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The precipice.

13 Mar

Everyone I know is pregnant.

Okay, not everyone. But a great many people that I know personally are currently hosting occupants in their uteri. Which is cool. I no longer feel that familiar, infertility-induced twinge of pain when I get that news. There is a twinge of something though.

I think it’s because, when your kid reaches a certain age, it’s only natural to address the question of number two. If it didn’t occur to you first, it certainly did after you’ve been questioned about it for the millionth time, and questioned you will be.

The thing is, I can’t easily answer that question for people without going into all the caveats, nuances and traumas that influence that answer. Do we want another child? Yes, but.

Yes, but we don’t know if we can conceive on our own. Yes, but we are worried that ART played a role in J’s birth defect. Yes, but we are still slightly traumatized by my pregnancy, J’s birth, and her infancy. Yes, but we don’t know when the time is right. Yes, but part of me wants to wait until J is more aware of her impending big sister status, and we can enjoy that excitement together.

Still, I feel my heart calling for number two. I crave a newborn, and all the typical newborn things I didn’t get with J. I want another chance at a healthy pregnancy and a natural delivery.

But I know that there are no guarantees. We may face secondary infertility and we may have to do IVF again. I may get pre-eclampsia again and I may have to have another cesarean. The baby might not be totally healthy and we might have to spend more than a few days in the hospital.

Five months ago, I became unexpectedly pregnant. We were not trying. But then again, we never knew why we struggled to conceive. So I took it as a gift. It scared the sh*t out of me, but it was a gift. And then spotting led to an ultrasound led to an ectopic diagnosis led to a shot that didn’t work led to increasing hCG led to please take my tube out before it bursts and I bleed out internally, which ultimately led to surgery to remove my right tube.

And honestly? I’m glad it’s gone. I realized that it might have been the problem, or part of the problem at least, all along. During my initial IF workup, they couldn’t see my right tube. They chalked it up to a muscle spasm, or something along those lines, but who knows.

So that’s where I stand. Wanting, but afraid. Somewhat of a precipice, but maybe it just feels that way. From here, I’ll have to just see which way the wind blows.

IVF? WTF.

21 Feb

I’ve been away a long time, I know. I still don’t know exactly what to do with this space or my other blog. I’m just not in a super share-y place these days (years?), at least not where baby J is concerned.

(That said, I made some real connections with some of you out there and seeing as I’m so infrequently here, I’d like to ask those of you who still read this, who feel connected with me still and feel so inclined, to please email me so we can keep in touch, or find me on FB if we’ve emailed in the past and you have my full name. Not on a blog is where I (not terribly often, I’ll admit, but sometimes) share updates on how she’s doing. But I will say this, she’s flippin’ gorgeous. And the greatest joy. But I worry all. the. time.)

Okay. Formalities out of the way, I’m back today because this is a space dedicated to trying to make a baby and all the ups and downs that go along with that pursuit. Lately, the thought of a number two has crossed my mind a few times. Specifically, a boy number two. Given the whole gender craziness we went through with J, DH and I both have this sense of loss. The moment we found out J was a girl, we were both given this mind-blowingly AMAZING gift, but we also lost this boy we had been dreaming of, bonding with, picturing. Loving.

In a strange way I feel like we’re owed our boy. That’s crazy I know but it’s a feeling I can’t shake.

Some ladies out there who were roughly “cycling” around the same time as me are already thinking of or in some cases are pursuing or already pregnant with their next little one(s). I regard this with this whole mix of emotions. On the one hand, I’m jealous. Jealous that they’re there, and they’re confident, and they’re doing it. Also? I’m scared. Because as much as I want it, I don’t know if it’s the right time. I don’t know if I’m ready to share my body. I don’t know if I could handle another traumatic pregnancy, and birth, and infancy. And I think you always risk that, every time a baby is made. And then there’s the big thing.

Which is, a not-so-insignificant part of me is terrified that IVF is to blame for everything that went wrong with my pregnancy and J’s health. Maybe that’s unfair to say, maybe that same part of me is just looking for something to blame or just to make some sense of it all. But I didn’t have any of the main risk factors for pre-eclampsia or gastroschisis. Except IVF. Which sucks because, there’d be no J without IVF, I’m painfully aware of that. But I’m terrified that if we did it again, we’d face the same or some other struggle as a result.

In my darkest thoughts, I’ve always worried that we forced the issue with J. We MADE Mother Nature give us a baby where maybe she wasn’t ready to, or ever going to. And so, we paid a price. WRONG, I know. Effed up. But these are thoughts in my head sometimes.

And then I think of all the healthy babies born as a result of IVF. I wonder if any of our embryos are destined for a breathing existence on this earth, outside of their cold frozen little petri dish or glass vial or whatever they’re in. Do we owe them something? Now that we’ve created them? Or would it be better to try on our own, just try, because who knows? Maybe? Before we tumble down that path again.

Can we even get pregnant on our own? The curse of the unexplained. We did once, unsuccessfully, a long time ago. Will our new insurance even cover infertility? Another dark curtain I’ve yet to pull back.

More importantly, are we ready. Sometimes we think all the struggles with J would go by much faster if we had something else to focus on, something positive. Or would that intensify the whole thing. Make it that much harder? Is it unfair to her to make another baby right now? Is it unfair to not?

J is nine months old today. Things are not where I thought they’d be by now, with her health I mean, but I’m making my peace with that, or at least desperately trying. When she turns one is when we might get serious about all this but clearly, many things need to be figured out, sorted through, dredged into the light and dealt with before that can happen. But the first step is figuring out what those demons are. And that’s what I’ve always adored about IF blogging.

So if you’re still there, thanks for listening.

A day.

9 Apr

So yesterday was a day. Extremely long, exhausting, informative, terrifying, mystifying and at times even relaxing, sweet and exciting.

We started at our high-risk OB’s office for another routine ultrasound. In this ultrasound, we learned that Turtle has turned from transverse to breech. I am really hoping he will continue the cycle and get (and stay) head down soon. Overall, his size and weight looked good. The weight estimate was 4 lbs. 3 oz. but this is likely skewed by the fact that his belly is measuring 2-4 weeks ahead due to the dilated portions of his bowel. His abdomen is currently in the 97% percentile.

My amniotic fluid looked good, 11.1 cm pockets of fluid (normal = 5-20). This is important because high amniotic fluid can indicate a blockage in Turtle’s bowel. The dilations are still around 2.5 cm. Up slightly but still in the same neighborhood. Overall though, Dr. Kind was pleased with Turtle’s overall growth and size for this stage and by the fact that the dilations seemed to have stabilized for now.

Next up was my delivery OB. These appointments seem a little bit pointless as all they do is record my weight and listen to the heartbeat (which we always have just seen on ultrasound downstairs). If I have a question, I ask her but otherwise they are incredibly short meetings. Still, I really like my delivery OB (I am HOPING she is the one who delivers us) and enjoy these meetings with her.

Then we had a short break before our 1 pm ultrasound at Children’s, so we hunted down a grilled cheese food truck we’ve been dying to try. We ate like little piggies and enjoyed the first really nice day in Boston so far this spring.

At Children’s, the ultrasound was about the same news. In this one, they got an amniotic fluid measurement of 15.6, which they said it changes depending on how the baby is positioned. Turtle’s femur and humerus bones are both measuring ahead (the humerus is quite a few weeks ahead at 33w1d) which we liked to see. In this ultrasound we got to watch the loops of bowel as they moved around inside his belly. We were told his movement is a good sign of activity (and not dead bowel) which is great. They showed the blood flow activity in color on the portion of the bowel outside his belly and there appeared to be blood flow there as well, which is again, good news. We want healthy bowel to put back in and get working ASAP!

Next up, meeting with our surgeon (well the one assigned to our case, he won’t necessarily be Turtle’s actual surgeon). We really like this guy. He is calm, confident, very smart and such a good listener. He said this issue of having some dilated loops of bowel is common with gastroschisis. The amniotic fluid level indicates that there’s not a complete blockage (though there still could be some level of blockage). He reminded us once again of our worse case scenario: a blockage that cannot be repaired because the bowel is too inflamed. In this case, they put the broken bowel back inside, close him up, wait MONTHS until it has healed, then take it out, repair the blockagae, close him up again and THEN begin the process of getting his bowel working and accepting and processing food again. Oh how I hope this isn’t the case for us.

Still, Turtle’s bowel is not the most dilated they’ve seen. At this point, there’s nothing that can be done but to watch and wait and see how it looks when he is born. The surgeons from Children’s will come over to Beth Israel and be present at the delivery and they will determine, bedside, whether it will be possible to repair and close immediately or whether a silo will need to be placed. They often do the surgery within 4-6 hours of birth as this is the best time to work with the bowel and assess it.

Something we learned: if they close him in the first 24 hours, we’re only looking at about a week in the NICU. If they place a silo, it’s more like 2 weeks or more. We were under the impression that we were looking at 7-10 days either way. More NICU time does not excite me one bit.

Which brings me to the next line item of the day, a tour of the NICU at Children’s and the regular floor. Well, I’m skipping the meeting with the lactation consultant, which actually was very interesting but likely something for another day. Nothing can prepare you to be in a NICU if you’ve never been in one, especially not the one at the top children’s hospital in the country. It’s like a spaceship in there, more medical machinery than you can imagine, and nestled in these giant spaceship apparatuses, the tiniest little babies. They seemed so alone in there. My first reaction when I walked in was, holy shit I’m going to lose it.

But I didn’t want to cry. Not when this was a place where people were trying so hard to bring some good and healing to these precious lives. It’s not supposed to be a sad place. It’s a magical place. It’s a place where the marvels of modern medicine work their hardest to heal the tiniest lives. It was HARD to imagine my son spending time in that place. Hard to imagine myself there day in, day out. It’s very cramped with machinery and hardly a comfortable place to sit and be with your baby. But, it is where he will be and I will get used to it.

When he’s in the NICU, we are allowed to stay in a dormitory-style room within the hospital. Once he is released from the NICU though, he will go to the regular floor, where rooms are shared and there’s only one reclining chair for one parent to stay overnight. We are still trying to figure out how we will work this, with DH being back at work and us not wanting to spend every night for two months sleeping apart. We’re hoping to work out a rotation schedule with my parents who will be here to help us out. If possible, we’d like him to never be alone. The regular floor is much busier, with fewer nurses per patient. You have to stay on top of the staff to get what you need done. And he will hardly be able to advocate for himself.

No, SOMEONE must be there. It’s going to be rough though and I worry about how much DH and I will miss each other and how we will be able to support each other through this tough time if we’re spending so much of it apart. Anyone with any experience in this arena, please reach out and let me know what some viable options might be for us.

After that, we had a few hours to kill, so we went and walked around our old neighborhood in Brookline, got coffee, sat in a courtyard and talked about how surreal this all still is on some level and how that’s probably protecting us in some ways. We had dinner at one of our favorite old places. Then it was back to hospital land for our 7:30 pm tour at BIDMC.

I have to say, I thought this would be my favorite part of the day, the “normal” part, but I actually hated it. Aside from being EXHAUSTED by this point, with horrifically swollen feet and feeling the urge to pee constantly, I didn’t like being grouped in with all the people who were getting their normal birthing experience. It was especially painful to hear about how mother and baby are never separated, except for maybe an hour or two. Knowing I will be in a different building, away from my baby for days. Hearing about what you do when you get discharged and are taking baby home, knowing we won’t be discharge from this hospital to go home two days after he’s born like most people. I’ve really started to come to terms with our lot in this pregnancy, but it didn’t help to have it laid out so plainly before us just how different of an experience we’ll be having. Plus it was like 20 pregnant ladies together in one place – not something an infertile is used to.

Anyways, I got home, showered and fell promptly to sleep. I’m still tired today! But glad it’s over, glad it wasn’t so bad, glad we learned more, and glad especially that the end is in sight. Whatever will be will be, I just want him to get here!

ps. If you made it to the bottom of this post, I applaud you. I know it was a long one but I had to get it all down. Might be too “in the weeds” for a lot of you readers and I apologize if that’s the case!

Better

1 Mar

First off, thank you all for your kind, encouraging comments on my post yesterday. I think the most important thing about writing that post was that it allowed me to validate feelings that I had been trying to deny. I stepped away from writing it, and from reading your comments, knowing that everything I was feeling was okay.

Last night I was reading before bed about a father who would wake up early on Saturday mornings to take his two sons to the playground, and out of nowhere, I started crying. Because I want that so badly. And one part of me just said to another part of me, “You’re really worried about Turtle aren’t you?” And then I cried harder as that worried part of me just nodded with relief at finally being recognized and understood. “That’s totally normal,” I said to myself. “That just means you’re a mom already.”

And somehow that was all I needed for the tears to go away and to feel much better. I learned in therapy a few years ago that feelings often just need to be heard and recognized in order to calm down. They don’t go away, they just deflate like a balloon and stop bothering you when you appreciate and really respect them for what they’re trying to do. So thank you all for bearing with me as I go through this emotional roller coaster.

Anyways, the real reason I came to post today was to share this amazing story about a man who found his son in the Subway. You know, when I was in college, I so desperately wanted a cat that I used to fantasize about finding an abandoned kitten on the side of the road or in the bushes. I wasn’t allowed to have one in the dorms of course, but I thought if one just happened to fall into my arms then I’d find a way to make it work.

Well, even after going through infertility, I never dreamed that this same concept could apply to getting a baby but for this couple, it did. It’s a wonderful story of fate, faith and love.

Happy Friday, ya’ll.

Getting over the bump

4 Jan

Here I sit at 16w6d pregnant (how did that happen?) and I officially have “a bump.” It feels too early to have such a pronounced belly, and I can’t help but compare myself to others who are around the same stage as me and just look like they’ve eaten a big meal.

No, this is a bump. It’s round, it’s firm (especially after I eat), it’s a bump. I’m pregnant. And from a physical point of view, I’ve had some trouble accepting that. I’ve always had some chub around my midsection, even at my thinnest. It’s the part of me that will always be pudgy. I thought getting pregnant would be liberating. I thought it’d be like I could finally bare my chubby belly without shame. I thought I’d have an easier time adjusting compared to some skinny girl who wasn’t used to seeing anything but a flat tummy and her toes when she looked down.

It’s sort of been the opposite. I’ve denied the belly. I’ve tried to hide the belly. I’ve been ashamed by the size of it. But somehow, as it’s gotten bigger, I’ve gotten more comfortable showing it a little more. The more “really pregnant and not just chubby” I look, the more comfortable I feel.

And this bump has needs I never anticipated! It gets itchy and flaky. It needs frequent moisturizing. Not just to avoid stretch marks (I’ll get to that topic in a minute), but just purely because the skin is drying out as it rapidly expands. Thankfully a fellow blogger just posted a great review of some belly treatments yesterday, so I promptly ordered the DreamBelly Butter she mentioned. I also have some nice refreshing Aveeno lotion (fragrance free!) that my mom got me while I was home that I plan to use as well.

I started getting stretch marks about a week ago. Nothing major, just some on my sides and a few on my bum.  It seems too early to be getting them but I’ve always been prone to them, even had them as a child. I’m trying not to stress too much about them, especially now. I’ll probably have a few but I’ll also do what I can to avoid getting too many. I don’t normally post many personal pictures here but I’ll try to get a photo of said burgeoning bump up soon. Right now I’m in a sweatshirt and comfy pants and don’t feel like changing.

And as for what’s going on INSIDE the bump? Well, I’ve had a few moments of “Wait, was that movement?” lately but just a few and nothing for the past few days. I’m not even sure if what I felt WAS movement, but it definitely felt like something I had not felt before. I’m hoping to get some more activity going soon.

As it is, I’ve spent most of this pregnancy just dealing with all the symptoms. It was easy to forget that there’s actually a baby in there. It feels like we go see the baby when we go get ultrasounds. As if Turtle lives in a flat screen TV downtown. It may sounds weird but that’s how I felt. It seems like somehow, more movement will marry the two, reminding me that Turtle’s always in there, squirming and growing, sleeping and peeing in me and doing all the things fetuses enjoy doing.

Speaking of symptoms, the nausea and vomiting STILL has not abated. I’m beyond tired and frustrated by it. Now I’m just resigned to it. If you don’t know what it is to wake up every day feeling the simultaneous need to eat and barf, for three and half months on end, then you won’t sympathize. But I’m not going to sugar coat it, though some of you may hate me for saying this, I’ve felt at times like being pregnant was harder than dealing with infertility, just because at least back then I could still be myself.

I haven’t done anything, literally, since getting pregnant. I don’t cook, clean, shop (except online), exercise or care for my pets. I barely see friends. This feeling ill all day every day has taken over my life. Courtney wrote a post yesterday about missing exercise that I so sympathized with (though jeez, I was never one tenth of the athlete she was!). I could kick myself for all the times I didn’t roll out of bed because I was too tired to go to the gym. Fool! I could cry to my former self. One day you won’t be able to! My plan was to swim and do yoga and walk while pregnant but of course those things haven’t been possible. I still hold out hope that I’ll feel better one day soon and can start moving again, can start living again really, but I’m also telling myself that this may just be how I feel this entire pregnancy.

Some of you may be thinking, boo hoo. You can’t exercise and you may throw up and feel nauseous for nine months. Would you like some cheese with that whine?  And you know what? Fair enough. I said the same things when I was in those shoes. But this just is what it is. And I won’t sit here and pretend like it doesn’t suck. I sincerely hope you all get to experience this one day! And when you do, I don’t want you to feel alone in feeling like pregnancy is a long hard road, like it’s a greater physical sacrifice than you ever imagined. I don’t want you to feel stuck between wanting to express yourself and worrying about hurting feelings. I want you to know that someone else has been there and has (hopefully, time will tell) survived. Really, isn’t that a big part of why we write?

So along with that belly butter, I ordered more Preggie Pops (hopefully my last order, though I say that every order) and a wedge pillow to support the growing belly while I’m sleeping. Like I said, this bump is growing and it has needs.

So what kind of turtle is it?

30 Dec

Okay, one note on finding out the gender. This was always something I was fairly strongly against. I was all about the surprise, keeping it old school, buying gender neutral stuff, etc. It was kind of all bundled up with my former all-natural, no-interventions birth (and even conception) ideals.

But then infertility happened. And then this rather difficult pregnancy happened. And then we found out our child has a birth defect and suddenly everything we assumed about what this whole journey would be like, was different. We needed something to hang onto, something to make this real again. To bring it back to being about a baby coming into the world.

We needed to know Turtle’s gender to refocus ourselves and make this about more than the diagnosis.

One of the few benefits of being a high-risk OB patient (along with the frequent ultrasounds), is the possibility of finding out the sex early. We found out through a blood test called the MaterniT21, which tests for Down syndrome, trisomy 18 and trisomy 13 (all three were negative, thankfully). At our first appt with Dr. Kind, he recommended getting it, just to definitively rule out the possibility of any other genetic issues. It was the nurse who casually mentioned that the test also can tell you gender. So there we were at a little over 12 weeks, learning we’d be able to find out the gender in 7-11 days! We were pretty stoked (and shocked. Apparently, fetal cells float around in the bloodstream of the mother and can be detected as early as 10 weeks!).

So a week later, during my work day, I look down at my phone to see I have a missed call and a voicemail. I check the voicemail and it’s Dr. Kind’s office calling to tell me that the results of my MaterniT21 test are back and they are negative. She says nothing of the gender but to call with any questions. Of course I immediately excuse myself and call her back from the empty office space next door.

I have to admit, I was pretty certain Turtle was a girl. I had been having dreams of a daughter since long before we managed to conceive and a few since then too. My extreme morning sickness and the fact that I pretty much looked like shit also pointed to a girl. DH thought boy. No reason, just felt it. I expressed at one point that maybe what we both “thought” it was was really what we both just hoped it was.

Regardless. I get the nurse on the phone and she says immediately, “You want to know the sex?” “Um, yes!” “It’s a boy!” “Are you serious?!” I couldn’t believe it but was of course so, so happy. Suddenly, everything felt so so REAL. Im pregnant with a little boy. Our little boy, the fighter. I immediately called DH and told him. He just said, naturally, “I knew it.” He’s incredibly excited to be having a son though.

And at our second ultrasound with Dr. Kind, he was actually about to SHOW us Turtle’s boy bits! They were itty bitty of course but he assured us they would get bigger.

We kept this a secret until now because we wanted to surprise our families with the news at Christmas. I had thought of giving my parents and DH’s mom a small gift that would indicate a boy. I looked at some little blue turtle stuffed animals but they were kind of silly and didn’t feel right. Then I searched Etsy for “blue turtle” and found this set of three blue turtle ornaments. They are handmade and oh so pretty. And three was the perfect number, one for my parents, one for his mom, and one for us.

All the days leading up to Christmas it was killing us, keeping quiet. We had many gender conversations where we had to watch our pronouns very carefully. Earlier that night, my cousin was asking us if we were still planning an gender reveal party (I had wanted to do the thing with the colored cake, especially when we thought it was twins). I had to lie through my teeth and say “maybe,” when what I wanted to say was, “It’s actually tonight – in about 30 minutes!”

We gave them as the last present of the evening, “something special for the grandparents to be” and made sure they opened them together. They got the turtle reference right away but the gender part didn’t dawn on them until I said, “Notice anything about them?” My mom then said, “It’s a boy turtle?” And the room exploded and everyone was happy and we’re having a boy, ohmigod, the end.

photo-12

Torn

11 Dec

I’ve been at a loss for writing lately. I feel kind of stuck in a lot of ways, between being all “yay, I’m pregnant!” to being focused on our diagnosis and what we need to do to get ready. Stuck between feeling kindred to other pregnant ladies to feeling jealous of them. Between feeling guilty about being pregnant after infertility to feeling – and this is perhaps most conflicting of all – grateful that everything ISN’T perfect so I have things to talk about that aren’t all bumpdates and poopdates, grateful that maybe people envy me a little bit less because of it.

Torn between wanting to be hopeful and have ultimate faith – in the doctors and the hospitals we’ve chosen, and in our strong little Turtle – and wanting to be realistic. Worried that I gave the impression that everything is going to be A-OK when that very much might not be the case. Gastroschisis may be better than other things but it’s still not a walk in the park. Turtle will have to be drugged up on pain meds for the first weeks of his or her life that can make feeding difficult and harm certain organs. He/she will be at risk for many complications. Foremost on my worry list right now is short bowel syndrome.

But I AM pregnant. I feel it everyday in my ongoing, haunting nausea. (Seriously, WHEN will this lift? I drove almost all the way into work today and then had to turn around because I felt so terrible.) I see it in my belly which is growing (noticeably!). We’re gradually telling more and more people. I gave my boss the okay to announce my pregnancy in a company meeting yesterday. I was so nervous for this moment. I had to ask her to say it because I just couldn’t. I’ve been so awkward about all of our announcements, especially to groups (which means any size bigger than more than one person). Of course, everyone was so nice and now it’s nice to not have to “hide” anything anymore (though apparently, lots of people guessed anyways).

I am looking forward to buying baby clothes, choosing names, decorating the guest room. Even though Turtle will probably be born early and won’t be coming home for awhile, I still want to enjoy these things as much as I can. I want to plan for the future and look forward to it but I do so with great hesitation, with serious worry.

I know there’s room for everything. I know the way will become clear. I’m mostly surviving, taking it day by day. But writing gets tough because it’s hard to know what tone to take. As much as I didn’t want this blog to be just another pg after IF blog, sometimes I kind of wish it could be. How do I both enjoy my pregnancy while also giving an accurate picture of what we’re going through? As usual, I want it all.