Birth story – better late than never!

There have been so many changes in life. A new baby, a new home (tbd) in a new country and I’m in the beginning stages of starting a new business. It’s on!

But let’s start with the baby, because that’s where we left off.

Oh pregnancy. Never have I been so equally happy and miserable. I was constantly queasy and exhausted for 14 weeks. Then I just felt rough and in pain. Except for a brief period.

Taken 36 hours before my daughters birth.

It was during this brief period of energy that I went to the UK for a “baby moon” for 3 weeks with my son. On the final week my belly doubled, I was exhausted and my son became a homesick demon! It was not the best time. I returned back to the USA and spent the rest of my pregnancy feeling like I was trying not to give birth. I stopped work on summer solstice. It was indeed the longest day.

This is where it gets crazy. I wanted to take my son to his dibling reunion – in spite of being almost 36 weeks pregnant. I checked with the doctors and all said I should be fine and gave me permission to go. My worst symptom at that point was hemorrhoids (ouch those hurt!)

14 hours on a train later I arrived in Virginia. 3 hours into the train ride I began spotting. Midwife said not to worry too much but keep an eye on it. 3 days later I began having contractions during a thunderstorm. (What a cliche!) and shortly after went to hospital where I was told to get home ASAP.

My knight in shining armor drove 600 miles to my rescue. He had enough time to go for a swim and load up the car then he turned around and drove us home. We drove for 2 days and arrived back on 4th July. Time enough to eat a big meal and pass out. I was so glad to be home.

11 hours later (after my 6th pee of the night, maybe less, maybe more.) I felt the sensation of peeing again. This time different from the others.

You’ve never seen a pregnant woman move quicker! I got out of bed just in time for my waters to rupture all over the floor. I sat on the toilet for a full 40 minutes while it drained out of me. I would never have believed that it could take that long if it hadn’t happened to me.

Wearing a male adult diaper I packed my hospital bag and 2 hours later arrived at the ER which was locked (because that’s what always seems to happen in these stories.)

Once I got in, it became clear that something was off. I was only 36+1 pregnant but there was meconium in the water along with old blood. Nobody understood why.

I was told I was still a good candidate for a VBAC if I wanted to try. Unfortunately my contractions were far apart, I was only a fingertip dilated and they wanted to give me pitocin.

It was then that my inner voice started screaming at me to get the baby out. No matter how much I’d wanted to experience a vaginal birth I felt that something was wrong. I felt inexplicable fear. I asked for a c section, put away my disappointment and focused on the end goal – a healthy baby and Mama.

30 mins later my daughter entered the world. The c section was rough. Much tougher than the first. To the point of being traumatizing for both my mother and I. I had to get treated for pain in my shoulders weeks later from the violence of it.

Sweet baby E, fresh out of the oven and not too pleased about it!

I noticed, when they handed me my daughter that she smelled weird. The surgeon said that this was because I had an infection in my uterus. She said this was why my water had ruptured. I later discovered that this could have been very dangerous for the baby and my gut instinct to get her out had probably saved her from becoming very very sick. Even the midwives congratulated me on the decision I’d made!

In spite of my fears, thankfully baby seemed pretty much ok. She did have low glucose though and that was touch and go for a while. They had to give her a couple of packets of the sugary gel to get that up to par. NICU was threatened a lot. It didn’t happen. She was dosed with a LOT of antibiotics which was 100% necessary to insure her safety from the infection. I too was given them to help kill it.

Lastly she spent 24 hours under the blue light. Jaundice. It was the least of the bad things that could have happened so I accepted it and took the time she was in there to rest.

Under the blue light. I think she liked it in there.

Her levels dropped so rapidly that they were amazed.

I never realized how many hurdles a slightly premature baby would have to jump through. How much more attention they get. How many more fears are instilled in us.

Next time I’ll talk about nursing and my experience second time around. About advocating for yourself and trusting your gut!

For now I just want to end by saying how grateful I am that I got to take home my tiny baby who was 5lb 6oz when she left the hospital. She was small but mighty and by some miracle – healthy!

My perfect little family has been completed.

The beautiful chaos of my new life. I wouldn’t change a thing

The Gift of Life

When my friends announce their pregnancies I often find myself thinking how strange it must be to get pregnant from having sex. I cannot fathom what conception without needles and penis shaped wands must be like. How very unscientific it must be. How utterly painless and stress free. Does pregnancy feel the same when it happens so effortlessly?

As I sunk yet another needle into my black, blue and yellow stomach I knew one thing for sure. I was done trying. I had subjected my body to three rounds of IVF and it wasn’t working. I was no longer envisioning the end result. Instead I was cursing and vowing this was it. I was done. I could see all of the perks of having an only child and I tried to forget about the negatives.

When that final attempt failed my RE suggested trying another round with a different protocol. She reminded me it would be covered by my health insurance. It would not however be covered by my mental health.

I could not have said NO any quicker.

So I went about my life resigned to be the parent of an only child.

Then we went to our dibling reunion. We had an amazing time.

On the last day the mother with whom I am closest brought up my recent struggles. She offered to donate me her remaining embryos.

If anyone has done IVF and found themselves with leftover embryos then I’m sure you can relate to how hard it is to know what to do with them. It is hard not to imagine the little people they could become. To compare them to your existing child and wonder how alike they might have been. But we don’t all have the resources to keep on having children until we empty the freezer so what to do?

You have a few options.

  • You can pay to keep them frozen in time forever.
  • You can destroy them
  • You can donate them to science
  • You can donate them anonymously
  • You can donate them to someone you know

Of course this isn’t something one enters into without a lot of thought. This wasn’t the first time she had mentioned it although prior to this it had been half in jest. We talked at length about the ramifications, about how this would make us feel long-term. So we both went to therapists. She talked to her family/friends and the people who knew her best. Once they gave her the encouragement that she needed her heart was set and her mind was made up.

I am beyond lucky that this amazing woman decided that she would like to donate to me. What a gift. There are no words to convey it.

We spoke to lawyers and drafted up an agreement. She went for extra testing (at the request of my clinic!) We did a ton of paperwork and finally, after a month or two we shipped two PGD tested embryos across the country to my clinic.

Once again, I cannot fully put into words what it means to me. It feels belittling to call it a gift. It feels surreal and other worldly. I sometimes feel guilty that I didn’t struggle enough for this child. I know this is irrational but it’s a feeling that, at times is hard to shake.

On the other hand I felt an enormous sense of peace. I was scared of my own genetics. I was scared of my age, of my family history of strife between siblings and of what treatments were doing to my body. This option was perfect. Tested embryos from a woman I know, admire and trust. A woman who will be happy to connect with my child and answer any questions she has about her heritage when she becomes curious about such things. I love that we will see her Maternal donor at least once a year. Most of all I love that we had a pre-existing friendship which has only become stronger since embarking on this unusual, but beautiful journey.

At the end of August I transferred an embryo. I was full of optimism and excited about a May baby. I was on vacation with a group of SMC’s on the day I knew I would get a Positive Home Pregnancy Test if it were to be so. I thought it was the perfect crowd to be surrounded by and celebrate with.

The test was negative.

I was surprised by how crestfallen I was. I had let my hopes rise. I was so sure that I finally had a foolproof plan. I also felt as though I had let my friend down. Maybe I had done something wrong and that’s why it hadn’t worked. I didn’t want to waste all of her hard work!!

I took off a couple of months. I went to see my amazing Mayan Abdominal Massage therapist. I took a 2 week vacation to Mexico and drank Michelada’s whilst popping estrace pills twice daily. I got back into a good headspace.

Upon my return I transferred my last perfect embryo. I didn’t tell anyone, except for my Mother that it was transfer day. It was an uneventful transfer (unlike my sons which had been pretty traumatic!)

5 days later I woke up feeling as though I’d been hit by a bus. I felt so sick! I could barely function. I awoke the next day feeling much the same. I peed on a stick and this time I was 99% sure of the outcome.

A few minutes later a little pink line appeared.

PREGNANT

21 weeks. So amazing!

I sent a picture of the test to the Maternal donor… and then, for the first time in a long time I felt true excitement.

In future posts I will talk about giving up on your own DNA and what that felt like for me. I have a lot of posts up my sleeve -they’ll emerge slowly but surely over the coming weeks and months. Until then, thank you so much for following our story.

The Big Reveal aka Infertility part 2

There’s a myriad of reasons for why I have been unable to write much of anything lately. There’s plenty in my head but nothing was ready to find it’s way out and onto the page.

What I haven’t shared much about is that I have been trying to conceive a second child since before I even began this blog. A sibling for my sweet son. Another child to love.

I knew before I even began that a second child wouldn’t come easily to me. I had faced the beast that is infertility once before. My expectations were low. Realistic. I entered with grace and profound appreciation for the existence of my son. I am a mother. My goal has been achieved. I will not be greedy. But maybe, if I tried, just maybe it would be my turn for a miracle.

There is a hierarchy surrounding infertility whether we like it or not. Those of us who are trying desperately to become Mothers cannot understand the pain of those who are devastated when they fail to conceive their second (or third… or forth?) children.

I’m well aware that we can’t live another persons pain. That our own experiences are unique and we all have a right to our emotions.

I shared with some of my SMC community and my ever supportive Mother. I preferred to go through it alone this time.

Some good news…

An amazing development had occurred since the first time I tried to have a child. Infertility is finally covered for single women in my state and I more than qualified! Knowing that trying for a second wouldn’t put me into crippling debt really helped alleviate some of the stress that fertility treatments put you through. And so I embarked on Infertility round 2.

I did a couple of IUI (due to my age it’s just about the same odds of conception as IVF). I thought why not??

They failed.

I decided to try a round of IVF.

I produced 2 follicles. I cancelled the round myself.

I tried again.

I got all the way to retrieval this time. They got 5 eggs!! I was grateful and dare I say a little hopeful?

None of the eggs fertilized.

I tried for a third time. Another round of IVF.

This time I knew it would be my last attempt. I was so done with being a pin cushion. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things that can go wrong with a baby born from old eggs.

More shots in the stomach.

Another surgery.

I went to retrieval.

I got 3 eggs.

1 fertilized via ICSI. I had no other option than to do a day 3 transfer.

It didn’t work.

I was done.

I resolved that we would be a Mum & kid family and that would be that. I was surprised by how at peace I felt. I was so grateful for my son.

Spoiler Alert…

I am currently entering the second trimester. I’m carrying a beautiful gift of a baby girl.

How I got here is a story for another blog post.

Experiencing Infertility PTSD (part 1 – pregnancy)

You would think that the joy of being pregnant would erase the traumatic ordeal that had been infertility.

It didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was overwhelmed with happiness that I was finally pregnant, but I was also consumed by fear.  I’m aware that most women experience fear of loss. Pregnancy is scary.   However, I truly believe fear is compounded when you’ve had a loss or gone through infertility (or worse, both).

The desire to be a Mother was so encompassing that I couldn’t imagine living without realizing this dream.  Every ounce of my future happiness was dependent upon the growing life inside of me.  It was hard to shake the thought of something happening to my baby.  I feared what I might become if I experienced another loss.  I was out of funds, energy and hope.  If I lost this pregnancy I knew that I’d become bitter, hopeless and depressed.

There is a weird limbo to being pregnant after you’ve fought an infertility diagnosis.  You have a foot tentatively in both worlds.  Until there’s a baby in arms, it’s hard to get your mind out of the world you’ve just left.  You’re so used to being entrenched in it.

In spite of this, I LOVED being pregnant.  I embraced my changing shape.  I documented each month by going to a local photographer.  I wore the most figure hugging clothes.  I embraced the light whilst silencing the black fear that lurked beneath the surface.  I was conscious of being as positive as possible to infuse my future son with as much bright energy as I could.  And I was genuinely happy.

I didn’t equate being pregnant with having a baby though.  I know this sounds insane.  It felt like it was happening to someone else, not me.  Ultrasounds were an out of body experience.  That baby was actually inside of me?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  And while I loved being pregnant and was beyond excited to be a Mother, I didn’t believe it was going to happen until I was on the operating table waiting for him to be born.  There is nothing like a surgeons knife to give me a reality check!

Before that flesh and blood boy was placed on my chest I had fully pictured him only as a cartoon character.  A Pinocchio of sorts.  Like I was the Geppetto wishing for my real boy and never computing he was there all along.

Once my son was in my sight I knew him.  It was him all along.  I knew who he was and I loved him beyond anything I felt possible.  The relief… now I could see him, touch him and hold him it felt like I finally had control.  Infertility was behind me.

It’s one of the hardest things to explain to anyone other than a person who has lived through it.   I named it infertility PTSD but have since discovered that its a recognized syndrome.  I was never diagnosed with having it but there’s no other way to describe how it felt than this.

I thought these feelings would disappear once my son was born but in a strange way they actually just changed shape.  I think they’ll always be with me in some form.

I’d love to hear from others who have had these feelings.  How long did they last for you and did you feel like they changed once the baby was born?

IVF for the 3rd time.

After my miscarriage and the subsequent discovery that it had been a ‘blighted ovum’ which was not compatible with life, I started dreaming of ways to do one more round of IVF.

I was in the process of selling the house I owned with my Mother (but didn’t live in) and buying another property where we could both live in separate abodes.

This certainly wasn’t leaving me with any disposable income but what it did do was to clear my debt.  In order to qualify for a mortgage I had to roll my existing debts into my new mortgage.  My fertility loan had a very high interest rate due to lack of collateral… they can’t very well take the baby away if you fail to make payments and in my case there was no baby.  It was a relief to do this.

So there I was, with a new home and no debt.  It seemed like the perfect time to get back into debt and try again!  I made an appointment at the bank.  I remember the loan officer asking me if I was doing home improvements with the money.  I told her that a baby most certainly would be a home improvement for me!  Luckily I qualified and within 6 weeks of buying a new home I was back on the IVF train.

I’m telling you this because people are often mystified as to how I afforded IVF.  The answer is that I worked my ass off, picking up as many shifts at work as I could. After 2 rounds of IVF I rolled my debt into my mortgage.  In addition, I burned through all $15,000 of my savings doing IUI’s, buying sperm and meeting my health insurance deductible.

IVF Round III

This time I decided to come at it a little differently.  I decided to do PGD testing.  This is where they take a few cells from a day 5/6 embryo and test the chromosomes to ensure that the embryo has the best chance of viability.  There’s definitely some controversy to it but I wanted to try to reduce my risk of miscarriage if possible.

I was sure it wasn’t going to work and had steeled myself for the phone call with bad news that none of my embryos were viable.  It took almost 3 weeks for the results during which time I did my resolute best not to think about it.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I sent an email to the PGD coordinator asking if she had any news.  I remember the day so vividly.  I was about to attend my end of season work party.  I opened my email to the news that I had one, viable male embryo.  I happened to be with my heavily pregnant friend moments later.  My lost child would have been born within 2 weeks of her imminent baby.  I had missed her baby shower and she had been unaware of my pregnancy as I didn’t want to make her feel bad.  I explained all of this to her that night along with the wonderful news in my email.  We both shed tears of sadness and joy for each other.

I decided that I was going to wait for 3 periods/cycles until I transferred my perfect embryo.  I ate well, took good care of my body, rested and made space in my heart to receive a boy child.  I let myself imagine him (something that I’d never allowed myself to do before now.)

During this time, the relationship I had been in all year abruptly ended which was a blow.  He had been a great source of support and comfort during my miscarriage and a big distraction from the craziness that is infertility.  Whilst upsetting, I hadn’t been sure that I wanted his influence around my future child so I did my best to see it as a blessing.

I went to see my abdominal massage therapist and told her that once again I was preparing to accept a child into my womb.  She helped me to free the tension I had been carrying there since the loss and the break up.  We visualized my child.  I was finally ready.

On Tues Dec 8th 2015 I transferred my last hope into my uterus.  It was the most traumatic and uncomfortable of all the transfers but once done was declared to be ‘perfect positioning’!

I went out for celebratory dumplings… I wanted the first meal I had as a potentially pregnant woman to be a delicious one.  I kept the chopsticks for his memory box.

I swore I wouldn’t test early.

5 days later I caved and peed on a stick.  It was 7am and a squinter of a line appeared on the stick.

I awoke my mother to tell her!

Later that day I met with two friends who had also struggled with infertility and were miraculously both pregnant too!  I told them the news.  It had been my dream to be pregnant at the same time as these women and it had happened!

After more than 2 years of fertility treatments I was finally pregnant and this time, in spite of the fear, I felt like I might actually bring home a baby.

 

 

A Guide to Understanding IVF

While every protocol for IVF is different there are some steps that are pretty much the same for everyone.  If you’re just starting out here’s what you can expect;

  1. Initial consult with RE to discuss protocol
  2. Wait for start of period. You may already be taking estrogen/birth control pill.
  3. Vaginal Ultrasound to assess baseline
  4. Start injections
  5. Another Vaginal Ultrasound to see how you’re doing and to tweak meds if necessary
  6. More injections
  7. Another Ultrasound, maybe add in another shot to stop you ovulating.
  8. More injections until they finally tell you to do trigger shot.
  9. 36 hours after trigger shot you have your egg retrieval
  10. A day after egg retrieval you find out how many eggs fertilized
  11. Maybe a day 3 transfer, maybe a day 5 transfer.  You might choose to freeze all or have embryos tested.

Here’s my experience...

When I started on the journey to have a child I remember naively saying that I wanted as little intervention as possible.  I was against taking drugs.  I said I would never do IVF.

Health insurance back then did not cover fertility treatment for single women.  You had to be married.  I was paying for everything out of pocket and none of it was cheap!!

In order to boost my chances I tried a couple of rounds of clomid.  RE’s often like you to do a ‘clomid challenge’ to see how you respond to drugs.  What clomid does is it makes your body produce extra follicles, which is where the eggs grow and mature.  I responded well but didn’t achieve a pregnancy.

I threw out my no intervention and no drugs rule.  I took out a loan and moved to IVF.  I had found an RE that I liked.  I went to a consultation where I asked 5000 questions and then waited to start my cycle.  I remember being terrified but also confident that it would work.

IVF is not at all glamorous.  You’re constantly undressing and having vaginal ultrasounds.  It becomes so routine that when I was pregnant I once got undressed only to have the doctor tell me it wasn’t necessary anymore! (embarrassing!)

I had one last hurdle to overcome.  I was terrified of needles!  I wasn’t sure how I was going to find the courage to inject myself!  The sheer volume of meds and equipment was terrifying.

meds

I swear that first shot took me half an hour to prepare and inject.  To my surprise it didn’t hurt in the slightest.  I think the adrenaline and fear of doing it wrong  makes you not even notice the needle going in.

About 10 days in I started feeling quite delicate.  I used to say that my lady balls were swollen.  I found myself being a little more cautious as I sat down and stood up.  Imagine your ovaries as a golf ball and usually they have a little marble or two in them each month.  Now imagine that you’ve put 6+ marbles in there.  That golf ball is turning into a tennis ball… or maybe even bigger.  That’s what I was feeling.. I couldn’t wait til retrieval day.

Once my follicles had reached their goal size I was brought in for my egg retrieval.   It was a little scary (isn’t any surgery?) but over quickly.  I felt a bit sore for a day or so after my first one but nothing major.

Then I waited to see how many had fertilized… then how many made it to day 3, then to day 5.  I was lucky and was about to transfer one and freeze the rest.  It didn’t take.  Nor did any of the frozen ones.

There’s a lot more research now that points to frozen transfers being more successful.  Taking a break gives your body a chance to get rid of all those nasty drugs and find its equilibrium.  In hindsight I wonder if taking a break between tries might have brought my child to me more quickly…. I was on the train, month after month and I wasn’t going to give up until I got my baby! (Or went bankrupt.)

I did a second round of IVF and got even more good looking day 5 embryos.  I did a fresh transfer which didn’t take.  I did more Frozen transfers that failed.. and then I took a much needed break.

to be continued.  

The Importance of Finding the Right Fertility Doc for you.

Once I had picked a donor, done a couple of IUI’s, had the HSG and had a couple more failed IUI’s I came to a realization;

I couldn’t stand my RE!!!

I had thought that all you had to do was find a Reproductive Endocrinologist and they would unlock the secret to getting you pregnant.  This was not the case.  I didn’t feel like I had an advocate in my RE.  I felt like I was walking through glue.  After 6 months of this I was ready to move to IVF and a new RE.

This time I did some research aka: I googled.  I called a couple of clinics and rejected the ones who would only accept applications via fax. (I’m supposed to have faith in your state of the art reproductive technology yet you won’t accept my emailed application?  No thanks… )

I loved my new RE.  He was a wealth of information.  He was encouraging.  He was never too busy for questions. He was up on the latest technology.  He never let me lose hope.

He eventually got me pregnant.

 

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:

These days it’s much easier to choose an RE thanks to a great new website called Fertility IQ.  You can use this site to research the clinics and REs in your area.  These are verified reviews from people who have actually used the clinics/RE’s.  I have submitted my reviews and I urge others to do the same OR to use this resource when choosing their RE.  I’ve heard so many horror stories of bad RE’s – especially from single women.  Fertility IQ will help you avoid them.   Incidentally, I am not affiliated with them, merely think it’s a service that everyone should know about!