Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We’re Off the See the Scanner….Again

My first Ob/Gyn appointment went well. Sort of. First—most important—I saw the babies. Still alive. I had an abdominal ultrasound, which made me feel pregnant, if only for the moment. Baby A was kicking and moving his/her arms, showing off for the camera. I started to laugh, but that made it harder to see. But it was mesmerizing. Baby B was very still, which scared me to death. But all that poking woke him/her up and then he/she started moving too, mainly the little hands. What a relief. I wish Nicole had seen it too, because words don’t do it justice. It is a miracle, and that is not lost on me.

Baby B’s heart rate seemed slower to my untrained eye, but Dr. B says it “seems” fine. She can’t measure it with her dinky little machine, so I need to go with her instinct. But “seems” is such a wishy-washy word that doesn’t exactly instill confidence. I pushed Dr. B to be more specific but she insisted again that it seemed fine. Almost 12 weeks and I am still terrified of losing one or both.

In other news, my thyroid levels are “off.” I need to repeat blood work to see if it was just a glitch or if there is indeed something wrong. My platelet levels were also higher than normal. I asked Dr. B what this all means, and she launched into a detailed explanation of how the thyroid works, etc. I then asked the bottom line question: Is this going to cause a miscarriage or hurt the babies? The answer was a resounding no. Thank goodness. I can deal with thyroid disease if I have to, but I can’t deal with another negative ending.

The good news is I really like my new doctor, but I don’t like how the practice is run. The appointments were running more than an hour late because the temp receptionist scheduled 12 new patients in one day. And she was flustered and unresponsive. While waiting in the tiny room, I listened to her awful phone manners. She practically berated patients who called in with seemingly innocent questions and was unable to schedule a single appointment for any of the other patients because she couldn’t work the computer, leaving many nervous pregnant women walking out without knowing when they would be in next. I know she has been here for at least three weeks, because she scheduled my appointment (it took almost 15 minutes on the phone!). So she should have the system down by now.

Wednesday is The Big Scan. We are doing the Nuchal Fold scan to test for potential abnormalities. Nicole took the day off, so she is coming in with me, which makes everything seem so much easier to deal with. Everything is better when Nicole is with me. Plus, she will be able to share in seeing the babies, which will make it all seem more real that our family of two is now a family of four.

You would think by now I might start to relax, but I am not relaxed at all. The first trimester is almost over and I am still worried. There are still too many milestones to hit and still too many things that can go wrong.

I used to think that I was having an easy first trimester, but when I think about it, it actually has been hard. My mythical tolerance for pain and discomfort clouds my perception once again. I’m exhausted all the time. I wake up at least 5 times a night to pee, so I never get a good night’s sleep. I get a little queasy if I don’t eat anything. I get dizzy all the time, in that old-fashioned-fainting-pregnant-woman type of way. I get so winded just walking to the bathroom, and I practically hyperventilate when walking up the stairs from the subway. I even have a hard time walking and talking on the phone because of the out-of-breathness.

And then, of course, there’s food. While I enjoy a good meal as much as the next person, I now am officially obsessed with food. I went an hour out of my way to today to get German potato salad, sauerkraut and homemade pretzels on the Upper East Side. Everything tastes delicious. I have so many new taste buds. I don’t crave anything in particular: I crave everything. Sourdough bread with unsalted butter. Sour pickles. Salad with homemade buttermilk dressing. Rice with sour cream. Spicy rice with lime. Pasta with olive oil and shaved Parmesan cheese. Cracklin’ Oat Bran. The aforementioned German potato salad. New England clam chowder. Manhattan clam chowder. Stove Top stuffing. See’s chocolate with brown sugar filling. Salt bagels with melted cheddar. I could go on…. but there’s a toffee almond bar in the fridge with my name on it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Crack Whores and Roller Coasters

I have heard (and read…mainly read) so many laments of how perfectly good, healthy, sane, stable and loving people can’t get pregnant, but crack whores can.

It’s bizarre how this process makes you look at some people of undeserving of fertility. But understandable: Women dealing with infertility issues are usually the most health conscious people I know. They deserve to be pregnant. Many stop drinking and smoking and drinking caffeine altogether. They watch what they eat. They see therapists and acupuncturists and doctors. They try to get exercise or do yoga or go for long walks. They read and research infertility enough to be able to open their own clinics or, at the very least, field difficult questions. They drink special teas and eat special foods and take special vitamins. They visualize and meditate and pray and vent in journals and blogs. They believe in karma. Thy support other women in the same boat with compassion and kindness, offering support, love and friendship in abundance over the Internet without judgment. They weather relationship storms and trials unlike any other. And they are strong, withstanding the inane questions from others who want to know if they are pregnant yet or watching everyone around them get pregnant and deliver healthy babies. Infertility wasn’t exactly a club I wanted a membership in, but I must say I am proud to be in the ranks of people like this.

Yet since I am pregnant I guess I belong among the ranks of pregnant people. But I don’t relate. I still find more in common with the TTC people, much more so than with the pregnant women. It’s weird. At just over 11 weeks, I still feel like this isn’t happening. I still don’t feel pregnant. My stomach seems larger, but I feel certain that is because I am eating more than I should (after all, last night’s ice cream with caramel and sprinkles and chocolate chips needs to settle somewhere on my body). I still can’t bring myself to read pregnancy books or browse the aisles at Buy Buy Baby or sign up for the dreaded “This Week” emails that detail what is developing in the baby this week in utero. And here I am, almost at the end of my first trimester. I haven’t really enjoyed one day of this so-called special time. It’s hard to, when you are constantly looking over your shoulder.

The roller coaster is another familiar refrain in the infertility world. I too used to view this journey as a roller coaster. But a recent casual conversation with Nicole about Disneyland made me realize that infertility is nothing like roller coasters, really. On a roller coaster, you can see what’s coming up. You can see the big drops, and armed with this knowledge, you can steel yourself for the plunge (a little, at least). Most importantly, you see the end coming ont he horizon. But in reality, with infertility you have no idea what is around the corner. Drops come randomly. Sharp turns come without warning. The good and bad are mixed up in such a manic way. You have no idea when the madness is going to end. Infertility is more like Space Mountain. You are in the dark and have no idea what is going to happen. And you are so grateful when it is over.

Today I have my first OB/GYN appointment and I am scared to death. I can barely concentrate. I haven’t had a sonogram in two and a half weeks, which is quite a while when you are accustomed to weekly check-ins. I’m not supposed to get a sonogram today, but I will refuse to leave until I am wanded. I am convinced the babies are dead. In fact, I had a dream last time about it. Was it a premonition? Instinct? Or just worry? The appointment isn’t until 12:45, but I plan to get there a full hour early just in case there is a chance I can get in. I'd rather wait an hour in a waiting room than sitting home fretting.

There has to be a lesson here. Does the pregnant crack whore worry and fret? Or does she just sail through pregnancy with confidence and security (and denial, in the face of daily drug use), and little to no prenatal care. What does one have to do to achieve an even disposition for pregnancy? Worry, after all, gets me nowhere; that much I know. But that isn’t stopping me from worrying.

Nicole left a note on my orange juice this morning, telling me to say hi to the babies when I saw them today. Such optimism. It made me happy. I wish I had her indefatigable spirit when it comes to the health of these babies. Maybe she should have been the one to carry these babies. I bet she wouldn't even insist on a sonogram today if it were her.

Four more hours till I see if my worry was warranted or not.....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The 40WW

I reached the ten-week mark today and that is quite a milestone for me. How far I have come. Betas and sacs and fetal poles and yolk sacs and sonograms and heartbeats and growth measurements and more blood tests and arm buds. Ten whole, long, baby-growing weeks. I’ve never made it to the seven-week mark before, let alone the double digits. All of my unhappy endings were early, but long enough for me to get attached.

Ten weeks and yet it all still doesn’t feel real. I’m waiting for some seemingly inevitable bad thing to happen. I hyper analyze every twinge, throb and slight pain. I check for “disappearing symptoms” (not that I have many symptoms anyway). I can’t tell if my growing stomach is from the babies inside or from my tendency to eat so very much all day long.

I haven’t had a single sonogram since I was officially released from the RE. I won’t have another sonogram for 10 days. 10 days. Might as well be 10 weeks. I don’t know how I can get through that many days without some sort of scientific proof that these babies are alive and kicking inside me. That forces me to rely on faith and to believe what I can’t see; two things that I have never been very good at. And harder still when you’ve already had babies taken away from you.

I want to buy cribs and cute little outfits and pick out a stroller and settle on names. I want to feel certain that they are coming this spring.

So to pass the time, I am counting down the days. How many days till the next sonogram? How many days till the next doctor’s appointment? How many days till I am out of the first trimester? How many days till the babies are viable outside of me? How many days till the end?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Whatever Happened to Congratulations?

Some recent reactions to our news:

Oh wow! Do twins run in your family?
Why, yes they do, in fact. My mother is a twin. And apparently there are some other twins scattered about on her side. And, when you get down to it, the odds of having twins are 1/89. So that means out of every 89 births, there is one set of twins. Throw me in a room with 89 women and I can imagine someone calling my name. I’ve hit greater odds for lesser things. But our twins are courtesy of IVF.

Oh Wow! Twins! You are going to be so tired!
Well, yes, I probably will. But I would be so tired with one baby as well. Those who I know with one child complain endlessly about how little sleep they got in the beginning. It’s fine. I’ll deal. As a new mother I don’t expect to get much sleep, but I am pretty certain that the sleep issue will work itself out in the end.

Oh Wow! Twins! Twin pregnancies are really hard!
Of course any women pregnant with twins is aware of the risks. Preterm labor, to start with. Fetal death. Vanishing twins. Preemies. Preemies who have to live in the NICU for a week. Preemies who have to live in the NICU for a month. Preemies who never leave the NICU. Yes, I am aware of the potential complications. It scares the shit out of me. So maybe this is not a good thing to discuss with any woman who is pregnant with twins.

Wow! Twins! Just what you need! (without being ironic)
Eight failed IUIs. Two spectacular failures of IVF. Hundreds of doctor’s appointments. At least 30K out-of-pocket expenses (almost 7K on sperm alone). A career postponed because I can’t do IVF and work at the same time. Stress. Fear. Stress. Depression like I have never felt. Stress. Weight gain. Raging hormones. Weight loss. Potential increased cancer risk due to all of the drugs pumped in my body (depends on which research you believe). Months of intramuscular shots in my ass. Three miscarriages, including a horrifically painful ectopic. And now I am pregnant with two babies? Two (so far, knock on wood) perfect little babies? How can anyone see negative in that?!

Wow! Twins! How are you going to fit them in your apartment?
For the life of me I cn't figure out why people worry about these sort of things. We realize that children hog up a lot of space, but we aren’t so worried with where to put them. I wouldn't say it is the least of our worries, but I can say that it is easily the most solve-able issue. By NYC standards, our apartment is the square footage of a typical two-bedroom. We can carve a corner of the living room into a perfectly usable bedroom (with windows). There are plans to renovate the under-utilized entry office area. And plans for a place for weekend getaways so they (and we) can enjoy lawns and trees and nature. Babies will have their own closet and tons of cabinet space. (We still have cabinets in the kitchen that hold One Towel or Nicole’s old Snack Plate.) So no one over here I worried about space.

Wow! Twins! You are going to be huge!
Anyone who knows me knows I gain and lose the same 20 pounds, all my life. That may be a clue that maybe just maybe there are a few small food issues going on with me. Do you really think it is beneficial to discuss how my body is going to change? In giant terms, no less? Right now, what matters most to be is delivering two healthy babies. So if that means I blow up like a blimp, so be it. One thing I know for certain I am dedicated enough to get back into shape. So today I indulged in a Napoleon when I was in Little Italy. I went to a separate restaurant to get an order of French Fries for my take-out dinner. I had a pudding cup for dessert. And I don’t really feel guilty at all. Maybe just a little…..

Wow! Twins! How are you going to manage?
I’m guessing we’ll manage just like anyone with two kids manages. In other words, we will manage just fine.

We wanted two children, maybe three. The way I look at it, we are getting both at once. Considering all that we went through to get to this point, it is a relief. After all, I didn’t want to go through all the stress and challenges of an IVF cycle again. Or the chance of having another m/c. Not to mention the time commitment. And the money….and I could go on.

I look at my niece and my nephew—I love both to the extreme—and I can’t imagine life without either of them. If they came at the same time, would I look at them as a burden? I doubt it. I look at this pregnany for what it is: A gift; a blessing; buy-one-get-one-free; answered prayers times two.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cheese But No Wine

Today was a special day. It is Nicole’s 5th anniversary, which also means our 5 year anniversary is about five months away. Coincidence? Probably not. If she never made that step 5 years ago (and then me, 9 months later) we would probably never be together. When that part of her life ended, our life together began (again, 5 months later). So we will acknowledge this day (and August 28th) forever.

Another cause to celebrate: I am in the 8th week and I am still pregnant (knock on wood). And today our babies officially graduate from “embryos” to “fetuses.” I am still in shock at have to write all that in the plural form. Shocked, but grateful. How could I not be grateful that my dream was answered twice?

It would have been a better day if I still wasn’t fighting this awful cold. The congestion and sore throat and hacking cough and general ennui I can handle; what scares me is the low-grade fever. Apparently, according to the pregnancy experts, I can have 106 fever at eight months and all will be fine. But ten minutes at 102 at eight weeks and you are pretty much guaranteed a m/c or birth defects. Now, my temperature of 99.4 is nowhere near 102, but I still lived in fear that it will go up and up and up. And still fear that maybe it was already that high, at night, in bed, when I was sweating through another sleepless night.

The good news is my fever is down. I still have a slight temperature, but I no longer feel the need to dunk myself in tepid/cold baths to lower it to a fetus-acceptable range. I took some Tylenol and drank some Gatorade and rested like it was my job. I still feel awful, but fortunately I can convalesce another couple of days.

Another cause for celebration: For the first time in three days I left the apartment. We ventured to the Dorothy Parker play/event/fundraiser on Broadway and it was so worth it, even if it sets my sickness back a couple of days. Two hours felt like 20 minutes. The performances and performers were great. Dorothy Parker proved to be timeless, and, once again, I was reminded why I was so obsessed with her for the past decade. And we even had some celebrities in the audience: Barbara Walters (who blinks a lot when she talks) and Tom Brokaw (who is really tall). Luckily (for my neighbors) I managed to cough and sniff and make all sick noises during the extended interludes of clapping and laughing.

And leaving the theater I experienced one of those rare New York moments that makes me love this city. Maybe it’s good that NYC can be such a big, impersonal place, because it makes those occasional touches of kindness so much more poignant. As we waked through the aisles toward to exit, I struggled with my putting on my jacket. I snaked my arm through one sleeve but struggled with the second. Apparently I can’t walk and put on clothes at the same time. The woman behind me, one with whom I had shared a brief debriefing conversation with (pieces we both lamented that should have been included but weren’t) when we first started our exodus, helped me with the other arm. So random, and maybe it is silly to be so touched, but I almost cried. This city (world) is sorely in need of these types of kindnesses from strangers.

And now I am home on my comfy couch and eating cheese (I think cheese of all kinds is my first true craving…fondue is in my very near future, I can feel it) and even though I am sick and tired, I am very content.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sinking (In)

I’m afraid to say anything because I don’t want to jinx things. But so far all signs point to things are going just fine.

I tell myself this isn’t like my first pregnancy, when the sac was measuring a week behind and my HCG levels suddenly stopped rising, after perfectly good beta levels. This isn’t like my second pregnancy, where my betas were low the entire time (but the sac measured fine) and I was told from the get-go that it might not be a viable pregnancy (not that that numbed the pain of losing later on). And it certainly is not like my third pregnancy (call it what you like: the heterotopic baby or twin-baby-in-the-tube) discovered a month after my D/C only after going through a horrifically painful experience.

This pregnancy, so far, is progressing exactly as it should. This pregnancy seems strong and viable. Each weekly appointment has gone well, and the doctors confirm this. At the last appointment the doctor turned the sound up and we heard the beating little hearts. Both of them. The doctors have given me absolutely nothing to worry about, even when I prompt them to or slightly unravel a thread of thought to encourage a negative response.

Nicole flew back from SF last night and made it to our sonogram appointment this morning. I am still officially pregnant. 7 weeks and 4 days. We saw the hearts again and heard them, too. The doctor said we graduate next appointment to our ob/gyn (of which we don’ have yet).

Grateful doesn’t even begin to encompass how I feel. I feel so fortunate and so lucky to be at this point, but it’s not like it happened overnight. It did, after all, did take us 10 IUIs and 3 IVFs to get here. I have lost track of how much money we have spent, but it is safe to say at this point that at least a full year’s salary of mine (before taxes). I have watched many of my friends lap me in the baby-making department. I know how it feels to have breakdowns in baby departments of random stores and at baby showers. To take longer walks around bookstores to avoid the baby section filled with books I am not allowed to buy. I have endured the fruitless attempts by others to make me feel better and I have endured the loud silence when others seem to forget the horror I’ve gone through.

And yet I know enough not to get too comfortable. Being pregnant is a whole new set of worms (which I think very much needs a support group). I have seen far too many late trimester disasters brought on for chromosomal reasons. I have heard too many stories of seeing heartbeats and moving along only to have things abruptly stop thriving for no good reason. I know of too much heartache experienced by others. I can’t sit back and r-e-l-a-x and take everything for granted, as so many pregnant women can and do. I haven’t signed up for Your Baby This Week email services and I have kept the receipts for the couple of pregnancy books. I have bought. Color me Cautiously Optimistic.

This Sunday, Nicole and I are going to a Dorothy Parker one-night show on Broadway. When I heard about this show months ago, I told Nicole how badly I wanted to go but how superstitious I was. I now associate Broadway with m/c, since Nicole and I ended up wandering about the city after both m/c and somehow ended up getting tickets for a Broadway show in an al-out attempt to soothe ourselves with anything (interesting, really, because we both pretty much steer clear of the Great White Way or whatever it is called and may even go so far as to mock certain shows). I was afraid that if we got tickets, we’d pretty much seal our fate for a negative ending. Nicole went ahead and got the tickets anyway. And we will be in attendance this Sunday, when I turn exactly 8 weeks pregnant. It seems more like a celebration now than capitulation to the undertow of grief (knock on wood).