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.”

2012 in Review

When I look back over this year and contemplate how much my life has transformed – and in exactly the ways I prayed and hoped it would – I am in awe and tearfully grateful.

Every year for the past I-don’t-know-how-many-years I would wish for the same thing — to have a baby and start our family in earnest. Each long year that passed with my dream unfulfilled left scars on my soul, scars that I now carry with pride and great appreciation. The multitude of experiences, the hope, the grief, the anxiety, all came together to form the alchemy of what is now my deep and abiding happiness. Just as carbon under extreme pressure yields nature’s strongest substance, and to many its most beautiful, so the emotions converge in the crucible of the soul to make us stronger and more beautiful for having endured such a difficult path to motherhood.

When I look at my daughter, everything unimportant melts away, and all I feel is pure bliss, peace, gratitude, and love. I would go through everything a thousand times over just to end up with her again. The world is such a different place for me now, and I have her to thank for that. She teaches me every day how precious and miraculous life is and how love is the only thing that has ever mattered.

To all the mothers and mothers-to-be, now and in the future, I wish you not only a happy new year, but also the ability to see the spectacular beauty in it all.

 

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!)

20 Weeks

There’s a lot that has transpired this week, and I hope I get to memorialize it all… but I may not. Sometimes you go through so much worry and anxiety, just to come out the other end and realize you might have been going a bit overboard all along. When I figure out what really matters and can distill a few intelligent thoughts, I may write about it. In the meantime, enjoy my 20-week update ūüôā

How big is the baby? The size of a Banana, according to the fruit ticker, which I honestly have to question, seeing as next week is a Pomegranate! Is my baby going to get smaller next week? lol This fruit stuff is ridiculous. The baby measures 6.5 inches (16.5 centimeters) this week.

Symptoms: A little bit of heartburn and bloating after nearly everything I eat Рboo.

Total Weight Loss/Gain:¬†I weigh about 6 pounds more than when I started, which I think is pretty good. Oddly, the scale at my doctor’s office shows that I’ve only gained 2 lbs. this entire pregnancy. The fact that the doctor’s scale shows less of a weight gain than my home scale is beyond weird – 4 lbs. is a big difference!

Maternity Clothes:¬†Duh! I wear them all the time and had to buy a HUGE t-shirt to sleep in because all the loose t-shirts I had are now tight. I’ve grown at least one cup size, if not more, and will soon need to hire a very short person to help me shoulder the weight of my bosom. As a side note, I can still fit into my old bathing suit (one-piece). Bad news is that it makes me look fat – as opposed to pregnant – but should I really care?

Sleep:¬†I could certainly stand to get more sleep… but I’ve had a few good nights this week, so I can’t really complain.

Best Moment This Week:¬†Seeing my baby’s FACE!!! I’ll try and get a picture up soon. We went to the perinatologist on Thursday and he confirmed the gender (whew!) and tried to get a “4-D” scan of her face. He had a really tough time because she was moving around so much (and boxing against my uterus) that all the photos were either fuzzy or had her fists covering her face… except for ONE, where you can see my precious little girl, complete with furled brow! She didn’t exactly look happy… but I’ll tell you what she did look like… her father! Her nose and lips are the spitting image of Daddy! He doesn’t see it, and oddly, neither did his folks when we sent them the photo, but my parents saw it right away. Hey, I’m not complaining… she’s probably better off looking like her father, he’s pretty handsome!

Gender: Female (yay!)

Movement:¬†Oh, boy! She moves all the time. So much so, that I’m wondering if she ever sleeps? I’ve tried to get my hubby to feel it, but all he can manage to feel is my heartbeat. (Through my tummy? Weird, I know.) Hopefully, he’ll be able to feel her kicks someday soon. I’m still kind of amazed by the whole thing. My doctor was surprised that I can feel so much so early on and said that most women are just starting to feel flutters around 20 weeks (not sure whether or not that’s true) but when she checked the baby’s heartbeat with the doppler, she was amazed at how active my little one is! (I can feel her moving as I’m typing this – do you think she knows I’m writing about her?)

Food Cravings:¬†Not much to speak of. The other night I really wanted a bean & rice burrito and since I never crave anything, hubby moved heaven and earth to get me to Sharky’s before they closed. It was so worth it… their burrito really hit the spot!

Labor Signs: Thankfully, no.

Belly Button In or Out? Still in (Please let it stay this way.)

What I miss:¬† This week, I’m not missing alcohol. Don’t really care about it either way, but I do kind of miss being able to bend forward! lol It’s so strange not to be able to do that (without pain) anymore.

What I am looking forward to:  My husband being able to feel the baby kick.

Next Appointment:¬†June 28th. I don’t mind the appointments being spread out, now that I can feel her move all the time.

Milestones:¬†Aside from the sheer circumference of my waist… the big milestone is that I’m now half-way through my pregnancy. Wow. Even typing it seems surreal. As much as I hear the heartbeat, feel the baby move and even see an ultrasound of her features, it all still feels like a dream most of the time. I just can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have all of this happening to me.

Sometimes, I say things like, “I can’t believe it’s finally my turn,” but in reality, I don’t know that I ever took for granted that it would happen to me, that pregnancy and then motherhood were even possible, much less guaranteed. There may have been a time when I felt I had more control over the outcome of these things, but that would have been before the first pregnancy and miscarriage — a former life, a former self with a completely different set of beliefs about the world. Today, I tremble at the miracle and gratitude-filled tears are always just a few seconds away every time I stop to think about what I’ve had to go through to get here. I love it here.

Don’t Ignore Infertility Week

If I have any proficiency displaying the badge above, then you already know that this is National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) brought to you by the amazing folks at RESOLVE.

One of the most frustrating elements of my struggle with infertility was how invisible I felt – how, outside the world of online support networks and largely anonymous bloggers – I was alone in the world. Even at my fertility clinic, patients would sit in the waiting room, not daring to look at one another. Only a sheer thread of something resembling shame united us all in our loneliness.

It used to really upset me that more people, particularly celebrities who we all know went through infertility treatments, wouldn’t speak up about infertility and their experiences. It seemed that once infertiles got pregnant, they were thrilled to leave the club (who wouldn’t be?) and join the fertile sorority on the other side of the glass wall that kept us apart.

There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy recognition as I write this… knowing that my blog, too, is anonymous (largely because my husband is intensely private, but also to give me the freedom to write the truth) and when I was struggling, I only let a few people – people who had already been through some version of infertility – know what I was going through. It seemed too shameful, too raw to reveal in the midst of it, that something was wrong with me and I couldn’t do/produce/have/be something that I had always assumed was my birthright as a woman.

Our last IVF cycle broke down a lot of walls for me – largely because I was desperate. I told just about all my friends in the effort to solicit their prayers and “good vibes” and create a last attempt at some type of synergy of prayer… like a loudspeaker to God. I had to do a lot of educating along the way, even to my friend who is studying to become a nurse! I was/am astonished about just how little people know about infertility treatments (but that’s the subject of another blog). In some ways, telling people was healing and helped to explain a lot of my absence at social events and baby showers (eek!), but in other ways, I felt I had exposed too much vulnerability, especially when people inadvertently (as they do) said things that were well-meaning, yet incredibly hurtful.

When our third IVF proved successful – and miraculously so – I briefly wondered if I, too, would be one of those women who slip silently out of this dreaded club and into the gleaming world of “normal” pregnant women. People who see me might assume – as I did whenever I saw a pregnant woman – that she was an “other,” an outsider to the world of infertility. But at every opportunity now, I’m completely open about what it took to get here and how amazingly lucky and grateful I am.

Yesterday, I had my blood drawn for the 2nd trimester screening that the State performs and my phlebotomist asked me (since I’m already showing at 15+ weeks) if we knew the sex of the baby. I told her that the doctors hadn’t been able to see it on the ultrasound yet, but we knew it was a girl because this was an IVF pregnancy and we had done genetic testing. She said, “You can choose the sex now?!” I told her that that wasn’t the reason we did the genetic testing. And somehow, our entire story about the three IVFs, the 36 embryos, the old eggs, the ONE normal embryo in the entire bunch, the transfer, the absolute miraculous nature of our pregnancy – the whole thing, condensed into a three minute story, with tears filling my eyes – came spilling out.

As I left the lab, I thought to myself, that’s how you do it… one person at a time… one story at a time, making ourselves visible, real, human. That’s how you make a difference.

The Fourth Dimension

I’m going to try and ignore the fact that I’m ridiculously sleep-deprived today and write a little entry anyway. (I cannot even imagine what I’ll be like after getting up for ¬†feedings every 2-hours – God help me!)

Two days ago, we went in for our First Trimester screening – where they do the blood test for Downs and talk to you about the risks associated with advanced maternal age (which has to be the most polite euphemism I’ve heard of so far for “old lady!”) And this particular doctor – very quirky, complete with red bow-tie and, to his credit, also very thorough – is fond of not only doing regular ultrasounds, but what is known as a “4-D” ultrasound. He says he does this because he is so against people going to shopping malls to get this done by people who don’t know what they’re doing – that he wants to offer the service for free! I say, “Awesome.”

I still have to figure out how to add a page to this blog so I can post photos where people can elect to see them, rather than have these images unexpectedly thrust at them. (We’ll see if I can manage that after I post this entry….)

Anyway, so this was the first time they actually did a belly ultrasound which, I have to say, is infinitely more comfortable – and dare I say, much more proper for a pregnant lady – than the vaginal wand! (In truth, they did both.) I think the “4-D” image was from the belly ultrasound, though. And, I do have to put “4-D” in quotes every time, because my husband is extremely fond of ridiculing the term, asking if I really can see into the Fourth Dimension in the photographs and wondering what the hell that means?! ūüėČ ¬†Hey, maybe there is an element we can’t quite see there? I, for one, am not going to question it.

All kidding aside, I think it may have been me who was transported to the Fourth Dimension when I saw her. The doc didn’t provide any warning or set up… it just went from regular, grainy ultrasound to this amazing, crystal clear, full-color PHOTOGRAPH of the embryo! I don’t think I can put the awe into words. I just kept saying, “Oh, my God!” over and over. The image, which he very kindly allowed us to photograph with our phone cameras (because the print-out is still in black & white) is emblazoned on my cornea. Every time I close my eyes, I see my baby in complete clarity — her little arms sheltering her head, her tiny little ribs (that you can count in the picture!) her little body resting in my uterus. It’s almost too much to take in. I have been walking on clouds ever since.

I would cry… but it’s too much happiness & joy for tears. I am beyond grateful and very humbled by the whole thing. The one thing I know for sure now is that her Dad and I are totally in love with her already.

My kingdom for a heartbeat!

Normally, when I write my blog entries… I just sit here and start to type. Sometimes I have an idea about what I’m going to say and other times I don’t. There’s no real fear in doing so because, well if it’s that awful I can just delete it, and the post will never see the light of day. But I’m hesitant as I sit here now to let the words flow because today, I know they will fail me. I feel impotent as a writer.

This past Thursday, February 23rd, we went to the clinic for our 7 week ultrasound – prepared to hear our little girl’s heart beat for the first time. “Prepared” is entirely the wrong word. A part of me feels melodramatic for writing this… but there is nothing that can prepare you for the overwhelming cavalcade of emotions that hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time brings with it.

The visit started out normally (which means I had to wait in the exam room forever before my very busy doctor appeared). I’ve come to enjoy the experience somewhat – with the dimmed lighting and soothing music, I sometimes imagine I’m about to get a relaxing massage. Anyway, he finally arrived and proceeded with the ultrasound. Immediately, I saw the image of our little bean! I was so excited/relieved to see she’d grown and looked exactly like all the other 7 week Google images. (Ha! I really have a Google problem.)

Then the doctor zoomed in a little and said, “Can you see that flicker? That’s the heart.” Yes! I could see the flicker – it looked amazing. A little blinking beacon that seemed to ¬†broadcast “I’m here! I’m here!”

“Are we going to get to hear the heartbeat?” I asked. “Yes,” my doctor chuckled, “you’re always one step ahead of me!” Duh! I’m one of the most impatient people I know and¬†I’ve waited my entire life for this!

So, he switched to another screen where the regular ultrasound image was minimized and the lower half of the screen showed a flat line. He turned on the sound. I heard nothing. I held my breath. (Not sure why, but I read somewhere that a lady had to hold her breath so the doctor could hear the baby’s heartbeat! The things we remember – lol.) My doctor did some techie thing where he focused the sound exactly on the embryo and then suddenly we heard the loud hummingbird heartbeat of our baby girl! (And we saw each heart beat on the display monitor.) Ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum! It was so loud and so strong! My husband gasped, “Oh my God!” And I began to cry uncontrollably. Yes, happy tears, overwhelmed tears… everything I’ve been through in years… all the heartache-and-triumph-all-rolled-into-one kind of tears.

There simply are no words.

I was on a high for the rest of the day. What could possibly be wrong in my life? I heard her heartbeat. She’s real. She’s not just an idea, a collection of cells large enough for me to see on an ultrasound. She’s a tiny human being whose heart is beating inside me, inside mine.

 

Previous Older Entries