Stuck Between My Head, My Heart, and a Hard Place

(Warning: There is a lot of rage and a ton of expletives below.)

I’m just going to get the sad part out of the way. It looks like my mom won’t make it through her latest round of illness. After 13 months in the hospital, her heart is starting to shut down. It isn’t imminent, but it will happen soon.

When this became clear to me, I had a huge internal debate. To tell her that I’m pregnant or not to tell her.

My head kept insisting that I wasn’t ready. We’re too early on to know if this is a viable pregnancy.  Telling her will mean we have to tell everyone else, and I don’t want that yet. Whether or not my mom knows, it doesn’t change anything. She is dying, and I am pregnant. Facts are facts.

My heart was a weepy mess. As with all the ups and downs over the past year, I have made a point of making sure my mom felt loved and cared for. I’ve let her know I think of her every single day. I tried to make sure she experienced joy and happiness, and this certainly qualifies.

As should come as no surprise, I had a plan for telling people that we are pregnant. I wanted to wait until the 8 week ultrasound to tell family and close friends. If all went well, we’d let the world at large know after the first trimester.

As should come as no surprise, the Universe is shitting all over my plan.

If there was some magical way I could just tell my mom… that’s what I wanted. I don’t give a shit about anyone else right now. No, really… I’ve become remarkably unfeeling about morons over the last few days. For example, Mr. O pointed out that his mother may be upset if she finds out we told other people first. To which I responded, “No problem. I’ll just tell her to go fuck herself.”  And I mean it. I will take on that burden for the rest of my natural born life and well into eternity.

I am willing to tell my mother-in-law to take a flying leap every day until one of us dies, if it means I can tell my mom. That’s when I realized how important this was to me.

Even though what’s happening to my mom is profoundly sad, I still wanted this to be happy. I hope that doesn’t sound heartless, but this is happy. IF is an asshole, but it has taught me some life skills– among them the importance of holding both the good and the incredibly hard. Your life is never, ever painted with just one brush.

So Mr. O and I made a video for my mom that my dad could play for her in the hospital. It was funny, and a little bit cheeky. We had so much fun making it together too- I haven’t laughed like that in a while.

After she saw it, my dad Facetimed us in so we could celebrate with my mom. It was amazing and painful. As much as I am so grateful we got to share this with her, I am also so fucking mad. Of all the ways I pictured telling my parents, it was never with my mom hooked up to a ventilator. I am grateful, but I am not a saint. This is fucked up. FUCKED UP.

As I knew it would, the cat is creeping out of the bag. My sister was in the room when my dad played the video. My brother found out because my dad blurted it out in the car. My mom was telling her nurse the other day. All of which is fine. I do not regret the decision to tell her for one minute.

Now comes the hard part… (oh, you thought that was it?)

My mom has asked me not to come see her. She wants me to focus on taking care of this new little life. My mom knows how hard this has been for me and Mr. O. She had a lot of difficulties with her pregnancies, and worries about this for us. And so she doesn’t want me to undergo the travel and the stress.

I’m checking with my doctor today but I worry that even if we were cleared to go, my being there would cause her anxiety (which is what sets off her heart, we’ve found.)

Merry fucking Christmas to me.

Heartbeats

Yesterday, Mr. O and I went in for our 6 week ultrasound. I’d been nearly convinced that I would get there, and they would tell me that there was, in fact, no baby inside. A Hot Wheels car? A Hershey’s Kiss? What about a Hermit crab?  All these things seemed much more plausible.

So imagine my genuine surprise when the ultrasound tech found a tiny lima bean hanging out in my uterus. A tiny lima bean with a tiny flickering heartbeat. Fluttering like a small hummingbird. It was awesome.

Afterwards, we met with Dr. Petrel. She was her usual peppy, matter-of-fact self. According to how my little hummingbird is progressing, we have a due date of August 13th. It now feels real.

Mr. O and I sat in her office a little gobsmacked. I completely lost control of my brain. All the smart questions I wanted to ask about potential complications, medications I should be taking, physical activities I should be avoiding… GONE. I just stared ahead at her file cabinet.

In the meantime, Dr. Petrel went over the results of our IVF (besides the obvious successful implantation.) As you all know, I started out with 13 oocytes, 10 fertilized, and then only 3 made it to Day 3. We implanted one, and we have one leftover. That embryo is in excellent condition, we are told. It has a very high grading- it is practically a valedictorian. So if we want to do this again sometime, we have one lovely embryo for FET.

I could feel the conversation winding down, my opportunity to ask all my questions being gently ushered out the door. It’s like that moment in A Christmas Story, when Ralphie is losing out on his one chance with Santa. I was blowing it! Blowing it!

So I quickly spewed all my questions, in no particular order. And as always, Dr. Petrel gave me concise, articulate answers. Some highlights:

  1. We didn’t have a lot of embryos make it, which may have something to do with my egg quality. But it may not. In her eyes, getting pregnant is a little bit like the lottery. So many things have to go right, even if you’re starting off with quality ingredients.
  2. We basically got an entire years worth of trying out in one shot (12 months in a year, 13 oocytes.) Of those 13, 2 were viable. If we had waited another year of conceiving naturally (when I’d be 37) then egg quality would be of a bigger concern from her standpoint.
  3. I can exercise, but nothing crazy. Some light jogging is okay, and nothing that elevates my heart rate over 140. So no more half marathon training for me. The reason they want you to keep things light after IVF is because your ovaries are still very swollen, and there could be some twisting if you’re not careful. (Twisting ovaries. Ouch.)
  4. I can stop taking just about all my meds. My PCP before I moved to Dr. Finch had me on so many damn vitamins which I don’t need. (Given her lackadaisical attitude toward my care, I am not surprised.) I’m now just taking a prenatal vitamin and continued progesterone. No more estrogen patches, fish oil, or additional Folic Acid and vitamin D.
  5. We have another ultrasound in 2 weeks. At that point, we will be considered a “normal” pregnancy. Like this whole IVF thing never happened. I will part ways with my beloved Petrel and will need to find a regular ol’ OB/GYN.

Though still not elated (as I’ve expected myself to be this whole time,) I felt tons better after the appointment. I don’t want to count my ostriches before they hatch (HA!) but I started to feel like maybe this would work out. Maybe the hardest part would be over.

Remember: this is my life we’re talking about. There is no joy without pain, no sunshine without rain.

I get back to work, and actually work. Since I was not fixated on my fertility, I was able to get down to business. So many spreadsheets! There were even graphs and cogent conclusions based on said graphs! At around 4:45, I started to wind down when I got an email from my dad.

On Friday, my mom’s condition took a weird turn. Among a few complications, her heart has started to act “weird.” (Weird. It’s a medical term, I swear.) It will stop for a few seconds, then start up on its own. Her surgeon is recommending that we sign a DNR on her heart. And my dad wanted to talk about it with me and my siblings.

The sad poetry of all this isn’t lost on me. My mother’s heartbeat starts to give out on the day I learn I have two.

Oh, The Crying You Will Do

When I was in college, I took an intensive Italian class. I love learning languages. It’s like instant gratification learning. “Cane” means dog! “Biblioteca” means library! I knoooow things! Even counting feels like some new and exotic adventure, “Uno, Due, Tre..”

I’m actually quite good at this stage of languages. But when it comes to more complex communication, particularly conjugating verbs, I start to fall down. I am okay with this. My italian professor, a one Bar-bar-AH Spin-eh-li, was not.

I had been her star pupil up until this point. She loved my pronunciation, my excitement, my easy grasp of vocabulary. Our first quiz on past tense, and I began my rapid decent. She passed out the results from the exam and asked me to stay behind to talk.

Ah, Ostrich, mia bella regatza. You are my favorite student. But– how to say this– when I correct your quiz, I cry.

She proceeded to ask me if there were problems at home, and if my boyfriend was hitting me. (I could not make this up if I tried.)

I’ve told this story so many times, for varying reasons. 1) She is one of the most memorable professors I’ve ever had, and this is her crowning moment. 2) I use it as a way to demonstrate I’m okay with my own failures and imperfections. I have been so bad at something, I literally brought someone to tears. And I think it is hi-larious.

The phrase “When I XXX, I cry.” has now become part of my vernacular, and most people who know me know why. Now I that I am pumped with baby hormones, I have cause to use this more often than I care to. From this weekend alone:

  • When I watch The Snowman, I cry.
  • When I talk about names for my future children, I cry.
  • When I read “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Longfellow, I cry.
  • When I mop the kitchen floor, I cry.
  • When I listen to a podcast about the history of “Good King Wenceslas”, I cry.

Seriously, how do people get through an entire pregnancy without losing their sanity?

This is Not My Beautiful House

A week after my positive test, you’d think it would have sunk in that I am “with child.”

Nope.

Granted, my body is absolutely on board with baby. I’m officially curvy, folks. Though I have always had a bit of a booty, it is usually masked by my strong-ass runner’s legs. A month of no running, my muscles have receded and now it’s just a whole lotta butt. My boobs have also gotten bigger, and feel totally out of control. I have to wear a bra now because otherwise I have no idea what they will get up to. When I get out of the shower, I don’t really recognize this body.

Other symptoms include constipation (woohoo!), frequent peeing, odd intermittent cramping, and what I’m calling Midnight Sickness. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night nauseous… and with the overwhelming urge to pee. Obviously.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my boss’s office talking about generic work stuff. A colleague came in talking about some project, blah, blah, blah… I tuned them out and zoned ahead at a map of the world tacked up on the wall. Whilst staring at Russia, it hit me. Holy shit. There are cells multiplying in my uterus RIGHT NOW. Then back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Later that day, Mr. Ostrich and I were in the kitchen and he brought up the idea of visiting with his cousins the week after Christmas. The trouble is that there will be a ton of drinking and outdoor winter sports, both of which strike me as a bad idea at this stage in my pregnancy. I said I didn’t really want to go, and he asked “Why? We’re telling everyone by Christmas. They’ll know, so you’ll be fine.”

Enter the waterworks. I don’t want to tell anyone. Yet. Or ever, if we’re being honest about it. I’m still not sure this is real, so setting some hard deadline feels so wrong. I need time to let all this become real. And then I want time to enjoy this period for myself, without all the weird expectations that will inevitably follow when our families “know.” So how about 19 years from now? Does that sound reasonable to everyone?

Sometimes my brain leaps forward- to a baby shower, maternity leave, or daycare. Though I recognize on some level that those things will all likely happen one day, I don’t associate them with my life. Like when you when you see someone with an expensive car or a beautiful house. Nice, but clearly not for me.

Then there are those fleeting moments when I think to that picture of the four cell embryo that was transferred weeks back. It’s working so hard right now to turn into something bright and vibrant and entirely new.

And I think “Shit, how am I here?”

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Dying Barren and Alone

Hello, Ostrich. It is Nurse Lovely Pants from Dr. Petrel’s office. I’m calling with great news. Your pregnancy test today is positive. Your HcG levels are very reassuring.  We’d like you to continue with your medications for…

Friday’s HcG: 260

Today’s HcG: 668

After I got the message on Friday, I wandered around my home trying to find something to do. I’ve spent so much time thinking about how to get pregnant, but so little time thinking about actually being pregnant. I am entirely unprepared.

I’m still not sure what to do with all this. I’m not exactly happy as much as I am relieved. We now know this Ostrich is capable of getting pregnant (albeit with a lot of intervention.) That is certainly farther than I’ve got before. What I am not capable of is thinking beyond that. All I can say is that when I checked with the nurse 30 minutes ago, I was still pregnant.

What do non-infertile people do when they find out they are pregnant? Do they plan nurseries? Start researching daycare? Buy ironic onesies? I have no such urges. Mostly, I just keep thinking I haven’t gotten my period yet.

I wish I could feel that unbridled excitement I’ve witnessed in others so many times. I wish I could use multiple exclamation points about how I’m sooooo happpppy!!! Right now, I’m still just sooooo shocked!!!

If I’m being honest, I feel like a bad person. I know so many couples that would be over the moon right now. Tap dancing in the streets kind of shit. Some of you are probably a little angry with me, which I understand. But I can’t exhale. I can’t feel “happy.”

I do, however, feel grateful. So I’m going to start there.

The Countdown Begins

Two more days until I test. Which means two more days to desperately try to interpret my symptoms. An exercise in futility if ever there was one.

So far my boobs hurt, my skin is oily, and my endometriosis is “tickling” though not actually painful. This is more or less what happens before my period. The new addition is a low level headache, but after some hardcore Googling I know this is a side effect of the estrogen patch I’m on.

I waver between two extremes.

Misery! Because this means I’m not pregnant, and will die childless and alone.

or

Exhaustion! Because this means nothing at all, and I’m working myself up for no reason.

After a little hemming and hawing I decided not to POAS. It has never been in my repertoire, in part because I liked the idea that nature gave me a built-in pregnancy test (i.e. my period.) It helped me stay connected to my body, and honestly was starting to feel like the last “natural” part of this process. Of course, IVF really throws any illusion of “nature” out the window. Who am I kidding?

I’ve been having really strange dreams lately. The first one was just me getting my period. I could see the blood making beautiful and intricate designs in the toilet bowl. (TMI, but this is an infertility blog.) The second dream was actually a little funny. I was being chewed out by a nurse for having a miscarriage because I had an orgasm. (They make this big deal about how you’re not allowed any sexy fun time after IVF, so this isn’t completely out of left field.) Obviously, my unconscious is anxious.

Is it weird that I’m actually dreading my test a little bit? I’ve liked spending the last two-ish weeks dwelling in possibility. It was nice, even if it was unknown. But in just a few days, I’ll know what’s actually been going on done there.

Mr. O has decided to take the day off. At first I thought this was crazy, but I can imagine that he’ll be just as apprehensive as I am. And his isn’t the kind of job where you can run into the bathroom for a good cry. I’m going to work from home in the afternoon while I wait for the call. I think it will be good to be distracted by work for most of the day, but be in a safe place when I find out for sure.

We’ve decided to make reservations at a restaurant that night. Either we’ll be celebrating, or we’ll be consoling ourselves with excellent food. Even if this cycle doesn’t work out, I like the idea of having a plan and sticking to it. Life goes on, damnit. And that includes dinner reservations.

This is one angsty ostrich, signing off…

Myna Strikes Again

Picture it. A generic office setting, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. There is a giddiness in the air– it is a half day, and no one can concentrate the day before a long holiday weekend.

I’m talking with my co-worker about something legitimately work-related. Myna is hovering near our desks. Not asking a question, interjecting, or asking to see either of us before we leave. Just staring at us while she is eating yogurt.

It’s weird.

After about 5 minutes, I ask if there is something I can help her with. No, no… she is fine. She just wants to check in with said co-worker before she leaves. And yet, Myna continues to stand and stare.

It’s so weird.

I’ll take a break from the story telling to clarify that this isn’t unusual for Myna. Of her many, many, many quirks, Myna suffers from a colossal case of FOMO (i.e. fear of missing out.) It’s a little junior high, but I also get it. She sits in an office while most of us are in cube farms, so she can get a little isolated. Still, Myna’s FOMO is painful for everyone.

Now where was I… At this point, I realize there is no way that I’m getting back to work. The only way to get Myna to leave is to make idle conversation with her for about 15 minutes until she is reassured that nothing interesting is happening.

We start off talking about her daughter’s birthday party. It sounds like a delightful time was had by all. We talk generically about kids birthday parties. And then….

I can’t remember. Do you want to have kids or not?

I’m 4 days post transfer at this point. I’m mixed with excitement and fear, all of which I want to keep very much to myself. This is a personal question, which seems even more so with the timing.

Of course given Myna’s track record, it is a small miracle that I have worked with her for two years and dodged this particular question. My co-worker is frozen in horror. But I’m prepared. I have a retort.

You and my mother-in-law would love to know!

This usually gets people off my back. I simultaneously remind people that this is a personal question, and compare them to a nosy mother-in-law. No one wants this. It is a graceful out for all parties involved.

But Myna doesn’t take the bait. She asks AGAIN. What kind of emotionally tone deaf person am I dealing with?!

So I steamroll that fucking question by talking about how my mother-in-law has been asking me this question for over 13 years– before Mr. Ostrich and I were even engaged. I tell her about the time she asked at Labor Day cook out. And that time she cried at me over Christmas dinner to “give her grandbabies.” Or at a wedding in front of her three sisters. If I just overwhelm her with information, at some point Myna will forget what she even asked in the first place.

After she walks away satiated with her colleague bonding time, my co-worker looks at me and apologizes for not intervening. Sweet, but what was she going to do? This isn’t on her, it is on Myna.

I thought back to when Myna told Grebe that she would want children if she happened to find herself pregnant. Or when she told another colleague that having babies in ‘Murica isn’t the same as in Nigeria. In both instances I literally walked away because I was so offended. But perhaps that is cowardly.

So here’s a question for the class… Next time Myna asks someone (including me) about their reproductive choices, should I actually tell her to shut the fuck up? Obviously in a nice, work-appropriate sort of way. But is it better to deflect or tackle this kind of shit head on?