The Last Entry / Bookends

I just went back & read my very first blog post. It feels like it was a million years ago. Can I still call myself infertile now that I’ve borne a child? Yes, I think so (seeing as how I couldn’t get pregnant without extreme intervention). Still, it feels strange somehow. It’s familiar and foreign at the same time — like my body, which has returned to its former weight but not its former shape. I have scars that ache from time to time. Body parts have been stretched and pulled, severed and sewn back in a way that still feels alien to me. On the other hand, my body has achieved the miraculous. She has not only nourished and sustained life, but provided the perfect sustenance for the first six months of my daughter’s life. It continues to amaze me – even after 13 months now – that I make milk!

My world has changed almost completely.

All my ‘Are you kidding mes’ have been altered forever.

Are you kidding me?! I got pregnant with the one good embryo we were able to produce after three IVFs?!?

Are you kidding me?! My husband who never wanted children is the most loving father who now adores his daughter more than he ever thought possible?!

Are you kidding me?! I got to have the easiest pregnancy and the most gorgeous baby girl ever?!

Are you kidding me?! I get to stay at home and actually be a Mom to this beautiful little angel?!

Are you kidding me?! After believing she was my last shot at motherhood, I’m actually in a position to try for a sibling for her?!

The blessings go on and on. I wish I could just take this huge lump in my throat that arises whenever I think about just how lucky and grateful I am and make you feel it, too. But there are no words. Language can only deliver a pale facsimile of what I feel. The agony and the ecstasy are far too great to be captured in words. The only way is through.

It was important to me that this particular blog come to an end, since it is so different now from how it started. It’s no longer about the journey through infertility and I no longer feel the need to blog anonymously. I will probably still blog about parenthood because I love it… and writing is so cathartic… and maybe in my moments of vanity, I think it will mean something to my daughter later on in life.

I never expected anyone to really read my blog. Those who have, have surprised me and touched me with their caring. Through reading your blogs, I’ve come to realize what an amazing journey mothers of all kinds go through. Each of our stories, sagas, quests, is so unique and powerful. I have gained tremendous strength through this sisterhood.

Thank you for being here with me now, too, as I say goodbye to this chapter of my life. We’re hoping to try for a sibling for our daughter next year. It would be funny if it were a boy and we named him Robert. I would feel like my prayer to the two embryos I imagined I had in January of 2012 was a premonition, a stamp of destiny upon the ether which materialized. I hope that it is. I love my children: lost, present, and future, more than anything in the world. If they know nothing else, please let them know that.

R.I.P. Sir Robert Edward

By chance, I was in the car listening to NPR today, and I heard the newscaster report that Nobel Prize winning scientist, Sir Robert Edward – the father of IVF – died today. I was soon overcome with emotion and in tears, for a man I never knew, but who changed my life completely. I owe him so much. I am so grateful. My whole family is so grateful. How can you thank someone enough for giving your life meaning and purpose? For making all your dreams of motherhood come true? For making me the happiest, luckiest woman alive? For my beautiful, beautiful daughter?

I came home and Googled this wonderful man. I learned that by the time he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010, he was too far gone with dementia to appreciate the honor. The same goes for him being knighted by Queen Elizabeth the following year. I read about Louise Brown, the first “test tube” baby and how Robert had become a part of her family.

He started research on IVF in the Fifties and was driven by the belief that people had the right to receive help in having a family.

He once said: I have seen how infertility is a cause of great and lasting human sadness. It demands treatment. The most important thing in life is having a child.

What an incredible man… and what a huge debt our family and countless other families owe him. In one of the articles, I read that – among many tributes written to him – the most profound was from a young man whose note simply read, “Thank you for my life.”

January 25th

A year ago today, I was nervously waiting for a phone call from my fertility doctor. I had had an egg retrieval procedure on January 20, 2012, with approximately 8 or 9 eggs retrieved. The surviving eggs had been fertilized and allowed to grow into three-day blastocysts. They had then been sent to the lab for chromosomal testing. A day five transfer had been planned, and the doctor was to call me if we didn’t have any viable embryos to transfer – so that I wouldn’t bother to show up at the clinic. The call never came… although, curiously, I barely allowed myself to believe it wasn’t some sort of mistake. Right up until he walked into the exam room, I thought my phone might still ring.

The doctor didn’t exactly look happy, but I knew he had to have good news. I had been praying so hard for two embryos to make it! He told me that they tested two batches together, the one from my second IVF and this, current, third IVF procedure. Then he told me that out of all the embryos tested, there was one normal embryo. I remember saying, “Well, it just takes one, right?” “That’s right,” he confirmed. Then later he would tell me, without my asking, that the normal embryo was embryo #10 and that it was a female embryo.

My husband was instantly thrilled. “We always wanted a girl!” he exclaimed with genuine excitement. I had never imagined myself having a daughter… but suddenly, it felt very real. All I wanted was for our one miracle embryo to take hold.

I remember how scared I was that something would go wrong during the transfer and they’d drop my invisible miracle on the floor or that something else would happen to prevent her from implanting. I remember Clair de Lune playing during the moment of transfer. I remember eating pineapple for five days straight afterwards because I read that it helped implantation. I remember my husband thinking the transfer automatically meant pregnancy. (He would tell anyone and everyone “my wife is pregnant” and at first, I thought he was just being supportive!)

I remember those horrible, cheap pregnancy test strips from China that – day after day – cruelly failed to pick up any HCG. I remember sobbing uncontrollably the day before my follow-up appointment because all the tests kept coming up negative… and I knew in my heart, I wasn’t ready to face the alternative choices that would have been before me.

I also remember the evening before my blood work, February 1, 2012, at approximately 7 pm, when I made the fateful decision to use the “expensive” pregnancy test… that gave me the result that would change my life forever. Pregnant. Two strong pink lines. My eyes still fill with tears whenever I think about it (even now, as my three month old daughter lies next to me, babbling at her toys). I remember jumping up and down with joy. I remember the doctor calling me to confirm the blood test results and telling me that I was very pregnant – whatever that meant – I was ecstatic to hear it!

This day will always be special to me, and I’ve decided I will celebrate every year by listening to Clair de Lune by Debussy and just taking a moment to remember. I’ve had a couple of big miracles in my life and their anniversaries are sealed in my heart.

Dreams do come true. Miracles do happen. What is impossible now, may very well become possible in just a split second. Things worth remembering.

Into the Rabbit Hole

Is it just me? How do people with a newborn get anything done – ever?!?! Thank goodness that I have my (amazing) husband to help out… but I only have him for another 10 days before he has to go back to work. I have no idea how I’m going to get anything done after that.

I know people always talk about how your life completely changes and you get no sleep and how the baby’s needs come before your own… and that all seems fine when you hear it. You think “I can do this!” But lo and behold, your life COMPLETELY changes and becomes unrecognizable — as do the days of the week or ever knowing what time it is. In fact, time loses all meaning. You operate in some strange, sleep-deprived alternate reality, barely able to hang on to any recognizable structure. It’s disorienting to say the least. Sleep is a distant memory… something you vaguely remember doing in more than 45 minute bursts a long, long time ago when you were child-free.

The baby feeds every 2 to 3 hours, but what it really looks like is this: feeding alarm goes off at 3 am (did you know you have to wake babies to feed them, at least initially?) – diaper change takes place first (because you’re hoping baby will be drowsy after feeding and magically go right to sleep – ha!) Easy diaper changes take only a few minutes, but it’s more likely that the baby will projectile poop as you’re changing her diaper and sometimes, not just once or twice. So, you go through 1, 2, or 3 diapers and manage to finally get her in a clean, dry diaper. Hooray! (She is screaming by now because, well, you woke her up – it’s cold and uncomfortable – and you introduced a wet wipe to her privates. Nobody likes that!)

Then the feeding commences. You have to have her properly positioned, which requires lots of pillows – and, in my case, since she can’t rest on my C-Section scars (or belly in general) it’s a little tougher. I can only use the “football hold” for breastfeeding now. Although, I started using the My Breast Friend pillow this morning which works quite well. Our baby girl generally feeds for 20 minutes on each breast, with a five minute burping interval in between sides. This is the part where I either try not to nod off, if I’m really sleepy… or alternately, stare at my baby in complete wonder, adoration, and gratitude for the miracle she is. These are love-filled, bonding moments. And I realize that what people told me is true: I can’t imagine life without her now.

If I’m lucky, I won’t have any issues with breastfeeding – other than sore nipples – as sometimes she falls asleep and is nearly impossible to rouse. (This is a bad thing because it shortens my 3 hr interval between feedings as she’ll be hungry sooner.) When the feeding is done, I burp her and swaddle her tightly. She absolutely hates the process of swaddling, but it’s our best chance at a calm baby afterwards. If she gets out of her swaddle, the shrill screaming isn’t far behind.

At least an hour has passed and now it’s 4 am. I still need to get baby to sleep before I can sleep. My mind starts counting down the hours. If I fall asleep now, I can get 2 whole hours before the next feeding! (This almost never happens.) What usually happens is one of two scenarios, either she’s screaming her head off for some unknown reason or she fakes sleeping for a good 5 minutes and I am lulled into a false sense of security before she starts whimpering, then crying, then screaming. Some nights, I get lucky and all the tricks from the “Happiest Baby on the Block” video actually work. Other nights, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more to get her to settle down and sleep. I try my best to fall asleep for whatever time I have left before I have to do it all over again.

At least once per night, hubby takes a screaming shift so that I can get some sleep. This makes me fall in love with him all over again! I have the BEST husband in the world!!!

I don’t get what people mean when they say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Um, yeah, I would love to. But when do I get to eat, use the restroom, take a shower, do the laundry?(Omigod, there is a TON of laundry all of a sudden and it’s all baby stuff!)

Oh, and speaking of “the baby’s needs come before your own” — I didn’t realize that actually looked something like this: I’ve had to pee for 4 hours but the baby is crying because she’s hungry and I now have to breastfeed for an hour before I can use the toilet or her screaming will wake up my sleeping husband whose been up with her all night! Or, I’m starving, but the baby needs to eat, poop, sleep, etc. and I haven’t had a chance to grab anything from the kitchen, let alone the luxury of a PB and J! It’s a good thing she’s as cute as she is because at the end of it all, you just look at her an melt and know, deep in your soul, that you would do anything for her.

I’m obviously ridiculously tired right now… but regardless of how any of this might sound, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I love our little girl so much that I can hardly stand it. My husband and I are sooooo in love with her! It’s our mutual obsession. He says it has changed his perspective on life completely. He’s now afraid to die because he’s afraid of leaving her alone. All our priorities have shifted in a way that would only sound trite if I tried to describe it. I have never known real fear until now. The thought of anything happening to her is devastating beyond recognition. She holds our hearts. She is our world.

 

Super-quick Update…

I’m exhausted and clearly not equipped with enough arms for parenthood! I really, really want to write about my birth experience in detail (hopefully) soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to provide a quickie update.

After 6 months of coincidental clock checking at exactly 10:13 am and 10:13 pm, our daughter was born on October 13, 2012, exactly 13 minutes to midnight. She was born after 30 1/2 hours of labor (the first 24 without pain meds!) At 30 hrs of labor, we had a big scare and had to have an emergency c-section. I have mixed feelings about this, but no regrets about doing what was best to save my daughter’s life.

Luckily, she is perfect! And perfectly healthy. Born weighing 8 lbs. and 1 oz., measuring 19.75 inches… and, I have to say, utterly gorgeous!

Her parents are already madly in love with her! (If she lets mommy sleep a little bit more at night, detailed reports may come sooner rather than later!)

38 Weeks

Okay, right off the bat, let me just say that I’m antsy and cranky today… and more than a little irked that I’m even writing an update at 38 weeks — especially since everyone thought I’d have the baby by now! Grrr!

I don’t even care if I sound whiny or bitchy. I’m huge. I can’t do anything but lay on the couch like a slug. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and definitely hormonal. I never really thought I’d be one of those “get this baby out of me!” women, but I am! I’m officially tired of being pregnant, and while I’m lucky to have had a very easy and delightful pregnancy for over 8 months, I’ve now reached the point where discomfort and impatience have taken over. Plus, I just want to hold her in my arms and look at her face! I want to breastfeed and change diapers (yes, really). I am beside myself with anticipation.

So, here we go with the usual questions:

How big is the baby? The charts say she’s the size of a pumpkin. This may be the first time I agree with the fruit ticker!

Symptoms:  Heartburn & swollen ankles, mainly. I also have the agility of a giant sack of potatoes.

Total Weight Loss/Gain:  25 lbs., which for most people would be pretty good, so why-oh-why am I not allowed to have any sugar?! Meh!

Maternity Clothes: There are only certain dresses I can wear now because all the other clothes can’t quite cover my HUGE belly.

Sleep: Always an issue. I’m up several times a night still. And, overall, I find it hard to sleep more than five or six hours. Oh, and, bonus — I’m sleepy all day long.

Best Moment This Week: Probably the phone call where my dad said that if I went into labor and my husband was at work, that my dad could call an ambulance to take me to the hospital! He’s so dramatic. It’s endearing. I explained that even if I did go into labor on my own, I was going to try to spend as much time at home as possible and that it wasn’t an emergency-type situation. His response? “I don’t like this, you’re too calm!”

Oh – I forgot the other great moment of the week. We went back to the fertility clinic because our doc said he wanted to see us before we had the baby. I felt really weird about walking into the clinic so obviously pregnant, but he said he thought it was good advertising. (Not sure I agree, but luckily, there was no one in the waiting room when we got there.) Our old doc was so happy to see us and told me that he just loved pregnant women so much that he got his wife pregnant with their third child just so he could see her pregnant! (A little odd, no?)

Anyway, he was great and thanked us again for sticking with him. I thanked him for believing in us and for being a part of our miracle. On our way out, I spotted one of the nurses who usually drew my blood and she came running over to hug me. She and another nurse were just fawning over me with excitement and squealing about what a cute pregnant lady I was. I wasn’t expecting them to be so happy for me… and it really felt genuine. I was surprised and overwhelmed. I didn’t realize they cared so much. That felt absolutely amazing!

Movement: Still experiencing lots of big moves and the occasional jab.

Food Cravings: Sweets. I want sweets! (same as last time)

Labor Signs: Absolutely none.

Belly Button In or Out? Well, much to my chagrin, we’ve crossed the threshold on this one. My belly button is now a definite “outie” and I can’t stand it! Plus, it’s really tender and I’m always bumping my belly up against something – like the kitchen counter – because I haven’t gotten used to how fast it has grown. One of the main reasons I want to give birth soon is to get my “innie” back – is that very superficial?

What I miss: I miss feeling good and full of energy.

What I am looking forward to:  I’m looking forward to the start of labor, having a quick and easy delivery … and of course, I’m looking forward to meeting our precious angel! In fact, I cannot wait to see her face!!!

Next Appointment: Tuesday. And I hope I don’t make it there because she’ll already have been born!

Milestones: Just reaching 38 weeks … and being so close to meeting our daughter!

Baby Overload

Everything in my life has become about babies… and, naturally, mine in particular. It’s as tough now to concentrate on anything else as it was when I was battling infertility… or for that matter, planning my wedding. There are certain monumental happenings in life that eclipse everything else. And even if I do manage to forget that I’m pregnant for a few minutes (say those rare occasions when I’m focused on work) the baby will move in some kind of dramatic way that reminds me she’s there!

Until last week, her movements consisted largely of kicks & jabs, which (oddly?) I liked! I guess she’s getting a little too big for that now and there isn’t as much room for her to move, so when she does move now, it feels like a major bodily adjustment. (Oh, great, and just to prove me wrong, she just sharply jabbed my bladder! Thanks for that, Cheeks!)

I have a confession to make. I don’t like the way these new movements feel. It feels beyond weird. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she’s moving and I like to know she’s okay in there… but the actual feeling of her moving gives me the heebie-jeebies! I felt really guilty about this a few days ago and did the whole “I’m a bad mom” thing to myself, but have now decided that it is what it is and I have to be honest about it. I’m sure I can’t be alone!

We’ve been to so many baby classes and meetings lately that, at times, it’s too much even for me. I already know it’s too much for my husband. Last Saturday, we were at a 4-hr “Preparing for Baby” class, and the instructor showed us (13 couples) a video of an actual birth. I’ve You-Tubed plenty of these, but needless to say, hubby doesn’t show my same interest, so this was a great intro for him! There was a pasty, red-headed woman giving birth on the video and she had massive stretch marks (which hubby also has never seen) and I think the whole experience was fairly traumatizing for him. I thought it was funny! (The fact that he was weirded out, not the birth, mind you.) Oh, lest I forget, the coolest thing about this class was when they had the women lay down on the floor, supported by pillows, and taught the guys how to do this super relaxing massage… and then instructed the guys to provide us with that massage every night. Score!

A couple of days before that, we’d gone to a 3-hr  “Infant CPR and Safety” class, which was pretty good (and alarming in the sense that it made you actually think about all the things that could go wrong or that an infant can choke on). Scary! They made us input into our mobile calendars a date 30 days out to practice and insisted that the techniques must become second nature to us, otherwise we’ll forget them when the panic of a real emergency sets in. I found that hard to believe since we must have repeated the moves at least 50 times during the class. But, lo and behold, yesterday when I was talking about it with the hubby, we totally disagreed on whether you breathe first or push first. It’s already slipped our minds in less than a week! There’s just SO much to get done. My “To-Do” list feels like quicksand at the moment.

The night before that class, we’d gone to a “Pregnancy Social” (which isn’t very aptly named) at a local maternity shop. It would properly have been called a “Meet the Doulas” event – which is fine because that’s why we were really there.

Having decided on a hospital birth (because our doctor is so fabulous and the hospital is so progressive that they agreed to 90+% of my birth plan without hesitation) I’ve opted for hiring a doula – both to help me through labor and to keep the doctor & nurses to their promises. This sounds so much easier than it actually is. You have to interview lots of people… and that’s so exhausting, plus, sometimes people are very nice and sweet, but you just know they’re not right for you somehow. The doula I’d liked most on the phone ended up being way too hippie for us once she started talking at the meeting. The deal-killer was when she used the phrase “holding the space” – which is an automatic red-flag for me & the hubby. (Long story. Bottom line, we don’t deal well with people who use excessive hippie-speak.) I would’ve been heartbroken, except that she was also the most expensive out of the bunch, and I am nothing if not thrifty!

We settled on my second favorite doula (who has now moved to the #1 position). She struck me as having the right balance of new-age and down-to-earth. Plus, she comes with over ten years of experience (and three children of her own) which certainly inspires confidence. Coincidentally, she was the second most-expensive on the list, which proves that I’m thrifty but not dogmatically so.

On a different note… I was uploading pictures of my bump and the latest ultrasound pics to my computer today and looked through the baby pics I have so far… and was completely amazed. Those of us who grow our babies in a lab first have the unique privilege of getting to see our children at a cellular level. So, I can look at blastocyst #10 and know, “That’s her!” I have documented her progression from blastocyst, to gestational sac, to little bean with flickering heartbeat, to full-grown embryo, to fetus… to a baby with recognizable features.  My heart grows so big! I cannot wait to meet Cheeks in person. Will she be fascinated by how well her little life has been documented? Will she ever know how much we wanted her and fought for her? Will she know how much we loved her right from the start?

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