Sunday, 29 December 2013

Holiday in pictures

This is just a quick hello. We've been cocooned away for a little, savouring the last days of solitude and peace this time has afforded. But here, succumbing to popular demand, I present you with a visual record of some of my favourite moments and random discoveries during the last few weeks.

Much as I do love all the syrupy sweetness of the holidays (confession: I could happily listen to Last Christmas on loop and not gag), I know that many of us who are vulnerable, hurting or feeling isolated struggle to feel the jollity of this season. All the artifice of the happy families stuff can feel forced. Like salt in the wound for those of us whose families don't look like we hoped they would, or when someone is missing. I know there have been disappointments and reasons for hope in this community in recent days (as in life), and although I haven't had the time to comment lately, you have all been on my mind.

In our own quiet holiday celebrations this year - when we miss most acutely those who we wish were here but aren't, and have tried to leave space to honour our sadness as well as joy - H and I have had some bitter (more on which later) and some sweet. Today I'm sharing the sweet, with the genuine hope that, if you are facing darkness, you too shall find some small light which brings hope and comfort. 













Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Pregnancy, the Austrian way

When, on something of a whim, we booked this lovely holiday (contents thus far: slow food and long walks followed by longer naps), it meant having to rearrange our 16 week appointment so that we could be followed here. After all the worry that once again surfaced with our last bloodwork results, we were loath to just skip entirely a chance at reassurance, yet another confirmation that everything looks good and is progressing well for our little seedling. Our appointment with a local OB could not have gone better, even if there were some marked cultural shifts in, let's say the care regimen, from that to which we're accustomed in the UK.

We hauled ourselves out of bed at the crack of dawn (medical appointments start early here!) and made our way to the clinic; for the first time, I think the busyness and fatigue of the previous days' travel kept my mind from any nerves which usually precede such appointments.

The warm yet state-of-the-art atmosphere of the waiting area was quickly offset by the icy welcome we received from the receptionist, who immediately sized us up as the foreign interlopers we were and informed us that as it was a busy day, she could give no indication of the wait ahead. Even at 7 o'clock in the morning, the clinic was full; immediately noticeable though, was the absence of any dads. At our clinic appointments in England, it is the exception rather than the rule that a pregnant woman will attend such an appointment sans partner. While we waited to be called in, we saw eight patients come and go solo, while H was the only dude anywhere in sight. <cultural shift the first> Given their reputation for, erm...less than progressive gender roles in this country, I suppose it should be unsurprising, but it surprised the sensibilities of this couple nonetheless. I'm lucky who are we kidding, what I really mean is discerning in that my own Austrian is a clear exception to this trend. 

We didn't in the end have to wait long to be called in, and the doctor herself was as warm and welcoming as her receptionist was frosty. She spent a great deal of time going over our history, listening to any concerns, reassuring as that all looked well, and examining me and little seedling. <and here we encounter cultural shift the second> So yes, the Austrians can claim many cultural idiosyncrasies, but unnecessary modesty is not among them. These straightforward, efficient people see no reason to cover up where clinical bodily matters are concerned, and thus, wenn in Wein, as it were...Behind a pointless flimsy partition I stripped from the waist down (save my socks!) and progressed from doctor's office to exam room stirrups to ultrasound room without so much as a crappy paper, ass-hanging-out-the-back hospital gown. Wie natürlich!

Alright then; cervix looks good, blood pressure looks good. My weight is down (!) 2 kgs from my 13 week weigh-in, but since the little seedling is a week ahead in terms of its own weight gain we see who's taking priority here no worries. And finally we get as far as the u/s room. And again, all is clearly set up to accommodate doctor, pregnant lady patient, and...nope, no partner. I mean, obviously. Why ever would you want your husband/wife there with you?! H had to crunch in at the foot of the examining table and lean over the doctor as she wielded the wand. (In all the u/s rooms I've been to before, the table was set up with the u/s machinery one one side, and a chair for the hand-holding partner on the other.)  

Still, it was worth it; what the Austrians lack in gender equality they make up for in technology. (And isn't that just the sum of every stereotype ever produced about the Germanic peoples? No, I am not above gross cultural stereotyping, it seems.) We got a good 25 minutes of u/s time, as she toured us around every little inch and crevice of little seedling's ever-developing form. We got to see the lobes of the brain and an adorable little alien-esque spinal column and each individual rib. So cool. In fact, I'm pretty sure that what we got today was equivalent to the 'special' level II genetic scan that we'll have next month. She even thought she detected little seedling's sex, but again, the 19 week scan should confirm that, so I'm keeping schtum for now. 

Alles gut?, I nervously queried in my still-clumsy German. 'Alles sehr gut', she replied. 'Wunderbar! Eine schönes Baby'. A beautiful baby. We could not possibly have received a better Christmas gift.


************************

Despite my own weight loss, the little seedling continues unperturbed, and my baby belly is no longer just the overhang of middle age spread a real thing now. We waited until arriving here to shop for maternity stuff, because the products are both cheaper and better quality than in England. So, yesterday we took ourselves off to the shops accordingly. This experience was surreal in more ways than one. First, there is the now obvious fact that...uh, hello, I have an actual (yes, actually real) bump! Strange days indeed. I still can't quite wrap my head around it. 

However, yet more bizarre entertaining still was the exchange I had with the sales clerk when I asked to be directed to the maternity wear, using my available German vocabulary for 'pregnancy' and 'maternity'. She looked at me quizzically, until I mimed my expanding bulge, when recognition set in; 'ah', she said, 'you mean Umstandsmode!'. Uh, ok...I guess so? <cultural shift the third> The literal translation for this word, apparently the commonplace descriptor in German, is 'condition clothing'. And there we found it, all the cheap and expertly made European apparel a pregnant lady could want, under the department marked, yes, Condition Clothing.

I'd have choice words in response to that one, but my delicate, erm, condition prevents me from getting too worked up. Now now, dear, think of the baby.


Let's do the time warp again. Source
 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

In the words of Freddy Mercury (and a little German too)


Deep breath.

The last few weeks have been stressful. There was the difficult news we received last week, obviously, to which we are still adjusting. Ultimately it wasn't so much the test results themselves that threw me, or even the possibility of a diagnosis that comes with that. It was the sobering reminder, intruding into my blissed-out pregnancy haze, that anything can happen at any moment, and that often, no matter how fiercely we love our babies, there is nothing we can do about it. It doesn't bear further thinking about actually, and so as I said, we have instead focused on processing the possibilities before us as we move forward.

But naturally, daily life doesn't stop for that process of adjustment; work has been especially hectic recently, with me taking on some particularly high-needs clients while also racing to perfect my Grooveshark holiday playlist meet many a proposal-writing deadline. While H precipitously careens towards the final completion of his thesis and with most days spent in the library 'til the wee hours, I feel like the only time I do see my husband lately is for those anxiously and nervously anticipated hospital visits.We also spent an over-extended Hanukkah week, travelling to events in London, socializing lots and cooking for 20+ people, and then there are my final rehearsals for the holiday performances with my singing group this weekend. It hasn't all been scary and stressful; some of it has been fun and lots of it very productive. But all of it busy, not leaving us much time for much of anything.

But forget about all that for the time being, because, dear readers.....on Sunday afternoon we set off for nearly three weeks of holidays in Austria and Germany, during which we'll have ample time to catch our breath, (re)count our blessings and just be together as a little family. <little happy dance> We prefer our holidays low-key and don't go in for any of the prevalent consumerist frenzy. There'll be some obligatory family engagements, but for much of the time it'll be just H and I, while we house-sit for his folks as they're abroad. Long hikes in what are sure to be enchanting snowy landscapes, chancing upon alpine huts offering warming food and crackling log fires, exploring ancient castle ruins. Christmas markets and gingerbread and chocolate and twinkling lights and woolly socks and sleigh rides and skiing. (And oh yes, the gluten free diet will be violated.)

Aaah. Deep breath. I can't wait.

In German there is a word for all this: Gemütlichkeit, which my German/English dictionary defines as any situation 'inducing a cheerful mood, peace of mind, a sense of belonging, coziness and unhurry'. Yep, sounds like just what the doctor ordered. 

And the Austrians excel at it, particularly at Christmas. You guys, they are the Kings of Christmas. It's like being dropped into a Santa's village/Sound of Music mashup, with really good home cooking on the side. (And to balance out the saccharine sweetness of that image, they have this badass guy as part of the traditional festivities too.) Every corner of every street festooned with markers of the holiday season, but (with apologies to those who are fans of the more-is-more-at-Christmas school of decorating), not in a tacky way. No tinsel or glitter, but rustic and homespun and charming. Every open space is transformed into a tiny wonderland of a Christmas Market; little wooden huts selling the famous gingerbread and stollen and glühwein (though this year it'll be only the kinderpunsch for me) and impromptu outdoor, mittened social gatherings that seem to burst out spontaneously as everyone stops in their busy workaday lives (not that the Viennese are well-known for that), to slow down, smile (not that the Viennese are well-known for that) and just savour. And rampant fire hazard be damned real candles on the Christmas trees. On everything. It's so warm and cozy and contagiously delightful in a simple kind of way. It makes my heart happy.

And really, that's what I'm wishing for all of us in these waning days of 2013. I hope that wherever this finds you, you may encounter moments that bring you peace of mind, a sense of belonging, coziness and unhurry. May our hearts be happy and find peace, in whatever form it comes.

In looking back on my feelings towards the year that is passing, I think Freddy and Co. really say it best.*





* Also, how can you not love the 'stache/tank top/santa hat combo?


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Not the worst news

Just when you think you're safely out of the danger zone (if such a thing exists). Just when we finally began allowing ourselves to feel really hopeful and let unadulterated happiness in. Just when we were starting to breath again.

We got the bloodwork results from our combined NT screening (after the nuchal fold itself measuring perfectly) and they show an extremely high risk of Down's syndrome; 1:35. Given my age, I suppose we knew there was a heightened risk, but it still broke me to see H, overcome with tears of fear and exhaustion, look at me and say 'I knew we shouldn't have let ourselves hope'.  

They asked us to come in right away to discuss things with the screening midwife. When we were ushered into one of those 'nice' hospital rooms with the sofas and tea making facilities and boxes of tissues, I think both H and I were petrified; those are the kinds of places you go to hear the Very Bad News. The specialist midwife was lovely and patient and answered all of our questions. They are not at this point worried about any other, more dangerous trisomies, which should already have been picked up on u/s. We had an appointment with our Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist booked for Friday anyway, so after this encounter it was good to have the extra time for discussion and to go over any questions we still had. Not that we managed to really be coherent enough to compose any, or focussed enough to really take in the answers that were proffered. We did, however, get a completely unsolicited look at the little seedling again; we weren't expecting this, having just had a scan a week earlier, but Dr B offered and who were we to decline? (Have I mentioned that I'm a little bit in love with our doctor?) And there s/he was, bouncing around without a care in the world, looking pumped up on too much caffeine or sugary cereal for all the vigorous jumping around it was doing. This time we got to hear the heartbeat too. Amazing. This is one strong baby; I just feel that.

It's been a very tumultuous few days. I've gone from devastated and terrified that any heightened risk factors might put this pregnancy in jeopardy, to a sense of 'ok, we can do this', to utter confusion over what I can, should, might be feeling.

Part of that has to do with all the what next? issues we now have to consider. We were offered further screening; we're too late in the pregnancy for a CVS but our options now include an amniocentesis and level two genetic anomaly scan. (And before anyone suggests it, no, the MaterniT21 test is not available here in the UK, even privately. From a bioethical perspective - to do more with the history of scandal surrounding the company that holds the patent rather than the test per se - I am not sure how we'd feel about it anyway.)

Given our history of loss and how hard we've struggled to get here, not to mention how protective we feel of the little seedling, it would feel crazy to undergo any testing that puts us at risk of miscarriage, no matter how small. So I don't think we'll pursue an amnio. We can be booked in for a high level genetic scan carried out by a specialist (rather than just a technician) at 19 weeks. This might detect any 'soft markers' for Down's, but like the combined screening of NT scan and bloodwork, it can give you only a probability; it's not a diagnostic test.

Even if we got a conclusive answer from an amnio, we wouldn't consider a termination because of a diagnosis of Down's syndrome. It couldn't possibly make us love our baby any less, and really, as two highly educated people without any other children to demand our time and attention, we are pretty well placed to cope with such an eventuality and give our little seedling the best possible upbringing regardless of its level of ability. We've fought too hard to get here. So the invasive, risky procedures seem pointless, except insofar as perhaps preparing us for that eventuality.

Of course, there's a big part of me that wants to crumple up on the floor and howl, to indulge in all kinds of I knew it thinking about how we were never going to be allowed the true, simple joys of pregnancy without fear and complication. If this was always going to be true anyway, given our history, it's now that much moreso. No stress-free, happy pregnancy here. But actually, I don't want to come across all Why me?, because really, why not me? I know I'm no one special. Although it can be galling to watch how some people (usually the nasty ones, or so it seems) can breeze through life unscathed and blissfully unaware of the harsher difficulties that some of us face in more than our fair share, the truth is, people get shitty breaks all the time. This is far from the worst among them.

For months, years, I lamented and implored the fertility gods to just allow us one chance at a healthy, happy, living baby, and nothing has fundamentally changed in that. Our little seedling is still that chance. We're still lucky beyond measure, and best of all, we know it.

I'm still processing all this, and don't yet know what I think or feel, but one thing is true: this is not the worst news. Even if it may not look as I expected it to look when I have often repeated that simple, comforting incantation, somehow I still have to believe that everything is going to be alright. Screw it; I'm going to keep hoping.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Disqualified

Allow me a brief interlude in all my shiny, happy talk about blissed out babies and real OB appointments, for a missive of a more bilious nature. Those of you who have been reading for a while may remember I have previously on these pages both praised the NHS for its comprehensive, free-access care and decried it's insensitivity.

(I have to say, that while we are blessed to live in a society that - for now - continues to view high quality healthcare as a fundamental right of citizenship [or even, as in our case, residence], we have also been on the receiving end of that disinterested attitude on more than one occasion. But today I'm here to rant in a more generalized way.)

The universal healthcare of the UK's National Health Service: weighing in on the generosity end of the spectrum, there is the fact that all pregnant women in the UK receive what is called a Maternity Exemption Certificate, entitling the bearer to totally free prescriptions of any kind, as well as dental coverage, for the duration of their pregnancy and until the first birthday of their child. Wonderful.

At the other, less humane end of the spectrum, well...New levels of insensitivity have been reached today people.

After filling out a form with my midwife about a week ago, I received my certificate in the mail this week. Below the instructions for use, under a section entitled 'Important Information', alongside routine details of what to do in the event your address changes, etc, there was the following:

If you have a miscarriage within the first 24 weeks of your pregnancy, please return your certificate to us. (If your baby is stillborn after 24 weeks, you can keep it. Yay!)

Subtext: because really, if your sorry uterus can't even manage the job of carrying a baby to a minimally respectable point at which it is considered a death rather than just release of the 'products of conception', what right do you have to the privileges enjoyed by other, more effortlessly fecund women?

Ah, all the tiny, effortlessly cruel ways in which the world reminds us of our failings, of how we just don't qualify, of how we're not quite enough.

Okay, okay, I get it...Age of Austerity, economic bottom line, risk of welfare fraud, cold, heartless neo Thatcherism, yadda, yadda, yadda...

But seriously? Seriously NHS?! You can't come up with a more appropriate way of keeping tabs on the allocation of the state's resources, or show even the slightest hint of compassion in the context of your bloated bureaucracy?

I know that when I lost my babies, in the midst of all the grieving and gnawing pain and self-loathing, one of my absolute top priorities was to undertake the paperwork necessary to keep me in good standing with my healthcare registration status.

Honestly, I'm not even sure how to appropriately convey the sense of repugnance I feel at this piece of 'information' and the way in which it is delivered, because it would involve a string of expletives so long and ugly I would doubtless alienate the more genteel among my readers and belie my true, less-than-ladylike nature.

If, however, this stokes the fires of your righteous indignation as it did mine, fellow IFers, fellow loss moms, well then, please feel free to let loose with as many colorful expletives as you care to share.

I'll start us off: Fucking, thoughtless, asshole, inhuman, dickhead, douchebag wankers.

<End rant>


Does not qualify as humane treatment


Monday, 2 December 2013

Tiny triumphs

1) Yesterday when I updated on the hourly daily pregnancy count, I shaved a day off without even realizing it. I cheated myself of one hard-earned day of pregnancy! 13w5d today (and not, as I reported in my last post, 4). The fact that I could casually forget the day-to-day pregnancy count that has been sustaining me through these breath-holding, nerve-wracking early weeks feels to me like concrete evidence that I'm not only coping with the crazy, I'm even dwelling in moments of natural calm. It looks like hope. <happy little victory dance>

We were sitting in bed last night, indulging in our new nightly baby-bonding ritual of reading a page from our day-to-day pregnancy guide (finally purchased last week in a leap of faith [and can I just add here that, nice as this nightly ritual is, it's disappointing to see how many pregnancy books sideline the dad almost completely. I know us ladies are the ones with the bodily experiences, but still...]), checking up on little seedling's progress, when H pointed out my mistake.

Only 184 days to go! Not that anyone's counting.


2) And speaking of said pregnancy guide, I now have it on good authority that my episodes of weird, nocturnal noise-making can indeed be blamed on pregnancy. Ha! Totally legit.


* This post has no accompanying image. Why? Because, DON'T EVER DO A GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH FOR 'PREGNANCY COUNTDOWN', even, like me, in a facetious way. Seriously, it will make you want to gag.



Sunday, 1 December 2013

First flutters and baby Buddhas

So, December. Seriously, when did that happen? After so many weeks in which every agonizing second seemed to crawl by, allowing me too much time to over-analyze ever twinge, post-pee toilet paper wipe and scary what if thought in painful, terrifying slow motion, this past week has flown past at lightening speed. Mammoth Hanukkah latke-making (and eating) sessions, trips into London to see the exciting Paul Klee exhibition I mentioned, and my performance in a holiday-themed flashmob organized by my choral group as well as less joyful, more stressy work deadlines, have all helped to fill the week and catapult us into this final month of 2013.

But really, mostly, there is this: I am now 13w3d 13w4d into a pregnancy in which our little seedling gives every indication of being happy and healthy in there, progressing without complication. I can't really believe it, the good fortune, the truth of it all. I know I've said it before, but even (especially) when that second line appeared, I never imagined we'd make it this far. Second trimester! Mind blowing.

Last Wednesday was our nuchal translucency screening, and all appears normal (we'll have more conclusive results when the accompanying bloodwork comes back in another week). We had a lovely u/s tech who spent a lot of time touring us around each of little seedling's appendages, including already-kissable no maternal bias here, I swear upturned nose, miniature and perfectly round little toes on tiny flailing feet. And this time, I think there could be no mistaking that it was mild annoyance (rather than delight) that caused said kicking. S/he kicked up a fuss when ordered, so that the tech could get her nuchal fold measurements, but was otherwise content to be left alone and continue it's chilled out, intrauterine dozing.

How am I able to hypothesize? Well, this past week has seen another amazing development: little seedling has started to oblige with the concrete, anthropic evidence that I have been so craving; I am beginning to feel distinct movement. I know this is incredibly, unusually lucky, but I had similarly early sensations of movement with S (at around 15 weeks), so I guess my body just tunes into that stuff somehow. If I'm sitting or lying quite still, I'll get a very pronounced whooshing feeling, followed by little flutters. It's strange and amazing and miraculous.

And there have been exactly two times this week when little seedling has felt the urge to flail with such notable intensity. The first was during a rather fraught and confrontational 'discussion' with my mother last Sunday (worthy of a post in itself), when emotions ran high. The second was when H and I went to the movies to see the rather tense and suspenseful Captain Phillips the evening after the scan, the tone of which kept me for large parts of the film on the edge of my seat and not just because of necessary bathroom breaks. <Note to fellow pregnant readers out there: films which take place exclusively on the open waters of the ocean, complete with naturalist, jerky camera work conveying the surging crest of 30-foot waves, are not advised when morning sickness might be an issue. And the film wasn't that great, either.>

Anyway, put together with little seedling's reluctance to dance for the u/s tech, these bouts of movement in the face of (actual or fictional) tense, stressful situations have led H and I to developed an image of this baby as blissed-out, slightly languorous, and certainly conflict-avoidant. Basically, I'm harbouring a tiny baby Buddha. Or an adorable sloth. << weirdly cute image right there...

Whether through fervent parental daydreams or actual human development remains to be seen, but it's kind of fun to think about how quickly distinct personality traits suggest themselves.   


I wonder if little seedling will also be as corpulent.












Of course, things aren't all fluffy bunnies and unicorn farts around here, and even though I haven't been blogging quite so much lately, I'm sure I'll soon be back with the other side of the coin. But while that stuff too has it's important place, for today I'm continuing to work on all the good stuff. The fullness of life. Right here, right now.

And Happy Hanukkah/Thanksgiving to those celebrating this week!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Should I stay or should I go?

( Well, you gotta let me know... Any other Clash fans out there? No? Oh ok, on with the post...)

Back in the doubtful days of September I spent an afternoon musing on all the things that I might pursue once my energies were no longer devoted entirely to counting the length of my cycles and the levels of my hormones and weekly blood draws and transvag probings and the like. Such a struggle, and such an uncertain trajectory; which is why I could do nothing other than speculate at the time, as to what my future might hold. (As an aside too much information alert!: it seems entirely likely that the very day I penned those particular musings was the same that sperm finally decided to meet egg, giving all musings to come an entirely different, more hopeful flavour.)

Well, we're on a different trajectory now, thanks to those two lines, but one I must admit that is no less fraught with worry and fear and uncertainty. There is the ever-present fear that the next u/s will reveal the worst; the uncertainty that comes with the knowledge that we are dealing not with a when, but a very big if... This last week, in particular, has thrown me for a loop as I've been wading through a grief hangover and guilt and thinking a great deal about S. There are so many complicated and confusing emotions that come with the mindfuck that is pregnancy after loss, and when I find the energy and cognitive capacity I'll likely write more about it.

But for now, I am here with a more practical problem.

Long before we knew about the little seedling's imminant mind bending, life altering entry onto the scene, I agreed to do a week of teaching for the students of a dear friend in Italy. The prospect of a pregnancy (or even fertility treatments) seemed, at the time, laughably and distincly unpossible, and so I didn't think twice about saying yes. What could be more lovely than a week catching up with a friend I see far too scarcely, spent in Italy at a university of gastronomy, surrounded by vineyards and experienced guides in all things culinary and viticultural? I know, right? I was in for a treat! (And really, given the mindset to which I was prone in those days, I am sure I would have indulged accordingly in all that such a scenario offers, without the slightest bit of appropriate restraint or respect due the fine wines involved.)

Admittedly, this particular gig has in recent months - what with a new job and new plans and a growing (touchwoodfingerscrossedpleaseplease!) baby - been all but forgotten. I have planned nothing. And then this week I looked at the calendar and remembered.

In theory of course, I can still travel to Italy at the end of January and make good on my word. There is no medical logic advising against it. But H and I both, somehow, have this strong feeling of not wanting to be apart, of having me in another country where I don't speak the language and know almost no one, because, well...just in case. I don't have a better reason for you than that, and don't really want to seriously contemplate what those thoughts represent anyway.

And then I looked at the calendar and did the mental pregnancy maths and also realized that the week falls on almost the exact stage of this pregnancy as when things started to go horribly wrong with S more than three years ago. No matter how much I try to remind myself that this is its own pregnancy,  how much I seek to separate one from the other and to adjust my attitude accordingly, I anticipate that this time in the pregnancy might be a huge trigger for me. I might freak out. I might need to curl up in a ball under the duvet and cry snot-faced tears. Then again, I might not. It's hard to call.

And herein is my dilemma, an admittedly very nice (and unanticipated) one to have.

So, bloggy friends, I am hoping to draw on other perspectives here. What would you do in my shoes? Have you found such anniversaries particularly difficult, or do you think having some distraction would be helpful? And are H and I just being crazy, ultra-cautious neurotics?


What I'm possibly passing on. But then, what I've got.

  
  

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

For really real

Today I am 11 weeks pregnant. Not so far along in the larger scheme of things, I suppose, but oh so much farther than I ever imagined we would get, in those scary, tentative first days. In the last little while, this has all begun to feel real. Like, really real; this might actually happen. I don't mean the reality of a baby joining us in 6.5 months. Shut your face! That's still crazy talk!

What I mean is that for many weeks I couldn't even grasp the reality of my, uh...delicate condition. Being pregnant. Knocked up. I'm not sure I actually fully believed there was a bun in this here oven. <Any other grating cliches we can trot out here?> But the fact is, we'll soon be rounding the bend on the second trimester.

My confidence is currently on an upswing though may swing down without warning; I still reserve the right to panic at any given moment after another breathtaking peek at the little seedling during our 'graduation' from the fertility clinic this week. And graduate we did, with flying colours. Such agony! Such relief! S/he was in there, still measuring slightly ahead with a crown-rump length of 11 weeks 2 days for an ultrasound done at 10 weeks 5 days. That was very reassuring. But best of all, we got to see little seedling fist pumping away in there, either annoyed or delighted with the extra attention (who could say which?) and making its feelings emphatically known as we gazed in reverent silence at the screen lighting the dim sanctity of that room shared with three radiology students in that amazing moment. Before now, there was the little heart beat, but really, somehow I didn't have quite such a sense of the...alive-ness of our baby. Until now.

And so when I say things are getting real, I mean that now, I kind of accept the fact that there is an actual human being growing somewhere in the vicinity of my lower pelvis as I type this. My baby. It's crazy and amazing. And also, I must confess, not something I was able to truly absorb before this week. I think in my first pregnancy, I personified S from the very beginning, felt maternal love for another human being from the very beginning. Putting aside for the moment my sense of guilt at not having been able to do that for this baby...well, it was just too terrifying to invest that much. Until now.

And it only got more real from there, though more on the basis of social cues than of biological evidence. After our discharge from the clinic, we were sent for an intake appointment with the community midwives team. We've only ever gotten that far once before. Typically here in the UK, prenatal care and births are handled by midwives, with OBs or specialists stepping in only when a woman is referred as high risk. I do fall into that category (for many reasons, my age and medical history and recurrent losses being chief among them), but our initial assessment was carried out by a midwife who will follow us alongside Dr. B. We liked her very much; she was knowledgeable and understanding and sensitive but also very practical. Meetings with the community midwives tend to be less rushed and more focused on parental feelings and adjustments than hospital appointments do. We spent more than an hour, and at the end were rewarded with a bag full of goodies aimed at consume!consume!consume! expectant parents and...wait for it...a maternity book for which to record a progressing pregnancy, all the way up to a birth plan. Holy shit. For reals.

More disorienting delightful still, our appointment took place not in the clinical, high risky environment of the hospital, but in a local children's centre, complete with diaper caddies and tiny person furniture and adorable toys like these two:

Wizards and witches and babies, oh my!


The atmosphere was so warm and so... familial, oozing such an aura of parental ease, of children-as-a-natural-part-of-life, that it caught us off guard. In the past, such spaces were clearly demarcated as being out of our reach; cruel reminders of what we couldn't do and didn't have.


I felt like an interloper at first. Did we really belong there? This place with the built-in changing tables and nursing pillows and leaflets for mother-baby yoga? The fact is, I don't know if I'll ever truly feel a part of the 'club' (or, in many ways, if I want to) but for perhaps the first time, I allowed myself to feel embraced and lulled by the warmth of such an environment, which for so long felt beyond our grasp. For however long this pregnancy lasts (even though I still can't mentally grasp the whole living-baby-in-6.5-months thing, I am hoping for it with all my heart), I want to bask in it. Feel every second of it, as completely as possible skipping the terror of course pleaseandthankyou.


No, we didn't take a wrong turn. Yes, we are really supposed to be there. We have the paperwork - oh ok, and the little burgeoning human - to attest to that. And if my renewed nausea and fatigue in the last days are anything to go by (this is supposed to abate in the second trimester, right?), then - staying with my confident, hopeful vibe - the tiny human is going through another growth spurt.


The stuff that dreams are made of

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Contents of my uterus: confidential until further notice

Not so long ago, I received an email; to be precise from this friend, he of the oh-so-early, oh-so-unassailable-pregnancy-optimism.

This most recent communique was a quick, punchy two-liner probing enquiring about the...ahem, situation with our efforts for a dream baby. Quote: success with pregnancy...dare I ask?, followed by a signature asking that I pass on his best wishes to H. He is clever and interested and witty and great fun to have at a party, this friend. No one has ever accused him of being overly delicate.

As for me, I have never been someone who confided my deepest feelings and angst around our struggles in that department to my friends or family, at least not since the early days of loss and grief, when I learned a disheartening lesson about how disinterested, selfish, trivializing people can be when faced with the kinds of tragedies they'd rather not think about. Most have a tendency to make it all about them, so that even when they do speak, clumsily, it is to assuage their own fears or feelings of inadequacy. (But that, dear readers, is a post for another day.) However, just as I have not shared the deepest darkest truths of infertility after loss, neither have I been secretive about our reality. Friends who ask after our well being have been told, in there amongst the updates on job searches and big moves and recent vacations, that yes, the patter of little feet is something that fills our daydreams, that no, it has not been easy and no, there is nothing (nothing!) yet to report. The friend in question knows about our struggles, which is one of the reasons I was so screamy about his artless pregnancy announcement back in my most barren - of hope or baby - summer months.

Normally, I would have brushed off this equally artless, if well intentioned, attempt at friendly concern with just the sort of update described above: full of trivialities about our goings-on, inserting somewhere in their midst a concise response on the contents of my uterus in the negative.

But.

But, it just so happens - still much to my amazement, even writing it now - that when this particular enquiry reached my inbox, I was (am) indeed with child. It arrived, in fact, only days after we had first encountered that glorious second line. Not only that, but really, the brevity and focus of this email prevents me from just throwing out a random, cheery response which skirts the issue entirely: We're great! Still in England! H is working on his thesis! and so on and so forth and so blah blah blah.

Initially of course, my lack of response was due to the fact that, well, we were processing some heavy, if exciting, stuff. For many days I simply didn't oh ok, still don't now, have much time or headspace for anyone or anything other than the burgeoning hope growing within me, the terror that has been its twin, or the intimacy of the secret that H and I share (uh, with all the lovely peoples of the interwebs, natch).

But then, actually, how do you answer this email? I don't want to write my little seedling out of existence with a harmless lie. It would feel too much like...tempting fate? Lacking maternal instinct? I don't know exactly, but I wasn't prepared to do it. At the same time, I'm obviously not in a place where I am wanting to share this massive, life changing news, this secret of secrets with all the world. It is still too precious; let me savour it a while longer, as the magical, intimate, unbelievable, sacred thing that it is.

Nonetheless, this stupid kindly email has forced me to think much earlier than I had anticipated about the inevitable question of when and how and who to tell.

I have feared this time, feared it long before I even had that concrete, second-line, reason to. I fear the forced joyfulness (where for us, pregnancy is far from the joyful, naive time that most parents experience). I fear fresh grief, over the knowledge that no one who has not been through something similar can really, truly provide any emotional support for such a pregnancy as ours. I fear the sense of isolation that will grow with that knowledge. I fear the 'helpful' advice on how we should be coping with it all, because I'm already bitchy and hormonal and mostly, besides H, nobody can do anything right even if they try and I want need to protect that as my prerogative for right now, here in my little cocoon. I fear the anger which will almost certainly be my response to the amnesiac joy I anticipate from others, forgetting my sweet baby S (if they ever acknowledged him to begin with), forgetting the heartbreak we experienced just in getting this far, belying the view that another pregnancy will fix it all and maybe, finally, I'll 'go back to the old Sadie'.

I won't go back. I don't want to. I don't want to forget my son, for he is as much a part of this family story, of the branches that shyly, tentatively search outward as the tree grows, as are H and I and this new little seedling, this branch. He is the deep and abiding love that has enriched the soil in which our family tree grows. And our struggles after S, the other losses and the months of disappointment and the prodding and invasive appointments with numerous medical specialists and the fear of remaining forever childless. All those experiences, too, colour this path, not only with abiding sadness, but with the gift of intense joy, the relish of every minuscule progression towards the future we've so long dreamed of with such ardent hope. Our joy is our sorrow unmasked, in the wise and comforting words of Gibran. Those same sorrows that have carved us with scars are also what allow us this joy; they are forever intertwined.

And really, on a more selfish, less poetic point, I fear that amnesiac joy coming from those who could not share my sorrow is a step too far for me. Maybe, in these moments, I don't have the ability to forgive and forget. What right do people have to share in my fresh joy when they could not share in, or even be present for my raw grief?

But all this too, I suppose, is a post for another day. Now I just have to figure out how to reply to that email, before I start to appear really rude.


I am working on it. Source

Monday, 4 November 2013

One of those posts with all the bullett points

So, in between the bipolar, hope/terror/hope stream of consciousness that is pregnancy after loss, punctuated by genuine freakouts which seem to grow in frequency as we approach each u/s appointment - because I promised I'd try to give that a rest for a while (and really, it's exhausting enough to live it the first time) - other thoughts do occasionally manage to make their way into my consciousness.

Like what? Like, for example, all the of the following, as inconsequential as it is...



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It's November already, which means it's more than a year since we traded in the sun bleached cobbled streets of Lisbon to return to the leaden skies of England. Even though we had some terrible hardships while living there (we lost our second and then our third pregnancy during that time, and got our initial diagnosis of subfertility), a sliver of my heart will always belong to that city, not least because I felt so close to all my babies in the beauty of that country. How could you not be awe-struck, every single day, when this is the view from your local cafe, five minutes from home?










Here we are enjoying a weekend away in Porto. Sigh. It's so inspiring to be surrounded by that kid of beauty. I truly miss the place. At the same time, it's incredible to think of the time that has passed, and how new and fresh things are beginning to seem, again. Aside from leaving Portugal, this year has been filled with some very necessary (and long overdue) changes.





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It's kind of baffling how much traffic has picked up on my blog since this post. I guess the cynical side of me thinks that, even in the land of ALI, most people would rather hear about a pregnant lady than a bitchy, barren one. (Who, me bitter? Yep, guess I'm still processing some emotions.)

And while we're on the topic of this here blog, why is it that this particular post, amongst all my blathering, seems to be catnip for spam commenters wanting to share for the benefit of I and all my readers the wonders of the witch doctor who cast a spell that made tangible all their deepest desires? (I deleted a good many of those comments, but in case you're perversely curious as I was, I'll wait a moment if you want to go have a look for yourself before they're gone for good.) Could it be because, given the title of the post, some poor mammalian ovaries are an ingredient in said magic spells <shudder>? Curiouser and curiouser.


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This morning I received an appointment for my 20 week anatomy scan....booked for the 15th of November, when I'll be 11 weeks pregnant. I have to say, the NHS can generally not be accused of this level of...erm, efficiency, but today they're waaay ahead of the game. However, much as there is a part of me that would love to ffwd to a point in this pregnancy closer to viability, and beyond the oh-so-scary-I'm-already-dreading-it point when I lost S, I'm not actually aware of a method for doing so (correct me if I'm wrong here ladies!). So, time to rescheduled the appointment then, for a date that corresponds to my real-world pregnancy timeline.


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Last week, I had to travel to London to attend a day of training for work. The venue for the workshop was right next door to one of London's more fascinating and touching museums, the Foundling Museum, which uses artifacts and historical archives to tell the stories of London's abandoned babies, or 'foundlings', who were looked after at the property throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. They are currently exhibiting a collection of photographs around the twin themes of Motherhood and Loss. Though loss is understood in the broadest conceptual and emotional sense here, there were several powerful pieces that dealt specifically with pregnancy loss and stillbirth. It was moving and refreshing to see those experiences of motherhood included, given that so many of us experience the societal silencing of our stories and that there remains such a strong taboo on speaking these truths (for fear of 'upsetting' those fortunate souls who never have to contemplate unhappy outcomes of pregnancy?).

After my training workshop and the visit to the museum, H and I met for some shopping and dinner at one of my favorite little hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurants in Covent Garden, where I can indulge in lots of gluten free goodies. I think kimchee pancakes are my new culinary obsession.


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In the last week, just as the more conventional symptoms like food aversions and random cravings seem to be abating (good thing too, or my body's horror through weeks 5-8 at the very thought of anything spicy, usually a staple in my diet, would have prevented me from enjoying those kimchee pancakes), and along come a few genuine head scratchers. Because amongst the exhaustive lists of possible pregnancy symptoms that the likes of Just Mommies and other oh-so-helpful sites have compiled for those of us neurotic enough to compulsively Goo.gle deeply in touch with our bodies, my own seems to have settled on a few new quirks.

I'm having pretty regular palpitations in which it feels like my heart is going to leap from my ribcage; they start in my chest and extend up through my throat. I asked the doctor about it, and he says that although it's not terribly common, it's a perfectly normal response to increased blood flow in these early weeks. I'm supposed to rest as much as possible, which I guess is a good thing, because these episodes usually leave me feeling weak, dizzy and unable to catch my breath.

Secondly and perhaps more humorously, (though probably not for H, for whom this particular 'symptom' is more unsettling than for me), I've started talking in my sleep. Well, not talking so much as...emitting a kind of muttering/humming sound? After H pointed it out, I've caught myself doing it a few times as I drifted off, and it's odd, to say the least. I can't find a single reference to this as an actual pregnancy symptom, but I have never before been one to talk in my sleep and am normally a very placid sleeper, while this habit has only surfaced in the last month, so it must be related somehow. I recall reading somewhere once that post-menopausal woman suffering from snoring so frequently because of the huge shifts in hormone balance that softens the tissue in the ear/nose/throat area, so I'm wondering if it could be something similarly to do with changing hormone levels. (I didn't have the nerve to make a special call to Dr. B to ask about that one.) Wierd.

But also, I told you I was glowing.


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I've been nominated, like, a gazillion times for the current wave of blog awards that are making the rounds. Thanks everyone; I'm feelin' the love. I even keep meaning to reply and accordingly have a draft sitting somewhere in amongst my current posts, but I always end up too lazy and, well, bored with that much self-reflection. I promise I'll get to it after everyone else has thoroughly tired of the exercize! At least, I think I will.  

I hope everyone else is hanging in there. I'm on my way to check in with your blogs now!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Cute aggression: it's an actual thing

Now I have a perfectly logical explanation for my overwhelming desire to nibble on (oh, okay, bite) H, or one of my little brothers or nephews, when they've been particularly adorable.

Also, watch this video, which explains it all, and I guarantee you'll love all the people. All of them.




From now on - instead of my default whatifthebaby'snotOK?! reaction - I'm going to apply this theory whenever I get one of those scary cramps or twinges which (at nine weeks pregnant today!) keep coming: my uterus is just experiencing cute aggression when it thinks about little seedling. How could you not want to squeeze this?


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Fragmin frenzy (all for nothing in the end)

This story has a very happy ending, thank the gods, but for a while there on Thursday and Friday, it was panic-induced, ugly crying central over here again. It all started on Thursday afternoon, when I was finally able to track down some now moot blood work results. (For the record, all looked well; I would have been able to carry on with IVF at our original clinic. Of course, I'm doubly fortunate that as [amazing, magical, can-still-hardly-believe-it-myself] events transpired, we didn't need to go down that road.) I got my results and I hung up.

Five minutes later, my phone rang again: Hi, I've just seen a note in your chart and it looks like Dr. M (the RE we'd been seeing at the subfertility clinic) would like you to go on Fragmin. Can you come in tomorrow so we can show you how to do the injections at home?

There was more about how the doctors had discussed it and it was quite commonplace and it was just a precaution and not to worry and...(I'm not worried about taking the meds, you twit, I am worried that my failure to do so for more than four crucial weeks at the beginning of pregnancy might have killed my baby!!). Truth be told, I didn't really absorb anything further at this point, as my mind was already racing with the tragic inevitablity I was sure we were being led toward. That, and it took all the strength I could muster not to verbally assault the woman on the other end of the line, with her cavalier tone, who seemed to be treating the care of my hard-fought-for unborn child as a kind of afterthought, oblivious as to why such news might make someone in my situation anxious.

Now for those who don't know, Fragmin (or heparin solution) is commonly prescribed for patients with a history of recurrent miscarriage, but we'd reviewed my repeat bloodwork again and again, and since I don't carry the MTHFR mutation, and because of my cancer history and the risk that blood thinners pose to my already vulnerable platelet counts, it was decided there was really no need in my case. I spoke about it with Dr. B (the MFM) during that first, nervous terrified telephone consult.

If you know anything about the MTHFR mutation and its treatment though, you'll know that treatment with heparin is indicated as beneficial to preserve pregnancy at the earliest possible stage, from the moment of a positive pregnancy test, through the first trimester. Cue panic, more raw, mucousy wailing and a feeling of dread and certainty that I and my caregivers, through neglect of the most horrible and obvious kind, had surely killed my baby. <And then I got up, left for work, and had to sit through and pretend to care even a smidgen about a looong meeting on the changes to asylum law which was little more than white noise> I don't know why exactly this particular news threw me so badly - I suppose any such forgotten 'detail', sprung on me so thoughtlessly, probably would have - but for those hours, I was convinced I was once more carrying a dead baby in my useless womb.

So off we went yesterday afternoon, and I won't bore you with the agonizing details, but suffice it to say that several screamy, demanding phone calls back to the clinic, in which I insisted on having our next u/s moved up from next week so that we could see the damage, resulted in a long meeting with Dr B, a reprimand to the nurse who handled the phone call, and best of all <drum roll please> another peek at our little seedling, very much alive and thriving and measuring ahead now at 8 weeks 3 days, having transformed from adorable grey blob to unmistakably human: giant adorable head, arm and leg buds all present and accounted for. And all 1.9 cm beautiful to behold. We found a strong heartbeat immediately with the abdominal u/s (the transvag invader having weilded its last).

I won't be taking the Fragmin, as originally agreed. Dr. B reviewed all my files, and still feels that it's not warranted in this case, especially as (music to my ears) my 'pregnancy seems to be progressing beautifully and you have a beautiful, healthy baby in there'. I trust him. The RE who put that note on my file (truly it seems as an afterthought) apparently makes a habit of that protocol, and I am suspicious of any approach to treatment that deals with patients by rote, irrespective of their individuals needs and histories. Dr. B kindly but firmly encouraged me to relax and enjoy as much of this as I possibly can, and it's medical advice I'll certainly (try to) take to heart. He ordered the scan I had demanded, just as reassurance: he is the first doctor we have dealt with who understands that when he is dealing with patients who have our reproductive history, it's as much about treating the parents and their wounded nerves as it is about caring for their baby. 'We understand that this is not just about the common cold, and you're entrusting your hopes for the future with us'. Melt. I wanted to hug him just as much as I wanted to strangle the RE and his stupid nurse for freaking us out in the first place.

But as promised - and despite unhealthy levels of adrenalin and cortisol having doubtless being released in the interim - a happy ending. Which just leaves me to make introductions.

World, meet little seedling. Little seedling, mee...well, I guess you don't need to worry about any of that right now. Plenty of time for all those introductions soon enough. Today (again) just joy and relief.



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Still here, still pregnant

And every time I utter (or even think) that second statement, I feel a compulsion to add 'as far as we know right now'. That's terrible, isn't it?

While I had hoped that seeing that beautiful little flutter would be enough to not only calm my fears but make me feel more connected to the idea of being pregnant - and in some ways it has - and while I've managed not to descend into further bouts of mucousy crying, I'm also, it has to be said, a little...reserved? Detached? Hiding in a ball under the duvet?

After last Monday, I began to feel like it had perhaps, just maybe, all been a dream and now things were returning back to anxious pessimistic 'normal'. Minus the booze. Or the sushi.

That's not really true, of course. I have moments of real hopefulness, and when I am able to access the left brain logic buried under still- heavy piles of fear and caution, I remind myself that as of now, we have nothing but reasons to believe this pregnancy, that adorable grey blob, will indeed keep going and result in a healthy baby eight seven-and-a-half months from now. Today, I'm just shy of eight weeks pregnant. Further than we got last time. And my symptoms, which seem to wax and wane an frequently as my moments of hopeterrordetachmenthope, have run the gamut. And they are often strong. Until little seedling is able to give me more concrete, anthropic evidence that s/he is in there, growing away, it's a pretty nice reminder that things may just be going as they ought.

To wit: I'm a glowing amalgam of nausea, headaches, dizziness, aching boobs, nausea, heartburn, constipation, food aversions, food cravings, nausea, fatigue, bloating, gassiness, aaand nausea, which sometimes seems to exist in simultaneity with a desire to consume all the foods. All of them. On top of that, my weakened immune system chose this week to land me with a mammoth, sniffling, hacking head cold. I am a delight, I tell you.  

So, for the most part I'm laying low here in limbo-land (how's that for alliteration?), not drawing attention to myself or my 'condition', hoping that the malevolent variety of pregnancy gods somehow miss me altogether this time. Cast your lightening bolts elsewhere, evil fiends!

Given our history (and no matter how much I try to distance myself from that too, putting it in the ancient past), I don't know when I'll feel more confident in this pregnancy, if there'll be a magic moment when I'll really, truly believe. I'm certainly hopeful that there will, and that it will be soon; because while I can't say that my fear is stealing all the joy, it has muted it considerably. I'm hopeful that one day soon, the 'as far as we know' will become 'until s/he's born'. 

For now, I'm flexing my coping muscles. Cherishing those moments of holymolyI'mactuallypregnant! euphoria when they come, but also being gentle with myself when I can't muster the energy to embrace them, or stomach ohmigodhowexciting! sentiments of any kind when they come from others. Not that we've told a single soul beyond the thousands of my closest friends on the interwebs you, dear readers <waves to anonymous follower in the Cook Islands>. More just as a general attitude. Which is probably why I feel an occasional need to be silent in this space right now.

Which is maybe not such a bad thing for my long-suffering bloggy friends. Really, I'm repeating myself, aren't I? Lather <paranoid freak-out>, rinse <feel pukey and rejoice>, repeat. Is there a point to any of this? Not really; I guess it's more of a pop-in-and-say-hi kind of post.

I'm still here, still pregnant, and as far as we know...everything's just fine.


Same sentiment, whole new significance.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Waves of light


Today is international Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. A global 'wave of light' will be created as those remembering the souls of little lives ended too quickly light candles in windows across the world, from 7pm to 8pm in each time zone. I love the symbolism of the candle and its flame as a memorial to S, whose soft, flickering presence continues to gently light and warm so many of our days.

Remembering

H recently read somewhere that the Inuit of Greenland believe the dancing, multi-coloured lights of the Aurora Borealis to be the souls of lost babies playing together in the heavens. I don't know if that's true, but I absolutely love the beautiful and playful image that it conjures. The idea that their waves of light are not just symbolic gestures that we as babylost parents make to memorialise our babies, but that those babies are the very filaments of the cosmos itself, colouring our skies, warming our lives and enveloping us in wonders.

It feels strange, but also appropriate, that just as fluttering hope and burgeoning love is developing for this new life inside me, there comes a special moment for remembering what came before, what brought us to this place. This juxtaposition will always be hard, but it will also always be my reality. Joy and grief and love are all wrapped up in each day and how we live them. I feel like this juxtaposition shapes my experience as a parent and as a human being. It isn't the first time I've been confronted with these inherent, messy, life-affirming contradictions.

This evening, as I do my best to nurture new life, I'll also be thinking of all those who grieve for the babies they never got to know. I'll think of their babies, but instead of just remembering them, I'll be imagining their ongoing presence and the beauty they bestow, up there whirling happily among the colours and the clouds.

How's that for a brag-worthy baby pic? Source.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.

Or rather, Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday/NewYear'sEveFireworks /WorldHugDay(becauseohwhatthehell) all rolled into one. And then some.

The little seedling was there, measuring bang on target at 6 weeks 4 days, looking, according to the cheery u/s tech, 'as comfy as can be'. Aaawww.

Little seedling's miniscule, miraculous heart fluttered, I finally exhaled, and H gushed hot, joyful tears.

As we sat in the foyer, clutching the written confirmation of said heartbeat more proudly and ferociously than any degree we'd ever been awarded, waiting to be booked for our follow-up scan in just over two weeks....

H (blubbering profusely): It's already so cute!

Me (still too dazed to take it in): It's a tiny grey blob, my love.

H: But it's such a cute tiny grey blob!

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We're madly in love. Obviously.

First - and crucial - hurdle crossed.

And you. Thank you for holding my hand, bolstering my spirits, tolerating my crazy, and believing for me through what have been two of the longest weeks in recent memory. I love you all, too.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A spotting update and attitude reboot

Since I posted my frantic report of spotting on Friday, I've become a lot calmer and regained much of my zen about this pregnancy. The spotting has stopped and I'm inclined to believe that it might just have been one of those little blips that are not uncommon to perfectly normal healthy pregnancies...a topic on which I have too little practice.

When I could get away from work on Friday afternoon, I called our clinic, fighting back tears as I talked with the doctor on call. She reiterated what all of you wise women, with your reassuring comments, already knew: that spotting at this stage of pregnancy is not only very normal, but could even be a good sign. That based on what I'd told her it could very well be the little one making itself comfy for a long stay. That as long as the spotting didn't increase in flow or become red blood, I should try not to worry. That the cervix is very 'vascularized' in early pregnancy, and given the fact that my progesterone levels have always been through the roof naturally even before pregnancy (thus precluding any need for supplements), this increases the chances of even mild irritation leading to some bleeding. That my biggest job right now was staying optimistic and looking after myself. She prescribed bed rest for the weekend and said that if things remained the same there was no need to advance the u/s which will happen tomorrow (tomorrow!) anyway. 

Since then, I've had two more episodes of spotting on Saturday morning, slightly heavier at first, but brown in colour, making me think (hopehopehope) she may just have been right that this was leftover implantation bleeding. It dwindled by yesterday afternoon and today there's been nothing.

I'm so relieved and a strange sense of calm has even fallen over me. I still think that those of us who have struggled hard to get and stay pregnant deserve a free pass when it comes to anything hinting at pregnancy complications, but so be it. It's absurd and difficult, but I'm trying as I might to place some distance from my past experience and just exist here and now.

Of all the insights culled from the not-actually-reassuring because I'm deeply neurotic phone consult with Dr. B last week, there was one I've clung to in the last few days. He said that as hard as he can imagine it to be (and I like about this doctor the fact that he doesn't assume he knows, can only imagine), that we have to try and look forward and see this as a new experience, a new pregnancy entirely separate from all our past experiences. Although my history reveals a lot of really crap luck, it may be nothing more than just that: shitty luck. And the one silver lining of having spun our wheels for months on end this year has been the copious amounts of monitoring that have taken place: we now know that there are no identifiable barriers to healthy conception or pregnancy, we're both in great health, and indeed, there is no reason why this shouldn't work. In fact, as we prepared for IVf over the summer, we were both hyper-conscious of being in the best possible shape we've been in ages, so the timing is right.

This is it's own pregnancy, and history doesn't always repeat itself.

At the moments when those scary events are happening, and when I let my mind wander to the worst case scenarios that have been, (as well as the ones I dream up) it can indeed feel as though H and I are somehow marked for bad luck. That it is always and inevitably attracted to us. But really, where we now find ourselves, that attitude won't do. Firstly because it's not a very appealing quality to possess and not one I'd like to be associated with, but also, secondly, because it won't do us any good to think like that and may even steal precious moments of joy from what is becoming. As much bad luck as there might have been, right this very minute, we are lucky indeed for what is.

H has been amazing through all this. This time around, he is both more connected to this pregnancy than I am able to be (which made this spotting episode all the more scary for him), and also more able to tap into his optimism. He continues to dream quite vivid dreams of us with our child (including, amusingly, one last night of teaching the fundamentals of potty training...who dreams of that? All I can say is, if the realist leanings of his paternal yearnings are anything to go by, he's a natural, and I'm going to have it relatively easy). He has been nuzzling my belly and whispering coaxing words of all the delights that await, to tempt this little life to stay put and grace us with its presence in eight odd months. Last night, as we watched old episodes of Parks and Recreation on the computer, in bed, snuggled close together and with the speakers near my belly as the opening credits rolled, he said: How could it not want to stay with us when it can hear fun music like this? We promise we'll have lots of fun baby! We always have lots of fun. (The kid better share our taste in entertainment, I guess...) [He has, despite his own terror, managed to make me laugh in these moments of uncertainty. Having asked for immediate spotting-status-updates after each of my visits to the toilet, he then announced, on his own departure to the bathroom: I have to go to the loo. I wonder what my own pee will reveal? Maybe that we've won the lottery! Yeah, you had to be there... As schmaltzy as it gets, but this is why I love the man.]

Are we getting way ahead of ourselves? Yes. Is it way too early to count our embryos before they've hatched never mind need potty training? For sure. Will any of this have even the slightest impact, for ill or good, on how tomorrow turns out, or all the tomorrows after that? Not a jot. So we might as well enjoy, because we sure as hell deserve it.

Now....Breath held. Fingers crossed. On to tomorrow. 


Friday, 11 October 2013

Spotting

I started spotting this morning. Fuck.

Actually, it was just the once, and it was very light and pink when I wiped. I know it could be nothing. I need it to be nothing.

But it's so very hard to keep my mind from going back, to the last time when the end began just like this, and at exactly the same age of gestation. Or forward, to what I deeply fear (what I have feared since the moment of first seeing that second line) could be the inevitable end to this pregnancy as well.

I'm struggling so hard every day to stay positive during this time, often feeling guilt when I can't. I've put all my energy into that end, and this sucks and it's so unfair. Can't a mother who has lost three babies just have a straightforward, unscary pregnancy when the chance finally comes again?

I have to go to work now and we're supposed to be going away tonight to visit friends.

I'm really scared.

If you have any encouraging stories of this happening and it being nothing, I'd love to hear. Even if you're just reiterating the very obvious advice that I could find myself online....I need your encouragement more than ever. If you can spare more thoughts and vibes to send to this little life, I'd love those too. I just don't know what I'm supposed to do right now. 


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dreaming of gifts to come

Today is my wonderful H's birthday. In one way, I'm feeling a little remiss as a loving wife, considering the lengths he normally goes to with birthdays full of things I love, lavish surprises and prosecco-fuelled, moonlit strolls along the Thames.

Because honestly, I fear he will be welcomed home tonight to the sight of a wife lying prostrate on the sofa, moaning audibly. And not in the Ooh baby ravish me, jungle sex kind of way. Rather in the eeuuueeehhhh I'm dizzy and I might puke, joyful-but-comatose way that only an infertile pregnant lady can embrace. 

I'm feeling better; that is 'better' in this weird, inverted world of pregnancy after loss, when feeling crap becomes awesome, and feeling too fit or energetic or symptom-free is the stuff of night terrors. I've held on to each of your wishes and prayers and thoughts like colourful little worry dolls, there to help ease my burden and sooth my fears. Thank you. I truly feel like there are so many people out there rooting for this little life.

And today I'm focusing on being happy. For as long as this pregnancy lasts, I want the days of happiness to outweigh those of fear. And the truth is, at this point, aside from looking after my body and keeping that hope, a very large part of the work now falls to this little pea shoot itself. I'm going to have to trust that s/he is strong and healthy and ready to be the one that finally sticks.

So in another way, I'm doing my bit to make this a birthday for H to remember. Although tonight there will be no homemade cake and no scantily clad wife ready to indulge his every whim, I'm going to invest all my energies in preparing for a truly amazing (if belated) birthday gift next week.

I know there's nothing he'd rather have. It'll be the perfect gift. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Five weeks, four days and a whole new level of crazy

What was all that blissed out zen crap I said last week? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I lied.

This past weekend involved several mini breakdowns, a patiently handled 'emergency' telephone consult with the lovely Dr. B (whose assurances that all those cramps were 'good news if anything, evidence that your uterus is preparing in all the ways it should right now', were only partly comforting in a long series of moments when my body's mimetic ability to feign PMS symptoms really convinced me my next period was impending, those second lines really just another cruel joke), and nearly a full day of lying curled up in the fetal position, all mucous and red, raw skin and ugly crying.

I'm having nightmares and not managing to sleep very well some nights. And then freaking out because it occurs to me that my lack of proper rest and the overstimulation of my adrenal-cortical system is probably harming the fetus trying to grow.

And symptoms? Much as I've had quite a few, ill-conceived pause for thought don'tthinkdon'tthink! led me to wonder: what if I just dreamed all those too? Because, just as with every two week wait I've experienced until now, I want to feel pregnant and so I do? Because ya know, when your uterus has done such a spectacular job of not sustaining the life you created, it's hard to place even the teeniest amount of trust in your body or any of what it's experiencing.

This is the nasty progression of infertility schizophrenia to the nth degree.With the after-effects of recurrent loss thrown in just for measure. Because if some seriously bipolar tendencies weren't enough, I also have some major PTSD sensations around ultrasounds themselves. They're a huge grief trigger. I'm afraid that the healthy form of grieving that I've carefully, painfully built over the past years, all the ways in which I've managed to incorporate and honour my losses without allowing them to overtake me entirely, will all crumble should the u/s screen reveal what I dread it will: just deep, still blackness.

Ultrasounds are not harbingers of good news for us. We've been here, hoping and waiting, three times before. And three times those hopes have been dashed. And in each case the u/s machine was the instrument of torture delivering those blows. The ultrasound terrifies me.

On the one hand, I don't see how this could possibly end happily for us; it feels like that's something that happens for other people; the preserve of those blessed masses among whom I don't belong, but never for us. At the same time, there's a still-resentful and resilient part of me that's thinking: If it's happening for everyone else, don't we get one shot?

I'm not always this bad, every second. I have a lot of hope for this pregnancy to turn itself into the wonderful culmination of all that love and desire we've been nurturing for so long, in the absence of more practical acts of nurturing. The rapid succession of emotions on that crazy hopeterrorhope continuum does not make it easy though. 

I guess for now, I have to hang on to that resentful and resilient little voice which keeps me going. I always feel like when I reach that Fuck You place in my emotional arc, there's a lot of good momentum to pull me forward into a place of greater optimism and fight. (Though obviously, let's be honest: we all know that the real remedy for this particular malaise is just one, and that's to hear a happy, beating little heart next week.)

Also, as crazy and obnoxious as I know I sound right now, it helps just writing it out. Phew. Slightly better now. Yeah, let's go with that.


A special kind of crazy. Source