Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Second Heartbeat

Today was the second time we got to hear the heartbeat, at 8 weeks and 5 days. It was steady, thumping in there at 185 bpm. The nurse practitioner says I am measuring just fine, and the baby is happy and healthy. I cried. Then we left and I cried some more.

It's really, really sinking in. Most of the time I'm just too exhausted to think of anything at all. I drag my sorry ass out of bed, get it to work and into a seat, and try to make it through the day or at least till 3 pm before I give up and go home to sleep. I wake before dinner, and if B isn't home, I subsist on frozen Amy's tofu breakfast burritos, and then eagerly await 10:30 or 11 pm when I can crawl back into bed. Pregnancy is way more exhausting than anyone had ever warned me.

But I don't mind it. It's just that it doesn't seem connected to anything larger. It seems like I've always been tired, and always will be. It's hard to relate it to the fact that somewhere inside me, a baby soul is growing. I'm not throwing up, I haven't gained any weight, and we've been extremely conservative in telling friends and family. So it's very easy to not feel pregnant at all, and to think of nothing more than napping and eating and regular stuff.

However, today's ultrasound felt real. Unlike last time, there was more to see. The blob has distinct parts, I could see a head and "rump," the yolk sack and umbilical cord were there, the heartbeat is like boom-boom-boom, and the nurse-practitioner was effusive in her excitement. So different from last time.

A slightly more distinct blob this time!

I can't say I've relaxed totally, because I know we're not out of the high risk danger zone. I am not even quite 9 weeks. I have a bruise inside my uterus that may still cause some bleeding (it hasn't yet, but she said to take it easy) and that's a little scary, though not risky to the uterus' inhabitant.

After we left the clinic today, I was crying again in the car. They were toys of relief and of joy, but with some sadness mixed in. I am so grateful to have this future ahead of me, but as the pregnancy becomes more real, I'm also struggling with the donor egg part becoming more real too. This baby that I am growing is thriving because of the healthy eggs of someone else. A strong, healthy 23 year old woman gave me her genetic material so that I might have and carry a child. It's amazing and mind-blowing when you think about what this means. I will never see my eyes reflected in the same dark brown, I'll never catch my mom's smile in a little girl's face. I was not able to grow my own genetic child, but this healthy 23 year old shared her eggs so that I can. It's sorrowful and wonderful at the same time, and it's really happening. I am a science experiment that may indeed succeed, and it's modern medicine and my donor that is giving me this gift. I still want to cry when I think of what I've given up, and scream with happiness when I think of what I am still going to have instead. I cried there on the table today because it's still hard to believe that something worked for me at last, that I really can have a baby. I cried on the way home because I really can have a baby, though not in the way I'd hoped and dreamed when I started all this over two and a half years ago.

To all those still fighting for their babies-to-be, I am there with you. I may not have as much to say as I used to, but soon I will exit the brain fog of the first trimester and will have more concrete things to share. I do plan on starting a pregnancy after infertility group, because I do feel differently than my friends who have conceived naturally. I feel close to those who have walked the same hard path as I, and those who still have the fears and worries that continue to stay with me.

But for now, the most important thing on my mind is what I heard and saw today on that screen. Hello, embryo with a little heartbeat. I am so, so glad you are here with us.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Yesterday was a big day. We saw the heartbeat!

Look! A vague tiny blob!
Okay, now that I've done the obligatory "wow!", I can tell the truth. Because this is my blog and I can whine if I want to.

The actual heartbeat appointment was very, very anticlimactic.

I feel guilty even writing that, because I know I should be grateful beyond belief to have a growing little embryo, and believe me, I thank my lucky stars each and every day. I thank the universe that after all my failures, luck finally shone down upon me. I tam thankful that I had the money to pay the ridiculous costs involved in this (buh bye, the better part of our savings from four years of marriage), the perseverance to keep moving forward, and the support from my husband to do donor egg.

BUT all that being said, I had a shitty visit to the clinic yesterday. I was so nervous that my knees were knocking when I got onto the table, and they made me wait a long time. Then the nurse practitioner came in, followed by a woman I'd never set eyes upon before. She apparently was an ob/gyn fellow, and had never given a transvaginal ultrasound before. Lovely. She messed with the wand a lot (ouch...) and had trouble using the controls. She showed me the heartbeat, at which point I burst out into relieved tears, but then she commented in an off-hand matter how "next week we expect it should speed up." Ummmm??? Are you saying it's not fast enough now??? I never did get a straight answer, except she also told me the measurements lead her to think I am a day behind (though she also said that doesn't matter, this early in the game).

In fact, she was having such trouble with the machine that the appointment quickly became all about her, and nothing to do with me and my husband. In fact, she even asked B to turn off the video camera, because maybe then she'd be better able to find the heartbeat again (uhhh, are doctors supposed to get performance anxiety still???).

There wasn't much more to it. They said "congrats" and told me they'd probably see me back in about a week. At which point I felt about to cry. I was under the impression that it was one ultrasound and then I'd be released.

Later, my friends reassured me that two or three are normal. I guess I was really jumping the gun, thinking this was my last visit to the clinic. Thinking I'd not be "high risk pregnancy with a history of infertility" for much longer.

The heartbeat checkup, therefore, was very anticlimactic. The little flickering light was cool, but it was sadly overshadowed by the doctor's incompetence, her offhand worrisome remarks, and my growing anxiety as the appointment went on. By the end, I had convinced myself there was something wrong.

Of course, nothing is wrong. My doctor in Atlanta told me the scan is excellent, and I'm right where I should be. I go back in two weeks for another one, then a final one at 10 weeks, and only then am I released. Another friend confirmed she had FOUR scans before being released, so I can relax now and the gratitude is seeping back in.

All of this is just so very hard. You think a positive pregnancy test is the end, but it's not. My friend who got pregnant the old fashioned way has a first doctor's appointment at 10 weeks. By ten weeks I will have had three beta blood tests and three early ultrasounds. I will have survived being "high risk" and I will have poured thousands of dollars of progesterone and estrogen into my body. But, I will have a baby. I need to calm down, breathe, and try to enjoy this period of my life. Somehow.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pregnant but still infertile

I haven't been writing much because I have not had a whole lot to say. Mostly, being pregnant is a happy experience, but there's not a lot more to say. I'm done with my betas, my first ultrasound is not for a few more days, and I've had a few days of nausea but nothing serious. Honestly, the most significant part of being pregnant is just remembering that moment when we saw the positive test, and feeling the tears that still come to my eyes.

However, there are some moments that jump into my face and make me remember that hello, I am pregnant. And hello, I am not a normal carefree pregnant lady. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Medications. I am still using progesterone twice a day, and switching my four estrogen patches every three days. I still take my baby aspirin each morning. I am exhausted all the time. I don't know if that's normal first trimester tiredness, or if it's the mega dose of progesterone and estrogen that I am giving myself morning and night. In any case, it ain't cheap. BUT I had a small moment of victory when my insurance actually sent me this:
Yes, this is more expensive than gold.
For those of you who have not spent a fair amount of your life savings on infertility treatment and medications, these four boxes represent only a 30 day supply (and I've been on this stuff for 4.5 weeks already, and will remain on it for 3.5 weeks more). And are you sitting down? This one month supply costs $900. Yes, NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Till now, I have been paying for it out of pocket, but after many phone calls to my hated insurance company's pharmacy, they are now covering it with a $60 co-pay. Since pregnancy is covered, they have to. But they certainly dragged their feet, making me shell out several hundred dollars more while I waited. Anyway, it felt like a huge victory when they finally sent this to me. I actually have two refills that I hope I won't need, and I plan to fill those suckers and either keep them for my future self or share them with women in my support group who don't have insurance coverage for fertility either. But overall, the point is, it sucks that this medication costs so much, and that insurance doesn't have to cover infertility. You can have any number of self-caused medical conditions that insurance pays thousands of dollars for, but infertility? Nope. WHY? It makes no sense, and is so deeply unfair and unjust.

2. A good friend of mine (normal friend, not infertility group friend) just found out today that she is pregnant. I am absolutely thrilled for her- she'd been trying for a few months with no luck, and was beginning to worry. But I was shocked that she is just 5 weeks pregnant and wants to go to pregnancy yoga classes, and has already told a ton of neighbors, and is so carefree and gleeful. I mean, I guess that is normal? But coming from an infertility perspective, pregnancy is joyful, but it's NOT a sure thing. I have known too many women with miscarriages and complications to just tell the world and not even consider the first trimester a time for caution. What must it feel like to have such a trusting, carefree attitude towards your body? Not to have to pump it full of chemicals, not have three betas and an ultrasound all before 7 weeks? They don't even want to see her till she hits 10 weeks, assuming that she is all fine and no care is needed. It all sounds so foreign to me. All I can hope is that infertility will make me value my pregnancy and child more than I would ordinarily? Is that even a reasonable thought? Don't most mothers love their children, and can you really rank such a thing? I don't think so, and this is probably a topic for a longer, more thoughtful blog post. But anyway, it's hard to see her unabashed celebrations, and remember that I am still "high risk" and still being monitored closely and still taking tons of medications just to keep myself pregnant.

To sum this up, I'm not saying pregnancy after infertility had been particularly hard or traumatic for me. It's just that I notice these things more and think about them quite often. It's hard to realize how precious a thread an IVF pregnancy hangs on, and though I have no reason to worry, it's hard not to with all the appointments and blood tests and the early ultrasound. I hope I can gradually feel more like a normal pregnant person, and that being pregnant the same time as my friend is a happy experience, and not overwhelming in its contrasts. Someday, if all goes well, I'll have a baby, and that's what really matters, not how hard it was to get him or her here with us.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Last RESOLVE Meeting?

Of course nothing is definite, but last night might have been my last RESOLVE meeting.

I joined the group a year and a half ago, after struggling with trying to conceive for a year. When the facilitator left after a failed IVF and a desire to stop trying, another member and I took over as coordinators. I did the official training, and we set up an email account to answer new member inquiries. Since the group was pretty small, just about four or five regulars, we put up fliers at several of the local fertility clinics.

I'm happy to report that the group has really grown- last night we had about 16 attendees. About five men were included. The group was about 2/3 regulars and 1/3 first timers. It's a nice mix of women about to start IVF, a few who have tried IVF and aren't sure what to do next, and some real newbies.

This group has been the single most helpful thing in my infertility life over the past year and a half. I know not everyone feels this way (some people find it discouraging that others graduate and we remain), but for me, it's been essential. I tried therapy and came home feeling depressed each time. Focusing on myself and my problems just wasn't for me. But when I went to RESOLVE meetings, I was comforted by women who really understood me and were in the same place. It was helpful to see others struggling, and others succeeding at times. Although it was hard when almost everyone I started with eventually became pregnant and moved on, it just further solidified my drive to keep trying, and to explore new options like donor egg.

Also, it has been a fab source of information and of free and half price meds  :)

I have especially enjoyed the friendships I've made through the group. I'm still close with four of the women that were in the original group (one has a new baby, two are pregnant, one is not sure what to do next but starting to explore embryo adoption) and one woman I met more recently (also pregnant, only four weeks ahead of me). These close friendships are the best part of RESOLVE- it brought us together and gave us a way to meet and something huge we have in common.

RESOLVE has a suggestion that you attend once to let the group know you are pregnant (in a kind, sensitive  way- or at least I did my best) and then stop attending. One women last night questioned why- she said can't a woman be a symbol of encouragement to the others, if she keeps coming? Well.... yes, I understand that, but I also recognize that the group should be a safe space for those in the midst of the struggle. It should be a safe space away from pregnant women. I do feel like I'm in a different category- I have struggled and fought SO MUCH to have this baby- but I am still pregnant. The group has to be a space where women don't need to be around pregnant women, and can complain or vent as needed.

What complicates this is that I am the facilitator. It's not hard- as I said before, I did a one hour web training by RESOLVE, and I monitor the email account. I send out reminders of the meetings, and I loosely moderate the meetings (mainly just introduce myself and get us started). I want the group to continue, so last night I asked for volunteers to take over. Two women are interested in co-facilitating, so it looks like that might work out.

It's going to be hard not to have this group in my life. I know I am leaving for the best possible reason- pregnancy- but I am mourning this loss a little bit too. I met so many wonderful women and made these friendships that literally saved me from isolation and giving up. I still have these friends and expect to continue to email and see them regularly, but it's weird to have crossed to the other side so suddenly. I found so much fulfillment from the group and helping it thrive. Last night I brought cookies and leftover meds and everyone seemed genuinely happy for me, but already I found it hard to listen, to feel again the pain and yearning that I was immersed in for so many years and that isn't gone, but certainly isn't an open wound to me anymore. It is hard.

Of course I am not even six weeks along, so the future is uncertain. But it seems like the right time to say goodbye to the group, as bittersweet as that is.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Not sure what to say

It's been one week since my positive pregnancy test and beta. My second beta was Monday and my numbers had more than doubled, and I definitely have been feeling it. I was nauseous for a few days, and crampy, and very tired. The symptoms have mostly abated, though I do still feel more worn out than normal.

But in general, life has changed less than I expected. I am overjoyed, truly, but it all feels so abstract right now. I was on a sort of happiness high for the first couple of days, and then... life went back to normal. I went to work, I made dinner, I prayed that this pregnancy, my first ever, will stick around. I have been very selective in a small number of people with whom I have shared the good news- mainly, friends and family who knew we were going through this. It's been so wonderful to hear others' enthusiasm (though the sarcastic part of me says inside, they're just so sick of hearing my bad news, and now they can stop feeling guilty- and honestly, I'd feel the same way if I were everyone else).

I don't know what to do with this blog, and that's why I've been absent for a week. I know some people transition to a pregnancy blog, but I don't think I feel right doing that. I mean, mainly, I hope I will have nothing exciting or out of the ordinary to say. Also, I'm Jewish, and there is a tradition of not counting your eggs (or luck) till it's hatched. Traditionally, baby showers are avoided, and some people don't even decorate the baby's room. I think in the modern world, babies usually do come into the world, at least once you're past the first trimester danger zone, and families do need to prepare, and I think celebrating is a natural, nice thing. But I also understand the need to be cautious, and especially considering my past bad luck, as well as my sensitivity to those still in the infertility world, I want to be somewhat private about sharing  my news with the world. After all, this is about me and my husband, and our desire to have a child. What more can anyone want to know?

Sigh. Perhaps it will become more clear to me in the coming weeks. Right now, my doctor still codes my betas as "high risk pregnancy with a history of infertility" (yes, I google stalk ICD-9 diagnosis codes on my order sheets). I am not out of the woods, though I do hope and pray every night that this embryo is making a happy home inside of me.

What would you do, reader? Abandon the blog? Make a link to a new one where I can talk about pregnancy (yawn) and not bother people who just want to read the infertility sections? I don't know what is helpful, and I feel like there are a million other pregnancy blogs out there, so I won't have anything new to add. With pregnancy, the world is happy for you (mostly). With infertility, I felt alone and needed a place to get it all out.

My universe has shifted and stayed the same, and I guess I will see what the future brings.  Maybe the answer will make itself clear as time goes on.