Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Back at Work

This is the middle of my second week back at work. The first day was hard. I bawled when I shut the door of the house where my son is staying with the nanny. I cried and cried, and had to force my feet towards the car. I felt as if something had physically been taken from my body.

Okay, that was dramatic. The good news is, things got much easier! And now, eight working days later, I'm actually rather enjoying being back at my job. This is how our daily schedule goes:

7:30 am: the three of us get up, and I feed the baby a bottle while my husband showers and eats. lots of baby giggles and smiles ensue (morning is his best time)/
8 am: we trade- husband dresses and changes the baby, I get ready for work
8:30 am: leave the house
8:40 am: drop the baby at the house of the family we share the nanny with, and I drive to work
9 am- 3 or 3:30 pm: I work. I try not to look at photos of him because it makes me sad, but I know I can look forward to seeing him before too long.
3:30-ish: I leave and pick up the baby. Reunited! Hugs and cuddles and we drive home.
4-10 pm: baby and I hang out. Sometimes he takes a short nap. I make dinner if my husband is home and can hold the baby. If not, I am bad and eat nuts for dinner. After dinner, maybe some Netflix with him on one of our laps, usually napping.
10:30-ish: we feed him one last bottle and go to bed
4:30 am: baby wakes up, has a bottle, we go back to bed
7:30 am: it all begins again

So, life is not too hectic. And on a good day, this schedule actually works! On a bad night, like last night, he was up three times, not once (not sure why, maybe teething...). But I don't really mind.

One thing I've been surprised at is how judge-y people are. I've gotten over any lingering guilt about not breastfeeding or pumping, but now it's our sleeping arrangements that people like to criticize. For the first few months, the baby slept in his co-sleeper half the night, and in my arms half the night. Since I've been back at work, I want to breathe in his sweet baby smell as much as I can. Also, he settles a lot faster when he's in bed with me. So we sleep together, me on my side, him in my arms, and the blanket holding me so I don't roll backwards (I have a bed that's just a bit too soft). But I've learned that people think I'm spoiling him, and that now he'll "be in bed with you when he's 10." Ummm, no he won't. We just sleep better, and I am at work all day, so what's wrong with being close when we are both home? And no, he won't be in bed with me when he's 10. I promise. I figure in a few months he'll be sleeping better and probably want his freedom, and anyway once he starts rolling over, it might be safer to have him in his own space. So, lesson learned: don't tell people how we do things. Everyone has an opinion, and thinks they have a right to express it. I don't care. This is what works for me, and works for my baby. I waited many long years to have this little guy, and I can sleep with him if I want to.

As far as him being the result of donor egg, we still have kept this information mostly to ourselves, my family, and a few friends. It's funny though, I am still occasionally told how much he looks like me. I guess we chose our donor well! I personally do not see a resemblance, other than the fact that he has my hair and skin color. His eyes seem to be staying a grey-blue, which is surprising because both his daddy and the donor have green eyes, but they are pretty so I think it's nice. I am now the only brown-eyed one in the house- even the cat has big blue eyes!

He's not quite as big as the cat, but getting close...
I am slowly getting back into cooking and watching Netflix and even occasionally reading, and being at work is kinda nice, but I do think about my baby all the time. I guess that's what being a parent does. And I am convinced- CONVINCED- that this baby is the cutest baby in the world. When people who are in the know ask if I've considered trying for baby #2 naturally- you know, just to see if it could happen- I almost feel like laughing. First of all, I do not believe it's likely it could happen. But second, this baby is SO great, that using my own eggs might be foolish! How could I do any better than what I was given??

I am not a religious person, but I feel truly blessed to have had this work for me. Infertility was the worst, but it has made me appreciate this time, now that the dark days of pumping and depression have passed. Even the cat has come around to accepting the baby (see photo above). All in all, this is a very sweet time in my life. It's not perfect- I still can't wear pants since my c-section and my husband recently was laid off at work- but the major problem in my life is now a thing of the past. It's not gone, I still feel a twinge when hearing about someone who easily conceives or has five kids or complains about their children loudly- but the pain and bitterness DO get better.

Friday, May 9, 2014

11 Week Update

Today is my son's 11 week birthday. I'm sitting in his room, which I used to never go into. It was a dreaded empty room, waiting for years to have a baby for it. But now it might be my favorite room in the house. We've fixed it up cute, and though he doesn't sleep in here yet, I spend plenty of time changing him, dressing him, and rocking him in here. Right now he's happily gurgling away in the swing next to me.

After the heavy last entry, I thought I should give an update. To summarize: life is pretty good. It was a dark, dark time for many weeks there. As I wrote last time, his birth went differently than expected, and we struggled with major feeding issues. At around six weeks, I made the hardest- and best- decision of our brief acquaintance. I quit pumping. I quit breastfeeding. It just wasn't working, and I was becoming non-responsive to the pump. I dreaded every pumping session, because sometimes he would cry, and once I was hooked up, there wasn't much I could do. I'd pray he wouldn't cry, and if he did, I'd have to jiggle him on my lap, trying desperately to get enough milk for his next meal. At night, we were forcing him to get up on the pumping schedule, not letting him wake naturally for meals. I was barely sleeping more than 2.5 hours at a clip. I was exhausted, and still mostly having to use formula anyway. This arrangement was making me a really unhappy mama.

So, I quit. It took almost three weeks to wean from the pump, because my breasts are really... responsive? I don't know. I just am really prone to clogged ducts and so I had to take it nice and slow. But life is SO MUCH BETTER NOW.

In a way, I think breast pumps are a scourge of modern life. I know many women who exclusively pump, and while some are willing to do anything to give their babies breast milk, many of us are miserable and live guilty lives, thinking we have to keep up these unrealistic schedules, trying to pump and care for a newborn. And I am totally not convinced breast milk is really the be-all, end all anyway (article link here, if you care). My son is healthy and thriving on formula, and my bonding has increased in a major way since I made the decision to stop forcing the issue. He's happy with a bottle, I'm happy with not being chained to my pump, and we've made the best of it. I chose donor egg partially so I could breastfeed, but it didn't increase our bonding, it just stressed us both out. Perhaps it will be different if I am fortunate enough to have another baby. They seem to think it's related to his breech presentation, and there's not a huge likelihood I will have another breech baby (though with my luck, I wouldn't be surprised...).

Anyway, enough about pumping. Being a mom is about more than feeding.


I believe my postpartum blues clouded this for a while at the beginning, and it's only in the last three or four weeks that my love has fully blossomed, unclouded by the anxiety I struggled through at the beginning. I am now more deeply bonded to this little creature than I ever thought possible.

And you know what? This is weird, but he looks nothing like my husband. Okay, maybe his bad hair, ha ha (he has a weird receeding hairline at 11 weeks old- maybe the hair will still grow in!). He has my coloring, dark hair and olive skin, because we picked a donor who looks like me. But my son- he looks a LOT like our donor. He has her nose, for sure. My husband kinda has a big honker, and I have a medium nose, but my son has this cute little button nose that turns up at the end. And when I look back at the donor's photos, it's an exact replica of hers. It's unmistakable.

But this bears emphasizing: I do not care one bit. I see her every time I contemplate his features, and it matters not one bit to me. I really thought, while pregnant, it would be a bigger loss. But it's not. I remain grateful to her every day, and thankful we could pursue this treatment, but this boy feels 100% mine. I grew him, I sleep curled next to him every night, I cuddle him all day long, I feed him bottles while he stares deeply into my eyes and rewards me with the cutest, sweetest smiles. This boy is a true miracle child.

I go back to work in one month and I cannot imagine being apart from him. Unfortunately I can't quit, due to the expense of donor egg and also the scarcity of jobs in my field if I wanted to find a new one later. But I do hope I can cut my hours a bit so I can leave at 3 and spend some extra time each day with him. I'm not sure if I can, but I'll deal with it once I am back there.

And a parting word: postpartum depression is real. I'm not sure I had true depression, but certainly more than the regular baby blues. And having gone through infertility is a true risk factor for experiencing the dark places I went to. I think it's because we try so hard to have a baby, and then when it arrives and it's so hard, we blame ourselves for not only experiencing rainbows and unicorns. Add in a hard birth and some medical issues, and there's a recipe for trouble. I wish I had known this, and I plan to be as open with my hard times as I try to be about the struggle to get pregnant.

As a parting word, I'll say that this has been the hardest 11 weeks of my life. But when I wake up with the baby in my arms each morning, I know it was worth it. I'd do it again, I'd struggle through infertility and IVFs if I had to, but this boy is the best thing that's happened to me since marrying my husband. I thank the universe, my perseverance, and the donor a million times over. Thank you.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Finally, an Update: My Birth Story, my Baby, and My Postpartum Life

My little one arrived at 38 weeks and 1 day, on February 20th, 2014. His name is Leo and he is a sweet, sweet little boy.
Leo, on day 4

Today he is already 5.5 weeks old. I know, I know- I have been really bad about updating this blog. I have multiple reasons for this.

First, his birth was really hard. I had been receiving care from a midwife practice throughout my pregnancy, and other than some spotting in the end of the first trimester/beginning of the second trimester, I'd had a really healthy, easy pregnancy. This all changed when I went in for my 38 week check up. I had missed my 37 week check up because it had snowed and the roads were too icy. Since I'd been so healthy, they said not to worry about it. But when I went in at 38 weeks, my blood pressure was high. I've always had borderline normal to high blood pressure, but I had crossed the line where they start to worry. I think it was around 138/95. Not awful, but not great. They did test my urine and I had no protein in it, which was good. But they told me to get some lunch, and then swing by the hospital for a quick blood draw and an ultrasound to check the fluid levels. Okay, no big deal. So I did that, and the bad news is that my blood pressure remained high. So they turned on the ultrasound and as it flickered on, the midwife let out a gasp and said, "That is NOT a head!"

Yup. Although I'd been told for weeks that my baby was head down, they had been WRONG. And the shitty thing is, I think I had always known this. I'd been feeling a really, really hard thing up under my ribs on the right side. The midwives had never done anything but a cursory feel, and proclaimed it to be a butt, but I was always skeptical, and then always brushed off my concerns. And then, sure enough, I had a breech baby.

So, with the blood pressure remaining high and the breech presentation, they called in the high risk OB and it was decided I should deliver my baby soon. The recommendation for high blood pressure is to deliver between 37 and 39 weeks, and I was right at 38. I asked if we could delay, but they really weren't excited about the risks. And after having seen the characters with preeclampsia in "Call the Midwife" and "Downton Abbey," I was scared too. I tearfully asked for one night to prepare, and they agreed. Also, the OB on call in the morning was skilled at doing external versions to try to flip breech babies, so the timing was good.

I went home, panicky and shocked, and we called our families to tell them what was happening. My mom said she'd drive down first thing the next morning. I told work that I would not be back again.

This was all a huge, horrible shock to me. I'd had such a healthy pregnancy. And although 38 weeks is full term, it's not ideal to deliver that soon. But I wanted a healthy baby, and this seemed to be what the doctors and midwives recommended.

I didn't sleep much that night.

In the morning, I remained a ball of dread and anxiety. Although some of me was excited to meet my baby, I was still in such shock at this sudden turn of events, and worried that he wouldn't be ready to come out or would need care. They told me it was unlikely but possible that he'd need help breathing, and I tried to focus on the unlikely part.

So this was the plan: get to the hospital at 7:30 am, and try the version to see if he'd flip. If he did, we'd immediately induce me and try for a vaginal birth. If he did not flip, we'd move into a c-section to get him out. If the version resulted in a problem such as a placental abruption (about a 2% risk, and terrifying), we'd have to have an emergency c-section, which was my biggest fear. I wanted desperately to be awake to meet my baby.

At the hospital, it was a lot of waiting around. Finally around 10:45, they moved me into the operating theater. I had been offered an epidural. It was just an option, because if the version worked, I would be trying a vaginal birth. Although I had always thought I'd try it unmedicated, I was such a ball of freak-out at this point that I said I wanted all the drugs they could offer. Also, the version is supposed to be very painful.

So I got an epidural and a spinal, with my husband out of the room. It was scary, but I was held by a nurse and remained pretty calm. I focused on meeting my baby.

The version took about 15 minutes, and was unsuccessful. I had not had high hopes and had already accepted the inevitable.

In a blink of an eye, I was prepped and the c-section began.

About 15 minutes in, I felt a tugging that became stronger and stronger, and then my son was lifted up and out of me, and held above the blue curtain. I cried and cried. He was perfect and healthy, and did not need a breathing tube. A few minutes later, he was brought to me and held to my chest. At which point, I decided I needed to throw up (thanks, epidural) and so my husband held him instead.

One hour from the start, I was sewn up and taken to recovery, with my perfect, healthy, small but not too small, 6.7 pound baby boy.

Just hatched!
First photo after birth

And this is where things got joyful and also really, really hard. The c-section was actually not very bad or very scary, but recovery was rough. I don't know WHY anyone would ever elect to have a section. I had a catheter in for 24 hours, I lost a lot of blood (enough to have a transfusion, though we decided against one because I was borderline), and the indignity is intense: I was wiped up between the legs on a regular basis by multiple nurses, and shaved in the operating room by a middle aged man named Diego or something, in front of at least 12 people. I couldn't get out of bed for a day or so, and I spent four nights in the hospital. Leo didn't latch on for eight hours, and I believe our breastfeeding troubles (more on this later) stem from either his early arrival or the c-section or both.

I don't want to go into the hospital stay too much, but suffice it to say I loved my baby, and hated everything else. It was impossible to get any sleep in the hospital, there were teams of people in my rooms at all time (a teaching hospital has it's drawbacks) and I was told there were multiple things wrong with my baby, none of which turned out to be true (heart murmur, failed hearing tests, and something much worse which I will also discuss later). But at the same time, I was in a fair amount of pain from the surgery, and I was having a horrible time with breastfeeding, and the hormonal swings were nearly incapacitating, so it was nice to be in a hospital with services available.

After four nights we returned home, and this was challenging too. One of the main problems was my unhelpful mother, who criticized our decision to bottle feed our baby. This was not our choice: he was not gaining weight from breastfeeding, and I was horribly engorged and needed to relieve the pressure with a pump, and I needed my baby to gain weight so we were using a combo of SNS, a syringe, and the breast. It was a nightmare, and he kept losing weight, and we saw so many lactation consultants... it is all a blur to me now, but it was a hard, dark time. I never understood postpartum depression, and this is an entry for another time, but it hit me hard, and I continue to struggle.

I mentioned earlier that we were told he might have a serious medical condition. It's still hard to talk about it, but the summary is that the peds teams said he might have a skull condition that would require surgery. Thank goodness, three weeks after he was born we met with a reconstructive surgeon and Leo was cleared as not having the condition. His head was just a little funny shaped because he was breech. It's already starting to get better as he grows up and his head re-forms. We have a follow-up with the specialist in three months.

The breastfeeding issue remains. We are not sure why he has such a lousy suck, but he lost about 12% of his weight, which is not good. So we had to try lots of different things, but ended up with me pumping my breastmilk and feeding him from bottles. Where I had a very ample supply to begin with, it's been reduced through his lack of sucking at the beginning and my bitter hatred of pumping. So now we give him about 60% breastmilk and about 40% formula. And I breastfeed on occasion, but I spend a vast chunk of time pumping and bottle feeding. I am struggling with what to do about this. I can't pump forever, and I don't believe formula is evil, but I feel a lot of guilt in my considering giving it up. I am still undecided.

His birth did not go as I had hoped or expected, and the feeding is very disappointing and stressful. But, there are shiny moments in all of this. I love, love, love to wear him close to my body in the Moby wrap, since I don't get the closeness from breastfeeding. It took me awhile to be okay with this, but I now sleep curled up around him, with his little head on my shoulder and his body pressed to mine. True, I have to sleep in the guest room because the bed is harder/safer than my cushy bed, and I now sleep separate from my husband so we all get a little more sleep, but sleeping with my baby is one of my favorite parts of the day. I always mean to get stuff done during the day, and I do, but I also spent long amounts of time just rocking him and staring into his tiny face. This is love, and despite my crying almost daily because of stress and sleep deprivation and sore breasts and being chained to the pump, this is my son, and this is why I endured all those years of infertility, tests, and heartbreak.

For all of you out there still struggling, I can't say it's been easy, but it's worth it. Though to be terribly honest, childbirth was not what I'd hoped, since really, I didn't experience it, just had a surgery. And I can't breastfeed as a primary nutrition source, so that's not working out how I hoped either. On my dark days, I wonder if adoption would have been an equally fulfilling road to parenthood.

But then I look into my son's face, and I can't imagine having anyone other than him.

As I said before, it's not easy, but for me, it's worth it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Dark Side of Nesting

Up till about 36 weeks, I would say I was doing really well. Since I've only gained about 23 pounds, I haven't been lugging around too much weight, and for my whole pregnancy, I've had minimal symptoms. Most of the time this has been great, although I have mentioned on this blog that it's been a little hard to hear from other people how I don't look very pregnant. At many times, this has really hurt. It's like I wasn't good at getting pregnant, and when people tell me how small I am, sometimes it feels like they are saying that I'm not good at being pregnant either. I know this doesn't sound totally rational, but it's the way people say it.. it's like everyone wants this nice big round pregnant lady, and I'm just not that. So I always get this sense of disappointment from people.

Anyway, overall I think I was doing well. When people would ask how I was feeling, I'd always say, "Great!" And I was. Though my energy level has flagged a bit in the third trimester, overall I had been sleeping well, feeling pretty rested, and not bothered by many physical symptoms at all. As long as I didn't lie down after eating, I avoided heartburn and indigestion, and my teeth were sensitive in December but have improved about 90% since then.

And then... it hit. Almost exactly at 36.5 weeks, this past weekend, everything changed. On Friday I was EXHAUSTED after work. Like, almost crying by the end of the workday. I didn't even do much at work- I basically have a desk job. But I felt dizzy and sick by 5 pm. I spent the evening trying not to move off the couch. And on Saturday, we went to a breastfeeding class, then lunch, then some shopping, and came home. B went out with friends around 3:30. I knew he'd be with them all night. Normally, I'd have made plans with a friend. But I didn't want to do anything but sit on the couch. I am just so tired, all the time. But then I started freaking out, thinking about all the things I still have to do at work... several major projects are unfinished, and I won't bore you with details, but there's lots of stuff I really don't want to leave unfinished. Also, I went to do some laundry and realized that I have a ton of baby clothes, but they're all give-aways from one friend, one neighbor of my mom's, and my sister-in-law... and they all must have had summer babies because ALL of the clothes are short-sleeved, legless onesies. And it's COLD here, and probably will stay that way for most of March! So then I started to freak out about being the horrible mom who takes her baby home from the hospital, in a snowstorm, in a summer outfit. And THEN I started to freak out about everything else: how I am going to eat or cook with a newborn, how I haven't sorted through the cradle full of books, how we don't have a car seat yet, etc. etc. etc. It was not rational. It was crazy worrying. I couldn't even read my book because my head was literally buzzing and my heart was racing. And I was exhausted and tried to go to bed at 11:30 pm, but I didn't get to sleep till 1 am because I could not calm down.

Sunday was the same- though I did go out and buy some stuff, and we have a car seat arriving tomorrow in the mail, I also meant to get the oil changed in the car, groceries purchased, etc., I just had to come home and sleep for two hours. And then again I could not get to sleep till 1 am, and I tossed and turned all night, at one point waking up drenched in sweat, and even the bed was soaked in my sweat. It was awful. I showed up at work yesterday an absolute mess, and was too tired to do any work at all, and had a couple of crying fits with my door closed.

This is what I am now referring to as "the dark side of nesting." I have read about nesting- this website defines it as "a pre-labor ritual that helps get your home ready for the baby, and helps you to pass the time"- and in birthing class, they warned us that it can be irrational and excessive and is not always healthy, but I did not expect it to be something that would hit me, or hit me this early, at 36.5 weeks. But it has- along with major anxiety about everything, and an almost chain loop in my head that he could arrive in as little as one week from now (I'm 37 weeks tomorrow, and 38 weeks onward is fair game).  I could still have 5 weeks, or I could only have 1!

Anyway, it's amazing what one good night of sleep will do. Last night, instead of peeing five times like Sunday night, I managed to only pee twice in the middle of the night. I slept a solid eight hours too. And today, I feel much calmer and normal. I still have anxiety and to-do lists, but it feels.... manageable. I don't feel like a crazy person. I haven't sweated through my clothes several times, the way I did yesterday. I don't feel a slave to my hormones the way I have for the last few days.

I know that today could just be a temporary respite. I have to keep plugging away at my to-dos, and I need to let B help me with the things he can. And I have to remind myself this is NORMAL, and some of it is irrational, and I need to slow down and remember that essentially, I am prepared. When he wants to come, he will come, and it will be okay.

Throughout it all, the fears and the anxiety, sometimes the sun peeks through and I remember: I will hopefully be holding a baby in just a matter of weeks. And then the incessant peeing and the washing of clothes and worrying about work undone in the office will just have to fade away. In March, my focus will be on the baby. It won't be easier, but I hope it will be more joyful. Because quite frankly, the dark side of nesting is pretty sucky. And I know it's not over yet. Hello, hormones. Welcome to taking over my life.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

35.5 weeks

I haven't updated this blog in close to two months. It's not that I haven't had anything to say, I just haven't known how to frame it. It's especially hard when two of the women whose blogs I used to read on a regular basis had negatives/miscarriages from their last cycles. I feel immensely grateful and lucky to be experiencing pregnancy. It's funny- there's this whole pyramid of how bad it can be. There are the women who come crying to RESOLVE groups about how they can't stand the thought of doing an IUI. Then they get pregnant the first time, and I'm like, oh cry me a river. Sorry you didn't get pregnant from a romantic evening of wine and dining, but you GOT PREGNANT. With relatively little expensive and invasive procedures. And then the next step up- IVF. While IVF sucks, and is expensive (I should know about both of those- I did it three times), I can only imagine how amazing it would have been if that had worked for me. Not to even mention those for whom it works the first time, and they have frozen embryos for the future.  I know it's not easy for either of these groups of women, but it's definitely a bridge I crossed a long time ago.

The final frontier in assisted reproductive technologies often feels like donor egg, though when I really think about it, it can go much beyond- for example, using a surrogate. Or moving to adoption, by choice or by necessity. So while I still strongly believe that anyone who wants a child badly enough will find a way, provided they have a supportive partner and the financial means (neither of which is small potatoes), there are so many different roadblocks and challenges to overcome for some women and couples. I count myself as extremely unlucky to have needed donor egg at the ripe old age of 32 (I'm 33 now, but was 32 on the day of transfer- and had been trying to conceive since I was 30 years old), especially when I never actually received a conclusive answer for why three IVFs failed so horribly.  But when you're in the infertility world for awhile, you realize how unluckiness takes all shapes and forms and degrees. And then I look down at my belly and thank the universe and my donor that I am able to sustain this pregnancy, no matter how much it took to get here and the tears and draining of money and greying of hair that have resulted.

This journey is not over yet. I am 35.5 weeks pregnant but no baby is here yet. I find it very difficult to connect my stomach to the idea that one of these days, hopefully 4.5 weeks from now, a baby is going to be laid in my arms. He won't be my genetic material, but he was grown and nurtured by my uterus and my healthy food choices and my love and my sheer determination to bring him to this world. I think it will be utterly surreal. I have watched my friends from RESOLVE go through the transition to being mothers, and I can't quite translate my growing stomach to this eventual event. But I know it's coming. I feel my stomach roll and see it ripple and I remind myself it's not gas- it's a human being in there.

Still, life right now is totally surreal. My hormones have mellowed a lot from when I used to cry all the time (see my previous entry on my very emotional birthing class), but I still occasionally tear up when I walk by the room we've decorated for him, or when I think of being able to introduce him to my mom and dad, or when I look through the photos of this whole journey that I am collecting in a special folder on this laptop. My physical discomforts are very minor compared to many women, and I hope birth will be the same way, but ultimately, I just feel so grateful to be experiencing this. Oh, I get tired and cranky, and I worry about daycare and money and the actual process of giving birth, but mostly, I just still am in disbelief that I am going to be a real mom someday soon. I cannot wait to sit on the couch and do nothing but hold him, and thank my lucky stars that something finally worked.

I don't know if I will continue to update this blog. I guess I will put something on here when he has safely arrived, but mostly, I just go to work, come home and sack out on the couch, and count down the days to meeting him. My infertility journey is not over- I still have fertility jealousy when women seem to come by new babies so easily, and I get uncomfortable when people want to talk too much about my pregnancy, and I know that I'll have to endure clinics and ultrasounds and shots if we decide to do this again, even for a frozen embryo transfer. But mostly, I just hope and pray that anyone else struggling gets through this too, and that it was all worth it.

Signing off for awhile, then. Good night.

His room, in progress