Monday, December 28, 2009

Morphine And Julie Andrews

I was feeling pretty good about this whole pregnancy thing, really. I had passed my glucose test, my anemia was improving and the little guy is so active that I finally decided to send the doppler back. Sure, it's hard to get comfortable sometimes when I'm trying to sleep, and I have been getting a lot of heartburn lately, but all in all things have been going well.

But yesterday I was pretty sure that I was going to have an emergency C section and then possibly die. I had the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, including having given birth without pain medication. And being run into by a school bus and having a pinched piece of nerve stuck between two of my lower vertebrae. This was worse, to the extent that I wondered why the pain scale that doctors use only goes up to 10.

The pain started suddenly, radiating down from my lower ribs. It was so intense that I had to double over on the couch and cry into my pajamas. It didn't feel like contractions - those are somehow familiar pains, a stronger version of monthly cramps that comes in waves. This was a constant, unwavering torture. I went to L&D only because the pain was covering the whole area of the uterus and I wanted to make sure the little guy was okay. I could feel him kicking and wiggling around, but other than that I needed definitive information.

They ran lots of blood and urine tests and the covering doctor (a Sunday, and a holiday weekend of course) ordered a CT. But having read so many articles recently about CT machines being calibrated at up to 1,000 times more radiation that recommended, I wondered about the risks of exposing the baby to what can possible trigger serious cellular problems later. By that time, I was on morphine and felt like my brain was made out of something light and fluffy, like cotton candy. Nice, but useless. Luckily my husband talked with the radiologist who said CT is only used in pregnancy for dire life threatening conditions and converted my orders to US and an MRI.

Which showed nothing. Nothing! By this time a gaggle of doctors were mulling over my reports, telling me they were stumped. Appendicitis would likely show elevated white cells, pancreatitis would show elevated enzymes, kidney stones would show red cells in the urine... but all of my tests came back normal. So, they dosed me up on morphine and I watched The Sound of Music on the giant flat screen TV in my L&D room. I kept dozing off and having dreams about singing nuns and outfits made from curtains, but at least I was beginning to think I might not die.

Here's a little something I learned about MRIs, by the way. I had one once before to diagnose the nerve damage in my back, and the experience was horrendous. I swore I would never again let myself be slid into that glowing tube and assaulted with those space-alien heavy metal sounds that seem to go on forever and fill your whole body with concentrated distress. However, the morphine kind of took the edge off. It still sucked, especially since they had to do a lot of the scans two or three times because the baby was seriously freaking out during the noise, but it was somehow less drastic.

At a certain point, though, I realized that what with waiting for the MR tech, waiting for the radiologist and waiting for the transport guys to wheel me back to L&D, a lot of time had gone by. Even just realizing that made me think that my brain might be functioning properly again, and I asked how long it took for the morphine to wear off. The nurse checked her paperwork and said it was probably time for another dose, But the thing is, the pain was gone. The most horrendous pain I had ever felt in my life seemed to have gone as mysteriously as it had come. We waited another half hour to see if the drug would clear and the pain would come back, but nothing happened.

The doctors were stumped again, gathering around and asking a million questions. Mostly ridiculous questions like "Has this ever happened to you before?" Um, no - pretty sure I would have mentioned that when I got there. They kept me overnight for observation. I was attached to the contraction monitor, which showed very minor uterine irritation that is considered normal at this point. The fetal heartbeat monitor was driving the nurses crazy, since most bigger babies can't move around as much as my little guy did - he was constantly scooting out of range so the alarm kept going off at the nurses station. But he was fine, very active and the US hadn't shown anything unusual.

Weird, eh? In the morning my OB came to check on me. She just confirmed that everything looked normal and wants me to see her weekly from now on. It was the shift change for the nurses, so I was checked out by my third nurse, who hadn't been there when I was writhing in agony. While she was going over my chart she suddenly stopped and asked me if the pain had started right after breakfast. When I told her yes, she asked what I had eaten. Whole wheat waffle, half a pear and a veggie soy-sausage patty.

She said that when she was pregnant the same kind of thing had happened to her. It turned out to be an inflamed gallbladder - not necessarily stones that would show up on an US, but a condition brought on by the hormones of pregnancy combined with a gallbladder, pancreas and small intestines that are squished up by the expanding uterus. The pain works itself out as the bile levels slowly seep into some kind of equilibrium. She had several bouts before a gastroenterologist diagnosed the problem and put her on a very low fat diet and extra calcium. She recommended some diet options and a stool softener (keeping the intestines from being irritated really helps, apparently) and gave me her direct number at the hospital in case it happens again.

Of course, I don't know for sure that that's my problem, but it seems like such random luck that she showed up for the last fifteen minutes of my stay and was the only person with some kind of information that clicked with what I had gone through. I will absolutely put myself on the low fat diet. All fat will be brain-development friendly rather than just basically whatever seems yummy at the time. Believe me, I will do whatever it takes to avoid that pain again, even though the weird yodeling goatherd daydreams were almost worth it, really.



Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day (Literally)

To celebrate Boxing Day, we are packing boxes. Lots and lots of boxes of what turns out to be the crap of life, basically. Even though at least half of our things are going directly to charity, we have SO MUCH stuff that for one reason or another can't be ditched.

The blanket my mother in law knit, for example. It's an open lacy pattern so it's not exactly cozy for snuggling and watching TV on the couch. Plus, it has to be dry-cleaned. But we can't get rid of it because of sentimental value, so we'll just keep it in it's vacuum-sealed bag and it will move to our new house and languish on a top shelf in the garage storage cabinet.

Also, my daughter's Madeline doll house. It's big, it has a lot of accessories, it was the perfect little-kid dollhouse because the pieces aren't breakable but they are so much nicer than most plastic doll house things. And I am FINE with the idea of a boy playing with a dollhouse, but my husband said it's too big to keep around on the off chance that he'll be really into Madeline. (Which is code for "I hope my son doesn't really want a dollhouse in his room.")

My jam-making supplies. Which I rarely use, but maybe I'll get a second wind of old-fashioned housewifery after my son is born? Maybe...

And I know I've mentioned the nine giant boxes of bubble-wrapped, peanut-protected Limoges china, with delicate violet-flowered borders and gilt edges, complete with tiny consomme bowls and individual butter-holders. This belonged to my husband's great aunt, and apparently none of her direct descendants wanted anything to do with it, so we have it. Still packed up after seven years. If you know me at all you know that this is the antithesis of anything I would ever use. For one thing, I don't use dishes that can't go in the dishwasher, which is why I spring for the All-Clad pots and pans. I refuse to wash fussy dainty china in the sink. I'll do knives and cast iron, but that's it. I can understand being sentimental about your mother's hand-knit lap-blanket, but this china thing is ridiculous.

As for the 900 years of New Yorker magazines, I got the CD version of all the back issues. On the off chance there really IS a dire need to go back and read that tidbit about guerilla theater, it might actually be possible to find it by doing a search. Instead of vaguely remembering that the cover was a parody of something that may have been related to education, and that it was predominantly green, and was possibly from the mid-1990s...

Anyway, my big holiday plans include more boxes, several trips to the Goodwill and lots of recycling. Festive, right?

Hope you are all enjoying the time off and some holiday cheer of your own!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Shopped, Dropped

Just for the record, a lingering hacking cough is bad enough normally, but with all your internal organs smushed up into your rib cage? Not good. And I say this as someone who actually once broke two ribs from hacking my way through whooping cough. That was bad, but this is worse. It's not even that I've been terribly ill - no fever, nothing too painful - but I'm full of some kind of mediocre virus that won't go away.

Still, staying home in fuzzy pajamas has given me hours to do all of my holiday shopping on the internet. I'm sure I'll still have a few odds and ends left to scrounge at the last minute, but I really did almost all of it from the keyboard. But it still took hours, and I was still exhausted when I was done.

I'll admit that I was also shopping for me - not just self-indulgently, but for the practical needs of a woman who has for the most part not thought about what she might need when she gives birth to an actual baby in a few months. You know, not-counting-chickens-before-they're- full-term, etc. - which is fine, and basically necessary for self-preservation. But at some point an actual baby might show up and then it could possibly be a good idea to have a diaper or two lying around.

I didn't really buy much, but I have a lot of bookmarked sites and a folder full of information. I can't believe how much has changed since my daughter was born. I feel like some relic from the distant past, way back before babies were their own niche market and everything they need is handmade in the Sweden.

ETA: I never even managed to publish this post back when I wrote it - my cough just got worse and worse and I thought I might actually have pneumonia, but it turns out that my airways are just compromised by being so squished up into my chest. Then the coughing makes it worse and now I am stuck in some vicious cycle of lousy breathing problems. No pneumonia, just steroids and inhalers and warm mist humidifiers. I'm basically fine, the little guy is fine, but my ribs and stretched-thin stomach muscles ache like they've been through boot-camp. Blah!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Non-News News

Not much to report here. I've shifted from doing everything I can to get pregnant to doing everything I can to stay pregnant, but staying pregnant is just not very dramatic for me. I take my blood thinners and my extra folic acid and lots of vitamins and go to acupuncture. Nothing too fascinating, no midnight trips to the ER or lengthy bedrests here. Which is all good because boring is what I want now, but it gives me very little to write about.

Unless, of course, I write about peripheral things, like the fact that we are moving. Yes, we are up and leaving our sweet little two-bedroom/one-office bungalow and heading nine blocks over to a groovy new place with actual closets and - my lifelong dream - a laundry room. Interest rates just made it all too good to pass up.

It is bigger than our current house, although not by much. But it's more about the storage and the closets than the number of rooms or how big they are. We'll have one more room and one more bathroom than we have now, but the layout is so much better that it feels like twice the space. The lot size is exactly the same, but the setbacks in the new neighborhood mean the front yards are shallower so there is more usable backyard. Plus, the fact that everything is scaled to modern humans helps - our current house is neither pre-war nor past-war, but war-contemporary, built in 1941. The kitchen cabinets hold about 8 teacups and a saucepan, and our closets are like coffins turned on end.

If it weren't for the little studio building we have in the back we'd have been doomed a long time ago. That room is floor to ceiling storage on three sides, with two big walk-in closets. We keep most everything out there and just bring what we need into the house depending on the season or the occasion. We're like our NY friends with tiny apartments who keep most of their stuff in storage units (although it is more convenient to have the storage on the property.)

I love our little house. It's a California classic bungalow, very lovingly maintained and cute as a button. But it's also an artifact of our fertility struggles. We've been looking at open houses for years, but somehow we felt that we couldn't justify moving since we didn't "need" more room. We only had one kid, after all. We also try to live fairly sustainably, keep our carbon footprints low and all that - it felt philosophically weird to buy a bigger house if we didn't even have a bigger family. And some of that is fine, because it makes sense to really think about what you need and to make decisions that value our resources, etc. etc.

But infertility becomes such an emotional component of those decisions. We didn't want to jinx ourselves by moving, we didn't want to buy in the crazy market and be stuck with a big house and no money for IVF, we didn't want to wonder what the "spare" room was going to be some day. All of our thoughts about moving started to hinge on whether or not we would ever have another baby. We did some more remodeling and told ourselves we would make it work, but we were never really happy with the idea.

I wonder if it's like that for most people who struggle with infertility for a long time. If whatever big decisions are looming - taking a new job, getting a new car, going back to school - revolve around the theoretical idea that maybe, next month, everything will change?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rambling Questions, Meaningless Answers

People assume I'm on a second marriage when they I say that I have an eleven year-old, too. It's not that I even care what strangers think, but I know I'll have to deal with this, so I've been practicing different responses on random people in the checkout line.

1. The straightforward answer: "We kept trying, but I had a lot of miscarriages. This one took $38,000 of high-tech intervention."

The thing is, if you're that point-blank about it, you're pretty much opening yourself up to a lot of follow-up questions. Which could be good, if you feel like being the infertility ambassador and maybe counteract the myths about relaxing, etc. But it's hard to have that information out there amongst, say, the parents of your kid's school. Gossip can be vicious - and if your kid has any kind of quirk there will be rumours about how he was an IVF baby and maybe that explains why he's so (fill in the blank.) Believe me, even people I generally like have accidentally made comments about "only children" in front of me - always followed by a disclaimer that my child was of course an exception.

I've heard other parents mention only children, adopted children and single-parent (as in true single parents, not divorced) children in pitying tones. The thing that sucks is that even if only a few people that would even think of commenting on something like that, it becomes a part of the child's gossip-resume among the other parents. I barely knew one mother but had heard for years that her daughter by a sperm-donor had "identity issues." Another mom was commonly referred to as "one of those older parents with an only child." What does that even mean?

2. The shock-value response: "Yeah, it took us a while - I had to get over my tendency to have spontaneous abortions."

Shock is always good for getting people to just shut up. Most people I know are pro-choice, but the word abortion is a conversation stopper anyway. Good for if you just want to get away. Again, maybe not the best choice for parents at school...

3. The vague explanation: "Well, things don't always work out exactly like you thought they would."

If you can pull this off without adding any platitudes about how things are "meant to be" or whatever, it might let the other person know that prying is often considered rude, and maybe it's time to change the subject. The worst part of the vague answer is that it implies that the pregnancy was an accident, and given the truth about pregnancy after 40, I hate to contribute to that idea.

4. The deflection: "They say things happen for a reason."

Also vague, but buys into the demand for some kind of grand scheme for our happiness. People seem to like that. It's disingenuous, though, because the implication is that the reason has some reflection on our lives or our worth, and I hate that idea even if I'm just saying it to get out of a longer conversation. I can't believe in any kind of "reason" that has put the women I've come to know through the years of heartbreak infertility can cause.

In general I hate the idea that we aren't to a larger extent masters of our own destiny. I do blame myself for letting years for letting so much time go by without demanding better explanations for why I wasn't getting pregnant. But even women who do get thorough treatment and better options than I did can spend years trying to find success. That's why I don't like the idea of "working hard" to get a baby - it isn't fair to someone who has tried IVF again and again, gone to the best clinics, changed lifestyles, undergone surgeries and still doesn't end up with a baby.

I wish it hadn't taken me so long to figure out what secondary infertility even was, and that it really was a problem for me. I wish my kids weren't going to be growing up in practically different generations. I'm still mad at myself for letting so much time go by before I realized that I needed an aggressive clinic and a heavy-duty treatment. A lack of information and a lot of confusion about infertility is probably why it took me so long to figure it out on my own - so why is it so hard for me to just be honest about it when other people ask?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gender Neutral

So. I've been thinking. And it turns out that I'm not as enlightened as I thought I was, I guess.

I am one of those secondary infertiles who meticulously saved most of my first child's things in desperate hopes of someday having another baby. I have a trunk full of clothes in zip-loc bags categorized by size and season. I have all of her wooden toys in bubble wrap and boxed according to age-range. I have a beautiful library of children's books, which I would give to her without the jackets. I would reunite them with their jackets and pack them in small boxes of themed groups, like gift packages for an unknown recipient.

Now, it helps if you know that my daughter was very precise and delicate with her toys. She wasn't the sort of kid who pushed the limits of things - she was tentative and gentle, so much so that I sometimes wondered if she shouldn't be testing out some boundaries a little more aggressively. In any case, some of her things look brand-spanking new.

All of which would be fabulous news if it weren't for the fact that I have just now realized that I don't think I can populate my boy's childhood with Madeline dollhouses and Eloise books. I do have a nice set of those wooden train-track pieces, and some beautiful plain wooden blocks. There are a few things that are truly gender-neutral, but other than that my carefully packed collections are unbelievable feminine. And the crazy thing is, I never realized it. I thought I was raising my girl without those stereotypes. Sure, a lot of her toys and super-girly outfits were gifts, but I obviously contributed heavily to the overall vibe and it is decidedly feminine.

I should also point out that I will be perfectly happy if I have a boy who wants to wear a tutu and play chef all day. I have a very gay-friendly life and in some ways I might be better suited to having a gay son than a macho football kind of child. But, that's not really up to me - it's not the kind of kid I end up with that I'm thinking about now - it's the kind of parent I obviously am, without even knowing it. And yet...

Do I have boxes of rag dolls because I let my child be her own person, and that's the person she turned out to be? I would love to believe that's true. She is sort of dainty and quietish and, well, girly. Not pink-lacy girly, but still. Anyway, the whole thing is just getting to me because I am finally realizing that if I am actually going to have this boy I might have to get some baby stuff together at some point. And I am gravitating to the decidedly "boy" colors and prints. Stripes seem good, maybe an olive green, or a turquoise...

What do you think? Am I just responding to a lifetime of marketing campaigns, or is there something innate about these choices?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Carefully Orchestrated, Yet Unexpected

I told my mom.

I had agonized for months about this, given how she reacts to just about anything I ever say. And I had gone over every possible option as far as setting up the conversation for the least chance of her saying anything dismissive or judgmental. It took me this long to come up with the one sure-fire way to get her out of her negativity for at least a few seconds while I told her about the baby.

It was simple. It was easy. It was brilliant, if I do say so myself. I used that negativity to my advantage, setting her up against her least-favorite sister in a way that let her be the one who could "win" in the good-news contest. It was so obvious, I can't believe that I didn't think of it before. In any case, it worked, its done, she said most of the right things and now we can get on with it - she has staked a claim in the happiness of this situation, and I know her well enough that she will not deign to reverse that position now.

I just wish I had a mom that I could really share these things with. I'm so wistful about other people's wonderful relationships with their mothers. I don't need any more therapy to see that she is doing her best, that she can't help it and that she has so many other things that get in the way of being the ideal mom that I can't expect anything more that what she does try to give. But I'm still nostalgic for a mother-daughter relationship that I never even had, if that makes sense. I remember reading Little Women for the first time, and being sadder for the fact that I would never have a beloved mother like Marmee than for Beth dying. Completely selfish interpretation of a classic, but it's true.

Still, my mother came through today. Even if she needed a little manipulation to get there, she did seem to be genuinely happy for me. She asked if she could be the one to tell her mother, of course, which was fine with me - why not encourage the mother-daughter relationship where I can? Now that she knows, everything seems less fraught, somehow.





Monday, October 26, 2009

And The Award Goes To...


And now, for the intriguingly named Kreativ Blogger Award! From the intriguingly named NoodleGirl, no less - many thanks to you for thinking of me!

First, the guidelines:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. List 7 things about yourself that people may not already know.
5. Nominate 7 new Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to those 7 nominated blogs.
7. Leave a comment on each of those blogs to let the person know they've been nominated.



1. I'm persnickety about cleaning products. I don't like the fake clean smell of most of them, so I usually use the health-food store brands that don't smell like much (no matter what the label claims) or else just diluted white vinegar. I love having a cleaning person, but it drives me crazy when she uses her regular cleaners in my house - I can tell the minute I walk in that some kind of icky chemical is in the air.

Sometimes I have to air out hotel rooms because of the cleaning smell. I have actually told the front desk that I have some kind of terrible lung disease and can't be exposed to chemicals, which is about the only thing that has ever worked at some hotels where I suspect the staff sprays cleaner into the air to give the room that "just cleaned" smell. I try to tip really well to make up for being complainy, though.

2. I've been going gray since college. At first it was just a few strands here and there - through my twenties I didn't really have to worry about covering it since it sort of just blended in with my highlights. But it's been getting more and more obvious for the last ten years. I finally went to a famous colorist known for creating natural tones and told her I'd do whatever she recommended. She said I don't have the right coloring for highlights and that I shouldn't "go blonde" until my hair is almost completely gray. She chose a demi-permanent dye since my hair is a light reddish brown color that doesn't cover well even with permanent color.

The color did fade every few weeks, so after a few appointments she told me that she had perfected the recipe for my color and that I could just order it through the salon and do it myself at home since I didn't need the foils. It was incredibly generous of her - I obviously had to re-dye so frequently to maintain that look, and I think she genuinely just couldn't bring herself to sell me on a less attractive but more permanent dye just to keep booking me. Such a sweetie!

Of course, I haven't dyed in a while now - would rather be grayish than constantly worried that I've caused some kind of irreversible damage. Which I know is overly cautious, but I can't help it.

3. I've been reading my daughter's books lately. Ever since the Harry Potter books we like to read the same things so we can talk about them. Now we're reading the Percy Jackson series, which is HPish, but with Greek mythology instead of witchcraft. So far, we've read a lot of series - Little House, Wrinkle In Time, Unfortunate Events, Benedict Society. I know the Twilight books are looming, but I've read some of them and they're just a little too into the obsessive infatuation of desperate lust for an 11 year old...

I actually like reading middle school literature. I was a voracious reader as a kid, so I would finish whatever I could find - good, bad, great, too young, too old - and so many of those stories are still on the shelves in bookstores. I remember a story about a girl who got sent to boarding school called something like "V is for Victoria" but I can't find it anywhere...

4. I don't really like taking baths. I always feel like I have to take a shower after I get out of a bath.

5. I'm so happy that lawn is going extinct. I never liked lawn, even before it became the water-guzzling, chemical-guzzling, gas-powered-tool polluter that we see it for today. The smell of freshly cut grass makes my nose itch, and I don't like the feeling of cut blades poking my bare feet. If lawn isn't given a good edge condition it almost always has some kind of problem at the sides - adjacent planting cut by weed-whackers or runoff sinkholes in the corners. Since I often actually have to work with lawn - ironic, isn't it? - I have spent a lot of time at sod farms and ag school experimental areas. I have seen soft Kentucky grass lawns, super-tolerant Israeli grass lawns and a new, promising incredibly drought-tolerant lawn - but I still prefer native grasses that are allowed to grow to their full height, to send up their tiny flower stems and sway in the breeze. Mmm, meadow!

6. I don't like to swallow. Sorry, not even on his birthday.

7. Laundry is my favorite chore. Even more than gardening, really. Which is convenient, since we seem to do about a billion loads a week. I sort fairly specifically and then tailor my soap/softener ratio to the particular load. I listen to This American Life podcasts while I fold and iron and hang things up. Dishes, on the other hand... bleh.


So, those are my seven slightly obscure tidbits of info - hope you enjoyed at least one of them!

And now I will pass this onto 7 more bloggers, because I'd like to know what their obscure tidbits are:

Gwynn I have a feeling she has some surprising things to say!

The Babychaser Something unexpected, maybe?

Midlife Mommy Usually so good about editing herself to one subject - how will she do with seven random ones?

Bad Egg Just want to hear from you!

Breeder Beware Makes me laugh out loud and I want more...

Suddenly Old Eggs A little something to do while going into a new cycle?

Clean Slate Wondering what you'll come up with!



In other, more basic news, everything's fine. The anatomy scan was completely uneventful, things look good and I've started telling people our news. My dad and stepmother, as predicted, were delighted. I haven't got the gumption up to tell my mom yet - but only because I've been unexpectedly swamped at work and literally too tired to cope with the idea.

I suppose I'll have to gather my courage and call her this week - that'll definitely be a post of it's own!










Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Telling

I have two real-life friends who have been going through IF treatment. One is pregnant and due only a few weeks after me, and one just had surgery for a septum and is ready to start with her next cycle. We tell each other everything and they have known about my pregnancy since I peed on that first stick. As for everyone else...

I've been wearing very carefully designed outfits and carrying extra large bags (easy enough since I usually have a giant tote filled with rolled up permit-drawing sets wherever I go) and sweaters draped strategically over my shoulder. I think my boss is so wrapped up in his own thought process most of the time that he hasn't noticed much beyond the fact that I may be gaining a little weight. But at this point, it's fairly obvious that I'm not just eating too much cheese. If I don't start talking people will make their own assumptions. Plus, my dad is coming to visit, so at least for my family that's the de facto deadline.

I was going to wait until the level 2 u/s to officially announce anything, and I'm sure my dad will keep quiet for an extra ten days or so if I ask him to, but now I wonder if it's really necessary. I'm more optimistic than I thought I would be at this point - all the tests are good, I have the fancy doppler with the digital readout and the heartrate is incredibly consistent, plus I've been feeling little squirmings in there for about a week now. I think I'm going to just take that leap of faith and make the big announcement.

My dad is probably the best person to start with, anyway. I know he'll be really happy for us, say the right things and I won't have to worry about even a hint of a negative comment. My mom will say something like "Aren't you supposed to be planning your retirement instead of raising another child? Have you thought this through?" But my dad will just tell me that he's thrilled, and he will be. So, the first part will be easy. As for my mom - I'll have to do some kind of calculus to figure out how long information takes to get from my dad and his wife to my sister and then to my mother. The proof will be when the aunt who doesn't get along with my mother finally calls me - then I'll know the news has made it all the way through the family gossip mill.

I'm thinking about sending the announcement to all of my aunts and cousins at once - thereby depriving my mother of her precious gossip, but also bypassing her possibly dire spin tactics. For a woman without much in the way of a life, it would certainly ruin what could easily be the highlight of her - week? month? - but I'm sure she'll make up for it with follow-up emails and all kinds of conversations behind my back.

See why I like to keep this blog kinda private?

PS - Thanks for the recent lovely blog awards - I promise to do them after my dad leaves!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Better Than Normal

The thing is, when the nurse calls you with your second-trimester screening results, it's always good news. If the doctor calls you at home in the evening, you should just grab a few kleenexes before she even starts talking. But when the caller ID is from the office and not the OB's cell phone, and when it's the nurse's no-nonsense voice on the other end of the line instead of the doctor's sing-songy cadence, it's just a routine call to let you know that things are normal.

Normal!!! Although I have no idea what the odds are for any of the tests, because I suddenly realized that I don't care so I didn't bother to ask. Normal is good enough for me! I know there are no guarantees, but at this point a lack of panic is all I really need to be happy. I feel so full of fortune and gratitude. Normal may be just "normal" for most people, but for me it's a cause for celebration and thankfulness.

I am over 40, I have a blood clotting disorder and a tendency to make crappy eggs. Add into that mix the relatively low success rate for IVF in my age range, and the fact that I am having a so-far "normal" pregnancy seems miraculous. I am just so, so grateful that I even have this chance. And I think I wouldn't even have gotten to this point if it hadn't been for the blogs I read which showed me how to be an IVF contestant.

It was from reading blogs that I realized that my first RE, kind-hearted and well-meaning though she was, was probably fine for someone with blocked tubes, but I needed a specialist with more tricks up their sleeves. I learned that if egg quality is an issue, go directly to a big-gun clinic with lots of experience in coaxing decent embryos out of balky ovaries. When I look back at my dainty little protocols from the first few times I tried injectables, I have to laugh. If I hadn't read about other women with secondary infertility, and what the various issues and possible problems could be, I would never have thought of myself as a candidate for a heavy-duty protocol with ICSI and assisted hatching. I thought that having had one child meant it should be fairly easy to have another one - that surely if I was willing to fork over the big bucks for IVF my biggest problem would be worrying about how to raise twins.

I found a research-oriented clinic that had special protocols for egg-quality issues. I found an acupuncturist who was a nurse practitioner for years, who knew how to integrate her practice with my new protocol. And I discovered supportive, encouraging friends when I started writing my own blog, women who helped me through it all and understood everything, even though we had never actually met. And I did all of this from my keyboard.

Maybe I won't get a take-home baby out of all this - I'm not even halfway through this pregnancy, and anything can happen. But for now I am pregnant, for now things are normal, and for now I am just so grateful for everyone who ever wrote the story of their struggle with infertility and sent it out onto the internet, for anyone who really needed it. Once, that was me, and I know I wouldn't be here now without those stories.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Girl Talk

First, thank you for all the emails and comments regarding my mean mommy moment. I feel so much better about it all after reading about how many of you felt that you were stuck in the role of people-pleaser and struggled to break that habit. I'm not sure I was a people-pleaser so much as a self-underminer, but I am determined to show my daughter that she can look out for her own best interest without being a mean girl. The few women I know who have vowed that their daughters WILL NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES become people-pleasers have been the mothers of the girls who tend to coerce and manipulate the other kids. I just can't believe that that's the only other option.

The one thing my daughter said is something that I think we all know too well - it's so much easier to figure out, afterwards, what would have been the best thing to say. Doing it in the moment is the tricky part. And figuring out who tends to put you in those spots is crucial - it turns out that the sleepover girl tends to be pushy in lots of situations. Which is probably useful, since I can almost certainly rely on her to provide some "learning opportunities". And the other thing is, she's not a bad kid, really - it will probably be good for her to be stood up to, just to know that she can't always have everything her way.

Maybe the expectations of "being a girl" are much broader and less stereotypical than they were when we were kids - but most of the same cliches are still there. The mean girls are still wearing short shorts and lots of lip gloss and flipping their hair around when the boys are watching. The boys still flock to the eyelash-batting queen bees, who make perfect fake MacCaulay Culkin-esque expressions of shock when their bra straps are snapped. But I do think the quieter girls have a better time of it these days - at least when my daughter is teased about being too Hermione Granger-ish, she takes it as a compliment.

By the way, I won't have to worry about girl issues this next time around - today's scan left no doubts about that:





That second image is an upside down baby with knees up and ankles crossed - fetal yoga? Couldn't really ask for a better angle, though.

As far as the other things that this "early structural" scan revealed, all systems look good, there are no soft markers for any of the problems that routinely show up at this phase, and blood flows through the placenta and the cord are fine. The cord has three vessels and the placenta is safely out of the way on my right side. The second trimester screening info should be back next week - and my OB says that the fact that she hasn't heard yet is a good sign. Bad news tends to come back faster, for some reason. The other interesting thing she told me that the first trimester screen - blood plus nuchal scan - is more accurate for Down's than the second - there are less false positives.

I know there are 97,000 other things that can go wrong, but being oooooold means that Down's is more likely, so that's been a concern all along. My daughter said she just hopes the baby's cute. I told her I hope he doesn't have any major problems, and then she said that not being cute IS a major problem. But I'm pretty sure babies are generally cute, so at least that's one thing I'm not too worried about.

I'm really starting to get attached, though. It's just impossible not to, really.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

And Now, For Something Completely Different...

Here's the thing: a situation just came up which was so annoying to me that I have been upset about it all day, even though maybe it's no big deal. So, I figure I'll just tell y'all what happened...

Now, whether or not you have pre-teen kids or stepkids, I can assume you fairly well remember what it was like to be elevenish. And this is an elevenish thing, so think back to those wonder years and tell me if you recognize any of this:

My daughter's friend asked to sleep over last night because her mom had some kind of early appointment Sunday morning and she didn't want to be left alone with her teenage brother. Okay, fine - We were supposed to go to a charity thing but my husband was really happy to get out of it by agreeing to stay home with the two girls. He took them out for pizza, then made popcorn for them while they watched a movie. So far, so good.

I came home from the concert (architects showcasing their musical talents to benefit Habitat for Humanity - not bad, actually) about 11:00 to find my husband fuming. He had just told them it was time to get to sleep and he saw that the friend was in my daughter's bed and my daughter was on the air-bed. The friend had all the blankets - the quilt and small blanket from the bed, and the big fleece blanket that he had brought in with the air-bed sheets. He mentioned that even though our house is warm at the end of the day, it gets cold during the night so the fleece needed to go back on the air-bed. Fifteen minutes later he heard them still talking and said they really had to sleep - my daughter has a workshop on Sundays and really couldn't be up until midnight. He noticed that the friend still had the blankets and my daughter had a little throw blanket from the sofa.

In the morning, I found out that the friend had said she didn't sleep well at home the night before and she needed to sleep in a real bed that night. She also said she gets really cold at night, so she needed all the blankets. (Her pajamas were a tank top with boxer-style shorts.) When we were alone my daughter said she really didn't sleep well since it's kinda weird to sleep in your own room but not in your own bed, plus it was cold with just that little throw so she kept waking up shivering, and that she was too tired to go to the workshop. She hadn't wanted to switch beds with the friend, but she felt bad saying no, so she did it anyway.

I said she had to go to the workshop. I told her that she was manipulated out of her bed and her blankets and that she should have either figured out how to say no or asked her dad for more blankets for her friend. This wasn't even a serious problem and she just allowed things to be bad for her because she wanted to be "nice". She would just have to be tired at the workshop because she had to live with the consequences of not standing up for herself in her own room, and that next time she should think twice before agreeing to let somebody else have whatever of hers they want. If she wants me to trust her in sticky situations, she needs to learn how to find solutions without just giving in to somebody else's wants.

Was I mean? I'm bummed that this friend did this (it turned out she had done it last time she slept over, too, but we just didn't ever find out), but I'm also bummed that my kid let herself be walked all over. If this friend was just horrible, I would put a moratorium on any more sleepovers with her - especially if she invites herself! But this is a generally good kid, although it seems that she has learned too well how to negotiate getting her own way by playing her recently divorced parents against each other.

I'm just worried that I was too hard on my own kid. She isn't very savvy to the kind of manipulations that kids with siblings are used to battling on a daily basis. I think that's one of the big benefits of having siblings - to learn when you need to stand up for yourself. But she doesn't have that tough skin - she doesn't want to say no if she thinks the other person will be upset. And in a few years, if that situation involves drugs or getting into a car with a drunk driver or some unwanted physical attention, I just want her to have the strength to say what she really means, instead of just giving up and muttering "Umm, okay, I guess...".

It was only a sleepover, and maybe I was overly influenced by my husband's bad reaction, but it really bummed me out. Why didn't she just grab one of the blankets back when she woke up shivering? Why didn't she come wake me up if she couldn't find another blanket in the closet? Did she even bother to look for another blanket?

At the same time, I don't want to teach her to be selfish. How do I make sure she can be a good hostess AND take care of herself? And later, how do I tell her that she has to be a good friend AND call the police if something scary is happening? All I know now that this teenager thing is not going to be easy...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sneaking Through the Danger Zone

I feel like I'm tiptoeing through this pregnancy, sneaking up on the dreaded 17 weeks (I'm at 15w2d today) and hoping that nothing terrible happens again. And there is such a temptation to think that if I get through the next two weeks I can breathe a giant sigh of relief and start ordering crib sheets. I hope I can get in that groove instead of starting to worry about the other 97 things that can possibly go wrong.

I had a quickie appointment today just for a flu shot, a doppler check (mine hasn't come yet) and the blood draw for the second trimester screening. This is the test that came back all wonky last time, the way we first knew something was terribly wrong. It takes a few weeks to get the results, so I'll just have to be glad that I have an u/s in the interim. It helps to know that the baby is actually alive - problems can be big or little or catastrophic, but being dead doesn't leave a lot of options.

I still haven't decided about the amnio. We talked about it today and figured we would wait until these results come back and go from there. It's not so much that I'm worried about the risks involved, but I know that there are so many other things that can affect the outcome that I'm not sure it would give me much peace of mind. Then again, my husband and I have always said that we don't want to raise a child with severe problems. But some problems can be mild, and that's where it gets confusing.

I have a friend with an adult daughter with Down Syndrome. She is very social, independent and happy. She has had a lot of therapies throughout her life. Her mother is particularly involved in the DS community, traveling with her daughter to DC to speak to congress and throwing yearly fundraisers at her fabulous home. My friend has found a lot of fulfillment in that process, and I think she feels truly that the circumstances turned out to be the best fit for her, in the long run. But it's hard for me to imagine myself in that kind of life, even though I have the best possible role model for what that life could be like. In some ways, I feel like just knowing she's there is such a safety net for me, but in my heart I really dread ever having to use it.

I'm thinking about a leopard print, by the way. For the crib sheets. Or a funky marimekko-ish geometric. Something absolutely not pastel or dainty. No fairies or dragons or tractors or ballerinas, either. If I can find the right fabric I'll sew it myself - a dust ruffle and a sheet being basically squares. I still have my daughter's old crib - it's been lent out a few times but has always come back in good condition. There is also a matching changing table, so at least I won't be out shopping for furniture. The closet in that room/office has some built-in drawers and cubbies, and a dresser probably wouldn't fit in there anyway. But, maybe a leopard-spotted glider chair?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Relief

They really had me on tenterhooks yesterday - after I checked in for my appointment I could hear the nurses talking about me in the hall. They were trying to decide if I should go to ultrasound first or in the regular exam room to see the doctor. Should the doc see me first and be there with me while she found the doppler heartbeat, or was it better to be definitive and go straight to ultrasound?

I was hoping for the ultrasound first. The thought of not being able to find a doppler heartbeat and then having to wait for a confirming ultrasound in a room full of giant bellies just seemed too awful. But, they sent me to the exam room first, since they wanted the doctor to be with me in case things didn't look good.

It did take a few seconds for her to find the heartbeat. I could feel my own heart pounding, and could hear it through the doppler, but then it changed - a much faster, smaller rhythm. It was such a relief - I hadn't even known how tense I had been until that moment. I know that just hearing a heartbeat now is no guarantee of a happy ending, but it's the most I could hope for at this point so of course I'm happy about it. Happy while it lasts, can't really do much better than that.

The ultrasound was uneventful, with normal everything. Growth was right on target, the two halves of the brain have the right amount of space around and between them, the femur length is good. I'll have another u/s in two weeks, which is nearing the time that gender might possibly maybe be identifiable if everything is in the right position and etc., etc. Which basically means there's a chance, but don't count on it.

Which of course is fine with me - as long as everything else is okay the gender isn't important. I keep imaging a girl, but that's probably just because I have already have a daughter. I'm so much more invested in having a baby that's actually alive that something like gender seems completely incidental.

So, good. I have an appt. next week just for a doppler check and some bloodwork. Plus, the big decision - amnio or not? Thoughts all over the place on that one, so any advice is appreciated!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pain Relief

I had a frightening headache for about 48 hours. It lounged across my forehead like a bad toupee, sort of sliding over my eyes. I went to sleep with it and woke up with it two nights in a row. I took tylenol and sequestered myself in a darkened room with a cold washcloth and I started to think that it might not be possible for me to live anymore.

By the time it finally occurred to me to call my doctor I was sure that something was terribly, terribly wrong with me. Aneurysm, tumor, temporal arteritis... you know, the standard google-induced paranoia. But also, the last time I was 13ish weeks pregnant, I had terrible headaches. And that didn't end well, so of course I was thinking the worst. Luckily, my doctor had a magic solution ready that didn't even require a trip to the pharmacy. She told me to take a motrin.

Yes, it turns out that you can actually take motrin during pregnancy. All of that tylenol-only is simply a precaution against something that isn't a problem in early pregnancy. Although that changes in the third trimester - then you really shouldn't take it at all. There is some risk of premature closure of a duct in the heart during a critical time after about 20 weeks. Actually, in some cases if a baby has to be delivered prematurely they give ibuprofen to specifically speed up the closure.

So, who knew? The funny thing is, my progesterone suppositories and the dexamethasone also had long warnings about not taking during pregnancy, but I was so determined to do whatever my doctor said might work that I never worried about it at all. By the time you have jabbed yourself full of nun pee, it's funny that a little motrin can be such a source of anxiety.

Now that my headache is finally gone, I can go back to the anxiety that probably caused it in the first place - worrying about my upcoming ultrasound. I know that I should "be positive" and all that, but it's hard to think about these next scans, the next round of screening, the next few weeks, without remembering that feeling of utter helplessness and loss. Sometimes I feel like my whole sense of this pregnancy is a murky black-and white feeling, a ultra-sound representation of the kind of feelings a pregnant person is supposed to have. The happiness is in there somewhere, you just can't see it from the outside yet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Officially Whatever

So, I don't know. According to the calendar, I am officially into my second trimester - past the 13w3d mark. Since I'm not sure if the baby is still alive that doesn't really mean anything to me, but I hate to be morbid...

Last time, I rented a fetal doppler and took it to an OB appt. to be sure I was using it properly. The doctor showed me how to use it (seemed simple, really) and that was that. She cautioned me not to get it out every five minutes and said it was best to think of it as occasional reassurance. Which was fine, right?

Except obviously I got it all wrong. I didn't use it very often and I ended up picking up my own abnormally fast heartbeat (side effect of anemia) and was so determined not to be a panicky pregno-chondriac that I just kept naively reassuring myself that all was well.

I wasn't sure if I would rent one at all this time, but as the days go by I know I need something during the wait between appointments. If there is still a heartbeat at my next appointment I'm going to rush straight home and send in my order. I've picked out a fancy hospital-grade model with a digital display, so it won't be as easy to confuse the heart rates. It's cheaper than paying for extra appointments, plus I think my sanity will be well worth it.

It's funny how my original ideas about pregnancy being a natural process and trying to avoid a lot of medical intervention have been eroded to the point that I have set up an account with a hospital supply company. I used to think that having a baby meant signing up for prenatal yoga classes and buying a body pillow. Now, I'd order an u/s machine if I could afford it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hmm? What?

This has been one crazy month so far, and since it's only halfway over who knows what will happen before October...

I can only assume that there is still a live baby inside of me, although this is mostly based on not thinking about it too much. At my last appointment, my OB cheerfully told me to come back in three weeks and I absolutely freaked out about waiting that long. Here I am, coming up on the weeks that led to the demise of my last pregnancy, and I couldn't imagine why she wouldn't want to monitor me more closely than before. My last ultrasound had been a week before this appointment, and I know that there are a lot of insurance regulations, blah blah blah, but I absolutely cannot wait a month between ultrasounds at this point.

She did agree to see me in two weeks instead of three, but I was hoping for week by week appointments, at least for a while. Maybe that's just not realistic, but I have begun to think about calling in with "pains" of some sort and see if I can get in earlier. The stress alone is bad enough that my insurance will have to pay for more acupuncture and chiropractic appointments if it won't approve extra ultrasounds. Grrr!

In other news, my daughter has started her new fancy private school. This is not the "school for geniuses" here in Los Angeles - that idea just seemed worse and worse the more we found out about it. Neither is it the "hyphenated exclusive prep" school here that was salivating over her test scores. The school we chose is more focused on developing the whole person than creating an academic superstar. Plus, it is close to our house as well as our philosophy. Which is part of our philosophy, actually, in that we didn't want our child on a bus for two hours a day. Part of me is just desperately hoping that I haven't made a giant mistake about this, but my gut feeling was that those other schools would have made us all miserable.

The work itself is just so different from what she's used to that the level of challenge is more about figuring out what the expectations are than just doing the assignments. The homework is posted online, along with the schedules for all of the extracurricular activities and any special events. She has to check rubrics for each assignment to make sure she isn't missing a crucial component. There are honors levels for most classes, and study halls with teachers who take smaller groups of kids and work past the assignments at advanced levels, so I do think she'll be fine as far as being challenged. Far better than last year. Plus, she has to figure out how to change for PE and still make it to science afterwards on the other side of the campus. I think that will be the real challenge, actually.

We're both still trying to figure out how to get to school an hour earlier than we used to. The good news for me is that I don't have to worry about making it to the office on time - now I can even stop at the farmer's market on my way to work. And I'm fine once I'm up and about - but getting out of bed so early is almost impossible. I miss coffee...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nose News is Good News

So, today I had the nuchal translucency screening. It can't be done until 11.5 weeks, so of course I scheduled it for the first possible date, at 11 weeks 4 days.

The nuchal fold is a translucent space in the tissues behind the neck, and if the area is expanded (larger) it can mean that fluid is accumulating in that space - not a good sign, since genetic anomalies can create that excess fluid. Checking for the presence of a nasal bone is also part of the screening. So, a thin neck fold and any kind of nose bone are the hoped-for findings. Which, luckily, is what we found today. And even though I know that it's not a definitive test, it is nice to see that things aren't suspect already.

Still, with my last pregnancy, the nuchal translucency scan was also fine. The first trimester blood screening was normal, growth was always right on target. It does weigh me down to think of how much can go wrong between now and birth, and as much as I want to be able to believe that these things are rare, that the odds are always in favor of "fine", it's hard to forget that I've been here before, not so long ago.

It's not that I'm all doom and gloom - I loved seeing the little somebody wiggle around, floating and bobbing like one of those giant balloons in a parade. It's amazing how human-ish the fuzzy combination of blobs and splotches can look. I'm so grateful for each reassurance: the placenta looks good, the organs look fine, we counted two arms with hands and two legs with feet. So, I am happy, but it's mixed with caution. I am relieved, but it's not complete. I suppose maybe I am pleased - a word that always seems more neutral than it ought to be, but I guess that helps it work here.

I think I am going to have to start "telling" - I'm too bellyish to be anything but pregnant, so it's mostly just obvious. Even a solid diet of pastries couldn't make anybody this particular shape, so the idea that I just got fat over the summer might not go over as well as I had planned. The traditional notion of waiting until the first trimester is over coincides with my girth fairly well - and if that means 13.3 weeks, then I will just have to carry strategically placed tote bags for another twelve days. I'll be like an inconveniently pregnant sitcom actress, always holding potted plants and shopping bags and giant manila folders over her midsection. Too bad it's about a million degrees here and I can't just wear an enormous poncho all the time!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lag Time

So, maybe it wasn't the best idea to schedule my ultrasound - on the other side of LA - while I'm still eight hours ahead of local time. It might have been okay in the morning (we've all been up since about 4:00), but by this afternoon my eyelids were drooping and I couldn't finish my sentences. I probably should have rescheduled, but my sanity had been pinned to this ultrasound for so long that it didn't occur to me that I might not go.

I had to stop for a 7Up in hopes that the sugar rush would perk me up, and I cranked the oldies station and tried to channel some of that boppy energy. And it worked, to the extent that I did make it to the clinic without actually falling asleep at the wheel. But I had the bizarre wish that there was such a thing as eyelid-propper-uppers, which can't be a good sign.

The nervousness was crazy. There were all sorts of billing issues and it took forever to get into the little room. Then I sat there with the giant napkin over my lap, waiting and waiting for the doctor to finally come in and read the verdict. When he did get the probe in I couldn't even look at the screen. After so many scans I can say that when there is a lot of wand movement and the doctor/tech doesn't say anything for a while it's not a good sign. That was all I could concentrate on - how long would it take him to say something. I think I actually closed my eyes until I heard him start talking.

The first thing he said was that the baby was really moving around a lot. Suddenly, everything else seemed less crucial - the exact beats per minute, the specific crown-rump length - it all just became "everything looks normal". Such a relief! At 11w1d the baby measured 11w3d, but was moving around so much that it can't be particularly accurate. I guess the 7Up did perk things up, after all...

So, alive and well. So far, so good. I even drove home without even thinking about my eyelids. I have another scan on Friday (nuchal translucency) so at least I know I can make it through this week without worrying myself into a frenzy. I'm so relieved that I don't even know what would have happened if it had been bad news. And I know that this isn't the end of worrying, I know that there are no guarantees, but for now, I'll take it. It finally feels good to be home.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cream and Pudding

After almost a month of British food - not at all the mush it used to be, we have had fantastic food here - I am so ready for a California diet. I am way too big for ten weeks, and I can't blame it all on the hormones. I have only had fish and chips once (so good, though - the main thing that keeps me from going back is the line out the door) but the butter and cream and oil in everything has surely contributed to this:



The camera doesn't lie, people. I am really that big at ten weeks. At five months, in a cute little maternity top, this might be adorable. Here at "maybe, maybe not", it's just frustrating. If I could take this as a positive sign that things are going well it would be so much easier, but that idea seems polly-anna-ish ridiculous. 

I won't say that I'm not happy, in general, about being supposedly pregnant. I've just created such a neutral approach to the whole thing that I actually can't feel much of anything in the way of joy or love or hope. I mean, in the rest of my life, sure. No problem. But this is different. Which is fine - I guess this is what I wanted, really.

Anyway, off to Paris for pastries and whatever cheese I'm allowed - then home! Ultrasounds! What a difference that will make.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hulloo and Cheerio

I feel as if I am writing from the wild, wild west and not one of the most urban places on the face of the earth. I am like a pioneer woman, gaging my pregnancy by the tightness of my waistband rather than anything scientific or even semi-reliable.

The thing is, I have never miscarried in any kind of obvious way. No bleeding, no cramps. The last time I kept gaining weight for at least two weeks as my body produced unnecessary amniotic fluid. I want to believe that my tight pants are a good sign, but I'm still wary of anything that might be considered optimism.

I am huge, by the way. Gigantic. The IVF weight-gain - two cycles worth - plus the dexamethasone bloat have added so much to my girth that I can barely fit into anything but yoga pants. Which is fine in LA - yoga pants is what most people wear around anyway - but going out to dinner in London in gym clothes is a bit odd. I've been wearing nice tops and big necklaces in an effort to draw the eye up (as they always say in fashion magazines) (although I myself am never fooled by that tactic and consider it a lame-ass trick) away from my baggy-kneed lower legs.

And, worse than anything that I might wear out to dinner, today I actually put on a swimsuit. Our hotel is one of the few in London with a pool - this city just isn't big on swimming, and most buildings couldn't be easily retrofitted to accommodate the weight of a pool. So, they are few and far between. Our hotel isn't necessarily super-fancy, it just happens to be built next to a spa, with access for hotel guests.

I bought a new suit before we left. Not a maternity suit - too jinxy - but a loose tankini top and the kind of high-rise bottoms that nobody in their right mind would consider wearing under normal circumstances. It was fine when I bought it, two weeks ago. Now it's like a girdle.

In any case, can I just tell you about this pool? It's in the sub-sub basement of a health club, below the workout rooms and the locker area. It smells like a thousand bottles of chlorox spilled everywhere. Children are only allowed in for one hour each day (maybe good for infertiles?) and all swimming must be done in an "anti-clockwise" direction.

For some reason there are four teak lounging chairs at the side of the shallow end. And for some stranger reason there were people actually lounging on them. A fat hairy guy lying on his stomach with a towel over his rear end, and a grandmotherly woman on her back with her eyes closed. They were there the whole time we swam, used the hot-tub (knees-only for me) and showered off. Weird, right? How relaxing can it possibly be to lie on a wooden bench in the chemical aroma of a dark echo-y basement, during the one hour children (about eight screaming splashing whining children) are allowed in?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Magical Thinking

I am engaging in a willing suspension of disbelief, continuing to imagine that I am pregnant. I am mostly avoiding wine (sampling a bit from my husbands glass) and coffee (just decaf) and taking my jillion medications as if I am sure that I still need them. After all, why not?

It would help if I actually felt pregnant, but I am so conditioned to be cautious that I'm not sure I will notice any symptoms until I lose a mucous plug. I did tell my friend here about it, but only for the selfish reason that she is a resident on her ob/gyn rotation and I am hoping for some ultrasound love, although she has just started a break so it may not be possible. I am still crossing my fingers for some string-pulling, though.

Speaking of string-pulling, I have to say that I have managed to pull the longest strings ever and wrangled an tour of a certain movie set here in the UK which I will not name directly but if I say the the first word starts with H and the second one with P, and that there are six films out so far and another two being filmed at the same time...

Yep, we went to THAT set. It was unbelievable, every stage was enormous, every set so crammed with details that it is mind-boggling to imagine how they will ever dismantle any of it. The design is simply astonishing. The level of detail, the scale, the technical considerations - the degree of craftsmanship alone is worthy of the term "magical".

Of course, for my daughter the highlight was meeting the three young stars. They were so friendly and welcoming and chatty - especially Dan - and for an eleven-year-old nothing could be better. She's not old enough to be too cool to act like she cares, but not so little that she can't hold up her end of a conversation for a few minutes. They talked about being short vs. being tall (my daughter is quite tall for her age - almost as tall as Dan, since he's really short) and why it shouldn't matter even though it does. Then they talked about being eleven, school, books - all good topics, couldn't have been better.


So, all in all, an excellent day. I think the rest of the trip will be denoument for her, but maybe the glee will last at least a few days?

Friday, July 31, 2009

My Friend Flicker

The ultrasound technician in my OB's office (my RE is on vacation) actually offered to go on my trip with me, and I said yes. I think she might have been joking, but I was absolutely serious. Of course, she'd have to bring her machine along with her...

Things are still looking like they may actually work out. At 6w4d we saw an embryo measuring 6w5d, and a flicker of a heartbeat at 129 bpm. So far, so good. But it's a hollow kind of reassurance. I used to think that those of us who have gone through losses really had to get past the point of the loss before we could begin to relax and believe things might work out. But now I'm not sure even that will be enough for me - I can't imagine losing this feeling of "maybe" and "we'll see". My OB was so excited for me, hugging and kissing me and almost literally jumping up and down. It just seemed like too much, too soon.

The nurses offered me their pre-natal welcome package, which includes lots of samples of vitamins, a copy of WTEWYE, coupons for pregnancy yoga and massages and gift certificates to maternity stores. I got the same package last fall, so I still had most of the things in my big box of IVF leftovers. I just said thanks, I have everything I need. But I was shocked by how naive it seemed - not even 7 weeks and they are already assuming I'm going to need this stuff? Don't they of all people know that these things are not guaranteed?

I'm going to be out of the country for almost a month - my OB said I could come in the day after I get back, but the ultrasound lady suggested I wait just four more days and then we can do the nuchal translucency scan at the same time. So, okay - but my RE will be back by then, and you can bet I'm going to try to get in there for a scan as soon as my plane lands. I guess it's just going to be a tentative time for me, and I'll have to figure out how to be okay with that.

If anyone has a sister (cousin, friend-of-a-friend, etc.) who's an ultrasound tech in London, let me know!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Six Weeks Exactly

Because my retrieval was on a Monday, we are measuring weeks and days starting on Mondays - which is very convenient. Of course, it doesn't make time go any faster, but it's easy to keep track of as it goes creeping by.

At 6w0d, I feel tired. No nausea, no sore boobs. Maybe my boobs have been pregnant too many times (this is #7, including the probable early miscarriages before I knew enough to recognize that my period wasn't just oddly two weeks late). Maybe they've been plumped up and stretched out enough that it doesn't really matter any more? They seem a teensy bit firmer, but alas, not really anything more in terms of cleavage.

I think my daughter suspects. She hasn't said anything outright, and I'm not going to bring it up, but she has remarked, at separate times, that I'm not drinking coffee, that my clothes are all really floppy, that I'm going to a lot of acupuncture and doctors appointments. It was only five months ago that I was fully pregnant, that all those things were completely well-known to be related to that, and that she was asking a million questions about everything.

When we were in Yosemite in December and had to run from the bear (I know you're not supposed to run from a bear, but it's impossible not to) I had grabbed her hand and pulled her through the woods. Afterwards, she said it was fun and I told her that I wasn't supposed to run so fast, so haphazardly, because of the baby. (Yes, I've wondered if that could have been a factor in the demise - I wonder about everything.) And today when we were taking a walk in the hills, she started running down a grassy slope and calling for me to come after her. I told her that I can't run right now. She turned and looked me in the eye and said "Like that time with the bear?"

The problem with high-IQ kids is, well, they can figure things out for themselves. If it weren't summer, if my husband weren't out of town, if her camp hadn't ended last week, then maybe she wouldn't have noticed? But now, after only a few weeks, I know she knows. There is some unspoken agreement that we aren't really saying it out loud, but I think she's just waiting for me to say something first. I've been weighing the options - being openly truthful, ignoring the topic completely, waiting for her to bring it up - but I have no idea what to do. I know she probably just wants reassurance - I do too! - but I'm not sure I can give her much at this point. What would you do?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Teeny Tiny Someone

So, one gestational sac with a yolk sac. (It's too early for cardiac activity, but I have an appointment for next week and we should be able to see something then.)

All I could think of was that if there were two I would have had a back-up. It is just such a measure of how much loss and failure and disappointment come into play with infertility treatments that I couldn't even muster up some genuine enthusiasm for what is actually normal. And the crazy thing is, I quite emphatically don't want twins. I can understand why it's so appealing after IVF - two for the price of one! - to get even more of what you were hoping for. But the possibility of added complications, especially at my "advanced" age, seriously frightens me.

Anyway, even though I never wanted two take-home babies, I did like the idea of a spare in there, just in case. Which is horrible, because it assumes that the odds are so bad that one by itself doesn't have much of a chance, that something drastic will happen. And I know (really, I do) that it's enough that there is one, that it seems to be doing well so far, that hoping for a back-up is ridiculous when there is still every reason to just go ahead and hope for one that's successful. As long as I'm just hoping, might as well hope for what I really want, right?

If I weren't so nervewracked by by infertility I would be amazed that I have seen my child at such an early stage. I wish I could blithely assume that this is my baby, that in March I'll get to meet this little whitish circle. Shouldn't it feel incredible to be able to watch these earliest moments of your own child's life, to see and know and verify such a teeny tiny existence?

Instead, I'm bracing myself for the next scan, hoping for a good heartbeat and the idea that this one might actually make it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Limbo

My first meeting with the maternal-fetal medicine specialist (which is maybe just the new-fangled thing to call a perinatologist?) was mostly just that - a meeting, in which we met. We chit-chatted about my history and what her general recommendations would be, with a lot of "if and when", since it's obviously so early. I appreciated that she didn't try to placate me with a lot of reassurance.

She reviewed my protein-S deficiencly results and thought we should retest and look at uterine blood-flow doppler before assuming that I need to switch to lovenox. My hematologist has me on low-dose aspirin until 9 weeks, then lovenox and monitoring. I know that he feels it's better to be on the lovenox just in case, and at this point I am leaning that way, too. So, I have a few weeks to think about it, and maybe the next round of bloodwork will reveal something new, but in general I am willing to err on the side of "don't #2@*% this up."

Other than that, I have nothing. I have no symptoms, no hunches, no news - just me waiting for that first ultrasound. The one good thing I found out from the MFM is that I can still go on my August trip, so at least I don't have to cancel our vacation. I do have to wear compression stockings on the plane, but I should probably do that anyway for my spider veins.

I have been tired, but I don't even have the sore progesterone boobs that I usually get regardless of the outcome of a cycle. I have no nausea, no headaches, no vivid dreams. No overwhelming sensitivity to smell, no cravings. My bras still fit, my pants aren't too tight. Although, to be honest, I'm only wearing the "IVF pants" now - regular pants have been at the far end of the closet rod for a loooooong time.

My OB wants to see me on Friday, but I think that will still be too early for any kind of scan. Done with betas and not ready for ultrasounds. Early limbo.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Second Beta

I'm still not sure how beta numbers really work when multiple embryos are transferred. It seems like any combination of thriving and failing can produce a vast array of results. But, that said, my numbers more than doubled, to 756. Here's the chart:


So, who knows? But for now, things are good and I suddenly have a slew of appointments with a new MFM, my hematologist, my acupuncturist and - of course - a mani/pedi just to celebrate!

Believe me, I of all people KNOW that this is just the beginning. I'm not telling anyone but my husband (and you!) for a good long while. But it's something, and for now I'm so grateful.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Inbox

It's easy to love your clinic after a positive HPT. But can I just say that they have been so kind to me, so helpful and so understanding. After my late loss a few months ago the RE called me several times in the evenings to discuss my case and gave me great referrals to specialists. The coordinator checks and replies to emails even on the weekends, and has always given me a few samples of Follistim to offset the costs of my heavy-duty stim cycles.

And now, this email from her:

Hi!

I’m not really supposed to give you the final call until we see your second beta level….which is why I’m emailing and not calling (things echo in here so much….).

I was excited for you though…your first beta is 329. So far, so good! Continue your medications and I will call you on Thursday to let you know how things are looking.

Congratulations and I’m sorry about being impersonal with the email!


Sweet, right? Waiting until Thursday would have been torture.

In any case, 329. Which is high, even taking into account the fact that I tested a day late since I was out of town. Not that I'm questioning my decision to transfer three embryos - yet, anyway. There are so many hurdles between now and the possibility of then that I'm not even going to think about any of it yet. First things first - or, in this case, second things (next beta) first.

Thanks for all of your lovely comments, too - it meant so, so much to me. Of course, after my laptop died my dad had offered the use of his computer, but I was too nervous to use it while everyone was around. I would wait until they were all asleep and sneak back into the family room to check my reader. It was so wonderful to feel cheered on and congratulated in the wee small hours!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Shhh

Am visiting parents, laptop crashed, have no privacy, pee stick postive.

Lab tests Tuesday and Thursday.

Yikes!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Chill, Baby

Two of my embryos made it to freeze. I have to say, it never occurred to me that I would have anything left over.

I'm also not sure how I feel about it - two lesser-quality embryos sitting there, waiting. If this cycle doesn't work, I would prefer to do another (pre-paid) fresh one than rely on two slow-poke leftovers. I'll have to go back and read my plan to see if I am required to use the frozens first. If so, I am screwed out of another fresh cycle, since my plan runs out in September.

But, at the same time, in researching CGH I learned all too well that the best-looking embryos are not always the normal ones. In fact, it seems more often than not that the normals are the medium=good ones. Of course, there are a million reasons that this is not statistically reliable outside of that particular testing. For one thing, many people who choose CGH already have a history of abnormalities.

I would have loved to know for sure that I had a genetically normal embryo. And if I go through this again, I may opt for the testing after all. But there seems to be a lot of stress attached to the process, in terms of the additional wait, the high instance of "no result" reports, surviving the thaw, worrying about mosaicism. We decided to just cross our fingers and hope for the best - not very scientific, but since I still have to worry about whatever it is that happened in my last second trimester, we figured we'd save the money for all the fancy specialists that our insurance won't completely cover.

For now I know that if I DO get pregnant, I am going to do amnio as soon as possible. Once upon a time I was so low-intervention that I didn't even take tylenol unless something drastic happened. Now, just get me as much information as possible. If things go awry, I want answers.

In the meanwhile, I'll be traveling at the end of the week, so I'll have to bring my pee-sticks with me. Do you think anyone has ever POAS in one of those little airplane bathrooms?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

0 to 100

So, this is my 100th post. Which may a cause for celebration, but I have some better 100s today.

100% of my embryos made it to day 5. When the doctor came in to talk about how many to put back he was so excited for the good quality that I actually felt a little zip of hope run through my veins. I asked him if he could surgically remove it, but he seemed to think it was a good thing.

We put back the 3 best ones. The whole time we were deliberating on the number to transfer, I was thinking of Sky and Wombded, the opposite ends of the transfer spectrum. Both made really well-considered choices about the number to transfer for their own circumstances, and I am just hoping that it works out as well for me. It's always scary to think about having a pile of babies, but it's also a matter of being realistic about the chances of even getting pregnant. The doctor and I talked a lot about success rates, twins, and SR. With three embryos, my chances of triplets are about 1.5% and my chances of just one are only about 30%.

Still, the fact is, embryo quality has a lot to do with success. Many clinics use an embryo-rating system of an overall number grade followed by two letters. The number describes the outer shell, cavitation and expansion. The letters describe the inner cell mass (the baby) and the outer cells (the placenta). Which makes it easy to see why a "A" baby cells and "D" placenta cells would be bad.

Of course, my clinic has their own special system which involves an overall number rating (1-6) and a 1-100 score that includes inner and outer cells, some kind of enzyme released into the culture medium and a lot of visual assessments by the embryologist. Anything under 70 doesn't really have a chance. We looked at the low-res images of the embryos and they showed me the blob of inner cells and the rings of outer cells. These weren't nice clear pictures like the ones from IVF websites - they were sort of like security-video images.

Anyway, we put back an 87, a 95 and - believe it or not, from these old-lady ovaries - a 100. Now, how am I supposed to keep from thinking this has a chance?

Hope - 0 to 100, just like that.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Day 3 Update

First of all, I have been on the "comment-combo" protein/gatorade/bed-rest regime and I feel much better. Thank you all for being my de facto medical advisors. So, maybe some mild OHSS plus the fact that my eggs were all crammed together so there was apparently a lot of maneuvering around in there. The phrase "foot-long needle" was used, and then I pretty much blocked everything else out. I think she said something about a bruised bladder.

In any case, I have been waiting all morning to find out the status of my six "beautifully fertilized" embryos. I know it's usually a numbers game, so I've been trying to calculate my odds of being mildly surprised or at least reasonably resigned to whatever news the lab has for me. I am still strangely removed from the process - I am very curious about the information in a science-project kind of way, but even when I try I cannot bring myself to be hopeful. Experimentally, I wondered how I would feel if it turned out that all six embryos were doing well and things looked great. But it's so hard to make yourself have a meaningful reaction to a theoretical possibility.

But then, I got this email:

You have some beautiful embryos! Even the embryologist says so. All 6 are still growing strong. We’ll see how they look on the day of your transfer and the doctor will discuss it with you then.

See you Saturday!


So, do you think I might break down soon and start to think, just maybe, there's a chance?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ouch

For my second post of the day, I have actually gone back and read my own archives to see if I was in this much pain after the last retrieval. The answer is no.

Is this a bad sign? Has anyone ever felt worse after retrieval as time goes on? I am crampy and it hurts to pee or sit down too suddenly. I have to walk in a sort of hunched over way and if I stretch out in any kind of diagonal direction I actually make myself yelp. I had to drive to Topanga today (windy mountain road) and it turns out that you actually use your stomach muscles a lot in twisty driving - I had to keep pulling over to let people with working abs pass me.

I'm not sure what my E2 was, but there was no mention of possible OHSS. I haven't gained any weight or become nauseous. I don't have a fever. All of my googling has turned up a million stories about pain after retrieval, so I'm not super worried. Still, it doesn't seem like a good thing. 

Technical Terms

I got the fert report from the clinic coordinator this morning. She said, and I quote: of the ten eggs, two "died" and two were "broken".

Not sure what that means, but the other 6 fertilized "beautifully", so I'm trying to just be glad that something in there seems to be working. I'll know more Thursday morning - in the meantime, I am still in the "whatever" mindset, so none of this is either getting my hopes up or bringing me down. I'm not even trying to be all zen about it, I just don't have that level of excitement that I used to think was so unavoidable.

I used to take each step as a cleared hurdle - yay, retrieval! yay, fertilization! etc. - but now I know that it's not about making it through each minor part of the process. Anything can happen, and all of those milestones don't really mean as much to me anymore. There are a million light years between where I am now and a sibling for my daughter, and I know that every journey starts with a single step, blah blah blah. But for now I'm looking at the big picture, not "futurizing" (as my daughter's ed. psych. says) and just focussing on the fact that I will be able to know in my heart that I did everything I could, that one way or the other I will be at peace with all of this.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Get

So, my husband has the kind of job that absolutely doesn't allow any time off. I suppose if I were in a terrible accident he would be allowed to leave, but being late is just not an option. He works in film production, which means that any lost time has to be covered by production insurance. Which means that a bonding company has to okay anything that may or may not affect production. Plus, my husband can't just have someone cover him because he's contractually obligated to do it himself.

All of which meant that I had to hire a chauffeur to drive me to my retrieval this morning. Yep, I went in style, a big black town-car and a hunky wanna-be at the wheel. Considering how tender things can be "down there" after the procedure, I'm actually glad I wasn't going home in my husband's little gas-miser. There is something to be said for a giant leather back seat, after all.

I won't know much until tomorrow, of course. Of the thirteen, ten seemed mature. Because my husband couldn't be there they will have to use his frozen "specimen", which we have never done before. I've heard that it can actually be better in some cases since the thawing and washing process winnows out the bad ones - but "fresh is best" is the usual recommendation, so I am a little nervous about it. My clinic ICSIs everything, so as long as there are a few good ones in there somewhere it should be okay, but adding one more thing to the list of "what-if"s isn't ideal.

My doctor said something funny just as I was going into the OR. The embryologist grasps the sperm by the tail, which immobilizes it so it can be manipulated. I had a sudden image of some kind of Harry Potter scene, of embryologist-wizard students learning these secrets. Maybe it was the fentanyl, but there is a kind of strange-magic quality to the whole process.

In any case, thanks for the book recommendations. I managed to borrow almost all of them from friends, but I was so out of it for most of the day that I just watched Mad Men and dozed. If all goes well, transfer will be on Saturday - which is perfect for a long weekend of books, with my husband around to fetch me whatever I call for (until Monday, anyway).

Fert report tomorrow morning.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This, That, The Other

Those follicles are still going strong, all within 14-17 mm. My doctor thinks we'll trigger tomorrow (Friday) for a Sunday retrieval. Which is unbelievably good timing, since it's the only day my husband can be there for his part in the process. We have three vials of his frozen "specimen" as a back-up, though.

I'm still relatively noncommittal about the whole thing. Follicles? Great. Retrieval? Sure. If I get to the point where I need a perinatologist, I'll start to think we may be onto something. Until then? Okay, fine, whatever.

As for bed-rest, my tivo is full of late-night shenannigans, Chelsea Lately and Craig Ferguson. I love that Craig - he's wry and sweet at the same time, which turns out to be charming. And Chelsea is lewd and smart, also a good combo. So, I hope they can amuse me for a few days. I have more or less given up on regular TV - it's not that I don't like anything, but I can't commit to keeping up with a plot line of any kind.

My emergency TV is My So-Called Life. I bought the whole thing on DVD a few years ago, but I never watched it. Somehow, I thought it would be best to save it in case I ever really needed to be distracted. I watched the first three discs earlier this year, after the baby died. It seems silly to rely on TV to help you through a crisis, but I have to say the time-wasting was just what I needed.

Other than that, I need to get a good book. A really good book. I loved The Time Traveler's Wife and there are rumors that the author has another book coming out soon - but not soon enough for any upcoming bed rest. So - any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baker's Dozen

Four on the left, nine on the right.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Here, Again

Well, here I am again. Gallons of follistim, desamethasone working it's insomniac magic on me in the wee hours, acupuncture and supplements and meditation and whatever the hell else I can come up with...

But I'm beyond hope this time. It used to be that I was just too nervous to admit that I was hoping much, even secretly. It wasn't so much the genuine disappointment of a failed cycle that I was trying to protect myself from. I wanted to be able to be objective so that failure wouldn't feel personal. I wanted to be able to shrug off a bad cycle so I could gather myself together for the next one. I was trying to be strong and realistic and determined without letting myself care too much - but it doesn't matter how much you tell yourself that you won't hope if deep in your heart you know you're wishing as hard as you can.

I've been stuck for so long in the in-between phase, knowing that hope isn't going to help me but unable to keep it completely at bay. Hope, wish, want. How could I completely separate the process from the goal? Impossible, really - the goal is the only reason for the process. But this time, the goal has changed for me. I just don't want to leave this unfinished. I'm not expecting anything but closure.

And I can write all of that here and know that it makes sense - but you can bet that if I said it to most people the first thing I'd hear would be "It'll probably happen now that you've just relaxed and stopped worrying so much!"