March 31, 2009
Note: For those who don’t want to read about pregnancy, pay attention to the titles of my posts from now on. Titles beginning with 7w0d etc. will be pregnancy-focused. Titles without such dating will be relatively safe — I may occasionally mention something pregnancy-related in passing, but the focus will be on infertility or other non-pregnancy topics. This post, as you can see, is pregnancy-focused. Read if you like, or don’t if you don’t. If you’re not in the mood, go read Monday’s Show and Tell — that has nothing to do with pregnancy at all.
I always vowed that, like a good infertile, I would not complain about pregnancy side effects. If only I could get and stay pregnant, I was willing to embrace anything. Weight gain? Woohoo! Back pain? Big deal, I always have back pain. Puking my guts out? Bring it on.
Up until I learned there were twins at 6w0d, I was embracing all of the minor side effects I was experiencing. Nauseous, not enough to be debilitating but just enough to feel really pregnant. More tired than usual. At last!
When the ultrasound tech (my favorite person at the RE’s office) asked me how I was feeling, I told her “a little nauseous.” She said, “You don’t get any sympathy for that.” I agreed that I didn’t want any. I was grateful to be in this position. Good infertile.
The day of my first ultrasound, I had an acupuncture appointment. My acupuncturist asked me if I was short of breath yet. Nope. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or suggestibility, but the next day, I started getting short of breath. Going up a single flight of stairs left me winded — more than 3 or 4 flights normally would. Fine, I’ll take it. Good infertile.
Then I started having trouble getting through multi-hour events at work. But, I had my ginger hard candy at the ready, and I toughed it out. I tried not to let on. Good infertile.
By Friday, 6w3d, everything had changed. I couldn’t get myself to work. I couldn’t even check my work email. Too tired, too sick. I took two naps that day. I managed to websurf and to feed myself throughout the day, but nothing else. I was not prepared to be this immobilized, this early. I was fully self-aware throughout; it’s a strange sensation to feel awful while experiencing joy about it. Good-and-bad infertile.
Saturday, 6w4d, was better. My first-ever pregnancy massage (hooray!). Then a trip to the pottery studio to pick up the batch of my latest creations (they are wonderful; I will show them to you soon and even give some away to readers). Dinner with my oldest (longest-standing, not most elderly) friend, who was in town for the day — well, not my town, but another one that is vaguely in the region. The 2.5 hours in the car wasn’t easy, but I was pretty good the rest of the day. Good infertile.
Sunday, 6w5d, was the worst yet. The urgent work stuff that I’d avoided on Friday was still looming, yet I touched nothing. The idea of going up one flight of stairs to pay bills on the bill-paying computer was too daunting. The idea of doing any work whatsoever was daunting — even booting up the work computer was too much. The idea of opening emails that said, “Why aren’t you at work?” was too daunting. Even posting Show and Tell was daunting. I was horizontal for literally 20 out of 24 hours, mostly watching TV. When DH took over the TV to watch basketball, I went elsewhere in the house to watch DVDs. Talking to my mother on the phone and pretending to be normal for 20 minutes was overwhelming. Bad infertile.
One bright spot: when my mom asked me, “Anything new?”, I had to hold myself back from bursting out laughing. No, nothing new. Discretion and boldfaced lying are apparently the same thing.
Throughout the unpleasant Sunday, I maintained self-awareness. I thought about women who don’t want their pregnancies as desperately as I do, and those who don’t want them at all. Of course they complain! It sucks! I’ve felt more acute pain and fatigue post-egg retrieval, but that passes quickly. Feeling bad is bad enough, but the prospect of feeling equally bad or getting even worse for months to come feels, at times, unbearable.
Monday continued to be pathetic. By 3pm, I hadn’t managed to drag myself to work. I decided that I would go in after 6 so that I didn’t have to see anyone. Yeah, that didn’t happen either. I did finally check my email though, and actually there were fewer fires to put out than I anticipated. Bad but not-so-bad-after-all worker.
Honestly, if I knew that a baby or two would result at the end, I’d embrace all of the side effects even more than I already do. “At least I’m still pregnant” carries the tacit flip-side of “but I may not be pregnant tomorrow.” The naïve pregnant fertiles don’t tend to embrace their side effects, but they also don’t tend to worry about losing the pregnancy many times a day. They don’t exclaim happily every time they go to the bathroom (which is constantly) because there’s no red blood — trust me, when you exclaim “Yea!” in public restrooms, you come out of the stall to some strange stares. When fertiles are asked to do something a month before their due date, they don’t think, “I can only go if I lose the pregnancy” and say maybe. They just say no. (Or maybe they say yes because they assume that at 8 months it will be no problem?)
I thought I knew what I’d be in for when I finally did get pregnant again — I’ve had 5 years to anticipate since M/C #1. As with most aspects of infertility, it’s simultaneously worse than, and not as bad as, I imagined.
Non-whining whining over. Tomorrow, you get to hear about a “field trip” that I’m going to take today on the way to work. See, sometimes I actually do leave the house.
March 30, 2009
When training dolphins, usually training is very systematic: behavior directly followed by reward. But occasionally, the trainer provides something called a “jackpot”: a bigger-than-usual reward, sometimes without the dolphin doing anything at all, just because.
Why do I know this? I happen to know a lot about dolphins. Dolphins actually aren’t my favorite animal, but they’re high on the list. In high school, my room had all sorts of photos of dolphins. I wore dolphin earrings, necklaces, airbrushed t-shirts, printed t-shirts… The dolphin presence has declined since then, but it’s not gone entirely. If you look at my car keys right now, you’ll see a tiny dolphin charm.
Lori had no idea about any of this when she sent me a delightful gift out of nowhere — a jackpot, if you will. She also didn’t know about my particular enjoyment of hematite (the shiny round beads).
Lori can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think she even made the card herself. She never ceases to amaze.
She said, “I see you as a cerebrally playful creature, much like a dolphin. Graceful, too.”
We’ll see if she still agrees with that assessment when she meets me in person soon. I suspect that meeting Lori will be my real jackpot.
Have I ever mentioned that I am so thankful for blogging? Not because I receive random gifts in the mail, which is also awesome (thanks!!!), but because of the people. And for a misanthrope like me, that’s saying a lot.
Many of those wonderful people can be found at Show and Tell.
March 26, 2009
Let’s back up.
The first meeting of the support group occurred in November. One woman got pregnant before the first meeting, and we never met her. Almost every week someone else would get pregnant and drop out. Usually after an IVF or another treatment, but occasionally without treatment. One after another, they kept disappearing. Sometimes a new member would show up, and the next week she’d be pregnant.
After the holiday hiatus, the support group leader told me that she and I were the only ones who still weren’t pregnant. There were two other women who hadn’t been able to try for a while (one post-op recovery and one husband with an extended absence). She and I were the only ones who possibly could have conceived yet did not.
She and I were also the veterans who had dealt with infertility/loss the longest, and invariably the two of us would be the ones to answer questions for women newer to infertility. Sometimes the meetings were a mix of support and information, but sometimes the meetings involved two hours of other people asking us questions. A little annoying, frankly, and not really what I signed up for.
I saw the disbanding coming. I knew that once I would be unable to attend (whether due to scheduling or pregnancy), the group wouldn’t last. I just didn’t know it would happen so soon, or in this way.
I felt a little bad for causing the demise of the group, but I felt worse having to make the announcement to her.
I tried to be gentle and sensitive, because I have been on the other side of that conversation too many times. She has experienced a great deal of loss, and so I talked about being pregnant with twins “for now” and not knowing what the future would bring.
She was really shocked. She also said that she was happy for me, but she was as shocked as I was when I heard about my first beta. She made fun of me for my certainty about the futility of the IUI cycle.
Today’s Thoughtful Thursday question: Have you felt guilty for leaving others behind in your journey? It can apply to any kind of journey: the quest for parenthood, getting married, finding a partner, losing your virginity… anything that we want and can’t necessarily achieve instantly.
I never felt guilty about meeting or marrying DH because it happened so young that most of our friends were not even looking yet. Virginity? I was on the slow side for that one.
Infertility, of course, is the big journey for me.
With my first pregnancy in 2004, I was the only infertile I knew, so I had no reason to feel guilty. I was unequivocally happy then, albeit briefly.
With my second pregnancy last year after IVF #1, I knew about the pregnancy for such a short time that I barely got a chance to tell anyone, and those I did tell were not infertile.
Now, I have the support group, a few infertile IRL friends, and the entire blogosphere. I am leaving a lot of people behind. I hope that most of them will join me soon, but I know that it will take a while for some and that parenthood will never come (at least through the method they anticipated) for a few.
Of course, I’m not sure that I’m leaving them behind. In an instant, it could all be gone and I could be right back where I started.
I also don’t feel like I’m really leaving them behind. I am not that kind of infertile — I am not the kind who forgets. Seven years makes a pretty permanent impression. I will continue to blog foremost about infertility. This won’t turn into a pregnancy blog or a parenting blog; discussions of pregnancy and (hopefully) parenting will occur through the lens of infertility. If I did forget about infertility, I would have good reason to feel guilty — but what’s funny is that if I were that oblivious, I wouldn’t even realize that I should feel guilty.
Have you ever felt guilty about succeeding while others continued to fail?
Note about the title “Ten Little Indians” to those unfamiliar: It’s a children’s song that involves counting backwards from 10, with each one disappearing progressively. There’s actually an even more racist version that I never heard as a child. There’s a similar song about Ten Little Monkeys jumping on the bed, who one by one fall off and bump their heads. In this case, death/injury = pregnancy/parenthood.
March 25, 2009
I was so sidetracked by yesterday’s ultrasound that I didn’t get a chance to talk about Monday night’s episode of 24.
For those who watch it on delayed TiVo like I do, don’t worry, there are no spoilers about the plot. The only spoiler is about a particular stand-alone scene.
DH rightly points out that one expects to see the occasional mention of infertility on shows like ER that have a medical focus or are “for chicks” (or both, as he would argue for ER). One does not expect infertility to come up on a thriller show like 24.
We were both taken aback during this week’s episode — much pausing and rewinding ensued. A very minor character was first depicted on the phone with his very pregnant wife, who is carrying twin girls. Later, that characters ends up explaining to Jack Bauer that he agreed to be in cahoots with bad guys because he and his wife had been trying to conceive for three years, and that the treatments had been so expensive and “not one penny” had been covered by health insurance.
Infertile victory! A little political message sneaks in for the masses.
It’s probably not ideal that the guy was depicted doing shady stuff, but it also conveys the desperation of infertility. C’mon, I know that plenty of you have thought of doing something desperate to pay for IF treatments. Anyone want to fess up?
March 24, 2009
Turns out I’m not “eating for 12” after all.
Two teensy heartbeats, 129 and 125. Everything where it’s supposed to be (fetal pole, sac) and measuring at the right size.
DH remains highly cautious, but “supportive at appropriate times” as he put it. He did get a little excited at the prospect of being done with treatments forever. I am cautious but also on the brink of happy. Much less scared than when I thought there might be lots and lots of babies in there.
Sooooo relieved that our discussion of selective reduction will not be an issue for me — but glad that we talked about it, because it will be an issue for others now and in the future and it’s something that will be raised, at least in theory, for many infertiles. The usually matter-of-fact Dr. Full Steam Ahead also seemed relieved that he wouldn’t be making the news with the first undecaplets in history.
Thanks for all of your well wishes, throughout this process.
We won’t be telling anyone IRL at all for a while, except for health care providers of course. I know that the internets will keep my secret safe.
March 18, 2009
Today’s topic is a controversial one; a topic that is extremely relevant to many people dealing with infertility, yet which I’ve barely heard even mentioned in the blogosphere. As you may have noticed, I’m no shrinking violet. I’m not afraid to tackle the topic head-on — even if the thought of actually dealing with it scares me shitless.
Let’s talk about selective reduction.
It’s a topic that I thought a lot about during IUI #5 (my first FSH cycle), then forgot about once I moved on to IVF. Now, after my preposterously high 2nd beta, it’s back on my mind.
I truly don’t know how many gummy bears I’ll see on the ultrasound next Tuesday — hopefully not zero, of course. Maybe it will only be one — that would be fantastic. Two would be fine. More than that and I start to get very worried. Lots more and I freak-the-hell-out. Mostly because of the incredible risks of carrying higher order multiples — prematurity, low birth weight, disabilities, death. With triplets, the odds are almost 50/50 that the pregnancy will be lost entirely or that one or more of the babies will die after birth. With more than triplets, the risk increases even more.
I’ve written before about the reasons why I would choose selective reduction, although I have always desperately hoped that I’d never be faced with that decision and although I know that it would break my heart and haunt me forever.
Of course, prevention is preferable. I would never transfer a large number of embryos in an IVF. Many patients or doctors choose to cancel FSH cycles when there are too many follicles. But, the option of canceling an IUI cycle due to a high number of follicles has never come up for me, because the odds of even one baby sticking have been so low. Cancellation never even occurred to me with this most recent IUI, because it was the cycle that I gave a 0% chance of working and was doing just to meet an insurance requirement.
So, let’s say that without irresponsible actions (for example, transferring 6 embryos after having multiple successful IVFs in the past), you ended up pregnant with higher-order multiples. How many would be enough to make you consider reduction? 2? 3? 4? 5? 6? More? Or would you never consider reduction no matter what, even if the lives of the babies were in jeopardy? What if your life were in jeopardy?
I won’t know my true answer unless/until I’m faced with it. But, I’m pretty sure that 4 would be too many. Maybe 3. DH’s number is definitely 3. He says they’re only “theoretical children” at this point anyway. This decision is much easier for him.
I am hoping so desperately that I won’t actually have to deal with this decision, but I think it’s good to think through preliminary plans while I’m relatively calm. And, since I’ve seen so little on this topic among ALI bloggers, I’m very curious to see what people think.
What would your number be?
March 17, 2009
I had my 21DPO beta today. The good news is that I’m still pregnant. The I’m-not-sure-if-it’s-good news is that I’m really really pregnant.
This wasn’t like that.
This was more like my contest in September to guess the size of the vase that Lori won in the bridge contest in August. The height of the vase in question was 3.25 inches; the guesses ranged from 8 to 12 inches. Wishing4One triumphed by being the least wrong.
In this case, the winner was the person who was the least wrong: Julia from Life After Infertility and Loss.
Guesses ranged from 287 to 3950, with a median of 2418. The Betabase median at 21DPO for singletons is 1221, so the guesses were on the high side but reasonable given that my 12DPO beta was also on the high side.
The Betabase median for twins is 2514, and for higher order multiples is 3504.
I have blown all of those out of the water.
Yes, you read that correctly. That is not a typo. My beta is almost a week ahead of the median for singleton pregnancies, and almost double the median for 21DPO triplets or more.
When it rains, it pours. Feast or famine.
Ultrasound a week from today. Before, I would have been afraid that I would see zero heartbeats. Now, I am afraid that we will see a great many heartbeats.
When I was still hungry after dinner tonight, DH joked that I am “eating for twelve.”
Have I mentioned that when it rains it pours?
Maybe the beta is just high. Maybe I’m defying the odds once again by having a high singleton beta, just as I defied the odds by not getting/staying pregnant for 7 years, or as I defied the odds by going through 10 treatment cycles including 2 IVFs without success, or as I defied the odds by getting pregnant from a perfunctory IUI that had no chance of working.
Or maybe I’m about to defy a different set of odds.
I’ll show you Julia’s prize soon. I need to pick myself up off the floor first.