Monthly Archives: February 2012

Pregnancy ain’t for Punks

I do this or get very close at least once a day.

Or maybe it is. I am already starting to cry, after all.

It’s my own fault. I’m home — instead of where I should be — watching “Beaches,” an automatic tearjerker when I’m not carrying two tagalongs that I can’t eat. (I swore off all Girl Scout cookies this year to avoid the chocolate and accompanying caffeine in my favorite ones, Samoas.) Only this time, the movie just started. Cece just ran off in the rental car and in the flashback just met Hillary and my vision is already teary-eyed blurry.

(Sniffle, sniffle)

I’m remembering how I just woke up from a 13-week sleep, having not talked to my best friend enough recently to know her dog died nor a new good friend to hear the potty successes of her new baby nor my “stickgirl” at all. (And she’s got Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell to worry about.) “Beaches” makes me think of all my close friends, and in watching it, I haven’t been a good friend at all. And the friends I’ve made in the Midwest USA aren’t quite close enough to reassure nor understand, but that’s just something else to cry about.

(Sniffle, sniffle)

Instead of weeping to “Beaches,” I should be wading through slush to choir rehearsal just like I should’ve been at work today. But I couldn’t get out of bed. I wish it was because I was asleep. Apparently, pregnancy even at this stage in the game causes the joints in your hips to loosen in preparation for labor, and it hurts like the devil. At a steady decline every morning, my ability to walk is likely something from a dilapidated extra at Shady Pines, the fictitious nursing home in “Golden Girls.” It’s like somebody has replaced the area between my lower back and knees with 90-year-old parts. I’ve been in bed most of the day whining with the Mr. jumping at every groan. Turning from my right side to my left side is a major decision because it requires a commitment to stay there for time worth the pain and struggle. None of this bodes well for frequent bathroom breaks. Lowering myself in the Oval Office then brings a new seat of tears.

(Sniffle, sniffle)

Getting ready for work — and finding something to wear — has been torture. Today’s preparation involved sending a text to my supervisor and having the Mr. bring my laptop to work from home. I typed everything with one hand while trying to keep this new set of girls out of the way. It sounds easier than it actually is. I would’ve just taken a sick day, but I feel guilty for not being able to push past the discomfort like I’d do if I were merely sick. I worked to keep from crying.

This pain has been ongoing for the past three weeks. I’ve tried to stretch, but that doesn’t work for joints, it seems. I tried to put away the flats until I really need them, figuring heels would stretch out my thigh muscles. I was cute — and can still walk in 5-inch platforms, thank you very much — but all that did was made me look like the pregnant woman who wants to be Beyoncé. I don’t.

But I’m pregnant! It’s an exciting time. I even glow some days. But I’m not the smiling belly-rubbing lass you see in commercials or even the one you see accepting congratulations while dodging presumptuous hands heading for my abdomen. I really am happy we got to this point in the infertility journey, and I read “The Bump” daily to see how many days left until my due date. I marvel at baby things and try not to be taken in by the hype. At the same time, though, this is no walk in the park and I know I’ve had it easier than most.

So, from here on out, whenever you see a pregnant woman in public, know that she probably fought to get out of bed and fought harder to get out of the house with enough food for the day to keep from throwing up. Don’t roll your eyes because she’s late. Don’t question her outfit even if you saw it two days ago. Don’t be mad if you haven’t heard from her. And for God’s sake, don’t be alarmed if she leaves the choir stand in church to go pee. She’s likely been holding it awhile. And if she’s not where she’s supposed to be, know that she’s not milking the whole pregnancy thing. She’s just struggling her way forward and probably on her way somewhere to go cry about it.

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Dancing babies

Anybody remember the dancing baby from the "Ally McBeal" days? I've got two of 'em just a movin' and groovin' like no one is watching.

Despite fears to the contrary, the babies are still there.

The ghosts of infertility have a habit of popping into my mind, especially in the weeks between doctor visits. Since Februrary of last year, I’d been seeing my reproductive endocrinologist (and associated nurses) once every few days. That’s not an exaggeration.

Consider that one menstrual cycle lasts about a month and that each month, doctors are trying various methods of assisted reproductive technology, or ART, to get you pregnant. To get to this point, we had one attempt at interuterine insemination before another one that was canceled because I ovulated too soon. I then had two more unsuccessful attempts. With each cycle, there’s an initial ultrasound to be sure there are no lingering cysts. Then, there’s another to check the size of any resulting follicles produced from oral medications. (I took Clomid.) If the size isn’t large enough for an ovualation “trigger shot,” you go back to the doctor in a couple days for another ultrasound. If the sizes are right, you get the shot and then return a day or so later for the actual insemination. There’s a two week break in there — time before you can take a pregnancy test. When — as in my case — the test is negative, you go back and start the process over again.

And every time, you expect to be expecting. By the time we were moving ahead with the more invasive in-vitro fertilization, which I cried about having to do, my expectations weren’t as high. And it was a lot to endure for fear of failure yet again.

So now, with two and three weeks between visits, I’ll admit that I’ve been freaking out. What if I’m really just getting fat? What if we go back and there are no babies? What if I’ve done something (or not) to make the pregnancy go away?

It’s possible that those are normal pre-whale questions that everybody has. I’m sure it’s connected to the security I had in constant visits, especially between my third and eighth weeks. We’ve got microscopic and ultrasound pictures at three days before transfer, in utero but pre-implanation, and at four, seven and eight weeks. Internally, the last four weeks were murder until last week’s appointment.

(Because of my “advanced” maternal age of 35, the risk for chromosonal defects is higher. We agreed to recommended genetic testing for information purposes, not to “play God.” Just FYI. We learned a lot worth another educational post for another time. Feel free to ask questions, though …)

Though it was in the geneticist’s office for first trimester screening, we saw both babies active with Rufus face up and Reefus face down. It looked like they were dancing, and clearly, they thought no one was watching.

Deuces Wild

(Top) Rufus is calmly positioned for capturing a heartbeat of 177 beats per minute at 8 weeks and 3 days. (Bottom) The seemingly irritated Reefus would barely stay still to measure a 183-beats-per-minute heart rate at 8 weeks and 3 days.

According to the original plan laid out for us in the beginning of the in-vitro fertilization process, heartbeat detection was the stop before the reproductive endocrinologist released us to a normal obstetrician. But at that surreal visit of two strong heartbeats, the doctor said he wanted to see me again. I’d been cramping a little but frequently on both sides, and even though I’d read of such discomforts, I was afraid of miscarrying (isn’t everybody?). Apparently, the hyperstimulation of all the drugs left my ovaries slightly larger than life and the source of my pain. That meant one more visit.

Seeming to grow very quickly, I was already wearing maternity pants when the next visit came around. Yet, I was nervous that the doctor would tell me he’d been wrong and I wasn’t really pregnant. But no, very quickly he found both babies with slightly larger heads with pounding heartbeats. One laid to the left, very calm and immediately detectable. That’s Rufus (though, I might have mixed up the names in a previous post. For future reference, Baby #1 is Rufus, and Baby #2 is Reefus). The nature of this kid was something like the Mr., relaxed and carefree. The second one, however, seemed not only a little shy but downright annoyed to be bothered so early in the morning. Reefus was head down and apparently wanted to stay that way. The kid turned away from the probe like you would to stay in bed when it’s time to get up — at least three times. The little arms waved up and down and the little shoulder shrugged like, “Leave me alone.” It was fascinating to watch. It looked like something I would do (read: will do tomorrow).

Despite the drama, we saw then heard both heartbeats loud and strong. I have no words for that moment. It was just wild.

That was the last time we saw them, but we get to seem them again this week — this time by external ultrasound. I’m anxious to see what attitude Reefus will have to display. Only God knows.

Look at me, look at mee-ee-eeeeee

This is the album cover for the original "Dreamgirls," featuring Jennifer Holliday. I'm a sucker for classics even when the remake is awesome.

“I am changing …”

So, OK, the song from “Dreamgirls” doesn’t really apply beyond those first few words, but things are definitely a-changing. I’m still a day or so away from the end of my first trimester, but I am definitely larger. People tell me they can’t quite see it, while others tease me about my frontal rotundity. Getting dressed every morning is a struggle for pants that fit. If only that was the only thing different.

I honestly have no real complaints. By everything you’ve ever heard about pregnancy, I’m coasting. I don’t have morning sickness; I have “it’s time to eat again or else” sickness. I go from normal to starving Sally Struthers style about every two hours. It’s when I don’t answer that call that I get nauseated and struggle even more to find something I feel like eating. I don’t have any weird food aversions or cravings, but there are foods that make me happy. Among them — because it varies from day to day — are Honey Nut Cheerios with or without milk, vanilla milkshakes, tomatoes, pasta in alfredo sauce and baked potatoes heaping with sour cream. Those aren’t that weird, except that I prefer real milk to the vanilla soy I drink normally and have turned my nose up at the chocolate shakes I would order before. And as much as I always loved a good steak, the thought turns my stomach …

Which I’m not sleeping on. Paranoia has me off my back as well. I just turn from side to side, feeling like a fish flailing from side to side all night long. Sleeping is uncomfortable even with the body pillow. Usually, the Mr. rubs my back until I fall asleep. Then, he wakes up when I get up for potty breaks to make sure I don’t bump into anything. Sleepwalking makes a person a little clumsy. Plus, our cool high box spring bed isn’t any more because it makes getting out of it a small challenge that I suspect will only get worse.

One thing I couldn’t have anticipated at this stage is sore hips and thighs. It’s like my joints are on strike. I stiffen quickly as if it will rain any minute. Apparently, my body is already preparing to Rufus and Reefus launching pad. And sleep must be a really big part of the preparation. I’m so sleepy all the time that I feel lazy. And when I’m not sleepy, I’m just plain tired. Every day, it’s like I’m playing catch-up with my fast-moving life.

Though not by choice, I’ve had to slow down. Fortunately, so has my burping before every sentence. Its unmentionable counterpart hasn’t really; the Mr. has been really nice about it. (I have an excuse that he never had. I call it even.) Singing is a challenge, but only to make me breathe the way I should’ve been breathing all along. That’s one thing I’d like to keep doing until I just can’t; though, I’ve read that it is possible that I could sing throughout the entire baby-cooking process barring any calls for a Lyric Opera performance (not gonna happen).

Otherwise, as accepting as I’ve become of actually being pregnant, I’m approaching acceptance that I do need more food, more sleep and to keep taking my prenatal vitamin despite how it now tastes like metal. I will not concede to being more evil. I’m just too tired to be as diplomatic as I normally am. More than not, I’m really just responding to feelings that seem to get hurt a lot more often though I pretend otherwise when it involves friends. I let the tears flow, however, while listening to the NPR story about school truancy in Detroit. Odd, right?

It’s pretty clear that while I’ve got the physical stuff down, I’ve got to work on the emotional side of pregnancy.