Wednesday, December 31, 2014

we've got a fighter in there.

Since Dr. Smiles is on vacation this week, we had two options for yesterday's appointment: 7:30 a.m. at the usual location to see his PA, or 9:30 a.m. at a different location with Dr. Colleague. Since both locations are 45-60 minutes from our house, we opted for the latter.

It was the first time visiting Posh Clinic's sister location. When we arrived I had to go to the bathroom, because this pregnancy peeing thing is no joke. There, on both sides of the hallway, were these gigantic paintings of sunflowers.

I don't write a lot about my mom, but I will say that sunflowers were her thing. After she died, I started seeing sunflowers in random places, often when I was thinking about her or missing her something fierce. When I saw those sunflowers in the hallway, I thought, "Everything's going to be okay." And then immediately wanted to beat myself in the head, because every time I think something like that I'm sure it's me just tempting fate or whatever. 

We waited a long time for the ultrasound, and by the time we went back I felt like I had to pee again. But I was already undressed. The tech came in, inserted the probe thing, and declared my bladder too full. So, pants came back on and I went for a second pee. See what I mean? Pregnancy peeing is seriously no joke.

Finally, the scan. 

There she was, noticeably bigger. There she was, with a heart beating strong.

Nugget had grown to 7.3 mm. The tech said she should've been 8 mm but she'd grown appropriately since my last visit so she wasn't concerned. The sac was a little small, she noted. The machine registered Nugget's FHR as 144 bpm, which is up from the 119 it was last week.

I didn't cry during this scan, though I grinned like an idiot when the tech pointed out the flash that was Nugget's heart. I still haven't gotten to listen to the heartbeat, but this was the first time I could see it clear as day.

Back to the waiting room until we could see Dr. Colleague. Of all the doctors in the practice, she is definitely the warmest and fuzziest. She's also quite animated. We decided we liked her a lot. She remembered that she did my retrieval and was all handshakes and happy talk.

"The baby's grown beautifully," she told us. "The heart rate is gorgeous."

But what about those pesky hCG levels? 

She said, "We shouldn't be seeing what we're seeing [on the ultrasound] with numbers like these, but we are. So we don't care about the numbers anymore."

She said, "We know what hCG is supposed to do, but most women aren't getting their levels checked every four days. So what do we know, really?"

She said, "I don't want to get your hopes up, When I see numbers like these it usually means miscarriage."

But she also told us about a patient she had in her previous practice that had numbers like mine, where the hCG was super low and slow and never doubled properly. That patient begged her to schedule a D&E, because clearly the baby wasn't going to make it. Dr. Colleague told her they couldn't do that as long as the heart was beating. 

That heart never stopped beating, and she went on to deliver a healthy baby.

"You could be our - I don't want to say one in a million, more like one in a hundred thousand. You could be that one in a hundred thousand who defies all odds."

She told us we didn't have to come back for a week. She said, "I'm sure these ultrasounds every four days aren't doing anything to help your anxiety level."

So we go back next Tuesday. I'm pregnant for at least another week.

We left in two very different places, me and Mr. Hope. I felt lighter, less burdened. Nugget was alive! Nugget's heart was beating stronger! Nugget's stubborn, just like her mama.

Mr. Hope, on the other hand, seemed lower, more burdened. "Talk to me," I said. "What are you thinking?"

He shrugged. "That was good news, I guess."

Talk about a role reversal!

It's like Mr. Hope landed where I've been, in the painful limbo where you just want to know: is the baby going to live or is the baby going to die? For whatever reason, I'm getting more comfortable with the uncertainty, while he's growing less comfortable with it.

I updated the people who needed to be updated. People aren't even sure what to say anymore. They tell me they're "cautiously optimistic" or that they're holding their breath or saying prayers. It's nice and yet at the same time I feel horrible that I've dragged them into this limbo with us. Quirky's response was the best: "Geez!!! I guess there's still a chance?!?"

Guess so. 

Yesterday I was exhausted - I've been SO tired lately - but late afternoon I went into the kitchen to cook. I queued up some Taylor Swift (because obviously I'm turning into a 12-year-old girl) and then proceeded to dance my ass off as I made gumbo. 

Like I said: lighter than I've felt in weeks.

Speaking of, I dropped 6.2 lbs. of water weight in the past two days. I'm only a few pounds up from where I was pre-Christmas. I've upped my protein and veg intake and have been guzzling water like a boss. I've read that sometimes the sac can read smaller if the mother is dehydrated, and I know my water intake hasn't been great the past week. Yesterday I had about 140 oz. of pure water, plus 16 oz. of milk, 20 oz. of decaf coffee, and 12 oz. of rooibos tea. So, yeah. DEFINITELY pumping my system full of liquids!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

confessions of a bitter infertile.

Yesterday I had my eighth solo appointment with Quirky, my infertility counselor. I first met her over two years ago, when she came to speak to my Resolve support group about tips for getting through the holidays. She doesn't take insurance and is out of network, and at the time I wasn't in a good financial position to start seeing her. But, once we made the decision to pursue donor embryos, I called her to see if I could work through some of my anxieties and fears with her. Turns out she was able to do our requisite pre-donor counseling session as well.

I like Quirky - a lot. And I like working with her. I have been seeing therapists fairly continuously since I was 17 (I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was very young). Chance, who started as Mr. Hope's and my family counselor, started seeing me one-on-one about a year and a half ago. In the beginning, he was just the kick in the ass I needed to start making some serious changes in my life.

But after a while, the one thing I needed to talk about most in therapy was my infertility. Plucky, the therapist I was seeing prior to chance, had this bad habit of comparing my infertility to that of Julianna and Bill Rancic, as that was literally the extent of her knowledge. Hence one of the reasons I stopped seeing Plucky, because hi, really? Julianna and Bill?

But Chance isn't much better when it comes to the babymaking blues. In fact, lately I've been considering taking a break from therapy, since I haven't been getting much out of my sessions with him for months. He had Mr. Hope and me come in together on Christmas Eve, to make sure we were okay with everything going on, and I sat there for half an hour recounting what had been happening before he sent us home. In the parking lot I turned to Mr. Hope and said, "Is it me or was that a colossal waste of time?"

Quirky, though...Quirky gets it. (In)fertility is her bailiwick. Pregnancy, loss, adoption, donor gametes - you name it, she covers it. And yesterday she really took me task.

My appointment with Quirky was for 2 p.m. Yesterday was the first day I'd been home alone in a week. It was the first day without holiday craziness or house guests. I was supposed to get up, work on my freelance project, do some laundry, make some soup, and balance the checkbook. Instead, I sat on the couch and binge-watched an old sci-fi show on Netflix, drifting in and out of sleep as I did.

Before my appointment I had to drive to my office to pick up my bottle of vitamins. I'd run out at home and Mr. Hope was freaking out that one day off prenatals would be enough to do Nugget in. On the way there I listened to a sweet, country-flavored pop song on repeat and, out of nowhere, started crying. In the car. While listening to Taylor Swift. (The song is "Stay, Stay, Stay" if you're interested.)

Then I had to pick up an audiobook at the library. More tears. More frustration about getting stuck behind old people and people on their phones and generally crappy drivers.

So when I arrived at Quirky's office, I wasn't doing so hot. I was still sniffling back some tears. I was wearing zero makeup and my hair may have been slightly wet from the shower I took before I headed out.

"Talk to me," she said. "What's going on?"

I told her about watching What to Expect When You're Expecting.

"Why would you do that?" she asked immediately.


"Maybe," she said. "Or maybe you needed to cry."

"More likely masochism."

I told her that I realized right after Mr. Hope left for work that my boobs had stopped hurting entirely. I mean, there was nothing. I could mush them with my hands and there was not a single spot of tenderness. I told her that I knew then I'd lost the baby.

She said, "You realize it doesn't work like that, right? Even in a normal pregnancy, symptoms come and go like that. When you lose a baby, your symptoms don't disappear that quickly. It takes a while for your body to catch up."

I shrugged. I did a lot of shrugging yesterday.

(Side note: when I got back into my car after the appointment, and buckled my seat belt, I winced. Guess what? Boob tenderness back with a vengeance.)

I talked to Quirky about what a horrible person I was, because the weekend with Mini-Hope was so rough. I told her that 80% of the time I don't even like Mini-Hope, and this makes me wonder if I'm even fit to be a parent.

Quirky said, "I don't believe you think that at all. You know you're not a horrible person. How old is Mini-Hope? Ten? She's not going to be likable a lot of the time. And it's okay to feel this way. Why are you being so hard on yourself? Why aren't you giving yourself any love right now?"

So then I proceeded to outline all of the reasons why I am a piece of shit not deserving of self-love. And she proceeded to tear down my reasons one by one.

We talked about a lot of things yesterday. About how part of my devastation over this miscarriage limbo is due to the fact that this could be Mr. Hope's and my genetic child. When I found out only one embryo implanted, I was convinced it was the donors'. When the embryo stopped hitting benchmarks, I became convinced it was ours. Mr. Hope has said he doesn't care whose it is, and that we'd only be testing after birth to make sure we had the right medical history. But that's his feeling, not mine.

My feeling is this: we wanted a biological child. We were unable to have one. We decided we wanted to be parents, period. We decided to pursue the use of donor embryos. But it's not like that was ever our first choice. That was our backup plan. Our only realistic path to parenthood.

It's not that I would love a baby created from donor embryos any less. And if Nugget pulls through and it turns out she isn't made from our DNA, who the fuck cares? It's a baby. OUR baby.

But I feel weird saying these things, even to Quirky. About how donor embryos are our backup because we couldn't make the genetic thing work. About how deeply saddened I am that there might never be a tiny human that's half Agony and half Hope. About how I see these rah-rah donor embryo women in my super-secret FB support group who are all snowflake this and snowflake that, and how I wish I could be like them but I'm not.

I am grateful that embryo donation is a thing. I know it's given a lot of infertile couples a gift they never dreamed they'd have. We may be one of those couples.

But the whole snowflake thing is just a little too precious for me. There, I said it. In the FB group, there was this 10-day stretch of women posting any little thing they found on Amazon that had a snowflake on it. Jewelry, t-shirts, socks, Christmas lights, etc. It's winter and it's Christmas, so yeah, there's a lot of snowflake shit out in the retail world right now. Do we need to post all of it?

I know there are women who embrace the snowflake thing 100%. I get it. I do. The embryos are frozen, see. They're unique. Just like little snowflakes.

I feel like I should add a disclaimer here and say that I don't look down upon anyone who digs the snowflake thing. I really don't. I kind of wish I could be part of this particular sorority, but I'm too fucking bitter and not nearly adorable enough.


Quirky's whole thing was this: "Why are you censoring yourself in here? You need to be honest with me. You need to say what you think and what you feel."

But I'm a good girl. I always have been. I go out of my way to not hurt people's feelings. I have trouble saying no. I hate it when people are angry with me. I don't want anyone to think I'm a bad person. Ever.

In the spirit of being more honest, though, there's this:

I hate being out in the world and seeing women with cute little baby bumps. I will never have that bump, even if I have a pregnancy that sticks. Fat women don't get bumps - they just look fatter.

I hate being out in the world and seeing women with babies who look annoyed to have babies. Or who yell at their toddlers in stores. Or who threaten to spank them when they misbehave. Why can you have a fucking child and I can't? I would never hit my child. Never.

I get irritated by women who get pregnant easily. I get irritated by most pregnant women in general, actually. Unless I know they've struggled with infertility or suspect they have. Then you get a pass, because you had to work really hard for that baby. You, I like. You, I not only tolerate pregnant, but am actually happy for.

I hate the way my stepdaughter is being raised and hate even more that Mr. Hope and I are powerless over it. I hate that she's turned into such a spoiled brat. I hate that she only seems to like me when I say yes to her and give her what she wants. I don't do that very often, so she doesn't like me very often, and this makes me like her even less. I hate that Mr. Hope doesn't nut up and be more of a father when it comes to her, even though I understand where that comes from. (Elevator version: he didn't even know about her until she was almost five, so he missed out on all of those early formative years.)

I still feel responsible for my infertility. I'm too fat. I smoked when I was younger. I waited too long to have kids. I rushed the surgery to remove my dermoid cyst instead of waiting to find a doctor who would've tried to save my ovary.

I'm broken. I can't do the one thing a woman was built to do, even with donor gametes in my body.

I hate that I'm going to lose this baby, and I hate that there's a part of me that doesn't believe I'm going to lose this baby, even though all evidence says otherwise.

At one point yesterday, Quirky said, "I'm concerned that you've already decided how this is going to turn out, when you might not even be going down that path. And you will have wasted weeks being miserable and waiting for something that might not happen."

I said, "So, what? If Nugget makes it and I wasted the first trimester feeling miserable, oh well. I will have a baby. Who cares if I missed out on the joy of pregnancy if I end up with a baby?"

I'd give anything for Nugget to make it. To become a healthy baby in my arms. Boy or girl - ultimately I don't give a shit. C-section? Who cares? Cut me open. Get that baby out.

My birthday is coming up. I'm going to be 39. In fertility years that's like 104, especially if you're DOR like I am. Quirky says it doesn't matter when you're using donor gametes but you know. I'd like to not be on Social Security when this kid enters high school. And god forbid we decide to go for a sibling. I'll be like the only kindergarten mom with an AARP membership.

One last thing: I think my theory on the weight gain was spot-on. Only one day of eating mostly (and not entirely) healthy and I've already dropped almost three pounds. So that's a minor relief.

Got to get ready for Ultrasound #4. Expecting the worst but hoping for the best. (Dear god, please - PLEASE - surprise me.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

technically pregnant.

The go go go of Christmas didn't wind down until about 8 p.m. last night, when Mr. Hope and I settled in with some leftovers and exhaled. Deeply. On the one hand, the busyness was good - distracting. On the other, it was a rough weekend with Mini-Hope, who's turning into a moody teenager even while she clutches her new doll and schemes on getting more candy out of us.

Then Mr. Hope went off to do some chores and left me resting on the couch. I started watching What to Expect When You're Expecting, a terrible ensemble movie starring typically awesome actors. Why I would choose to watch this when I'm currently expecting my own pregnancy to fail is beyond me. But I did, and it was every bit as painful as you can imagine.

Mr. Hope joined me for the last 45 minutes or so, and by the end, the two of us were crying on and off. It feels so ridiculously unfair, what we're going through. Not so much that we will likely lose the baby - lots of good people lose babies, so why should we be spared? - but that we know it's probably coming, and have for weeks. It destroys any joy we might (should?) have over this pregnancy. And it makes it so this pregnancy doesn't feel quite real. Like I am technically pregnant, but not really.

Last night the BFF and I were texting and she said something along the lines of how she couldn't help thinking that if I wasn't seeing an RE, I wouldn't know the size of the baby or my hCG level right now. I'd have my positive pee sticks and likely one blood test and that was it - I'd be waiting for my first ultrasound at 8 or 10 weeks. And that even if I went in to hear the heartbeat at 8 or 10 weeks and didn't, I'd at least have had several weeks of pure pregnancy bliss before the Bad Thing happened.

Meanwhile, the nausea has been coming and going since Christmas morning. Some days are worse than others. My boobs burn and are sometimes so tender that I cry out when Mr. Hope tries to hug me. Harold has been behaving, thank god, but this makes me think my progesterone levels are in the toilet. The three spots of psoriasis on my left hand, all of which pretty much disappeared during this pregnancy, are back with a vengeance. Is it because the pregnancy is starting to fail? Or is it because I stopped caring what I ate last week, when my hCG level barely increased after five days?

My weight. MY WEIGHT. There were points of this pregnancy during which I was losing weight. Not a ton - just 4/10 of a lb. here, 2/10 of a lb. there - but since last Monday, when I slammed my face into a bowl of lobster ravioli, I've packed on 11 lbs. I know for a fact that it can't all be real weight - that's not physically possible - so I'm guessing that a good portion of it is water being retained from me going carb crazy. Even so, it's so disturbing to see that increase, especially after I just worked so hard to LOSE 20 lbs. 

(Now that I type this out, I'm realizing that this could also be evidence that my progesterone levels are failing - if my E2 is high and my P4 is low, I'd be prone to this kind of gain. Regardless, time to climb back up on that EZ Diet horse and return to healthy eating.)

I'm off from work this week, and I have so much to do it's scary. I'm behind on a freelance project that's due mid-February, and I need to use this week to gain some ground on it. My home office is a complete nightmare of a mess, since it served as Holiday Central. Our laundry situation is out of control. Etc.

But all I really want to do is curl up on the couch and veg out in front of the television. Shut my brain off and go a little numb inside my own skin. 

Sometimes being a grown up sucks.

This is definitely one of those times.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

it ain't over 'til it's over.

The past few days have been strange. On Tuesday I was resigned to miscarry. I was even sort of hoping that when I went back on Friday, we'd discover the heart had stopped so that I could schedule the D&C for early next week. And it's not that I want to lose Nugget - my god, I would give ANYTHING to keep this baby healthy and in my womb for the next seven and a half months - but if I am going to lose her, I want it to happen as quickly and cleanly as possible. I want to grieve, I want to heal, I want to try again.

I went to a lunch with a new friend I met through my old, in-person Resolve support group. Fig is another DOR gal - actually, she may have POF (Premature Ovarian Failure) - and she and her husband have been using donor eggs. Sadly, their second cycle ended in a second miscarriage. We sat in a restaurant and talked for more than three hours. It's amazing how the pain of infertility and loss brings so many incredible people into your life. 

That night brought 20 rounds of arguments with two pharmacies trying to get a refill on my PIO (long story, not worth the effort to recount). The highlight of this was me getting hysterical on the phone with my husband and saying over and over, "I did everything right and it still didn't make a difference. Nothing I do matters." This in reference to getting the prescription refilled...but not really. Of course.

The next day was holiday prep craziness. We do Christmas Eve at the BFF's house. I wasn't making all that much but I was so behind in everything - cleaning, decorating, present-wrapping, cooking, baking. We had to be there at 6:30. Mr. Hope was supposed to work until 3 but after I had a meltdown he left at noon instead. 

We busted ass all day with me in a foul, foul mood. I messed up one of the vegetable dishes I was supposed to bring to the BFF's gathering. I screwed up something else, too. I told her I was sending Mr. Hope with everything but I was going to stay home because I'm a miserable human being that no one wanted to be around. She talked me out of this plan (because, after all, she is my BFF for a reason). I ended up going and having a perfectly lovely time, even if I did feel a little disassociated from my body.

We got home later than expected and I had zero energy left. It was Christmas Eve and our tree still wasn't decorated. We were having dinner guests and nothing was done. But I was so tired

We went to sleep.

The next day - Christmas - I got up and started working on my to-do list. It was long. There was cleaning that needed to be done. The house needed to be decorated. The tree needed to be fluffed. Mr. Hope insists on adding more lights to the pre-lighted tree, and that takes time. There were the ornaments. I had more presents to wrap. 

Of course, this is the day that the morning sickness set in. Seriously. I was nauseated beyond belief and even vomited once. I felt lethargic. I kept having hot flashes. My boobs were on fire. I updated my super-secret FB support group and reported, "If this pregnancy is failing, my body hasn't gotten the memo yet."

I baked old-fashioned gingerbread and made two more vegetable dishes. Our guests were set to arrive at 4:30; I pushed it back to five. And even then, I was just starting to put ornaments on the tree when my stepfather arrived. 

The nausea subsided. I ate some dinner. I ate some dessert. I enjoyed the company.

Fast forward until 10 or so, after the guests had left and we'd cleaned up the place a little. Finally, it's time to open our presents. Mr. Hope spoiled the hell out of me. Every gift he got landed exactly the way he intended - a first in our nearly decade-long relationship. He now knows me so well it's scary. 

The one clunky note was when he opened a gift I'd originally purchased to be from Nugget. It was a children's book with special meaning. We were sad together for a minute.

The next day - yesterday - was our third ultrasound. We listened to the first episode of Serial on the drive to Posh Clinic. Mr. Hope was nervous. I wasn't. I woke up feeling not pregnant and was sure we'd see that Nugget was gone. 

Like everything else about this pregnancy, I was dead wrong. 

There was Nugget on the screen. Tracking slightly behind where she should be (she measured 4.7 mm when she should've been closer to 6 or 7) but with her heart still beating. Her fetal heart rate (FHR) was 119, on the low end of normal. It was the first time I could actually see Nugget on the monitor. I could even see the flickering heartbeat. 

We saw Dr. Smiles. At first he said something about having a "gorgeous" something-or-other. I can't remember exactly but it confused me. Was it that he called the embryo gorgeous? The heartbeat? Did I mishear him entirely? Because the next thing I know, we were talking about how things don't look promising. 

He said something about how he's seen women whose betas don't move for a week who go on to deliver healthy babies. Women whose babies crown rump length (CRL) doesn't budge for a week and who go on to deliver healthy babies. 

"It doesn't look promising," he reiterated, "but you never know."

He told me he didn't want the nurses calling me with the hCG levels, since they didn't matter anymore. We'd go by the ultrasounds. We'd wait and see.

I asked him again if this had anything to do with me or my body. He said no. He said, "If you'd been hitting benchmarks all along and then the heart stopped suddenly, then I'd be more worried about you. But this is likely chromosomal." I asked him if they would do testing if I had to have a D&C. He said they would. 

When we said goodbye, he said, "You need to know that I am 100% that this has nothing to do with you. Nothing you did caused this. I am 100% certain of that."

It was nice to hear, even if I'm struggling to believe it.

Dr. Smiles told us to come back on Tuesday for the fourth ultrasound, to see where things stand. He's on vacation next week so we're seeing Dr. Colleague, the one who did my retrieval. I'm glad it's her and not Dr. Eyeore. 

We left. Mr. Hope said, "So, Nugget's still kicking it. That's...good." 

The whole thing is so confusing. Like I said: three days prior, I was resigned to miscarry. I sent an email out to my support circle letting them know that this was the likely outcome. I told them that we would be okay. That Mr. Hope and I could start trying again a couple of months afterward.

But for whatever reason - whether it was being able to identify Nugget on the ultrasound, or the fact that I puked in a Wawa restroom a few hours later from the growing nausea, or just plain stupidity - I'm now starting to wonder what if.

What if we don't lose Nugget?

What if she catches up in growth? What if her heart grows stronger?

What if she defies all odds?

Even though the slowing growth was the first true sign that this baby isn't going to make it, I feel less certain of her inevitable demise than ever. I know it's magical thinking. I know this, and yet it doesn't stop me from the what ifs and maybes

My boobs burn and ache. My stomach is roiling. My face is breaking out. I'm having trouble staying asleep again.


I will be 7 weeks tomorrow. That's more than half way through the first trimester. 

Logically, I know it's more likely that we will lose Nugget than not. But my heart isn't operating on logic right now. An impending miscarriage doesn't feel real, not right this second. I would never admit this to Mr. Hope, who I think is waiting for a miracle. I don't want to feed his magical thinking any more than I do my own.

And yet.

Nugget's heart still beats. There is nothing that we can or will do until that changes. If it changes.

One day at a time, right?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

the other 5%.

Mr. Hope and I went back for a second ultrasound yesterday. We had no idea what we were walking into, and my anxiety level climbed the closer we got to the clinic. But at least we didn't have to wait long after we got there. Before I knew it I was stripping from the waist down and climbing up on the Table of Doom.

We had the same ultrasound tech from Wednesday. She said, "I see a pregnancy that's grown." She told us she saw the yolk sac. I chimed in, "Do you see the fetal pole?" She said, "Give me a second! The whole thing is the size of a pencil eraser." (She said this teasingly, not meanly.)

She zoomed in on the screen. Then she said, "I see a heartbeat. You won't be able to see it - it's just a flicker - but I see it." She told us the baby was measuring 2 mm. I asked her what the heart rate was and she said, "Oh, no, it's too soon for that. We should be able to count next week, when it's a little bigger." 

She said, "The baby's only 2 mm. So it's basically all heart."

When she told me she saw the heartbeat, I started to cry immediately. Just one little tear that fell from my right eye. I turned to Mr. Hope and said, "I read something recently that said happy tears start in your right eye and sad tears start in your left. I thought it was bunk but I literally just started crying from my right eye."

The ultrasound tech said, "You have smart tears."

I got dressed. We sat in another little waiting room. Not even two minutes later, I heard Dr. Smiles calling my name.

We went back to see him. He said, "We have a heartbeat!" He was practically giddy. He told us he didn't really care about the numbers so much as what the ultrasound says. He told us that seeing the heartbeat meant that we had less than a 5% chance of miscarrying. 

I asked again about the low beta. He waved me off and said he's seen women with betas that don't rise for weeks and still manage to have healthy pregnancies. This, to me, sounded like another installment of Fairy Tales for Infertiles. That wild, wacky hope that EVEN THOUGH EVERYTHING SAYS THIS PREGNANCY IS GOING TO FAIL, IT MAGICALLY DID NOT, BECAUSE I AM SPECIAL. I AM THE EXCEPTION.

Mr. Hope reminded me to ask about the cookies. So I told Dr. Smiles that I'd given up flour and sugar and potatoes and bananas and yogurt during my cycle but I'd eaten cookies when we'd done some holiday baking, and I was worried that I'd hurt the baby. He shook his head and said, "Nothing you do or don't do is going to affect this baby." 

He said, "Your uterus is doing exactly what it's supposed to be doing. This is good information to have." 

He said, "If the baby's heart stops a couple of weeks from now, we'll know this was always part of the plan." Meaning, if I lose the baby, the baby wasn't strong enough to make it in the first place.

His enthusiasm was catching. He was thrilled for us. He wasn't worried. He wanted to see us back next Monday, and he wanted that baby to be 9 mm. 

I had to stick around for blood work and to get some meds reordered. Then we got back in the car and started driving home. 

The two of us were stunned. Relieved. And maybe a little bit excited. We didn't have the labs back yet, but Dr. Smiles said he didn't care about them. We were free! We had a heartbeat! Nugget was going to make it! Dr. Smiles seemed to think so, anyway.

I wasn't over the moon, but I certainly felt better. I updated my group of people who needed updating. I went home. I packed up my laptop. I went into work.

I'd been scheduled to take my team out for our holiday lunch, so almost as soon as I got into the office I left again. I thought about telling them. I've been missing so much work. What if they thought I was looking for another job? Or had cancer? I would be missing more work for more ultrasounds.

At the end of the lunch I said, "I wasn't sure if I should tell you this but...I'm six weeks pregnant." They all got crazy excited. I gestured with my hands to keep it down. I told them that my blood levels last week were troubling, but that today we saw a heartbeat. I told them I was cautiously optimistic. I tried to keep their expectations in check. I think they could tell that I wasn't filled with unfettered joy.

Later, I had to apologize to a coworker who needed to reschedule a meeting to accommodate my ultrasound appointment. I went into her office and blurted out, "I'm six weeks pregnant, but my blood levels are worrisome and I had to go back for another ultrasound. They saw a heartbeat but I'm waiting for a call about my blood results and they might call during the meeting so if I run out in the middle, that's why."

Even as I was telling her, I kept thinking, "Why? Why are you telling her? It's just another person you'll have to tell if something happens."

I went to the rescheduled meeting with my phone in my pocket set to vibrate. It never vibrated. I missed the call. When I checked the voice mail, the nurse told me that my beta hadn't gone up much in five days - it rose from 1,461 to 1,508. She said that was low and that if I wanted to, I could come back in on Wednesday or Friday for another blood draw and ultrasound, or I could keep my Monday appointment if I wanted to wait until after the holidays. She told me they were "cautious." Not cautiously optimistic...just cautious. Period.

I felt numb. I knew what that number meant. I went back to my office. I emailed Mr. Hope. I updated my super-secret Facebook support group. One woman wrote, "If I were you, I'd trust the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding each and every time you try to doubt this precious gift whose heart is currently beating in your womb."

I thought, "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" I'm not trying to doubt anything. I am trying to understand what's happening with my body. I didn't even think you could see a heartbeat with hCG so low; everything I'd read said you needed to have a minimum level of 5,000 to see the heartbeat. But I'm guessing that's based more on average beta levels by 6w1d.

There is nothing average about my beta level.

In fact, I went from a high first beta (508, 12dp5dt, 3w3d) to a super-low second (1,461, 19dp5dt, 5w3d) to a positively dismal third (1,508, 24dp5dt, 6w1d).

All I could think was, "How could this possibly be a viable pregnancy?"

Dr. Smiles had said I had a less than 5% chance of miscarriage. You hear this number a lot in relation to heartbeats. 

What you don't hear a lot about is that other 5%. The ones who STILL miscarry, heartbeat be damned.

I fear I am in that other 5%.

A coworker had given me tasty pastry as a holiday gift. I ate two of them on the ride home, despite the white flour/white sugar content. I didn't even care. I wanted to stuff down my feelings. I wanted to blunt the pain.

I spent the rest of yesterday in a mixture of numbness and disbelief. Dr. Smiles had seemed so sure that we were in a good place. I believed him. I trusted him. How could he have been so wrong? And if he truly wasn't concerned with the hCG level, why was the nurse basically preparing me for the worst? They consult with him before they call me, so I know that 1,508 must have gotten him at least a little spooked.

What I didn't do is cry. I don't have any tears left.

I had a holiday dinner thing with friends last night. I pulled my shit together and went. I ordered a pasta dish. Fuck it. If my actions don't affect whether or not this baby lives, I might as well have some comfort food. 

I smiled and made jokes. Only one of the women knew that I was pregnant and that I felt certain I was going to lose the baby. She gave me hugs and whispered that I should call her and to let her know what I needed, if anything. 

I drove home.

I heated up the bottle of PIO in my bra. I filled the syringe. Mr. Hope gave me the shot. It fucking hurt. I don't usually have issues with my PIO shots, but now that I'm doing them daily he seems to be hitting more tender places. This time it felt like he was dragging the needle through my muscle. I cried while he was shooting me up. 

I went to bed.

I woke up.

Life goes on. 

I have spent hours Googling things like "ridiculously low beta but normal ultrasound successful pregnancy." I have found no anecdotal stories that match my own. Even the "low beta" women have levels three, five, ten times as high as mine. The stories of women who had betas even lower than mine - women who see the heartbeat with hCG levels under 1,000 - they all seem to lose their babies in week 7, 8, 9.

If I'm going to lose this baby, I'd rather lose her now than wait another three weeks. The longer I go, the more painful it will be, physically and emotionally. The longer I go, the longer I have to wait before trying again. 

And what does trying again look like? I only have one embie on ice. Will Posh Clinic allow me to get another donor set so that I have more than one to transfer on our second attempt? Or do I have to use up all from the first set before I go back for more?  Every FET runs us $2600 out of pocket; every new set of donor embies adds another $500 to that tab. And we have great insurance. We're the lucky ones.

If I lose this baby, I lose the possibility of a biological child for Mr. Hope and me. Even though last week I swore it was the donors' embryo that implanted, the fact that my levels indicate chromosomal abnormalities leaves me less sure of that. What if our embryo "made it"? What if ours is the one fighting to stay alive?

Mr. Hope said, "We could try to get another egg from you." I said, "No. I told you I wouldn't do another fresh IVF cycle. I just can't. We only get one every time. And if we get one and it doesn't make it to blast, it will have all been for nothing. I just can't keep putting myself through this again and again."

He said he understood.

(He may have been lying.)

One of the women in my super-secret Facebook support group did 9 unsuccessful IVFs and three FETs before getting her rainbow baby. She's still pregnant - I think 27 weeks now. She never had high betas her entire pregancy, and they never really doubled normally either. Recently she told me that her tested betas never broke 1,000. And she's pregnant! With a healthy little girl!

Part of me was like, "Oh, great. of course I would know the ONE woman in the history of women who has a miraculously healthy baby with the World's Shittiest Beta Levels." Knowing her - knowing her story - plants that tiny seed of doubt (or is it hope?) that maybe I too will be an astonishing exception to the rule. That maybe I can write my own chapter in Fairy Tales for Infertiles.

Meanwhile, we have Mini-Hope this weekend. I am terrified I will start to miscarry when she is in my house. We are throwing a party Saturday night. I am terrified I will start to miscarry during the party. I am off the week between Christmas and New Year's. I am terrified I will spend this vacation mourning my miscarriage. 

And even as I type this, my boobs are on fire again. They hurt so badly last night - the worst they've been this entire pregnancy. I have heartburn, which I only started to get yesterday. And my stomach feels a little sick, though maybe that's a residual from last night's lobster ravioli and not, you know, morning sickness.

Sometimes I hate my body.

Sometimes I hate my brain.

I really just wish I knew what was going to happen next. This not knowing is making me crazy.

Friday, December 19, 2014

harold and other fun things.

Harold is what I've named the angry red hemorrhoid I've developed in the past month or so. He resides on the left side of my anus and because of him, half the time my bowel movements cause me to yelp in pain. There are all sorts of complicated toilet maneuvers I must do - strange angles, different squeezes - to try to limit how much pain I have. This in addition to the daily doses of Miralax and Colace I take. Oh, and we can't forget the twice-daily applications of Maximum Strength Preparation H and occasional use of witch hazel pads.

I swore that if I was ever lucky enough to get pregnant that I wouldn't complain about a single symptom. And so far, I haven't. When I had some minor morning nausea, I was glad, because it meant Things Were Still Happening. The early low back pain and implantation cramps made me smile. Boob tenderness? Fills me with unspeakable joy. I even missed the heartburn and gas I'd gotten on previous cycles supplemented with various forms of progesterone.

But Harold, man...Harold is a tough one. I spent most of the drive to my beta test jamming my left foot against the floor of my car so that I could lift my butt off the seat and give my swollen self some relief. There was a therapy session with Chance that saw me wiggling like someone with ants in her pants, so uncomfortable that at one point I actually had to stand up. At home I spend a lot of time lying on my side.

Despite all of this, I would gladly endure eight more months of screaming Harold pain if it meant that I could keep this baby.

There are no physical signs of miscarriage - no cramping, no bleeding, no spotting, nothing. But there also aren't a ton of pregnancy symptoms either. I have some soreness in my breasts and I'm falling asleep by 9:30 almost every night. But other than that and some minor queasiness on the occasional morning, there's nothing going on.

I didn't cry yesterday, though I did spend hours Googling things like "great first beta low second successful pregnancy" and "low hcg but normal ultrasound." I read blogs and message board posts that confirmed my fears (pregnancies that ended in miscarriage) and those that gave me hope (women who had wonky betas that never doubled properly but yielded fat, happy babies). Most of the miscarriage stories included tales of early spotting/bleeding and hCG levels that were far lower than mine. I started to wonder: Am I overreacting to the low hCG level? My RE didn't seem super concerned, and no one told me to prepare myself for miscarriage. No one at Posh Clinic said anything remotely close to "it doesn't look good."

So why am I so convinced concerned that this pregnancy is doomed to fail?

I'm guessing it's just good old-fashioned fear. Me trying to protect my sometimes-fragile heart. It's a recurring MO for me: expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn't come.

And I have to remind myself that I've been wrong about almost everything with this pregnancy so far, down to being certain that I'd have nothing of mine left to transfer. Never in a million years did I think our embryo would make it to blast, but it did.

Could I be wrong about this, too?

I really, really, really hope I am.

I'd wanted to go in for another beta today, but the rando nurse I spoke to at Posh Clinic said NO WAY. She was all, "You're just going to worry yourself sick!" I told her that I was doing that already. She said, "We can't know anything for sure until we get the next ultrasound." I told her that I understood and that I'd still come back on Monday, but I didn't think I could survive the weekend not knowing the direction in which things are heading. She said, "But if it hasn't doubled, you'll be in a panic." To which I replied, "If the number has declined, I can start to prepare myself for the inevitable. If it goes up - even if it hasn't doubled - I'll know I'm still in the game." She said, "If you came in and your hCG was 2,000, you'd be fine?" I said, "Yes, because it's still going up."

She put me on hold. When she came back she said, "Dr. Smiles doesn't think you should come in until Monday."

"Fine," I told her. "See you on Monday."

I was angry when I hung up. How dare she decide what's best for me? I need data. I need information. These things make me feel better. Why would she deny me peace of mind?

I thought about calling my primary and asking her to do the blood draw. But then I just felt tired. Like, does it even matter? If I'm going to miscarry, I'm going to miscarry, right?

This morning I had to make a quick run out to the store. When I got in the car, Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" was on the radio and I turned it up and started dancing like a freak. I felt happy. Then, as I pulled into the Walmart parking lot, I felt sick. Like, nauseated sick. I thought, "It's all in your head. You want to feel nauseated, so you are." I picked up the few items I needed. I checked out. Nope, still nauseated. Came home. Did some work. STILL NAUSEATED.

You have never seen someone so happy to feel sick in your whole life.

My boobs are increasingly sore this morning, too. And when I was changing back into my PJs - because really, what good is working from home if you don't do it in your PJs? - I had this feeling in my heart that everything was going to be okay. That this baby was fine. That I was not going to miscarry.

This was immediately followed by my brain telling my heart not to get my hopes up. "You're just setting her up for failure," the brain said. "Just because you want something to be true doesn't mean it will be."

"Shut up, Brain," my heart said. "Let her have this one, at least for today."

(Yeah, I'm perfectly normal. I mean, your organs talk to you, right?)

At any rate, two days ago I was a sobbing,  broken mess. Yesterday I was flat and numb. Today I'm dancing to Prince songs and feeling oddly at peace.

I don't know what's going to happen next, but I do know this: I'll be okay, no matter what.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

the waiting game.

We had our first ultrasound yesterday, at 5w3d. The tech pointed out the one lone black dot on the screen. She said, "I can see the gestational sac and yolk sac, so you have everything you need there." She told us that she didn't see the second, but that they're so small at this stage, we might see the second next week. Her gut, though, told her this was it.

I almost cried when she said she could see the yolk sac. I knew that's what we were looking for. So that was a relief.

Turns out our RE is in a different office on Wednesdays, so we had to see another one in the practice. I'd never met with this doctor before, though I'd heard Dr. Smiles make a couple of disparaging remarks about him. Anyway, Mr. Hope named him Dr. Eyeore because he was all, "Because of your age, your chance of miscarriage is 25 percent right out the gate. I'd say you're in the high teens now. After we see the heartbeat, it goes down to 12 percent, and then keeps going down after that. We'll know more next week. Don't get too excited and don't tell anybody. But I'm liking what I see; we're off to a good start."

So my enthusiasm was tempered even before we left the office. I was feeling all sorts of things I couldn't even begin to process. Relief that there was a yolk sac. Sadness that only one embryo made it and, because of course I assumed it was the donors', loss. This was our last chance at a biological child, after all.

But also I had this niggling feeling something wasn't quite right. I'd had it for a few days, when the control line on the FRER I took at 18dp5dt wasn't significantly lighter than the one I'd taken two days prior. Shouldn't the test line be way darker by now? Shouldn't it be stealing dye from the control line like crazy?

And then there was Mr. Hope. We'd talked about him not going to the first ultrasound, because it was really just going to be a dot on the screen. The heartbeat ultrasound was the one he really needed to be there for. He was fine with this, and then all of a sudden he changed his mind. This was Tuesday. He rearranged his work schedule and insisted on being there Wednesday morning. I felt this cold dread, like why had he suddenly changed his mind? Why was it suddenly so dire to him that he be there? Did he know that we were going to get bad news? Did he just have a feeling?

But it turned out that his old boss, whom he had told we were pregnant, goaded him into it. "You don't want to miss the first ultrasound," she told him. "You'll regret it and Mrs. Agony will kill you."

(For the record, I wouldn't have. It's just a black dot, is all.)

I'd asked the nurse what time the physician's side called with blood results. She said between 2 and 3. When 3:30 rolled around and I still hadn't heard anything, I started to get nervous. They save the bad news calls for the end of the day.

At 3:40, I dialed in. The woman who answered the phone was all, "We don't call you with the results every time, but let me check." She put me on hold. When she came back on the line, she told me that my hCG was a whopping 1,461.

"Uh, that's low, right?" I asked.

"Hold on," she said. "Let me page a nurse."

I immediately brought up a doubling calculator on my laptop and typed the numbers in. The doubling time was alarming: 110.23 hours. At this stage, I should be closer to 72 max.

I felt like I was going to start crying.

After a while, the nurse who drew my blood this morning got on the phone. She's a sweet old lady but seems a little touched - she smiles a lot but her eyes look a little vacant. She said, "We didn't forget about you!" and then proceeded to read me all of the numbers. Turns out my progesterone dropped from 19 to 16.7, too. I'd thought the 19 was a little low because the night before hadn't been a PIO night. But I'd had PIO on Tuesday night, in addition to the suppository.

Nurse Special told me that Dr. Eyeore wanted me to increase the PIO to 1.5 cc every other night. When I'd asked about the drop, she said, "As long as it's over 15, you're fine."

I asked about the low hCG.

"It's a little low," she agreed. "But Dr. Eyeore says we need to see where you are next week."

This answer wasn't good enough for me. I asked Nurse Special if I could speak to a doctor. She put me on hold for a while I tried desperately not to lose my shit.

When she came back on, she told me that Dr. Eyeore was gone for the day so she had Dr. Smiles paged. He was upset that I'd scheduled an appointment on a day he wasn't in the office. For the record: I didn't even KNOW this until I got there; I'd spent most of my time with the IVF nurses, not my RE. He told Nurse Special to tell me to ONLY schedule appointments on the days that he's in the office, further underscoring my feeling that there is no love lost between him and Dr. Eyeore.

He also told Nurse Special to tell me that he's seen low betas take off, and not to worry - it's still early. He did want me to move my second ultrasound up from Tuesday to Monday, though. Oh, and he wanted me to keep the PIO at 1 cc but take it every night.

None of this comforted me. Not one bit.

I started crying even before I hung up the phone. Because I don't care what Dr. Smiles or Dr. Eyeore or anyone else said: I knew then that I would lose this baby.

So then I had to go back and start telling everyone I'd sent the ultrasound picture to that they shouldn't get too excited - that things didn't look good.

It's amazing how much slower response times are when you share not-so-great news.

I cried on and off the rest of the afternoon. Gumbo was texting me and telling me to have faith and to talk to my body and tell the little bugger to hold on. I felt kind of silly, so I picked up a picture book to read out loud. Mr. Hope and I had done this once before. I chose Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, as it seemed appropriate.

I started bawling almost immediately, and cried as I read the entire thing. Then I cried some more.

Since it was Wednesday, I had therapy with Chance at 6:30. I cried on the ride over. I cried in his office. I told him it was my fault. That my body was toxic because I ate cookies from the BFF's and my marathon baking session. I ate cookies, I told him, and I killed the baby. This was on me. I cried so hard on when I tried to drive home that I had to pull over because I couldn't even see the road.

I know how crazy that sounds. I am not a crazy person. But I just couldn't wrap my brain around it. I still can't. How did I go from such a strong first beta to this? What went wrong? Why?

I missed my mom. Even as I missed her I couldn't entirely figure out why I wanted her so badly, because even though my mom was great in a crisis, this wasn't the kind of crisis she excelled at. In fact, she'd probably have made things way worse. It would've been like the time she told me it was "a scientific fact" that if you wanted a baby too badly, you couldn't get pregnant. "It's a scientific fact," she repeated angrily, like, duh.

One of the first things my mom said to me after I got married was, "Now go make me a grandbaby." And when she died, I felt so horribly guilty that I couldn't give her one. When I got pregnant, I felt so sad that my mom wasn't here - that she would never get to know the grandbaby she wanted so badly.

Now, this.

Most of the women in my super-secret Facebook support group are women of faith. There are a lot of requests for prayers and a lot of prayers going up, and sometimes those prayers are left right in the comments themselves. One of the first women to respond to my update said, "I hate to say it, but it is in God's hands, so you have to believe that the right thing will happen."

I hate when people tell me things that like. I never, ever belittle anyone's faith or religion; in fact, I envy people who have that kind of faith, because I'm sure my life would be easier if I shared their beliefs.

But I also find it really kind of disrespectful when people impose their beliefs on me, even if it's inadvertent. It's one thing for someone to tell you they're saying a prayer for you - I find that sweet, actually - but it's another for someone to tell you that this bad thing is happening because it's part of God's plan. I just can't imagine that God is that big of an asshole.

I went to bed really early last night. This morning, I dutifully POAS. The control line was darker than my previous test and the test line was lighter.

So I'm guessing it's only a matter of time before I start bleeding.

I'm going to ask Posh Clinic if I can come in for a blood test tomorrow instead of waiting until Monday, because if the number is dropping as quickly as I'm expecting it to then at least I'll have the weekend to start grieving. And if the number's still going up, then it will give me the tiniest bit of hope.

I'll take any hope I can get right about now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

beta #1 :: 12dp5dt :: 4w3d

A new NP did my beta draw today. Well, new to me, anyway. I told her I knew the test was going to be positive - that I'd been getting positive test for a week.

"Are they getting darker?" she asked.

I told her yes. "Today, the test line was darker than the control line. Just a little, but still."

See how the intensity flipped between yesterday and today? I've been waiting for the test line to get darker than the control. Maybe now I'll stop peeing on things.

Then I asked, "So what kind of number are we looking for here?"

"Dr. Smiles likes to see over 100 for the first beta. If it's under 500, we'll bring you back for a second. If it's over 500, you graduate to the medical side of the practice."

I spent the rest of the morning researching average betas for 12dp5dt. Looking at positive FRERs for 12dp5dt. Trying to guess from other people's pee sticks what my beta might be.

I was hoping for 200-300.

You can imagine how shocked I was when I got the call at 1:37 p.m., and New NP said, "Congratulations, your beta was 508 today."

My jaw nearly hit the floor, I tell you what.

She started telling me that they were graduating me to the other side, and that I'd need to call and make an appointment for blood work and an ultrasound next week. She told me to stop taking my estrace once I finished this prescription. She wished me luck.

I started crying long before I hung up. But after our call ended, I really started bawling.

I know that a strong beta doesn't mean a guaranteed successful pregnancy. But still. The relief I felt. It's not all in my head. I'm pregnant. There is a tiny human (or two) growing inside of me.

Mr. Hope was out of reach. Why? Why? Why? I reported the results to a long list of people: the BFF and Gumbo. My aunt. My mom's best friend. My sisters in infertility. My super-secret FB group.

I added in a few people from my old, in-person Resolve group - women who really helped me through those first early days of my IF diagnosis. And also my best friend from grad school, the one with whom I used to dream of our kids playing together. Only she had her daughter almost 14 years ago, and I'm just getting started now.

When I finally got to talk to Mr. Hope, he kept saying, "Congratulations! Congratulations!" and I was like, "Um, honey, this is your baby, too, you know."

He cried a few tears himself.

Now I'm waiting for him to get home from work so I can hug him.

It's a moment four years in the making.

beta day.

In a few hours, I'll get my blood drawn for my beta test. The wait has been excruciating, especially since I started pulling positives on pee tests a week ago. But this morning, the test line on my FRER finally got darker than the control line, and even the Wondfo is a screaming dark purple-red.

I'm kind of all over the place right now. Monday I was so tired I was passing out at 9:45 and put myself to bed. Then, last night, I stayed up until 11 but accidentally forgot to take my progesterone pessary, which I remembered at 5:15 a.m. when I woke up, peed in a cup, and didn't see any pessary residue. I jammed one of those puppies up in my lady business and tried to go back to sleep but my heart and mind were both racing. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Got out of bed again and Googled "took progesterone pessary late." The general consensus of the Interwebs is that I should be fine.

Yesterday was the first day I had some major pregnancy symptoms. I've been getting things on and off - like, my boobs are intermittently sore. Some days I wake up and they're not sore at all and I think, "Okay, it's over," and then the line comes up nice and dark, and two hours later the girls are on fire all over again.

I still feel pinches/twinges in my uterus and a fullness/pressure above my pubic bone. There's been some mild queasiness, particularly in the mornings and usually involving scrambled eggs. If I stop loving scrambled eggs I might just cry. Speaking of crying: At work yesterday I got some emails that made me tear up (all happy things, but I was just so moved).

Other symptoms: yesterday I had a hot flash in my office that caused me to sweat off my makeup and made me hair frizz out around my face. And then there's Harold, which is what I've named the annoying, inflamed hemorrhoid that's taken up residence on the left side of my anus. It makes pooping feel like someone's scraping glass from my inside out and is so tender that right now even sitting is really uncomfortable. I always feel like Harold is a gift from my mom, who used to tell me that she never had hemorrhoids before she was pregnant with me.

Oh, and the hunger set in for the first time. For whatever reason, this cycle I haven't had much of an appetite. But yesterday I was in a 9:30 a.m. meeting and my stomach was audibly growling. This is after half of an avocado and most of a bowl of scrambled eggs with cheese. I drank 24 oz. of water, thinking maybe I was thirsty, but no. Still starving. I ate an apple with peanut butter. STILL STARVING.

Then I got a craving for this roasted red pepper and gouda soup at the sandwich shop by my office. Drove over to get a small bowl of it and saw they still had pumpkin bagels. On a whim, I ordered one toasted with cream cheese. Then felt guilt (but not so guilty that I didn't end up eating half, because I totally did).

In my head I thought, "If this baby is so fragile that half a bagel is going to mean its demise, it probably won't make it anyway."

It's a morbid thought, yes. But at the same time, I felt like maybe this was my way of starting to let go of this insane notion that any little thing I do can have catastrophic impact on my pregnancy. Hell, I accidentally drank a mug of abortion tea and I was fine. I ate half of a papaya salad and I was fine. I scarfed down half a pumpkin bagel AND forgot to take my progesterone pessary on a night when I didn't have a PIO injection either and guess what? BABY IS STILL IN THERE.

I don't know if I'll ever relax enough to truly enjoy this pregnancy, but at least I'm at a place where I can actually think of myself as pregnant. The first few days, I'd SAY that I was pregnant, but I didn't believe it. It seemed fake, like something I made up in my head.

But it's not fake. It's real.

I am really, truly pregnant.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

things I did differently this cycle.

Today's FRER line is nice and dark, and I finally had the guts to take my Clearblue Digital. Even my Wondfo is clearly positive today, though still not nearly as dark as I feel it should be. Regardless, I'm guessing this is the last one of these I'll need to post unless things start getting crazy light.

You can see a weird break in the dye run on the 9DP5DT test, toward the bottom. But look how dark the top of the line is! P.S. It might be time to start tossing some of these, huh?

Yesterday, I found this chart, which gives an estimation on the likelihood of miscarrying based on the number of days pregnant you are. I printed it out and hung it on our fridge, and now Mr. Hope and I are crossing off days together. Since yesterday, our odds of miscarrying went down from 29.2% to 28%. Or, as I like to think of it, our odds of carrying this pregnancy to term increased from 70.8% to 72%.

I've been thinking a lot about what I did differently this time around. You know, besides the obvious "adding a donor blast from a 30-year-old mother into the mix" thing.

I didn't take DHEA. When I started seeing Dr. Smiles in October 2013, he had me start taking DHEA. I'd been on it almost four months for IVF #1. I discontinued it after IVF #2 and never went back on it.

I reduced my number of supplements. For IVFs #1 & #2, I'd been taking L-Arginine, alpha lipoic acid, and selenium in addition to the stuff I'm still taking now (most notably Ubiquinol and forms of B vitamins that work well with my MTHFR mutation).

I changed my diet. I'm now a BIG fan of the EZ Diet. And honestly, it wasn't THAT hard to give up flour, baked goods, sugar, potatoes, bananas, and yogurt. (I say that now, of course, before Christmas kicks into high gear.) I can't say for certain how much this changed things, but eating this way certainly feels healthier.

I ate a LOT of avocados. I'd read about a study funded by the NIH that showed that a diet high in monounsaturated fats and lower in saturated/trans fats was 3.4 times more likely to result in a child from IVF. I love me some avocados (before the EZ Diet, Mr. Hope and I used to have avocado toast for breakfast quite frequently), so I figured it wouldn't hurt to ramp up my consumption. Nearly every day of this entire cycle, I'd eat half an avocado with breakfast. The day of transfer, I ate half of an avocado before and another half after. Again, don't know how much this helped things, but it certainly wasn't a burden to eat yummy avocados daily.

I was on a (somewhat) different protocol. This was the first cycle that I primed with estrogen (I took it for 8 days prior to starting stims). I stimmed with four vials of Menopur in the morning and four at night, same as IVF #2. But Dr. Smiles changed up my progesterone; this time I do a PIO shot every other day and a pessary every night. I think I respond better to the pessaries, which I used during my three IUIs and some natural cycles as well. I also take estradiol twice a day; I may have only taken it once a day on previous cycles but can't remember.

I skipped the acupuncture. My previous two IVFs, and for a couple of IUIs, I tried acupuncture. I didn't find it all that relaxing and it never seemed to do anything to help my lady business. I have heard of other women who did it and weren't successful, then did a cycle without and were.

I asked to trigger with Ovidrel. I've always used generic hCG for a trigger, but I am really bad about sucking all of the meds up with the long needle. So, this time I asked to switch to Ovidrel. It's a preloaded syringe and a subcutaneous injection instead of a muscular one.

I insisted on transferring blasts. My previous two IVFs were with Day 2 transfers. In hindsight, I could see that my first embryo was kind of uggo (cells weren't exactly even, and there was already fragmentation on Day 2). My second embryo was better, but still so young. I really rolled the dice on this one by insisting on growing everything out to blast. And I did so fully expecting to have nothing of ours to transfer. The gamble paid off, big-time. I mean, our one little embryo made it to blast! Even if it didn't end up implanting, you can't ask for a better chance than that.

I didn't do bed rest. This is a big one. My clinic recommends 24 hours of bed rest after transfer. I did mostly bed rest after IVF #1 (we had tickets to a show that night, ones I'd purchased seven months prior, so I did a little bit of walking in the theater) and serious bed rest for IVF #2. I never felt like bed rest was the right thing to do but Mr. Hope insisted. This time, I told him, I wasn't doing bed rest. I'd take it easy, I said, but I needed to move around to make sure the blood was getting to my uterus. He reluctantly agreed. And I did take it easy, for the most part. There were a few rounds of Celebrity where I was doing charades that got me a little schvitzy, but hey - guess getting my heart rate up a little was ultimately a good thing.

Here are some of the other things that I didn't do that I had on previous cycles:

  • Eat pineapple core
  • Avoid raw foods (I've been chowing down on salads like a boss)
  • Avoid cold beverages
  • Yoga
  • Mediation
  • Fertility massage

I will probably never know what did or didn't make a difference, but I wanted to document these things here because it's the kind of stuff I loved reading on other people's blogs.

Anyway, there you have it. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm actually feeling tired enough to fall back asleep!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

and the anxiety sets in...

First, obligatory pee stick update: still pregnant.

That's a beautiful line, right? 

According to this handy-dandy IVF due date calculator, I am currently three weeks and six days pregnant, with an expected due date of August 16, 2015.

So this is my new morning routine. I get up around 5:45 (why? Why so early) and pee into my little plastic cup. I dip the Wondfo for shits and giggles. I dip the FRER. Love that the line comes up instantly. Count minutes until I can compare it to the previous day's test (is it getting darker? I hope it's getting darker. That looks darker, right?). When stick is sufficiently darkened (but still in the acceptable window), I launch into my daily photo shoot: all of the sticks together, today's by itself, today's with yesterday, and a few Wondfo comparison shots.

That yellowing from the 6DP5DT test is rather unsightly, isn't it?

I am clearly not well.

My cold rages on and last night I coughed so hard and so long I was afraid that I would cough the embryos out. Earlier, when I ventured out of the house with Mr. Hope to accompany him to his doctor's appointment, my jeans felt a little snug and this made the pressure above my groin more prominent. There was pinching on the right side and some on the left, but by night I couldn't feel the pinching and this scared me. Every time I went to the bathroom (which was often, because every coughing fit I almost peed my pants) I expected to see blood.

I said to Mr. Hope, "I'm just afraid it's all going to end any second now."

There are a lot of women in the IF community who've experienced one or more early losses. I mean, even women who haven't battled IF have miscarriages all of the time, especially when they're my age. So there is a part of me that's almost expecting this to be our fate.

And then there's this other part of me that was like, "Oh, shit, I should probably start scouting OBs," and ended up pinning a schedule of classes at a local birthing center. I was particularly interested in one about eating/exercising in pregnancy that's happening in January. I wanted to register - there were only 9 spots left - but then thought that if I did I'd be jinxing things. I came thisclose to calling and asking about their refund policy: "I totally want to sign up for this class but I'm barely pregnant and terrified that I'll end up unpregnant any second now. Can I defer my enrollment if I miscarry?"

Jinxing is on my mind a LOT now. Like, this cold makes it difficult for me to want to cook anything. But eating out is fraught with peril. DOES THAT HAVE FLOUR IN IT? IF I EAT THE FLOUR, WILL I LOSE THIS PREGNANCY? Early on, I made a proclamation that if I was pregnant, I wouldn't eat chocolate during the first trimester. Then I said, "Hell, if I get pregnant, I'll happily give up chocolate the entire pregnancy!" So now I feel like this is a binding agreement with the universe, and that if I have any chocolate whatsoever, I'm putting this pregnancy in danger.

Like I said: NOT WELL.

Also, I'm like three days pregnant (by pee stick time) and already I've screwed up twice. Mr. Hope served me a mug of Mint Melange tea that had lemon grass in it. I thought he'd given me peppermint and didn't realize until I got to the end that it wasn't that. I knew I wasn't supposed to have the Mint Melange but couldn't remember why. Turns out lemon grass can be used to induce abortions. HE UNWITTINGLY GAVE ME ABORTION TEA. Worse, I drank it.

Now I'm afraid to drink any tea, though I've read on multiple reputable sites that peppermint tea is likely safe. Rooibos is supposed to be great for pregnancy, but I haven't been able to find any in the store. I think I'm going to order some on Amazon just to put my mind at ease. In the meantime, I'm drinking hot lemon water with a little honey mixed in. That makes me nervous, too, because I've been considering honey as sugar. Am I breaking my healthy eating pact by ingesting honey? Or do I get a pass because it's supposed to be great for coughs?

Speaking of: I'd read that I could take Mucinex for a cold. But it turns out, Mucinex is guaifenesin, which is a Cat C for pregnancy (basically, probably not good, though some sites say it's fine after the first trimester). I think I took it like four times before finding this out. What I can take is Delsym (dextromethorphan), which is alcohol-free. So I bought that yesterday when I was picking up extra Wondfos and a two pack of the Clear Blue Digitals that read the number of weeks pregnant on them (I only have a FRER digi and it doesn't read weeks). Haven't taken a digi yet, though I probably will tomorrow.

I still have FIVE days until my beta test. I thought about calling yesterday to see if they'd give it to me earlier, since Sunday will be the equivalent of 14 DPO and a normal time to get a beta. Even Monday would've been an improvement. But I decided against it. If I'm meant to stay pregnant, that's going to happen no matter when I get my beta.

There are so many thoughts swirling around in my brain right now. The only thing keeping me sane is knowing that my brand of crazy is universal for women who've gotten pregnant after struggling with infertility for years.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C

What I really need right now is SLEEP. I haven't been getting more than 5-6 hours a night, and I'm typically a 7-8 hours a night kind of girl. I'm exhausted but I don't stay asleep, and the minute I wake up in the morning I'm all pee sticks and iPhone.

This will get a little bit easier at some point, won't it? I keep thinking that I can just hang on until the end of the first trimester (assuming we're lucky enough to make it that far) that maybe - maybe - I could relax just a little. Like it will be that moment in Say Anything, when a London-bound Lloyd Dobbler tells Diane Court that most accidents happen during the first few minutes of a flight, and if she can just wait for the fasten seat belt sign to ding off, they'll be in the all-clear.

My "ding" can't come soon enough.

Friday, December 5, 2014

wtf, wondfo?

I had this plan that I was only going to use my FRERs every other day. I had two in reserve and a digital in the linen closet. If I took the digi on beta day (Wednesday), I'd have just enough.

Only, my Wondfo this morning was so pale, it looked negative. I started to feel panicky. Why wasn't it getting any darker? Sure, the Wondfos had been light all along; three days past trigger, when I should have still had a minimum of 6,000 mIUs of hCG still in me, they were still pretty light.

But what if?

What if I was literally pregnant for a single day?

I dipped the FRER.

The second line started to come up immediately. Within two minutes, it was darker than yesterday's. Better yet, it continued to darken.

I'm still pregnant. Here, see for yourself.

Do you see that Wondfo? Do you blame me for getting panicky? Wondfo, I think it's time I quit you.


The fact that it got so much darker today makes me feel like this is actually happening. Yesterday I was in a little bit of a daze. I walked around the house, carrying the test with me from room to room. (That's normal, right?) I'd keep looking at it from different angles, holding it up to the light, hoping (praying, wishing) that this baby (babies?) would stick around for the whole nine months.

Yesterday, I texted pictures of the tests to four people: my two best friends in the whole world and two of my closest sisters in infertility. My two infertiles saw the line immediately. The BFF was like, "Very faint but I see it too!" (I'm apparently training her to have an infertile's eye.)

And then there was Gumbo. She didn't text back right away, and then I got busy with work and wasn't even thinking about it. Around 10:30 I got this text:

I'm so sorry, I'm actually confused and angry. I thought this time for sure. Could it be too early?

I was like, "It's positive!" I sent her a zoomed in picture. She texted back:

What?!!!! It doesn't show up in pic! Are you home?!!! I've been so sad!!!

Then, a few exchanges later:

I still can't see it I'm jumping out of my skin I'm coming over

So she did. To be fair, she showed me the picture on her phone and you really can't see anything. Not even a whisper.

Now the hard part is going to be NOT shouting this off the rooftops. There are so many people who've been there for me and cheering me on. Can I tell them? Should I? It's still SO early. But Glam Coworker, who's still out on maternity leave, told me the day after she got a positive pregnancy test. There are a few family members and close friends who knew I was cycling. Should I tell them?

And then I think: the more people I tell now, the more people I'd have to tell if something goes wrong.

I don't like thinking about something going wrong.

But I did have this talk with Mr. Hope, who was under some delusion that the beta test was the last hurdle to clear. I was like, "Um, that's like the third lowest run on a very long ladder." He was all, "Say what now?"

I told him that the bottom run was making it to retrieval. Making it to transfer was the next. (In previous versions of this lesson, I've also included egg fertilizing and egg growing day to day as rungs, too, but I was trying to simplify here.) After beta, I informed him, was second beta and likely third beta. After third beta it was ultrasound, and then heartbeat ultrasound, and so on and so forth.

His poor face. He looked like a puppy I'd kicked.

"I have to tell you," he said later, "I'm a little scared."

"That's pretty normal," I assured him.

Even so, I need to be careful. I don't want to let anxiety rob me of this happiness. I'm pregnant. I AM WITH CHILD. And, to be perfectly honest, I've been getting pinching cramps in two entirely different places - low on the right, higher up on the left. There is a possibility that we're looking at twins here.

One step at a time, Agony. One step at a time.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the evils of early testing.

While I wouldn't call myself a true POAS-holic, I have dropped a small fortune on pregnancy tests in the years I've been trying to conceive. So I already had a pouch full of Wondfos at the ready before I even started this cycle, and as soon as I knew when retrieval was, I bought a three-pack of FRERs from Amazon.

I told myself I'd try to wait until 5DP5DT to test. That would be the morning of my mid-2WW hormone level check and the equivalent of 10 DPO. But of course I didn't make it until then.

Of course I didn't.

I used my first Wondfo 3DP5DT. A ghost of a line came up within the first three minutes. I thought maybe I was seeing something that wasn't there. It got darker as it dried, but definitely had the purple-red color typical of a Wondfo. I lined it up with the first two I took when I was testing out my trigger, as well as the one I took when I decided the trigger was out of my system. It was lighter than three days post-trigger, but darker than five days post-trigger.

It's really hard to see from this photograph, but there is a faint line on that bottom one. The top two were taken three days after the trigger, the third five days after trigger, and the fourth 3DP5DT.

Mr. Hope and I looked at the sticks together. I photographed them. You could still see that the one on the bottom had color. Was I pregnant? COULD IT BE TWINS?

I sent the photo to the BFF for a second opinion. She saw "something." We talked about how tomorrow would be the true test. Would it get darker?

It did not. 

It got lighter, so I broke open a FRER. I saw another ghost line that could've been an indent. I ripped the cartridge apart to get a better look. Another "something," but nothing I felt convinced was a true BFP.

The Wondfo I took yesterday, 5DP5DT, was so light it was practically snow. Disheartened, I went in for my hormone level check.

The visit was good. For one thing, Fave NP was there and she's typically not in on Wednesdays. She brought me to an exam room even though the blood draw pod was clear because she wanted me to catch her up on the cycle. So, I did, and she was genuinely excited for me about having a blast of our own to transfer. 

Then I confessed to her that I've been peeing on sticks (because at this point, I feel like Fave NP and I are practically friends). I told her about the super-faint positive 3DP5DT, and how it got lighter and lighter. I told her I didn't think it was the trigger because I'd tested it out a few days prior. She did the math and said, "We've seen the trigger shot last ten, eleven days. I think it's more likely that you picked up that."

I told her I wasn't hopeful. 

Mr. Hope and I were both home sick from work - I am SO sick, you guys, like CRAZY sick - so I spent the day Googling things like "BFN 5DP5DT then BFP." Literally, the better part of an entire day. I Googled every minor symptom I had, including "pressure in groin area pregnant" and "stabbing pain in left side of uterus for a minute implantation."

Fave NP had asked me if I'd keep testing. I told her, "I'm going to try to hold out until my beta." 

I lasted until around 6:30 p.m. last night.

My urine so pale, I don't know why I bothered dipping the Wondfo. I brushed my teeth while I waited, since it's got a two-minute timer on it. I thought I saw something pale and shadowy, but nothing darker than what I'd been seeing for days.

I tucked it into a pouch with unopened Wondfos and walked away.

So here's the thing: even though I kept reading stories of women who'd say, "Oh, I got BFNs until 7DP5DT" or "I didn't get my first faint BFP until 13 DPO," you also read a lot of stories by women who say they got their BFPs 8 DPO or 4DP5DT. In my super-secret Facebook support group, there had been a ton of BFPs lately, and all of them were on 4DP5DT or 5DP5DT. 

Clearly, I was out. I just had to accept it and move on.

I've been having trouble sleeping. Probably because of the cold, but maybe because of the excitement/anxiety of being in the 2WW. Last night I went to bed a little after 11 and woke up around 1:45. I had to pee so bad, but was like, "If I pee now, when I get up tomorrow I'll only have a four-hour hold." And then I thought, "Screw it. If I get another BFN tomorrow, I can always chalk it up to the four-hour hold." 

Sure enough, I woke up just before 6 a.m. I peed in my little plastic cup. I dipped the Wondfo and waited. 

Another ghost line. Color, but so pale only fellow infertiles, with their eyes trained to detect such things, would immediately see it.

But oh! What's this? An extra FRER left over from my last cycle tucked into the pouch of Wondfos. I look at the expiration date, see December 2015, and register it as December 2014. 

I tear it open and dip it in.

Within a minute, I start to see something pale and shadowy. Another indent? It's too early to be an evap. 

I keep watching.

It gets darker. And then darker still. And finally, it's so visible I can actually photograph the fucker. It's no squinter - even non-infertiles would see that line.

This also photographs paler than it is in person. I don't know why my iPhone camera hates me.

I take picture after picture. I text one to the BFF. Then I feel guilty for "telling" her before Mr. Hope.

I wake him up.

"We're pregnant," I say. "The line is pink and it's visible and it hasn't even been ten minutes. As of today, we are PREGNANT."

He follows me into the bathroom to get a better look. "Yep," he says. "I see it."

We hug, and he's burning up. I make him go take his temp but it's normal. We go into the kitchen so I can give him some cold meds.

I give him crap for not seeming more excited. He says, "I'm sick, my head is swimmy, and you just woke me up."

Just an ordinary day, folks.

Except, it's not.


I've never had a true BFP. This is literally my first.

So now we wait to see if the line gets darker between now and next Wednesday, which is when my beta is. Because of course I just can't be blanket happy, over-the-moon. Of course I'm going to be peeing on things every morning between now and then.

Even if next Wednesday's beta is good, I'm going to be sweating it out until I get the second beta (it would be that Friday, I'm guessing). And then I'll be sweating until the first ultrasound, and then until I see a heartbeat, etc., etc.

Because of all the things that infertility takes from you, I've heard from so many fellow infertiles who've gone on to find success that losing out on pregnancy joy is one of the worst. 

But today - at this moment in time - I'm not going to think about that. 

I'm going to stare at my first-ever BFP and smile like an idiot.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

oh! there was ONE symptom.

I was wiping down the cook top on the stove and the glass cleaner spray smelled so intense I took a step backward. And this is WITH a stuffy nose from my cold.

It made me remember that last night, at the grocery store, I could smell the bananas from like 20 feet away. They smelled completely overripe, like black bananas, but didn't look like that. I could smell the citrus when I was shopping for lemons (which I didn't buy, by the way, because the store was selling them at four for three dollars - major rip).

Now, I started the estradiol yesterday so that COULD be why I have a heightened sense of smell, but I didn't really have that when I was taking the same stuff for priming. So, this might actually be a legit symptom.

I'll be interested to see what my hormone levels are on Wednesday.

symptom spotting.

I'm 2dp5dt (two days past five-day transfer) and so far, nothing.

No real symptoms whatsoever.

I know that it's early and that not every women gets symptoms regardless. But still. I've got nothing. And I've been on the progesterone now for a week now, so shouldn't I be feeling something? When I'm not in a cycle, and have ovulated naturally, I get heartburn and gas and tenderness in my boobs.

Okay, so my temp is elevated (as it should be), and I've had a couple of hot flashes. And yesterday I pooped five times and then again this morning; I never thought this was a possible sign of pregnancy by if you Google it quite a large number of people have reported it. (Me, I thought it was because I was taking Miralax preemptively, as progesterone tends to constipate the hell out of me even when I'm not on supplements.)

Let's see...I was a bit queasy yesterday, in the AM and the PM, but I also started the estradiol and that can sometimes make me feel nauseated. Oh, and I'm definitely getting a cold, but I felt like I was fending one off during a lot of my stims so I can't see how that's tied to having a bean or two on board.

Basically, there's a rational explanation for everything, and not a single "symptom" that feels like an actually symptom.

Theoretically I could start POAS Tuesday (the equivalent of 9 DPO), but I'm fairly certain that it would be negative even if I was pregnant. I'd told myself I'd hold out until Wednesday AM, the day of my first hormone-level check (10 DPO). But I could totally see myself caving out of curiosity. Isn't this what cheapie Internet test strips were invented for?

Even though I have this cold, I am so looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. Anything to keep me busy and make the time go faster, right? Less time to obsess.

I read on another blog that someone said she had infertility bipolar during the 2WW - that she vacillated between certain her IVF worked and convinced that she'd never be pregnant. I'm guessing this is fairly common among us infertiles. It's definitely where I am, just two days in.

Here's a confession: I'm terrified my cycle won't have worked in part because every time I'm in one, someone close to me gets pregnant a few weeks before I do and I don't. First attempted IVF that was converted to IUI: Gumbo. First true IVF: Glam Coworker.

Kindred got her BFP a couple of weeks ago, and I honestly couldn't be happier. But some crazy part of me wonders if this is going to be the Pregnancy Touch all over again, where my friend is successful and I am not. Maybe I really SHOULD start charging to rub people's bellies.

Or maybe I should just chill the eff out.