Free To A Good Home

I’m a registered organ donor.  I’m a registered marrow donor.  I give blood.  I’ve considered being a kidney donor.  If I can help someone else by donating something that I have that they need, I’ll do it.

But, when it came to the question of whether to donate our remaining frozen embryo, I was initially dead set against it.  I couldn’t bear the thought of our potential child being out there without me knowing about it.  I never thought of my embyros as children when we were going through IVF, but now that one of those embryos actually became my child, I can see the potential for this final embryo to actually become a child. The thought of that child being out there in the world not knowing who we are and we not knowing it was not acceptable to me.

Thing was that Mr. X and I both knew that we would not be using it.  The main reason is that there is just one and we did not want to go through all of the procedures for a FET with just one embryo.  And, we did not want to do any more invasive procedures to have another child.  Once we had Rex, I was pretty certain that I didn’t want any more children.

That left the question of what to do with this last totsicle.  Mr. X first raised donating it to an infertile couple.  I rejected this, multiple times, but he was his usual kind and patient self, letting me get to my own conclusions on my own time.

Then, a friend needed embryos.  All of a sudden, I wanted to give her that totsicle.  Because I knew that she and her husband would give that child, if there was a child, a wonderful home. I would also know how the child was doing and growing.  In the end, my friend ended up not taking our totsicle.  But, by then, embryo donation became a much more viable and feasible option for me.  I did a little research and learned that there was such a thing as open embryo adoption.  I knew that I could do that.

I have no qualms about our potential child being raised by someone else.   As long as I can pick the family and know in my heart that the child will be raised with love and stability.  We’d love to be able to keep in touch, particularly so that Rex can meet his brother or sister.  But mainly to see how they are doing in this great wide world of ours.

Oh, New York, New York

I actually let my subscription to New York magazine expire a few weeks ago.  I just didn’t have time to read it on a weekly basis and there was no point in spending the money to keep it up if I wasn’t going to read it.  This meant that I didn’t see the latest gem of a cover complete with attention-grabbing headline (and the even more groan-worthy subheader “Why Parents Hate Parenting”) until Adele eloquently discussed it through the lens of multiple pregnancy loss.

I dutifully read the article while absently noting that none of the information contained within it was either a) new or b) different than what I have read time and time before.  What is new is the perspective with which I read the article.  Because, you see, I have been on both sides of the equation now – the primary infertility with multiple pregnancy loss side and the healthy baby parenting side.

I’ll get the obvious part over with. The article is right on one point: parenting is hard.  It is fucking hard.  It is so hard sometimes that you want to hide in the closet and cry.  It is joy, it is pain, it is sunshine and rain.  It is wonder and it is drudgery. But, as hard as it is, I don’t hate it.  There have been times when I really don’t like it, but never hate.  In contrast, I can say unequivocally that I hated being infertile and dealing with repeat miscarriages.  I hated that I couldn’t do what every one else seemed to be able to do with a lot less money and effort.

In acknowledging and agreeing (read = complaining) that parenting is hard work, though, I am not saying that I am not grateful.  Sweet Baby Toes, every day I am grateful. I am grateful that we were lucky enough to be able to afford multiple rounds of IVF.  I am grateful that we were able to use our own genetic material.  I am grateful that my body was able to grow this magnificent human being and bring him forth into this world.  I am so grateful sometimes it hurts.

And, I still remember oh so well how hard it was to lose our first two babies.  I literally woke up from my first D&C crying that I had lost my baby.  I remember the bitter sense of unfairness that not only did I have to wait two years and go through multiple procedures to even get pregnant the first time, I lost the baby anyway (and went on to lose a second, after our first IVF).  It seemed doubly cruel to me.  All told it took us almost five years to have Rex.  Five years.  Even lazy college students started and finished school in less time.  I was lapped twice around by at least one friend.

But, it’s hard to be grateful all the time about anything, not just about babies.  As the song goes, I can’t complain, but I will.  I freely grouse about my job, my husband, my parents, my house, the dog, the cats, you name any good thing I have in my life and I will complain about it.  Not constantly, maybe not even regularly, but one of the few things that keeps me sane in this world is being able to complain, to vent, to seek a little understanding of my daily trials so that I don’t feel as if I am the only person in the universe going through whatever bullshit is of the moment.

Understanding. Isn’t that we are all looking for at any given moment?  The feeling that we are not alone in our pain, our confusion, our sorrow, our little annoyances.  Unfortunately, there was little room in this article for understanding the perspective of someone dealing with infertility which is why the blithe complaints just seem like such a smack in the face to so many.  But, I understand.  I understand that the pain of difficult parenting is nothing compared to the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss. Nothing. Not even a pinky finger’s worth of difficulty.

Perhaps the parents in this article ‘hate’ parenting because they haven’t had to deal with the real hateful experiences that are infertility and miscarriage.

Better Late Than Never

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

Part of the reason is that there hasn’t been much news.  The other part is that I’ve had a hard time feeling like it is ok to talk normal things about my pregnancy.  Maybe I’m just a particularly sensitive person, but those posts by other bloggers usually got me right in the gut with the bright cheery discussions of nurseries, etc. that seemed to my wounded infertile mind as if they had forgotten the struggle to get there entirely and those who were still struggling.

Upon reflection, I understood that the part that bugged me was not the details (which frankly, I found interesting), but the posts that read as if they were written by a normal, happy, fertile pregnant lady.  The change always seemed so abrupt as if to say, “I’m cured!”  Meanwhile, I wasn’t.  (Why yes – I do have a problem with envy.)

I’m not cured.  I don’t think I ever will be.  But, I do feel that it is ok for me to share some details.  So, here goes.

If you are in a bad place right now, I’d strongly suggest that you move along.  I understand – trust me. I really, really do. I won’t hold it against you.  Feel free to come back later or block me entirely.  Do whatever you need to do.

I am officially in the third trimester.  That one is still sinking in.  Totally shocking, although at the time, it seemed as if the second trimester dragged somewhat toward the end there.  I look as if I have swallowed a basketball and it certainly feels like that when I bend over, which I am doing less and less.  Mr. X is still amazed at how hard the belly feels.  He continues to press his ear to it and I’ve warned him that one of these days, the kid is going to kick him.  So far, he’s been lucky. Little B gave the OB’s doppler a nice karate chop a few weeks ago.

I did my glucose screening and passed.  I studied very hard.  It means no gestational diabetes and no three hour test (which if I had to do, I was totally going to make a song about to the tune of Gilligan’s Island).

And, lastly – but certainly not least – I think it is high time to share with you just what we’re having.  I could make you guess – after all, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right, but this is one of those times where I’d much rather just say it.

It’s a little Mr. X.  Yep, a boy – and boy was he not shy about sharing.  As if it wasn’t obvious enough, the amnio did confirm this.  We were not all that surprised, frankly, because there has not been a female born of Mr. X’s patrilineal line since 1932.  And, if it had been a girl, we would have been worried about Turner’s given our prior history. Yet another infertility parting gift.

So, there you have it.  We’re still taking it one day at a time and that is suiting us just fine.

In Due Time

Normally, I’m a planner.  I love to plan.  It gives me a feeling of control where maybe I don’t really have that much control.  But, when it comes to planning for Little B, I panic with a capital P.

This is not a new phenomenon with this pregnancy.  It started right out of the gate when I was debating whether or not to pee on a stick.  As beta day grew closer, I would ask myself, do I want to?  For a few days, the answer was ‘no’.  Then, about three days before beta, I was working and all of a sudden, I wanted to pee on a stick.  As a benefit of working from home, I was able to do it right then and there.  Next was when I would take another test.  Again, I listened to myself and trusted that I would at some point reach a point that I was comfortable to take that next step.

I’ve been listening to myself about these kinds of decisions regarding pregnancy ever since.  I waited until our 15 week check up to shop for maternity clothes – and then only at Target where I would not be completely immersed in pregnancy.  I didn’t hit the big time (Destination Maternity) until around the 20 week mark because I knew that I could not handle it – and even then, it was still overwhelming.

The thing is, as the pregnancy progresses, the bigger decisions are beginning to loom larger.  We’ve been asked multiple times recently if we have begun to think about names (we’re waiting for now).  Closer to home, Mr. X has been gently prodding me to start making some decisions about the nursery.  Not only do I love to plan, I love to decorate and the thought of being able to transform a room that frankly I have really not liked ever since we moved in is intoxicating, except for one small detail.

It’s the nursery.

Most pregnant ladies, especially the first timers, would probably think that I am crazy or mentally ill, or both to be wary.  I prefer cautious.  I’ve already told him that we aren’t buying anything until the baby arrives safe and sound.  He countered with at least picking out things to which I relented.  The thing is, of all of the steps that we have taken so far, creating a nursery is by far the biggest and most permanent.  All I can think is, what if I decorate this room and make it adorable and something happens and I will be forever reminded?  Paint is a lot more permanent than a pair of stretchy maternity pants.

I told Mr. X that I’m just not ready yet to committing to decorating and he understands.  I just hope that I can find a middle ground between my anxiety and need to go cautiously and my growing desire to begin transforming that space into the future.

image: mumchancegaloot

That Old Infertility Magic

3324427905_977ffcd916These past few months, I have been neglecting my inner infertile.  I admit it.  I’ve been paying way more attention to the pregnant lady because frankly, she just demands so much time.  I need more maternity pants! Get me to the bathroom, again!  Get me this crazy exotic food that doesn’t exist anywhere within a 50 mile radius!  She has been rather vocal and consuming. But, my inner infertile is always there, waiting patiently to remind me of where I have been and ready to insert a nice reality check when required.  Apparently, today was the appointed reality check day.

Mr. X and I were walking G in the neighborhood this afternoon on a lovely fall day.  It was still light out and so inquiring eyes could probably see the bump.  I’ve only recently begun to not actively hide the belly.  I can if I need to, but I just didn’t feel like it today and I’m trying to get more used to putting it all out there, so to speak.

We run into a neighbor who we haven’t talked to in a while.  She has eagle eye vision and homes in on my stomach.  Eyebrows raised, she asked, “is there news?”

I respond, “I’ve grown a beer gut?” Not satisfying her.

Second try, “I’m dressed as a pregnant woman for Halloween?” Still no. She would not accept anything short of outright victory.

Ok, I said. “I’m pregnant.” Much squealing (her) ensued and then, came the total buzz kill: “Oh, our next door neighbors are expecting too! She’s 18 weeks and they just found out that they’re having a girl. They are SO EXCITED!”

I felt like I’d been socked in the gut. Again. And it wasn’t because my announcement was met with another one.  No, my supreme discomfort was because I was reminded of how much it took me to get to this point when I strongly suspected that my doppleganger had done nothing more exotic than have a few mai tais too many.  The usual and customary feelings hit me like a wave:  I felt like a lesser person again, an inferior and an infertile, perpetually incapable of bearing fruit.

My inner infertile took this opportunity to perch on my shoulder and whisper into my ear, “you know she got pregnant without drama and that she hasn’t had any of the issues you’ve had.  She’s actually excited! She can be excited, unlike you.  And, of course, she’s due in March, too.   So, don’t get comfortable there prego!”

Meanwhile, Inner Prego Lady immediately climbed into bed, pulled the covers over her head, and declared that she wanted to hibernate for the next four months.  She’s a dramatic thing.

We left soon thereafter and went about the rest of our walk.  Inner Infertile and Inner Prego were still in their various throes when the Ref stepped in to bring some clear thinking to the proceedings.  “First”, she said, “we have no idea how this lady got knocked up and frankly, it doesn’t really matter.   She’s also perfectly entitled to be excited.  We are doing just fine taking it one day at a time and anything more would induce anxiety attacks.  Besides, there are far too few measured, content but not overly excited pregnant ladies in this world.  And, finally, her pregnancy has nothing to do with ours.  It doesn’t change a thing nor should we let it have the power to. We can only be responsible for our sphere and she is not part of it.” Amen, sister.

Inner Prego peeked out of the covers and saw that the world had in fact not changed in the slightest. Little Bugger kicked her just for reinforcement. Inner Infertile went back to her retreate on the beach to her book and fruity alcoholic beverage to contemplate the concept that it really doesn’t matter how someone else got knocked up.

As for me, I was relieved to be reminded that I was solely responsible for worrying about me, and not someone else and their pregnancy.  Besides, Inner Prego has to go to the bathroom. Again.

image: FAB O LENS

95, 99, 100!

Less than two weeks ago, we were told that our baby had a 1 in 20 chance of having Down Syndrome.   It also meant that we had a 95% chance of having a chromosomally normal baby.  A week ago, we were told that our chances of having a chromosomally normal baby went up to 99%.  Today, our chances went to:


The amnio results were normal.

Statistics have not been my friend these past four years.  So it was hard to take comfort in 95% or even 99% because we know what it is like to be in that 1%.  I can relax with 100%.

Go Fish

My cell phone rang yesterday afternoon as I was on my work line with Mr. X. I had just been talking with him about hard it was to wait for the FISH results from our amnio. Like a predictable novel, it was of course the MFM’s office.

This time, it was the nurse who gave us the results of the FISH analysis: Normal, blessedly normal.  She of course immediately harshed on my mellow by warning me that these were preliminary.  I did remember, however, from our conversation with the MFM at Monday’s amnio that FISH is pretty darn accurate and the false rate is very low.  I later found literature that put the false negative rate at 1%. 

We still wait for the final amnio results, but we are grateful for this encouraging news.

ps – yes, we did find out the gender. And, sorry, I’m not ready to divulge. I’m enjoying having that little secret amongst us and the parentals for now.

Between Heaven and Hell

When we went for our nuchal translucency test a few weeks ago, the maternal fetal medicine specialist gave us several options for the blood test portion of the screening. We chose the sequential integrated test which would require blood work a few weeks after the initial scan to be able to get a more accurate result.  I went for that bloodwork on a Monday when I was 15w4d and was advised that we would have results by the end of that week.  The next day, we left for our long-planned vacation in the northeast.

Mira (on the wall)I wasn’t particularly concerned about the screening results.  The nuchal measurement was above the median, but still well below the 95th percentile and the initial bloodwork came back ‘normal’, although they didn’t give me a discussion of what normal meant.  I wasn’t going to press for it either since it was normal.

So, we enjoyed a few days in the Big Apple, seeing the sights, doing Broadway, and just being on vacation.  That Friday, we headed to the next portion of our trip – a cruise through New England.  We were giddy as newlyweds to get on the boat and enjoy the cruise.  First, of course, was the life boat drill that involved lovely dayglo orange life preservers and a demonstration of how to jump into the water if required.  We got back to our cabin and my cell phone was ringing.  It was the MFM with the results of our screening.  That’s where the nightmare began.

Our screening for Down Syndrome, aka Trisomy 21 was 1:20, meaning that there was a 5% chance of Downs, with all other results normal.  Unfortunately, it took several tries for me to understand what he was saying as the cell reception on a ship with tons of steel is not exactly ideal.  What was worse was that I had to go on the balcony to get any reception at all and so I was attempting to disguise the topic of conversation while also taking in what he was telling me.  Mr. X began to swear which frightened me more than what the doctor was telling me since he rarely ever swears out of anger.  He rarely gets angry period.

I was surprisingly calm as the doctor was doing his spiel.   I understood that it was not a final answer and I felt pretty certain that it would turn out just fine.  It was until he started throwing out the terms ‘terminate’ and ‘special needs’ that I began to really get worried.  It’s one thing to be told that you have a 5% chance that your unborn child has a chromosomal abnormality that could mean profound disability and quite another to be told that you can terminate the pregnancy you have worked for four years to bring to fruition or have a child who is labeled from birth as ‘special needs’.  In hindsight, I would have preferred him to simply leave it to what our options were for further testing rather than bringing up what to do in the event that the 5% chance came true.  That particular bell, however, could not be unrung.

So, there we are at the beginning of the cruise that we had been looking forward to as the ultimate escape and we are brought back to reality with one five minute phone call.  The first thing to do was to decide what further testing we wanted.  We both agreed at the time that we were not willing to undergo an amnio because the ultimate worst case scenario has always been having a perfectly normal baby that is miscarried due to a botched amnio.  The other options were an enhanced scan or do nothing.  We chose the enhanced scan which I called for and scheduled for a few days after our return.

Unfortunately, that was all that we could do at that point.  It was either stew or put it aside and go on with our cruise.  I am a stewer by nature and I was in fine stewing form after this.  Dinner was a blur as was conversation with our table mates. I could barely eat and wanted nothing more than to go back to our cabin and stare at a wall or Google.  I did neither, and had a terrible night’s sleep.  Everytime I fell asleep, I would wake up in terror at the thought of terminating if it came to that.

It wasn’t until the next night that matters came to a head and I was finally able to process all of the feelings that I had regarding the information we had not twenty-four hours earlier.  Mr. X and I were on our bed as we sailed away from our first port and I just started bawling.  I let it all out – my fears, my anxieties – and we talked it through.  We came to the conclusion that we needed to know and that there would be an end to this particular nightmare, even if it was not meant to be at that particular moment.  We talked about all of our options and what we would do if we had to make a decision.  Most of all, we talked about the 95% chance that everything was fine and that we would not let this ruin our vacation.  From that moment on, it did not.

We had a lovely trip and I was able to really enjoy myself.  For that, I am so proud and thankful and that is enough for me for now.

image: Mira (on the wall)

The Newest No-No

There are so many things you are told not to do in pregnancy. What not to eat, what not to drink, how not to exercise.  Nowhere, however, have I seen what I think is one of the most important no-no’s listed:

Do not Google While Pregnant. Ever.

This sounds like a perfectly obvious statement.  In fact, I have absolutely no trouble counseling others against the use of Google to research medical conditions.  Rationally, I know that it is just a recipe for unneeded worry and concern.  There is a direct correlation between the severity of the potential illness and the terrible stories and scary information Dr. Google spits up.  You can easily diagnose yourself with any number of exotic disorders within 15 minutes.

But, to be frank, I suck at taking my own advice.   So, when we scheduled our nuchal translucency test, I of course turned to Dr. Google for information.  I had no idea what the hell the test was and I wanted to be as prepared as possible for the actual test so that I knew what was going on.   In hindsight, I should have stuck with the nice, fluffy discussions on the non-technical pregnancy websites and left it at that. But, I was driven to find out As Much Information As Possible, including what happens when there is a bad result.  Forewarned is forearmed, right?

Normally, GWP would be considered ill-advised, but not necessarily off limits.  For me there is one little detail which makes  it truly dangerous: I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”) which means that when I have an obsessive thought , I have to compulsively Google to find information that allows me to be reassured and thus get rid of the thought.  Of course, Dr. Google doesn’t always cooperate and provide me with non-technical, credible yet reassuring information, which then heightens my anxiety and the loop starts all over again.  Ultimately, the only thing that can quell my anxiety is to see the little bugger in a scan or get other reassuring test results.

Since the nuchal test is seeking to find out the chances of the fetus having some pretty significant chromosomal problems, I was fit to be tied by the time I had exhausted Dr. Google.  I had a lot of obsessive thoughts about the potential outcomes of the test and my compulsive Googling was getting me no reassuring answers.   What was worse was that I had to wait until 4:30pm on Thursday to find anything out.  Needless to say, Thursday was a long day.

We had to go a maternal fetal medicine specialist for the actual test since they had the more sensitive equipment than my OB.  What our OB’s office lacked in baby stuff, this office more than made up for.  Gliders in the waiting room, pictures of babies everywhere, large pregnant women everywhere.  It would have been total sensory overload for me anyway, but as an infertile, I had to fight to urge to apologize to the receptionist for being an impostor (“I’m actually infertile, I just happen to be passing through”) and avert my gaze from the giant bellies around me.  So, I was too busy taking in this new experience to dwell on why I was there.  We were called back and in no time, I was on the table getting warm gel slathered over my lower abdomen.

And, yes, there was little bugger.  Looking a lot less like a shrimp and more like a …. baby?  Mr. X and I both must have uttered the word ‘surreal’ multiple times.  Being the last ultrasound appointment for the day meant that the technician was looking forward to having a compliant fetus who would get into the position she wanted with minimal fuss.  Ours was not that fetus.  It was taking its sweet time, doing a little thumb sucking, doing a little wiggling, teasing her by almost getting into position and then saying, no, sorry, not comfy.  All the while, the tech is smacking her gum which is one of my greater pet peeves in this world.  So it was, tap, tap on the computer screen, smack, smack with the gum.  She finally got the little bugger in the position that she wanted and zoomed in for the measurements.  Mr. X and I were watching the gigantic flat screen tv that was projecting the images and getting mildly freaked out by how large everything (including the nuchal fold) seemed. One thing that didn’t freak us out was that the baby was still measuring on target with a heartbeat of 162.

She didn’t give us any information about the scan, but also didn’t appear to be overly concerned, especially if her gum smacking was a sign.  She wiped me down and headed out, while we were left waiting in the room for the doctor.  The doc came in and we had a rather long discussion about my previous history of miscarriage.  When I informed him that both of our miscarriages were monosomies, he looked at me as if I had just spoken in Russian.  He had never heard of anyone who actually had back-to-back monosomies.  What can I say? I’m a medical anomaly.  Finally, we got around to the measurements.  Based upon the baby’s age as dated by the scan (13w1d – which was right on target as I was 13w1d on Thursday), the nuchal fold measurement of 2.2 was above the median but still well within the normal range.  We were blessedly nicely below the Red Line of Doom.  Of course, that is not the whole picture, which we will only get with the results of the blood test, but it was enough to allow me to breathe.

Needless to say, I did my GWP thing when I got home.  But, it was all  of 30 seconds and I was nicely reassured.  I will need GWP rehab, I think.

This Must Be the Place

Not only is this the title to one my of all-time favorite ever songs, this should be my new mantra in getting used to the idea that I am now a patient in an obstetrics office.  Not an infertility doctor.  Not even the gyno.  A doctor for pregnant ladies.  Whoa, momma.

We had our first OB appointment today, and it went very well.  Our OB is just adorable and super nice (in fact, I think she might very well be known here as Dr. Sweet).  Dr. Salsa hooked me up.  She took our (sordid) history and I got the impression very quickly that she understood that we were not her typical patients and that she was more than up to the task of dealing with our unique challenges.  The practice itself seems like a pretty low-key.  There was just one other person in the waiting room when we arrived and during our whole visit, we weren’t hurried at all.  What was really amazing was that there was not a single poster showing a baby in the whole place. for which I am truly grateful.  Even now, those are a bit much for me.  I was weighed and then I had to give a urine sample – which for a moment I thought was so that they could confirm what we’ve known for the last 10 weeks – but was really so that they could look for proteins, etc.  Then it was essentially a well-woman visit complete with the breast exam! and pap smear!  But, she was super gentle and it was fine.

Then she whipped out the portable doppler.  I had been eying it ever since we got in the room with a mixture of curiosity and anxiety.  Then, I was slathered with gel and all we could hear was …. my heartbeat.  But, I did not allow myself to panic.  I got dressed and headed over to the sono room where I had my first belly ultrasound, with even more gel.  And, of course, there was the little bugger looking a little groggy but perking up once he knew he was on TV.  We even got a little wave.  Heartbeat was 167 and measurement was on target at 12w1d.

We are set up to schedule the nuchal translucency test next week.  This must be the place.