Note: There’s still a winning answer (and therefore a pottery prize) available for my Blogoversary Contest. Go submit your guess right now! We’ll wait…

Answer submitted? Good. Okay, time for Thoughtful Thursday.

Thoughtful ThursdayAs you may recall, last week I quipped about the reactions I might get if I went to the drugstore to buy condoms.

As much as I’m sure you would all have enjoyed whatever happened, my fuse is too short right now to deal with wisecracking clerks. I told DH that he’d need to go to the store if he wanted to take advantage of the temporary respite from pelvic rest — but that I could not guarantee that I’d be able to overcome my concerns enough to actually use the condoms.

Always thrifty but more now than ever with the babies on the way, he refused to spend money on condoms unless they would definitely be used.

I told him that if we didn’t use them now, we’d use them eventually — if not later in the pregnancy, then certainly after the babies are born. He was dubious, but I guaranteed that we’d need them later. This led to a discussion of post-baby pregnancy prevention. Let’s continue that discussion here.

(In case you’re curious, at this point, no condoms have been purchased.)

It’s a funny idea, preventing pregnancy after years of infertility and a mind-boggling array of drugs, assessments, treatments, alternative treatments, healings, nutritional supplements, fertility charms…

Once upon a time, when I thought we were fertile, I assumed that we would practice sensible family planning after the birth of our first child to ensure ideal spacing between children. After we’d built our family to our desired number, we’d probably choose a surgical option to close the door on future conception.

(Pardon me while I point and laugh at my old self.)

Then, a subsequent once upon a time, when I knew that we were not fertile, I assumed that we would practice family planning immediately following the birth of our first child. Despite the low likelihood of conception, back-to-back pregnancies would be bad for my body and for the second baby’s health — and at that point, I had plenty of time (“You’re still young” was still true!). After a reasonable wait, I thought that we’d let nature take its course for a while, then eventually pursue more treatments if necessary.

Later, when I knew that we were really really not fertile, with basically zero hope of ever conceiving without a team of doctors, I guessed that after our first child was finally born (because I never stopped believing that treatments would eventually succeed if we tried long enough), we’d try for #2 without intervention just long enough to satisfy the doctor’s and the insurance company’s requirements, then jump back into treatments.

More recently, when I knew that I was pregnant with twins but did not yet know the sexes, I decided that I would never go back to treatments, but that if the babies were the same sex, we’d let nature take its course after they were born. It’s not impossible that given a decade of trying, a woman in her early-mid-30s could conceive a baby boy unassisted after having twin girls, or baby girl after twin boys. Not impossible, not likely, but somewhere inbetween. For the record, DH prefers to stop at two children, but would have gone along with this, knowing that I’ve wanted the experience of parenting a son and a daughter, if at all possible.

Then, most recently, since finding out that we are having a boy and a girl, I just don’t know anymore. DH is 100% satisfied to end our family building efforts with these two. I am probably satisfied, but I am currently unwilling to make a final decision. Maybe raising twins will scare me away from having any more children, or maybe I will yearn for more. We have firmly agreed that, assuming these babies successfully enter this world, we will never go back to treatments (hallelujah!). We will also prevent conception for the first year or so after the babies’ birth, for the health reasons described above (hence the guarantee that the condoms will eventually get used). But prevent conception forever? Or let nature attempt to take its (likely futile) course? Not a decision I can make today. But maybe some of you have your minds made up…

If your family-building efforts are complete, have you taken steps to prevent future conception, even if conception is extremely unlikely? I’m sure that infertiles will have very different answers than those who have dealt with recurrent pregnancy loss, that long-time infertility veterans will have different answers from those who struggled for a shorter time, and that those who needed third-party reproduction will have different answers from those who conceived with their own gametes and body parts.

If you are still family-building, what plans have you made in your mind for future pregnancy prevention, however distant and unnecessary it may seem? (Building off Mel‘s metaphor of having an empty seat at the table…) Once you have filled all of the seats at your table, will you take steps to ensure that you don’t need to pull up any more chairs?

24w0d: Milestones

July 28, 2009

There are all sorts of milestones that infertiles and babylost mamas mark (celebrate? cling to? white-knuckle their way to?). Milestones that regular fertile pregnant women don’t even know exist. While they’re counting months or trimesters, we’re marking a different set of dates.

  • ~5 days past ovulation: implantation, hopefully
  • ~9 days past ovulation: HGC may be detected by the more sensitive urine pregnancy tests (unless implantation was late, oh please G-d let the negative be because of late implantation and not what it always is)
  • ~3 weeks past ovulation: gestational sac can be detected by ultrasound
  • ~3.5 weeks past ovulation: fetal pole can be detected by ultrasound
  • 4-5 weeks past ovulation: heartbeat can be detected by ultrasound

Up until this point, many regular pregnant women don’t know they’re pregnant. We already have baby photos.

  • 8-10 weeks gestational age: heartbeat can be detected by doppler, meaning that those who get a doppler for home use can listen as often as they like to confirm that their baby is still alive
  • 18-20 weeks gestation: quickening, or feeling fetal movement, meaning that there are periodic indications from the baby saying, “Hey, I’m still alive! And I don’t care for orange juice!”

From here, some infertile pregnant women relax. But some, especially those who have higher risk pregnancies, have histories of loss, or worry a lot, keep on counting.

  • 20 weeks gestation: theoretically the halfway point of pregnancy, but for those of us who aren’t expected to make it to 40 weeks, the point at which people tell us it’s halfway and we make a face; also, depending on who you ask, the transition point between miscarriage and stillbirth
  • 22 weeks gestation: the cusp of viability, or the time at which a baby born can have a chance of life (only actually achieved by a few of those record-setting babies); this isn’t one that I’ve heard other bloggers talk about, but it’s one that I’ve had in my mind all along… I thought I’d feel better when I reached 22 weeks, but I didn’t
  • 24 weeks gestation: viability, or rather, the time at which a baby born will have a 50/50 shot at living
  • 28 weeks gestation: survival quite likely
  • 34 weeks gestation: if born, lungs may be developed enough to function without major intervention
  • 38 weeks gestation: full term for singletons; for many of us, a shangri-la

Regular pregnant women may be counting the days until they can get that baby out of their body (and meet their child), but we are trying to keep them in as long as possible, one day at a time.

My bloggy friend Carrie, who is pregnant with triplets (from a two-embryo transfer), has made a countdown calendar to 24 weeks. The dates of her own milestones are burned into her brain.

I always know the exact count for the current day. I get strange looks when people ask how far along I am and instead of “5 months” they get answers like “23 weeks 3 days!” But unlike Carrie, I can’t tell you the dates of any future milestones without consulting the calendar. All I know is today. There are no guarantees tomorrow, but today, things are okay. 

Some of those milestones shouldn’t be as big a deal as they are to me, because they are still pretty bleak — and also, there’s no reason at this point to believe that we won’t make it all the way (or as close to all the way as twins tend to go). But still, the milestones matter. Today I am 24 weeks, and that matters a lot. As much time as I may spend worrying about tomorrow, and a hundred tomorrows after that, for today, this is enough.

Blogoversary Contest

July 27, 2009

Last week I talked about different contests I’ve won and held, and the odds of winning. I promised a contest to celebrate my first blogoversary, featuring 2 in 21 odds.

Here we go!

There are two ways you can participate in this contest. You can go through each of the options, carefully reading the song lyrics and trying to select the best one (don’t worry, only a couple of songs are in French). Or, you can randomly pick one.

I’ve posted at various times about songs and bands that I like, especially when songs speak to me on an emotional level. I haven’t yet mentioned one of my favorite bands, Arcade Fire, nor my favorite of their songs. That song speaks to me more than any other on an emotional level, specifically about infertility.

Your job: figure out which song it is.

I’ve listed all of the songs on their two studio albums, with links to the lyrics and videos if you’d like to make an informed choice. They have quite a few other great songs on EPs, B-sides, etc., but I’ll be nice to you and stick with the albums.

First prize will go to the person who selects the song that sums up many of my feelings about infertility. Pottery prize.

Second prize will go to the person who selects the other song that has some strong infertility content for me. Different pottery prize.

One guess per person.

Edited to add: To help you avoid repeating others’ guesses, I’ll cross out the numbers of songs that have been guessed by someone else. Wow, you people really prefer Funeral to Neon Bible. Hint: The two winning songs are on different albums.

Funeral (read all lyrics; for music/video, click on each song title)
A1 “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
A2 “Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)”
A3 “Une année sans lumière”
A4 “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”
A5 “Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)”
A6 “Crown of Love”
A7 “Wake Up”
A8 “Haïti”
A9 “Rebellion (Lies)”
A10 “In the Backseat”

Neon Bible (read all lyrics; for music/video, click on each song title)
B1 “Black Mirror”
B2 “Keep the Car Running”
B3 “Neon Bible”
B4 “Intervention”
B5 “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”
B6 “Ocean of Noise”
B7 “The Well and the Lighthouse”
B8 “(Antichrist Television Blues)”
B9 “Windowsill”
B10 “No Cars Go”
B11 “My Body Is a Cage”

Have fun!

For those who aren’t regular readers of my blog, a little background on my mother. Most of my posts are of the “My Mom Says the Darndest Things” ilk, such as her views on politics, her relationship with my cat, and daytime television. These wacky exchanges are a combination of long-standing characteristics (at the best of times, she’s “absent minded” and has a short attention span, to put it nicely) and more recent memory decline. Last week she actually forgot that I am pregnant with twins.

(On the phone at 10:30 p.m.)
Me: I can’t talk to you right now, I’m eating.
Mom: Why are you eating so late at night?
Me: I have to eat all the time.
Mom: Why?
Me: Because I’m supposed to put on as much weight as I can.
Mom: Why?
Me: Because of the babies.
Mom: What babies?
Me: I’m pregnant with two babies.
Mom: Oh! Congratulations!

Since then she denies forgetting (or has forgotten about forgetting).

Then, today, a different conversation. Like the rest of our families, she doesn’t know anything about our infertility.

(Talking about a specific friend of hers)
Me: Have you told her that you’re going to be a grandma?
Mom: Yes. She said her son waited 5 1/2 years to have a baby. They had problems.
Me: Then they weren’t really waiting for those 5 1/2 years.
Mom: What?
Me: They weren’t trying to wait.
Mom: What?
Me: Never mind.
Mom: They had to do artificial insemination or something. That’s bad, right?
Me: It’s neither good nor bad. When people need help, it’s good if they can get that help and if it works for them.
Mom: I think your father and I had problems trying to have you. I don’t really remember.

Personally, infertility is not something I could ever forget, no matter how bad my memory got.

Thoughtful Thursday: BFF

July 23, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayFollowing up, sort of, on last week’s Thoughtful Thursday about the limits of the infertility sisterhood. That Thoughtful Thursday topic set an all-time record for consensus — everyone backed my decision not to befriend someone that I find unpleasant just because she happens to be (presumably) infertile, and most people said that in a similar situation they would also back off.

The day before that Thoughtful Thursday, I happened to hang out with Lori (Weebles Wobblog Wednesday?). She asked for a preview of the Thoughtful Thursday topic, and it led to a discussion of purposely befriending people, including strangers, just because they are in the same family-building boat (infertile, pregnant with twins conceived through treatments, adoptive parent…).

Meanwhile, while I was at the beach with Lori and her family, my husband was at the dentist. The hygienist is pregnant and due around the same time as I am, and she was extremely excited to talk to my husband. The next day at my own dentist appointment, the pregnant hygienist was off duty. The dentist, let’s call him Dr. Hipster (who is a bit younger than I am, has funkier glasses, and I’m sure has more exclusive taste in music) said about her, “She’s always enthusiastic, but she was off the charts yesterday. You and she are totally going to be BFFs.”

After getting over the shock of hearing a dentist use the phrase “BFF,” I thought about it. Why would I become friends with someone just because we’re pregnant at the same time? She’s probably not even infertile.

Then, this week, I attended my first birthing class. There was another woman there who was pregnant with twins, due just a few days before I am. My first thought? “New BFF!” As I talked to her more, my second thought? “Never mind. I can do better.” (I’m a tough friendship sell, clearly.)

Then I thought about my actual friends. Let’s review my closest real-life friends.

  • Ernie, best friend from high school: Gay and therefore situationally infertile; brother is biologically infertile; mother is clueless
  • Other best friend from high school: For over a decade has declared her intention to be childless by choice
  • Best friend from college: Female factor infertility, now parenting following IUI
  • Best friend from graduate school: Advanced maternal age, now parenting following IUI
  • Another close friend from graduate school: Not technically infertile, but TTC #2 when I was a year into TTC; had a miscarriage, then got pregnant again and for a brief time we were pregnant simultaneously; though not infertile, totally gets it
  • A third close friend from graduate school: Unexplained infertility, now parenting following low-level interventions (after ~5 years of trying without intervention)

Are you sensing a pattern? Notably, all but the latter were my friends long before TTC came into the picture. The latter had already started trying when we met, but we didn’t really talk about TTC until years later when I started having trouble.

No, I’m not so exclusionary (or single-minded) as to choose friends on the basis of infertility. But… there are definitely people who’ve been crossed off the list because of a combination of fertility and insensitivity.

As for making new friends, I’ve certainly been tempted before to create a friendship on the basis of shared infertility. That friendship ultimately never went anywhere because it didn’t feel right to pursue it when treatments had worked for me but not for her — we stopped being a match in our family-building paths.

When I start attending meetings of the local multiples club, will I attempt to sort the infertile wheat from the fertile chaff? Will I arrange playdates only with kids who were conceived in a lab instead of a bed?

Uh, maybe.

Have you found yourself trying to befriend people on the basis of shared family-building paths? If so, how has it gone?

Show and Tell: Odds

July 22, 2009

Show and TellI’ve been quite lucky lately. Aside from the whole getting pregnant thing, I’ve also won several contests online. Let’s review, with an eye toward the odds in each contest.

In February, as I have mentioned before, I won a handmade pillow when Kristin‘s car needed a name and I suggested “Manatee”. There were four people who made suggestions, with one entry each for the two prizes, meaning the odds were 2 in 8. Those familiar with 4th grade fractions will realize that 2 in 8 reduces to 1 in 4, but I think the true odds were still 2 in 8 because one person could theoretically have won both prizes. This contest was merit-based rather than random, though, so the true odds may have been different.

In April, I won a gift certificate for maternity clothing from Sticky Feet. Winning is a relative term, since I received a gift certificate for $50 then spent another $200 of my own money — it was pretty exciting to buy maternity clothes after so many years. (Apropos of the Thoughtful Thursday about doing it all from a couple of weeks ago, she is currently giving away a book on “Momnificent” balanced living.) My odds of winning that contest were 2 in 29.
(Out of respect for those who aren’t in a place to see such things, as a policy I am not posting belly shots in the body of a post — and in fact haven’t taken any at all so far during this pregnancy — but if you really want to see a faceless version of me wearing some of the clothes, go ahead.)

In May, I won a pair of adorable baby booties. I first entered a contest on Cool Mom Picks, where I was one of probably thousands of entries, then also entered a contest on the knitter’s blog, where I was 1 of 28.

In June, I won a bunch of YoBaby Yogurt, a bib, and a bowl from Gotcha Baby. Since the vouchers for the yogurt will expire before my babies are eating solids, I’ll have to eat the yogurt myself. Unlike yogurt, the bib and the bowl will keep until the babies are old enough to eat solids. Odds of winning that contest were 1 in 7.

Why am I telling you about the odds? Because I have a new contest coming soon: a Blogoversary contest! Because it was my Blogoversary two days ago!

Unlike the lottery, which I am too math-knowledgeable to ever play, blog contests tend to have excellent odds. All of my past contests have had excellent odds:

Bridge contest (which started an online and now IRL friendship between Lori and me, and also won her a vase): I didn’t set the odds in advance; 5 people guessed, though if a correct answer hadn’t happened, more guesses would have kept coming, but basically 1 in 5 (required actual knowledge of geography)
Prize for Lori

Guess the Size of Lori’s Vase Contest, in which Wishing4One won her own tiny vase despite being 250% off in her guess: 1 in 3 (required picking a number)
Second Prize

Creme Contest, for which Kathy won a bowl: After no one guessed correctly the first time, I reset the odds at 1 in 10 (required some combination of thinking and picking a number)

Dirty Laundry Contest, in which Neeta won her choice of artwork from Wall Blank: Odds preset at 1 in 11 (required picking a number)

Holy Fucking Shit Contest, a.k.a. Guess the First Beta, in which Fattykins got to pick anything I could carry back from Spain and chose pottery: 1 in 32 (required picking a number)
Vase for Fattykins

Guess the Second Beta Contest, in which Julia won a bowl that I didn’t manage to photograph before mailing: 1 in 13 (required picking a number)

The upcoming contest will have preset odds of 2 in 21 (two prizes available, mostly involving picking a number but some knowledge/thinking would be helpful). The prizes will be pottery that I made. One will be similar (though not identical, because identical work is impossible and undesirable with this style of pottery) to the dish that I gave Lori. That winner will have a choice of colors, in case they aren’t a fan of yellow and brown.
The other prize will be regular pottery, assuming next week’s glaze fire doesn’t end in catastrophe — if it does, I will be very sad, but I do have some other pottery stockpiled, so the second winner will get something good, not an exercise in Zen.

For those of us who have been screwed over repeatedly by the odds of successful reproduction, 2 in 21 is pretty good. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, see what else is going on at Show and Tell.

(Hello, ICLW’ers! FYI, after 7 years of IF I’m now 23 weeks pregnant with twins, but like most of my posts this one is infertility-themed rather than pregnancy-themed.)

Last month I mentioned that I’d been put on pelvic rest because of placenta previa concerns. I wrote:

The irony does not escape me that after so many years of sex being a futile baby-making chore, now that I enjoy it more than I have in my entire life, I’m not allowed to do it.

In the past, whether due to lack of interest or doctor’s orders, I could go months without sex, no problem. But now, these pesky hormones have made the past month torture. Happily (good news for many reasons, most of them related to the babies’ health and improved prospect for non-problematic delivery), Baby A’s placenta has moved away from the cervix a bit and I have been temporarily been removed from pelvic rest! Hooray! The midwife’s exact words were, “You’re going to be back on pelvic rest in a few weeks, so you’d better do it as much as you can now.”

But, now that I have the go-ahead, I’m nervous about doing anything to jeopardize this pregnancy. If I do get over my fears enough to have sex, I want to use condoms, because prostaglandins in semen can cause contractions.

Our condom supply has been non-existent for many years, so this would necessitate a trip to the drugstore.

I am hesitant to go because I anticipate comments from the clerk. Over the years, I’ve dealt with nosy clerks asking questions about HPTs, OPKs, prenatal vitamins, you name it. When an obviously pregnant woman buys condoms, I imagine some people will take it as an open invitation.

“Isn’t it a little late for these?”

I’ve been composing snappy comebacks in my head.

  • The truth: Actually I’m trying to prevent the prostaglandins in my husband’s semen from sending me into premature labor.
  • Not the truth: Pregnant women can still get diseases, you know. Now that I’m already pregnant, I’ve been picking up a lot of strange men — I mean, a lot.

Any comebacks to contribute?