Monday, December 24, 2007

Still on the IF roller coaster?

As you know, I have had my ups and downs in regards to this pregnancy. While I am thankful and happy that things continue to look good, I am also still grieving the losses of the last five years.

The last 48 hours have been no exception. Sometimes I wonder if we ever truly get off of the IF roller coaster. Perhaps the ride just shifts a bit as time goes on.

Saturday morning I woke up - for the second day in a row - with the thought, "Everything is not ok with this pregnancy." I believed it was just the normal fears which come with a pregnancy after years of infertility and loss, but I wasn't sure. And although we are just at the cusp of when people will start to feel movement, the waiting and hoping reminded me so much of the 10 weeks I waited for Ernest to move, that I started to get anxious. So I called the hospital where my OB works and asked if he was on call Saturday or Sunday. It turned out he was on call that day. So I left a message asking if he could get us in for a scan. He called about 2 hours later and said that he was very busy, but if we could get there in 30 minutes, he would try to get us in.

We rushed to the hospital and met him in Labor and Delivery (thankfully he was immediately available and we were spared hanging around). We walked to his office that is part of the hospital complex and did a quick scan. Everything still looks good. It was such a relief to see movement. We saw a 4 chambered heart, a bladder, two kidneys and a brain that seems to be developing normally. He said the placenta was anterior (between me and the baby) so it makes sense that I haven't felt any movement yet. I would have been happy to wrap it up after we saw a leg move, but we are extra grateful for the additional details. On the way back through the hospital, he apologized for needing to make it so quick. Did I not say he was Dr. Wonderful?

That led to a very nice and peaceful Saturday and a restful sleep Saturday night. Sunday, the clouds rolled in again. It wasn't a bad day, but I was feeling the usual holiday blues. I was hoping this Christmas wouldn't be so sad. Ok, if I am honest, it is much better to be pregnant over the holiday than be on the other side of a failed cycle and waiting for the next one to start. Still, I felt the sadness of the past Christmas seasons and wondered if I would ever feel the joy I used to feel around this time.

Trying to cheer things up, Brad and I decided to wrap Christmas presents while drinking tea and listening to This American Life on a podcast. It is an public radio show that takes a theme and tells 3-4 stories around this theme. It seemed to be a safe subject about friendships that form or stay together even when it seems they shouldn't. The last story was about a woman with infertility issues who becomes friends with her doctor's wife. Brad suggested we turn it off, but I thought I would be ok. I mean, it doesn't mean it is going to be a happy ending just because it is about infertility. Yeah, right. The woman tried for 3 years but it is unclear if she had multiple failed IVF cycles or not. And of course, they transfer two embryos and she has healthy triplets. It was the drop of water that broke the dam. I sobbed for an hour. It was the first time in about a year when I hoped I wouldn't wake up in the morning. I felt like such a failure. "Why," I begged my husband, "weren't we lucky? Why wasn't I able to do enough to make it work for us? Why did we put back three perfect donor embryos and have only one implant?" (Note: I really never wanted twins or higher order multiples. The only downside of one is the $28,000 it will cost to have a sibling, but I still wonder why the other two didn't implant). Once I stopped crying I went to bed and tried to remind myself that I was not a failure. No one who knows what we have done would call us failures. I repeated some of the things my RE recently told me when I called him for reassurance and support. He said I was "absolutely not a failure" and that I was amazing. He said I need to let go of the dream of having my genetic child. He expressed his confidence in me to decide I can be ok with this. I cuddled up to Brad and fell asleep.

This morning the sun came out, literally and figuratively. I thought about my friend Kate who is dealing with an extremely likely chemical pregnancy right now. My heart goes out to her and her latest post really captures those feelings after a failed cycle. I understand where she is at, as much as any another person can. I have been there and it is so unbelievably hard. It made me realize how much better it is to be here, in this moment, with such hope on the horizon. Even though I have struggled with the feelings of loss and failure that come with using donor eggs, I am thankful to my RE for encouraging me down this path.

I am thankful for all the people who have supported us (paid and unpaid) and the bond Brad and I have. I am thankful to Belinda for being our donor. I am especially thankful for Little Project and the hope that she has brought us. Please continue to be healthy, little one.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Winter Solstice Eve!

For all of you just waiting for the daylight hours to start increasing - your wait is over! While tomorrow is the official Winter Solstice it is also longer than today. In fact, in this neck of the woods tomorrow's daylight time is officially ONE SECOND longer than today. Yeah!!

Tonight, Brad and I intend to light a bonfire (well, a largish one anyway) to help the Sun God fight the evil powers of night.

As for the article I linked to in my last post - here are my thoughts: I think that there will always be people unhappy with the way they are raised. I think it also does the child a disservice by keeping the genetic link a secret or diminishing its importance. We live in an era where genetics are considered very important - perhaps too important. We believe we can link every trait and habit to one or two particular genes (although I think this is slowly changing and that it is much more complicated than that). To tell a child, "It doesn't matter where 1/2 your genes come from" is telling the child that what he/she feels is important really isn't. No one wants to hear that their thoughts / feelings are not valid. I hope that by being open and honest about our child's genetic heritage - and the availability of actually being able to meet the donor - will help avoid these types of situations. I hope this baby turns out ok and we will get the chance to test our theory.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A few updates

Just some random updates for today. Short and sweet.

1) An article for some thought:

2) We are still staying in touch with Belinda and that continues to go well. Brad gives her updates and when I feel up to it, she and I chat. Mostly we talk about the shared experience of a donor cycle and how society views it, but we also talk about more common topics such as family, work and life .

3) I met with the "secondary infertility" lady and it went really well. We hit if off right from the beginning. She has a warm and thoughtful personality and understands how wonderfully fortunate she is to have one child - something she didn't appreciate as much until her recent failures while trying for number two (her first came relatively easily).

4) Only 2 days left until the days start getting longer! I know the official solstice this year is on the 22nd (at 1:14 AM) but I am hoping that the 22nd will still be longer than the 21st. I choose to live!

5) As so many people have pointed out in the comments of the previous post (thank you!), today is my birthday. I won't mention my age, but I was born in 1967. Brad and I took the day off and it will be mostly leisure. My only requirement for the day is that we go for a nice long walk during day light hours. It has been a good day so far (it is 11 AM) and I am feeling thankful for all the wonderful things in my life - good friends (both IRL an online), a wonderful husband and with a little luck a third (or 7th if you count the pets) member of our family on his/her way.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Midwife appt #1: 14 weeks 0 days

Last night was our first midwifery appointment. I got home from work about 5:30, changed into some more comfortable clothes (pajama pants!) and ate dinner. My midwife, lets call her . . . Kate - Kate arrived on time at 6:00.

Yes. She comes to my house. No waiting room full of big bellies. Just me in my jammies, my husband and our pets. Nice.

We haven't seen each other in awhile (we have stayed in touch since Ernest was born more than 3 years ago) so we caught up. She showed us pictures of her trip to Senegal and we swapped stories since I was in the Peace Corps in The Gambia - just south of where she was. It was a little heavy on baby stories, but she is a midwife after all and that was the focus of the trip.

After about an hour, we got down to business. I was starting to get nervous because the moment of truth was coming . . . would we hear a heart beat. I shared my feelings with her - my feelings of fear and the sense of failure I sometimes feel. I told her I don't really feel like "one of those pregnant people." She asked what I would do when I was giving birth. I joked that I would probably be thinking, "OMG! I'm pregnant!"

We talked some more about dealing with the grief. She suggested that I talk to the baby and when I am sad to tell the baby that it isn't about him or her. That is is about me grieving, which needs to happen, and that I still love our Little Project and am happy to have him/her growing inside of me.

After a few minutes, she suggested we get the hard part over with. I peed on a stick - in the privacy of my own bathroom - compared it to the label and reported back. Everything looked good except I was high for "specific gravity". She said that is common with pregnancy.

Then I laid down on the couch and scooted my pajamas down and my shirt up. Kate felt around for the edges of my uterus and said it is about the right size. I actually measured two weeks behind, but that is common this early because the uterus tips back a bit. Then she felt around for the baby and put the doppler about where she thought we would get a heartbeat. It took about 8 seconds and we could hear the woosh woosh of the umbilical cord. Then it got muddied with the sound of my heartbeat so she moved the doppler and then we got the heart itself. We listened for just a couple of seconds, but it was enough. Phew!

Brad offered to get a tissue to wipe up the gel. Kate said no, it is aloe vera gel and she likes to rub it in so the baby gets to know her. As she was doing that, we talked a bit more about nutrition - she is a strong advocate of getting enough protein. She suggested I make peanut butter balls to keep around as snacks. Yum! I think I can do that.

On a bit of a side note, if anyone has any peanut butter ball recipes, please let me know. I still yearn for the ones my elementary school used to serve.

I have to admit, I missed seeing an ultrasound, but it was nice to be able to discuss my feelings around the pregnancy. My OB is very understanding and caring, but he simply can't take the time to talk about these things. On the plus side, both my midwife and OB (he wanted an update today) said I may feel the baby move in the next couple of weeks. I may not trust that is what I felt, but to be open to the feeling.

My next appointment is with the OB two weeks from today. He will probably ask again how much we want to test. Maybe I will know the answer by then.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

For the record

For the record, I am (I think) doing better in regards to coping with and accepting donor eggs. At least I don't seem as sad about it nor as often.

Certainly, seeing the baby move on the ultrasound has helped a great deal. When I think that we should have kept trying with my eggs, I can tell myself that we might still be trying for quite some time, rather than being hopeful that the kicking baby will be in our arms in 6-ish months.

It came to me several weeks back - and maybe I have already mentioned this - that part of the sadness I was feeling was separate from having a baby with someone else's genes. Part of the sadness was (is?) because I felt like such an absolute and complete failure. How was I not able to create a baby with my eggs? Did I try hard enough? I should have gone to an RE sooner. I ought to have been able to fix this!

And so the thoughts would go. Even typing it now, I can feel a heaviness in me. But the good news is that I have an answer to those thoughts: Brad and I made the best possible decision with the information we had and I did everything I could to create a different outcome. I also remind myself how completely weary we were (and still are to some extent). We needed to move on and get to a different chapter of our lives. I remind myself that it takes strength to keep moving on and to choose options you really didn't want - whether that is moving to IVF, choosing donor gametes, choosing to adopt or choosing to live child free.

The best part about being sad because I failed (or didn't fail as I keep reminding myself) is that I see myself getting over it. Losing my genetic connection will always be with me and it's impact will be felt in many different ways for years and years to come. If this is the greater cause of my sadness, how will I ever be ok? But if it is about feeling like a failure? That I can recover from.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Support group update

Thank you to everyone who left feed back regarding how to handle my pregnancy and the IRL support group. It is SO much appreciated! I would like to encourage anyone with an opinion to continue to leave your thoughts.

You ladies didn't let me down and I got some wonderful feedback from many different view points. For the time being, I am going to take each new member on a case by case basis as to when I will let them know about the pregnancy. My plan is to not attend the meetings in person once the bump (continuing to think optimistically) is too prominent. Even if people say they are ok with it, they might not be on that particular day.

Interestingly, I have had my first big challenge in terms of new members. The newest member is dealing with secondary infertility. She got pregnant on her first IVF and has had two failed FET's from embryos left over from that first IVF cycle. She has more in the freezer, but her RE has advised her to move on to another fresh cycle. Can I be compassionate and offer her the same support I give to others still trying for their first? I think so. Can I be sincere in that support? I will try.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Don't let me become one of "them"

Warning: Please accept my apologies in advance for offending anyone. I don't want to minimize anyones infertility struggles as I describe how I sometimes feel. I hope I make the point at the end that everyone's pain is relative.

Don't let me become one of "them"

You know the ones . . . the infertiles who get pregnant "easily", but still think they have had it so hard that you would never envy their success. They are the ones who show up at the RE clinic with a toddler as they do an FET for a sibling. They tell you about their pregnancy or pat their belly and lament how terribly hard it all is and don't seem to understand that their situation or conversation can still cause you feelings of sadness and pain.

They think they are just like you. They think you should be happy for them or feel inspired by their success or at the very least, that you couldn't possibly be jealous because after all, their journey was just so awful.

I believe my journey hasn't been "easy". I define getting pregnant "easily" as someone who gets pregnant with IUI or less than 4 or 5 IVF's with their own gametes and no more than one early miscarriage. I know this will be offensive to those of you who may be or hope to get pregnant by my definition of easy. I don't want to negate your journey. My intention is to explain that I am sometimes envious of people who get pregnant, in my view, more easily than myself. When these people try to compare their journey to mine, I don't find it comforting. In fact, I find that I feel my journey has been negated or trivialized.

Not too long ago, I had someone tell me she had the exact same thing happen. She was dealing with infertility, got pregnant the first time and had a late term loss. Yes, that part of the journey is similar to mine, but after that it is very different. When she had her late term loss, she had frozen embryos ready to go. She took a few months to mourn, did an FET and had a healthy baby. At the point she shared this, I had been more than 2 years on the other side of losing our child, 2 failed IVF's and facing using donor gametes. I would have given anything to have been as lucky as her.

Here is my dilemma. I started a support group about a year ago. Things were pretty slow at first, but we have been getting some new members lately - which is great. The problem is that I am now pregnant. I can arrange things so I don't show right now and I can avoid the subject, but I also don't want to be dishonest. There is a part of me that thinks, "She won't mind that I am pregnant because it is with donor eggs. She will be glad that she hasn't gotten to that point."

But it isn't that simple, of course. She might be battling something that makes it hard to carry a baby and would take a pregnancy with DE over a gestational carrier or no baby at all. She may not be able to afford IVF and would be thankful for even the chance to try - never mind the gametes. She might be so warn out or hopeless feeling that any pregnancy would cause pain. I need to remember that my journey may fall into someone else's definition of "easy".

Any suggestions on how to handle this as we go forward? Can I ask people how they feel about me being pregnant and be able to get an honest answer? Do you think it is possible most people won't mind that I am pregnant - at least until I start showing? If you were joining my IRL support group and you didn't know me at all, how would you feel?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

OB appointment #2: 12 weeks, 1 day (detailed u/s description)

We had another meeting with Dr. Wonderful on Friday. To save you any suspense, all went well and things look normal. Now on to the tedious details!

I suspect the first part of every visit is going to be the same. We arrived on time, only to wait in a big-bellied waiting room for 30 minutes. Like last time, my mood spiraled down as I watched all the get-pregnant-easily people waddling around. I find my self defense is always to mentally trash on these other women. One woman looked like she was 19 and her boyfriend, husband, or younger brother looked like he was 12. Another woman reminded me of the guy in Beetle Juice who got his head shrunk in the afterlife's waiting room. It didn't matter what they were like really, I hated them all. No, I'm not bitter.

Eventually, we were called back, weighed and blood pressured. We were then taken to the OB's office to wait to speak with him. Since this was our official "new OB patient" appointment, we would talk about due dates and how I was feeling, what to eat/not eat, etc. (I was actually spared the later this time, thankfully - I had heard it twice before and knew all that long before I ever got pregnant the first time).

The interesting bit was when I went to pee in a cup while waiting for the doctor to arrive. I don't like this part very much. I don't know why, but it seems too . . . icky to pee in a cup and then leave my yellow goodness on a shelf along with others so a nurse can come by and stick a strip in it. The worst part was as I was leaving the one bathroom. There was an obviously pregnant lady waiting her turn. She gave me a big, "Phew!" and a look that said, "You know how we pregnant ladies are." As if we have this big thing in common. I wanted to shout at her, "We have nothing in common. You have no idea what it took for me to get here - huge amounts of grief, loss, money, marital challenges - and you could never, ever pretend to have a clue what this pregnancy is like for me." Actually, that is the clean version of what I was thinking.

We returned to Dr. Wonderful's office where Brad and I sat for another 30 minutes or so. He asked if I had any cramping or bleeding and if I was still feeling pregnant (no, no, and yes). Then we calculated the due date - perhaps he wanted to double check my math? He asked when implantation was and I said, "Well, retrieval was September 20th, but the transfer was the 26th." He then realized it was the retrieval date he wanted anyway and we, of course, determined that I my due date would be June 12th. As if I didn't know this date from the day we were scheduled for the trigger shot.

We then moved to the scan room. My OB really is a wonderful person and once again asked what level of care I wanted since he recalled I didn't want any ultrasounds with our first (low tech all the way for me). I told him (trying not to cry) that I no longer cared because now I realized there is nothing I nor anyone can do to save a baby. He said that choosing not to do meth, etc. does make an impact. "Ok," I conceded, "but a few ultrasounds now couldn't possibly have the impact IVF, ICSI and donor eggs have already had." He laughed and agreed that he was relatively low-impact.

So we did the scan. Right away we could see the baby move, but I insisted we look at the heartbeat. I didn't need to measure it, I just needed to see that flutter. Brad was unbelievably thrilled. Usually I am the pessimist, but I just have a feeling things are going to work out with this one. (Yes, I have been wrong before and I could still be wrong, but if it feels hopeful I won't talk myself out of it.) Brad, usually what I call a blind optimist was very nervous so seeing the baby move was like he was given a set of wings. We could see arms and legs moving this time. Dr. Wonderful pointed out the spine, rib cage, fingers and toes. At one point one of her feet was facing the u/s so we could see a perfect little footprint.

The conversation moved around the level of care that I wanted. He said in the future we can stick to a doppler, do scans sometimes or every time, etc. Dr. Wonderful added he wanted to do what he could to give me what I needed. I replied that I would like to avoid sitting in the waiting room. He said we can work something out - I could wait in the car and they could call me, or wait in his office or have the first appointment of the day. Brad and I like the last appointment of the day so we will do one of the first two in future appointments.

An already long post but we are not yet done with the post or the appointment!

We were then escorted to an exam room where I got naked and waited for another 30 minutes. I was due for my annual pap test so he did that. He also did a breast exam keeping in mind that I planned to breast feed. Dr. Wonderful joked that, "The baby would have to be stupid not to be able to latch on to those." In the spirit of infertility I also partly worried that he would jinx me and I would have a kid to messed up to latch on.

We then talked about the types of tests we would like to do. He pointed out that if we wouldn't do anything (as in terminate) with the information we would probably be better off not finding out. In the past, this was my opinion. I would accept and love and take care of any child we had. There is no way I would ever, ever terminate a pregnancy. Now that we have had a child that could have been severely disabled had he lived and had 40 plus embryos die, I find I am a bit more pragmatic. I hate to think of myself as someone who would terminate a life that could have some quality of life, but I also know that there is no way we could ever afford a sibling (at around $25,000 to $30,000 if we are lucky) if we had to care for a special needs child. Well, we have some weeks to decide. We will see how it goes.

In the meantime I have scheduled my first appointment with my midwife. We will see her in less than two weeks.