Friday, March 25, 2016

For I am involved in mankind

I’ve let more time pass than I intended.  I know the people who still read this understand.  So, to catch up!  I am now 19 weeks pregnant!

January was rough.  Max got a cold, which turned into an ear infection, which turned into a ruptured ear drum.  The literal next day, a pipe burst a few floors up and caused a massive flood in Max’s room.  Max had to sleep on a pack n play in our room.  That night he woke up at 4am, coughing…. Except he wasn’t coughing, he was puking.  Yep, gastroenteritis on top of the ear infection/rupture.  After he got over that, Rajeev caught it, and so did our nanny.  Meanwhile, I caught the cold, but couldn’t take anything for it because pregnancy.  I got so sick, I was convinced I had strep throat, but after a waste-of-time visit to an urgent care, I learned it was just a virus.  Get plenty of rest!  Yeah, right.  Why do they even bother saying this to the mom of a sick toddler?  My in-laws insisted on coming to “help” one day, but Max was so clingy with me that there wasn’t much for them to do… other than catch Rajeev’s gastroenteritis, which is just what they did.  It was horrendous.

Thankfully, February got easier.  First off, we got the results of our Mat.erniT21 test – no anomalies, and we’re having another boy.  I sort of assumed from day one that we would have another boy, so this was not a big surprise, and I was so happy and relieved that he appears to be healthy.  But I’m not gonna lie – I did have 30 minutes or so of mourning the loss of a mother/daughter relationship.  My sister asked me if I was sad about the outcome and I said, “No, I’m not sad at all that I’m having another boy.”  This doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have been nice to have a girl, but I’m honestly okay. 

 We went for a nuchal translucency as well and the little cookie was moving around like a little firecracker.  The tech actually struggled to get the measure of the nuchal fold because the kid just didn’t feel like cooperating. 

 I talked with my OB about whether I should do an initial anatomy scan this time.  Last time, that's the scan where the doctor thought maybe Max had club feet and made up some statistic about how there was a 35% chance that he had it and we freaked out for a month.  Dr. R understood my concerns and said the main reason to get a scan now is that they can almost always catch major brain or heart defects at 16-18 weeks, but that it is totally fine to wait till the full anatomy scan at 20-22 weeks because we would still have time to deal with any major issues. 
All that being said, Jeeves and I agreed we would rather know sooner than later.  So I went for the initial anatomy scan and everything went perfect.  Perfect, perfect - could not have gone better.  Our tech struggled a tiny bit with getting a shot of his spine, but ultimately did manage.  In another couple of weeks I'll go back for the full scan and hopefully everything will continue to look good.
Pregnancy has been pretty boring.  I had severe fatigue during the first trimester, in some ways worse than the first time because now I’ve got Max to chase after.  But I had no food aversions, no bloating, nausea, etc.  And now that I’m in the second trimester, the fatigue is gone.  My belly finally popped out and I have to wear maternity clothes or bigger shirts and elastic waist stuff.  And now I can't sleep on my tummy or back, so just yesterday I pulled out the old body pillow.  It's taking some getting used to.  But it sure is cool to feel a baby moving around in there again. 

Anyway, I’ve been worrying lately about handling two small children and how hard things are going to be.  I’m definitely anxious.  And although I feel insanely lucky that we got pregnant with the first IUI this time, part of me wondered if we could have waited.  That thought was replaced after I finally received my medical records from our RE.  My AMH this go around was a 1.89, which given my age (almost 38) is actually pretty good.  And because I knew my AMH, I never bothered asking what my day 4 bloods were - figured it didn't matter.  When I was flipping through my records, I saw that my FSH was something like an 11.5.  That's a good deal higher than it was 3 years ago when I was doing this.  And I realize that one FSH level doesn't necessarily mean anything, that  combined with my declining antral follicle count definitely made me realize that we made the right decision to go for a second child when we did instead of waiting another year or more.  I'm not young in terms of childbearing and my body was slowing down.  We got very lucky.
That's what life has been like here.  No complaints.  I've been feeling a little depressed about the level of political discourse across the board.  Yesterday John McCain wrote an op-ed piece in the NY Times that made tear up at work.  It's his tribute to Delmer Berg, who was the last living member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (Americans who fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War).  Berg was a Communist.  Obviously John McCain is not.  But McCain clearly has a lot of respect for what Berg did, and notes that after he returned from the war, he went on to start a business and spent his free time working for causes he believed in.  It's not very long, and worth a read.  To that end, I have been musing on the quotes that McCain included from Hemingway and John Donne, so I'm including the latter here, the themes of which I am trying to carry in my heart to teach my own kids, even when it's so different from what I'm hearing everywhere else.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Known and Unknown

I apologize for not updating sooner.  Everything falling around the holidays made blogging tough.  So, where I last left off, we were going in for a very early ultrasound, where I was 5w5d (or 5w4d?  I’ve never really gotten the hang of counting this stuff).  When we went in that morning, I logically knew that all we could really hope to see was a gestational sac and a yolk sac, but I was still hoping maybe there would be more.  Dr. P told me that all she wanted to see was a sac in my uterus and that it was too early to see much else. 

Sure enough, all we saw was a sac.  It was 13mm, which my doctor was very pleased with.  She said sometimes we can see a yolk sac and sometimes we can’t.  We didn’t see one.  Of course later when I went home I read some stuff online indicating that it was a bad sign if you didn’t see a yolk sac when the gestational sac was 12mm or greater and I proceeded to spiral.

We were instructed to come back in 11 days, at which point the doctor would want to see a heartbeat.  We celebrated Christmas, and went on a little vacation with Kate and her family for New Year’s.  I, of course, couldn’t drink and was limited in my food options.  All of which would be fine, except as the day of the ultrasound crept closer, I felt more and more negative about it.  I started mapping out in my head whether they would want me to have a D&C right away, and if so, what day would actually work for that.  Morbid stuff, I know.  The fact that we didn’t see a yolk sac seemed ominous to me and the idea that there could actually be something alive where there had just been an empty sac 11 days before seemed absurd. 

This little cookie, as we had taken to calling it, turned into Shrodinger’s cat for me – simultaneously alive and dead until we saw it on the ultrasound.  Not helping matters – I caught Max’s terrible cold, but had to act with the data that was known – I was technically pregnant and therefore could not take any cold medicine. 

 The night before the second ultrasound, I texted with Adi, whom some of you may know from the bloggy world.  She asked how I was feeling about it and I explained about how I felt very negative.  She asked why and I said, “I just feel like there’s no way this could work out.  Like I’m not allowed to be that lucky.”  And kind Adi responded, “I think if other people get pregnant their first try you’re allowed to have a second baby on your first IUI.”  She added, “Max is pretty awesome, but I promise you that you haven’t used up all your happiness.”  Her saying that meant a lot to me as it really hit the heart of the matter – we are so happy and I feel so lucky to have Max that it feels like I am asking too much if I ask for more of it.  As if happiness in your family is finite. 

I think I’ve mentioned on here before that I’m in a small private Facebook group of other (mostly) infertile moms who had babies at the same time I had Max.  I reached out to them too the night before the ultrasound and they wrapped me up in their positive words.  The morning of the ultrasound one of them posted: “Remember we are all in there with you.”  All this love alleviated some of my fear, and I felt as though, maybe, no matter what, I would be okay.

 There is rarely a wait at this RE’s office, but perhaps because it was the Monday after the holidays, they seemed swamped.  I didn’t get called back till 20 minutes later and was freaking out a bit because our nanny who was home with Max had to leave at a specific time.  But we finally got called back and Dr. P came in quickly.  She told me that according to them, my EDD is August 21st and without further ado, let’s see what’s happening.  As soon as the probe was in, I could see that there was stuff in the sac now, though I did not immediately see the heartbeat.  But within a second, we could see a good, strong heartbeat, and Dr. P turned on the sound so we could hear it too.  There was a fetal pole measuring right on time and this time I could clearly see the yolk sac.  I let out a huge sigh of relief.  And with that, and a hug, Dr. P released me to my OB.

I’m currently 8w3d, still very early.  I saw my OB last week, got another peak at the cookie who was looking perfectly fine.  I go back in two weeks to get blood drawn for the cell free DNA test.  Fatigue has hit hard.  I get queasy if I’m not diligent about eating frequent small meals.  I’m still exercising.  Still doing progesterone suppositories (blech) until I hit 10 weeks.  But otherwise there’s not much to report.  Neither my RE nor my OB think I’m a good candidate for VBAC, and I wasn’t especially interested in doing that anyway, so a c-section would be scheduled for my 39th week.  If everything works out, we could have another baby by mid-August.  It is surreal for both Jeeves and me to think that less than two months ago we went into the RE’s office for the first time in three years, and now here I am, 8+ weeks pregnant. 

Thanks for the kind comments – I really appreciate it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Little Bit

Hey all.  Sorry for not writing sooner.  The last two weeks have been kind of a blur/rollercoaster.

The second week of my two week wait was tough.  Aside from the general impatience, Jeeves went to the west coast for work for three days.  Luckily Max had been going through a phase of sleeping and napping for longer, so that helped, and he was generally in a good mood all week.  Although, he did ask for "Dada" during bedtime routine, so we would FaceTime with Jeeves, and he seemed to like that.

On 11dpiui, I woke up, took my temp and was immediately depressed - it had dropped down to 98.0 from 98.4.  For me, that has always signaled a negative cycle.  On 12dpiui, my temp went down to 97.9.  I was sad, but I had been more depressed the day before and I had accepted that this cycle had failed.  I think one of the reasons I was so bummed about it was that I had such large follicles when I triggered - I have never had a totally negative cycle when my follicles were that big.  So I guess I really, really got my hopes up.

I unburdened myself to my Facebook infertile moms group and they totally said the right things (no one told me it was too early, and there was still a chance - they just embraced how shitty the process is and reminded me that this is just the start of the journey and not the end).  It helped a lot.

At 13dpiui, my temp rebounded slightly to 98.0, and I got a little hopeful... till I looked at my charts for the last 5 months and realized that my temp has rebounded to 98.0 the day before I get my period every cycle.  Oh well.  That day I had some slight cramping and a little bit of pink tinged discharge, which made me wonder if my period was about to start.

Jeeves came home and on 14dpiui, I woke up and my temp was up to 98.2.  What the heck?  I was supposed to go in for my beta test during morning monitoring hours and I decided to pee on a stick before I went to see what was going on.

Positive HPT.

What the what?

But it was light. I mean, it was there, but it was definitely light.  Much lighter than either of my HPTs with Max or with my missed miscarriage.  I had a chemical pregnancy on my first IUI back in 2013 and when my beta was around a 32, I took an HPT just so I could see a positive test for once.  That's what this looked like.  LIGHT.

All day I steeled myself for a phone call where I'd be told my beta was super low and that it was unlikely this was viable.

The nurse called at 4:30 - beta was 77.  They were fine with that number.  At my old clinic, they wanted you over a 50.  Still, 77 is much lower than my first beta with Max or with my miscarriage. They were concerned with how low my progesterone was - only a 7 point something.  With Max I was around 36 at the same point.  So they started me on prometrium suppositories (which is super fun).  Still, at least now I had an explanation for why my temp had started to drop.

A week ago, at 17dpiui, I went in for the second beta.  270 - a doubling time of 39.7 hours.  Progesterone had bounced up to 17.  This clinic doesn't make you come in for multiple betas once you get that doubling.  And I'm grateful for that.  Who knows if this is going to work out, but at least I don't have to keep torturing myself with blood levels.  Instead, though, they want me in for an ultrasound this Wednesday - I'll only be 5 weeks and 5 days.

5 weeks and 5 days is where I was when I started my ultrasound debacle with my miscarriage.   I'm definitely anxious.  If this isn't going to work, I would have preferred a chemical pregnancy to another missed miscarriage, and I would have preferred a negative to a chemical, obviously.  I assume they want to check me tomorrow so early because they want to make sure it's intrauterine and not ectopic, and with the holidays and then the weekend, there's limited time for that.  I just keep reminding myself not to expect to see much, hopefully a gestational sac and a yolk sac, and not to freak if there's no fetal pole or heartbeat.  

So that's where things are right now.  Wendy and I have been saying that I'm "a little bit pregnant."  I've been very tired, but I'm not always sure if that's from the pregnancy or just from the fact that I have a toddler.  On Friday I had a rough day with Max and didn't get a chance to eat enough, so while fixing Max's dinner I became lightheaded and nearly fainted.  But other than that, I don't feel pregnant, though I know it's still early.

There's the update.  I'm a little pregnant.  Hoping this isn't going to be a miscarriage.  Hoping that if it was just a late implantation, that everything else is okay.   

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Cycle Day 18

Howdy!  Thought I’d write a little update about my IUI and my thoroughly exhausting Thanksgiving.

So, last week on cycle day 11, I went in for monitoring.  Dr. P checked me out and found my lead follicle was now up to 26.5mm(!), and a second one around 20.5.  The one on the left was about 18.5mm.  My lining had improved a little to about 7mm and change, but she still wanted it thicker.  She sent me for blood work and said that depending on what that showed, she would recommend that I take the Ovid.rel shot that night and come in Friday morning for an IUI.

The rest of the day was super tiring and stressful.  I came home, went to the gym, E came to look after Max so I could do my Thanksgiving cooking and pack us up for our trip to Jeeves’ parents’ house.  Before I could get any cooking done, a bunch of stuff with my father’s estate blew up which devolved into me having an argument with the paralegal who works on the estate and having to ask the attorney to weigh in.  It was ridiculous and aggravating.  Finally I was able to make my pumpkin pie and the brine for the turkey, but there was no time to make the green beans.  I packed for Max and me, sent E home, and waited for Jeeves to get back from work.  Irritatingly, he had gone to a work lunch that ran very late and the end result was we didn’t get out of the apartment till 4pm. 

In the meantime, the IUI nurse called and confirmed that I should take the shot that night and come in for IUI on Friday. This was, of course, not the most convenient timing.  We would be out in White Plains visiting Jeeves’ family.  What should we do with Max – leave him with the family?  Take him with us and trade off going into the medical building? 

On the long, trafficky drive out to White Plains, we discovered that Jeeves’ mother had become very ill and was at the ER with his dad. [I will tell you now that she is okay].  I won’t go into the details about how Jeeves’ parents didn’t bother calling us when they originally went to the ER and that finding out where they were took various phone acrobatics on my part.  I will attempt not to complain too much about the fact that if we had known how sick my MIL was and that they would not be home, we would have stayed home too and come out Thursday morning.  Instead, we arrived at the house, got Max fed and put to bed, and then had to heat up dinner and entertain Jeeves’ auntie and uncle who had arrived after us from out-of-town.

My MIL and FIL came home late from the ER and although she looked very ill and tired, all of the tests had come back negative and they had given her some Zof.ran to curb the nausea. 

I have many, many feelings regarding the Thanksgiving weekend.  One of the ones that hit me hardest was walking into a dark house where older people live when one of them is ill.  It reminded me very, very much of coming into my dad’s house the last few months of his life.  It was difficult and unpleasant.  I was also exhausted and angry.  I forgot to pack a bunch of things for myself and for Max and I laid into Jeeves about how I feel like he expects too much of me.  I felt angry in the disparity of time that we spend with his family compared to mine.  I felt frustrated with my in-laws’ house which is not remotely childproofed and requires either me or Jeeves to tell Max “no” dozens of times in a row and to hover over him lest he break something or pick up a knife left carelessly on the coffee table or tumble down the stairs.  I felt anxious about the IUI, and I was in a lot of physical discomfort from my swollen ovaries.  I became impatient with Max, who wasn’t eating and wasn’t sleeping enough.  And at the bottom of all of this, I missed my parents so much I ached.

Anyway.  Wednesday night I gave myself a shot, which went fine.  Thursday, Jeeves’ brother, SIL, and nephews arrived, and my SIL and I cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  It went well enough, but I was on my feet cooking for most of the day and it was tiring.   Adding to this, we have to share a small bedroom with Max (this could be a separate post all together.  Basically the sleeping arrangements are completely unfair because Jeeves’ parents can’t stomach pissing off his brother.  But then instead of letting us have a larger bedroom after his brother leaves, they moved his auntie into the room).  The room is too small for us to have both the pack n play and our bags, so we have to keep our bags in the entry hallway.  Also, the shower broke in the guest bathroom, and the downstairs toilet clogged.  Jeeves said at one point that staying in the house is like staying in a hostel.  I couldn’t agree more.  And I’m too old for this shit.  Also, whenever we travel, Max wakes up at 6am and refuses to go back to sleep.  Did I mention that I was tired?

Thankfully, on Friday my SIL agreed to get up and watch Max while we went for our IUI (we are a little reticent to leave Max with just my MIL and FIL while my MIL is not feeling well).

The IUI was in many ways very different from when I was at my old clinic.  We checked in at a scheduled time (as opposed to just coming in during morning monitoring hours) and were sent to the andrology lab.  Jeeves did his part, and I was given a time to come pick up the sample.  Then we went and ate pastries.  We went back at the appointed time, picked up the sample, went back to the main waiting room and sat until I was called back.  The doctor who performed the IUI was pleasant, though less skilled with a speculum than my primary RE, and we chatted about my previous IUI experiences, Max, and his birth.  Then it was done and I stayed lying down for 15 minutes.  On the whole, it was a more pleasant experience than at my old clinic.

The rest of the weekend sped by, Jeeves got sick, we visited Kate’s family, and had dinner with my sister and her family on Saturday (which was, surprisingly, one of the nicest parts of the weekend for me).  We went home Saturday night and I could have cried with how happy and relieved I was to be home.  After barely eating for three days, Max proceeded to eat everything placed in front of him on Sunday.

So, I’m 5dpiui now.  I’m hopeful.  The fact that I’m hopeful leads me to believe this will fail because nothing can ever go easily.  I mean, we got so lucky that IUI worked for us with Max, what on earth makes me think that we could be so lucky that it would a) work this time; and b) that if it did work this time that it would work the first round?  Oh well.  The benefit of doing this with a 17 month old around the holidays is that I have a lot to distract me during the two week wait.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cycle Day 10

Well, it's been awhile again.  It's the usual reasons, just life in general.

I'm not pregnant.  At the end of September, after what looked like a promising cycle that resulted in a period, I decided to at least call and make an appointment with a doctor.  The earliest they could see me was mid-November, so I took the appointment and we kept trying on our own.  Unsuccessfully, obvs.  
We went to a new doctor.  It's closer to where we live now and they have better statistics for IVF than our old clinic, should it come to that.  We went to meet the new doc a couple of weeks ago and we really liked her and were very impressed.

And also a little shocked.  Based on how well we responded to IUI last time, the new doc (Dr. P) thought we should do IUI again and she didn't see any reason to wait.  She went through the tests she'd want to run (AMH, thyroid, the usual FSH/estradiol combo, and a saline sonogram) but said all of them could be run while we were doing an IUI cycle.  So, a few days later when my period started, I went in for morning monitoring and we got started.  I'm taking Clomid again, but this time it was for days 4-8 instead of 2-6.   

So far my test results look pretty good.  My antral follicle count was nothing exciting, but it was pretty standard for someone my age.  My AMH is at 1.89.  That's certainly down from the 2.77 it was 3 years ago, but that's not surprising given my age and it does put me above the 50th percentile for my age group.  My other blood results have been normal.  Today was the saline sonogram.  I was apprehensive.  The doctor wanted to make sure I didn't have scar tissue from the c-section, which I wasn't super worried about.  But after the HSG, I had pretty bad cramps for a solid 18 hours.  Thankfully, the saline sonogram was a lot easier than the HSG and it was over very quickly.  And I didn't have any cramps.  Woohoo!  The results - I have a very, very small polyp in my uterine wall, but Dr. P doesn't think it will prevent me from getting pregnant.  She recommended leaving it for now, unless we wind up doing IVF in which case it would have to be removed.  No scarring from the c-section.

Then she checked out my ovaries.  Aside from the usual hot flashes, I didn't have any symptoms until yesterday when my right side started to really bother me.  Sure enough, I have two follicles on my right ovary, one of which is already 23mm(!) and the other is 18mm.  On the left I have one 18mm follicle.  My lining, though, is still pretty thin.  I go back tomorrow morning for a check and I suspect that Thursday or Friday we'll wind up having an IUI.

I was feeling pretty negative about the cycle until today.  I was worried that nothing would develop or that I had somehow already ovulated (I just had a cycle where I ovulated very early).  But I'm feeling more optimistic today.  And it helps that I really like the new RE, a lot more than my old RE.  Her bedside manner is light years better.

Anyway, on to my son!  Max is 17 months!  He walks and runs.  It changes things.  Activities outside the apartment are more complicated.  He just cut his bottom molars, which was super fun.  He's a terrible napper, great nighttime sleeper.  He loves to be read to.  Current favorite books are Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo, Dragons Love Tacos, On the Night You Were Born, A Pocket for Corduroy, Chu's Day, and the usual rotation of Sandra Boynton books.  He's a sweet, happy boy and he really makes every day better.

Food - he eats pretty well, but he definitely has strong preferences.  I try my best to get veggies into him, and to introduce new flavors.  It's definitely a lot of work.  He loves being chased up and down the hall of our apartment building.  And even though the idea of taking care of two year old Max and a newborn sounds about as possible to me as climbing Mt. Everest, I know we'll make it work.  And if we don't have another and it's just the three of us, that will be okay too.  Here's my happy guy:

Monday, August 31, 2015

But I do not know yet what that can be

          When he had finished, Alice would say, "When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea."
         "That is all very well, little Alice," said her grandfather, "but there is a third thing you must do." 
         "What is that?" asked Alice. 
         "You must do something to make the world more beautiful," said her grandfather.
         "All right," said Alice.  But she did not know what that could be.
                                                        --Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney 

Not long after my early August post, I got my period and we decided to get serious about trying for number two.  I sort of started charting (I say "sort of" because I periodically forget to take my temperature in the morning - it's just not habit yet.), used some OPKs, and I even went back to acupuncture.  Things went pretty well, I ovulated, we timed things right.  And then last week we were on vacation and I didn't take my temperature at all.  

I wondered if we could possibly be so lucky to get pregnant on the first try this time.  I could see that Jeeves was feeling a little hopeful when he asked when I'm supposed to get my period.  Yesterday was our first full day back from vacation and even though it was a Sunday, Jeeves had to go to work.  I was feeling depressed, but quite energetic and not tired at all thanks to some extra sleep.  I wondered if my depression was cause-based or maybe PMS?  Or maybe pregnancy hormones?  But I knew I wasn't pregnant.  I just knew. The lack of tiredness was a dead giveaway. That night I wondered again if maybe it had worked?  I decided to take my temperature before I went to sleep, just as a baseline.  It was 97.6.  My temp was never that low when awake while pregnant with Max.  So there was my answer.

This morning it was 97.3.  Definitely not pregnant.  A couple of hours later, my period came, a day early.  Jeeves and I were both a little bummed.  It's silly, really.  Most fertiles don't get pregnant the first month they try, so what's the likelihood that an infertile couple like us would?  I knew that these couple of months of trying are just to cover the bases before going back to the doctor and the logical part of my brain knew that we would be going back to a doctor.  But another part hoped we'd be that urban legend (not so much a legend - aside from the fact that I personally know 6 women who got pregnant naturally after IVF, I read a study recently that suggested up to 20% of previously diagnosed infertile women experienced spontaneous conception after live birth of a child conceived through ART).  

My mind raced ahead to the doctor and what would happen if our tests this time indicated we were worse off than 3 years ago when we were originally tested.  A friend of mine from my infertile moms group did IVF and now has a son a couple of weeks older than Max.  They had a diagnosis of male factor.  When they were testing years ago, he had low count - usually around 2 million.  They had a frozen sample but decided to destroy it because frozen isn't usually recommended.  A few weeks ago they went back for testing and he now has zero sperm.  Zero.  In typical Megs fashion, my mind can't help but think of that story.  Sure, my numbers were good 3 years ago.  But I'm 37 now.  What if my eggs have gone to shit?  What if they tell me that IVF isn't even recommended because my numbers are so bad?  What if Jeeves goes from 1% morphology to 0%?  

Well, the answers to those "what ifs" are that we will probably walk away if a doctor tells us that treatment is unlikely to work for us.  I know families who have used donor egg or sperm or have adopted when a second child can't happen with their own gametes.  Or some couples who decide they want to foster or adopt for a second child anyway.  And while all of those possibilities would have been considered if we had been unable to have Max, now that we have Max we are more limited in how far we're prepared to go.  And I personally feel that I cannot dedicate years of my life to this endeavor again.  So even though I think it is usually very silly to draw a line in the sand when it comes to family-building, for now I need to draw a line in the sand and say if a doctor tells us we are unlikely to have a child through ART, we will stop.  We will move on with our lives.

The thought of being told that we are done makes me sad.  And I do realize that I have jumped way, way ahead of myself.  But I think back to the first month we tried before we knew what was coming, and I just need to make this leap right now.  I needed to scratch that itch.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, it is probably apparent to you that I am a planner and I need contingency plans.  

It was a hazy and very humid day in Brooklyn today and I decided to take Max down to the swings by the water.  It's a good stretch of the legs.  As we were walking, my mind went to that place wherein a doctor tells us that medical intervention is unlikely to give us another child.  And after feeling sad, I started wondering what I would do after we decide that we're done trying.  I didn't know.  I remembered a children's book called Miss Rumphius.

My friend Meg gave me a copy of Miss Rumphius for my birthday at some point in my 20s.  Miss Rumphius tells the story of Alice, who as a child listens to her grandfather's stories of his life.  And, as the quote above explains, she decides to do three things in life: travel to faraway places, grow old by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful.  Alice grows up, becomes a librarian, and becomes known as Miss Rumphius.  She's able to accomplish her first two goals with ease, but struggles to figure out how to make the world more beautiful. (Spoiler alert - she figures it out, and passes along her words of wisdom to her great-niece).  It's a really wonderful story - I highly recommend it.

At each point in her story, Miss Rumphius doesn't map out and plan every little thing she is going to do.  She has a general idea of the goals in her life and when the time feels right, she works on a goal.  

I do not know yet what I want my life to be if we are done building our family.  I think I want to go work in a library.  And I want to resume traveling to faraway places, something that will be easier as Max gets older.  And I want to do something to make the world more beautiful, though I do not yet know what that can be.  And that is okay.  When the time comes, I will move forward, I hope with enthusiasm and alacrity, but I'll settle for grace.  And I will accept that right now I am working towards one goal.  I'll try not to leap too far ahead or make up contingency plans if we are ultimately unable to have a baby.  I'll let myself feel whatever I am going to feel about it.  Today, I felt a little disappointed that this cycle didn't work out.  I felt a little sad to remember the taste of that disappointment when my temperature drops, and to realize I may have many more cycles of that ahead.  I will remember there are many good things ahead too, not the least of which was my son's giggles as I pushed him on the swing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Constantly remember more and more

Why hello!  Look at me, blogging twice in one month!

Based on the comments I got last time, I thought I'd talk about some books I've read this year that I loved, my experience with weaning, and I'd finish up with a couple of thoughts about life in general, in particular my parents.

Books!  My absolute favorite book that I've read this year is Uprooted by Naomi Novik.  I wrote a long and involved review of it to my BFF, Kate, so I'm just going to cut and paste what I said about it:  Ahhhh-mazing.  I am so fucking tired this week because I have been staying up till 1am to read it.  I'm actually somewhat resentful of my child for keeping me from it.  I'm not going to send you any of the (glowing) reviews because there are too many spoilers in them.  The short version of the plot (and this happens in the first, like, 5 pages so it doesn't ruin it to tell you).  Agnieska lives in the Valley in a country called Polnya.  Her village is not far from The Wood, a place of dark magic that periodically threatens the villagers.  Anyone who enters the Wood is inevitably corrupted by its evil.  The lord of the valley, The Dragon, is a wizard who holds The Wood at bay.  Every ten years, as fealty, the citizens of the Valley must allow The Dragon to take one girl, who becomes his servant.  No one knows what goes on in his tower, except that after the ten years are up, the girls never want to return to live in the valley - they go off and live somewhere else.  The Dragon always chooses a girl who is super special - either the most beautiful, or the best musician, or whatever.  Everyone knows that this year the Dragon is going take Kasia, Agnieska's very best friend.  Kasia is beautiful, smart, fun, humble, a good cook.  Agnieska is a disaster, always grubby and climbing trees and getting into trouble.  Then the Dragon takes Agnieska instead of Kasia, though he seems pretty grouchy about it.  Of course, we realize why he took her, but it takes her a few pages to figure it out.  It's like if a combination of Neville Longbottom and Hermione Granger had to go live with Snape.
This book scratched my Harry Potter itch that has not remotely abated since book 7 came out.  I loved its treatment of magic.  Loved it.  It heavily featured a strong, beautiful female friendship.  A terrifying villain.  A flawed, relatable, brave heroine.  Folklore.  A kickass magical duo.  It's such a great feminist work - I wish there were more fantasy novels like this.  As much as I love Name of the Wind and others of its ilk, they are usually focused on a man with a woman or women playing back up.  And then sometimes if we're lucky we get stories like Graceling, but characters like Katsa are lone wolves, beyond tough, damaged by their childhoods.  One of the things I loved about this book is that it highlights how Nieska is different, but still very powerful.  It doesn't feel the need to make her stereotypically masculine, and it doesn't feel the need to give her a little sister to explain her motivations.  Nieska can be steely, but she can also be vulnerable and those traits don't feel remotely incongruous.  In other words, she gets to be a whole person.

Right after that, I read Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and it was completely delightful.  Very funny.  I also loved Station Eleven by Emily St. James Mandel, which came out last year.  Interestingly, it's a post-apocalypse book that takes placed 20 years after a plague that kills off most of the population, and the primary characters are members of a traveling theater/symphony.  It also jumps around in time to observe what happened to a variety of connected characters at the time of the plague.  Riveting.

Weaning.  I knew that I didn't especially feel like nursing for much after Max's first birthday.  I was eager to sleep on my stomach again (something I couldn't do while nursing because I was plagued with plugged ducts from about 5 months onward) and I was really, really sick of pumping.  And the plugged ducts - I was ready to be done with them.  For several months, Max had only been nursing 4 times per day, and his nursing time had gotten quite short.  So I felt like he would be okay with weaning.

I weaned very slowly - over the course of 6 weeks.  I wanted to try and prevent any sort of engorgement and plugged ducts for me and I wanted Max to have plenty of time to adjust.  I dropped the afternoon nurse first, which he never cried for and never seemed to care about - I was just picking him up at a certain time and sticking him on the boob.  He handled it well.  I didn't replace the afternoon nurse with milk or anything like that.  He pretty quickly started eating more at dinner.  About 10 days later I dropped the late morning nurse.  Again, he handled it very well.  When I weaned him from the evening nurse, which was part of our bedtime ritual, I replaced it with a bottle of either pumped breast milk (until I didn't have any left) or formula (he wasn't a year old yet).  A bottle instead of a boob was no big deal to him.  When he hit a year, I put whole cow's milk in the bottle instead and he took that just fine.  I know some babies struggle with constipation when they switch over to cow's milk - we did not have that issue.  Max also didn't seem to mind that the milk was cold.  After a few days, I started putting the milk in a straw cup (and also offering him milk late morning and mid-afternoon).  He's been drinking water out of a straw cup since he was about 10 months, but he did struggle a little with the transition at this point.  Still, it went pretty well.  The only difference I observed was that for about 3 days after I dropped the late morning nurse and the evening nurse, he was maybe a little more cuddly, trying to make up for the physical closeness we had during nursing.  

The toughest was dropping the morning nurse.  Our morning routine up to this point: Max would wake up and we'd hear him over the monitor, anywhere from 6:30-7:30 a.m.  Jeeves would get him, change his diaper, and would bring him in to nurse.  I used to do side-lying, but he eventually stopped willingly nursing on both sides, which I really needed (he'd get so distracted, for some reason), so I started sitting up for nursing, and he'd nurse both sides.  Then we'd all hang out in bed for awhile.  Sometimes Max would fall asleep while nursing - that was the best.  Extra sleep!  When we dropped the morning feed, I started giving him a bottle in bed.  He wasn't a big fan.  He wouldn't ask to nurse (don't think I would have refused him), but he just wasn't interested in milk.  He wanted to play!  We ultimately switched him over to a straw cup and he started crying, hard, in the morning.  It turned out that with the change in our routine, Max decided he didn't want to hang in bed - he wanted to go straight to the living room for playing, and slowly sipping on his milk.  No more snoozing in bed for Mom and Dad.  One of us gets up, hangs out with him while he plays, and he drinks his milk in a leisurely fashion for about 45 minutes, at which time he crawls to the kitchen and demands his breakfast.

The last time I nursed was when he was very sick over 4th of July weekend.  He now has a cup of milk in the morning before breakfast, sometimes a little milk late morning, a cup of milk mid-afternoon with his snack, and a little milk before bedtime.  I still miss those sleepy mornings in bed with him, but I try to look at it as just another part of his development that he's happy to now putter around the living room, chatting at me and playing with his toys.

I should add that in order to prevent plugged ducts, I pumped when I dropped the evening and the morning feeds - 10 minutes, then 9, then 8, etc., until I got down to 4 minutes.  This definitely helped alleviate engorgement and plugged ducts.  I was getting very little milk from it.  Perhaps three times during the process, I became very painfully engorged (usually only on one side at time) or I got a plugged duct.  On those occasions, I would pop Max on and have him nurse (the pump has never, not once, cleared a plugged duct for me) - he usually only nursed for 5-8 minutes, and it was tremendously helpful each time.  

June was the one year anniversary of my dad's death.  I still miss him a lot, but it's manageable, and in many ways my experience of his loss has been more manageable than when I lost my mother. That's not a commentary on my relationship with either of them.  I was very close to both of them. I'm not sure if it was because of my age at the time of their deaths, the fact that my dad's death was expected while my mother's was a shock, or that I had just become a mother when my dad died and a squalling newborn is pretty distracting.  It was probably a combo of all three.

Anyway, a few years ago I found a quote from a letter that the French writer Marcel Proust had written to a friend on the occasion of his [the friend's] mother's death.  Proust knew a little something about the topic, having lost his beloved mother years before:
Now there is one thing I can tell you: you will enjoy certain pleasures you would not fathom now. When you still had your mother you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. At the present time, this is not yet possible. Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power . . . that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.
I love this quote because a) it's beautifully written; and b) YES.  YES, THIS IS JUST HOW I FEEL.  When I originally read the quote, it was the first time I had read something about the death of my mother that perfectly encompassed how I felt as time passed.  It's been true for my father as well.  In particular, I have been thinking about the "you will constantly remember more and more" part.  I have at times, many times, lamented the things that I never asked my parents about - their childhoods, their years before I was born.  Things I never asked them about what parenting me was like, how they handled certain situations.  I regret that.  But I also find small, lovely memories popping in my mind, from nowhere, and they are cherished.  

Jeeves, Max, and I are on vacation in the Hudson Valley this week.  While rushing around to pack, I had this silly memory of how much my father used to love watching sitcom repeats on Fox when he would come home from work - he watched the entirety of The Nanny, Home Improvement, and Third Rock from the Sun that way.  And there was this commercial for the clothing store Mandy that used to always play and he would sing it at random times and do a little dance.  I don't know what made me think of it, but I love it.

And then yesterday, at the rental house we have been grilling a lot after Max goes to bed.  I had brought some eggplant from our CSA and I was obsessed with grilling it a certain way, with garlic powder and Italian seasoning, and olive oil.  Jeeves wanted to bail on the Italian seasoning, but I was insistent.  That night while feasting on eggplant, which tasted like my youth, Jeeves remarked on how great it had turned out and I remembered - "It was my mom.  My mom taught me to make it this way every summer."  And I remembered so many other kitchen tips that I had used in the last few days that she had taught me.

We're getting close to distributing the rest of my dad's estate, but I have work to do.  My sister has been kind of crummy about it - asking repeatedly when she's getting her money.  I have felt stressed and sad and alone about it.  I was having a hard time letting go of it yesterday and even though I am a non-believer and thoughts of an afterlife are questionable, I sometimes talk to my parents in my head.  I asked them to help me, please please help me, tell me if I'm doing the right thing and just... help me.  This morning I took a nap when Jeeves woke up (we trade off with Max in the mornings on weekends and vacations) and when I came downstairs I found a ladybug on my laptop.  I don't believe in signs.  But I sure do love ladybugs.  And she was a beaut.  I promptly escorted her outside with Jeeves' help.  And I thought of my parents.  Even though I don't believe in signs.

This week would have been my dad's 80th birthday and my mom's 77th.  They would have liked the place we're vacationing.  Quiet, with a view.  And some wine.