N’s arrival, pt. 2

So, where did I leave off?  Ah, yea.  3am.  Pants soaked through.

This is really happening…

Actually, I spent a lot of time silently reiterating that.  “This is really happening.”  It didn’t seem real.  After months of Braxton-Hicks contractions that frequently worried my non-stress test nurses but never amounted to anything, I found it hard to believe that early labor was so contraction-free.  We were soon settled into our rooms, wrist bands applied, IV access inserted, and consent forms signed.  Now what?  I decided to sleep, and encouraged the mister to do the same.  I was quickly snoring in my cushy bed, as the mister tossed and turned in his straight-backed chair.  You see, the nurses casually mentioned during our birthing classes that the L&D floor had fewer reclining “dad chairbeds” than they did birthing rooms, but we foolishly assumed that it would be highly unlikely that we’d miss out on said chairbed.  Trouble is, when you come rolling in to the hospital at 3am you’re arriving after the rest of the floor has been tucked in for the night.  No chairs to be had for the mister, and, as a result, barely any sleep as well.  (This will become a recurring theme through the remainder of this tale!  Stay tuned for future posts!)

4am: 2cm dilated, 60% effaced, -3 station

And, so I slept.  Finally at around 7am the contractions started rolling in at a level that, while not all that bad, did make it impossible to sleep anymore.  I do think the poor mister was grateful to have me awake as he had long ago given up on sleeping.  The nursing staff changed over at 7am and we met our new nurse, Liz.  When we first met she said, “Well, my shift is over at 7pm, so you better have this baby before then cause I want to meet him!”  It sounded somewhat optimistic to me at the time (“I’m a first time mom, isn’t this supposed to take FOREVER!?”), but little did I know then that Liz would prove right.  The nurse encouraged me to eat something before labor really started going, so I called up and ordered oatmeal, grape juice, and a piece of turkey sausage!  Certainly one of my weirder breakfasts, but I was unsure about eating too much before labor, but wanted to throw that sausage protein in there for good measure.  This would not be the last time I ridiculously overthought my meals while at the hospital!  In retrospect I wish I had ordered A LOT more.  Note to self: Eat while they’re letting you eat because you don’t know where or when your next meal will come!

10am: 3cm dilated, 60% effaced, -2 station

This is when the decision-making started.  I wasn’t all that surprised that little had changed in 6 hours as I was still comfortably talking through most of my contractions, but it was discouraging none-the-less.  Not the least of which because this meant Liz had to talk to the resident-on-call about beginning augmentation.

As a bit of a refresher: I was hell-bent on a drug-free birth.  (I hate the phrase “natural birth,” don’t you?  It just reeks of smugness like the women who use pain management, who have c-sections, who do what’s best for their babies are somehow “unnatural.”  But, I digress.)  My reasons were many, but I’m finding them hard to articulate now, after-the-fact.  The reasons are there through the anger of my resentment post, but they range from a desire to turn the pain of labor to joy after laboring to deliver 3 prior miscarriages, my wish to experience the same type of labor my (long-dead) mother felt, my fear of drugs increasing the risk of the c-section I’d fought tooth and nail to avoid, my worries that another abdominal surgery would further impair my fertility and/or take more control away from me regarding my reproductive choices, my need to be fully alert and engaged in the process I’d fought so hard to experience, my hard-earned knowledge that my body responds negatively to analgesics, and a healthy dose of stubbornness and commitment to proving how “tough” I was.

So, it was hard not to panic once the discussions of augmentation began.  While I had nothing against pitocin, I worried that allowing a little pitocin would be a slippery slope into pain meds.  At the same time, I had to balance that fear with the knowledge that 1. without pitocin the labor could drag on endlessly and result in my becoming so tired that, again, labor would go differently than I’d hoped, and, 2. that I was working on a hospital-mandated clock because my waters broke at home.  We had 24 hours from when my water broke (11:30pm the prior night) to get the baby out the way I wanted before hospital policy (stemming from a fear of infection) stepped in.

In an odd way, the decision-making was made even harder by the fact that my experiences with my nurse and the resident were completely different from what I’d expected.  Throughout IF and my many other medical (mis)adventures, I’ve gotten serious mileage out of stubbornly pushing my wants/needs/expectations onto less-than-thrilled/less-than-receptive medical professionals.  Given the stories you hear about hospital births in modern America I expected much the same.  I’d have to fight to see my wishes through, I’d have to constantly remind myself to consult the BRAN acronym (What are the Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, and results if we do Nothing?) when having options forced on me.  My actual experience was quite different.  The doctors and nurses were completely hands-off with all decisions, almost to the point of causing me extreme frustration.  If they expressed no preference, then how was I going to battle them?  How would I know if I was winning?  The pitocin decision was just the first of many that went this way.

11am: Started low and slow pitocin drip

Somehow, I expected all hell to break loose once the “nasty” pitocin started.  And, yes, it definitely got worse, but, no, it was still nothing like I expected.  I was giving my longstanding IF-friends-in-the-computer Facebook play-by-plays through it all (have you wondered how I have this all memorized down to the hour?  I don’t – I’m going through old Facebook posts!), and when I mentioned that the nurse was off to get the pitocin one good friendly kindly offered, “Well, I don’t know how you feel about epidurals, but my advice with pitocin is to take the f****** epidural before you think you need it. I was so stuck on having a natural Hypnobabies no-pain-meds birth and… I wish someone had said, hey, pit contractions really are different and it’s OK.”  Not gonna lie, that concerned me.  I was beyond grateful for her advice (and for the fact that before she offered said advice she asked, “Can I offer my unsolicited advice about pitocin?” first… always a good plan!), but my experience was different.  I know I have a high pain tolerance, but I’m also not arrogant enough to think it’s that high.  Namely, I think the reason pitocin and I got along so well was because the nurse agreed to use a teeny-tiny dose and slowly step it up each half hour.  So while the pitocin definitely got things rocking and rolling a little faster, it didn’t lead me to want to break out the drugs immediately.  And when the contractions started picking up in frequency and intensity, and subsequent pelvic checks showed progress, the nurse happily stopped upping the pit and left it at my happy sweet spot.  So far, so good.

That’s not to say that I loved the pitocin or even, in retrospect, think it was entirely necessary.  I grew to have a LOT of angst over the fact that pitocin meant an IV drip and constant contraction and fetal heart rate monitoring.  Those requirements meant I could no longer do my laps around the L&D floor unencumbered, but now was chained to an IV pole.  And, in the beginning, even that wasn’t an option.  Our long string of “good luck” continued.  (I’m not even counting IF, here, but more things like, oh, the fact that the fertility clinic’s entire computer system was down on the day of my embryo transfer so, after years of waiting and knowing what was “normal” for an ET day, we left without seeing or receiving a single picture of any of our blasts…)  Turns out the hospital’s only high quality, portable heart rate/contraction monitor was out of batteries.  And the nurse couldn’t find the charger.  Hilarity ensued over the course of an hour as every L&D nurse scoured the floor looking for the missing battery pack.  It would have been comical if it weren’t for the fact that I was, as a result, left with only about a 5-foot tether between me and the monitor.  I paced that same 5 feet of hospital room continuously for nearly 2 hours before a battery pack was found.  That made me happy for, oh, about 20 minutes until I’d passed the point where leaving the comforts of my room (and bathroom… all those IV fluids!) seemed reasonable.  When pacing went out the window, all I wanted was a birthing ball.  You know, the birthing balls the childbirth class instructors promised us they had in spades?  Yea, turns out they didn’t have any clean balls available either.  So I paced for another hour while I waited for a ball.  The nurse reassured me we were just “lucky” (no chair for hubs, no battery pack, no ball…), but I told her that wasn’t much solace.  I mean, it’s not like I’d be back in next week to see whether the service was better or not.  But, yes, I do think it helped that I maintained my sense of humor through it all.  😉

4pm: 4cm dilated, 90% effaced, -2 station

This is when discouragement started.  Even after all the pep talks, all the knowledge that – especially in first timers – effacement matters more than dilation, all the visualization I’d done while swaying on my long-awaited birthing ball, hearing “4, 90, minus 2” shouted out made my heart sink.  The pain had started in earnest.  After hours of saying, “I thought it’d be worse!” it was now getting worse.  The hubs tried to chat with me as he clocked my contractions on an app on my phone, and in the lull between contractions I repeatedly shouted, “I can’t f-ing talk right now.  Just time the damn things!”

At around 5pm I got off my birthing ball for the last time and instinctually got on my hands and knees on the bed.  Sweat started pouring, tears streaming, groans constant.  I repeatedly had to remind myself to breathe.  I shouted to the mister with the start of a new contraction and sunk into the deepest, rawest pain I’ve ever felt.  Time stopped.

My contraction timing app promised me that in transition contractions could last up to 60 to 90 seconds.  To that I call, “bullshit!”  The contraction that came as I rested on all fours lasted a full 6 minutes without stopping.  By the third minute I was begging for it to end, by the fourth the nurse had entered the room and asked if I needed pain management, by the fifth I’d consented to an epidural and she’d left.  When it subsided I turned over and looked at the mister.  He stroked my brow with a cold cloth, held my hand, and said,

“Are you SURE?”

When the nurse reentered a few minutes later with the epidural supplies I told her I’d changed my mind.  The contraction had passed and, as long as I knew that they’d pass, I’d survive.  It was the fear that derailed me.  The worry that the new pain I was feeling was the pain I’d be feeling constantly until he was in my arms.  As long as I knew I’d have even a few seconds to recover in between, I could manage.  Despite my worries that the nurse would be frustrated with me (what silly things we worry about!), she gladly consented and informed everyone there’d be no need for an epidural.  She went back to checking my monitors without skipping a beat.

Now, many women would probably strangle their husband’s for doing what the mister did, but I’m so grateful he did it.  Many might see his words as questioning my decision, as a failure to support me, but I saw the opposite.  He knew how much a med-free birth mattered to me, he truly believed I could do it, and, as we made the decision to forego the epidural together, he kept saying over and over, “I know you can do this!  I know you’re further than they think you are!  I know how high your pain tolerance is and I wholeheartedly believe that was transition and the worst is behind us!  I know it will be easier from here on out!  I know you can do this!”  And, sure enough, he was right.  It was exactly the support I needed at exactly the moment I needed it.  And, as odd as it may sound, I’m so thankful to IF for his support and my receptiveness to it.  Those moments in that delivery room would have gone quite differently if we hadn’t already had 5 years of supporting one another through the worst under our belts, had we not had the ability to communicate volumes in one look or one hand on the forehead.

At around 5:30pm (the timing gets blurry here!) I told the nurse I REALLY needed to push.  She was beyond skeptical and reminded me I was only 4cm and -2 just over an hour earlier.  She patted my hand, said, “Let’s see if you can have a few more good contractions before I call in the doctor to check you,” and left the room to go back to the nurses station.  A definite hint of panic spread across the mister’s face when he realized he was left all alone in a room with a wife screaming,

“I NEED TO PUSH!”

He held my hand, tried to soothe me, and reassured me it wasn’t time just yet; I squeezed his hand, told him to stop being so patronizing, and bitched about the moron nurse who’d leave a laboring woman alone in a room.  By about 5:45pm I told him, “Screw this, I’m pushing.  I don’t care whether she thinks I’m ‘ready’ or not!”  By 5:50pm I’d pushed through 3 contractions and hubs pressed the panic button and screamed, “Can you please come check her!  She’s pushing!”  Half of me was frustrated my husband had “tattled” on me, the other half was thinking, “About f-ing time you stood up for me!”

The nurse sauntered in, calmly reassuring me that it wasn’t time yet, but she’d gladly call the doctor to come check and give me a progress update.  As she walked by the bed to get to the intercom I think she saw a little more than she was planning on.  The next thing I heard was,

“Get the resident in here NOW!”

Even through the pain I was impressed by the well choreographed dance that played out next.  The bed was broken into a birthing table, more nurses and doctors appeared like magic, each person knew their place, each person filled their role.  Oil was rubbed on the peritoneum, the bassinet was warmed, the spotlight was on, and I couldn’t stop praying that the window that looked out into the neighboring office building was, as I’d hoped, composed of one-way glass.  The resident arrived at 6:05pm and finally gave me formal permission to push.  The on-call attending (amazingly, the same compassionate OB that referred me to the high risk center in the first place!) arrived at 6:20pm.

And our beautiful son was born at 6:25pm on June 12, 2014.

Pushing was a relief after being denied permission to push for so long.  It felt right, it felt natural, it felt like progress.  But the nurse and resident had so convinced me that I had a long road ahead of me, that I couldn’t accept that my pushing was going to be over anytime soon.  As the resident said, “Just a few more and you’re there,” I looked at my husband and said, “She must be kidding, we just started!”  With eyes the size of saucers he looked back at me and said, “No, she’s not.  I see a head.  And LOTS AND LOTS of hair!  Push!”  At that point I realized that he must have been swept up in the grand plan to fool me into being more compliant and motivated for the long road ahead.  I made a note to myself to punish him for his deceit later.  Yet, a few moments later, a wave of relief rushed over me as I felt the head be born.

Still in shock, I reminded myself that that was the worst part and the rest of the body should just easily slip out.  It was over.  I’d done it.  Except, why was there still so much pressure?  Why wasn’t he crying?  Why wasn’t I holding him?  The resident calmly explained that, yes, the head was out, but he’d crossed his arms and was giving himself a big bear hug.  I mean, that would be heart-meltingly cute, right, if it weren’t for the fact that that meant his upper body was now even bigger than his head.  Little stinker!  Despite delivering the head without major trouble, delivering the upper body took the resident a few agonizing minutes longer and resulted in second degree tearing and many, many stitches.  (And probably set the stage for the lovely hemorrhoid I’m still nursing as I type this!)  Nevertheless, he made his quiet appearance into the world.  I only vaguely remember the cord being cut, but I remember each breath, sound, sight, and smell as they placed him on my chest for the first time.  Despite my expectations I didn’t cry, I just held him.  And in that moment I realized he wasn’t crying either…  His eyes were open, and, though he was blue, I knew that was normal.

So why wasn’t he crying?

He was swept away by the nurses and immediately under the care of the NICU staff that they’d called down at some unknown point during the struggle to free him.  My heart stopped for a few moments and it was all I could do not to jump off the table (even as the resident delivered the placenta and began stitching me up – two events I barely remember).  The NICU nurse calmly explained that babies usually spend a little longer than 20 minutes in the birth canal, and that that time is important as it’s when a lot of free fluid is pushed out of the baby’s lungs.  (I knew this fact quite well since it was one of the worries I had should we have had to have a section.)  I couldn’t stop thinking that my quick labor caused it.  The mommy guilt started within 30 seconds of his birth!  After a few (very scary looking) go’s with a long suction tube we started hearing little chirps, then bigger wails, and I knew all was right.  Despite the worry, he wouldn’t need to leave our room, and he never spent any time in the NICU.  He was ours and he was healthy.

He is our dream come true.

NCD ~ June 12, 2014 ~ 6:25pm ~ 7lbs6oz ~ 21in

NCD ~ June 12, 2014 ~ 6:25pm ~ 7lbs6oz ~ 21in

Resentment Addendum

If only all problems could be solved by whining about them on a blog.  Wouldn’t the world be a much lovelier place?  I mean, sure, the blogosphere would be a little gloomier for it, but me and my Eeyore self wouldn’t really mind.  Who wants to read about others’ happiness anyways?

Well, shit.  Yea.  If you don’t want to read happy you might want to stop here…

Less than 24 hours after my last post the mister and I piled into the car for another sleepy, early morning trek to the perinatal center.  (Well, another for me, a first for him.  Thanks to the number of appointments I have, the distance they are from our house, and the state of medical/family leave in this grand country of ours the mister has never been able to come with me to the MFM.  Yesterday he said “screw it” and took some of the precious, precious vacation time he’d been saving for post-baby to come along to my appointment.)

The drive to the perinatal center takes about the same amount of time as the drive to the RE did (an hour, give or take), of which the initial half hour is the exact same drive.  I know the drive well.  Every bump, turn, hamlet (yes, in New York we have hamlets), and village.  I like the drive to the MFM better, though, because the last 10 minutes is interstate highway, as opposed to the sleepy country roads that comprise the rest of the drive there and the entire drive to the RE.  There’s something about flying down the highway, if even for a few exits, that makes you feel like you’re making better progress than you would be were you on a country road.  For that last ten minutes I open the windows, inhale the big-rig fumes, and celebrate being almost there.

Yesterday, amidst said celebration, with the city skyline just popping into view, I let out a simple, “Woah!”  The mister looked at me puzzled and I explained, “Holy crap, now THAT was one heck of a kick!  It felt like my abdomen was exploding from all directions at once!”  We chuckled, I took a few deep breaths, and, one hand still planted firmly on the wheel, I felt around the upper right side of my abdomen where the little man’s been parking his head as of late.  A quick inspection confirmed a round, hard mass still lodged in it’s usual location.  As I thanked him for reminding me he’s still there, I accepted the fact that, of course, he was still breech.  The head was still where it always was.  Tucked under my ribs, using the placenta as a pillow.

Less than 30 minutes later – post-weigh-in, post-BP, post-pee-in-cup – the NST room nurse did my usual fluid check ultrasound.  She put the wand to his “head,” but there was no head – just a nice, plump bottom.  We looked at each other in disbelief.  She zipped the transducer down, down, down, and, sure enough, there he was.  Head.  Down.  I looked at the mister and said in my crankiest voice, “So, are you telling me, all I had to do this entire time was bring you along and he’d flip?”  We laughed, and a smile went across my face that I’ve been unable to remove ever since.

The c-section remains scheduled so that I won’t lose my surgical slot if he flips back around, but other than that, we’re cleared for a vaginal delivery with induction sometime in the 39th week.  It’s crazy how much one little flip has impacted my psyche.  I’m not going to get arrogant and assume that things will go remotely as planned.  The specter of a c-section still looms, especially if we induce.  And, he could very well decide to flip back over next time I’m barreling down the highway.  But, just having the knowledge that, in this moment, I get to try to have a chance at labor.  That’s huge.

And, to all of you who wrote in response to my last post – thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I can’t tell you how comforting all of your words were, especially coming on the heels of so much stress and worry about how my reaction to the c-section news was something too taboo to share in a space like this.  I’m constantly amazed by the strength and compassion you each exhibit.  And, damn, there I go making this a happy blog post!  <sniff sniff> Thanks everyone!

Resentment

Here’s the biggest thing I wasn’t prepared for when it comes to pregnancy after infertility.  Sometimes, while pregnant, you get depressed.  You worry, you cry, you panic.  That I was prepared for.  But the self-loathing and shame that can result from those worries and tears and panics?  Not so much.  I’m not going to lie.  I’m a total mess right now.  And, I think it’s been made worse by the fact that I haven’t felt like I could write it here.  I haven’t felt I could express it anywhere.  Not to friends, not to my husband, not to my therapist.  I hate myself and who I am right now, and not the least of which because I know I should be better, I should cope better, I should be grateful.

This little man’s been breech at every. single. visit. since the NT scan at 13-some weeks.  I was proud of myself for not worrying too much about it, because I knew it wasn’t a cause for concern until some far off, distant “later.”  It appears later is here.  Or, so it would seem from the simple one-page letter I unexpectedly got in the mail on Saturday telling me the date and time of my c-section.  The date and time of my son’s birth.

Since “the letter” I’ve been a disaster.  I cried for most of the rest of Saturday, managing to haul myself out for a few hours that night for a going away party for one of my closest friends here who will be moving to the other side of the country in a few short days.  Sunday I struggled to hold it together, but was still mostly in a daze.  Monday found me losing all composure throughout my morning ultrasound, non-stress test, and consult, and going through the motions of the rest of my workday, only to come home and snap.  I stayed awake long enough to do my 7:20pm lovenox injection, before going to sleep without dinner, without stopping the tears, without emerging from the darkness that had become my new mode of being.  I do remember my husband begging me to reassure him that I wasn’t thinking of “doing anything stupid” before I stumbled up to bed.  I remember waking 12 hours later, remembering the look in his eyes as he asked it, and starting to cry again.

I feel trapped between two worlds right now.  The “what should be’s” and the “what is,” the “I know better’s” and the “I’m tired of knowing better’s,” the “gratefulness” and the “jealousy.”

When I try to be rational, I eek out the following:

  • Holy shit I’m pregnant.  Really, REALLY pregnant.  Like, I may very well get to meet this child pregnant.
  • There is a nursery.  In our house.
  • You’ve got bigger things to worry about.  Like him surviving you coming off your meds.  Like him surviving.  Period.
  • The method of his delivery doesn’t matter, just that he gets here safely.
  • Seriously, read the above, you know better you fucking twat.

But, 99% of the time my thoughts are more of the variety of:

  • I’m tired of being understanding.  I’m tired of accepting what life throw’s at me.
  • I’m done with being the minority.  The 1.5% of births from IVF in the country.  The 2-4% of the general population with antiphospholipid syndrome.  The 1-3% of women who have scheduled C-sections due to a breech presentation.  The list goes on.  I’m a walking, talking ball of “This is SO UNFAIR!” right now.
  • I’m over surgery.  The C-section will be my 6th in 4 years.  Everyone assumes I’m upset because I’m “scared” of surgery.  No, I know surgery intimately by this point.  There is no fear there.  Just a lot of anger.  And, a lot of knowledge of what recovery will look like and physically and mentally feel like (especially given how much my body detests analgesics).
  • I’m sad I’ll never get to experience what my mom did to bring me into this world.  The only labor pains I’ll ever know are those that accompanied my three miscarriages.  I’ll never have the chance to turn that pain to a positive in my mind.  I needed that chance, I’ve been longing for that chance.
  • I feel robbed.  It’s not so much that I feel vaginal delivery is “normal,” but it’s certainly less invasive.  My child was conceived in a petri dish, this pregnancy has been sustained by tons and tons of drugs, procedures, and doctor’s visits, and now the birth will be more of the same.  It will be a timed transaction – place, date, and time preset by the convenience of my medical providers.  It will be another procedure written in my calendar.
  • I’m sick of an entirely new set of reminders from the fertile masses that I’m different.  Each well-meaning moron that tells me, “Labor isn’t what it’s cracked up to be,” or “you can always VBAC with your next one,” or “it won’t matter once he’s in your arms,” leads me one step closer to homicide.  I knew I would kick labor’s ass, and I’ve been longing for the opportunity to for 5 years.  I have the pain tolerance of an ox, and I’m ready to have it come into play when something positive can come from it.  And, speaking of “the next child” just reminds me that may likely never happen.
  • While I’m not scared of surgery, I am scared of the possible health implications.  Since I continually win the medical complication lottery (seriously, who gets diagnosed with 6 different diseases/conditions all before they’re 30?), I find myself certain that this C will result in endometriosis adhesions growing out of my uterus.  Yes, it happens.  Or that major abdominal surgery will set off my clotting disorder.  Or my yet-to-be-determined spondyloarthritic disease.  Or that, when you’re as infertile as I am, more scarring in the uterine cavity is never a good thing.  Especially when the combo of endometriosis and a clotting issue mean you’re in for a lot more laparoscopies down the road.
  • I’m frustrated that this birth feels like just another in a long line of confrontations with unhelpful, risk-averse, blanket statement doctors.  I haven’t seen an MD since February, and my case hasn’t been looked at in all that time.  (And, clearly, a lot has changed since then.)  Yet, the NPs and midwives continue this game of telephone.  Gathering my questions, presenting them to “some doctor” (one who may or may not have ever met me), and then coming back in the room and poorly communicating their answers.  For 6 months I’ve been told it would be dangerous for me to remain pregnant past 39 weeks, but now that they must schedule a c-section it’s been scheduled for nearly 40 weeks.  The NPs helpful response?  “Well, we’d sure like to do it sooner, but we don’t have any surgical availability.”  After one doctor told me in February that my lovenox was the only thing sustaining this pregnancy, now they’re taking me off of it without a second thought on Monday.  No discussions, no explanations, just a simple, “Your chart says for you to stop at 36 weeks.”  And, to my question of whether or not we could try an external cephalic version to flip him?  The friendly nurse replies, “Absolutely not.  Not with your history!” Oddly, that’s not remotely OK, but delaying delivery and taking me off my meds is totally fine.  This is not how I pictured my end of pregnancy care.
  • And, I’m angry that this is the end of the line.  I want to meet him more than anything, but I’m not ready to be once again un-pregnant.  Aside from the fact that I have physically felt the best I have felt in 10 years during this pregnancy, I’m also not ready to let go of him.  Especially since I’ve wasted so much time lately hating each kick that reminds me he is breech.  Especially since the medical system has been the only one to weigh in on when he arrives.

Clearly, one list is much longer than the other, but that doesn’t mean that the first list isn’t on my mind.  It is.  Constantly.  And, it’s why I’m such a mess.  Where do I get off feeling like I have any right to be upset over a c-section?  I know better.  I mean, I know better women than I who just lost wanted pregnancies, who failed yet another cycle, who’ve moved on to a life sans children, who’ve suffered more heartache and pain than anyone should ever endure.  Yet these past few days have sunk me lower than I’ve been since the death of my mother.

I have no answers.  This is hard.  And overwhelming.  And terrifying.  The risks are so high, and the territory so uncharted.  For me, infertility always had an element of misery.  Misery’s not all bad.  It unites the community, it can make the highs feel higher, it can be powerful and reaffirming to let it wash over you.  But, I’m so frightened to be spending these last few weeks of pregnancy in misery.  What does it say about me?  What does it mean about my ability to successfully parent?  What does it foretell about the future if I can’t ever get past these few final road bumps?  I’ve often bought in to the normative language that the ALI and PAIL communities frequently use – the phrases “finding a resolution to infertility” and “living after resolution to infertility.”  I doubt the accuracy of those phrases now.  I doubt that resolution will ever be possible.

On the verge…

… of parenthood?  Of breakdown?  Of both?

I keep trying to figure out why it is that I’m having such a hard time writing about my pregnancy here.  The posts flowed so much easier when I was under the influence of Gonal-F and endlessly waiting for the next laparoscopy, the next cycle, the next miscarriage.  At first I thought it was the inevitable IF guilt.  That deep-seated uneasiness with the fact that I was “moving along” while others were left to do the same things over and over again in the hopes of a different outcome.  Or left to rightfully rail against the very concept of hope itself.  And, yes, that guilt did factor in; but, I think, less than I initially thought.  Ultimately, the primary issue is I don’t know how to live and write equally in the lands of fear and joy – a skill that pregnancy after IF requires.  I’ve known what I felt, what I’ve wanted to say, what I’ve secreted away in my mind these past many months, but I just don’t know how to put it to paper.  Or even if I can put it to paper.  I’ve returned to the realm of the bogeyman, where it feels as if what I think, what I say, what I write will automatically land me in the bad graces of those unseen beings who decide my fate.  The simple act of sporting this belly feels like a daily act of hubris, for which I’m constantly sure I’m in for a rude awakening.

In trying to decide why this all feels so, I’m struck by how similar the IF and PG-after-IF emotions I’m feeling are.  Top of the list at the moment is the seesaw.  With twice weekly non-stress tests at the perinatal center I feel like I’m, once again, living from appointment to appointment.  Every three to four days my psyche is formed by the lines on the NST ribbon and the words of that day’s nurse practitioner or midwife.  One day I’m told how grand I’m doing (“minimal weight gain, stellar 1-hour glucose screen, you’re a rockstar!”), and the next I’m discussing the possibility of a looming c-section (“he’s still breech and, since we’re taking you off of the Lovenox at 36 weeks anyway, we might as well just do a c around that time!”).  A week ago one of my favorite midwifes poo-pooed the early c idea (“you’re still so early, and there are things we can try!”), only to have another preferred practitioner inform me this Monday that I had suddenly developed polyhdramnios (too much amniotic fluid) and we, “desperately need to get to the bottom of this!”  In a few short hours I trek an hour north again for a full afternoon of ultrasounds, NSTs, blood tests, and consults.

I’m exhausted.  Even at its best spending 5-6 hours each week in the car on the way to and from appointments is tiring.  Another 3-4 hours each week in waiting rooms and on exam tables doesn’t help.  Adding in the need to keep up with my full-time job during one of the busiest times of our semester brings me close to the edge.  When you factor in the frequent Braxton Hicks chipping away at my physical and mental stability I’m pretty much done for.

But all those stressors are the easy ones.  The ones that aren’t that hard to write.  The ones I start my therapy sessions with.  The ones that get me pity from most ffergiles and justifiable dagger-eyes from those still waiting to parent or finding peace in the decision not to.

Then there’s the much louder chorus of other concerns for which I have a private concert.  Most days I wake up waiting for the first kick or rumble.  As I pray for it to come, I run through what life post-still birth would look like.  I watch it play out from outside my body; me, sitting in silent grief and despair in our darkened bedroom, the mister bringing me food and handling the obligations of daily life as he cries alone in the shower.  Our families not knowing what to say and, likely, taking it even harder than we do.  After all, we’ve walked these halls before.  The failed cycles, the dashed dreams, the early losses go, if not unfelt by those in our inner circles, at least a lot less felt than for those of us with front row seats.  Soon, these morbid morning thoughts are replaced with anger, nearly all of it directed solely at myself.  What have I been doing for the past five years if not running and screaming from medical office to office demanding something was wrong?  Insisting I was sick?  How could I relentlessly pursue diagnoses in one breath, while doing everything in my power to become pregnant in the other?  I often feel shamefully selfish, and that’s really hard to admit.  For 4.5 years I’ve allowed the words “brave,” “determined,” and “driven” to shelter, protect, and uplift me.  Now I often feel like a fraud and a failure.  If we lose him, I am to blame.  My body did it.  And, most of all, I should have known better.

But, then he kicks.  Or he hiccups.  I catch a glance at the nursery.  Or I sit down to work on my shower thank you’s.  The mister gets misty in the eyes looking through the story books his parents gave us.  Or I find myself subconsciously rubbing my belly.  And it all melts away.  I’m quite easily the happiest I have ever been in my life.  I love my husband beyond words as he talks to our son and dreams of the future.  I miss my mom desperately, but I’ve never felt as connected to her as I do in these on-the-verge-of-mothering moments.  The contractions and kick counting are often overwhelming, but they always remind me that I’m living a moment in time I truly never thought I’d see.  For all that I’ve dreaded showers over the past five years, my own were beautiful and surprisingly cathartic.  And, not the least of all, I feel the healthiest I have in my adult life (no “unknown rheumatalogical condition” back pain or rashes, no endo constipation or crippling cramping, no Hashi’s fatigue or brain fog, no PCOS weight gain or hunger pangs).  Life is really, truly, deeply wonderful.

And, at the same time, life keeps on moving and fear keeps on sneaking in.  In the past week I registered for daycare, set up an appointment with our desired pediatrician, started really putting the nursery together, and continued planning for my maternity leave from work.  Yet, each time I cross one of these items off my to-do list I can’t help but feel like I’m adding them to a “what we’re going to have to undo” list.  I feel like I’m laughing at fate by planning for a child that may or may not arrive safely.  I can’t help but see myself un-registering, appointment cancelling, un-prepping the nursery, spending the summer in my desk chair.

The seesaw keeps rocking at the peak of a mighty mountain and I know I’m destined to fall off.  I’m just not sure which tranquil valley or cursed forest I’m perched above…

Resolve to know more about the lasting scars of infertility

* Note: Since new readers may stumble on this post via my submission in the Bloggers Unite challenge, a word of warning.  This post will discuss a current pregnancy, past pregnancy losses, and plans to parent after infertility.  Please tread lightly if any of these topics are triggers.*

 

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) yet again.  It’s hard not to let a milestone like that make you pause and reflect.  This will be my fifth NIAW as a mother-in-waiting; this will also (hopefully) be my last NIAW as a mother-in-waiting.  Today marks 31 weeks 1 day gestation of the IVF miracle kicking away in my belly.  (Somehow “miracle” doesn’t seem the right word for something that a healthy mixture of science and dumb luck created, sustained, and guarded for the past 7 months, but our language is full of gaps when it comes to the often taboo topic of infertility.)

When we started naively trying for our first child five years ago, I knew nothing of NIAW.  I knew hope and optimism.  I knew the emotional tears of joy and connection that dripped down my cheeks after the Mister and I really “tried” for the first time.  I knew the worries about having enough money, where to put the nursery, and wondering if we were really ready.  I knew absolutely nothing.  Five years, three miscarriages, three surgeries, thousands of pills and injections and doctor’s visits later I struggle to remember who that woman was.  I’m tempted to despise her naivete, to squirm at the thought of her cluelessness, to shout at her for all the times she’d asked casual acquaintances, “So when will you have kids?”, to slap her for telling her inlaws over lunch one early spring day that she wouldn’t be having caffeinated tea because, well, they were “trying.”  Then the frustration and anger I feel fade and are replaced with deep sadness.  I will never know that woman again.  She’s gone for good.

Four years ago I still had never heard of NIAW, but I was starting to get acquainted with “infertility.”  Even before a year of trying (the standard period required for an infertility diagnosis at my then-age of 27), I knew I was infertile.  In 8 months off of birth control I’d only had three periods.  I’d already become disillusioned at the prospect of buying and wasting home pregnancy tests, I reflected back to the “normal youthful” irregularity in my cycles which had landed me on birth control at 18 to begin with, and I was increasingly anxious for answers.  I began to dip my toes into the world of online fertility charting and chat rooms and learned how it felt to have my heart break each time a “friend in the computer” crossed to the other side – the pregnant side – without me.  In the beginning I allowed my doctors to convince me that the pressure I was feeling explained my mood swings and depression.  I was told it was “typical” for cycles to fluctuate after birth control, for conception to take up to a year, for a little bit of anxiety to set in when it didn’t work like it did in the movies.  For months I lived two lives – the driven professional woman who worked full time and attended graduate school in the evenings and on weekends; and the scared little girl who felt like her body and soul were breaking.  Worst of all was the knowledge that the only things wrong with me were impatience, a low pain tolerance, obesity, and a little “run of the mill” depression.  Then one morning in February I woke up in a panic.  I didn’t know who my husband was.  When he handed me the phone to call out of work, I didn’t know how to use it.  He got me in with our doctor (yet again) that same day.  She (again) repeated that I had a busy, stressful life and likely just needed a hobby, to get more exercise, and to relax.  But, she also agreed to run blood work.  The next day, February 8, 2011, marked the beginning of  the next phase of my infertility.  It was the day I was taken seriously, the day I started to get answers, the day we learned my thyroid had basically given up.  Ultimately, it was the first day I knew I was ill.  It was liberating and terrifying in equal measure, but I celebrated it as the beginning of the end of my fertility troubles.  A pill a day, a few blood tests, and I was assured we’d be pregnant in no time.  The diagnosis of PCOS a few months later came with the same good news: two pills a day, diet management, and I’d be pregnant in no time.  I embraced each new diagnosis as a sign that we were getting closer to our goal.  Looking back I still feel much the same, but I wish I could take myself aside and tell myself not to celebrate prematurely.  The doctor’s visits would continue, the diagnoses would continue, the familiarity with the American medical system and insurance regulations would bloom into another full-time job.  The journey was still at its starting point.  I needed to pace myself for the diagnoses and surgeries to come.

NIAW 2012 was the first I celebrated.  On Wednesday night we attended a fundraising dinner hosted on behalf of NIAW by one of the members of my new RESOLVE Peer-Led Support Group.  Yes, I’d formed my state’s first (and still only) support group.  I’d done it as a way to pass the time and to dull the ache of my first miscarriage a few months earlier.  The miscarriage that may have been/may not have been an ectopic pregnancy.  The one that was treated with chemotherapy that sidelined us from trying again for 3 months.  The one that was mismanaged by an OB/GYN that had no time or patience for me.  The one that inspired us to finally seek out a reproductive endocrinologist no matter the financial cost.  NIAW found me at the perfect time.  Our souls had been crushed, the tears were free-flowing, the sense of isolation and separation from the “normal” world was smothering me.  NIAW 2012 bore the message “Don’t Ignore Infertility!” and I listened.  I raised my voice in our support group meetings, I embraced my core group of “fertility friends in the computer,” I shared our story on Facebook to highlight the dangers of personhood legislation, I signed us up for the 2012 Walk of Hope.  Each bold and public move was underscored and fueled by another private setback or heartache.  2012 brought my second miscarriage, the laparoscopic surgery that diagnosed my endometriosis, several failed cycles with our first reproductive endocrinologist, and a job offer from another state that removed us from the support networks we’d built for ourselves just as it gave us the gift of working in a state with a (weak) infertility insurance mandate.  I learned the hard way that infertility can and does impact so many life choices.  Where to live and work, how to form deeper bonds with old friends and quick bonds with new friends through shared struggles, how to answer, “So, do you have kids?”  And, at the time, I was proud of the strength I’d found through my growing engagement with the infertility community and becoming an infertility advocate.  I still am today, but its become bittersweet.

Last year I started this blog, I submitted a post to the Bloggers Unite challenge, and I was humbled to be selected a finalist for last year’s Hope Award.  My public self was riding high on the cause of infertility, as my private self mourned the loss of our third pregnancy.  We’d seen the heartbeat only to see it cease.  We’d driven 8 hours in one day only to be told my our last chance specialist that only time would tell what would become of the pregnancy.  We’d traveled to maternity triage for an emergency D&C only to be told it couldn’t be performed on a Saturday and be sent home with sterile collection jars for the products of conception.  My “Join the Movement” post was largely, if not joyful, at least driven.  Yet, I wrote it as the Mister and I talked in quiet rooms about when “enough was enough,” when we’d move to a life without the prospect of children.  I was struggling to put my voice to it then, and frequently still struggle with it now, but last year’s post showed me even more clearly the duality of a life lived under the specter of infertility.  The pride, joy, empowerment, and, yes, even hope kept me going.  It provided me with a sense of self and purpose beyond my own struggles.  It made the injections and visits and surgeries bearable.  But, in time, that same empowerment, that same respect for my own needs and emotions, started to take away from the drive to continue.  It allowed me to reframe our failure to conceive and sustain a pregnancy as something other than failure.  It gave me the strength to set limits.  We’d complete an IVF package with all the pharmacological bells and whistles our far away specialist had recommended and when those cycles were done we’d be done.  The baby boy who’s kicking me resulted from IVF.  The “unnecessary extra meds” from the specialist – steroids and blood thinners – sustained the pregnancy.  The attentive OB/GYN I picked out of the yellow pages acknowledged my fears and ran the tests that got me my latest diagnosis – antiphospholipid syndrome.  The high risk pregnancy practice that OB/GYN referred me to has kept him baking even as my body has endeavored to resist their efforts.  All of the above led me to want to label this year’s post something along the lines of “Resolve to know more about how much dumb luck is involved in this process.”  But that ultimately felt off base with the emotions I’m feeling right now as I sit on the precipice of (hopefully) parenting after infertility.  And setting that parenthetical “hopefully” to virtual paper finally gave me my prompt, finally guided all the words you’ve read to this point.

This year I resolve to know more about the lasting scars of infertility.  The physical, emotional, and financial scars are ever-present.  They’re the nervous tick that keeps me from writing with certainty that I’ll definitely be parenting after infertility by June.  They’re the sadness I feel at having lost the connection to the woman I was during NIAW’s past.  They’re the frustration I endured when reassuring our accountant that, yes, I had indeed traveled over 4,000 miles for medical treatment in the past tax year.  And, yes, they’re even the raised red lines that traverse my pregnant belly marking incisions past, and reminding me of the incisions I’ll face in the future as I continue to navigate life with both endometriosis and a potential clotting disorder.

I never really thought that a lasting pregnancy would “cure” my infertility, but I also wasn’t quite prepared for how deep the scars would be and how sore they’d remain.  I miss that naive girl, I miss the (illusion) of health, and I miss the ability to make life decisions without questioning how they’ll impact me as an infertile woman.  For five years I was certain I knew my ultimate goal.  Yes, it changed a little – from pregnancy, to lasting pregnancy, to some sort of final and personally acceptable resolution to our infertility – but I always knew what we were reaching for.  I always had an idea where the finish line was located, even if I was having trouble getting there.  Today I don’t have that certainty.  Today it’s easier to reflect on where I’ve been, than to contemplate where I’m going, because it’s the past that’s given me these scars, and the past that will dictate how they shape my future.

Maybe I’m a bit strange, but when I woke up from my first laparoscopic surgery in 2012 I was proud of the scars that I bore.  They indelibly marked this struggle in a way nothing before had.  They added a physicality to this battle that I’d carry around with me for the rest of my life.  I’m finding now that those visible scars are just the tip of the iceberg.  Just as there’s no balm to vanish these incisions, there’s no salve to erase the many scars of infertility.  I continue to wear them all with honor.

 

To learn more about infertility, NIAW, and RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, please follow the links below:

A bitter taste that doesn’t fade

Mid-way through the two-day intensive child birth preparation seminar we attended last weekend one of our instructors asked:

Who here thinks giving birth is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

My hand stayed firmly at my side, while the hands of those around me shot straight up.  The mister and I gave one another a solemn, knowing look, and the moment passed.  It was likely a blip on the radar of so many others in the room – the woman who had to turn away during the bloody birth scene in one video, the many others who let out an audible gasp when our instructor introduced us to the Kiwi delivery device (the next-gen vacuum extractor), and the coach who got squeamish when our instructor noted that the prostoglandins in semen can induce labor.  But, to me, that 5-second show of hands was one of the biggest takeaways of our child birth education rite of passage.  I’m different.  We’re different.  Infertility doesn’t fade.

Don’t get me wrong, had the instructor phrased that question one of any number of different ways I might have joined in with my classmates.  One of the most physically taxing experiences of my life?  Sure.  Something for which I can’t be truly prepared until the moment arrives?  Absolutely.  An even that will redefine physical pain for the rest of my life?  I don’t doubt it.  But, to be entirely honest, I don’t suspect that the physical act of child birth will really, truly be the “hardest” moment of my life.  Whispering permission to die in my mother’s ear?  Bingo.  Walking in to maternity triage to get a double dose of methotrexate to terminate our first pregnancy?  Up there too.  Enduring 12 hours of contractions at home after being sent away from the hospital to birth our third dead fetus?  That definitely is on the list.  No, instructor, I don’t think giving birth is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

For better or for worse, I’m an education junkie and feel quite comfortable in the classroom.  That’s probably why I’ve built up the act of attending a child birth seminar in my mind so very much over these past 4.5 years.  It’s not that I’ve not gotten excited (and stressed) about finishing the nursery, and I even managed to find a sense of (uneasy) happiness at my first family shower two weeks ago; but, that child birth class?  That’s the moment I’ve most been waiting for.  That day that would tell me this is real.  I’ve always assumed that sitting on a floor huffing and puffing in comical fashion with a dozen other expectant couples would finally normalize this experience for me.  In a few ways, it did; but, in most ways, it absolutely didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, we left with valuable information and I’m extremely comforted by the fact that I now have my bearings in the hospital we’ll be delivering at.  (A hospital I never set foot in until Saturday.)  Mr. knows where to drop off the car, I know what the birthing rooms look like, and we both know that there’s a definite disconcerting bounce to the upper floors L&D occupies.  (Thankfully, I don’t think I’ll be fretting about a bouncing building mid-delivery.)

It’s just that I also left knowing that pretty much nothing is going to normalize this pregnancy after infertility stuff for me.  And by that I truly don’t mean to be negative.  I couldn’t be happier or more excited to meet this little man in a few short months, and I don’t remotely regret attending the classes.  Just as they prepared us to navigate the built environment of the large teaching hospital campus we’ll be using, the classes also provided me with the knowledge that a certain amount of bitterness is going to be my perpetual bedfellow in this journey.  I won’t wallow in it, but, sometimes it’s just nice to know the lay of the land.

And, the emotions I experienced during the class aren’t likely to go away as we (oh please God!) transition from pregnancy to parenthood.  At just 30 years old, I felt old in the classroom.  In league with one or two other couples, we were the “old parents.”  We were frequently the babies in the infertility waiting room, so seeing so many faces lacking wrinkles and heads missing gray hair was unanticipated and a good bit unsettling.

Then I realized that most of our fellow classmates knew one another or knew our instructors.  The city we’ll be delivering in is kind of a “small town, big city.”  The nurses that led the class were the appropriate age to be friends with the parents of the mid-twenty somethings that occupied the room with us, and many of them were.  Other classmates were young professionals with the same local firms, and still others came from the nearby army base.

In all of this, one word prevails – “nearby.”  Each of our fellow classmates (like most sensible people) are a short distance from their hospital of choice.  We, on the other hand, will be traveling just about an hour to get this baby out.  We have to; I’m high-risk and this is the only hospital equipped to deal with high-risk patients.  As our instructors taught us to leave for the hospital when our contractions were 5 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration, over the course of 1 hour, one casually commented, “… because no one’s from over an hour away, right?”  I raised my hand and our instructions were altered to 7 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration, for 1 hour.

But, ultimately, I wasn’t worrying nearly as much as my fellow nervous classmates about deciding when to head for the hospital, because odds are our drive up will be timed to the convenience of our physicians, not my body, as they intend to induce if I get to 39 weeks.  And induction means doing it all at the hospital.  Being high-risk also means constant monitoring that made our tour of the whirlpool tubs and discussions of laboring in water all the more frustrating to listen to since those won’t be options for me.  At times, I found myself sitting back and mentally saying to my fellow students, “Oh, honey, don’t worry about how big that bathtub is… you’re gonna be begging for an epidural the second you roll in.  Accept it and move on.”

I had thoroughly othered myself.  An older transplant to the region that would never have the “typical” birth story (whatever that is!).  That’s not going away anytime soon, so acceptance sooner rather than later is probably a good bet.

Oddly enough, I only started easing into comfort with the classes on the second day when our instructors had learned enough to start calling me out as the special snowflake that I am.  On day one I was pretty miserable.  The class began as our instructors noted that, while their own pregnancies had been a while ago, they were still L&D nurses and instructors and were abreast of how the field had changed in the intervening years.  And, even more importantly screamed one, “My kids have given my grand kids!  Squeal!”  To which the other one replied, “Yes, my children have been delinquent and haven’t given me any yet, but they will soon or they’ll be hearing about it!”  The room laughed lightly, the instructors playfully jabbed one another, I turned a violent shade of fuchsia, formed my fist into a ball, and almost walked out barely thirty seconds into the class.  I was fuming for most of the rest of the 2.5 hour session.

Saturday morning was similar in tone, and then came lunch.  The instructors sat at our table and did something that oddly made me feel instantly better.  We had the names of our OB/GYNs on our name tags (to help us find our “labor buddies” with similar practices?!? Yea, no one else was with my MFM…) so the one instructor asked, “So, why are you with Dr. S?  He only takes really difficult cases, no?”  That might have made some of you squirm, but to me it was just the opening I needed to start the conversation about how I found her comments the day before a bit unsettling.  I listed off my resume – IVF, 3 miscarriages, antiphospholipid syndrome – and she went from playful (bumbling) kindergarten teacher holding the hands of a bevy of nervous fergiles to the educated L&D nurse instructor that she was at her day job.  From that point on – during the tour, through our discussion of pain management options, to the section on induction and labor augmentation – she looked me in the eyes, gave me additional tips and advice, and waited until I’d asked all my questions.  It’s amazing how you can go from hating something to loving something in the blink of an eye.  I even began to cut my classmates some slack, not the least of which because one particularly squirmy gasper overheard my conversation with the instructor at lunch and identified herself to the two of us as the survivor of 7 IVF cycles, the last of which landed her in our midst.

I’ve always known that there are many different and equally appropriate ways for women and men to endure struggle.  Mine has always been to latch on and find strength in difference.  To be brash in the defense of my journey and emotions.  I rarely sugarcoat the death of my mother, and – over time – I’ve come to be downright obnoxious about our IF.  It’s what works for me.  Others, though, are going to find strength in, well, not necessarily “forgetting,” but in moving on.  Child birth videos don’t make me squirm because, well, I’ve watched videos and seen pictures of my laparoscopies and those are a wee bit more frightening to my mind.  And, I was always a masochist throughout my IF.  I watched the videos, I read the child birth books, I was the most birth-educated non-mother around.  Whereas others can compartmentalize, I always wanted to know it all and know it NOW.  No one way is better or worse, but I sure wish I had taken the time to reflect on how my methods of coping would impact my move from IF to (lasting) PG after IF to (again, please God) parenting after IF.  Then again, I don’t know that I could have worked through this all any earlier than this moment.  That I could have anticipated how defining myself through difference would change when the differences became different.  And, that’s why I’m oddly happy we did take these child birth classes.  No, I didn’t need to learn about the stages of labor, or form bonds with my fellow nervous mamas to be, but I clearly DID need to work through some of this baggage.  And I think I’m closer now than I have been at any other stage of this pregnancy…

In which I have a breakdown

See, the trouble with having expectations is that life almost inevitably never lives up to them.  And then, if you’re anything like me, you spiral into a pit of ennui followed by a decent amount of self-loathing.  And then the capstone breakdown moment which just serves to remind you that you are far too fucked up to have had any business setting up expectations for your life in the first place.  It’s a fun ride, and I can’t help but think it’s been made even more tummy tickling by the healthy dose of hormones I’ve got rolling through this ol’ body of mine.

I don’t even know how to articulate where I’m at right now.  Linear thought and reason have left me, it seems.  I think of one thing to type and I immediately flit to another issue.  All that adds up to a silent blog and an overwhelmed me.  So, where to begin…  I guess with this blog.  You know, this one I poured my heart and soul into.  This one I was so proud of.  This space that provided sanity that now only reminds me of the sanity I feel like I’ve lost.  It’s one year anniversary was last Sunday and I totally missed that (whoops), as did I miss the Twitterversary that came a few days later.  I had helpful emails from WordPress and Twitter reminding me of the occasions.  The emails led to hyperventilation and a whimper of “No more.  I can’t take one more thing right now!”  That’s completely and totally healthy, right?

Just as healthy as laying a new floor at 28 weeks pregnant, I’d think.  My knees are currently on strike, but, you know, priorities.  The floor in the nursery does look damn fine.  I think I’ve previously explained here what a wonderful sense of pride and worthiness one can reap from rehabilitating a badly run-down grand old home.  Listen to me now: Ignore the batshit crazy lady who watches far too much HGTV.  Preparing a room with the world’s creepiest white-washed teddy bear wall-paper, drop ceiling, and stained carpet hiding loose asbestos tile flooring to be the one-day home of the son we’ve spent, oh, every last ounce of our time, energy, money, and metal stability trying to create for the past 4.5 years?  Yea, not nearly as rewarding as you’d think.  Doing it on your own while contractors concurrently gut and remodel your downstairs bathroom at 28 weeks pregnant?  Seriously, what the FUCK was I thinking?  Clearly, finding a resolution to our infertility led me to believe that I’d somehow been imbued with superhuman powers.  You know, cause getting 1 in 4 embryos that managed to find a home in my womb to actually stick around for 28 weeks makes me totally capable of, well, climbing ladders, painting (on the same day our hot water heater died), ripping up carpet, laying new flooring, and doing a rickety flight of stairs each of the 100 times a day I have to pee…

nursery after picture

Nursery After

nursery before picture

Nursery Before

But, at least that job I took because it would provide a better work-life balance for me and my finicky uterus has totally gone to crap.  Because I totally uprooted my husband and moved us both to the middle of snowy nowhere for long and un-rewarding work hours, never-ending physical demands, an unreliable leadership who philosophically opposes my understanding of my entire professional identity, and a maternity leave policy that is entirely unwritten and made up as you go along to suit the needs of whoever you happen to be talking to at the moment.

After 4 months of negotiations, though, it does appear I will get a decent leave thanks to having taken about 2 days of vacation time in the past 2 years.  (Silver lining ftw.)  I mean, I can never take vacation because of my husband’s two-job work schedule that makes it impossible (or at least damn challenging) for us to leave town on the weekends.  Did I mention that includes both this weekend – my shower in my home town 6.5 hours from here – and next – our childbirth classes?  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE spending 14 hours in the car and 8 hours in an over-priced roadside motel, to spend 24 hours in my childhood home for a shower that will only be attended by my guilt-tripping aunt, two additional aunts who disowned my side of the family while I was growing up, a great-aunt I’ve met once, and my two bestest girlfriends (at least there’s a win).  Do I sound ungrateful enough for you yet?  No?  Well, how ’bout I tell you about the temper tantrum I threw yesterday when I found out that my cousin (daughter of one of the two “we will shun you for 20 years then pretend nothing ever happened” aunts) gave birth to a happy and healthy baby boy.  The baby boy she conceived on her honeymoon after the wedding we suddenly couldn’t attend because I was on all fours in my bathroom back home birthing my third miscarriage.  The cousin who was on a fucking dating-based reality show the year Mr. But IF and I first started trying to conceive.  The new baby that will be the center of attention throughout my entire shower, and whose name shares several syllables with the name our son will get when he arrives.

Bitter enough for you yet?  I know writing it all out surely makes me want to strangle my irrational, self-centered self.  So then we turn down the path of discontentment.  The size of the “You’re getting everything you fucking wanted and dreamed for so long” slap I want to deliver across my tear-stained cheeks is frighteningly out of control.  So I try to recenter myself, to focus on what’s important, to find a healthy way to let it out and move on.  Last week I called my therapist for a much-needed appointment only to find her only availability conflicted with an endless array of stressful work meetings.  We moved to this week to discover that her open slots were all on Thursday, the day of my day-long 28-week appointment (2 hour round-trip, growth scan, GD testing, consult, etc.).

At least I tried to get help, but, omg, I should totally just “snap out” of my mental crap and focus on the fact that shit is getting really real with the MFM after this week.  Thursday’s appointment is the “beginning of the end” of my pregnancy treatment plan, and will be followed by my first non-stress test (NST) at 30 weeks, which will happen weekly until 32 weeks, and then continue on bi-weekly until 39 weeks, at which point, if I haven’t gone into labor, I will be induced.  I’m beyond grateful to be getting this much attention, but telling an already stressed out and overwhelmed patient that she’ll be spending approximately 5 hours a week just in the car from 32 weeks onward doesn’t help with the stress level.  Add to all those round trips NSTs that, I’ve been told, could take anywhere from 15 minutes to a full day, that could result in the decision to immediately delivery there and then, and I’m just feeling oh so relaxed.  Good thing my ability to take any sort of maternity leave rests on me working a 40-hour week up until the moment of delivery…

And then, I step back and get immeasurably angry at the fact that IF caused this all.  IF made the blog and, more importantly, made me judge my worth by the meaningful ways I contributed to the IF community.  IF (and the subtle acceptance that we’d never have a family) made us feel prepared to tackle an endless array of house projects over the next decade, and “beating” IF fucked up that timeline.  IF encouraged me to put time and effort into improving my education and finding a new and rewarding position in a state with an IF insurance mandate.  IF made me incapable of planning a shower until the last moment, and IF-related pregnancy complications are making us throw that shower early in the third trimester.  IF familiarized me with a life dictated by doctor’s appointments, and IF hinted at the autoimmune issues that got me booted to high-risk pregnancy territory.

And, I think, above all, IF was an easy scapegoat for issues I would’ve faced no matter what.  I think I really cry because my mom is gone.  She should be planning my shower, she should be trying to calm me and tell me it will all be alright, she should let me whine and complain and scream and cry and still love me just as much after it all is out.  My shower, like my wedding, was never going to be without emotion, without a sense of loss.  Blaming IF masks some of that, but when the tears came in the bathtub on Sunday it wasn’t because I was unfulfilled in my career, because my husband’s second job interfered with our travel plans, or because my shower will be poorly attended.  Becoming a mother, without a mother, hurts.

Complacency

It’s been well over a month since my last post.  That’s the longest I’ve gone without checking in here by quite an order of magnitude.  And, to be honest, putting virtual pen to paper here and now feels odd and discomforting.  It’s almost as if this space I birthed nearly a year ago is no longer mine, no longer of me, no longer for me.

In the simplest terms, I’ve been too scared to write.  As the weeks have ticked on I started settling into an unanticipated, yet easy complacency about this pregnancy.  The modifiers I’ve most frequently found to define the word “complacency” are smug or uncritical.  Neither of those have been in my emotional lexicon for the past 4.5 years.  The idea that I’d fall back on them to describe the past month, particularly the past month of my pregnancy, is downright shocking.  But, it’s been good; complacency’s been wonderful.

It’s been tremendous to walk into appointments with my MFM, his midwives, their nurses, and feel confident, supported, and, above all else, trusting.  Yes, I ask follow-up questions, request longer explanations when necessary, and speak my mind (and gut) at every opportunity, but the past few visits to the regional perinatology center have been the first doctor’s appointments I’ve attended in nearly half a decade where I haven’t walked in shielding my emotions behind an invisible layer of battle armor, where I haven’t prepared several pages of questions in advance, where I haven’t spent hours the night before setting my mind straight for the next day’s ordeal.  Instead, I’ve played the grateful patient to my practice’s caring and attentive guide.

It’s been overwhelming and surreal to feel our little man grow.  Even as he’s increasingly begun using my bladder as his own private trampoline, I find myself in awe of these jabs and flutters I often thought I’d never know.  I saw him on a regular growth scan two weeks ago.  Aside from leaving with indisputable visible evidence that, indeed, we are not jinxing ourselves by accepting all those baby blue hand-me-down clothes from friends and neighbors, we received the good news that all is well and he’s spot on the doc’s target for size (54th percentile).  With each kick I’ve felt a little more freedom from the fear that had encompassed me.  The morning I hit 24 weeks (sometimes referred to as “viability day”) I cried in the shower while silently saying, “Thank you.”

It’s been tiring preparing a nursery.  Since my last post the room was gutted to the studs, drywall was installed, and paint was painted.  (A chipper shade of yellow that makes me smile each time I walk by.)  We still have to lay new flooring (this weekend), and have the contractor replace the cracked windows and install a new heater (Mr. But IF doesn’t do electrical or heights), but I’m thrilled with our progress.  Even having our hot water heater spring a leak (well, a geyser) mid-way through painting couldn’t abate my delirious joy on painting day.  Yes, it really did kind of suck to wash up in freezing cold water, but I chuckled and joked with the mister as we drew straws to see whether “ma” or “pa” would get to have the first go in the bath water we’d boiled on the stove.  It wasn’t lost on me that uttering those two-letter country colloquialisms didn’t sting nearly so much as it would have a year ago.

Of course, the thing about finding a groove – or, in this case, embracing the complacency – is that sooner or later it’s gonna end.  The other part of the common definition of complacency is, “satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements.”  Having an easy pregnancy this far is not an achievement.  It’s pure dumb luck.  And, given enough time, there’s always going to be a reminder that one’s luck is subject to change.

When I woke on Friday I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.  Work had been (and continues to be) extremely stressful.  We’d been engaging in the aforementioned hectic nesting for the entirety of the prior weekend.  And, then, I’d spent each night all week alternating between celebrating the Mr.’s birthday, attending to social obligations, and participating in after-hours work events (because, clearly, only 8-9 hours of work torture a day is NOT enough!).  The waters were looking rough when, on Thursday afternoon, I returned to my office after a particularly unpleasant meeting with the boss and big boss to see a blinking red voicemail message from my therapist asking why I’d missed that afternoon’s appointment.  (“Oh shit,” I thought, “I’m so overwhelmed I’m even fucking up at therapy!”  And, then I proceeded to let my missed therapy session – you know, those things I go to to vent and let out the negativity? – eat away at my mental well-being for the next, oh, 4 days.)  So, when I woke up barely able to function on Friday morning there was a simple strain of “uh oh” being repeated in my head.

As I sat at my desk that morning, I realized the world was blinking.  Well, not the world, per se, but how I was seeing it.  Large patches of black inkspots swirled in my vision in tune to the beat of my heart.  My right hand began tingling and, over time, became numb.  I remembered the difficulty I’d had zipping up my snow boots due to suddenly swollen ankles that morning, just as I started getting a pounding headache.  For an hour and a half I ignored it all.  I hid in my bubble of complacency.  I reminded myself that – despite my rock-star high-risk doctors – I had the world’s most perfect pregnancy.  I mean, it was nice and all to be labeled “high risk” because I got really attentive care, but that label only stemmed from an excess of caution approach from my former OB and my own aggressive approach to the scary, early, “bad” days of pregnancy after IF.  And, you know, that teensy-weensy autoimmune disorder that could threaten my life and that of our unborn child at any moment. Finally, I texted the mister with a simple, “I REALLY don’t want to worry you, but I don’t want you to get mad that I hid anything from you.”  As I spelled out “numb fingers,” “headache,” “vision trouble,” and “ankles the size of ham-hocks,” I realized I was a disillusioned idiot.  As he read the above he typed them dutifully into Dr. Google and immediately demanded I call the doctor as each was a sign of pre-eclampsia (one of those lovely pregnancy complications I’m now predisposed to… woot!)  I called, they requested I find a way to get my BP ASAP and to “stop dismissing these troubling new symptoms.”  Soon I was off to use that home blood pressure cuff the Mr. had bought in the bad old days prior to his weight loss and running obsession.  But, not before crying in the bathroom at work.  Not before visualizing the world crashing down around me.  Not before envisioning bed rest, hospitalization, and an incredibly premature birth.  Not before cursing myself for my complacency.

Once at home the trusty blood pressure cuff mocked me as it reassured me.  106/79.  Exceptionally normal.  Brilliantly low.  Thank-you-baby-Lord-Jesus average.  Another call to the triage line told me that, while troubling, none of the new symptoms was cause for concern UNLESS accompanied by an elevated BP.  It was 1pm on a Friday afternoon and I fully embraced the bed rest and increased fluid intake recommendation I received.  I slept most of the rest of the afternoon, greeted the mister home from work at 7, ate dinner, and was promptly asleep on the couch by 9:30.  Ten additional hours of sleep followed.

So, I guess I’m “fine.”  I’m still shaky off and on, the black spots keep finding me, and the fatigue is no joke (I brought my laptop to bed with me to write this… when I went to bed… at 7:30).  But, in the grand scheme of things, I guess I’m just as lucky now as I was a week ago.  However, one thing I’m not any longer is complacent.

I was too scared to write when there was little to write about, but I’m finding it easy to write now that I’m scared.  I don’t know what to make of any of that at this moment, but I do know it feels good to be back here, to once again feel so many of you walking beside me and supporting me in ways large and small.  Complacency’s overrated.

The (wow that went) quickening

What a difference a week makes, eh?  Sorry I’ve left y’all hanging, but even when I’m totally zapped of time and energy and incapable of updating here, I still try to give the play-by-plays over on Twitter…

So, what we’ve learned in a week:

  • Baby But IF has a winkie.  The Mr. smiled from ear to ear as the ultrasound tech proclaimed proudly, “No doubting this one, that’s a big old boy right there!”  Momma hen came out a bit as I stifled the urge to reply, “Stop staring at my son’s penis!”
  • I’m half way through this pregnancy.  How in the HELL did that happen?  I mean, I know I’m probably saying this because I have yet to reach any sort “OMG I’m huge and miserable and uncomfortable” phase, but seriously can we slow this down a little bit?  It took us 4.5 years to achieve a sticky pregnancy, it seems kind of cruel to know I’ll only get to be pregnant for about 1/8th of the amount of time it took us to get and stay pregnant.  (On the flip side, I so desperately want to meet this little man that the prospect of our meeting on the horizon is probably enough to get me to stop the chorus of “That’s so unfair!”)
  • Stubborn boy doesn’t like kicking when daddy is within reach.  As I was settling into a good book in bed on Sunday night I felt a sudden something.  A passing moment, I buried my mind deeper into the book.  Then again.  And a split second later I thought, “Whoa, wait just a damn second!  You idiot!  You know what that was!  That was most decidedly a kick Mrs. Always-Late-to-the-Party!”  Of course, Mr. But IF was sound asleep so missed out on the tiny pitter patter I could feel both inside and outside of my tummy.  And, the following day, when baby boy decided to vent his Monday morning frustrations by attacking the front of my desk, daddy was a few buildings away at work in his own office.  The movements are still very minor and fleeting, but they’re there.  And, just thinking about that brings uncontrollable tears.  I was so very certain I would never see (and feel) this day; that it has come has melted me into a pool of topsy-turvy emotions.
  • My (now former) OB is amazeballs.  It’s not that I learned this this week, obviously, but more that I’m confirming it.  I had my last visit with him yesterday.  I peed in a cup, listened to little man’s heartbeat, had some blood drawn, and that was that.  Off to perinatology I go next week to face an entirely new unknown.  The departure was bittersweet.  Dr. T had a med student with him, so it prompted him to explain to her how 1. I was a complicated case, and 2. That I was a dream patient.  Though no one likes to be a medical students introduction to when to transfer a patient off to a higher level of care, it melted my heart to hear him say, “She’s a dream patient, this one.  She knows her stuff, and it’s important for all new doctors to learn when it is time to listen to a patient who knows what she is talking about.”  And, then he hugged me goodbye and threatened to hunt me down if I didn’t send updates.  It’s strange, for over a year I cringed as RE#2 and his ridiculous soul patch hugged me in his impish, condescending, zen-master manner; this single hug from an OB I met just a few months ago elicited a wholly different reaction.
  • The regional perinatology center may more closely resemble Alcatraz than medical nirvana.  As Dr. T said his goodbyes he warned me (and the med student) that “Things aren’t so cushy over there, but you’ll be in good hands.”  This really wouldn’t startle me, except he said it as I stared at the exam room’s peeling wallpaper, broken vertical blinds, and as Dr. T perched gingers on a stool meant for 4 wheels that, for whatever reason, now only had 3.  If my former office is “cush” I’m not quite sure what to expect from the new one.  That said, if 4.5 years spent running like a lab rat through a maze of medical offices has taught me anything, it’s that the dingier the office, the more amazing the doctor.  And I’ll keep repeating that philosophy as I try to avoid being shanked in the new doctor’s offices next Thursday.
  • Referrals move quicker when you’re pregnant.  A new rheumatologist will see me April 17.  That’s less than half as long as it took to get a referral last year after my third miscarriage.  I still don’t have much hope that we’ll get anything useful out of the appointment, but at least it’s something else to look forward to.
  • And, finally, I have amazing friends and family members that I totally don’t deserve.  The mother-in-law has been nudging me with shower planning questions since the New Year holiday and, while at first the thought struck fear straight into my heart, I’m now more and more on her side as it looks more and more unlikely that I’ll be allowed to make it to my due date thanks to all these new medical issues.  I finished my registry on Sunday, posted it on Facebook in response to a few questions I’d gotten earlier in the week, and, to date, I’m humbled by the response.  While things most certainly don’t equal love, all I gotta say is this little guy is so beyond loved it’s incredible.  He has no idea what’s about to hit him when he makes his grand appearance!

Is it tomorrow yet?

Another Wednesday quickie for you, in usual bullet fashion.

Things I’m looking forward to:

  • Our anatomy scan tomorrow
  • Seeing the heartbeat (please Lord!)
  • Our anatomy scan tomorrow
  • Seeing the wiggle… I guess shotgunning an energy drink before hand to make him/her hyper is probably bad parenting behavior?
  • Our anatomy scan tomorrow
  • Seeing if Baby But IF has an innie or an outtie
  • Our anatomy scan tomorrow

Things I’m able to concentrate on:

Things I’ve done to try and pass the time:

  • Created an entire Amazon registry in, oh, 2 days
  • Asked random strangers and long-time friends-in-the-computer to give me sex guesses based off our 13w2d NT scan (“Yes, I know there’s no nub in the picture, but seriously just freaking give me a guess people!”)
  • Bought new (used) maternity pants.  And a new comforter and sheets for our bed.  And a dining room chandelier, and wall art for the bathroom, and a rug for the living room, and new tables for the living room.  Hey, baby could her his/her head on our current square tables.  Baby needs light and clean sheets to mess upon.  And, might as well buy stuff while we have the illusion of having some money cause baby’s kill your savings account, right?  I mean, we’re totes rolling in it now because, you know, uninsured IVF is so totally affordable!
  • Dwelling on the fact that his/her will shortly no longer be a common part of my vocabulary.
  • Buying (seeing a trend here?) a sweet little journal to finally start my daily journal to baby.  My mom did one for me and, especially after her passing, it was one of the nearest and dearest items I have from her.  I always intended to do one for my child(ren), but IF and RPL made me constantly feel not ready.  Tonight I go home and write.  I want at least one pre-sex reveal entry in there!
  • Eating. All. The. Things. And, it’s corollary, fretting about the fact (don’t kill me!) that I’m now down to my pre-IVF weight at 18 weeks.  Shouldn’t the scale be moving the other direction?  Is this what having a working metabolism is like?  Crikey!
  • Filling out the pre-admission paperwork I’m supposed to send to my hospital at 20 weeks (isn’t that INSANELY early).  It was while filling out this paperwork that I realized, “Oh, yea, I have no idea who my doctor is!? Whee, guess I’m not getting this paperwork in on time.”
  • Biding my time waiting to hear from my former (kinda current?) OB’s office regarding my transfer to the perinatology center.  Seriously, this is still happening, right?
  • Setting up a new rheumatologist appointment.  April 17!  That happened a lot quicker than I thought it would!
  • Antiquing (how I loathe that word).  We’re looking for something special to use as a changing table in the nursery.  We found a contender in a marble-top Victorian dresser.  Mr. is sold; I have two conflicting opinions.  Mainly, 1. it would be awesome for a girl (quickly followed by a “OMG I’m already gendering this poor little one already.  Bad progressive mama!)  And, 2. if we did purchase it for a boy we totally have to get him this, a top hat, and a baby-sized monocle.  They make those, right?

Things I’m thinking right now:

  • How did it only take my 20 minutes to write this post?  WHHHYYYY IS THE WORLD MOVING SO SLOWLY!?!?!?!