wanted me to see the doctor, so asked me to come back in an hour when the radiographer would be available. I raced away, rang the Geege and my parents and burst into tears. Complete roller coaster of emotions!

I returned to have a repeat ultrasound. The Doctor apologised. He said that I did have a non-viable pregnancy (as per the original ultrasound). The “heart beat” the sonographer had detected was mine (referred to the embryonic pole that had not grown past 6 weeks).

It was so confusing, but the radiographer (who I knew because I used to work with him at HKH) was very clear in his explanation. The ultrasound that he saw and the pictures we could see were easily explained by him, and none of it left him with a question mark about the end of the pregnancy.

He apologized. I still wondered - Where had this baby been last week?

I had been there at both ultrasounds and this picture was different. What could the explanation for all of this be?

I returned to the OB/GYN clinic the next day. I explained the experience that I had at the ultrasound (never again would I commit to having an ultrasound at a place that did not specialize in obstetrics!). The report written by the doctor referred in no way to the information the sonographer had given me.

The obstetrician wanted me to “wait a week, have another ultrasound before we do a D&C. Just to be sure.” I WAS sure ( I didn't FEEL pregnant anymore) and I did not want another week of wondering when the miscarriage would complete itself. I wanted this to be over.

They booked me in for a D&C, which I had that afternoon.

Another baby, another operation. I can get them in there but I really can’t get them out again.

I woke from the anaesthetic crying. I was surprised by this, but concluded that I was profoundly sad for the terrible way this had all ended. Even my soul was hurt and my sub-conscious was so miserable that I couldn’t contain the pain.

Goodbye little one. I lost my daughter.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Money Matters #4 - 10 Simple Money-Saving Tips for 2008

Another gem from the February Money Magazine. Simple Money-Saving Tips. Apparently these tips are not difficult and will save us stress.

Tip 1 - Carry cash instead of credit cards - psychologically it is meant to be harder to spend cash (and you pay no interest)
Tip 2 - Buy fewer takeaway meals - if you are time poor, use home-made quick meal options or cook 'double recipes' and freeze the left-overs. 
Tip 3 - Plan your purchases to avoid impulse buying - grocery shop from a list, look high and low when shopping, they hide the cheaper items there.
Tip 4 - Cut your work expenses - take your lunch to work (at least 3 or 4 times a week will save you $500) and use public transport rather than driving or taking cabs
Tip 5 - Use tap water rather than bottled water
Tip 6 - Shop wisely - at sales, outlet centres and on the internet. Stick to a budget and compare prices.
Tip 7 - Shop around for financial products (like insurance) - get at least three quotes
Tip 8 - Pay your credit card bills on time
Tip 9 - Cut back on fees generally - things like late fees, ATM fees, bank fees. Get organised and save.
Tip 10 - Put catalogues in the bin - Don't be tempted by seductive, glossy advertising

Friday, 1 February 2008

Money Matters #3 - Get Set for 2008

I got the February Money Magazine in the post today. I have a subscription to the magazine and I always love receiving it in the mail.  This month's Edition has  inspired me to write the third of my Money Matters posts. Susan Hely did a special report on getting financially fit, and with all the doom and gloom in the US, now seems like a good time to be financially fit.

I usually start the New Financial Year with financial resolutions, and the best of intentions, but the article says that the beginning of the year is a great time to 'overhaul finances'. I don't necessarily want big changes, just a little more effort in key areas (like insurance). With the US recession deepening, who knows what 2008 will bring, so it is best we be prepared.

Susan's personal goals are: switch to low-rate credit cards, stop being a slob about financial records, shop around for big-ticket items, write down what she spends and plan and pay for holidays well in advance. Sounds good to me. For the rest of us, here are her key messages:

1. Spend less than you earn - You may need to limit access to your money to acheive this. Two suggestions on how to do this a) Have two bank accounts - one for bills, the other for spending or b) go back to spending cash, rather than EFTPOS or credit cards.
2. Control your debts - If you are using credit to fund your living expenses, this means you. Firstly, stop using your credit cards or line of credit attached to your mortgage. Then, set a budget that includes repaying debt and stick to it. Sometimes getting someone with a fresh pair of eyes to look at your situation will help you get back in control. There is another way to manage your money. Do not despair.
3. Set your goals - Start with a short, medium and long-term wishlist. Once you know what you are trying to acheive with your money, it will be easier to make a plan and stick to it. Next work out what you own and what your owe, then you can ascertain how much you can afford to invest. The DIY Statement of Financial Position available from http://www.asic.gov.au/ is a great tool that can help you work out your personal assets and liabilities.
4. Low-rate, low-fee cards - Rule 1 - Try not to use your credit card - use alternatives such as cash, EFTPOS, debit cards (your own cash) and lay-bys (old fashioned but awesome). Rule 2 - If you have a credit card, pay it off IN FULL each month. Rule 3 - If you cannot pay your card in full, you need the cheapest credit card you can find. Think low or no ongoing fees. Think low interest. Think interest free days. But read the fine print before signing the transfer papers. There are a lot of "introductory offers" out there. Rule 4 - If you have credit card debt, you MUST pay more than the minimum monthly each and every statement. It will literally take you YEARS if you don't.
5. Live on less - After the plan and the financial goals comes 'control your expenses'. Live on less is a golden rule of financial success. Trim your spending by 5% initially and when you adjust to this, cut it by another 5%.
6. Diversify investments - Spread your money across a range of investments in order to reduce your exposure to market risk. The idea is that returns from better-performing investments will help offset those that under-perform. Always think long term when investing. It is difficult to pick a winner every year. Let the law of averages help you out. In the long term, diversify across the major asset classes, fixed interest, cash, property, Aussie shares and international shares. The exact way you hold your assets in each class will be determined by your risk approach and your financial adviser. Then regularly re-balance your investments back to your long-term benchmark, as the large professional investment managers do.
7. Don't over borrow - Base your borrowings on sensible growth and investment returns. Don't get caught up in the hype.
8. Best mortgage deals - Compare your current interest rate and annual fee with others. http://www.cannex.com.au/ is a great resource. Check if you are paying for features you don't need.
9. Pay yourself first - Pay yourself first and then pay your bills is one of the oldest pieces of financial advice. Setting up an automatic payment into your savings account from your pay is the easiest way. Direct it into a diversified managed fund with the appropriate level of risk and take advantage of compounding returns and time (you don't need a financial planner to do this. There are a number of funds you can contribute to directly these days).
10. Make your cash work - 3 words - online savings accounts. High-yielding, easy to access. Look for the best interest rate.
11. Boost your super - Superannuation is the most tax-effective investment (15% on contributions rather than your marginal tax rate AND earnings are also only taxed at 15%). You can access this money tax-free as either an income stream or lump sum when you are 60. A great long-term investment. Three key superannuation tips:
  • Keep as few super funds as possible to save on fees/charges
  • Give your Tax File Number to your Super Fund (to get the 15% tax rate)
  • Select the best investment option for your age/stage
So, according to Rick Arnheim, head of financial planning firm Shadforths, the rules of prudent finances are: "spend less than you earn, use credit cards wisely and pay them off fully each month, never borrow for large lifestyle expenditures like holidays and furniture and contribute regularly to your superannuation plan at a minimum of 12% of your gross earnings throughout your working life".


What are your financial goals this year?
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