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!

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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

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! 

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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!


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!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ultrasound #2: How many babies are in there?

I didn't sleep well last night. I was dreaming all night about triplets. I felt sick as I went to bed and sick waking up. Abe asked why I felt so nervous, what I was hoping to happen? I didn't know. I didn't have any expectations for our second ultrasound this morning. I felt up for the task if it was going to be triplets but I also knew twins would be the safest bet. If I had to flip a coin, I would have called triplets, but only by a hair.

I was really happy that Abe was able to accompany me to my appointment again this morning. We woke up and drove in to the hospital together. That in itself was a nice moment! Waking up together, getting ready together, and leaving the house at the same time together. That never happens.

Once we were checked in and back for the ultrasound, life got much less complicated!

We saw Baby A...

... and Baby B...

2 healthy babies!

After some searching, we found only a small white blob where Baby C used to be.

I wasn't sure how I would respond to the news, but I felt calm and relieved. I was so happy to see our two healthy di/di twins, more than twice the size they were last time and without any apparent complications. 

I worried I would mourn the loss of Baby C. I was kind of rooting for the little guy. But I am grateful that I have two healthy babies! I am also grateful to have two healthy babies instead of three babies with one that was struggling or worse, putting the other two in danger. 

So we are back to "the best kind of twins," with no worries about tangled cords or uneven placenta sharing. 

I think they are pretty cute!
And back to mentally living in our own house, buying a new car when we are ready, and hopefully continuing to work and walk around farther than 20 weeks (so many stories of bed rest at 20 weeks for triplets).

All of that after I finally made my case to get into the uber exclusive, secret triplet Facebook group. It was great while that lasted, all of 12 hours!

Today's stats:

Week 9 day 0
Weight: 147 lbs (office); 145.4 lbs (home)
Total Weight Gain: 3.4 lbs
Blood pressure: 122/69

Baby A: 24.1 mm (9 1/7 weeks); FHR (fetal heart rate) 186 bpm
Baby B: 24.6 mm (9 1/7 weeks); FHR 189
Baby C: 3.5 mm (6 0/7 weeks); FHR absent

nausea --usually mild but worse the past few days
fluctuating baby bump -- sometimes it looks huge, other times hardly there