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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.

Starry starry nursery

28 Apr

Our nursery is (finally!) just about done. While there are a few little things we might like to add, they’re not essential to its completeness and we’re not stressing over them. Anyways, without further adieu, here is Turtle’s starry nursery!

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First off, let me just say, this was truly a labor of love on both my and DH’s parts. As we did when we designed our office, we really came together as a team to express our shared design aesthetic which tends to be an eclectic mix of modern and antique, new and collected. Putting together this room (THE room) will always remain a highlight of my pregnancy.

Let’s rewind a minute and take a look at the before pic of what was our guest room:

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As you can see, we were pretty much working with a blank slate. I never wanted to decorate this room very much because like so many infertiles, I always hoped it would become a baby’s room. When I finally allowed myself to admit that this pregnancy looked like it would be sticking around, we started making plans for this room.

Choosing a paint color. We went with Benjamin Moore's "Constellation," ironically.

Choosing a paint color. We went with Benjamin Moore’s “Constellation,” ironically.

Painting complete, DH did an awesome job!

Painting complete, DH did an awesome job!

Now we knew we wanted to incorporate wallpaper in some way. I was thinking one wall of wallpaper with the others painted. We originally liked the look of this wallpaper but when the sample came, it really looked nothing like it does on that website (the stars were all holographic and tacky looking, which is crazy considering the price of that paper). So then I started poking around some more and that’s when I found Ralph Lauren’s navy blue constellation wallpaper and we both fell in love. When the sample came, we realized it would look so much better on the ceiling than on the wall. The little white stars even glow in the dark for 30 minutes after you turn the lights off!

My Dad came up to help DH put up the wallpaper - quite the  bonding experience for those two!

My Dad came up to help DH put up the wallpaper – quite the bonding experience for those two!

Back to the finished product… here’s the crib corner with the mobile hung up. For the crib, we went with the babyletto Hudson 3 in 1 Convertible Crib in gray. It’s a nod to the Oeuf Sparrow crib at about half the price. The mobile is from Etsy. The color block curtains are from Land of Nod.

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Here’s his dresser/changing table corner, which is the Nyvoll from Ikea. After college I swore I’d never buy Ikea furniture again but, do you know how expensive dressers are? We really liked the look of this one and the price was so affordable. I love the white lacquer drawers and the fact that they’re slam-proof. We plan to keep diapers, wipes and other essentials in the upper left drawer.

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The lamp goes perfectly with the dresser and was such a steal from CB2. The astronaut print is kind of a long story but we bought it from a friend’s antique store. It’s actually a print on thick, quite warped, cardboard (believed to be from Grissom‘s memorial service) that my engineer husband had to rig up a fancy framing for. Anyways, it had just been floating aimlessly around the house but once we started putting this room together, we knew it had to be in here.

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Opposite the crib, we have the chair and bookshelf corner. The chair we agonized over forever, it was one of the last things we bought. We ended up not getting a rocker because we couldn’t see ourselves using it once Turtle outgrows the baby years and didn’t want to fork over so much for a semi-temporary piece of furniture. Instead we found this chair at West Elm that worked so well stylistically. It’s actually a recliner and SO super comfortable.

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The bookshelf is new, from Ikea. The star we recycled from our office (originally $5 from Home Goods!). The canvas baskets on the shelf are from The Container Store. If I have time and energy before he comes, I’d like to get the polar bear print framed and hung, and we’d also like a small side table (been eying this one in bronze) and either a floor lamp or a small lamp to go on top of the shelf (I love this one). And, I suppose the chair could use a throw blanket and pillow too but we’ll just have to see if I get around to those things.

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A couple of other little details to share… these are the beautiful beanbag bookends one of my dear friends got for our shower. They fit so well in the room! She said she got them from Etsy.

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This is a little antique Turtle figurine that DH bought me ages ago for some holiday or anniversary. I never really appreciated it until recently!

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And this is the first thing we ever bought for Turtle, a little bicycle onesie. It symbolizes our embracing the pregnancy and is a nod to DH’s love of bikes (he builds them in his spare time).

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So that’s our little nursery! It’s bittersweet in a way because I know Turtle won’t get to come home and enjoy it for quite some time but going in there reminds me that he will be coming home, that there’s more to our story than surgery and a hospital stay, and that life will go on.

Things are getting weird

21 Apr

Well, we’ve reached 32 weeks, another surreal milestone. It’s insane to think that I could be delivering as little as four weeks from now. As a result, I’ve been kicking my birth preparedness reading into high gear. I finished the relevant chapters in Ina May Gaskins’s Guide to Childbirth which I’m now forcing DH to read (he needs to know ALL ABOUT that sphincter law!) and now I’m devouring Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds.

At this point in the pregnancy, I’m experiencing some very interesting symptoms indeed. In addition to the boring old tiredness, achy hips, trouble sleeping, stretch marks, weird nipples, vivid dreams (last night I was trying on shoes with Jessica Simpson) etc., I’ve started noticing all this other weird stuff. The weirdest being my craving for sponges. Specifically, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers but also like a very fine baby bath sponge. What do I want to do with these sponges? Mostly just suck/chew on them though a part of me would also like to injest them, maybe. I haven’t given in to the temptation. Some of my TTC friends suggested foods that might help with this craving and Pirate’s Booty does help. But I still find myself thinking of sponges and Magic Erasers multiple times per day.

Other stuff is weird too. Like lately, I get this tactile pleasure from brushing my teeth, especially my molars when the toothbrush rubs the side of my tongue. The foamier the toothpaste, the better. The past few days we were staying at a hotel with a different kind of toilet paper that wasn’t perforated like the kind we had at home. I got this strange tactile pleasure from ripping it off.

Certain very chemical-y smells are also very pleasing to me. I have this natural hand sanitizer that I used to find very strange smelling that now I just want to smell all day. And yesterday after filling up at a gas station, DH got back in the car with his hands reeking of gas and I swear it smelled like the most delicious, beautiful flowers to me. I was like, “What’s that amazing smell!?” It was gasoline. I never hated the smell of gasoline but this was different. It smelled just wonderful to me.

I think I can control myself not to give into my Magic Eraser temptation but I sure do hope that goes away once Turtle is born because I really do like cleaning with those things!

In other news, we have another ultrasound tomorrow. Hoping for stable news.

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!

Back to reality

28 Mar

I think we’ve been living in a fantasy world these past two weeks since our last ultrasound (which was overwhelmingly positive, perhaps our best ever this pregnancy). For the past two weeks, it’s felt like everything will be okay and we can breathe a little and enjoy the pregnancy and forget, at least a bit, about the trials that await us.

Today’s ultrasound was splash of cold water in the face.

I don’t have any growth to share, because they didn’t check it. They were solely focused on looking at the bowel today. And things have taken a turn. At our last ultrasound, the dilations had not grown. After weeks of growth, they were holding steady around 1.5 cm, comfortably below the 2 cm threshold we were told was the point at which we would start to worry about them. We fervently hoped that this meant any constriction of his bowel had leveled out and no further damage was being caused.

Today, they were bigger, and one, or perhaps a few (not exactly clear on this), is over 2 cm. Dr. Kind said he saw one at 2.4 cm. This was what we had been dreading and I didn’t know what would happen.

Here’s what happened: he called Children’s Hospital. He wanted to talk to “our” surgeon (the one assigned to our case) about, I’m guessing, what to do in this situation. This pretty much scared the living daylights out of me when he went to make that call. He came back from connecting with the surgeon and said the surgeon said to “do nothing.” He said this happens and you just have to watch and see what happens, essentially.

Which – we knew. We knew there was nothing they could do now. Dr. Kind made it pretty clear that if they delivered him now, he’d die. Vast prematurity plus gastroschisis, he just couldn’t live, he said. In fact, the earliest they’d want to deliver me would be 36 weeks. This gave me the feeling that if I don’t make it to 36 weeks, Turtle doesn’t have a very good shot at life. 36 weeks! Forget viability, 28, 32. 36! That’s seven weeks from Saturday.

Saturday, my shower. I kind of collapsed into a mess of tears leaving the office, thinking about all the plans we’ve made. How I’m scheduled to get my hair and make up done, how we’re unveiling the nearly complete nursery. All these things for a potentially very sick baby. It hurt so much. It still does.

DH and I went outside and I cried into his shoulder and he was strong for me. And then we went and sat in my car while I continued crying and we just coped with what we had learned. Or not learned, as it was. We still don’t understand the point of going through this dilation monitoring roller coaster if there’s nothing that can be done at this point. He’s either going to make it to be at a viable point for delivery or he’s not. And if he does, he’s either going to survive all of the surgeries and we’ll get to take him home, or we won’t.

This is the risky tightrope we must walk in order to have a chance at building our family. And I hate that part of me that shouts, but it’s not fair! Because I know life is not fair. Shitty, horrible, unfair things happen every single day and as far as lots in life go, I still think mine is pretty good.

We sat there in the car and began to get mad at ourselves for living in this fantasy world these past two weeks. For hoping, basically. For letting our guards down. We should always have a defense up, we agreed. But then no, we said. Why shouldn’t we hope? Why shouldn’t we have faith? We’re still figuring this out.

But in the midst of that discussion I realized that we need to go full force ahead. I’m going to celebrate this baby on Saturday with a smile on my face and my head held high. Because even if this story doesn’t end with a relatively healthy living baby of ours, I want to know that we loved and cherished everything along the way. That we believed in him and we celebrated him. I think I would regret not doing this much more than I would regret doing it.

Just need to make sure I get a few more tears out before Saturday comes. Wring myself and hang me out to dry. I’m determined to make it as happy as possible.

The big test

27 Mar

I’m glad our childbirth class is coming up in a few weeks because I’m definitely starting to feel anxious about birth. I always thought it would be something I’d be so excited for but now all the unknowns are haunting me.

Part of this anxiety definitely has to do with the gastroschisis and not knowing whether I’ll have to be induced or not, and whether that induction will lead to a C-section, or if they’ll decide to skip trying for a vaginal birth altogether and go straight for the C-section. I think if I knew for sure, this is what it will be like, I could totally make my peace and find comfort with whatever the situation, but as it is, there’s no way of knowing.

Not that anyone ever really knows and even the best laid birth plans get tossed all the time. Right now, Dr. Kind is saying we have about as much chance of C-section as anyone entering into a hospital birth has.

In my dream world, the one I was living in when we first started trying, we’d give birth at home with a nurse midwife and possibly a doula. We had even met with and chosen a nurse midwife when we first started trying for real, because of course I’d be knocked up quite quickly and wanted to start receiving care in my home from the beginning. I was even thinking of not having any ultrasounds!

Thankfully, that’s not how things turned out. Because if we never had an ultrasound, we’d never know about Turtle’s gastroschisis, which could have been devastating for him. I did read on a forum somewhere about a home birth situation like this, where the mother never had an ultrasound and did not know her child had gastroschisis. They didn’t know what to do when he was born, so they wrapped his intestines in towels and called an ambulance. Those towels, and time it took getting to the hospital, ended up doing grave damage to his organs and lasting problems the child will be dealing with for a long time.

It’s crazy to think of my MIL, who had all of her pregnancies in Ethiopia in the 80s, never once had an ultrasound. Luckily, all her boys were strong and healthy (as Turtle will be!).

When we first got pregnant with Turtle and I was trying to figure out an OB situation, I did decide on a hospital birth, just because of all of the scares of early pregnancy we had had up to that point. But I chose a local hospital with whirlpools in every birth room and most births attended by a nurse midwife unless they needed an OB. It felt like the best of both worlds.

Obviously we had to give all that up and are now looking at a full-on hospital birth at a fairly big hospital farther from home. I’m reading for the second time Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and while I really do feel like I could have a natural birth, I don’t know if it will be possible in a hospital, especially with all the stressors of this birth. Knowing he will look different than most babies, worrying about his health, knowing I won’t get to hold him and that he will be whisked off in an ambulance right away. She talks a lot about how the climate in the birth room and the fears of the mother directly impact dilation. In an ideal setting, I could probably do the natural thing, I really believe (however naively) that I could. But in this situation? I don’t know if it’s even possible.

And to be honest, pitocin scares the crap out of me. I’m scared of those induced contractions. I understand they can be way more intense and last longer than natural contractions. I don’t know if I’ll be able to take the intensity of them. But if I can’t, then I have to face an epidural, which also scares the crap out of me. I don’t want to be numb and I understand lots of women have lasting back problems from them. I don’t even want to labor from a lying down position in a hospital bed, hooked up to monitors and IVs. But I know all of these things could very much be in my future.

C-sections scare me too. My body being cut open, having to recover from major abdominal surgery. A section would keep me in the hospital for longer, away from seeing Turtle for longer. I don’t want this. And yet… there is a kind of flip side in knowing your baby will be swiftly removed from your body for you, without having to go through the whole, you know, pushing a baby out of your vagina. I look at my big belly, that’s only going to get bigger, and wonder how the HELL that’s going to happen.

And yet, I want to have a vaginal birth. I want the full experience. Will I feel like less of a woman or less of a mother if I don’t get that experience? Both options are scary, frankly. The only thing, ironically, that doesn’t scare me, is the idea of going in labor naturally, and laboring in a calm, free environment, but that probably won’t happen for us.

This has to be the ultimate culmination of the “letting go” lesson infertility has been trying to teach old Type-A, uptight, super-planner me. This is the big test in learning how to be okay with whatever will be. WHATEVER will be. Will be okay. I’ll be okay, and he’ll be okay and we’ll all be okay and we’ll be together. The journey will be what it will be. All we know right now is that it will be ours. Me, and DH’s and Turtle’s.

And that will be beautiful. That will be wonderful.

“The room”

11 Mar

It’s a well known concept in the infertility world. Most any infertile will know what you’re talking about if you mention “the room” (and no, I’m not talking about the panic room we all wish we had when our temps start to dip or at the first sign of spotting).

I’m talking, obviously, about the baby’s room. Or the would-be baby’s room, if we ever get there. The guest room/office/storage room/whatever-I-can’t deal-with-it room that many of us have in our homes. The one we put off decorating because we hope it’s destined for a greater purpose. The one we sometimes avoid altogether, keeping the door permanently shut on the gaping, vacant reminder of the emptiness of infertility.

This weekend, my Dad flew up to help DH wallpaper the ceiling of Turtle’s room. It didn’t hit me until last night, when they were all finished and cleaned up. I was looking at the painted walls and up at the wallpaper and around at the empty room that is fully ready to be decorated and I realized, this is no longer “the room.”

This is now his room. It is for him. It is a labor of love for him, as everything has been up to this point and will continue to be. The room has taken on a whole new persona, the room is fulfilling a destiny that it was meant for, yet one I didn’t know if it would ever, ever reach.

I am going to blog about decorating the nursery, eventually. When it’s all done, with pictures, I promise. But for now, I’m just appreciating, almost reveling in, the change that has come over the room.

If those walls could talk, I believe they’d just smile.