24 Weeks and Counting

21wk-us copyHello there! I’m still here – and still pregnant! And words cannot begin to express how grateful I am for this fact.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about pregnancy that stands out among all others, it’s that – for better and worse – it is all consuming. Some days, I get so wrapped up in thoughts about baby registries and glucose screening tests and the awesome sensations of feeling this little guy kick, that I forget to take the time to appreciate how much of a miracle this all really is – and how very, very lucky I am to be experiencing it.

Not that I don’t still get nervous about the things that could go wrong. After struggling to get here – and watching so many other couples continue to struggle – I am acutely aware that pregnancy is just one (big) part of the battle for a healthy baby. But after losing myself to overwhelming anxiety for the entire first trimester, I’m making a more conscious effort to live in the moment as much as I can. Yes, bad things can still happen. But the odds are far in my favor that everything will be okay. And if it’s not, no amount of worrying now is going to make it hurt less, so I might as well enjoy this time.

I realize that readers who stumble upon No Kid on the Block may be more interested in my infertility story than my pregnancy story – and I totally understand. I’ve been there. However, as this blog was intended to chronicle my journey to parenthood, I figured it was high time for an update. Here are 5 of the most exciting milestones we have been fortunate to achieve.

We “Graduated”

After one last trip for an 8.5-week ultrasound on Halloween, our RE sent us packing. While I was relieved to bid farewell to our exhausting four-hour commutes to the Bay Area, I was pretty nervous about leaving the place and people that had become so familiar. Especially nerve-wracking was the month-long wait until my first ultrasound at our new midwives clinic (conveniently located 15 minutes (!) from home). I’m embarrassed to think of how much time I spent Googling miscarriage rates and reading through sad story after sad story of lost pregnancies after infertility. My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced one or more miscarriages, no matter what the circumstances.

We Finally Starting Sharing the News

I called my mom to tell my parents our news after we got back from our last RE visit, making it clear that it was still too early to know if this would be a viable pregnancy. I guess I was trying to protect her by not getting her hopes up. Silly me, to think I could stifle her excitement! I think it took all of her willpower to not spill the beans. J

P waited longer to tell his parents, until just before Thanksgiving. Even though they had known we were doing IVF – as had my parents – they were shocked. I don’t think they ever thought they would actually get the opportunity to become grandparents. Honestly, seeing our parents’ enthusiasm has been the happiest part of our journey so far!

As for everyone else, I kept waiting to get to a point where I was comfortable announcing the pregnancy – until I realized it would probably never come, and I just needed to bite the bullet. We told the rest of our family when we went home for Christmas and it was so surreal to have our secret finally out in the open. I think what really surprised me, though, is how comfortable we became talking about how we got pregnant. Hands down, the most painful part of infertility for me was feeling that I was going through it alone, secretly and quietly. Once we started talking about our struggle, we learned that other people we know are dealing with the same thing. At Christmas, we learned that a cousin and his wife have been dealing with infertility for years.

It’s a Boy

Since the beginning, I was sure our baby was a girl – and for a totally crazy reason (seriously, you’re going to think I’m nuts). See, the Sunday before our FET, I lost one of our two chickens, Rose. It was awful. I found her badly injured and spent hours frantically trying to track down a clinic that was not only open on the weekend, but was willing to examine and possibly euthanize a chicken. My husband was stuck at an event all day, so I was all on my own. Finally, after hours of agonizing and researching how to humanely kill a hen, I found a kindhearted vet about 40 minutes away who was able to very gently put my sweet pet out of her misery. (I should point out that our chickens are dear pets, and we’d had the original two for four years. I think because Rose was the first in our fur-and-feather family to actually die, it came as a shock.

Anyway, when I got my positive pregnancy test, I was in such disbelief that things might actually work out that the only way I could stifle my doubts and anxiety was to convince myself that it was meant to be because…this is so embarrassing to admit…because somehow the baby was a reincarnation of Rose. The chicken. Yes, really.

I know this sounds absurd, and I don’t think I really believed it. I don’t believe in reincarnation. It’s more like I was comforted by the idea that the soul of my feathered pal was somehow living on? It was just such an incredible coincidence; one being I loved was suddenly, inexplicably gone, and another appeared. It was also a coping mechanism, I’m sure. I started affectionately referring to the little embryo as “Rose,” and when I’d become overcome with anxiety, sure that something was wrong with the baby, I’d be like, “Rose, are you in there?” And I felt like she was.

And so it went for months. At our NT scan, the ultrasound tech even said that, while she couldn’t tell us with certainty what we were having, she could confirm that she did not see a penis. Which of course just convinced us further we were going to have a little girl. So when we went in for my 20-week ultrasound and the tech pointed to our baby’s very obvious little boy parts and said, “What do you see?” I dumbly stammered something like, “Ummm. I’m not…sure?” Seriously, my brain could not comprehend the possibility of a boy. I had been dreaming of braiding hair, reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books, the name Rose. I had given no thought to blue clothes, circumcision, or the frightening (to me, anyway) possibility that one day I might have a kid who wants to play football.

Once it sunk in, of course, I started to get excited! I hate the color pink, I’ve never been good with hair or makeup, and just because I have a boy doesn’t mean he’s going to be a sports jock – he’s gonna be who he’s gonna be. All of a sudden, it started to feel so much more real. There was no speculating any more – now we knew. All along, “it” had been a “he.” Since then, we’ve been able to settle on what we think will be his name – and have even started referring to him by it. Our little Baby C.

We’re Going to Hawaii Next Month

Hearing pregnant couples talk about such frivolous activities as babymoons used to make me want to hurl. All I wanted to do was become a family of three, and here were these people going to exotic locales for last hurrahs as families of two. It seemed so unfair. And yet here I am now, a total hypocrite, planning a babymoon of my own.

Since we first got on this infertility train, I feel like we’ve been running nonstop – especially since we added our puppy Elvis to the family. He is a handful (or as we like to say, a hound-ful) and we haven’t had more than a few hours alone since we brought him home in July! So we’ve decided to cash in our Hawaiian Airline miles and fly to Oahu for four days in March, when I’ll be 27/28 weeks. For us, it’s not so much a chance to vacation before baby, but a chance to step away from our business and dog obligations long enough to really slow down and savor this special time while it lasts. I haven’t had a real vacation, a relaxing vacation, for a long time and I am really looking forward to floating in the ocean in my (yikes!) bikini.

It’s Finally Starting to Feel Real, Sort Of

 I’m feeling kicks and punches, reading up on labor, and starting to make serious baby purchases like our crib. I’ve started talking about “when” we have a baby instead of “if.” I’m finally starting to believe this could happen.

Of course, I don’t think it will seem real until they place our little boy on my chest (and then I suppose fantasy will come to a crashing halt as reality sets in, with its own sets of new-parent trials and tribulations!). But for the first time, the dream of that day feels within close reach. And while, just like many other expectant couples, we sometimes have our doubts – about whether we’ll make good parents, about if we’ll make the right choices, about if our kid will grow up to be a good person – I know that we’re up for the task. I know that we’re ready.

An Update

So I’ve been avoiding this blog – mostly because I’m crazy-busy, but also because I wasn’t sure how to handle making a much-needed update.

Yep, I’m pregnant. Peed on a stick eight days after we transferred two frozen embryos fully expecting to see nothing at all. We were just about to head out on a weeklong trip for our anniversary, and I wanted to get the disappointment over with so I could let go and enjoy myself.

Instead, I saw the faintest hint of a line. That line continued to darken each day, and eventually I got the call from my RE’s office that the second beta had confirmed I was “definitely pregnant.” They didn’t offer my numbers, and I didn’t ask – partly because I wasn’t thinking clearly at that point, and partly because I think I really didn’t want to know.

I should be happy. And I am! But I’m also overcome with anxiety. I always told myself if I was ever lucky enough to get that elusive BFP, that I would relish it – enjoy every moment of being pregnant – without dwelling on the reality that it could all be taken away from me so quickly. Gosh, I wish I could keep the promises I make to myself.

I’m ashamed at how frightened I am at the possibility of having a miscarriage. I’m afraid my suspected poor egg quality means this baby (or babies?) is chromosomally doomed. I’m afraid that when we make the four-hour trek to my RE’s office this Thursday, that there will be an empty sac with no baby. Or a baby with no heartbeat. Or everyone will look perfect, and I’ll breathe a big sigh of relief – and then go on to miscarry just weeks later.

These are all totally plausible scenarios. At the same time, the rational part of me realizes that I’m wasting my time by obsessing. If there’s a chromosomal abnormality, that’s just the way it is. Better to miscarry than continue carrying a child that is unable to survive. I know this, and yet I still have moments each day where I work myself into a frenzy of fear and angst.

I know how fortunate I am. Many people never get pregnant with their own eggs. I had begun to believe it wasn’t possible for me, either. I know I should live in the moment – be realistic, but also hold on to hope. I want to learn to be mindful, really I do!

Anyway, that’s why I waited so long to post. I’m embarrassed that I got what I wanted, and I’m still not satisfied. If I’m so much closer to having a baby, why does it feel so far away? Does infertility ever loosen its grip on emotions? I’m starting to think not.

IVF#1, or How I Survived Egg Retrieval & Lived to Tell the Tale

2-Day Embryos from IVF#1Holy crap. I can’t believe I actually survived my first IVF cycle! Well, not quite. I’m exactly halfway through the two-week wait (which may just turn out to be the worst part). My first beta is Monday, but I won’t know the results until my second blood test on Wednesday.

Egg Retrieval – Getting Over Major Anesthesia Fear

I haven’t mentioned this before, but IVF has been a huge hurdle for me due to (among other reasons) a near-debilitating fear of anesthesia.

When I was 10 years old, I broke my elbow pretty badly and we were told the bones might need to be pinned. I remember listening to the doctor talking to my parents about the risks of anesthesia, including the possibility that my heart could stop and I could die. Um, what?! Now, as an adult, I realize doctors have to go over this stuff for liability reasons. But as a child, I was horrified. The minute we got to the parking lot, I was pleading with my parents to not agree to the surgery. Whether they took pity on me or couldn’t afford the procedure (money was pretty tight back then), it never happened.

But the anesthesia fear followed me, and I spent the next decade living in fear that I would be put under when my wisdom teeth were removed and would never wake up again. I was so freaked out that I actually convinced my dentist to pull them out while I was awake. I mean, I was numb and everything – but I was not under sedation. I clearly remember hearing him crack my teeth into little pieces and watching him extract the shards of what were once my extraneous molars. And the whole time, I sat there and thought about how happy I was to be alive.

So as you can imagine, I was more than a little nervous going into the egg retrieval.

I knew that IVF was our only chance at having a child so I had resigned myself to it. But as the big day grew closer, I became more and more anxious. I scoured Google for statistics, grilled fam,ily members on their reactions to anesthesia and asked my RE one more time whether she would pretty-please consider conscious sedation that would leave me groggy but awake (no dice).

On the morning of the retrieval, I was so scared I could barely speak. I truly felt like I was being marched into the electric chair. Once it started happening though, the procedure couldn’t have gone any more smoothly.

The anesthesiologist was gentle and kind. I worried the IVF would hurt, but I barely felt the needle going in. He gave me some kind of drug cocktail, and – though I was still scared – I remember feeling at peace with everything. It didn’t even freak me out when he placed various monitors, or stuck oxygen tubes under my nose. I don’t even think they asked me to count down from 10 before I was out. The last think I remember is the RE asking me to scoot my butt to the end of the table, and the anesthesiologist telling me the more powerful drugs were going to kick in. Next think I knew, he was doing something to my IV line and telling me the procedure was over.

When I woke up, I was so. freaking. happy. I was a little out of it – I wasn’t babbling gibberish or anything, but I was sort of slow at finding the right words – but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!

Even when the nurse told me they’d only retrieved 5 eggs, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. Usually I’m the eternal pessimist, but this time I was like, hey, that’s 5 times better than 1! At lunch afterward, I kept telling my husband how thrilled I was to be alive. It was a rush.

The Transfer – And Then There Was One

Eventually, reality set in and I started to worry that, with just 5 eggs, we might not end up with any embryos. What if none were mature? What if none fertilized, even with ICSI? I’d been told that if my eggs weren’t developing properly, they could have thicker shells. What if they fertilized, but didn’t grow? Or what if they grew, but not normally?

It turned out that all 5 fertilized, but one arrested after the first day. By the second day, we had one 5-cell embryo and three 4-cell embies. All appeared to be top quality with no significant fragmentation, but the RE explained to us that grading is pretty arbitrary before day 3. However, she scheduled a day-2 transfer because she believes that, especially in those with few eggs and dubious quality, the uterus is the best home for embryos.

So now the question was, how many do we transfer? My husband and I are both afraid of multiples. However, after failed Clomid and injectable cycles in which I produced multiple eggs, I was leaning toward two because I knew it would increase the odds of one sticking. Hubby, however, thought we should be conservative on our first cycle; if it doesn’t work this time, we know we need to try two next time.

In the end, I caved and agreed to transfer just one. This could end up being the dumbest decision of my life, as I realize now how low the odds are of conceiving with just one embryo. I’ve been second-guessing my choice every day since. But I think that deep down, I wasn’t ready to accept the risk of twins – not just yet.

At the transfer, the RE said they wanted to grow the embryos another day before freezing. By day 3, one more had stopped growing and two ended up in the freezer. I’m not sure what quality they are or whether they’ll survive the thaw, but for now it appears that – if the 5-cell embryo they transferred doesn’t stick – we have two more chances.

The Wait

So here I sit, 7 days post-transfer, feeling decidedly un-pregnant. I had a dream last night that I peed on a stick and it was positive but, because I’ve had that dream before and it has yet to come true, it left me feeling more sad than hopeful. Maybe it’s all the progesterone I’m on (Endometrin up the hooch thrice daily – yuck!) but I’m getting worried. Or maybe I’m just scared. For the first time, we know for sure that an egg actually fertilized, that a combination of our genes – something entirely new – was actually taking shape. And there’s a chance that it died.

Every time I think infertility can’t get any harder, it does. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope that someday, one way or another, this will all be a distant memory.

Update: IVF and Our New Puppy

The good news: On July 3, we finally brought home the puppy we’d been waiting for! Meet Elvis, our sweet, cuddly and highly energetic Beagle. He came with the name, and being that my husband is a musician and we own a music store together, it was too perfect to change.

Elvis the Beagle - Getting a puppy during infertility treatmentNew Beagle Puppy, Elvis

The bad news: Getting a 10-week-old puppy while doing IVF – especially your first IVF cycle – is quite the challenge. I know, I know. Duh, right?

The truth is that, while we didn’t ever think we’d end up starting the IVF process the same month we brought home a pup, we knew that we could very likely be doing some sort of fertility treatment – and we were committed to devoting lots of love, time and energy to our new addition, no matter how busy we were.

(Disclaimer: I know that so very many animals are wantonly purchased – and ultimately abandoned – so I feel it’s important to point out that my husband and I are dedicated, responsible pet owners raised by parents who were dedicated, responsible pet owners. Our cats (and our chickens) are basically our children. We’ve never surrendered a pet – and don’t plan to, no matter what life throws our way.)

I think one of the reasons we ended up agreeing to a July cycle was a misunderstanding with our clinic. My RE gave me the option to try one more injectable cycle back in May, but we were just too busy – and we couldn’t do June either, because P would be in Europe for two weeks with his band. Getting impatient, I emailed her with the suggestion that we do IVF in July after he returned, naively believed a July cycle meant starting in July.

The clinic scheduled me in, and I was instructed to begin birth control pills in June. But because I wasn’t contacted for a consultation – literally, there was zero communication other than my RE’s thumbs-up to my email suggesting IVF – I had no idea about timing (not to mention costs!).

When I finally called wondering what the heck was going on, they scrambled to schedule a phone consult, during which I was notified I would need to begin Lupron and an antibiotic in little over a week and provide payment shortly thereafter. The calendar had me coming in for a baseline ultrasound on July 3 and starting stims on July 4 with a projected egg retrieval and transfer in mid July. Whoa.

At this point I was freaking out because I realized we were supposed to pick up a puppy in early July, and I had been thinking we’d have at least a month between getting our dog and the egg retrieval.

Keep in mind that hubby was gone during all of this, which added to the stressfulness of the situation.

So, yes, it’s been insane. If I could go back in time, I would postpone our first IVF cycle. (I did actually consider it, but I was too embarrassed to back out after already starting birth control.) But you know what? It’s okay.

Fortunately I work from home and P works just down the street, and we’ve worked hard to carve out lots of time for Elvis. My in-laws stayed with us for the first several days after we brought him home, and my mother-in-law has graciously agreed to come back up and puppy-sit during the egg retrieval and (fingers crossed) transfer. In fact, she’s delighted to come back to help because she’s fallen head over heels for the little guy. (Of course, having P’s parents with us around the clock is another source of stress as I’d like just a little private time (both for myself and with my husband) while going through this process, but I realize that beggars can’t be choosers. I need to be thankful for their willingness to help!

Maybe it’s really for the best that it’s gone down this way. I have a long history of obsessive rumination and infertility has brought out the worst in me. The worry is still there, but being occupied every moment of every day leaves little time to dwell on it.

On the one hand, I’ve done so much doctors recommend against. With a young puppy, I’m not sleeping much, I’ve been eating whatever whenever for convenience, and, yeah, I’ve had plenty of cortisol-raising stressed-out moments. On the other hand, when I’m thinking positively, I tell myself this is the best possible practice for a baby – the baby I hope will be a best friend to Elvis someday! And if this IVF thing doesn’t work, I won’t have time to wallow in my sorrow. I’ve got a fur baby to raise.

By allowing myself to stumble headfirst into an overwhelming position, I’ve forced myself out of my comfort zone. And when your comfort zone includes loads of worry, anxiety and sadness, maybe that’s a good thing.

So thank you, Elvis. Thank you very much.

Getting a puppy during IVF is a little crazy