Ready, set, …um?

Infertility is a mindf*ck. I could write a whole series of posts on how this process has changed me– little of it positive. Yeah, yeah… I know. Find silver linings and all that other bullshit, but I also believe in letting myself have all the feelings. Like even the bad ones.

Of the many side effects, I learned how to navigate the complexities of treatments. I learned to not have expectations on timelines or outcomes. Full throttle it armed with copious notes, spreadsheets, and injectibles, knowing that none of it was given. Expect to be let down, frustrated, disappointed, then go back to my well of resilience and hope there was still something left.

Oh, the arguments I had with my insurance. The test results that came back inconclusive, resulting in more tests that confirmed or denied nothing.

I learned that this is hard.

When I made the appointment with Dr. Petrel a few weeks ago, I was preparing myself to get back into the arena. I was suiting up– filling out forms, calling my insurance, going through my timeline to familiarize myself with the jargon I had willfully forgotten in the last two years.

Mr. O and I went in to see Dr. Petrel together with an agreement– we’ll try our one frostie, but only if it looks like it will survive thawing and be a good candidate for implantation. If not, fine. No more extreme measures.  

I went to my appointment yesterday ready to try to start, with the full expectation that I would walk out with a list of more questions. I brought a notebook so I could take notes because I remembered how easily my heart could make me numb in doctor’s appointments.

I also remembered how miserable waiting rooms are. How you look around at the other people in the room and wonder where they are– are they on their 3rd IVF cycle? Did they just learn they were pregnant? Are they like me or are they one of those “freaks” who gets pregnant without really trying?

But before I could start building their stories, Dr. Petrel appeared in the door and ushered Mr. O and I into her office. She was just as I remembered- kind, upbeat, but also no bullshit. She got right down to business.

Petrel called our embryologist. Our embryo is stellar. It Triple A bonded, or whatever grading system they use. She suspects it has a 95% chance of thawing. So what we need to determine is how my uterus is doing post pregnancy, though since my periods have been pretty regular in frequency and flow, she is optimistic. Still, I’ll need a sonohystogram to make sure, and a few blood tests to make sure my thyroid is behaving.

Then well, that’s it. A sonohystogram, a check on my hormones, then we can get this baby-making started. Depending on those results, I could even technically just introduce the embryo as part of my natural cycle. No (or I should say, fewer) drugs required. Theoretically, our cycle could start in November, almost exactly when the cycle that begat Chick began.

I walked out of the office in a haze. What? Isn’t this supposed to be harder? Isn’t this supposed to take longer?

More importantly, am I really ready for this? Then again, are we ever?

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Endurance

I did it.

I made an appointment with Dr. Petrel to talk about Part Deux. This time around, it all feels very different.

a) I got an appointment almost immediately, rather than having to wait 10 weeks like before. I will be seeing her in just two weeks. Eeeek! I supposed this is one of the benefits of being an old-timer in the IF community- less waiting. In truth, I know this is only the beginning of a long series of tests, arguments with my insurance, and so much more. But I appreciate that there was one less hoop to jump through. Or perhaps just a shorter hoop.

Touched Up no sharpening

If my reproductive system were a ship

b) Maybe it’s because this is not my first infertility rodeo, but I feel less apprehensive. I don’t know if that’s really the word I’m looking for. Before I would hold my breath waiting for every test, sure that one of them would reveal the truth of why we couldn’t get pregnant. This is one of the downsides of an “unexplained” diagnosis. You don’t know anything, so it seems like the problem could be everything. In my craziest moments, I was convinced tests would come back explaining that I didn’t actually have a uterus. Thaaaat’s what the problem is! Now, it seems like the next few months of tests are more like fact finding rather than waiting for a death sentence. Like an adventurous exploration of my lady bits to see if they can be colonized, rather than say… Shackleton’s ill-fated Trans-Antarctic Expedition. (Spoiler Alert: it didn’t end well.)

c) If I’m 100% honest with myself, I’m also much more at peace with whatever outcome. We have one frostie in storage, and Mr. O and I have agreed we’ll give it shot. Yes, I would like to have another child or I wouldn’t be doing this. At the same time, Chick is lovely. Our family is lovely. If it turns out we stay a trio rather than becoming a quartet, it’s okay. That’s not to say that I won’t feel sad if the transfer doesn’t work, I miscarry, or any of the other things that could stop a pregnancy before it really starts. But… well, the stakes don’t feel quite as high.

Maybe my mom’s death and becoming a parent in my own right have changed me– I now know worrying about every potential wrong turn doesn’t actually prevent any of it from happening. Preparedness doesn’t really count for much in the end. Endurance, the ship sailed by Shackleton, was built for maximum durability by expert shipbuilders. No one could have foreseen the storms and conditions that caused the crew to abandon her. The ship was eventually crushed, while her crew drifted for months on sheets of ice. And yet this expedition is often described as one of the best examples perseverance when all hope is lost.

Shackleton and every one of his crew members survived.

Yet Another Club I Never Wanted to Join

To make a long story short, I have hypothyroidism. Only for real.

As you may recall,  I was put on levothyroxine while TTC because my TSH levels were high– within normal ranges, but a little too high for fertility purposes. I stayed on it during pregnancy for similar reasons. When you keep in mind the cornucopia of drugs I had to take to get pregnant, this seemed relatively minor.
Because I am overextended, I’ve not refilled my prescription for a month. (I know, I know…) I had my physical yesterday, and my blood work came back with real high TSH levels.
Of course, I googled. You’d think I would have learned that this is never a good idea.
Inline image 1

This is why you shouldn’t google

I’m going to be old, fat, depressed, and exhausted. Forever.
So called “support” groups tell me that I will never be the same, and I may end up living in my car because I’ll be so exhausted I can’t keep a job. I will die alone in a shanty. (Which, it should be noted, was a big fear of mine when I was sans baby. ALL PATHS LEAD TO DYING IN A SHANTY!)
Okay, okay… perhaps I am being a little dramatic. It seems like I can keep this under control with medication. Which I will have to take for the rest of my life.
In the scheme of things, I realize this isn’t the absolute worst thing that could happen… But then I think “I have a chronic disease. I have a DISEASE. What the actual f@ck?!”
Also, this could be why I was such a shit show a few weeks ago. You know… hormones kind make you crazy.

The Suspense is Killing You

Oh my loyal readers… You’re probably wondering where I’ve been. Sorry to have left you all hanging, but my life got busy again. And in the best possible way.

I am officially off house arrest bed rest!

After my appointment with my doctor last week, everything looked good. When I was hooked up to the NST, Chick continued to perform well and my contractions were really just Braxton Hick– not consistent or strong enough to cause any concern. My cervix, though still wee, has not changed. So I’ve still got enough between Chick and the outside world not to worry about him/her falling out of my vagina anytime soon.

Better yet, I was given the fFN test and it came back negative. In this case, negative is very positive- it means that I have a 99% likelihood of NOT having a baby in the next two weeks. Whew!

For some reason, my doctor/midwife team wanted me to go to a Fetal Medicine Specialist on Monday. The idea was to determine what level of monitoring I might need for the rest of my pregnancy. To be honest, I’m still not too sure why I had that appointment. And said specialist isn’t too sure why either. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Mr. O and I met with her, and went over all the details and drama over the last few weeks. She asked a ton of questions, looked over the results, and gave her synopsis of what she thinks happened.

Her guess is that my cervix started to shorten (which is normal toward the end of pregnancy) and in that process a small blood vessel may have burst. This happens sometimes, and is nothing to worry about. There was some concern this might have been signs of a partial placental abruption, but since Chick has continued to grow at a healthy rate and there is no more bleeding, we’ve pretty much ruled that out. Fun Fact: babies only need 50% of the placenta. The other 50%? Leftovers, I guess.

Back to said synopsis: Of course, as I was in the office for the suspicious brown spotting, I was hooked up to machines which found my Silent Contractions. Then I went to the hospital where I was monitored more, and the doctors kept finding more odd things and ordering more NSTs. Each symptom in isolation might have been fine, but because they were all happening within a short time frame we took a more cautious approach.

As she pointed out, there was no way to know from the outset that I wasn’t going into labor. Another fun fact from this doctor– If you are going into real, actual labor, there isn’t really a way to stop it, only delay it. Since mine was successfully stopped with intervention, I wasn’t in “true” labor, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Not that I would change any course we took– you just can’t know in the moment, so Mr. O, the doctors, and I made the best decisions we could with the information we had. Since I was hooked up to that NST machine for between 45 and 1.5 hours at a time, we had A LOT of information.

Essentially, the Fetal Medicine doc diagnosed me with a case of over-monitoring.

After going over our case, she said “How about this… I’m just going to treat you like a normal pregnant woman.” No extra monitoring, just one more ultrasound in a month to make sure Chick is still good, but no additional appointments, NSTs, blood work, blah, blah, blah. Music to my ears, friends.

I’m still on “restricted activity” which seems fine to me since I’m officially uncomfortable. I knew it was bound to happen, and 33 weeks is as good a time as any I suppose. With Chick gaining .5 lbs each week from here on out, my tiny frame is starting to protest under the pressure. I’d much rather be home napping, and now I have a doctor’s note to validate me!

With this information, I went back to work this week– three full days and two half days. I’m planning to ask my manager for a work from home schedule (three days in the office, two days at home) so I can take it easy into the Final Countdown to Babyville. I’m fully aware how fortunate I am to have this option– every once in a while, my middle class guilt creeps up on me because I know so many women don’t have the supportive, flexible work environment I do. Is it odd I feel a little bad about this? Is it at least less terrible that I know and appreciate how fortunate I am?

But this is a post for another day, perhaps.

I also have notes from the Baby Extravaganza coming your way! Stay tuned…

Go on Bed Rest Like It’s Your Birthday

(BTW, I haven’t responded to many of your lovely comments from a few posts ago. Sorry. I will get to them. As you’re about to see, I’ve been busy. And not in a fun, “I won a free trip to Cabo” kind of way.)

You know… there are times where I start worrying if the world has some massive beef with me that no one is telling me about.

If it keeps up like this, I’m going to become incredibly paranoid.

Oh, you think I’m already incredibly paranoid? Would you like proof the Universe is unusually interested in busting my balls? I submit for your consideration the following evidence:

Exhibit A: The Car Calamity

Last Monday, Mr. O got into a car accident. No one was hurt- whew! But the car wasn’t driveable, so we had to deal with the insurance company. You know how much I love insurance companies. On this Monday, we learned that they were totaling our car rather than fixing it. Oooookay…. The good-ish news is that we had already planned to buy a new-ish car to replace the 18-year-old rust bucket that I drive. We’ll just have to wait a little bit longer to replace it, that’s all. (Allow me to brag for a minute: 18 years old, rust holes the size of kittens, 273K miles, and it still has the best pick up of any car I’ve driven. And I haven’t had a car payment since 2007. #bragover)

Exhibit B: The Card Calamity

Last Thursday, Mr. O got a call from our bank to ask if we were currently at a Wal-Mart in Florida. (No.) Did we think some one was making unauthorized charges using our card at said Wal-Mart in Florida? (Yes.) Cue the canceling of cards and lots of paper work.

Sadly, I’m sort of used to this. With all the breaches at stores like Target and TJ Maxx over the years, we’ve had to replace our cards a few times. This is, however, the first time we’ve caught actual charges on one of our cards. It sucks, but this is what happens when we no longer use chickens to barter for goods. (I mean, it’d be pretty hard to pass off a fraudulent chicken…)

Exhibit C: The Head Cold Calamity

This Saturday was a busy day. We had a ton of morning errands to run, then an hour drive out to celebrate a friend’s birthday which was in the country. (This will be relevant. Sorta.) We got there, and about an hour later I started sniffling. Nothing crazy, just the sniffles. It gets worse. I think it is just allergies.

Sunday morning rolls around and I have full-on congestion. As you all know, pregnant ladies can’t take any decongestants. So I just get to sit there drowning in my own face for days. This isn’t fun for anyone, but I have particularly shit sinuses so I get lots of sinus pain and rolicking headaches. This also usually leads to me hating everyone for a few days for no other reason than they don’t have to breathe out of their mouths.

Exhibit D: The Cervix Calamity (which isn’t technically alliterative, but still works)

As if Sunday were delightful enough, I woke up with some light brown spotting. This didn’t send me into an immediate panic, but I still thought of calling my offices. They don’t have a 24 hour help line for nothing. The nurse says it is probably nothing but to call my doctor on Monday if it hasn’t stopped or has increased.

Monday, I stay home from work because of my exploding sinuses, and notice that the spotting hasn’t stopped. I call the office, and they recommend coming in for a check up… “just in case.” Fine. I can do “just in case.” I’m a HUGE FAN of “just in case.” I get an appointment for 3:00 pm.

Yesterday morning, I pee. Brown spotting is still there, but now accompanied by something a little more sinister- about half a teaspoon of brown goo. Like what you get at the end of your period. Soooo, I call the doctor and explain what’s happening, and can get squeezed in at 10:30 am.

At 10:30, I meet with my midwife (who I have vaguely mixed feelings about, but that’s another story.) She checks my vitals, asks me tons of questions, checks Chick’s heartbeat (which is stellar) then performs a manual inspection of my lady bits. Something doesn’t feel right. In the 7 weeks since my last ultrasound, my cervix has shortened quite a bit and has also softened a whole lot. Hence, the extra colorful discharge.

What a Stress Test on your birthday looks like.

What a Stress Test on your birthday looks like.

To make sure I’m not going into labor without knowing it, I am put on a stress test while I wait for the ultrasound doctor to see me (who very sweetly offers to give up her lunch break to fit me in.)

Least you have yet to experience the joys of a stress test, it is remarkably unremarkable. They strap you in with two monitors attached to your belly: one for the baby and one for your uterus. They want to get a baseline for the baby’s heart rate and measure your contractions. It also helps to determine if the baby is under any duress if you are having contractions. Mostly, I sat there reading People magazine…

After about 45 minutes hooked up to the machine, we determine that Chick is completely unbothered by this cervix business as is my uterus. We have a health heartbeat and no contractions. Thanks to People, I also determine that backless dresses are all the rage this season, and celebrities sometimes do their own grocery shopping.

At around 12:00, I’m taken to the ultrasound room. Mr. O joins me from work about 10 minutes in. The doctor is the same person who did our anatomy scan at 20 weeks, and I really like her. She’s calm, not too cute about the whole thing, and patiently answers my “What’s that thing over there?” questions.

Again, we determine that Chick is awesome. All the organs are growing nicely, very active (don’t I know it!) and weighing about 3.5 lbs. The placenta looks fine, there is plenty of amniotic fluid. In short, I have a healthy albeit shy baby who still doesn’t want anyone looking at his/her face.

What I don’t have is a lot of cervix. For unknown reasons, my cervix has shortened to 1.5 cm. This can lead to preterm labor, which isn’t not what any of us are rooting for.

At 30w6d, most of Chick’s organs are in good condition. The exception would be the lungs, which are the last to develop in any tiny human. In case I do go early, my midwife suggested I get a steroid shot that helps Chick with lung development. If he/she doesn’t make it to full term, this could shorten our time in the NICU.

I topped of this awesome day with a shot of steroids in my butt.

Oh, did I mention that it was MY BIRTHDAY? Say it with me… “FML.”

The important bits are this:

  • I am not in labor now, nor does it look like this is imminent.
  • I am on bed rest so as not to put more pressure on my tiny real estate of cervix. This will be re-evalutated on Saturday. If there hasn’t been any more leakage, contractions, and my cervix is playing nice, I can resume normal activities.
  • Chick is just not interested in any of this, and so keeps smacking my insides which I’m starting to actually find endearing.
Guess how I'll be spending my time?

Guess how I’ll be spending my time?

There is an echo here from my mom, strangely enough. You see, she was on bed rest for all three of her kids. (And this was before the Internet!) When I told my father, he sort of chuckled and said “Well, you are your mother’s daughter.” It’s worth noting, she had three healthy (though far from normal) children. This makes me feel better.

Also in the eerie connection department, I just so happen to have my mother’s copy of Anna Karenina. It is the exact copy she read while on bed rest with me. The cover is so 1970’s, I can hardly stand it.

So… got any ideas to keep an anxious pregnant lady entertained and not Googling while she is immobile?

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.

Happy T Day

As you may have guessed Saturday night was a full-on shit show for me. After freaking out that I only had 3 embryos remaining, I lay on my couch watching truly weird documentaries and convincing myself that I would never have children.

This may sound defeatist, but it had a calming effect. You see, I may not be able to control the outcome of this or any IVF cycle, but I do have some say in whatever happens next. If I can’t have kids, I’m pulling an Elizabeth Gilbert. (More on that at a later date.)

I got “the call” Sunday morning that we were going in for the transfer. My appointment was 12:00, with the transfer scheduled at 1:00. They make this whole deal about not wearing perfume and emptying your bladder before you go. So showered, peed, and commenced freaking out.

Ah, what would my first IVF cycle be without several waves of panic? The clinic I go to offers you Valium for the transfer. So I become preoccupied with taking it. Or not. or maybe yes. On one hand, I was clearly so worked up about my transfer that I was having trouble staying calm. On the other hand, I was so tired of all the chemicals coursing through my veins that I didn’t want to introduce more.

As corny as this sounds, I meditated on it. I went through one of my mindfulness exercises and realized I was more anxious about making the decision that the actual decision itself. So I got off the Valium train. I set a plan with Mr. O about how he could help keep me centered and parts throughout the visit when we would check in.

We were now off to the races.

The next several hours were tedious. There was a lot of water and a lot of waiting. Water, because a full bladder helps the ultrasound during transfer. Waiting because they were clearly behind schedule.

Oh, how I love the illusion created by moving you from one waiting room to the next. As I was moved from one, two, three waiting rooms, I was not fooled that we were 45 minutes behind. More to the point, my bladder was not fooled. Once I told the nurse that my eyes were literally watering in pain, she let me pee for 10 seconds. NOT ENOUGH, I TELL YOU.

Once we were ushered into Transfer Room B, I was waddling with my massive bladder. I told the ultrasound tech that I was pretty full, and she told me that was perfect. Until she scanned me and saw how full I was. Nothing like someone looking into your bladder and expressing shock. There is, apparently, too much pee for your own good.

Of course at this point, I have exactly no pants on. But I’ve been cleared for 20 seconds of peeing before the Doc comes in for the transfer and modesty can screw itself. I wrap a sheet around me and waddle out to the bathroom. I’m not usually one to wander around offices without my underware on, so this felt really weird. Not to mention that I ended up getting ultrasound jelly everywhere in the process. But yay for sweet relief!

Back in Transfer Room B, things are heating up. Lots of people come in and ask me my name and date of birth repeatedly. The Doc comes in, and the transfer process gets started in earnest.

The way this office is configured, it looks like the transfer rooms surround the lab. Each transfer room as two doors- one for the patients and staff to access, another for the lab and embryologists. Once I was deemed ready, one of the nurses opened the lab-side door and yells “Ready for transfer in room B.” The embryologist confirms “Ready for transfer in room B.” My little bundle of cells is escorted in, the actual transfer begins.

It felt a little bit like putting an order in a diner. Yes, Chef! Order up!

Throughout this process, I was focusing on staying relaxed. Or at least as relaxed as possible when your legs are in stirrups and your vagina is exposed to three relative strangers. The ultrasound tech pointed me to the screen (which I had been intentionally avoiding for fear it would send me into hyperventilation) and explained to me that I could watch the transfer. In seconds, what looked like one tiny air bubble appeared on the screen.

I’ve never been so freaking amazed by science in my life. Holy shit. Even if this doesn’t turn into a pregnancy, I was in awe. At that exact moment, there was the tiniest combination of mine and Mr. O’s cells hanging out in my uterus. This is a first.

And just like that, we were done. For the record, transferring is fine. Because my HSG and sonohysterogram were distinctly uncomfortable, I thought transfer would be the same or worse. Not the case. It may seem incredibly obvious, but with those other procedures you’re forcing quantities of fluid into your uterus. The transfer is just a wee bundle of cells. By comparison, it is practically delightful.

As we drove home, I looked at the small picture they gave us of the embryo currently nesting in my uterus. It’s so small. I can count the number of cells. For a split second, I found myself thinking “I wish you were bigger. I wish there were more of you. I wish…” And I stopped myself.

I haven’t thought about parenting in a while. After over 2 years of trying, it seemed so far outside my purview. But if I am going to be a parent, I refuse to start by putting my own outlandish expectations first, by wishing my child to be anything other than he or she is. My job now is to harbor that little mass of cells, to offer it shelter and safety. But that’s it.

So now we wait. My official pregnancy test is scheduled for Friday December 5th, and a whole new debate begins.

To preemptively pee on a stick or not to preemptively pee on a stick. That is the question.