Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Bowl Full of Jelly

Back over the summer, as I thought about the pregnancy unfolding over the months ahead, Christmas seemed sort of like reaching Boylston Street in the Boston Marathon (not that I have run a marathon, nor do I plan to try – particularly not in this condition): the last stretch, finish line in full view. Once Christmas came, the baby's arrival was right around the corner.

I can't believe we're here. Christmas is tomorrow? I still, at 35 weeks, don't believe I'm really pregnant. Seriously, many mornings I wake up and have to tell myself, you're pregnant, and feel my gigantic bump before it registers. I walk past mirrors and think, "Is it really real?" It's the feeling of having a deeply held wish – the thing you wanted above everything else – come true, and I'm still getting used to it.

One thing that would make me even happier, like kid-on-Christmas morning delighted, would be if people would stop telling me how huge I am. Seriously, enough, y'all. That's all I want for Christmas. If I can make it the next five weeks (four if this baby doesn't move down from transverse to vertex soon) without another person opining on my ginormousness, my Christmas wishes will have come true. How, exactly, do people (and by people, I mainly mean my own mother and other older women who feel the need to flash their veteran-mom creds by spewing all manner of old wives tales) tell me I'm huge? Let me count the ways:

-"Wow, you really ARE pregnant!" (Nope, just faking the whole bump and bed rest thing for sympathy!)
-"Oh, you'll NEVER make it to full term!" (Um, thanks a lot – you really know how to comfort a girl who's on bed rest praying every day that her baby gestates long enough.)
-"Are you sure you're not having twins?" (Yeah, I'm pretty sure – last time I looked it was no longer 1850 and a handy thing called an ultrasound had been invented.)
-"Sometimes one twin can hide behind the happened to my friend's friend's mother's cousin." (How would one even respond to this?)
-"You look big for x weeks." (Are you a member of ACOG? And do you have a tape measure or are you so good you can eyeball it?)
-"Oh but you're ALL baby." (To come to this conclusion, you would have to have checked out my ass to see if I've also grown there. Which is just all kinds of wrong.)
-"Are the doctors going to take the baby out early if he keeps growing like this?" (Yeah, because the NICU has been kind of slow.)
-"He's a hearty, healthy boy!" (Are you saying I'm growing a fat kid?)

I'm almost relieved that I'm confined to my house these days, because it had gotten to the point that I couldn't go anywhere without hearing one of these "helpful" unsolicited comments. I'd decided that if another stranger asked me in the elevator when I was due, I was going to look wide-eyed and say, deadpan, "I'm not pregnant." Curse bed rest for denying me that fun!

Seriously, unless you've earned a degree from a top-tier medical school, trained in obstetrics and have personally seen lots of pregnant bumps in a clinical setting (or you're a close girlfriend who I know isn't judging me), please keep your assessment in the same place you keep your political views and your real opinion of your mother-in-law/boss/nosy next-door neighbor.

Even if I don't get this Christmas wish (my mother is coming over tomorrow, after all), I wish you all a Merry Christmas, happy (belated) Hanukkah, enjoyable Festivus, etc. and a 2010 full of good things!

(I am huge, by the way. Truly, I feel about to pop. They're not wrong about that. It's just that I can only hear it from certain people. I'll try to get a good photo to post tomorrow.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I just opened an email newsletter with a list of tips on surviving the holidays while going through infertility, written by a well-known women's health expert who runs an amazingly helpful mind/body program for infertility (I should know – I took it twice in my two years of treatment). The email points out that the holidays can be brutally difficult for those in the throes of infertility (she's right), and outlines strategies for coping.

Reading the email took me instantly back to last Christmas, both a whole lifetime ago and only yesterday. How the season began with such wide-eyed anticipation and ended, finally, with closure on the pregnancy that wasn't to be. How raw everything felt after that ill-fated ultrasound, how perfect it seemed that the world was covered in frigid, unforgiving layers of snow and ice. How it seemed that I alone had been left out of the lighthearted festivity shared by everyone else. Last year, Christmas – in a cultural, not a religious sense, because the religious part filled me with peace, a sense that all things happen as they are intended – felt like a party to which I'd not been invited.

Several things helped me through – here are two. The first wasn't among the coping strategies listed on today's email, but I am a true believer in it nonetheless. It was, quite simply, retail therapy. After an ultrasound showing that perhaps the medication management approach hadn't worked to resolve my miscarriage (I had no idea what I was still in for), my husband and I decided to go return a couple of things at the mall and then catch a movie. While at the mall, we walked past a high-end British retailer, which was advertising a post-Christmas sale. Let's just take a quick look, I said, and my husband – eager to do anything to keep me calm and sane – complied.

As I flipped through a rack of coats, I felt it before I saw it: the silkiest cashmere trench coat with a detachable fur collar. Normally I would have looked at the price (even on sale) and dismissed it, but I already felt like I existed on a plane at odds with reality so I thought, why not, and pulled it off the hanger. If clothing, as many believe, like art can be transporting, this was evidence. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that when I put that coat on, I became a different person. I may still have been desperately grieving, but I looked damn fabulous doing it. It cinched in the right places and cradled me in pure luxury, and I decided that if there was ever a time for a splurge, it was then. I bought it on the spot.

I'm not necessarily advocating that everyone experiencing the grief of infertility during the holidays go out and buy a cashmere/fur coat (and please, if you're not a believer in fur just say it silently to yourself). But I am saying that for me, treating myself in that way was like telling myself that I deserved good things – and believing it. That seemingly superficial treat fulfilled me emotionally as well. I felt like I had something – even if it was just, for that moment, a thing – to look forward to again.

The other thing that helped me was given to me by a good friend, one of the first people I called about the miscarriage because she got it, and me, so well. She brought over a care package for me that included three CDs: one for moments of sadness, one for anger and one for hopefulness. I'm not sure which this particular song, "Ashes on Your Eyes," was on – to me it fits both "sad" and "hope" – but I played it so many times that, years from now, I may hear it and be once again in that time and place:

Ashes on Your Eyes - Deb Talan

Just about the time your heart breaks like a wheel

Not in a straight line, but all in pieces

Some you'll leave behind
on a road you won't revise

No, you won't revisit that dirty compromise.

Now you only dream in peaceful blue

The morning doesn't even scare you anymore

You are a phoenix with your feathers still a little wet

Baby, the ashes just look pretty on your eyes.

As with the coat, on the surface it is just a song but at the time it represented so much more to me – a perfect resonance with my emotions, a promise that I wasn't alone, a call for hope on the horizon. I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, I would soon dream in peaceful blue.

This year is different, fulfilling the hope that slowly emerged as I grieved one year ago. This year, my coat is in storage, and will remain there until next winter, when I've (hopefully) returned to my pre-pregnancy size. I'll take it out and, grateful for another Christmas, remember.

Monday, December 07, 2009

I Can't Complain

I've started a post three times now about a baby shower that was thrown for me by my mother last weekend, and I just can't get it out. Mainly, it's because every time I write about it I feel compelled to also talk about the shower thrown by a friend that was canceled because of my bleeding episode/bed rest orders. And then I complain about how disappointed I was about the whole thing. And then, remembering how, just one year ago, I would have killed to be in a position to have a baby shower to cancel, I feel ridiculous.

It's gotten me thinking about the emotional aspect of pregnancy after infertility. How truly challenging it is to navigate, in part because of the promises you make to yourself during treatment. About how you'll never be "one of those people" who waxes on about how happy they are. That you'll always remember how it feels to go through it, how others are still feeling right now while you're enjoying your pregnancy. And you certainly can't imagine ever complaining.

Except –and you wouldn't know this when you're making those promises to yourself, before you're actually pregnant – being pregnant after infertility is hard, too. I know that probably elicited some groans (I would have found it unbelievable myself) – at least you're pregnant, how hard can it be – but it's true. That feeling you get when you're going through a cycle, things are going well, and you're terrified that something will go wrong and bring you back to square one? It's a thousand times more intense when there's a growing baby inside of you. Every normal ultrasound, every healthy heartbeat you hear – they raise the stakes. Who would I be, you think, if something happened now? What would I do? Forget about it when something does come up, when you experience an actual complication.

And that's just the emotional aspect of it. Before you get pregnant, you picture yourself in maternal glory, a delicious bump on your belly (and only your belly, the rest of you naturally as svelte as ever), a radiant, halo-like glow surrounding you. You know what I say to that? Screw Hollywood. Thanks a lot Sarah Jessica, Heidi, Halle and the whole lot of you with makeup artists and personal trainers and access to million-dollar maternity wardrobes. Because the rest of us? Can't afford to stand up to your perfect-pregnancy images.

The truth is, pregnancy isn't always beautiful or comfortable. And it doesn't matter how much you wanted it, how hard you worked for it, how ever-grateful you are that you have it. Because when you have a fireball in your chest and toss and turn all night and have an odd painful numbness in your hip all day and can't leave your couch because you're put on bed rest and have hair growing in odd places, colostrum leaking out of your huge, painful boobs and see your first stretch marks, you know what? It's not all fun and games. You're human, not some Pollyanna Stepford Wife, and you don't have to pretend that these sucky parts don't exist. In fact, if you ask me, all the hard work you put in to get pregnant gives you even more right to be perfectly honest about what it's like – you get to commiserate about the less appealing aspects and seize and celebrate all of the moments of hope and joy you feel along the way.

The shower I had last weekend, while not exactly what I'd imagined (still on bed rest, I felt like the Pope or the Queen sitting in waiting on my couch while my aunts, cousins and longtime family friends paid me visit), was wonderful. My family – many of whom know what I've been through on the way here – was genuinely happy for me. They brought me the sweetest gifts, complete with a diaper cake. I reveled in the cozy kitschiness of it, this time-honored tradition that was finally, finally being celebrated for me. I got the milestone I thought I might never reach.

Believe me, I will never forget what that's like, wondering whether you will ever, ever see a baby shower invitation and feel joy rather than pain. I am right there with those who are still in the infertility leg of the journey. I truly hope to hear you both celebrate and complain about – profusely and unapologetically – your own pregnancy fears, discomforts, joys and surprises, very, very soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Orange You Glad I Don't Have Diabetes?

Just in case I wasn't having enough fun, in case I needed a little more adventure and intrigue, the nurse called me on Wednesday to inform me that I'd failed my glucose screening test. By one point.

Two thoughts went through my head. Primarily, I felt like things were starting to unravel with the pregnancy. Yes, I went there – as I always do. This wasn't just a screening test I failed, it was another Bad Thing that might be happening with the pregnancy, and why me? The other thought I had was: I get to leave the house. On Friday, I had to return to the doctor's office for a fasting three-hour long glucose test that would tell us whether I did, in fact, have gestational diabetes. The test sounded like a drag, but at least I would have a change of scenery.

The first hour went okay. I had the baseline test, and she only had to jab me once to get it (my arms still look like a junkie's from the multiple attempts in the hospital to get an IV in me). Then I drank the orange glucose drink, and it went down fine. Other than the long wait, I thought, this is no big deal. Then I asked if they could sneak me in with the doctor just to check the baby's heartbeat and ensure all was well, given the excitement the week before.

As I waited in an exam room for the doctor, a feeling of lightheadedness set in, which didn't surprise me. I'm the kind of person who needs to snack between meals, and never more so than during pregnancy. So I figured that the fasting would have this effect on me. By the time the doctor finished examining me (all was well) and they drew my blood for the second time, the feeling had intensified. They brought me to a different room where I could stay and wait out the second and third hours, and I figured if I just lay down I would feel better.

You know the feeling you have about tequila/Southern comfort/insert name of liquor with which you had some sort of unfortunate college-years encounter and now cannot even say, much less smell or even contemplate drinking? That's the relationship I now have with that orange drink, which I could feel sloshing in my otherwise empty stomach. As I sat in that room, waves of intense nausea and lightheadedness washed over me in succession. My husband went and got a nurse, whom I informed (possibly whining) that I would be unable to finish the test. She pleaded with me to finish – brought me a johnny and put cold towels on my forehead and the back of my neck to prevent me from fainting. My husband asked me if I could take my picture (he seems to enjoy capturing these charmed moments), and this time I didn't even care. The blood taker lady then came in for the second-hour test and told me that if I didn't finish, I would be treated as a diabetic – put on a special diet, the whole nine yards. The waves of sickness had let up a bit by then, so I somehow resolved to finish. And I did. Without fainting or vomiting. Victory, I'd say.

A huge lunch and a three-hour nap later, I had recovered from the ordeal on Friday. As I awaited the call with the results today, I knew it was unlikely that I actually had GD, but oh what the heck, I figured I may as well worry about it anyway. Turns out, I don't have GD. So the whole orange drink/near-fainting in the doctor's office thing was just for kicks and giggles.

As a practical matter for those of you who have the screening in your future: I now know that I should have fasted before that first test. The instructions I got from my doctor's office specifically said that no fasting was required, but since I only failed it by one point my guess is that would've made a difference. And it would've been a whole lot easier to fast before drinking that horror than endure the three-hour nightmare.

Also, while I am normal weight, because I have PCOS I had adhered to a pretty strict "good carbs" diet while TTC and for most of the pregnancy, because why not? I didn't avoid carbs completely, but I almost never ate "white" carbs, keeping almost totally to whole grains, and limited carbs and sugar overall. I was pretty disciplined about it, and after a while it wasn't even an effort. As my bump has grown, my discipline on this front has faded in direct proportion, and I'm afraid I may have fallen off the wagon a bit, particularly in recent weeks and with the arrival of Halloween candy on the scene. Although the nurse today said the one-point failure on the screening test now means absolutely nothing, I'm taking this experience as a wake-up call for me to get back on that wagon. Because it's healthy, and because what I put in my mouth is one thing that at least I can fully control.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Bed Resting

I was going to write something cautionary about not declaring that you've made any kind of emotional progress toward feeling adjusted and optimistic (a la my last post), lest you tempt fate, as it seems I did. But what's the point? I'm here, on bed rest, and we're okay. The baby and I. That is the important thing.

Here's what went down: I get to work last Wednesday morning and discover blood in underwear. Assume due to complete placenta previa that I think I still have (follow-up ultrasound was scheduled for Friday). Freak. Speed to doctor's office. Sent for monitoring at attached hospital. Transferred by ambulance (good times) to academic medical center downtown (NICU supports 28-week preemies). Hooked up to more monitors. Brought down to ultrasound. Previa discovered to be resolved (shock and wonder: then what is causing the bleeding?). Bleeding seems to have stopped. Transferred to lower-key floor for monitoring overnight. Bleeding resumes that night, intensifies in morning. Brought back down to Labor & Delivery. More monitoring. Baby looks beautiful entire time – blissfully unaware of drama. Bleeding seems to stop again. Brought back to low-key floor for more overnight monitoring. Released from hospital late Friday to bed rest at home. Where I've remained.

The experience was terrifying – I'm sure I don't need to describe that in detail. I don't think I've ever felt more vulnerable or out of control. Now that I'm home, I am calmer and more confident, but I still have moments of trepidation. We don't know why I bled, though the diagnosis when they don't know is almost always a placental abruption. So now the goal is to get me as far along in the pregnancy as possible, barring (knock wood) more bleeding. My doctor even said this morning that if I go to full term I could have a regular delivery. Nothing sounds better to me. A regular delivery, after so much irregularity.

Until then, just hoping and praying that things stay quiet, that this little boy stays healthy and that I, somehow, am able to stay distracted, calm and positive.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Movin' Right Along

So I'm back and still pregnant – undeniably so. Sometimes I see my reflection in a mirror or a window and I can't believe it's really me.

When you're in the thick of infertility treatments, as I was mere months ago, you think that once you're pregnant, you'll have crossed some sort of invisible line – that (at least once you see a heartbeat) you'll be somehow home free. You think that those who have crossed that line must feel a smug satisfaction, a sense that they have beaten infertility. That they must now be in a state of constant maternal bliss as they shop for baby clothes and choose nursery paint.

The reality, at least for me, has been much more complicated. Yes, there have been many, many moments of sheer joy and optimism as I look forward to the arrival of this long-pined-for child. But there have also been an equal number of moments of real fear, of obsessive worry.

The first trimester is about blind faith. You're told you're pregnant, but while you don't feel all that great, there's no physical sign that tells you, definitively, that you are. You count the hours until your next ultrasound, and for a moment while you look at that pulsating speck on the screen you feel at peace. But then you leave the doctor's office and there's nothing to do but wonder it's still alive. You recognize how fleeting it all can be, remembering what happened to you and so many others you know. You obsess about the symptoms you may or may not have, deluding yourself into thinking that they mean anything at all. You count the weeks until the next milestone, telling yourself that once you pass it you will allow yourself to relax.

In the second trimester, you reach some of those milestones. You've passed 12 weeks, you hear the heartbeat. You have two ultrasounds during which you see a real baby frolicking around inside of you. You may or may not call the nurse more than once, in a panic, begging her for an extra heartbeat check. That moment in which you exhale and feel that overwhelming sense of calm never comes, but you do feel a vague shift and a sense of growing confidence. You begin to expect that your regularly scheduled OB appointment might just be routine – you don't even play out the worst-case scenarios that used to seize your mind as you sat in that pregnant-lady waiting room. And then you feel bubbles inside that are definitely not the rumblings of your own stomach. And you forget yourself for a moment, you let yourself just be inside the awe-inspiring moment that that really is.

As I move into the third trimester (28 weeks on Tuesday), no longer fumbling, perhaps, but still a little uncertain, I am not yet sure what to expect. I am learning to trust more in medical science than the constant voice of rumination in my head. I am learning to trust in this baby, who so often seems like a force of nature that is happening to me rather than the other way around. I still feel so, so vulnerable at times, and terribly frightened of this love I feel – like it or not – for this child. But I'm moving right along in spite of it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nothing Rhymes with Previa

Yesterday I had my 20-week prenatal appointment. I will say this much: I was a lot less nervous going in this time. I felt like a normal person, which is a pretty unusual feeling for me. My list of questions were less "if I accidentally eat bacon will it permanently damage my baby" than "tell me what's normal for fetal movement (which I'm now feeling)" and "talk to me about placenta previa." I had hope that she might not leave the exam room shaking her head and wondering how I managed to get pregnant in the first place.

But then she talked to me about placenta previa, and then I felt anxious again. I told her I wanted information but I didn't, if she knew what I meant. I think she really only gave me the highlights, but even those were less than uplifting. Contrary to what the nurse suggested, in cases of complete previa like mine, the odds of it moving up out of the cervix by term are pretty low. So barring my being in the lucky minority (ha!) I'm pretty much looking at a c-section at 37 weeks. Until then, I am to call her office and demand to be seen at any spot of bleeding, and if a lot of bleeding happens while I am alone, I am to call an ambulance. There is a lot I can say about this, but instead I am just going to pretend it doesn't exist.

I am trying to find ways to think of all of it in some sort of light way. I even tried to think of a little poem or song I could sing about it, but you try coming up with a word that rhymes with previa. The only thing I could think of was stevia, which is this new sweetener out there that I drank accidentally in my 8th or 9th week and then called the nurse in a panic, thinking that it would give my baby at least two heads. So that wasn't very helpful. Suggestions welcome.

Meanwhile, I have started a list of why a scheduled c-section is actually a good thing:

-No surprises. The date of your baby's arrival is on the calendar and lots of precise planning can take place. Good for control freaks like me.
-You're guaranteed to get your own doctor. Someone you've formed at least a casual relationship with is going to be all up and in your business, versus the awkward moment of meeting someone for the first time when a human being is sliding out your lady parts.
-No pooping on the table. Enough said.
-Most likely you will never experience a full-on contraction. And, really, who needs that?
-Longer recovery means more doting by nurses, your husband and loved ones who offer to help you out.
-Did I say no pooping on the table? Let me say it again.
-The baby does not come out of your vagina. So said vagina stays tidy. No more pressure to do Kegels. No worrying about implications for sex. No peeing your pants.

I'm sure there are about a thousand more reasons why a c-section is actually a good thing. And I'm sure I'll think of all of them as I spend my time not Googling about placenta previa or c-sections.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't Worry

I am learning a lot about health care professionals through this pregnancy. Namely: Many of them think about your uterus, your fetus, your vagina as if looking at images of them in a medical textbook. It's all clinical. Routine. They do, after all, lack the emotional attachment you have to that fetus (and, let's face it, you're pretty attached to your uterus and vagina by now as well). They forget that there is an active mind – and heart – a few feet above those organs.

At least that's what I think was behind the actions of my favorite nurse last week, because I know she's not mean or unintelligent. As I drove to work on Friday I picked up a voicemail message from her, which she'd left the night before. She told me that she needed to go over my ultrasound results with me but she "didn't want me to worry" and I should call her at home. I don't know what kind of a person/robot/tin man could hear that message and not worry – a lot – but it ain't me. I called the answering service, which of course was no help at all (I really need to figure out a direct dial to reach those nurses before 9 a.m.). The minutes from 7:30 until 9:15 when I finally talked to the message-leaving nurse I think left me 20 years older. "What's wrong?" I said first. "I told you not to worry," she said. (Oh, okay.) Turns out, they just needed some additional pictures of the baby's heart because one part of it wasn't visible last week. And the reason she couldn't have simply said that in her voicemail is....?

Naturally when I heard the real reason for her call, my second feeling (the first being relief) was excitement that we would get to see the little guy on TV again. And this morning's follow-up ultrasound came at an opportune time: I got a sunburn at my friend's wedding yesterday, was certain that I had fried the baby, and glad for what I hoped would be a reassuring scan.

You know, in addition to learning about health care professionals, I'm learning that everyone else has been right: Worrying doesn't really do much for you. Because the thing is, what's likely to happen is rarely the thing that you thought of to worry about. It's usually something you never even considered. So it's not like worrying prepares you or anything. Because I definitely wasn't expecting the ultrasound tech today to tell me I was about to get reacquainted with the long-lost vaginal probe. She suspected placenta previa, she said, and needed a closer look. I sort of freaked (just a little). She told me it wasn't a big deal, and added, "You're a big worrier, huh?"

"Gee, where'd you get that idea?" almost slipped out of my lips automatically, dripping in sarcasm. But I held it in. She did, after all, take another quick peek at my baby's nether-region, to remove what I thought was a shadow of a doubt left by the other tech that it was a boy (this one was certain). So I guess I owed her one.

I have placenta previa – the good old wand told us so. It means that the placenta is lying low in my uterus, covering my cervix. I have been told how common it is. How in most cases, it resolves by the third trimester. I have been told to avoid jumping, aerobic exercise and running (which is really going to put a damper in my nonexistent exercise regimen), and to keep everything out of my vagina until they scan again in about nine weeks. I immediately asked about the giant plastic probe that had just been in said vagina moments earlier, but for some reason that doesn't seem to count (having been granted immunity, apparently, by the vaginal customs agency).

I have been told not to worry.

I am trying. I vow to try to stay off of Google. To try and take comfort in the statistics (they are on my side) and to trust the textbook medicine that my smart providers rely on. I am trying.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Team Blue

I always appreciate a good moment of comic relief when I'm overcome with anxiety. So I was actually more than a little relieved when the cap flew out of the gel bottle yesterday as the tech squirted gel on my middle in preparation for my 18-week anatomy scan, sending a big clump of warm goo sliding down toward the top of my pants. I laughed out loud, though the tech (who seemed, overall, lacking in humor), ironically, didn't think it was as funny as I did. It broke up the intensity of the moment.

She started the scan and, for inexplicable reasons, opted to first focus on one of the uterine fibroids that, yes, I am aware that I have. Can someone please tell me why they do this? Are they trying to drive us crazy? I came here to make sure that the child growing inside of me is thriving and healthy. Would you mind leaving that benign mass on the other side of my uterus alone until we get that 411? I asked her if she could please first take a quick peek at the baby to be sure he or she was okay ("go with the flow" is, unfortunately for health care providers, not my motto in situations like this). She assured me that she'd already seen the baby move before focusing on the fibroid, wrapped up her scrutiny of other parts and then panned over to the baby, whose steady, beating heart we saw immediately.

She slowly made her way across the anatomical landscape of the baby, pointing out the four chambers of the heart, the stomach, the kidneys, an arm bone and the umbilical cord. She spent a little too much time on the baby's brain, which sent my decreasing anxiety right back up the scale. Sensing this, she suggested that maybe she wasn't talking enough, telling me what she was doing. I told her a play-by-play would be really helpful, and it turned out to be, particularly as I squinted at the screen trying to decipher what I was seeing. Frankly, I don't know how they get anything from those images. I kept uttering "uh-huh" everytime she asked if we could see certain things, only because I felt it would be a poor reflection on my nascent motherhood if I admitted that actually, I couldn't see my baby's parts at all.

But I did see the baby's gorgeous, unmistakeable profile. The stretching out of long fingers and the adorable heel of a foot. A real, boisterous baby moving every which way inside of me. And oh, would it be impossible for someone to stop themselves from falling head-over-heels.

We'd told her that we wanted to know the gender, but as she was wrapping up she still hadn't gotten a clear view. She got a couple more pictures and then said she had everything she needed. Come again? She may have had everything she needed, but we were missing our one opportunity to get that critical information. I asked her, I'm afraid in a voice that may have had a tinge of whine in it, if she could do one eensy weensy last quick scan to see if she could find the gender-identifying part. I wasn't sure what she'd say – as I said, she wasn't the warmest – but she complied. And this time she found it right away. She asked if we could take a guess based on what was on the screen. I didn't see anything distinguishable, so I assumed a girl. "Look again," she said. "I don't think so." We took a closer look, and my husband (naturally) saw it first. She couldn't get a clear view of the whole thing, which made her think there was a small margin for error. But unless there is a random twig or pencil or other foreign object in there, we're having a boy. The other tech looked at it and said, 100%, it's a boy.

A boy. Oh boy. Let the fun begin. Though I felt terrible guilt admitting to myself that I was wishing for one or the other (how could I, after everything I'd been through, dare to hope upon hope that the baby would be anything but whatever it is?), I've always imagined myself as a mother to boys. Loud, rowdy, larger-than-life boys that I would drive around to hockey practice and other boy things. And here, spinning around in my uterus, is one of them. How can I describe the joy?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take a Number

I think I'm starting to get the hang of this prenatal visit thing.

You sign in, a nurse calls you back, you pee on a tiny matchstick-sized paper with two colored dots on it and show it to her so she can determine if the dots changed color or something (All I know is it is impossible to know what to do with this stick once you pee on it for the required few seconds. You are still on the toilet, peeing, and you need your hands to wipe and pull up your pants. But you're holding a tiny stick that has pee on it, so eeew, you don't really want to set it down on the sink because then you may put microscopic drops of pee on the sink that other people have to use. But you don't want to put it on the floor, either, so really, do you have a choice?). Then you go back to the waiting room. Then eventually they call your name again. But first you might learn that your doctor has been called to two deliveries. And you therefore might end up seeing a different doctor in the practice, but at that point you don't care because a) you've already been waiting an hour and a half, you have to pee again and you're hungry, and b) as long as someone with an MD from an accredited medical school (doesn't even have to be top-tier) tells you everything is fine, that afternoon, you know you'll be a happy camper.

Such was the case for me, last week, at my 16-week prenatal visit. Need I even tell you – I was incredibly nervous, upset stomach, blahblahblah. The doctor who finally met with us turned out to be the head of the practice (so yes, he had an MD, from Harvard it turns out, so he passed), a man with kind eyes and a demeanor that instantly put me at ease. He came in and asked how I was feeling. I told him a few of the symptoms I'd had (mainly headaches), which he pronounced completely normal. I asked him if it was normal for the ravenous hunger of the first trimester to wane a bit; he looked at my chart and suggested that, since I'd gained nearly seven pounds since July 15, I was probably eating enough.

Then he did measurements – felt where my uterus was (halfway up to my belly button, which apparently is where it's supposed to be), measured its height and listened to the baby's heartbeat. I took out my list of questions, mentally crossed off the more neurotic ones and asked him a few. Then my husband and I were on our way.

An hour and a half wait for a ten-minute visit. But I got what I went there for: reassurance and more reason for confidence. For that, I would've waited all night long.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Self-Fulfilling Normal Pregnancy

This morning I had an appointment at the hospital for my second trimester screening. This is the last third of the integrated screening (first trimester blood work and ultrasound + second trimester blood work), and at the time that I made today's appointment it seemed quite far away and impossible that it would ever come to pass. I imagined that if the day ever did arrive and, miraculously, I was still pregnant and in need of the test, that I would have become a different person. That I would've passed through some imaginary force field on my way into the second trimester that made me much wiser, more poised, a vision of maternal serenity.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

Instead, I lost everything in my stomach three times over before finally breaking free from my house and driving myself to the hospital. Doesn't matter that I was just going for a blood test and wouldn't even get any sort of results today. Like Pavlov's dog my body has learned that hospital trip = good time for intestinal overdrive.

Once in the waiting room, I strategized how I might finagle a heartbeat check. The test is done in the maternal-fetal medicine section of the hospital, not in my regular doctor's office, so I knew it would take some smooth talking. Still, I thought, how could I possible leave the place without reassurance? I resolved to get it.

But a funny thing happened once I got called back and sat down in the chair. As the nurse started chatting with me, her making small talk about lighter traffic and me lamenting that my ID stickers now listed "33" as my age, I felt like a normal patient. Like just another pregnant girl who would come the nurse's way today for a routine test that would probably come out okay. And I realized that I wanted to be her – just another pregnant girl. I didn't want to be the neurotic patient the nurse had this morning who tried to get her to do a test she wasn't scheduled for. I didn't want drama, I wanted normal. And I realized that if I chose normal and calm it just might make me feel...normal and calm.

So, even though the nurse was super friendly and I quickly assessed that I almost certainly could have talked my way into a doppler heartbeat check from her, when the blood was drawn and the band-aid on, I stood up, thanked her, walked out of the hospital, got into my car and went on with my day.

It felt good.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Something So Right

It's been a few weeks. I turned 33, the spotting finally, mercifully stopped, my in-laws were in town and we went to my husband's family reunion in upstate New York together (note to self: next time you're pregnant, if there is a next time, don't go to the middle of nowhere at the end of the first trimester. Hungry – no, starving – every hour is not a good state to be when the only food to be found is greasy, made of refined flour or artificial meat products). I've been living my life, trying to go about my business and keep on top of the worry. I'd say I've done an adequate, if not respectable job.

I know I sound ridiculous – I even bore myself – still sounding alarms when I've finally crossed into the second trimester and nothing about this pregnancy, not even the spotting, has concerned my doctors (or anyone else). But there's a reason for the term "battle scars." A war – no matter if it's fought on a battlefield or in a doctor's office – doesn't simply disappear, even if the ultimate result is victory. You remember how it felt to fight so hard, all the sacrifices that were made along the way. All the things you lost. And freedom, the more you taste it, becomes that much more difficult to imagine giving up again. You think, What if I had to fight that war again?

I remember this one time, a few years ago, I was shopping with a good friend of mine at a thrift store when a shady looking man started edging toward us. He was making a strange gesture so I glanced down and saw that he was, quite unfortunately, flashing us. Seeing a penis in a public store seemed so out of place it took me more than a second to realize what it was. Naturally horror was my first and most intense emotion, but there was little time to be horrified. I suppose at some instinctive level I felt it was important to get him to back away rather than letting him intimidate us. "No!" I said to him, wagging my finger. "Stop – you stop that right now. Leave us alone." He immediately recoiled and left the store. My friend applauded my bravery. I just sprang into action, she said, where she would've freaked and ran. I told her I wasn't willing to forfeit the bargains I'd found for some pervert. Later, once it stopped being scary, we laughed so hard about it that tears ran down our faces.

You see, I'm good in a crisis. And I'd gotten really good at crisis management over the past couple of years. What I'm having a hard time figuring out is how to turn off all that adrenaline and just enjoy the fruits of my struggle, without questioning what can go wrong and when. As Paul Simon sang so true, I can't get used to something so right. But I'm trying, and I'm learning even though it's slow (the nurse who has seen me three times now for extra doppler heartbeat listens can attest to that). It's new territory that I couldn't be more grateful to be exploring.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Out, Damned (Brown) Spot!

Just in case I was missing the drama, in case I was allowing myself to inch too closely to a feeling of relief and total acceptance that this was really happening, a square of toilet paper this morning revealed another reason for concern: brown spotting. Or discharge. I don't know quite what to call it, and I'm sorry to be providing this kind of detail anyway, but it is germane to this conversation. All I know is that it was brown, and it was coming out of me while there is a baby in me. Actually it wasn't even quite coming out – it was just the tinest of amounts on the toilet paper itself. But still.

So...I called the doctor and the rest of the details will be too mundane and exhausting to recall here. But the bottom line is they tried using that doppler thing, the nurse claimed she heard the heart beating but I didn't, she quickly got the picture that I wouldn't be satisfied until I saw it beating and then they gave me an "unofficial" ultrasound. Which showed the heart beating, measurements of 11 weeks and nothing obviously awry. So you know what they do then? Absolutely nothing. Nada. They say it's probably nothing and send you on your merry way. But that doesn't make the spotting stop, and it doesn't make your mind stop either.

I then did what any girl who'd just gone through a heck of a lot to get to this point – I mean, I'm sorry, new doctor's office, but I am not one of your footloose and fancy free normal patients – would do: I obsessed until I came up with an explanation for the spotting. And that was the fact that I stopped my progesterone last week. But that didn't really solve anything – in fact it just created more complication and required more effort, like a call to my RE's office to explore that possibility, and then a call back to the OB's office. The bottom line: Nobody, absolutely nobody, thinks it's from low progesterone. Everyone thinks it's just some flukey, minor thing and I shouldn't worry about it. But I? Am going to the OB's office in the morning for a progesterone check. Because I can. And because I need to know that I'm doing all I can to prevent Bad Things from happening.

I swear that if the spotting really stops (it hasn't gotten any worse today and seems to be largely gone tonight) and my integrated screening (NT scan/bloodwork) goes well next Wednesday I am going to try – really try – to assume that things are going to work. So when something like this happens, I automatically think that it's probably nothing, instead of probably something. That will be my wish for myself tomorrow, as I blow out the candles and bid welcome to 33.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Whole New World

The waiting area at my new obstetrician's office was just as I'd imagined. There was some comfort in the fact that I could've been just another girl who threw out the birth control and peed on a stick after a carefree night. Waiting at the RE's office always felt like wearing a "Reproductively Challenged" sign on my forehead (I routinely imagined turning to the woman sitting next to me and asking, "What are you in for?"). So it was oddly comforting, in a way, to feel like just another pregnant lady doing what pregnant ladies do as I sat in this new waiting room.

Still, I felt like somewhat of an imposter, like an actress playing a different version of myself. I felt that once I got back to the exam rooms, at any point they would find me out – they would find something wrong, take away my newly bestowed pregnant girl credentials and send me running back downstairs to the RE clinic.

That's not what happened. Instead, my husband and I got called back for an initial consult with a nurse. She went over our medical histories and answered some questions about the practice. They then took at least half my blood supply, had me pee in a cup (first complaint to the OB's office: Could you please buy cups that are appropriately sized for peeing into? While urinating in the direction of one's hand, one prefers to be holding something larger than a tiny toy tea-party sized cup in said hand) and sent me back to the waiting room to wait for the doctor.

By the time we got called back to an exam room, I was worried about a few things. First, the nurse had said that typically an ultrasound is not given at that point – most patients wait until the integrated screening (NT scan/bloodwork) at 12 weeks. This information seemed unfathomable. Most women just walk in and walk out, taking brochures on pregnancy and talking about due dates without confirming that the pregnancy is, in fact, still going? I didn't yet know how to do it, but I knew I had to somehow convince them to give me one. Second, I worried that I wouldn't like my doctor. How could anyone live up to the ridiculously high standards set by my RE? And third, I worried that she wouldn't like me. Could she handle the bundle of nerves and barrage of questions that are my trademark?

Turns out (as with most things), I could've saved all that nervous energy. The doctor came in and, though I could tell she was a bit frazzled (a patient was in labor and she had to take a page in the middle of our conversation), she never made me feel rushed while I peppered her with my questions, many of them aimed at taking her pulse and sussing out her general philosophy (she seems to be "middle of the road" – cautious but not alarmist). Then she said that she knew I wanted an ultrasound, but that the techs were already gone for the day. I thought it would end there, and was mentally formulating how we might get around the absence of the people who do ultrasounds and still have an ultrasound when she added, I may be able to do a quick scan if you're willing to wait. I told her I would wait all night.

As she squeezed goop on my belly (ps I hate that word. If anyone has a better word for belly, please let me know ASAP. To me it's as irritating as "panties" and I hate to think about using it for the next 7 months.), she told me that when her friends get pregnant, they beg her to sneak them in for a quick scan between their appointments, which made me feel less like someone who needed unusual hand-holding and more like just another worried mom. And then suddenly, there it was on the screen (which, in this ultrasound room, is very conveniently positioned on the wall so you can actually see what's going on): a tiny little baby shape with that telltale frantic flicker. As if on cue, s/he did a little wiggle. A tiny, developing baby that is inside of me can move.

All of the above was confirmed on Friday when I went back in. I noticed a lot of pressure and pain on my right side, where my RE's office had told me a residual cyst was lingering. Thoughts of that cyst suddenly bursting and harming the baby were enough to overcome my desire to stay quiet – to avoid being "that patient" for the next few weeks until my integrated screening at 12 weeks. It was far easier than I thought to get an invitation to come in for a look, and though I knew everything was probably fine, how could I pass it up? I was there for nearly two hours, but I got another look at the kiddo (this time I got pictures) and reassurance that my ovary was not going to explode. What could be better?

Something dawned on me as I drove home on Friday. I seem to be the only one still worried at this point. My RE is clearly not – she gave me a due date and sent me on my way. My new OB (who was even better on Friday) knew the baby's heart was still beating before she even looked. My husband – well, my husband has never been worried (he's not the type). Yet I soldier on, an army of one in these mental battles against unforeseen (and unrealized) threats and complications.

I'm the only one still worried, and it's beginning to feel like lonely work. Perhaps it's time to consider a sabbatical.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Leave Your Bags Behind

The thing about infertility is that the emotional baggage it brings with it doesn't get packed up and shipped off at the moment of a positive pregnancy test or a good ultrasound. It stays with you, keeping you from exhaling and believing that all will be well.

Today, I will be meeting with an obstetrician for the first time. When I walk into the waiting room – which I assume will be filled with pregnant women who, upon peeing on a stick and seeing two pink lines, began picking out names and crib bumpers – I will be just another pregnant person. Just another one, that is, until I begin telling my new doctor about my battle scars, warning her about my particular angst in a way that hopefully doesn't send her running for the door in favor of less neurotic patients. I am going to need some extra hand holding. I am used to getting it at the RE's office, and I'm not sure how to ask for it from someone who is used to dealing with women more busy blossoming and glowing than panicking and ruminating.

I want to unload this baggage. It's a difficult thing to do after carrying it for so many miles, so long a journey. But I'm trying to trust that I no longer need it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Graduation Day

Yesterday, it finally happened. I had wondered if they would hand me a tasseled cap or play Pomp and Circumstance, but instead it came without fanfare. It was just me and my husband sitting across from my doctor hearing these words: you're all done with me.

Wait – what? No more ultrasounds? No more tests or procedures? No more trying and pushing and struggling and working to make it happen? It's happened – really happened – and now there's nothing more to do but sit back and occasionally visit a regular old OB?

Apparently so. The ultrasound yesterday showed a baby (I would like your permission to call it – inaccurately but much more simply – a baby at this point. I have too much on my mind to worry about whether it is still an embryo or has officially morphed into a fetus.) measuring exactly on target at 8 weeks, with a heartbeat of 162. It had little arm buds (!) and you could actually make out a little human-like shape on the screen. And just when we thought we were done hearing good news, she told us there was no longer a blood clot visible in the placenta. So that bleeding? May have been a one-time thing.

I think I floated down the hall to meet with our doctor. She asked me how I was feeling and told me how normal I was for every anxiety I might have. When she took out that beautiful due-date calculator wheel, I just about cried tears of joy. I thought I might never get to see that wheel.

My new OB, recommended highly by my RE, has some huge shoes to fill. This doctor has helped give us a pregnancy, not only by meeting egg and sperm but by giving me the courage and confidence to go to these lengths to try. She is, quite simply, heaven sent.

I'm no Pollyanna – I am all too painfully aware that I will be carrying a degree of doubt, holding my breath just slightly until I'm holding a baby. But we've graduated to the world of good old-fashioned obstetric care, and I'm going to try (try!) to jump in with both feet.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Coast is Clear

The bleeding, thank goodness, seems to have been left behind at the ER (knock wood). But I think until I give birth (here's hoping), going to the bathroom and looking down may require serious mental preparation and deep breathing. Also, it is not helpful that one of the few subtle symptoms I've had is absolutely insatiable thirst – which means I'm spending an awful lot of time in the bathroom bracing myself.

I am encouraged by the many similar stories I've now heard. More than one person has quoted that about half of IVF pregnancies experience bleeding. I wish someone would explain to me, then, why you are not told at some point in this lengthy process that bleeding can be normal. I'm just guessing but I'm thinking that could've saved me from a good amount of panic on Sunday. Certainly not all, but some.

When I spoke to my doctor on Monday, I asked her when I might be home free. When you're holding your baby, she said. Actually, she added, When your child gets accepted to college. It's a scary business, this world of pregnancy and parenthood. All we can do is hope and pray for the best (right now I'm hoping and praying that Monday's ultrasound and doctor's appointment are reassuring). The rest isn't up to us, which is a hard lesson that I'm still trying to swallow.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fear Has a Name

...and it is early pregnancy bleeding.

I think seeing it last night may have been the shock of my life. It was so incongruous – like the last snowfall of the season when you've already unpacked all of your spring clothes. My husband was grilling dinner and I was about to start my laundry. I went to use the bathroom and there it was. And no, it wasn't the brown color that I'd heard is rarely anything menacing. It was bright red, like the clear start of a period. I yelled for my husband and together, two keystone cops, we fumbled for a phone and the number for the doctor on call.

I had two options, she said. Wait to come into the clinic tomorrow to see a doctor or go to the ER now. She did not recommend the ER, she said – so busy on a weekend night – but admitted that some women are not emotionally equipped to wait until the morning. Um, yes, I said – that would be me. She told me she would make a note that I was coming in.

We waited for about 45 minutes before being called back. I felt like I was bracing myself as I hurtled head-on toward a Mack truck at 80 mph. I was trying to prepare myself for what the impact would feel like, how I might survive the collision. My husband kept reminding me how sure I had been on Friday that we wouldn't see a heartbeat. You told me it was probably a 1 percent chance it would be good, he said. Well, I said, now I think there's about a half a percent chance. No one has ever accused me of being an optimist.

I finally got called back. They wanted to start with a pelvic exam, but the nurse questioned my husband being in the room: You really want him in here for this? Lady, I wanted to say, we have been through IVF and a miscarriage together. You really think there's anything he hasn't seen at this point? I verified with him that he wanted to be there and we both said yes. She began the exam, and told us two things: one, that the opening of my cervix was closed, which could be a good sign; and two, that she saw the bleeding and "some tissue." What kind of tissue? I asked. She didn't know. She would have to send it to the lab for analysis to know for sure. I wonder what the lab would've said about a big clump of Crinone, which is what the attending ob-gyn later told us she thought it was. Good going, nurse. Way to calm me down.

The next step was an abdominal ultrasound. She saw the sac and yolk sac in my uterus, but did not see a heartbeat. But don't worry, she said. These abdominal ultrasounds don't really tell us anything. You need a transvaginal ultrasound for conclusive information. Which means that clearly, that test wins the award for most useless exercise of the evening.

They took five vials of blood, had me pee in a cup and told me to wait for someone to come get me for the real ultrasound. When they finally did come and get me, relief and fear set in: in just a few minutes, we would know. On the other hand, we would know.

My heart hammered as the ultrasound tech and radiologist peered at the screen, which was turned away from us. The radiologist finally told us calmly, I do see a heartbeat – I will tell you more about it in a minute. Which I took to mean, there is something wrong with it. But when, after an eternity, the tech removed the probe, the doctor told us there was a heartbeat of 136 BPM. He mentioned a small ring of blood around the sac, but said that mine was measuring at 10 (whatever unit of measure they use), and they only worry if it's 25 or more. So no signs of impending miscarriage? I asked. Nope, he said. It was the same feeling I used to get when I studied all night for an exam, walked in thinking I knew nothing and got it back with a huge A planted on the top. They released me a while later after I spoke to the ob-gyn. And at that point, my bleeding had stopped.

This morning, my doctor was incredibly reassuring. She told me how often early pregnancy bleeding happens, and how the vast majority of women go on to carry to term. She told me that the fate of this pregnancy is already sealed – that we're just spectators, waiting to see what this embryo will do. That at this point, the signs are good. And – once again reading my mind – she repeated that there is nothing I have or have not, can or cannot do to influence the outcome. All we can do is watch and wait.

I've survived a lot of waits through this process. If anyone has any thoughts on how to make it through this one, they are most welcome. Also welcome: any happy stories on your friend so-and-so, who had bleeding and now has a gorgeous baby. I need all the optimism I can get while I wait.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

My Beating Heart

After a fitful night of sleep filled with vivid, unsettling dreams and losing everything in my stomach in the morning, we made our way to the clinic yesterday. My skin had about made way for me to jump out of it when the waiting room door opened and an ultrasound tech called my name. I'll give you two guesses which one it was, and the first one doesn't count. You got it – the one that did the fateful bad ultrasound back in December. I paused for a second, but then felt an instant, odd calm about it. I think an interesting phenomenon happens with a controlling and superstitious person like me. You work so hard to make everything line up the way you want it, uncluttered by bad juju, but then there comes a point when life is just too much for you to control. You have no choice but to go with it and hope that the coincidence of it all is too absurd – that lightning can't possibly strike twice. Also, she is my favorite tech: kind, patient, no unsolicited comments on how many fibroids I have.

She led us back (to the same exam room, no less) and got, according to my expressed wishes, my favorite nurse to come in with us. I told them, voice shaky and cracking, that I wanted a running commentary as it happened. The probe was in for about two seconds when she announced (with not a small amount of relief on her part, my husband and I both thought), "I see a flicker!" Which was very helpful to hear at that moment, given that mine was about to explode right there on the exam table. The sweetest relief ran through everything I could still feel. She focused in on the heartbeat and measured 120 beats per minute. It was a little tough for me to see the screen and I can hardly remember what it looked like, but it doesn't matter. It's there, and hopefully there will be many more opportunities to get a better look.

I am all too painfully aware that we are not yet out of the woods. There are weeks, and miles, to go, and I cannot from here imagine a point where I might exhale. I also can't imagine that I am the only person in the world who, upon seeing a beating heart inside of her, began to question every instinct she previously had that she might be somehow qualified to be responsible for another human being. But at 6w 3d, our embryo has a recognizable beating heart, and even with the fear, my own heart – and gratitude – can hardly be contained.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I'm in an odd place, this moment. I'm pregnant. I have proof in the form of a fuzzy black and white photo. And yet, there's something about these first tenuous weeks after a post-IVF positive beta that say "pregnant until further notice." I can't yet take any steps that might point to "definitely pregnant" – buy maternity clothes, look at nursery decor, think about names. Yet I can't do anything definitively non-pregnant either – buy normal clothes, drink wine, work out. I catch myself looking wistfully at couples pushing strollers, think "Why can't that be me?" and then realize with a start that it could be. I'm closer than ever.

I fell off the wagon a little bit from my determination not to pay attention to symptoms I may or may not have. Thanks to all who set me straight (though I can't promise I won't ever ask you to remind me again when you first felt like you were pregnant and not just suffering from the worst case of PMS ever). I just long for a sign that all is well. I crave reassurance. There ought to be a little porthole so we could see what's going on in there. If I could go in and demand an ultrasound every single day without fear that they would commit me? You bet I would.

I wouldn't trade this place I'm in. I'm so grateful to be here. I want it to keep going. I want to see hope in the form of a just barely distinguishable flicker of light.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Black and White

At our ultrasound on Thursday, we saw one perfect sac with everything it should have at just past five weeks. It looked like a little whale, flashing its tail in the dark hollow of my uterus on the screen. What's not so clear is how I can survive the wait until our next look at that screen.

Everything about this pregnancy has been different. My numbers were high (particularly now that we know it's a singleton) – I only got a third beta (3,653) this past Tuesday because I called the nurse in an absolute panic, having convinced myself that I didn't feel any more symptoms and therefore was no longer pregnant (completely and irrationally ignoring everything she said about symptoms coming and going in a normal pregnancy). The first ultrasound was another sign pointing in the right direction. Everyone seems more relaxed and confident about this one – everyone but me.

I worry that my body doesn't know what to do from here. I worry when my boobs seem less sore, and that I don't feel nauseous yet. I worry because it's harder to imagine a good ultrasound. I worry about things I can control and I worry about things I can't (case in point: I woke up this morning drenched in sweat under too many covers – again – and was 100% convinced that I cooked the developing embryo). And then I worry about worrying too much.

I wasn't supposed to go back for another scan until June 15. I told them there is no way I can survive that kind of wait. I am an effective squeaky wheel: I have an appointment next Friday, the 5th. Until then, I'm in limbo. Praying there's a healthy heartbeat, right there in black and white, when we look next.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The news from my second beta on Friday was good: it climbed to 902 from 212, which means it more than quadrupled, or more than doubled twice, in three days (further confirmation that this process is really sharpening my math skills). The nurse sounded pleased, and told me to come back next Thursday for an early ultrasound, during which they'll confirm that the pregnancy is in my uterus.

Here's the thing, I told her. The horrid experience of my last pregnancy ultrasound left me with PTSD. I simply cannot imagine getting up on that table for another one without a stiff drink, a valium or a trusted medical professional like my doctor in the room. Since the first two options are clearly out and she told me my doctor doesn't do ultrasounds, my nurse volunteered to come in with us on Thursday, and for the subsequent u/s to see the heartbeat. She's my favorite nurse, and I find her almost as calming as my doctor, so I did not hesitate to take her up on it. So that commotion in the ultrasound room next Thursday morning? That will be me and my cheering section collectively looking for a black blob (or two?) on the screen.

Here's how I feel: terrified, thrilled, bloated, awed, constantly starving and thirsty, panicked and over the moon. Whoever said you could finally relax and stop worrying obsessively when you got a positive pregnancy test is a big, fat liar. And, given what a worrywart I am, whoever (for example, the overzealous nurse at my transfer -- not my regular nurse -- who also said I should avoid ice cream, decaf coffee and most other foods you might consider consuming in modern life) said you must be relaxed at all times in order to get and stay pregnant is equally big, fat and liarish.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What a Difference a Beta Makes

This morning's beta: 212.


Plenty of time to worry later. For now, just sheer relief and excitement.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sixteen Cells and a Crazy Flag

Things you might hear your doctor say in the course of an embryo transfer:

"This embryo could have come from an egg donor."

"I'm putting up a flag on crazy."

Luckily for me (really), I heard both yesterday. My own, amazing doctor was on, which was a huge help in so many ways: it instantly made me more comfortable, and we got a more in-depth explanation of our results. She started by reviewing our results last time, and the way the clinic grades embryos. The top two from the last cycle (the ones we transferred) were 6-cell embryos – they want to see 8-cell – with average ratings on fragmentation and symmetry. And the rest went downhill from there. I have seen these results a few times now, and every time I wonder how in the world I got pregnant (albeit temporarily) from that cycle.

Then she turned the page (in every way) to this cycle's results. I nearly leapt out of my chair when she told us we were transferring two 8-cell embryos, one of which (the one that "could have come from an egg donor") had excellent ratings on both fragmentation and symmetry. She called that one an "A++," the other a "B" (I'll take a B: solid. Respectable.). And then we went in to transfer them.

The other comment came after the transfer. We had just come out and I was sitting in the reclining chair for the requisite 15 minutes when I asked my husband to hand me my BlackBerry. And of course as he was handing it to me, the BlackBerry flew out of its case and landed right on my abdomen. Do I even need to explain what went through my head? I saw my doctor go by, so I called her over and explained what happened. She looked at me, head tilted, and told me I could get punched in the stomach and it wouldn't matter. Then she told me I was worrying too much and she was "putting up a flag on crazy." Which, counterintuitively enough, was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. And is clear evidence of her brilliance.

The key over the next 10 days will be to keep that crazy flag at bay. It's more challenging to maintain a casual attitude once you have living embryos in you. But I am going to try my best to not worry about every twinge, every bump, every negative thought running through my head. It's out of our hands now. We did all the work, got the results we hoped for, and now there's nothing we can do but wait.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fielding Error

Let me get this straight. Manny Ramirez, formerly of the Boston Red Sox and currently of the LA Dodgers, is out 50 games for taking HCG? Cheating and dishonesty aside, I would like to inform any other male athletes considering getting this drug "from their doctor" as part of a doping regimen of a few reasons this may not be a good idea:

1. HCG is the hormone of pregnancy. It is what home pregnancy tests look for in your pee. It is also prescribed synthetically for the "final maturation of follicles" before an IVF egg retrieval or IUI. So unless you're the pregnant man, I am guessing it is probably not something you want coursing through your veins.
2. HCG does a lot of things. It gets you mature follicles. It doubles every 48 hours when you're pregnant. But "restoring balance" is not something that comes to mind for me when I think about HCG. Unless balance includes violent moodswings and unrelenting nausea and fatigue in your world. But I think nonstop crying is generally frowned upon in the dugout.
3. See #1. If Manny had taken a HPT during this time period, he would have gotten two pink lines. There are so many things wrong with this, I don't even know where to begin.

Seriously guys. If you're going to do this stuff – which is weak and phony and makes you no hero at all – can you please stick to real steroids? Stay off our turf.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Oh What a Night

There was plenty of romance in the air last night at the Petri Dish Mixer. Out of 17 eggs, 14 fertilized. This, in case you're wondering, is an 82% fertilization rate, a significant improvement over the 53% rate in November (are you impressed with my math skills? And I was an English major!). So far, so good. Will get a call tomorrow with a time for a Friday transfer.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Factory des Oeufs

They retrieved 17 eggs today from my overworked, underpaid ovaries. Sperm numbers looked good. Hoping there is a lot of courting going on at the Petri Dish Mixer tonight. Will know how many have coupled off when I get my fertilization report tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, the egg factory is resting comfortably, watching good TiVo and eating whatever I fancy (I deserve it).

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Family Planning

The ability to mix injectable medications in syringes is a skill neither my husband nor I expected to cultivate. And honestly, I'm not sure we have: mixing and taking Repronex has been dicey, to put it mildly (using the Gonal-F pen is child's play in comparison). Sometimes I wonder how it is that they just let you loose with these medications with nothing but a homegrown video on the pharmacy website to guide you as you attempt to force them into your body with a sharp object. Shouldn't you need some sort of formal medical qualification for this?

The other morning, after a particularly challenging time with air bubbles and suction as we tried to draw back the medication, my husband looked at me. "Family planning," he said, as he sighed and shook his head. "It isn't what it used to be." Indeed.

Still, if this works, I know the details of mixing, sticking, wincing and injecting will dissolve into a distant blur. I will know in just under three weeks. I'm triggering tonight; egg retrieval will be Tuesday, with the transfer most likely Friday.

In the meantime, I must share this product recall, which I discovered via author Elizabeth McCracken's blog (If you do not know McCracken's writing, get to know it. Immediately.), and which made me laugh out loud. I'm sure that I do not need to point out the 1,000 ironies contained within this recall.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Movin' Right Along

Well, subcutaneous injections haven't stopped sucking in the six months since my last cycle. And Repronex stings going in and leaves behind skin irritation, just as they told me it would. But it's happening, this second cycle. I'm back in the game.

There's something different this time – I'm different. It's as if the situation had to spin so far out of control – bad ultrasound, worse miscarriage, reparative surgery – for me to finally release my death grip on control. I get it now: There's nothing, beyond following my doctor's instructions, that I can do. And since there is nothing I can do, I'd rather do almost anything else than think about infertility.

Do I even need to say that I care? I do. I don't think there's any way that I could will myself to stop caring. But I guess where I've arrived, at this moment, for this cycle, is that when given the choice between obsessing nonstop about how many follicles I might have and diving into an entertaining book, I have started to choose the book. Because someone else is thinking about whether I should take medication A or B, or when I should trigger. And she went to medical school. And trained at a top medical center. Thereby freeing me up to read said book.

I don't know if I'm fooling myself, if maybe this is the peaceful prelude to a full-scale nervous breakdown that's been percolating quietly in my psyche. Or if, upon hearing any more bad news about my reproductive prospects, my new mentality will just shatter to bits. Maybe some of you are out there smiling knowing smiles, having been in this place before and having slid painfully back. But I do know that for now, I feel better – steadier. And while that may not be more likely to get me pregnant, it is a welcome shift.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nervous Nellie

The thing about going through infertility treatments is that the rest of your life doesn't wait for you to finish. You can't stop the world from turning, can't press pause on everything else. People – including people with medical degrees – tell you that stress is not helpful for conception. You resolve over and over to banish all stress from your life and shrug things off. And you quickly realize that absent becoming a recluse and talking to no one, that goal is a naive fantasy.

Forgive the term, but it's a vicious cycle. I spent the week feeling utterly overwhelmed by anxiety from work and other issues. My physical symptoms were so intense that on Thursday night the only thing that kept me driving to a work event amid a massive anxiety attack was the knowledge that the event would be attended by several doctors (it pays to work in health care). I figured it wouldn't be great professionally to interrupt the meeting with a heart attack, but at least I probably wouldn't die. Now, having survived, as I continue on Lupron (started Monday) and wait for my baseline next Thursday, I wonder what impact all of it could have on my cycle.

There's another spin to this vicious cycle. I wonder, too, how much my being overwhelmed by infertility contributes to my stress in other areas of life. Everything feels so intense right now, because so much of how I look at my life – so much of my definition of happiness and success – depends on this working. The unfairness of infertility makes other injustices we have to deal with seem even more bitter and unfair, other stressors all the more stressful. I feel acutely sensitive and self-protective.

I don't know that there's an answer (there rarely is), other than reminding myself that many women have gone before me, lived to tell after infertility, and had babies despite the burden of stress in other parts of their lives. Life goes on. And I have to do what I can to keep up. The best I can.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Hope in Bloom, Part II

On Saturday morning, my husband called me over to the kitchen window to look out at the backyard, where I saw this.

They had sprouted in the middle of the still winter-brown yard, nowhere near our flower beds. We have no idea where they came from.

"It's a sign," he said. "Twins."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Hope in Bloom

Not to rely too much on a cliche (though infertility will do that, among other things, to a girl), but this time of year is just really good for hope. It's as if the weather – and the world – has warmed and awakened again just in time to wish me well, to offer a pleasant backdrop for the happy ending I might dare to imagine.

All it took to deliver me back to this fantasy (which is clearly delusional; see previous year and a half of hell) was a straightforward, easy surgery last week and a 10-minute consult with my doctor this past Monday, during which she said magic words: because of the minor scarring she found, she doesn't even need to look (through another office hysteroscopy, which I'd assumed was in the cards) again. We can start right away with a new cycle.

And just like that, a clean slate. I can finally move on from my first, doomed pregnancy. There is a whole new opportunity before us, independent of anything that's happened before and yet encouraged by the fact (and, according to my doctor, a lot of scientific data) that my body proved through this pregnancy that it could be a welcoming home for a wandering embryo.

Now, I'm not going all Pollyanna on you (they gave me a hysteroscopy, not a lobotomy). I haven't forgotten the misery of these months, or the fact that loss happens, and happened to us. But I am amazed by the resilience of hope. I am slowly acknowledging that maybe I won't need to mourn this pregnancy for the rest of my life. A new pregnancy – one that leads with certainty to a healthy baby – could wipe it away. Based on the IVF schedule we mapped out the other day (carefully crafted to avoid major upcoming work events), that could happen at the beginning of May – which, as birds begin to chirp and buds break ground, feels like it's just around the corner.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Open-Legs Surgery

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous before Thursday's surgery – terrified is more like it. And that I was able, over the past month before the procedure, to fully achieve my goal of living in the moment, somehow dodging the shadow of infertility for a while. I received such lovely, supportive comments in response to that last post, applauding my determination to focus on other things. It made me feel like a bit of a fraud.

I mean, the intention was there. And I did a lot of things that on the surface would signal someone going about her life. I got those pedicures. Saw those (amazing) friends. Read books. Laughed out loud.

But still. Even as you take a break, as you remember the way your life felt before this struggle took hold and made everything else feel insignificant, you're painfully aware that it's temporary. You can move on to other things right now, because there's no chance before you – it's easy to pretend it doesn't matter. But as soon as you can dare to hope again, when chance reappears and stakes are raised, you know that you will no longer be capable of pretending that other things are just as important.

And so I began the slow, reluctant creep back into the game with Thursday's surgery. I spent the whole week playing it out in my head (see earlier posts re: my absurd surgery phobia). Told myself repeatedly that it was nothing – it wasn't as if I were having open-heart surgery (giggled when I realized it was actually open-legs). So by the time we arrived at the hospital on Thursday morning, it felt like I'd already lived it 30,000 times. When my husband asked me in the waiting room if he could take my picture (he has this perverse desire to "document" everything) and wouldn't take no for an answer, my stress boiled over and I burst into tears. He put the camera away.

We got up to the surgical wing, where two things called me back from the edge: my calm, cool (yet warm) and collected doctor, and my new bff, Versed. For a good amount of the procedure I was awake, though very comfortably in some world halfway between a couple of Clicquots and unconsciousness. Before I knew it, my doctor was telling me it was over, at which point (since it was after 1 p.m. and I had nothing in my stomach) I requested a cheese pizza.

The big question going in was whether she would find more serious scarring beyond the initial bit that blocked her view of my full uterus during the office hysteroscopy. She didn't. There were two more minor adhesions inside, which she easily got. She told me my uterus is good as new and they sent me home.

Another hurdle down. I'll meet with my doctor on Monday (it was either Monday or May) to create a game plan. It's been five months since I've cycled, since I've had a shot. Everything – yet nothing – has changed. I'm eager to be back in the game. I know it means letting this one thing matter once again. Whether there's a way to go about my life as if it matters a little less this time remains to be seen.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

To Have and Have Not

I am currently reading An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, a memoir by Elizabeth McCracken, who is a heartbreakingly talented writer with this heartbreakingly tragic story (the stillbirth of her first child) to tell. Among other observations (she is the kind of writer who finds precisely the right words for the most indescribable of emotional experience) McCracken describes this sense that when her baby died, the time that followed occurred in two tracks: "on one, he lived and we took him home...on the other track, the one I accidentally took, he died...."

What woman who has experienced any event on the spectrum of loss -- from miscarriage to the loss of a child -- could not relate to this? All I need to do is look at a calendar and I see, like a photo that stopped developing midway through, all of the experiences that I am not having these days and months. I am not starting to show and buying maternity clothes. I am not telling people about a baby that will be born this summer. I am not feeling excited about a late spring baby shower, or starting to worry about that looming due date and the labor and delivery it will require of me. But I could have been. I was so close.

There's this other duality that I've started to sense in this infertility journey. I live my life utterly consumed by my desire for motherhood -- by the piercing awareness that I lack the thing that I want and need most. It is often the first thing I think of as I force myself out of bed each morning, and the last as I get back in at night. I am constantly aware of this fight I have on my hands, the next battle a deep shadow over every thought, every action. Constantly aware of the life I feel I should be living.

And yet, there is this need to keep going, to sustain myself for the sake of myself. I have this fundamental sense that no matter how much I want motherhood, I have to keep something of myself intact or I will lose everything in my quest for it. I have to remind myself that what I have is inherently valuable and meaningful, not just a reflection of what I don't have. This requires keeping a healthy dose of denial at my disposal. It means waking up this past Wednesday and deciding that, no, I just cannot have another day of desperate sadness -- I've got to pretend it doesn't matter. It means going out to dinner with my husband on a Saturday night and rather than going through the motions, wishing we didn't have such freedom, really trying to relish that experience for what it is (which is pretty good). It means trying to live my life -- the one I have -- not biding my time until I get the life I want, the life I hope is out there somewhere.

My operative hysteroscopy is scheduled for March 26. Before then, there are movies to be seen, food and wine to be enjoyed, magazines to be read, pedicures to be had, friends to be laughed with. I'm going to try to stay focused on the life I have. The one that's real.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hysterical over Hysteroscopy

I wasn't worried about going in for the hysteroscopy this morning (although my nightmare about rats last night doesn't exactly reveal an uncluttered subconscious), but now I know that I should have been. Clearly my uterus chose not to heed my letter (I should have known), because it did not go well at all.

The procedure itself was fine -- at this point I am used to all manner of instruments, dyes and other accoutrements having their way with my reproductive tract. Although I will say that when she couldn't get into my uterus initially and tried dilating my cervix and going in again, I had to concentrate very hard on not screaming bad words. What made the whole thing really suck, though, was what the pictures of my cervix and uterus showed: scarring from the D&E. The kind that requires more surgery to remove. For someone who really doesn't like surgery very much I'm seeing a lot of that operating room, dontcha think?

As if that didn't satisfy my shit news quota of the day, I also learned that the pathology report from the D&E was back, and showed that our embryo had the genetic defect tetraploidy (i.e. it had four sets of chromosomes instead of two). On the spectrum of genetic defects that cause miscarriage this apparently is nothing standoutish, but it is sad and disturbing to hear all the same (the only upshot of this news is that I can finally stop irrationally blaming anxiety, the pedicure I had, what I ate and getting angry at my mother as possible causes of my miscarriage). Although the defect is relatively standard, they're running genetic typing tests on both me and my husband just to be sure it was a fluke. Which I guess should make me feel better -- we'll rule out more things -- but instead just makes me feel like there's yet another thing to worry about.

Also, I learned -- accidentally, by reading my doctor's computer screen -- that it was a girl. My doctor confirmed what I saw and said she was sorry I saw it as she knows that information can be upsetting. It was jarring and sort of emotional for a moment, but I don't know if knowing is any sadder than not knowing. I had this embryo. It was unhealthy. It would have been a girl if it had been healthy. But, again, it wasn't healthy. What more can I do or say about it?

I opted to work from home today (good choice), and I drove back home after the appointment feeling overwhelmed. So I did what any girl in my situation would do: I stopped at a pizza joint -- the really good place in town, not the pseudohealthy place that makes wheat crust -- got two slices of cheese and promptly inhaled them, with a diet Coke and without abandon or remorse, when I got home. This reckless behavior will likely continue tonight with the consumption of good-sized quantities of alcohol and chocolate. I'm just telling you -- I don't expect or want you to stop me.

PS: I just got a baby stuff catalog in the mail: the last straw for today, thank you. Called and told some poor call center lady that I am infertile and cannot be getting their catalog delivered to my home. Found this oddly satisfying.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Open Letter to My Uterus

Dear Ute:

You're on again tomorrow -- it's all about you, just the way you like it. It's been a while since we've had a good look at you, and I can only hope that you haven't been dreaming up any new tricks while unsupervised. Recall that only seven weeks ago your shenanigans put us in the hospital and led to the D&E that I'm sure was no summer picnic for you either. I appreciate your noble attempt to hold onto that poor tenant, but I'm sure you'll agree in retrospect that you were a wee bit slow on the uptake with that one.

At any rate, we've both had some time to heal since then, and I hope the break has been good for you. Tomorrow, a hysteroscope -- a medical term for paparazzi, I believe -- will pay you a visit and snap some photos, so please have your best Paris Hilton pose all ready to go. But it would be nice, particularly in the context of what you pulled back in December, if you could just be sort of boring. Look pretty, but please don't try to be particularly interesting. You'll have plenty of time to shine in a few weeks when we send two new prospective tenants your way. Hopefully, they'll be the kind that stick around.

Also, try to relax. I know these situations can be tense, but cramping up won't do either of us any good. So do what you have to do -- yoga, meditation, vodka martini, whatever.

Thank you in advance.

Happy thoughts,
Good Egg

PS: Say hi to those ovaries and tell them to rest up -- they're on next.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Way Forward

All right, something in me is trying to say. Time to perk up a bit. Loosen that death grip you have on your grief. As my family likes to say, Stop the wimp. The voice is tiny and tentative, but there it is. So I'll listen and make this post all about the path forward, even though doing so feels a bit like trying on an ill-fitting hat. Even though more of me would rather wallow here a bit longer.

Here's what I got from my (still fabulous in every way) doctor when we met for the infamous WTF appointment (this one being my most difficult yet -- the most fitting to ask, seriously, WTF?) post-miscarriage. The IVF cycle went well, but could be improved. Of 18 eggs retrieved 17 were mature, and 9 fertilized. Of those nine resulting embryos, however, only the two we transferred looked truly viable and only one looked really good. Of course, we'll never know which one implanted and it doesn't really matter since it turned out to be a total slacker anyway. She blames the miscarriage entirely on a run-of-the-mill (my word, not hers) genetic issue, which is one of those pieces of news that should somehow make you feel better but absolutely doesn't.

To improve embryo quality for the next cycle, she is adding the medication Repronex and scaling back the Gonal-f, which apparently will help by adding LH to the FSH mix. I believe that Repronex is made of urine from post-menopausal women (I read once that it was post-menopausal nuns from Italy, which seems too strange for someone to have made up), which probably should make me wince a little but at this point sounds positively dreamy if it will give me a live, healthy baby. Since no post-miscarriage period came on its own (as if), I took Provera and am now waiting patiently. Once it arrives, I will go on the Pill and will go in for an office hysteroscopy to make sure nothing strange is going on in there (girl parts convention? sorority party?) before getting started with IVF #2 and that new protocol.

I feel just as I would've guessed I'd feel at a moment like this: terrified, hopeful, pissed off. Wanting desperately to believe what everyone keeps telling me about all I have going for me. Oh, wait. I'm trying on this hat. Okay: I feel determined. And a little bit brave.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pity the Fool

Somehow after the humiliation of dropping off that first "sample," (See? I still can't even say it.) I dusted myself off and found the willpower to drop off the second. By the grace of God, my long lost high school friend was not at the lab the next day, the test results turned out to be normal a week later and my symptoms have largely subsided (save some heartburn which for me seems to turn up every now and again as a delightful companion to stressful life events). Still, with the luck I've had over the past several weeks I'm beginning to worry whether any other irksome medical issues want to demand some investigation. Perhaps a UTI is lurking, just waiting for the right opportunity to rear its frequent pee-making head.

Outside of my digestive tract, I've been trying to figure out what to say about how I'm feeling, which has been a challenge since I'm not sure how I'm feeling. Mostly my emotional existence has devolved into a state of pretty constant self-pity, and my friends, pity ain't pretty. Sometimes I start thinking of myself in the third person, as if I'm watching me on a movie or following my story in a novel. That's when I really lose the belief that I am capable of ever moving on and charging ahead. I feel so sorry for this poor girl who just can't seem to capture her commonplace dream, who instead sees her raw hope dashed time and time and time again. I cry for her and her poor beginnings of a baby that was never meant to be. It's so hard to accept the idea that her amazing marriage can't seem to evolve into a family, that they might never know what it's like to hear their own children run through the house.

There's no reason for me to think all of this. No one has told me it is not going to happen for me -- in fact, the people with actual qualifications to make such projections have told me there's every reason in the world to think it will. But these days, what I feel most acutely is the absence of my brief brush with motherhood, the gaping hole that it left behind and the fear that I am a fool for ever having hoped. And that I might never get there again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Blast from the Past

It's official. I'm cursed.

In the latest installment of "The Miscarriage That Refused to Die," I visited my primary care doctor on Monday. Because how could I let a federal holiday pass without interacting somehow with a medical professional? I really don't want to say why I went to her, except that it's crucial to the punchline of the story, which I will get to in a minute. You see, sometime while I was taking those antibiotics after my D&E, I started having, ahem, digestive issues. And since the symptom hasn't yet gone away my RE's office recommended a visit to the old primary care doc, an idea that seems somehow quaint at this point.

At any rate, my doctor said it probably had something to do either with the antibiotics killing good bacteria in my stomach (why does this concept of good bacteria remind me so much of Glenda the Good Witch?) or some random thing I may have picked up during my stay at the hospital (which is encouraging, because I was really lamenting not having a souvenir). And then she said something truly awful: the only way to know for sure would be to bring a "sample" to the lab. On two separate occasions.

I don't know about you, but at this point, I am totally fine with procedures involving my reproductive organs. Want to put foreign objects in there, look around, take some pictures, redecorate? Totally fine -- just show me the stirrups and have at it. Want to talk about what I do behind the bathroom door? Um, no freaking way. I would rather have a daylong root canal in a dark alleyway than discuss and/or deal somehow with that. Which is why I tried to avoid it for the past two days, hoping and praying that the probiotics I started taking would kick in and eliminate my symptoms and the need to do what she asked. But they didn't, so tonight I somehow willed myself to do the dreaded deed, hurry in the car and run the atrocious package to the (mercifully nearby) hospital lab.

And here's what confirmed for me that either someone has a voodoo doll with my name on it or that I'm starring, unwittingly, in a revival of Candid Camera/a very bad sitcom pilot: Upon walking into the lab, I found myself face-to-face with a woman I went to high school with. And she recognized me immediately.

I don't know if finally mustering the courage to poop in a jar and then delivering it to a lab that coincidentally employs someone you haven't seen in 15 years is the most embarrassing thing that could have happened tonight, but I do know that I wanted (still want) very, very badly to make it unhappen. That being impossible, I wish I could at least have explained to her the whole story -- for some reason it seems more pitiable, and therefore palatable, that I was there as result of a miscarriage than some random thing gone awry in that part of my body. I obviously couldn't get into it, but she was very sweet, just like I remember her when we were both over a decade younger and several pounds lighter. She will probably not tell anyone else she saw me under these circumstances, if she even stays in touch with anyone else from my hometown. It doesn't really matter if she does or doesn't -- I know this.

Still, please pray she is not there again tomorrow, when I steel myself and deliver installment #2. And then please pretend I never told you any of this.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

From Patient to Nurse

A lot has gone down. (Many thanks to those who've checked in on me -- my lack of posting has been due mainly to my trying just to stay afloat.)

When we last left our (dubious) heroine, she was recovering from a miscarriage gone bad and remorse over spilling her sad story to her mother. Her husband was also about to undergo knee surgery, which she didn't even mention here because it never even occurred to her (perhaps since hcg was still running rampant through her system and her reproductive organs still recovering) that it would be a big deal. Do I even need to tell you that it turned out to be a very big deal?

To make a very long, boring story a little bit shorter and more tolerable, ACL/meniscus surgery will turn an athletic, relatively tough (relatively being key, since it seems to me that all men become big crybabies when they are ill or injured) husband into an immobile, totally dependent, pain-ridden patient. And you, dear wife, will become his 24/7 nurse. You will handle everything around the house since he cannot walk on his injured leg for at least three weeks. You may frantically call the doctor the day after his surgery because he is writhing in pain and cannot get off of the couch without nearly passing out (and you, being substantially smaller than him -- at least on a good day -- are ill-equipped to pick him up). You will lug a 20-pound ice machine from the couch to the kitchen for refills at least twice a day. Upon realizing that your refrigerator's ice maker cannot keep up with the demand, you may find yourself buying bags of ice at the gas station at 6 a.m. during an ice storm. When a soda-delivery guy makes a really unfunny joke while he watches you do this, you may tell him that no, you did not miss the irony (you may also mutter something about him being an a-hole, but quietly).

I could go on, but I will spare you. What I will tell you is that I am sick of hospitals, and being either a patient or a nurse. That I am sick of having my stomach in knots, and getting no sleep and feeling like everything is turned upside down. That I have both welcomed the distraction and resented the timing of all of this, that I wanted to fully finish out my own recovery, both physical and emotional, before turning my attention to some other problem. I get that knee surgery is not the end of the world, but I was already operating at diminished capacity, and the surprise of having my husband suddenly be the needy one (and how) has been startling.

As for how I am doing. It depends on when you ask. I've been mostly overwhelmed. There are times, like when I was sitting across from my RE at our WTF appointment last Monday (more to come on that), when I feel hopeful and determined, ready to go at it again. There are times when I feel numb, like there's some robot switch someone turned on that makes me walk and talk and drive to work but without the involvement of my heart and soul. Sometimes I laugh and it feels genuine, and then I feel guilty and strange for having done it.

Overall, I guess I'm just searching for pockets of joy. For something to grab onto while I'm in this space, to sustain me while enough time passes and whatever needs to happen happens to get me to my baby. I am getting together with my amazing friends and ordering lattes and buying fun magazines and getting my hair done (color and all). I am watching mindless, kill-your-brain-cells TV (to the producers of The Bachelor and American Idol: The timing of your new seasons could not be better). I went shopping today and bought new towels -- huge, decadent, spa-worthy towels -- and it gave me the kind of thrill that only consumerism of the domestic sort can. I lugged the gigantic bag into the elevator back to my car, excited to get them home and put them in the rotation. A couple came on with their deliciously chubby-faced baby beaming in her stroller. And despite my shopping high, I couldn't help but think: They're taking home that baby. And I'm taking home a big bag of towels.