On “Forgetting” Infertility

In my online infertility network (Twitter), the topic of pregnant or parenting infertiles “forgetting” their infertility roots has cropped up several times in the last few months. A recent comment made me stop and really think about this idea. Do they really forget their roots? What is it about their words and/or actions that make those still in the trenches believe that?

The truth is that infertility is traumatic. No one likes to think about a traumatic experience, and most people try to move on from trauma, don’t they?

The same goes for infertility. Part of moving on may be distancing oneself from those who are still going through it. I know it sounds awful and cruel. You supported your friend through her roughest time, and as soon as she has a baby, she disappears. When you try to talk to her about your recent failed cycle, she ignores you or responds with a classic line from what not to say to an infertile. You find yourself stunned and angry. How could she? Has she forgotten what it’s like to be in my place?

No, she hasn’t. I can’t speak for everyone, but speaking from personal experience: There is an element of PTSD at work. Quite the opposite of forgetting, I vividly remember everything from the day we found out our first baby was gone, through all the infertility tests, surgery, pills, injections, and procedures… month after month of heartbreak with each negative pregnancy test… coming to terms with the fact that I can’t get pregnant without IVF… worry and resentment over the high price tag that comes with IVF. Reliving all of that through another person – even a friend – is sometimes too much. Obviously, my residual pain is nothing compared to the pain of someone actually living through it. But it’s enough to make me step back at times and let others provide the support. From time to time, I know I’ve said the wrong thing. Or worse – nothing at all.

I’m not saying that I or anyone else should be excused from supporting friends who are currently facing infertility head on. What I’m trying to say (not very eloquently or efficiently) is that we are all human with limitations and a tendency to avoid pain. So, when it seems a previously supportive friend has abandoned you and your infertility journey, it may be her way of coping. It’s not fair to you, and you have every right to feel angry and let down, but I hope looking at things from another perspective will help you understand what might be going on within her. Perhaps acknowledgement and validation of her feelings can lead to a better mutually supportive relationship.

Just food for thought.

Birth “Planning” with 8 Weeks to Go

In some ways, this pregnancy has flown by. In other ways, it seems to be dragging on forever.

I’ve had a great pregnancy so far – not much to complain about, aside from all the little discomforts – but I just want it to be done and have my little girl in my arms. People keep telling me to savor every last moment of pregnancy. They tell me I’ll miss being pregnant. Maybe, maybe not. The ultimate goal was never to be pregnant. Getting pregnant and staying pregnant were short-term goals towards the ultimate goal of raising a child. It’s not that I don’t appreciate how fortunate I am to get pregnant and to stay pregnant on our first cycle of IVF…. I do appreciate it, very much. I know many are not that lucky. I wish I was enjoying pregnancy more, finding the “miracle” and “magic” in it all, but that’s just not me. And there’s still that little voice – quiet, but persistent – that something could still go wrong yet….

8 weeks to go feels like forever and right around the corner, all at the same time. (I realize my countdown widget says 1 month. I’m not sure why.) Am I ready? Hell, yes! I’ve been ready for years. There are a million details to finish before she arrives, but in the grand scheme of things, none of it matters as much as her arrival.

Speaking of her arrival…. After reading the above, you may naturally think that I don’t care how she comes into this world as long as she is healthy. Of course that’s true, to an extent. Obviously, I want her to be healthy. But I still have some pretty strong opinions about how I would like the birth experience to unfold. It’s important to me that I’m able to finally trust my body to do what it needs to do. That hasn’t always been the case.

To that end, I posted my birth plan for you to read, if you like. Basically, I’m aiming for a medication-free, intervention-free hospital birth. I hope my birth plan communicates to the medical staff: Everything is on the table, but these are our priorities. We are reasonable people who know things will not go exactly as planned, but we appreciate your help in maintaining our priorities to the extent that it’s medically safe for both myself and our baby. That sounds reasonable, right?

**Baby update** As suspected, C has flipped from breech to head down! I felt her move about a week and a half ago, and today the OB confirmed. I have a final ultrasound on Monday to check her lower spine (could not see it before due to her position). Keeping my fingers crossed she holds position until her birth day!

 

Z hanging out at our new house.

Z hanging out at our new house.

The What-If Game

It’s impossible not to play it. Thoughts just pop into my head all of a sudden and take on a life of their own. Today the theme is What If My First Baby Hadn’t Died.

My husband and I met and got married relatively late in life. I was 33 when we got married; he was 32. We didn’t know we would be infertile, yet we both recognized that we weren’t getting any younger, so we started trying to get pregnant right away. We wanted to have at least 2 kids, not too far apart in age. Much to our surprise, it did happen right away. Then we lost the baby. She (I have a strong feeling the baby was a girl) would be about 2.5 years old today.

This baby I’m pregnant with right now should have been our second (living) child. I should be struggling to potty train a 2 year old to get her out of diapers before this one arrives. I should be worried about how the older child will adjust and the cost of having 2 kids in daycare at the same time. I catch myself imagining this alternate universe life in great detail from time to time. What if that was my life? How would things be different? How would I be different?

It’s not a game I like to play. I love my life as it is, including all the shitty things we’ve been through over the years. I appreciate that my marriage is stronger for having to deal with adversity, that we are each stronger as individuals for having worked through hard times, and that should we face more challenges in the future, we will be well equipped to face those adversities head on. I like who I am, and how I’ve found a place in the infertility and loss communities. I love being able to get and give support and advice.

Maybe I just tell myself these things because I know I can’t go back in time and change events. If I could go back and not have a miscarriage or infertility, would I? Would I sacrifice who I am now to avoid suffering? I would have said yes in a heartbeat 3 years ago, 2 years ago, even a year ago. But, today…. I’m not so sure. I will admit, though, that the alternate life running its course in my mind is very appealing.

 

Flips & Kicks

Up until recently, baby C has been in a frank breech position (bottom down, legs straight up with the feet next to the head). This position, and the fact that she was so low in my pelvis, made it impossible to see the lower part of her spine on an ultrasound. Also difficult to see were her kidneys. (No one suspects anything is wrong with any of these parts, but it’s routine to confirm so everyone can be prepared to treat problems at birth.)

After 3 anatomy scans, all incomplete because of her position, I think she finally flipped. I say “think,” because I haven’t had another ultrasound to confirm. The reason I think she flipped: On Saturday evening, as I was trying to relax on the couch, I suddenly felt the strangest movement. It was big, slow, and just plain weird. Ever since, all of her movements feel different. In fact, for most of Sunday and Monday morning, I didn’t feel her move much at all, which, of course, sent me into a mini panic.

To be safe, I called my OB Monday morning, who instructed me to go straight to labor and delivery for monitoring. I had a nonstress test (NST), which simply monitors the baby’s heart rate and movements for about 30 minutes. Everything was perfect, thankfully. She was actually moving quite a bit, and even some of the bigger movements she made, I couldn’t feel. Apparently, I can only feel the really strong ones. The nurse did not perform an ultrasound, but she said from my description, she believes the baby most likely did turn and is possibly facing my back, which would explain why I can’t feel her as much. I will have another ultrasound in a few weeks to (hopefully) complete the anatomy scan.

By Monday evening, C was kicking away like mad. In fact, she kicked so hard, even M could feel it! Guys, he felt her move for the very first time! It was the best moment in this pregnancy so far!

Not a great moment was the hospital’s childbirth class on Saturday. Completely useless. We learned more from our doula in 2 hours than we did in this 7 hour class. The instructor let her biases shine through, which irked me to no end. She kept saying things like “Of course, c-section is no one’s first choice….” and “I’m sure we all agree, breast is best!” I regret that I didn’t say something. Or just leave. I guess I kept hoping I might learn something new. But she didn’t even address the questions she asked us to write down and give to her at the beginning of class. Colossal waste of time.

I’m looking forward to another visit with our doula this coming weekend to work out our labor and delivery preferences. She recently attended a birth at our hospital, so I’m also eager to hear about that experience, particularly how the L&D team reacted to the presence of a doula. (It’s kind of a new thing around here to have a doula.)

Turning a New Father’s Day Leaf

Father’s Day for me has always been a little complicated. When my dad was alive, we didn’t have the best relationship. I’m told that when I was very young, I was his best friend. Apparently, we did everything together. I don’t remember that. What I remember is a father who was distant, critical, and constantly miserable.

My sisters and I weren’t involved in a lot of school activities growing up. All 3 of us were in band through high school. My younger sister branched out into volleyball and choir. She and I also got involved in a couple of school plays (no major roles). So, it wasn’t like we had concerts, games, or performances every week or anything like that. Still, my dad couldn’t find the time to come to a single event. Not a single one. EverI can’t tell you how much that still hurts.

My dad never hid the fact that he always wanted a son. He would make comments in front of us – sometimes to us – about how nice it must be for my uncle to take his sons hunting. I guess it never occurred to him that a girl could go hunting. I can’t say I would have said yes, but it would have been pretty awesome if he had at least asked. He was also critical of our appearances. We weren’t severely overweight as kids, but all 3 of us were chubby. It was in our genes (mom’s side), but our parents didn’t exactly model great nutrition. He would speak with praise about how thin our cousins were – again, right in front of us. Made us feel like shit, as I’m sure you can imagine.

It wasn’t until my father committed suicide in 2006 that it became obvious to me that he had always suffered from depression. There were signs, of course. But, as a kid, I just compartmentalized them all. He complained about his job all the time (factory work). He took every opportunity to be alone, hiding out in his woodworking shed or taking fishing trips by himself. My mom later told me about more things that pointed to depression. In fact, she encouraged him to get help, but he never did. They divorced when I was 15.

It was actually quite a relief, the divorce. As soon as he was out of the house, I felt like I could breathe better and I was instantly much more comfortable at home. It’s not that things were bad in the conventional sense – my parents didn’t fight; my dad didn’t verbally or physically abuse anyone; there was no yelling of any kind. But his misery was palpable. He didn’t want our family; we could feel that, every day. So, he left and found a new one.

He got the sons he always wanted. He married the woman he started seeing while still married to my mom. I met her twice, but never met her kids. I saw them at his funeral, but never introduced myself. I couldn’t tell you their names or how many there were, let alone what they looked like. All I remember are the tears. Their’s, not mine. I didn’t cry at my dad’s funeral. I cried afterwards, after seeing how upset and confused my younger sister was. She was closer to him and tried hard to make a connection with him in his last year. She thought things were going really well. Anyway, my father’s step-sons cried like they had lost their own father. Keep in mind, they didn’t even know him until they were already adults, and he was married to their mother for only a few years. What hurts me the most is that they evidently made a deep connection with him in those few years, much deeper than my father ever made with us our entire lives. There were a few half-hearted attempts from both sides during my college and grad school years, but nothing took.

Even though my father was physically present for most of my life, I feel like I never really had a dad. My father never taught me to drive. He didn’t show me how to change a tire or the oil in my car. He didn’t share any of his hobbies with me and wasn’t interest in mine. He was just this pseudo-stranger who hung around our house all the time, avoiding any kind of meaningful contact with us.

So, Father’s Day has always found me feeling all kinds of emotions: Sad that I will never have a chance to try to rebuild a healthy relationship with my dad. Angry that he kept us at a distance and made us feel unwanted. Jealous of all the girls who have (or had) dads who actually wanted and loved them – and showed it. Guilty that I didn’t try harder to repair our relationship when I became an adult. Determined to make sure that my own children have a great relationship with their dad.

After losing our first child 3 years ago, Father’s Day became even more depressing. Each year that passed without a child of our own made it even worse. Now, here we are on the cusp of a new era of Father’s Days. Like Mother’s Day, it will always be tainted by the past, but I have hope that over time, those negative associations will fade into the background, starting this year.

Passed the GD Test!

After my last post, I decided I need to post more often or risk another long, bulleted update. I usually don’t even think to write unless something is bothering me, which makes it seem like I’m a constant ball of negativity, which is far from the truth. And when I think to post something positive, I have major guilt and worry that I will sound like I’m bragging. I can’t win when it comes to my own brain.

Here I am, almost 28 weeks pregnant, just a week shy of 3rd trimester, and 3 months until my due date. I must say, things have been pretty damn easy up until now, physically, at least. I felt movement fairly early on, even though it turns out I have an anterior placenta. I’ve had no cramping, no bleeding, no scares of any kind. No terrible morning sickness. I don’t sleep well at all, my ribs ache, I’m out of breath easily, I pee my pants when I sneeze, and I think I might have restless leg syndrome, but those are minor complaints compared to what some women go through. I expect I’ll grow more uncomfortable these last 3 months, but I’m so very grateful that I’ve been spared so far.

This morning I had my gestational diabetes (GD) screening, which I had been dreading. I also had another ultrasound to check the baby’s kidneys and spine, since she didn’t cooperate last time. I’m happy to report that I passed the test! Baby girl was still stubborn, though, so the tech could only see one kidney clearly and just part of the spine – both are just fine. On to Round 3 in two weeks – fingers crossed she changes position by then. Since we didn’t get a good image of her face, I leave you with my almost 28 week bump:

(Almost) 28 Weeks Update

How far along: 27w5d (due date August 28)

Total weight gain/loss: +5 pounds over pre-pregnancy weight (lost 7-8 during first tri).

Symptoms: 

  • Restless leg syndrome?
  • Sore ribs
  • Out of breath easily
  • Dark splotches on my forehead are getting worse
  • Heartburn
  • Insomnia
  • Mild incontinence
  • Swollen feet and ankles – comes and goes

Sleep: Awful. Not only do I get up several times due to discomfort and a full bladder, sometimes I just can’t get back to sleep and end up getting out of bed to read or watch TV. People keep telling me to get as much sleep as I can now, because once the baby comes…. So annoying!

Best moment: Getting all the home-buying crap sorted out and realizing that we won’t have to bring baby home to a 3rd floor apartment.

Movement: Feeling it every day; patterns are starting to emerge. For instance, I usually feel her first thing when I wake up and when I’m relaxing on the couch after work (and sporadically in between). Still haven’t felt her from the outside.

Food cravings: None.

Sex of the baby: Female.

Labor signs: None.

Belly button: Still an innie. Hasn’t changed much since my last update.

What I miss: Sleep.

What I look forward to: My husband being able to feel movement.

Baby buys: I bought a swaddler from a local baby boutique and took advantage of a few free online offers for things like baby leggings, a nursing cover, and a car seat canopy. We’re going to get a ton of stuff at the shower, so we’re not buying anything until we know what gaps need to be filled.

Milestones: Passing the GD test!

My Brain Hurts

And yours probably will, too, by the time you read all this. Sorry – I didn’t have the energy to make it shorter.

I don’t even know where to start, because all these event, thoughts, and feelings are swirling like mad inside my head. I suppose boring old bullet points will do.

  • We bought a house. Almost. We haven’t closed yet, but we’re in the home stretch. We didn’t expect to start looking for a home until this time next year, when we would have enough money saved for a down payment. When we mentioned this to my in-laws, they said, “No, you’re doing this now,” and gave us a generous loan to cover the down payment. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate their help. It’s no strings attached. We have to pay it back, but they aren’t charging interest and they won’t hold it over our heads. In fact, they would rather we forget they helped us at all.
  • Up until yesterday, the home-buying process was proceeding relatively smoothly. I won’t get into the boring details, but the gist is we are now responsible for costs much higher than disclosed by the seller’s agent. So high, it would have drastically changed our original offer. Our agent assumed some of the blame, as she neglected to double-check. So, she and the other agent scrambled all day to contact the sellers to renegotiate. They refused, so their agent – who made the original mistake – offered to give up part of her commission to close the gap. We took it. Though I make it sound like a minor bump in the road, it felt like a mountain yesterday. M – with his OCPD – was furious. He talked of filing complaints with the realtors association, as well as potentially suing both agents. Dealing with his reaction was more stressful than sorting things out with the realtor. We did get it all sorted by the end of the day, but M is still angry about the whole thing and just can’t let it go. I’m plenty mad, too, but far more understanding and forgiving than M.
  • My sisters have set a date for my baby shower – July 27! I don’t know the details yet, but they are honoring my request to make it an informal, coed event, more like a backyard barbecue. The whole thing makes me nervous on a couple levels. 1) I hate being the center of attention – I always have. Even though technically the shower is about the baby, and this baby has two parents, the baby is currently inside of me, so by default, I’m at the center of this. 2) Part of me still can’t believe we’re taking a baby home in ~3 months. I have no reason to believe anything will go wrong, but that doesn’t stop my mind from considering worst case scenarios. Bad things happen and we are not immune.
  • M is already talking about when we should start trying for #2. I get it – I’m a planner, too, and we’re not getting any younger – but I’m not ready to start thinking about this. M would like to try naturally for a while (ha!) and start trying as soon as I’m medically cleared to be pregnant again. I think he’s going to change his tune once he realizes how hard it is with just one baby. As for me, at this point, I don’t think I’d like to start trying until this baby is at least a year old. I’ll be 38. And I’d rather go straight to FET with our remaining 3 embryos than ride the awful rollercoaster of TTC naturally. If FET doesn’t work, then we can try naturally until we decide we’re too old. Wait… what the hell?! It’s insane to be thinking about this, right?
  • I have my gestational diabetes screening on Tuesday. It’s just the one hour test and I don’t have to fast for it. I’m terrified I’ll fail and have to take the 3 hour test, and fail that one, too. Again, no real reason to believe that, and it won’t be the end of the world if I do end up with GD, but I’m worried anyway. It’s like I can’t believe that this pregnancy will be problem-free. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I want there to be a problem, but at least I wouldn’t feel crazy anymore if there were. Like, something going wrong would mean my fears were valid. Man, that’s messed up, isn’t it?

I think that sums it all up. Overall, I’m feeling pretty good and most of the time I’m happy and relaxed. It’s just that every so often my mind is consumed by irrational fears or I get lost down the rabbit hole of what-ifs. But that’s only like 20% of the time.