Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Week 16 update


15 weeks 3 days

I just got back from a quick trip to California. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great but it was still a nice little break and I can't begrudge them their rain!

The highlight was going to Disneyland with my MIL Kristin and my sister Brenna and her kids. 



We got caught in the rain for much of the afternoon but with a few ponchos we worked through it and managed to still have a good time. Next time I hope to also go back to the farm with my sister's family but it was great to see them for even a few hours.


The rain finally stopped!


We spent some time on Balboa island, enjoying frozen chocolate dipped bananas, shopping for maternity clothes, and meeting up with an old friend Rachel and her cute family. 

Love you Rachel

New maternity clothes

We spent some time with our cousins the Drapers who were very generous hosts. Betty even supplied me with my top cravings: pickles, gummy bears, and popsickles. I guess blogging does have some perks! 

I am starting to feel good! I feel like I am now able to enjoy my pregnancy-- feeling pretty good and it feels more real as I grow. My nausea seemed to peak a week or two ago but is now much less frequent and mostly at night but some bumpy flights on our way back home really didn't sit well with me! I continue to have frequent headaches and falling asleep has been difficult since getting home. 

My belly seemed to grow overnight again, and I have transitioned to maternity clothes. This has actually been a nice change, a lot more comfortable and I feel like I look smaller in baggier outfits. I cleared out my closet today and made room for my roomier clothes. 

I feel like I am going to be huge. I have a hard time imagining how these babies will fit in there. Right now they only weigh an ounce or two and I am a lot bigger than all of the pregnant ladies I know who are within about a month of me (and with only one baby) so it is hard to comprehend what it will be like when they are 3, 4, or hopefully even 5 lbs each!

I had a quick appointment today with my OB. I got to listen to the babies' heart beats for the first time, did the glucose screening test, and had a few blood tests drawn. I felt a little dizzy for the first time in years with the blood draw -- pregnancy related, I assume. I'm crossing my fingers my lab tests come back normal.

I am anxiously waiting for our 20 week ultrasound so we can learn what we are having!

16 week stats: 

Week 16 day 0
Weight: 157.2 lbs (home)
Total Weight Gain: 15.2 lbs 
Blood pressure: 132/67

Baby A: FHR = 160 bpm
Baby B: FHR = 170 bpm

Symptoms:
insomnia
nausea--infrequent, mostly at night
headache
tiredness -- mostly evenings
pregnancy comments from strangers




Saturday, May 9, 2015

The struggle continues

Infertility.

I thought my struggle with infertility would end when I became pregnant.

Even so, I laughed when my fellow IVF mommy-to-be told me that the nurses in the "regular" OB clinic told her she wasn't considered infertile now that she was pregnant, even after all the treatments to become so. Deep down I could sense the ridiculousness of the thought -- that all of that infertility jumbled ball of emotion could be erased with one sudden success.

I guess I knew I wouldn't be able to immediately take off the label, disrobing the years of emotional turmoil to move suddenly into a fertile life. But, I thought I would easily put it on the back shelf of my life to eventually gather dust and cobwebs until those troubles drifted into the far past, brought up only in conversations of the future: "Oh yeah! I WAS infertile," or "Hmmm...Yes, I USED TO BE infertile. Once. But that was years ago."

I certainly didn't expect it to continue to haunt me like it has, and in some ways, my infertility has been harder than ever. My sudden burst of (assisted) fertility hasn't completely buried the years of hurt and my infertility emotions seem to be raging along with my pregnancy hormones.

Mostly, I feel bad admitting it (because it sounds and feels horrible to say), but I have been surprised by my response to the good news of others. Now it seems I have suddenly become one of many, like there are pregnant women all around. At least in the beginning, the news bothered me more than it has in the past. I thought I would be happy, all of us mothers-to-be together. But I feel a bit lost in the crowd of morning sickness and exhaustion; like I thought it was my turn but actually there is still a long line ahead of me (since I announced early there are still a lot of babies to be announced before mine arrives). And I feel guilty for feeling this way. The joy of others shouldn't take away from my own happiness. It certainly doesn't. But as illogical as it seems, it reminds me that I am or was infertile, like a bad cold I just can't shake and the lingering cough painfully reminding me that I am different than those with the carefree joy of a spontaneous pregnancy. I feel like the weird one, the one who couldn't do it the easy way, the free way, the buy-a-cute-present-to-announce-it-to-your-husband way, the way-it-is-supposed-to-happen way. As I progress in my pregnancy I sense these feelings start to fade, but it has been a surprising struggle.

Perhaps some of it is my survivors guilt. I mentioned before my fears for leaving behind my other infertile friends. Worrying and wondering how they are. Hoping my success is reason for hope rather than another painful reminder. I found myself crying last night thinking of those still struggling. I was so upset by failed fertility treatments, the surgical removal of reproductive organs, advancing age, financial constraints, the questions of unexplained infertility, and the progressive loss of hope. It just doesn't seem fair when I know these women and couples would be wonderful parents. I know the pain of thinking you will never be a parent and I feel guilty that I don't have to continue with that pain when I know so many others aren't finding relief. And I hate knowing that my growing belly or excitement makes some of those around me feel sad.

Also, I think I found some identity in my infertility. When you wear a label for too long, it begins to become a part of you. I was someone different in my infertility. I had a community of sorts. And now I don't really know who I am as a pregnant person or a person who can even become pregnant, or certainly in being a parent.

So I'm trying to get used to being another smile in a crowd of glowing faces. And realize that infertility has a lot of complex emotions that don't always make sense or make you feel like a good and compassionate person!



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Weeks 12/13


So far things seem to be moving along pretty well with this pregnancy. Week 12 was a huge milestone -- I was finally able to complete my daily progesterone in oil injections and my three times per day oral estradiol pills. What a huge relief. I decided to celebrate my last injection by giving myself a hematoma -- the gift that keeps on giving even now at 13.5 weeks and I am sure beyond. Just a few twinges of painful joy to remind me that I made it through the worst of it.

Last one!
12 weeks of injection needles behind me!
Do you remember from before how many pills I was taking each day? Here is what my regimen looks like now:

Morning: 1/2 thyroid pill (and usually OTC colace)

Night: All OTCs! Prenatal vitamin, Unisom and B6 (for nausea), colace 

And no mid-day pills! Life is good!

Our 12 week ultrasound looked good. Both babies are growing well and on schedule. Baby B is still our wiggler, Baby A our sleeper. And so far we know they have faces, arms, legs, stomachs, bladders, hearts, and brains. Hooray for the little things in life.

Baby B
Baby A


12 week stats: 
Week 12 day 0
Weight: 151.8 lbs (office); 148.4 lbs (home)
Total Weight Gain: 8.4 lbs 
Blood pressure: 129/65

Baby A: 59.5 mm (12 3/7 weeks); FHR = 158 bpm; Location: Right
Baby B: 60.1mm (12 4/7 weeks); FHR = 165 bpm; Location: Left
Baby C: still shows up on the report (thanks for the reminder!) but not seen on US

Symptoms:
fatigue-- moderate (decreased from severe)
insomnia
nausea--worse lately but decreased frequency
headache
real baby bump 

Now I am 13 weeks 5 days. I have been feeling better in waves. This seems to correlate a bit with going off my many medications, but may just be the progression of my pregnancy into my second trimester. I feel pretty good at times but when I feel bad I seem to feel worse than before. My energy is coming back. Instead of feeling like I ran two marathons each day, I feel like I was up all night on-call. I'm still tired, but it is much more manageable! I even went on a long walk the other night followed by a 10-15 minute run. Baby steps after not exercising at all for the past 15 or so weeks.

My bump feels big and it feels like all of my weight came on at once. I am hoping that's okay and trying to cut down a bit on how frequently I eat since my morning sickness isn't constantly present any more. My clothes are getting tighter but I haven't quite moved to a belly band or maternity clothes just yet. My symptoms are the same as last week but perhaps slightly better when I am better and worse when I am worse, even more.

I feel SO THIRSTY but water just sound yuck...so more pop and juice than ever before and hence the freezer pops. (FYI: Different diet habits like this are often the reason for maternal decay -- it's a myth that the baby leeches all the calcium from your teeth.)

And waiting waiting waiting for our 20 week US when we get to find out the gender of these babes. 

13 week stats: 
Week 13 day 0
Weight: 151.4 lbs (home)
Total Weight Gain: 9.4 lbs --man it seems to be coming on fast now!

Symptoms:
fatigue-- mild - moderate 
insomnia
nausea--worse lately but decreased frequency
headache
growing baby bump 


Cravings: gummy bears, freezer pops, pickles. Anti-craving: cupcakes, the only thing I can't seem to eat! Too sweet.

Oh and one thing I forgot, holy emotions! I cry at everything! Music, the news, the Duggars wedding (HOLY COW -- I don't even watch the show, or know hardly anything about them and I was bawling), paper towel commercials, and basically talking of any kind!






Monday, May 4, 2015

Week 10



My bump made a sudden and early appearance -- 10.5 weeks


I wrote this post after my week 10 OB appointment. 

I graduated from the Reproductive Endocrinology Clinic (infertility) to the regular OB clinic today! What a weird feeling to now be another one of many pregnant women. Although relatively insignificant, It feels like a meaningful milestone. 


I am really excited to work with my doctor who is someone I have known for about five years. I was really hoping to find someone hands on and approachable as I have been up to this point pretty nervous about pregnancy. it is a relief to be working with someone who I feel comfortable in asking my questions and voicing concerns. 


We discussed a few inherent risks with twins, including pre-term birth, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia. Luckily, we wont have to worry about the risks associated with identical twins such as twin to twin transfusion or tangled umbilical cords. We will need to keep an extra close eye on the diabetes and blood pressure as PCOS increases my risk of diabetes and I have a family history of pre-eclampsia. I am also hoping to be the first in my immediate family to have a vaginal delivery. I know that the chance of this with twins is lower and I am certainly not setting any e
xpectations, but it would be great if we could make that happen!

We will be aiming for 35 pounds of weight gain and she told me I am allowed to eat an extra 600 calories per day, even now. I was relieved to hear this as I feel like I have been eating everything in sight lately! So far I have only gained about 2-3 pounds and although I have a bit of a stash of pregnancy clothes, I haven't had to break into the stash yet.

She also assured me I will most likely start feeling better in a few weeks as we come in to the second trimester. Yay!


Pregnancy up to this point has been harder than I anticipated. I don't know how people announce so late! I guess I just don't have much of a game face because while I think I am feeling relatively good (especially compared to some of my friends), I still feel yucky every day. I guess I'm relieved I'm not trying to hide it because I would be horrible at that!




10 week stats: 
Week 10 day 0
Weight: 147.8 lbs (office); 144.7 lbs (home)
Total Weight Gain: 2.7 lbs (down about 0.7 from last week)
Blood pressure: 132/71

Symptoms:
fatigue (severe)
poor sleep
nausea --worse lately but still manageable
headache
fluctuating baby bump 

Cravings: mashed potatoes (or any potato, really), macaroni and cheese



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fertility Baths and Mashed Bananas

The huge advantage of being childless is freedom and the ability to travel. At least that's what people would tell us. So here is a tribute to our child-free/pregnancy-free days!

* * *

Abe and I have done quite a bit of traveling since I completed my residency in June. I know because it seems like every time we were ready to try a new IVF cycle we would have to work around an upcoming trip. That was no exception come January when we had a long since planned vacation. Having to wait is frustrating and annoying, and when it comes down to it, simply having to wait that.much.longer is almost intolerable; but, I'd say despite the frustration, it was a welcome break from all of the stress from the previous weeks (studying and taking boards, multiple trips for the both of us including a trip home for my grandmother's funeral, and the previous disappointment for our most recent IVF).

I met Abe in Chicago after he took a red eye flight back from a conference in San Diego. We left from Chicago and flew to Puerto Rico. We stayed in charming Old San Juan -- ate mofongo (traditional PR dish made with mashed plantains), explored the amazing historic fort and colorful streets, and saw a flamenco show.

The streets of Old San Juan

Hiding in one of the passage ways in the fort

What an awesome lawn in front of the fort



The next afternoon we boarded our cruise ship for a week in the Southern Caribbean. Our first stop was to St. Thomas. We caught a cab and spent most of the day at beautiful Magen's Bay.


Our next stop was Barbados. We booked a taxi tour of the island with a couple from our cruise ship. It was really fun to see the interior of the island before finishing with an overcast afternoon on the beach.





I was especially excited for St. Lucia. We took a Catamaran sailing tour to Soufriere. We then took a van tour to the botanical garden (which was beautiful and a lot of fun), followed by a trip to the volcano and the mud baths, known for their healing properties for it sounds like any and all ailments and also the for cure for new or white bathing suits. After heading back to our catamaran we did a short snorkel session until heading back. My adrenaline was pumping as we barely made it back to the ship in time but it was a great day nonetheless. 


Yellow sulfur waterfall

Healed of our infertility! Black and White mud baths
At the volcano

Caribbean Food





The next day we did a few dives in St. Kitts. It was great to be back under the water after a long absence. Some of our most recent trips we were unsure if I was pregnant and so we had to avoid it as diving is a no-no for pregnant ladies. 


Beautiful St. Kitts

We were so tired from the diving and our previous travels that we skipped the afternoon of island exploring for some down time onboard. I guess we'll just have to go back to see what topside St. Kitts is really like!


Our morning on St. Maarten started out on the Dutch side with a sailing ship race. It was fun to learn a  little bit about sailing!


We took a cab to the French side of the island to see the French capital. It was fun to see but there wasn't much there.

We did climb up to the top of a small fort and had some beautiful views. I also felt like I was melting. That is about as hot as I have been. Thanks St. Maarten. By the time we found a beach again, it was overcast and a little chilly!



St. Maarten

After a wonderful and fattening cruise, we made our way back to Puerto Rico. We spent the afternoon exploring the other fort in old San Juan (The pass for the first fort was good for one week to visit the second. So yay for a few hours of free entertainment). 





I was so good about sunscreen and avoided sunburn until the last few hours. I didn't have my luggage (or my sunscreen) with me and my chest got fried. Darn, and with an awesome tan line from that necklace, too!

We got a quick bite of mofongo before heading back to the airport. 


Abe loves D.C. so I joke when we got diverted to D.C. from Puerto Rico that it was all part of a secret trip for his birthday the next day. Due to the fifth worst snowstorm in Chicago history, our flight was sent to D.C. midflight. After spending an extra hour in the air burning fuel so it was safe to land, we braved the long lines in customer service to find a hotel room and to rebook our flights for the next day. Unfortunately, we were forced to gate check our bags before boarding our previous flight (and before I had a chance to change into winter attire) so we had to wait in the snow in shorts and sandals while we waited for our hotel shuttle.


The next morning we enjoyed a nice birthday breakfast at the airport as we got delayed over and over again. We finally made it back to Chicago, found our bags, and drove home in some snowy weather before having birthday dinner with Abe's family.




No wonder we got pregnant shortly after this trip. Between the mudbaths and our ability to finally relax, it was bound to work.

Monday, April 20, 2015

On Becoming the Bearded Lady and Other Infertility Embarrassments...

This week is infertility awareness week. So reach out and hug one of the 10-15% of your friends who must be dealing with this!

Also, feel free to check out my stories on cnn.com:


And one from Abe:

And now, for the sake of awareness, on to a pretty personal aspect of my fertility journey!

This post is actually one of the more embarrassing topics I have addressed. I guess that is because it also addresses some of my insecurities, body issues, and perceptions of my femininity. And I also don't want to be misconstrued as vain or ungrateful or superficial or not focusing on what really matters. But it is part of my story and despite the potential negatives, I am committed to honesty, openness, and sharing for others who may feel the same way. So with that disclaimer, enjoy! 

* * *

As someone with PCOS, I was told early on that I didn't have the luxury of going on and off the birth control pill whenever I wanted. I was told I should stay on birth control as much as possible to decrease my chance of endometrial cancer. I also learned quickly there were some other unpleasant side effects of going off the pill. 

One side effect was my normally beautiful, often complimented complexion would be replaced with uncontrollable acne.

Not only was it worse than I ever had in high school, but it was often painful, extended to my neck and chest, and I noticed minor scars that didn't heal as fast as I remember them doing in my teens. And to top it off, I also had horrible, painful BACK-NE!  I never had that before, and suddenly my poor back looked like a constellation of red stars! (I know you probably don't believe me, so I took a picture documenting it in all its glory. But as you probably didn't want to see that anyway, luckily for you, the picture seems to have vanished.)

Ah nice clear skin!

Ouch!

Thankfully, this went away once I started my IVF medications! 

Yay, clear skin! Feeling like myself again.
Another unfortunate side effect was increased hair growth it seems everywhere. As someone who rarely has to shave her legs, I was not too happy about that. I know any increased hair I have will stay with me forever unless I pay to have it removed by laser or electrolysis (which is expensive, sometimes painful --electrolysis! and sometimes not permanent). Worrying you will become the bearded lady and be asked to join the sideshow before you become pregnant is not the best way to feel feminine and attractive! Those two ailments (acne and extra hair growth) ravaged me for the year and a half we tried to get pregnant on our own and then also while on oral medications. In the beginning, I felt like I could be patient for baby (all in God's time), but I worried about the progressive worsening of these symptoms while we waited! (On top of the increased cancer risk that comes with irregular menstruation.) It felt like adding injury to insult, fuel to the fire, or whatever other appropriate cliche you prefer.

While I knew I had gained some weight in residency, I was coming to accept my body at its new weight. But my fertility journey definitely had an effect on my waistline as well. I would read forums and blogs online, searching for answers. Was it normal to gain weight or was I doing something wrong? I felt like I was the only one who watched the scale climb and climb over a few short weeks so I was so relieved to read a story about another woman undergoing infertility treatments who gained quite a bit of weight, despite the fact her job was in the beauty and fashion industry.  Her story made me feel better as she obviously had incentive to keep off the weight and still struggled with this like I did.

I don't normally feel comfortable posting pictures of me in bikinis online, but I think in this instance it is an accurate and honest way to show the changes. This picture is from the same month I went off my birth control pill February 2014. 


Here is a similar pose of me in Hawaii September 2014 after my embryo harvest and the same week I had my first frozen embryo transfer (on daily progesterone injections and estrogen pills three times per day).  Pre-pregnancy I already have stretch marks on my hips and thighs, probably partially after gaining 7 pounds in a few hours after my embryo harvest (fluid!). Most of that went away and I did lose about six pounds before finally becoming pregnant, but I never bounced back from the 8-10 pounds I gained from the embryo harvest in June 2014.


Ironically, even though these are my "skinny" pictures, only an hour or so later I was asked by a woman if I was pregnant. Great! I've always had a bit of a round tummy!


Here is another similar pose from a recent trip January 2015. When I first looked through pictures of this trip I felt annoyed and frustrated. I couldn't help but thinking, "Look how fat I look in all of these!" (I know even now I am not "fat" but this is a significant change from what I would consider my "normal" weight.)


But after just a moment of reflection, I shoved that thought out of my mind. I decided to look at it as my fertility weight. Yes, my body has changed. I have made some sacrifices already -- both to my own health and emotional status, and also in more superficial ways like suffering through acne and weight gain. But those sacrifices and those changes also got me to where I am now -- pregnant with two healthy babies!

As my body continues to change in pregnancy, I find my anxieties about these changes have been surprisingly minimal. I am grateful to be pregnant. I am grateful my body can do hard things. I am grateful I am healthy.

And I am grateful that finally my little bump is finally there for a good reason! Now when people ask if I am pregnant, even if it is too early to show, I can say YES!