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!

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

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

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Thankful

Today I am exactly five weeks pregnant.

(That is according to the handy NHS due date calculator, which, once I overcame my initial horror at the thought of having to acknowledge the reality of that first statement, has become as regular a stop on my internet reading as the many blogs I follow. I check it daily, seeking reassurance not so much in the still scary future tense due date attached to this potential for life that grows in me, as its confirmation that yes, one more day has passed, inching me ever further through these uncertain first days; as though this generic online resource is somehow preternaturally connected directly to my specific pregnancy. It comfortingly leaves out details that are included on other, less reassuring sites, such as: There are 245 days left until your due date! Serves me right, for presenting myself to any congregation bearing the moniker 'Just Mommies'. Oh gods, please never...)

Before I'd gathered the courage to venture into those particular waters myself, H sweetly (but also somewhat nauseatingly) announces:  I couldn't resist looking up what the due date would be, [June 5th, for those like H, precipitously keeping count] and they tell me that right now it's the size of a poppy seed.

Truth: I hate fetus/fruit size comparisons. Am I supposed to be gestating a life or preparing a salad? I don't get it. And I don't really do cutesy. But H's enthusiasm was so genuine, and so disarming, that I couldn't help but indulge it. That, plus he's what's keeping me sane right now. I'm so impressed by this optimism he's chosen to embrace. And I crave it.

Five weeks: a drop in the vast ocean of fear that regularly threatens to engulf me. But also a start. 

There are moments of terrifying, but so far I'm managing these complicated emotions better than I thought I might. The physically crappy but psychologically euphoric feeling of being overcome by an awful lot of pregnancy symptoms helps, though when they wane for even a few hours it sends me into a minor panic, such as on Tuesday evening, when a momentary sense of feeling energized and without even the tiniest tinge of nausea compelled me to pee on the remaining stick in the bathroom (it was lying there forlornly, the orphan of the double pack we'd purchased in the event of an unclear result). The fact that the second line, much darker than its predecessor, sprang into visibility almost before the pee hit the stick was just what I needed. (H, with his unaccustomed optimism again surfacing: Wow, you're super pregnant.) 

But largely, I'm allowing myself as many moments of hopeful what if... as I can muster.

We have eleven more days to wait until we find out - at least initially, tentatively - whether this hope is well placed. Our first ultrasound is scheduled for October 14th, when I should be 6 weeks, 4 days pregnant. October 14th is also one of my favourite holidays, though not one that's recognized here in Europe. For us Canadians, Thanksgiving takes place on the second Monday in October; in 2013, October 14th, to be exact. It's a holiday that has the distinct feel of home and gentle nostalgia about it, and one I've managed to keep no matter where we find ourselves (sometimes in the most unlikely conditions, including one such on the margins of the Arabian desert, where lamb and rice and pomegranates had to stand in for turkey with all the trimmings). Wary as I am of 'signs' that invariably turn out to be a whole lot of nothing, I won't go so far as to say this coincidence feels like a good omen. But it did put a smile on my face when I looked at the calendar.

I'm still overwhelmed and scared; scared that there won't be anything to see on the 14th, that all this build up, the finally getting there, will only have been a precursor to another heartbreak, one from which I'm not sure we'd manage to return.

But mostly though, right now, there is possibility. And gratitude. Gratitude that we even get to be in this place, where good things (amazing things!) might be on the way. Where we can hope that an ultrasound will bring us something to see and be thankful for, rather than just another look at the shape of my empty womb, the functioning of ovaries that despite their normalcy, never quite seemed to cut it. So much gratitude for the chance to maybe, hopefully, see new life growing. See our future.



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



This week on my usual walk to work, I passed a tableau that was breath-taking in its bucolic simplicity. Our flat is adjacent to a lovely park where the vines that trail along the river are beginning to turn burnished shades of yellow and orange. The mellow autumn sun was shining through their filigree and a small boy was feeding the ducks with his mother, squealing with delight as I crossed the footbridge. I stood for the briefest of moments, relishing the scene, feeling all was right with the world; and as much as I admired the outward beauty, I was focused inward too. I thought to myself: today, right now, I'm pregnant.

Today I'm pregnant.

And for now, it's enough. It's more than we dared hope for.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Hopefully my fruitfulness.



There are 245 days left until your due date.