Saturday, 24 June 2017

Sprite

Content warning: pregnancy, yucky symptoms, ultrasound (no pictures)

I meant to update sooner, but my days don't necessarily go the way I expect.

June 20th I went for my "official" early ultrasound, the one at 7-8 weeks. I had become anxious in the days leading up to it. I thought everything was probably fine, but doubt creeps in. Plus the day before I felt less ill than usual, so I wondered if the nausea was going away and what that might mean....yeah, that turned out to be a premature conclusion.

The ultrasound was a good experience. I was greeted by a young woman who introduced herself as a student, which made my heart sink a little. I worried about being in a vulnerable position with a less skilled person, and in addition if there was a problem with my pregnancy, I worried about the experience traumatizing her....I just don't want to have that role in anyone's life. But as it turned out she was only observing, and the actual procedure was done by an experienced technician. As the older tech put the goop on my belly, she said she would do all the measurements and then show me the screen. I didn't say anything but "Okay," but she clearly sensed tension, because a few seconds later, she added: "I see the heartbeat. The baby is alive. You can relax now. You can breathe."  Phew. I appreciated the compassion.

The student followed along on the screen. "Oooooh, that's so cute," she said. With the suspense over, I enjoyed her enthusiasm. The last early pregnancy scan she had seen was 6 weeks along, so she was impressed with how much more there is to see two weeks later. Since my last scan had also been done around 6 weeks, those comments were also reassuring.

I saw the heartbeat again, and the blob of two weeks ago was replaced with a sort of double blob: the head and everything else. The yolk sac and umbilical cord were visible, and the forming placenta. The embryo measured 7 weeks 6 days,  which puts me at 8+3 as of this writing, and I now have a fetus.

There was no need for an internal scan, and the whole procedure went promptly. I updated family and colleagues with a few texts. I then indulged myself by eating a hot dog and doing some shopping (the radiology clinic being located in a mall).

So the good news is my pregnancy is progressing normally, as a far as I can tell. My name for the little one inside is "Sprite." I go for my first prenatal appointment early next week and I presume the next ultrasound will be scheduled for 11-12 weeks.

The rest of my life is less normal. I continue to have a lot of nausea and fatigue. The severe vomiting hasn't come back, but I'm sick enough that most regular activities are not possible. I was off work for a full week and then went in a few mornings the past week, but I have not been able to make it through a full day. I have good days and bad days, and it's impossible to know which it's going to be, so the smart thing was to book a sub for the full day or afternoon and not be scrambling. I'm very lucky that I have a regular sub who knows my students well and really appreciated the work.

In addition to the nausea, literally everything I eat or drink leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. I am going to start carrying mouthwash or minty gum everywhere. I also have a heightened sense of disgust in general, probably because of the nausea. When I feel crappy, anything touching my skin and anything I can see disgusts me, so I go through episodes of wanting to throw out all my clothes and half our stuff. Not a good time to go shopping or to introduce me to new exciting ideas, ha. Open mindedness at an all time low.

Timing was not a consideration with this pregnancy, as we had no idea when or if we would actually get pregnant. It was roll the dice and hope for the best. If I could have had the luxury of timing it, I wouldn't have timed my second month for June when I have so much work to do. On the other hand, I am relieved, now, that I didn't get pregnant when AJ was younger. The fatigue and nausea means that Mr. Turtle is doing most parenting tasks, most days. Even with the full dose of Diclectin, there are a lot of hours/days when all I can do is lie in bed trying not to throw up. Grandparents have also stepped in many times, especially when Mr. Turtle had to study. I feel bad about not being an active parent. But it would have been much worse if AJ was younger and more dependent. Feeling like this with a small needy baby would be fresh hell.

The queasiness/inactivity also affect my mood. My outlook tends to be tied to my energy level, so when my energy level drops my mood usually does too. It's frustrating and depressing to not be able to do the normal things I do for business or pleasure. You don't realize how much of your well being is tied to familiar routines till they're gone. I've coped with it by adjusting my expectations because that's all I can do. I tell myself that all my year end work will get done somehow, the important stuff anyway. I don't actually know at the beginning of the day how or if it's going to get done, but when I feel slightly better, I do what I can, and I let the extra stuff go.

It all makes me wonder about the design of humans. If I was a wild animal, I would have been dead for a month probably. Some predator would have eaten me and AJ while I was puking under a tree. Or we would have starved. Human females and babies are terribly impractical and helpless compared to our mammal counterparts. It actually really sucks! Thank God for Mr. Turtle and everyone around me who is so supportive and helpful. I really appreciate my relationships and my place in a civilized society.

Anyway, not to be negative; that's just where my mind goes when I'm constantly sick.  On the good side, I've heard a lot of podcasts and watched the Hobbit trilogy in entirety. That helped for a while. The only problem is now I associate them with being sick so....you guessed it, they disgust me. I don't know if I should do things I enjoy for the next month or stick to things I don't particularly like.

Yeah, you know. The miracle of life. It's wonderful. One day at a time.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A rough few days, but everything looks good

Content warning: pregnancy, symptoms, ultrasound (no photos)

Monday morning I used my second Clearblue digital with weeks indicator. The one I took a week before had shown 2-3 weeks pregnant. Sure enough, this test showed 3+ weeks pregnant.

I didn't have much time to feel happy about that before I started to feel nauseous. A little, then a lot. I ended up staying home and throwing up all morning. In the afternoon and evening, I was up and down. I felt well enough to do a few things, but anytime I tried to eat I would throw up again.

Still, I seemed better overall so I thought I was managing it. Boy, was I wrong. I woke up at 2am Tuesday and dry heaved for 7 hours. It. Was. Horrible. I have sore pecs today from being on my hands and knees retching. Since I obviously wasn't coping well Tuesday morning, Mr. Turtle drove me to Urgent Care. They gave me fluids and Zofran by IV. The doctor felt obligated to tell me that one unpublished, unduplicated study had shown Zofran possibly linked to heart defects.  But the drug has been widely used for years, including on all 3 of her pregnancies, and no other evidence of harm was indicated. I opted for the Zofran. I may wake up at 3am one night and hate myself for this, but the way I was feeling, I thought I needed the big guns. Also, it was a one time use. The doctor gave me a half-dose to play it safe.

The Zofran and IV fluids did help, and within a couple of hours I was feeling more like myself. I am deeply, wildly grateful for modern medicine and easy access at times like this. Although my condition was not immediately dangerous to me or my pregnancy, I cannot imagine living with that kind of nausea, never mind functioning in a normal way. And, I'm back on Diclectin, which does work very well for me. Again, ideally I'd like to not use any drugs, but everybody has a limit, and vomiting every 5 minutes for 7 hours is mine. I'm still home today, but well rested and starting to eat normally again.

Because of the severity of the nausea, the Urgent Care doctor sent me for an ultrasound, to rule out molar pregnancy or multiples. I had the feeling things were fine, but it was a little nerve wracking since it brought to mind the series of inconclusive early ultrasounds I had when pregnant with AJ.  I went in today and was lucky to have a very nice, very skilled tech. She saw one sac, ruling out molar (huge sigh of relief). Nothing else showed up externally, so we did internal. She took quite a long time looking at things, so I nervously amused myself by checking out her facial expressions every few minutes. She looked relaxed, focused and intrigued, so I chose not to ask questions.

Eventually, she turned the screen toward me.  One the screen she showed me a sac, a tiny fetal pole inside, and - wonders! - a little flicker of a heartbeat. The image was very clear and I could see everything she pointed out. She said it was challenging to measure the heartbeat but she recorded it twice at 120bpm. There was definitely only one embryo, no twins. This is a relief since if I was going to have twins, I'm pretty sure they would be identical. I cannot imagine myself ovulating two good eggs. And identical twins are more likely to have complications. So this was good news, all around. She dated the embryo at 5 weeks, 6 days which sounds exactly right.

So, on one hand it hasn't been the greatest of weeks, but at least we got some reassurance that things are progressing well so far. I'm still crossing my fingers for a smoother run the rest of the month.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A possible happy ending? (CW)

(Content warning: If you are not in a good place to read about possible - not guaranteed - reproductive success, then feel no obligation to continue reading. You know I won't judge.)


So. The blossoming of spring this May has brought a small, cosmic surprise.

I started an average unassisted cycle on April 30th. Fertile signs appeared between days 9-11, with positive OPKs on days 10 through 12. Gamblers that we are, we placed our bets on days 7, 9, and 11. My BBT rose and fell between days 9 and 11 then started a slow rise. I stopped temping on day 17, as I find it makes me anxious and interferes with my sleep. After 6 years of this business, I figure I would know the outcome of the cycle eventually, without the daily data logging. (I may eventually put up a page with more details about the cycle.)

By day 27 (a Friday), I thought I was late enough that I could justify buying a pregnancy test. I can't even remember the last time I bought one, before last week. I told myself that if I didn't need it this time around, I would maybe use it when we did IUI. Saturday went by and I didn't use it. Sunday, day 29, I woke up at 5 and decided to take my temperature. My BBT was 36.77C. Highest temperature after ovulation is usually around 36.65C, and it never stays that high so close to the end of cycle. I took a deep breath and decided to test.


The test went almost immediately positive. I gasped, cried a bit, and mumbled a few incoherent things. I said "Thank you God." I had to thank someone. Before testing I thought I might let Mr. Turtle sleep in and tell him the results later, but that was so not happening in that moment.

I remember Mr. Turtle asking "Are you surprised?" I said "Yes!" "Why?" he asked. "We've been trying."

"Well yes....for a very long time!"

What does "a long time" mean at such a moment? I don't know. Time seems to stop, and bend, and speed up, all at once.

I tested again Monday with Clearblue digital, the fancy one. It showed 2-3 weeks pregnant, which sounds just right.

We haven't told anyone. (Except my doctor, and the blog community, now). I told Mr. Turtle I would rather we didn't change any plans with The Fertility Clinic just yet, because it makes me feel sort of better to have a plan B.

It doesn't feel quite real yet, that I am pregnant. I had a very vivid dream about my dad, right before waking up on Sunday, and in a way that felt more real than the positive pregnancy test.  At the same time, the unchanged details and routines of my daily life also have an aura of unreality.  It's like I got a ticket into another life, which looks the same as the life I was leading before the weekend, but it isn't.

So far, at least, I am calmer than the last time around. I don't feel completely blindsided by fate and out of control. I'm able to be more self-aware and mindful. It helps that I haven't had any disturbing symptoms. No bleeding (fingers crossed so many ways that that doesn't happen again.) I had very faint spotting on day 24 which was probably implantation bleeding, but it completely stopped after a day.

The anxiety is not overwhelming, not yet. I think I understand it better, too. I have both an exaggerated sense of responsibility and an exaggerated sense of (potential) victimhood. You would think they would cancel each other out, but no, they feed off each other in some perverse way. Basically, I have a belief that in order to have a live healthy child, I must 1) do everything absolutely right and 2) nothing bad or even slightly bad should ever happen to me. The anxiety comes from knowing that's impossible: I am going to make a mistake at some point (eat a turkey sandwich, or dip a cucumber in a  spread that's been out longer than half an hour) and something "bad" will happen to me (a weird cramp, a flu bug, some differently coloured discharge....hopefully nothing worse.). So I can become terribly anxious waiting for this mistake and waiting for the bad luck.  The best thing is to be open with people and accept support and try to recognize the crazy thoughts when they happen, before they take over my head.

I had my first doctor appointment today. I will do regular bloodwork to check for antibodies etc (no betas). They did another urine test to confirm, which looked "strongly positive." It wasn't anything \I didn't already know but still it was nice to hear the words "strong" and "positive." Thankfully, my doctor did schedule an early ultrasound for me, at 7 weeks (June 20). It's not TOO far away so I hope and pray that nothing unexpected or nasty happens in the meantime. Strong and positive, right?

Here we go.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

A slightly more hopeful appointment

Mr. Turtle and I went back to The Fertility Clinic yesterday to follow up his latest semen analysis. It was a windy, rainy, stormy day (free car wash).

Dr. Cotter bounded in, seeming rather more cheerful than usual. She engaged in chit chat about the weather, and commented how the hill across the street was covered in goats the previous day. Our city has a program where goats are used in some areas to keep grass cropped. Mr. Turtle talked easily to her, while I watched her mood, wondering if the merry attitude was a set up for more depressing news.

Not quite.

Mr. Turtle's latest semen analysis (a couple of months ago) showed much improved numbers and motility. Not fantastic: but at least approaching the sorts of numbers needed to contemplate further treatments. "You could do IVF with these numbers, or donor egg IVF," Dr. Cotter breezed. (Further IVF would still be affected by my diminished ovarian reserve, of course.). Chances of unassisted conception are still considered unlikely. I asked about IUI. Dr. Cotter said the numbers are still not quite good enough to start IUI now, but to test again next month and if they continue to improve, then we can try it. She commented that I had "stopped ovulating," with reference to my last cycle on Clomid. However, I told her that I'm pretty confident I do ovulate, even without Clomid, because I get positive OPKs and I detect a BBT rise quite often. I would hazard a guess that I ovulate 70% of the time. With the new information, Dr. Cotter was confident enough that she gave me the paperwork for IUI with Clomid. Assuming that Mr. Turtle's sperm continue to be healthy, we have some options. June would be the earliest we start any further treatments.

Dr. Cotter also told me that the company that makes Clomid is taking it off the market in a few months, for unknown reasons. Even the drug reps do not know why. Letrazole will be prescribed instead. She implied that reason is because Letrazole is much more expensive (i.e. the drug company will make more money). So hopefully we can try IUI with Clomid while it is available, and if it doesn't work, maybe we can try Letrazole.

It says something about where we are at in this process that even the possibility of another treatment option seems so encouraging. Perhaps it is just the excitement of a gambler when the stakes are increased. But Mr. Turtle and I have talked about our choices, and we agree that we would like to attempt what we can with our own genetic material, even if the chances are not great. I have a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about donor egg IVF, and I do not think they will ever be resolved. Basically, I have always wanted DEIVF to be the plan B we never have to use. I don't want to take the option away, because that has a finality that is hard to accept. But I don't actually want to do it, either. At this point, the best option for us is to try whatever else increases our chances, even moderately.


On a somewhat related topic, I recently discovered that the mom I got to know at AJ's daycare (I tell the story in this entry) is also an IFfer. We had been tentatively getting to know each other and having this other piece in common makes me even happier to know her and her son. I've felt lately (for the past couple of years?) that it's hard to find the people, the knowledge, the insights that I really need. What worked for me previously doesn't quite work now.  A lot of things in my life are going great. Still, I feel the chaos of the unknown is close to my little bubble, and I'm not terribly confident I am able to face it and make sense of it, to be honest.


But maybe, just maybe, I'm finding my courage and meaning. It's heartening to contemplate renewal, and to wake up my mind and spirit and find out what's truly out there.

Monday, 8 May 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Bigger Picture

Continuing on with the "what would it be like to stop TTC" thoughts. (The bookend to this is "what would it be like to try DE IVF" but that one's big and weird and has to cook for a bit longer....)


When I think about possibly ceasing to actively TTC, one of the more uncomfortable emotional areas is "what would this mean for my career?" Or more broadly, how would I conceptualize the Rest of My Life without TTC diverting a ton of emotional energy, time, and mental space. (Because it does, oh it does.)


Four years ago I wrote a blog entry about how weird it felt to consider work goals when the future held uncertainty about how our family would look, what it might take to get there and how this would affect us. "Next year will not be a good time to...."  In the intervening years, what I wrote about there has remained basically true. Obviously, some things have changed, but what hasn't changed is that I don't feel inclined to commit to anything very ambitious at work while we are actively trying to grow our family. I have a goal for my class every year; I get involved in some different extra curricular activities, but I haven't seriously considered a major change like teaching a different program, getting my masters, changing jobs, etc. (I did change jobs two years ago but that was not by choice. It's not the same.)  But as the years have gone by I admit that has become less of a conscious decision, and more something I've accepted. Partly that's because I don't like angst any more than the average person (maybe less) so if the status quo is OK, fine and good. But part of it has maybe become avoidance. Because when I think about not trying to conceive any longer, and the fact that that means I could reassess my career, I feel....rather nervous.


Contemplating life with one child, same result. I have sort of an expectation that if we have a second child, I would not continue working full time. In other words, it would be a major career interruption. I don't know if that's true or not, but I'm aware of my limits and I recognize that full time teaching with two young children just might not be doable. And in theory at least I'm OK with that sacrifice. So why put a lot of energy into developing a career I might take a break from anyway? But on the other hand, working and parenting one child is so far not too overwhelming, which maybe means....I could do more? Should I do more? Should I actually think about what I want?


Hmmmmm. Here I go, actually trying to think about things.


Microblog Mondays

Monday, 1 May 2017

Microblog Mondays: Subterranean messages

I discovered Dr. Jordan Peterson this weekend. I started watching his lecture on Maps of Meaning: Story and Meta Story and was riveted. As in, "I can't believe I am suddenly understanding how my brain works!" I do somewhat understand how my brain works, in general and in particular, but this lecture took it to a new level, for me.


From the blurb:


"In this lecture, I discuss how the basic or archetypal categories we use to frame the world are represented in image, where they existed long before their nature could be articulated. These categories include the individual (hero/adversary), culture (wise king/tyrant), and nature (destruction/creation). The heroic individual (the knower) is typically masculine, as is culture (the known), while the unknown is feminine. These categories can be conceptualized, as well, as explorer, explored territory, and unexplored territory. The most abstract category is the dragon of chaos, the monster who guards what is most valuable. It is from this most primordial of categories that the other three emerge. Our existence as prey and predator is reflected in the ambivalent representation of the absolute unknown."







Yes, it's two hours long. I should add that watching video of people talk is not one of my favourite things to do. I have never been into Ted Talks or similar things because I simply do not enjoy sitting through a video listening. I can read several times faster than anyone can or should talk, and hence I process the same message / information in a fraction of the time by reading as by listening. I see no reason why I shouldn't read or why people shouldn't bother to write an article if something is important to communicate.  For me to take even two minutes to watch a video, it has to be something really special or entertaining. Dr. Jordan Peterson is. And I absolutely will find 2 hours to hear this full lecture, although not all at once (I'm about an hour in at present).


One of the most relevant messages from the first hour is how our brains learn to ignore the vast majority of stimuli: Dr. Peterson says 99%. (And I thought it was just me! Ha!) Our sense of safety and sanity is mostly based on the belief that the 99% of stimuli are unimportant to survival. A crisis or trauma is an unexpected event that challenges that belief. It is like a monster (imagine the shark from Jaws) emerging from the depths of the unknown and disrupting/shattering our comfortable world. Suddenly, we start to wonder if we were wrong to ignore all the 99%. We start trying to pay attention to everything, to figure out the important thing that we missed, and that puts a lot of stress on the mind and body. Depending on the circumstances, and how the person frames their experience and reality, the experience can be mildly disturbing to completely life shattering. If it goes on for a prolonged time, brain structure may be permanently altered.


Do you think this sounded familiar? Heck yeah!


It feels relevant to my emotional sinkholes. To my infertility and pregnancy trauma. To the current conflicted feelings around further fertility treatments. I was in the middle of a post on that, and on my frames and beliefs, but it will probably wait until I've watched the entire lecture and my thoughts may change after watching it (or I may understand them better).


I think the lecture is speaking to me on a deep level already, because I've had some weird and arresting messages come up in my dreams. I won't be a dream bore here, also I'm trying to keep my posts short, but maybe I'll write about it in a follow up later this week.


Microblog Mondays

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

One child family thoughts

To follow up my entry on "Sinkholes," and maybe blog oftener, I'm going to try to write a bunch of short(er) posts about various things on my mind, many of which will be fertility related (but not necessarily all). It's hard sometimes to break my thoughts into smaller topics, because one thought leads to another to another in my mind. But I'll try!


Today....Thinking more about a one child family.


What would it be like to stop the trying to conceive business? In my entry called "Release," I talked about an experience where I felt happy to be a one child family. That was a lovely afternoon. I was profoundly content that day! It also wasn't the whole picture.


It is still upsetting to have a seemingly normal 27 day cycle where we do everything right and don't get pregnant. It sucks to gamble and lose. It hurts to see pregnant bellies and new infant siblings at AJ's daycare and dance class and know that we are (seemingly!) one lucky cycle away from that being our reality, but still, oh, so far. The other day at Easter dinner my mom and stepmother in law started talking about why they decided to have more than one child. Tender confidences about not wanting the eldest to "grow up alone." Or acting on a partially understood maternal instinct. Or seeing the child's father grow in confidence and reaching an understanding that it would be OK to have more. All so sweet in hindsight. So sweet to have a bloody choice about it, at all. (I didn't say anything.)


I almost always refuse to let myself visualize AJ as an older sibling, or to picture how we might arrange our lives around two, because it feels too painful to dwell on a possibility that stays on the outside of reality. People cope with infertility in different ways; avoidance is one of mine. I squirm when other people "go there," no matter how innocently. That's protected emotional space. Back away!


On the other hand, I have become aware of a few things that could help me be at peace as a one child family. I'm not sentimental about babies. Maybe infertility has given me a cold dead heart, but I have no particular attraction to other people's babies. I'm jealous that they have the choice to have a baby, not of the actual baby so much.  I loved AJ as a baby, but I don't miss her as a baby. I love the person she is and is becoming. It is awesome to be a mother to a toddler and to contemplate all the possibilities that await. We have a family vacation to the ocean planned for the summer! Squee! And the thousands of dollars we could spend on treatments: How about taking a bigger AJ to Europe and Greece next year instead? That won't happen if I'm pregnant or parenting a young baby, but it likely can happen if I'm not.


The bottom line is, it is still painful to contemplate not trying any longer, or trying with such a reduced level of hope and intention that it amounts to not trying. (I'm not sure where that boundary is, for me.) Along with the pain I also have some awareness of the benefits of one child, even if that is not truly our choice.  Day to day, I find I can't only focus on the painful part or the peaceful part. I have to try to accept them both at once. It's weird. But this is our current reality, and my family means enough to me that I must have the courage to embrace all the feelings at once.