Sunday, October 10, 2010

Frozen Maybes

So, I don't know. I've been so stuck about how to keep writing here. I wish I could just transition easily to paragraphs about jumpy bouncers and first teeth, but it's been hard for me to recuperate from having every single thing in my life revolve around infertility. For so long it seemed like every vacation plan, every spat with my husband, every decision about my job was really about whether or not I would, could, or should even keep trying to get pregnant. I think I was just so used to thinking about my whole life in terms of cycling that I literally couldn't adjust for a while.

Of course, the sleep deprivation is a kind of eraser. I hadn't been able to actually think about much of anything for a while when I suddenly noticed that old harbinger of possibility, EWCM. It was such a shock that at first I didn't even know what to think. I mean, I actually entertained the idea of trying to jump on the post-pregnancy hormonal rollercoaster and maybe get lucky the old fashioned way. Which is the absolutely ridiculous, both statistically and practically. But still, it was impossible not to think about it.

And then reality really hit hard when my lab called to say that my pre-paid embryo storage was about to expire and did I want to go on a yearly payment plan?

And while it is SO OBVIOUS that we will never use those embryos, I can't help but feel wretched about destroying them. It took me seven years to get those embryos. I will never again even get a chance to have embryos of my own. Those embryos are related to my kids. But of course it is SO OBVIOUS that another pregnancy would not be good for me, that both my husband and I are too old to do this again, that we are worn out and tapped out and emotionally spent and that cycling put such a strain on our marriage that even talking about those embryos caused a gigantic argument. There are a jillion reasons to put an end to this whole thing and move on with our lives and not even think about the frozen maybes anymore.

If I had fifteen fabulous embryos I would donate them and hope that they would make somebody incredibly happy. But I have two semi-good embryos that came from 40 year old eggs. I'm pretty sure isn't what couples who have gone through whatever it takes to get to donor embryos are looking for. I think about my daughter's sunset-colored hair or my son's olive-green eyes, her abnormally high IQ, his impish crinkly grin. They are both long and lean, with delicate features and old-soul eyes. As a mother, it's impossible for me to imagine that somebody wouldn't want these exact traits, even the pale skin and freckles. But as an infertile, I know that nobody chooses embryos that don't maximize their chances of a take-home baby.

So, that leaves research. Which I wholeheartedly support, knowing that research is the only thing that helps anyone have success with IVF. And increasing the chances for success, especially on "old" eggs, is so important to me that I really WANT to be more gung-ho about just signing the donation papers and getting on with things. But it's hard to just give away, give up, something I fought for so desperately.

I have always said that the longer someone struggles with infertility, the more damage it seems to do, and I know that's what this is all about. Seven years of clinging to hope makes it hard to just let go.

Friday, April 16, 2010


So, it's just hard to write while you're drastically trying to keep up with the basic laundry/groceries/billpaying/etc., even with an "easy" baby. But you already know that, don't you?

Just so you know, and "easy" baby isn't all that easy. I mean, he does wail inconsolably sometimes. He does want to eat every hour for at least part of the day. He gets fidgety in his car seat and he doesn't like to have his diaper changed. But that all seems kinda normal for a baby, so it's more or less what I expected.

My daughter was colicky and fussy and demanding and sensitive. I remember walking around the house with her for hours at a time, singing and rocking and patting and desperately hoping she'd conk out. Which she would, only to wake about two seconds after I carefully transferred her from my arms to a spot in her crib which had been strategically pre-warmed with a hot-water bottle. The frustration was so aggravating that I would cry at least twice a day.

This little guy is a piece of cake in comparison. He'll sit in his bouncy seat and stare at the light fixtures until he drifts off to sleep. (Sometimes.) He'll wake up and just coo for me instead of screaming his head off if I'm not right there. (Sometimes.) He'll gaze wondrously at the thrill of a warm bath, at the feeling of the water rinsing his head, at the leg massage I give him afterwards while he has some diaper-free time. I am astounded at the sheer amount of time that goes by while he actually looks happy. Which may sound ridiculous, but my daughter was so high-strung as a new baby that she had to be held all the time. One of her first words was "carry-you" since she didn't understand direct pronouns and we were always saying "Okay, I'll carry you" or "Do you want Daddy to carry you?". She said it like one word with a badly pronounced R, "kewwiyew."

Anyway, he's so much more laid back that I can put him in his baby-lounger in the bathroom and take a shower - or cook dinner, whatever has to be done. He wouldn't be happy in there forever, but I can get a half hour or so when he's fed and burped and freshly-diapered. He'll just watch us move around and turn his head to follow the sounds of our voices. He seems fine with just observing and relaxing. Or his eyelids will just get lower and lower and he'll conk out. Then we can have about 90 minutes, which seems like forever. It's kind of unnerving, really - I keep wondering if something's wrong with him, but hopefully he's just a mellow guy.

So, I'm not exactly at my wit's end, but I am trying to get one house ready to sell and organize another. I found a nanny-sharing arrangement, which is great, but I need to get to know her a bit before I decide if it's permanent. I had been telling everyone I knew that I wanted a nanny-share, hoping that something would eventually come of it. I didn't expect it to work out so soon, but it was too good to pass up. The other mother has 3 year old twins, so I think the nanny is happy to have a mellow newborn three days a week. She hangs out with him while I dash between houses - seems like she has the better part of the arrangement, but at least I am almost done moving.

Anyway, that's me these days. Mellow baby, part-time nanny, not working for at least a few more months... and I'm still propping my eyelids open sometimes, moaning about my creaky back and realizing almost every afternoon that I haven't eaten since six in the morning. If I am ever done fixing up the old house, landscaping the new one and figuring out how to get rid of half my husband's old junk without him knowing about it, I might actually worry about some kind of exercise. Meanwhile, elastic waists for me...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Post-Partum Post

So, the birth. I've tried to write this so many times and it always comes out rambly and bitter and weepy and just too long. I'll try to stick to just the facts, ma'am.

I was on low-dose pitocin overnight and my cervix didn't budge. I had been walking around at about 2 cm and when the doctor checked me at 9:00 am it was still 2 cm. So, my water was broken and the pitocin was turned up and my doctor was supposed to come back around 11:30 to check my cervix again. The nurses told my husband that I'd probably have the baby around 4 or 5 that afternoon, so he left to get some breakfast. My doula had called earlier to find out if she had time to take her kids to school, and was stuck in horrible traffic. I figured the contractions weren't that bad, so I'd be okay for a while.

You see where this is going, don't you? The contractions got steadily stronger and closer together until they were a minute and a half apart and lasted almost a minute each - so, thirty seconds of recovery between each little bout of agony. My husband came back as soon as I called him, but by then I was moaning for the anesthesiologist. My doula didn't even try to talk me out of the epidural - she took one look at me and said that the baby looked great on the monitor and that was all that mattered.

At that point I didn't care about the whole needle in the spine thing anymore. The nurse told me it would be just four more contractions and then I wouldn't feel them. After the fourth contraction the pain was somewhat duller than it had been, but mostly it had just shifted. It was less abdominal and more concentrated right between my legs. I kept saying that it still hurt and the nurse said that it should be getting better. Um, no, actually.

Then they were checking my cervix and telling me not to push yet and asking if I could wiggle my toes (yes) and my husband was putting the swing-tilt lens on his camera (a way of getting only some of the field in focus, which was one of my conditions of being photographed in the delivery room) and then my OB was there and I was having the baby. It was 11:00.

Everybody kept telling me when to push and when to hold my breath. I couldn't feel the contractions at all anymore but I could feel my skin tearing. I was screaming like I was auditioning for a horror movie. I couldn't believe that I had given in and gotten the epidural and I was in excruciating pain anyway. I heard the nurse talking about novacaine and then I could feel the needles and I just hoped I would pass out from the pain.

Maybe I did pass out, because the next thing I knew I could hear non-stop crying and somebody was handing me a baby. My baby. After 13 minutes of Really? This little puffy faced eskimo baby? I was still crying and holding him and my doctor said I had a little tear and needed stitches. No kidding, huh? Then the nurse was asking me to wiggle my toes, asking if I could stand up.

They took me to the postpartum room and gave me percocet. I finally slept for hours while my husband held the baby. When I woke up everything hurt and there was blood all over and I had swelled up so much that I couldn't even put my flip flips on to go into the bathroom. I had to walk with my toes curled under because it hurt so much to put any weight on my giant feet.

I was okay as long as the percocet kept me from feeling to much or thinking too much about anything. But they won't send you home with it, so I had to settle for vicodin, which just makes me feel stupid and constipated. I kept swelling for about a week after the birth - retained IV fluids, supposedly. I only lost about nine pounds after delivery because I was so full of excess fluid - and the baby was 7lbs 4 oz of that.

A few days later I stood up and blood poured down my legs, soaking my jeans. When I tried to wash up, clots the size of dessert plates came out in the shower. I had to go in for a uterine "massage" (external squishing) and a speculum exam, which believe me is NOT a good idea with fresh stitches in that general area. I drew the line at the vaginal ultrasound. Not a chance.

Whoever says there is "no medal" for having a medication-free birth is way off track. Who cares about even the stupid idea of a medal when you can't even hold your new baby because you're zonked out on narcotics? When you're hobbling to the bathroom while blood is soaking through your third pair of pants?

The only reason any of it was worth it was that when the doctor broke my water there really wasn't any in there. The baby had stopped moving much in the day and a half before I was induced, so things were definitely getting more precarious. And of course I would do anything to make sure that this baby was okay. And he is - he's great. More than great - he's a relaxed little guy, a good sleeper, breastfeeding is going well. I mean, it's exhausting but I couldn't really ask for an easier baby unless I was being wildly unrealistic.

I'll always feel sort of bitter about the whole birth experience, just because I felt like nobody cared how I was doing in anything but a technical way. My blood pressure was good and my oxygen was fine, so it didn't matter that I was completely dilated and still getting the maximum pitocin drip. And why bother checking me before the epidural? Just get the drugs into me and maybe I'll stop moaning so annoyingly.

Obviously, the most important thing is that in the long run everything is fine. And the truth is, after that first week, I'm doing pretty well. All the swelling and bleeding and pain is gone and I've lost about 25 pounds now. I'm getting almost eight hours of sleep at night (usually two, two and then four) plus a nap in the afternoon. I'm easing back into life again, going to baby-massage classes once a week and doing some strollering in hopes of someday actually exercising.

In the meanwhile, I will write about my mother's impending visit, the fact that somebody has already offered to buy my baby, and how to buy trees. Plus, maybe another photo or two of the little guy?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

All's Well That Ends Well...

I'm not sure I can even try to describe the birth. I'll try to figure out what actually happened and then write about it, maybe.

But I can absolutely say that the babe is fine. Even though he is apparently an eskimo. Since the rest of us are fair-skinned blue-eyed Gaelic-ish people, there may have been a mix-up at the lab...

Even though he looks kind of eskimo-esque, he has the facial expressions of a three-star chef-de-cuisine touring the kitchens of a junior-high cafeteria. Shock, disdain, repulsion and suspicion are his specialties.

But, he has been a bizarrely easygoing little guy so far, so I can't complain. I'll have to let the clinic know that even though I seem to have been given the wrong baby, I'll probably just keep him.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ides Of March

That's the date. Monday, March 15th.

Originally, it was a day of festivity to celebrate the Roman god Mars. Although it this case it may be more fitting to "beware the Ides of March", the dire warning in Julius Caesar. Yep, that's the day I'll be dripped with pitocin and hoping for the best.

At my appt. this morning I was on the monitors for almost an hour and Mister Baby only moved twice. I honestly think he was just sleeping, but my OB decided that it was time to make a move. Not an emergency move, obviously - more of a precaution.

And I agree - I have been so worried that I will have made it this far only to have it all end badly. I feel better knowing that I'll be in a hospital the whole time. Since cord compression and placental abruption are the risks that have had me on bedrest for so long, I've been a little nervous about what might happen when I finally start having serious contractions. I mean, the bedrest was supposed to help by keeping my uterus calm and not disturbing the placenta. Labor is kind of the opposite of that, right?

So, I get the weekend to wrap up any last little things. Not that "everything" will be ready. But things will be ready enough. I went to Targ yesterday, my first and only trip there during this entire pregnancy. It's funny, but after so much online shopping I found the selection incredibly limited. I didn't actually buy much, but it was good to get some of the little things crossed off of my list. Boob cream. A lightweight robe for the hospital. Felt pads for the legs of the new furniture.

The crib and changer and glider were finally delivered yesterday. The nursery will just be my project for the next month or so. For me, it's still better than getting all of that ready months ago and then having to take it all apart if I didn't end up with a baby. There was a time when I wouldn't have considered waiting until the last minute to get things ready, and I suppose I'm not so cautious when it comes to other things. But this one was hard.

In any case, the upside is that I spent so much time figuring it out on paper. It all came together almost exactly as I planned, and I think I'll have fun finishing it up during the nursing-pooping-laundry-exhaustion of the next few weeks.

So, my bag is packed. The car seat is installed. I finally bought diapers. There is an InDesign document on my desktop, all ready for a photo and a few extra bits of information to be added and made into an email announcement. I think I might be ready for this. Yeah, I'm a little worried about the whole pitocin thing, but maybe it won't be that bad?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dear Baby, Dear Body

I just want to say thanks for hanging in there these last eight weeks. Way back in the beginning of January, that first L&D nurse told me you'd be lucky to last another few days. Remember that? How you somehow managed to keep what little fluid there was in there from leaking out and a few days later the perinatologist said we could go home? And even though things have been a little rocky since then, you've both really pulled off so much more than any of us expected. 38 1/2 weeks! Woo-hoo!

And, Baby - thanks for making the kick counts so easy, too. It never takes you a whole hour to bust out ten moves. You're quite a little wiggler. And you've passed your non stress tests fabulously, too. I can always see exactly where your heartrate correlates to your movements, which is just what the doctors are looking for. You usually manage to kick exactly on the toco meter, too, which I think is a reflection of your still-developing fetal sense of humor - sometimes on the printout it looks like I'm having crazy spiky contractions, but we all know it's just you.

After trying so hard to just stay in for so long, you might feel hesitant about switching gears and trying to come out now. And I totally understand. But the thing is, you are getting bigger and bigger and your fluid environment is getting smaller and smaller. Things are not going to get better, so you should probably just make a run for it while you still can. Otherwise, the doctor is going to come in and get you. Now, that wouldn't be then end of the world, but it would make things a bit more complicated and let's face it - this has been complicated from before you were even a bunch of cells in a petri dish. How about a nice, natural birth with no emergencies?

As for you, Body - I know it hasn't been easy. You've been poked and stretched and swollen and weakened. I know it hasn't been ideal. I know you didn't really want to do this in the first place. But you've been so good about coping with everything from the stims all the way through the bedrest, and I really, really appreciate it. I know you did your best with the fluid leak. Only about 6% of leaks seal back up and allow the pregnancy to continue without infection - I am so impressed that you managed to do that against such low odds!

The thing is, we don't have to do all this any more. You don't have to lie down all day just hoping to churn out another few drops of fluid. You don't have to let all your muscles keep withering away doing nothing. We can just have the baby now and get this all over with! Think of it - you can hike and do yoga and have wine and cappuccino again! What else is there I can bribe you with? You name it, Body. Anything but a spinning class. How about a spa day?

You've both been fantastic and I so, so appreciate it - let's keep up the good work and get on with things before the doctors come up with some kind of drastic surgical plan. After all, Body, you don't want to be sliced and scarred. And, c'mon Baby - the boobs aren't going to be good for much if they're full of demerol. It's time, you two. Thanks for making it this far, and now it's time to get on with the next phase!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Pricked and Prodded

I am just so done with bedrest. In the old days, I would have said that anyone who thought they could get anything done with a newborn was just delusional - but now that I have been on bedrest I realize that at least a newborn is portable, if you are allowed to walk around. Yeah, it won't be easy to manage a long to-do- list, but at least it will be possible to do SOMETHING. I am so, so tired of doing nothing.

I've been having mild random contractions, but nothing that feels significant. Yesterday the OB swept my membranes, which is not exactly painful but weirdly uncomfortable. My cervix was about 2 cm dilated, and after the procedure it was almost 3. The actual cervix manipulation didn't hurt at all, but the pressure against the whole nether region was almost unbearable. The process is supposed to get things going by introducing the whole idea to the body and hoping the body takes over and keeps going. Kinda like putting on dance music at a lame party and hoping that everyone starts to boogie down. And, from what I can tell, maybe just as likely to work...

I've had two acupuncture treatments to stimulate my uterus and calm the rest of me, but so far my ute is still reluctant and the rest of me is still antsy. But it is nice to lie down somewhere else for 90 minutes and listen to this CD which supposedly syncs the two hemispheres of the brain. It's kind of hypnotizing. As my OB said, it can't hurt, so I guess I'll keep trying it every few days. Anything to at least give myself the illusion that I'm doing something to get this labor going.

I know that, short of cervadil and pitocin, there isn't that much that can be done. And I know I'm heading towards those things, so I keep telling myself that the goal isn't so much labor as cervix ripening, since pitocin on a rock-hard cervix is supposed to be a recipe for pain. My next OB appointment is Friday (unless I have the baby before that - I mean, I can dream, right?) and she says she won't let me go another week after that. Monitoring low fluid is so random anyway that it just gets riskier and riskier.

Anyway, I have finally made a birth plan. It basically says: do what you have to, but I'd appreciate it if you could support my desire for a non-medicated birth. The main other thing it says is please, please no cheerleading. If somebody starts chanting "Push-push-push-push-push-push!" or "You can do it! You can do it!" I will just scream at them to shut the #@%! up. Last time I tried to just ignore all that and concentrate on maintaining my zoned-out non-awareness of pain. I think I said "Shhhhhh," once or twice. This time I already know that I am starting off with weak muscles and less stamina than I had before. I just can't worry about being polite on top of everything else.

I put the plan in a basket of individually wrapped Newman's Organic cookies. If I wanted to be totally Miss All Natural, I guess I could have made a basket of seasonally appropriate fruit. But who wants to eat fruit in a germy hospital? Anything sealed up is a better bet. Plus, if I was really Miss All Natural, I would probably be planning a home birth instead. I really do want to be in a hospital - things have been risky enough already that I need the reassurance of having a whole staff of emergency specialists there. So, cookies it is. But at least they're not laden with extra chemicals - and I hope I won't be, either!