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She’s here!

19 Jun

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She arrived last thursday, 5 days after my due date, 7 lb and 13 oz.  Sleepless and overwhelmed with joy.  This journey cannot be summarized in words right now. I am just soaking in every moment.   

 

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Turning the corner- Finally moving to the other side

21 Jan

Last week I finally made it over the hump.  The week began with me completely freaking out about another loss.  It started with my advanced pregnancy scan which was a huge relief in most ways.  The baby looks normal and I am SO thrilled, relieved, overjoyed about that.  However, at the end the maternal fetal medicine specialist mentioned that because of the position of the placenta (low placenta) that we should schedule another ultrasound with her in six weeks.  What triggered my concern was her comment, “I don’t think you need to avoid sexual activity or go on bed rest YET”.  That last word “yet” was the thing that haunted at me.  Even though everything looks totally fine down there, her commend triggered my looming fear that my body would manage to fail yet again.  So the next day when I was having pelvic pains my mind jumped to assuming the worst, like I maybe this means I have incompetent cervix and should be worried now about a second trimester loss.  When I scanned the internet for information it only made me feel worse.  According to Web MD there is a higher risk of incompetent cervix in women who have had medical procedures in that area, including D & C’s.  “Damn!  I’ve had 5 of those!” is what went through my head.  In a fit of worry I gave my health insurance nurse hotline a call and she calmed me down saying it was likely normal ligament pain, suggesting that we abstain and just talk to our OB who we were scheduled to see in a week.

So I stayed on pins and needles all week and felt very tentatively pregnant, even though we made it to the 20 week mark, really looking forward to some more information from the OB.  I will call her now Dr. Awesome as she is the OB I switched to after my awful first experience with Dr. Jerk, the head of the Department.  I’ve actually seen her for two of my previous pregnancies, so we go way back. So far back that I almost didn’t recognize her with her blond hair all turned grey.   I guess she stopped coloring or time has been really rough on her, it’s only been 2-3 years.  When we did finally see her, it was amazing.  I had no idea what a thirty minute consultation could do.  One by one she relieved each of my fears.    I made the mistake of going with Dr. Jerk for our first visit because of his availability (it would have been at least 3 weeks later to see her) and because I thought with his years of experience he’d actually have more to offer.  Clearly, not the case, I think it just gave him a big ego. Thank you to everyone for pushing me to switch!  The clinic made it sound like we were committed to one person but when I begged to switch they were really accommodating in the end.  The only bad thing is since it is all one clinic we’ll likely bump into him again.  Whatever.

So Dr. Awesome totally got her name from this first face-to-face visit in years and our first visit for this pregnancy.  This conversation is  why:

Dr. Awesome: “No, you don’t have an incompetent cervix, it is CONFIRMED on the ultrasound.  The D & C’s DON”T matter”.

Me: Wow! I had no idea you could even confirm this.  What a giant weight lifted!

Dr. Awesome: “Your pains were actually small contractions brought on by sexual activity, namely orgasms and male semen.  It is TOTALLY normal and actually good for you, esp. at the end of pregnancy for relaxing the cervix.  99% of pregnant couples are doing it too, so go for It!”

Me: Really?  It’s a good thing?  Who knew? (Mr. Star smiles).  I guess we don’t need to abstain anymore…

Dr. Awesome: “Also, this is NOT a high risk pregnancy , even with your history of loss and your age”

Me: REALLY?

“Yes, you don’t have asthma or heart problems or diabetes or major obesity or other physical complications.  Seriously, there are high risk pregnancies out there, but this is not one of them”

Me: Wow, that is really, really great news! (disbelief now a giant leap of joy in my brain) 

From there I had no big burning questions left.  With my fears pushed aside the conversation turned and we started talking about birthing classes (apparently you have to sign up now as they fill up early), safe pre-natal exercises, even cord blood donation.  My brain was in overload.  This is happening!  I left that day a different person.   I was pregnant!  I was not just pregnant but actually expecting, a word I had reserved for “real” pregnant people in the past.

That weekend the lights went on and I had the realization, “I am 20 weeks along, this is it, this my pregnancy.  Enjoy the moment now!  Get on board! ”  Now embracing of the pregnancy I poured through the books and pamphlets from the OB office that had been tucked away and even picked up more books on the topic online.  I signed us up for the recommended classes (child birth preparation, infant care, infant CPR, baby safety, etc.).  I even went to my first pre-natal yoga class.  I don’t have much of a bump, but i don’t care anymore, it just feels like the right thing now.  We started brainstorming names we liked, something I hadn’t done since my naive times in my first pregnancy.  Finally we started the task of preparing the house, actually mapping out where a crib would go and starting a list of stuff we need to get.  When I had lunch a few days later with a friend who offered her maternity clothes I eagerly offered to pick them up.  I was ready now!

So this is where I am.  I still embrace my IF identity and even variously listen to the Bitter Infertile podcast regularly.  And I will always be a hard-core RPL-er.  But for now I do feel like I’ve landed on some solid ground and am welcoming this new unknown,  this new start, and (fingers crossed), this new little life!

Started spilling the beans

11 Dec

I started spilling the beans a little this past weekend.  It felt really scary at first, but then was like a weight lifted.  I always pictured myself bursting into tears and gushing about all our troubles along the way.  Instead I was able to tell some friends and my brother that we were expecting and they instantly responded with joy and excitement about us becoming parents.  After telling some of our friends I actually had trouble sleeping that night, questioning if we made the right choice, if it was really “safe” yet.  Even though there is no real “safe” time I feel like this is the closest we’ve ever been.

The following morning we went to a brunch party and I was totally set on making the announcement.  There were plenty of quiet pauses in the table conversation to jump in, but I completely froze. I was a stressed mess thinking about if I should or shouldn’t and when and preparing myself for the response.  Mr. Star kept giving me looks like, “say something” and I just shut down like I couldn’t do it.  It just didn’t feel right somehow.  I don’t think we were really ready for that level of attention.  I have to just trust my gut that even though it sounded like a good idea, it just wasn’t the right time.  If things continue they’ll find out eventually one way or another.  Right?

Telling has been a different experience than it was in my fantasies.  I have been able to say we are pregnant and at the same time keep the long process that got us here to myself.  Somehow I worried that I’d have to have a full on conversation revealing the whole deal, all the losses, the IVF, the going to Mexico for LIT, the gluten-free diet and acupuncture.  All the crazy shit I’ve been going through for the last 5 years.  Instead it’s just “we are pregnant and due in June”, end of story.  It’s almost like the other stuff never happened, at least as far as they know.

I find I have one leg still on infertility/pregnancy loss/grief island and the other in this new mainland of baby joy/parent joy.  I go back and further and find myself right on the border.  I feel the draw to join the mainland, but I don’t trust it, like the bridge that takes me there is going to bust at any moment or my passport will be rejected.  It’s too good to be true, so I waver and I think that is what kept me from telling my friends at that brunch event.  I just felt like if I made a big announcement it would all come crashing down.    I am waiting for some official sign that everything is going to be ok and I can relax, but I am not there, and maybe I won’t be until baby Star actually arrives.  For now, I am just going one step at a time, cautiously tip toeing forward, excited at each additional day that goes by taking us closer.

How important is biology?

25 Jun

Coming back after our Maui vacation it was really hard to face all this again and even to come back to blogging.  For a week I felt like I was a different person and was able to take a real break from the grief and stress.   It all started right up again when I returned.  Just like before, when my mind wanders it goes straight to the grief/stress/feelings of hopelessness.  After my one week break, at least I know there is another side of me in here that can be happy and relaxed and isn’t defined by the events of the last 4 years.  Because of this I came back feeling restored with batteries recharged and much better prepared to face the ongoing and seemingly long road ahead.

So here I am looking ahead and considering our options.  Before we left our IVF doc recommended we move on to surrogacy or egg donor suggesting those as more likely to work after my 6 losses.  Shock set in, tears were shed and the fantasy of the miracle of bearing my own biological child one day died.  Since then I picked myself up and started shopping for donors and surrogates and have now entered the world of the donor agencies, screening profiles and taking stock of how much all of this stuff costs and how much just goes to the agency itself and lawyers.

On Friday (two days ago) I had a follow up with my original RE, the one I had my previous 3 natural pregnancies (via monitored cycles and Femara).  She and I have been working together now for over two years.  After seeing her so much over the years (and her seeing so much of me, ALL of me, from ultrasounds, 3 D&C’s and 1 laporoscopy, + other visits) I have a deep trust for her and I think she knows me and my body better than anyone (even me).  In our discussion she took another perspective and felt like surrogacy was maybe a bit farther than we needed to go.  She suggested looking at 5-day chromosomal testing with an IVF cycle.  The thought is maybe with 5-day testing we could actually get more embryos than we did with the 3-day testing we did for our first cycle.  According to the research, some that look abnormal on day 3, may look normal on day 5 and vice versa.  Of course, this raises the question of why didn’t we just do 5-day testing the first time!  Our IVF Dr. seemed to think the pros of doing a fresh cycle outweighed the cons of the 5-day test that requires freezing.  So here is the plan, we are moving ahead with another cycle with 5-day testing.  PRAYING for lots of embryos.  If we get 4 we will put 2 in me and leave the others for a surrogate.  The beauty of frozen (if we have any that survive) is that we don’t have to decide everything right now.  However, if we only get 2, I might not want to risk them being implanted in me. Or maybe we will find out the embryos are all abnormal and won’t waste time on a surrogate.

Meanwhile we met with a surrogacy/egg donor agency on Saturday.  It oddly gave me a lot of optimism about our options if we want to go that route.  We started talking even about egg donors.  That process is so much less expensive and more manageable compared with surrogacy.  Also there are way more donors.  Both my IVF doc and my RE seem to think that maybe I can’t carry MY embros, but there is a chance that maybe it would work with a donor.  the reasoning is that we tested positive for something called DQ-alpha.  My husband and I have a high match (we aren’t genetically different enough).  Because of this (the theory goes) my body doesn’t recognize the embryo as a baby (which triggers a pregnancy response) and instead thinks it is a strange part of me and kills it off.  If that is the case either egg donor or surrogacy would solve it.   Surrogacy is a safer bet, but a way huger deal.  It all comes down to what is more important, the genetic relationship or the pregnancy/birth experience.  So that is the choice swirling in my brain right now.  I have little information to go on to make the decision and very few role models of people who were successful with either one after recurrent loss.  In fact for recurrent loss I am only familiar with two outcomes- miraculous inexplicable success that just randomly happened OR adoption.  Do you know of any other outcomes?  Also I don’t know of any cases of egg donor or surrogacy successes.  They are rare enough, but particularly rare after recurrent loss.

Meanwhile I am praying that I will get inexplicably lucky and have success without having to make this choice.  Don’t we all pray for this?  I don’t know anyone else who was debating between these two.  Normally you have one issue or the other and the choice is that or adoption.  Mr. Star is still squarely against adoption leaving me to choose one hard thing or another.  Tomorrow night is our wedding anniversary (8 years!) and we are spending it appropriately at the Stanford Seminar- “Options for Building Families” which explores all these third party alternatives.  It is perfect for us because we are basically exploring them all.  I am going to make a leap and guess that all the panelists are happy with their decisions and love their children.  I’ve never heard anyone say I wish I hadn‘t adopted or used an egg donor, etc.  I think when the baby arrives and the bonding starts your brain responds and you really are genuinely thrilled with the outcome.  Hopefully a healthy does of amnesia comes in as well helping you forget the pain you experienced getting to that point.   In a way I feel like whatever works in the end is what was meant to be and I will be genuinely happy with whoever the child is that results.  In the meantime I struggle with having to make difficult choices of what path to take, hoping for the one that after such a long journey leads us to the shortest and least painful path.

Last day on Maui

19 Jun

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Modern Family: Baby on Board

24 May

Last night Modern Family took a big leap that won me over.  When I saw the episode title “Baby on Board” I thought, oh no, this is going to be another one of those sitcoms that makes having a baby look so easy.  The previous episodes hinted that Cam and Mitch were expecting a second baby, but completely glossed over the how part.  I figured they could gloss over this as they had that TV magic that causes babies to appear at the perfect time whenever the plot needs to introduce one.  The same magic that misleads impressionable naive viewers like myself  (pre 2008) into thinking that we too will be able to have a baby easily when we want.

I love the characters Cam and Mitch and I did want their dream to come true, but it seemed totally unrealistic for them to be having such an easy time adopting, twice!  The first baby arrived with almost no explanation as to what they went through.  I figured it was just my bitter infertile side coming out, so I chose to let the episode unfold rather than give in to my cynicism that gets in the way of me enjoying baby/birth-related TV episodes.  Resigned to see yet another couple have a happy ending, even if it seems unrealistic, I found myself totally surprised when the episode took a turn.  As Cam and Mitch were waiting as the birth mother gave birth, out of nowhere the grandmother appears and tells them in Spanish that the adoption is off and she is going to take care of the baby instead, rather than give it to strangers.  What?  Is this the cute and fuzzy sitcom I’ve come to know?  How could they build up the arrival of the new baby and then leave Cam and Mitch empty handed like that?  How could they build this perfect picture and then tear it down?  I was sad for the characters, but I found myself cheering inside.  Seeing mainstream TV characters crying in despair about how hard having a child is and how this just keeps happening to them was incredible.  I felt for that moment that they were speaking for me and for a moment validating and normalizing my everyday crazy talk.  At the same time it disproved the misperception/lie that adopting is an easy plan B as implied by the common phrase non-IFers like to give ” why don’t you just adopt?”.  Maybe after seeing this episode one less person will give that terrible unwelcome advice.

As they were describing their agony I felt for that that brief moment like the mainstream world acknowledged and recognized the grief and frustration of what setbacks to family building feel like.   Adoption loss, pregnancy loss, infertility- those of us experiencing these things can all relate to being angry, sad, frustrated, stressed out and beat up by this exhausting and demanding process that seems to take everything we have.  Ultimately I want to give kudos to the writers for forgoing the easy crowd pleasing baby arrival and keeping it real.  You guys get it.

Hang in there

22 May

It’s been quite a week.  Today would have been our first ultrasound.  I knew it wasn’t going to happen even when we scheduled it.  It still hurts to see the appointment come and go.  I am officially un-pregnant as my hcg is now under 2.  The good news is, that’s the last needle poke for a while.

The next question is why?  As usual, we have no explanation.  These things tend to be physical, chromosomal, or possibly immunological.  Because we did CHG, we already know the two that were implanted were considered chromosomally normal.  I was hoping to get some information from the immunology Dr. showing that it was an immune issue.  Their tests came back and showed that no, there were no immune causes.  We tested during the pregnancy and found that my immune system was responding fine with everything coming back as normal or slightly elevated.  So there goes that theory.

My new theory is that my unexplained repeat pregnancy losses all have one thing in common:  me.  Since I can’t pinpoint any specific cause, not even a specific body part or system that is causing this I am really left to just blame myself-  me as a person or my behaviors.  Maybe I should have grilled that burger longer… maybe I should have not been weeding so much…  Maybe I should have just given up a long time ago and started the adoption process.  By blaming myself it is almost easier to accept than to just think the world is a random scary place where unfair unexplained things can happen to anyone at any moment, or in my case, repeatedly happening to the same person again and again. Self-blame naturally leads me to feeling guilt, shame and embarrassment which results in me wanting to just isolate myself from the world and hide.  Each time I get the question “how are you?” I force myself to smile and say “great” when I really just want to tell the truth, but I can’t, at least not to most people.  Since I can’t tell the truth to most people it just takes so much energy to hide the truth and act happy that I prefer to hide at home alone.

The secret keeping and isolation that comes along with RPL is almost as bad as the RPL.  I feel like all my friends just had babies and jumped on a boat and left me abandoned on a deserted island.  I can see their happy status updates on Facebook and we see each other at BBQ’s with their little ones, but they seem miles away.  I feel like I have only 2 choices : be alone or be with friends and feel awkward.  When I stay away from them I feel even more guilty that now I am pushing them away.  I am to blame for my own isolation.    I am not sure what to do.  When we all get together with the kids I am just miserable. I feel like a giant spotlight is on me and my failure to have a baby.  Now that all of our friends (even the gay ones) have at least one baby it’s all they want to talk about and I feel totally awkward around them.  It’s just embarrassing to be there when they all start talking about being parents.  I hate being so lonely, but I hate these awkward social interactions even more. I want so badly to have good news and be able to rejoin my friends, but instead I just feel ashamed and embarrassed that we are still at square one 4 and half years later.  Actually it isn’t even square one, it’s more like negative six.

 

Here is some interesting information about the Hang in There Cat-

The image, of a tiny kitten hanging off a tree branch (or rope in the case above) with the words “Hang In There” has been around since the early 1970s. Many have tried to reproduce the original’s genius, while others, such as The Simpsons, have parodied the motivational poster. In ”The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” Marge sees the poster’s 1968 copyright date and says, “…determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That’s kind of a downer.”

One of the cats from the posters passed away last October, to which singer John Mayer tweeted, “That cat from the “hang in there” poster just died. Makes a man just wanna give up.”