Week 36: False alarms, part 2

As I mentioned, last week was a week, man. Here’s Monday.

On Wednesday, my team at work hosted a lovely surprise baby shower for me. I knew it was coming, but I had yet to figure out when (I may have stalked people’s calendars for inconsistencies because I can be a crazy person… ahem). They genuinely surprised me and it was really special. Everyone (or nearly everyone) knows my infertility story (to varying degrees of detail), so I feel grateful that they wanted to shower my long-awaited Little Wookiee with love. The support was palpable.

babyshowercake

Within an hour of the shower, I felt a dampness down under. I was wear a dress and tights, sans underwear (because I never really found any that fit me after they kept falling down like my jeans), so the dampness was probably especially noticeable. So here’s the thing, I’ve peed myself plenty of times during this pregnancy (I’ve had three colds and sneezing nearly always resulted in something). This felt different (it also didn’t smell like urine).

I waited maybe another 30 minutes… more dampness (this time on a pad because I got smart). At 36 weeks, 5 days pregnant, I naturally thought that my water was breaking, albeit slowly. I’d been saying consistently for more than a few weeks that LW was coming early. People dismissed me with “oh, first babies are usually late!” I was vindicated! Also, that “first babies” thing is purely anecdotal there’s no actual data proving that to be true (80% of women deliver between 37-42 weeks).

I walked next door to my coworker/friend who is a mom and said hey… my water might be breaking? While it wasn’t what she’d experienced, Dr. Google said a slow leak is totally a thing and I should call my OB practice. I’d tested positive for Group B Strep earlier in my pregnancy, so while many soon-to-be mamas can wait out early labor at home, the antibiotics I’ll need to keep from passing an infection to LW mean my practice wants me to come into the hospital relatively quickly when my water has broken.

I texted my husband to ask if he could answer the phone. I gave him roughly 37 seconds to reply before calling the OB. Since it was the middle of the day and I knew the office was open, I went directly to the front desk and told them my water may have broken and … tell me exactly what to do. A nurse gets on the line, asks me a few questions and says “well, normally we’d have you come into the office to confirm but we quite literally have no doctor or midwife to see you.” They had four other women from the practice in labor (one in an emergency cesarean), so they were canceling  as many office appointments the rest of the day as they could since practically everyone was at the hospital already.

Off to the OBED!

The drive from my office to home thinking I might be going into labor was the strangest, most surreal experience. Since I wasn’t having contractions, I wasn’t fearful to drive, but my mind certainly strayed from the road.

I met my husband at home, threw a few toiletries into our hospital bag and we left. We live just a few minutes from the hospital, but the car ride was quiet but thick with both excitement and anxiety.

My OB practice was not the only one hopping that day, apparently. As soon as the ED nurse hooked me and LW up to the monitors, she told us that she’d admitted every single patient she’d seen that day so buckle up because I was probably going to have my baby. Those words were so strange. But then my mind quickly wandered to being annoyed that the robe I’d ordered for the hospital stay hadn’t yet arrived and I would be stuck in those crap hospital gowns the whole time I was there. I was, one might say, unreasonably annoyed at this prospect considering my nurse was speculating that I was about to have a baby.

Again, because my practice was so busy that day, one of the hospital’s on-call docs came in to examine me and assess if my water had, indeed, broken. He was very pleasant to the eye, but his bedside manner could use some work. I explained what I’d experienced and, as he’s gathering the materials needed for my internal exam, he says, “well that isn’t very convincing…” Huh?

He does his thing. I am not dilated. Check. He proceeds to the quick pH test and that is inconclusive. He says — my legs still spread, speculum still inside — “oh, well I wasn’t expecting that!” Maybe you should be a little less dismissive then, doc… So irritating.

He then takes a sample (of something?) to run a more definitive test in the lab. Spoiler alert: it comes back negative. My water hasn’t/wasn’t broken/breaking. The dismissive doctor gave me no explanation or information other than to say I peed myself. Cool, thanks, dudeyou’ve been super helpful.

The nurse, thankfully, was much more informative. She said that it likely was a small piece of my mucus plug (aren’t pregnancy terms just delightful?), which would account for it both feeling and smelling different than just straight-up urine. She told me that I did the right thing by calling and coming in to be checked out, etc. etc. I liked her very much. Not to mention I was the lucky winner… I was the one person she got to discharge all day.

So, yeah… last week was a bit of a week.

Also, my robe arrived two days later so I’m much less annoyed and more ready now. Ahem.

Week 36: False alarms, part 1

First, my sincere apologies for the long-delayed update. I can chalk it up to, primarily, two things — 1. Life has gotten a bit hectic and 2. While there have been things I may have wanted to share in the last few months, I think I’ve experienced a bit of the survivors guilt phenomenon. Coming from such a tumultuous place of infertility and failure, a part of me had/has a hard time accepting success and that I’ve had a rather uneventful pregnancy. It can all feel very complicated. Have you been in my shoes and experienced this, too?

I’m now 37 weeks in and officially full-term. I doubt I will ever completely wrap my head around that, given how I got here. But last week was especially crazy in both a hectic and mindf*ck sort of way.

Monday was the first false alarm. It’s first worth noting that I have an anterior placenta, and given that placement, I felt Little Wookiee move much later than expected (as in true movements, not just the “that could be something but…”). I was far into my second trimester before movement became regular and noticeable to me. In the last month or so, though, LW has been particularly active at night, usually around 8pm. At my last OB appointment we’d talked about kick counts and how I didn’t do them, really, because given the placenta placement there were only a handful of times per day that I could feel LW and I didn’t want to freak myself out. Well. Famous last words.

Monday night I settled into bed to read or watch TV for a bit before going to sleep, about 8:15, as is our usual. No doubt that might seem crazy early to most people but I rely on as much routine at home as possible, particularly since third trimester sleep has been spotty at best. Anyway, I expected to be feeling LW punch my bladder within a few minutes. Nope.

By 9:00 or so I’m poking around my belly trying to get a reaction. Nothing. I grab a lollipop. Sugar usually does it. Not this time. Around 10 my husband says, “stay calm, she’s just sleeping. You should try it, too.” Not interested. But he was, so I said sure, you go ahead, and I’ll try. By 10:45 or so I had sort of fallen asleep.

12:30am: My dog wakes me up to take him out. As I’m walking down and then back up our three flights of stairs I’m simultaneously willing LW to wake up and reassuring myself that everything is totally fine and I should just go back to sleep as quickly as possible.

3:00am: I’m wide awake and trying to determine the last time I felt movement. Was it just after dinner? No, that can’t be right… that’s like eight hours? I poke some more. I wait. And wait. I Google, but very carefully. Because there are really terrifying things on the internet at 3am when looking for solutions for “decreased fetal movement 36 weeks.” Bad. Things.

4:00am: The dark thoughts roll in. Dark. All logic is out the window. I want to call the doctor but the idea of confirming the dark thoughts is not something I’m able to fully grasp. I keep poking and waiting and worrying that my healthy Little Wookiee isn’t so anymore.

4:30am: I walk into the nursery, with a death grip on my phone, and make the call to the doctor’s answering service. I explain. I’m told I’ll receive a call back within 30 minutes. I hang up and pace.

4:35am: The on-call midwife calls. I explain. She tells me I did the right thing by calling. Suggests I drink a very large glass of ice water and wait a few minutes. If I still don’t feel 10 kicks in the next 30 minutes it’s time to go into the OBED for a non-stress test. I drink so much water. I wait.

4:45am: I got back upstairs, wake my husband and tell him we need to go to the hospital because I did all the things and nothing. I go back downstairs for more water. Drink. Back upstairs to get dressed.

4:50am: I feel something. And then another something. I tell my husband LW is on the move. There are tears behind my eyes but I can’t cry. Within another few minutes LW gets sassy and gives two very powerful kicks. I count 25 kicks in that 30 minutes since I spoke to the midwife. I’m breathing normally again.

5:00am: I call the midwife again to confirm I don’t need to go into the OBED. Thank her profusely for her patience.

Ice water is my best friend.

Heartbeat

On Friday, for the first time in the last five and a half harrowing years of infertility, I saw and heard the beating heart of my growing child. No matter the outcome of the next 33 weeks, that swish and flicker is cemented on my own heart.

The whole of last week my brain felt like it was on fire. As much as I was genuinely trying to visualize the outcome I want to see, I couldn’t push away the intense anxiety leading up to the first ultrasound. I’m not being dramatic in saying that it was one of the worst weeks of my life. Every tiny pinch or twinge or pseudo-pain my brain told me, this is it, you’re miscarrying. This is happening again. There’s, unfortunately, nowhere to hide from the negative thoughts in your own brain.

I don’t want this post to be overrun with my anxiety, but I write this to say to anyone else out there in a similar position: I hear you. It is so terrifying to wait while you feel like your mind in running full speed toward a cliff.

On the drive to the clinic, I was, as always, looking for signs, wearing my magic bracelet. Anything to help prepare me for what was to come. The previous night I’d had only bad dreams. I’d texted my best friend that I was sure it was my subconscious telling me it wasn’t going to be okay. She replied, “NOT THIS TIME.” I wanted to believe her. Then, on the radio in the car played the song that I walked down the aisle to at my wedding. It was the first time in at least a week I felt like there wasn’t a boulder resting on my chest.

Fast forward to the exam room. My husband and I didn’t really look at each other while we waited. I don’t think we could. I closed my eyes and silently asked all of the people in my life that I’ve loved who are now gone for this to be okay. Please, let this be okay.

When my doctor and the greatest nurse on the planet entered, the tension was palpable. My doctor asked how I was feeling and I eeked out something to the effect of, “I’m really scared.” He nodded, in his warm way, and said, “I’m terrified.” That actually gave me a lot of comfort. He’s so invested in our outcome.

It didn’t take very long after he’d started the ultrasound for me to see the flicker. I said, quietly, “… is that…?” And he nodded with a huge smile. Then all the tears. I reached for my husband’s hand. I looked at him, and he started to cry, too.

Again, I’ll pause my touching story (ahem) to say here that infertility is incredibly hard on relationships. All relationships, but particularly marriages (or partnerships). Sometimes you feel miles apart in the same room. This moment, watching my Alpha Male ex-cop shows no emotion husband cry at the sight of the ultrasound screen allowed me to reconnect with him, and our passion to have a child. I’m so grateful we could share this.

By this time the greatest nurse on the planet was also openly crying. My doc definitely had tears in his eyes, too. Then he turned on the sound and the swishing of the heartbeat brought on another wave of tears.

giphy

5BB is doing great right now. Heartbeat very strong at 123bpm. Measuring (then) at 6 weeks, 4 days, just one day behind my transfer timeline. All signs are positive. My husband has nicknamed the embaby Little Wookiee.

The adventures of 5BB and the magic bracelet

On the morning of my embryo transfer with 5BB, I was anxious. We’d done this very quiet drive to the clinic three times before, each with a disappointing outcome.

I was looking for meaning in everything that day. Signs. As I do. Shortly after my husband turned on the radio in the car, a cherished song from my young adulthood came on. This song, “Call Me Al,” by Paul Simon, played before every performance I did with my musical theater group in high school. It was our hype song. Good start, universe.

During the transfer, I wore the magic bracelet. My high school best friend sent it to me earlier this year when she heard about my IVF experiences. It’s my favorite color, and reads “Warrior.” Attached to that bracelet is a Greek lucky eye that another friend gave me. I’ve worn that bracelet starting with this second egg retrieval and every important appointment since. A close friend of mine who is also going through IVF has borrowed it for each of her appointments, too. We’ve both had positive outcomes so far, thus dubbing it the magic bracelet.

On the ride home, with 5BB in place, the radio played “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” by Guns n’ Roses. I just stared at my husband like, are you hearing this right now?! The sign wasn’t even lost on him (and he often thinks my “signs” are signs of insanity). Thanks for the encouragement, universe. I needed it.

I spent the rest of the day trying to stay relaxed. I snuggled with our dog. I probably binge-watched something on Netflix, as I’m also known to do.

That evening, we ordered pizza for dinner. Comfort food is the best, isn’t it? When I answered the door for the pizza, the delivery person was very visibly pregnant. Because of course she was.

All of this leads me to later this week when we find out if little 5BB will surpass my previous embabies with a detectable heartbeat.

I’ve had moments in the last two or so weeks since the positive pregnancy test (beta) when I’ve felt excited. And nauseous. And tired. And a lot of the time when, in my gut, this time feels different.

Plenty of other times, of course, I just expect bad news.

I wish I knew what I’d see on the ultrasound later this week. I wish I could prepare for it. The idea that I can reach the six-week (and change) ultrasound and not have my hopes devastated is so foreign to me. But this time could be different. 

When your anxiety is as high as your estrogen

My husband called it “estroxiety.”

It is transfer week, which means it is crawllllling by at a snail’s pace. Aside from the side effects of my BFF Estrace — of which I have many — my mental health feels a bit like a teeter-totter. One moment: OMG I AM SO EXCITED THIS IS GOING TO FINALLY WORK ALL CAPS EVERYWHERE! The next:

giphy1

Actual footage of me?

Don’t get me wrong, not going into an embryo transfer blindly for once is a welcome change. I know my doctor (well, actually, not my Peyton Manning doctor because he will be on vacation) will place little PGS-normal 5BB in my now-optimized for receptivity uterus. Because my ERA test revealed that my lining is 12-hours pre-receptive, we’ve moved my PIO shots to the mornings, giving me an extra dose before the actual transfer. The same biopsy revealed no recurrence of endometritis either. So, basically, my uterus is as ready to grow a baby as it probably ever has been. I’m set up for success. Even my clinic’s internal stats on a a PGS-normal resulting in pregnancy and a live birth are killer.

And yet, the pressure is getting to me. My stomach is doing flip-flops. I’m not falling asleep easily and sleeping fitfully. My brain keeps telling me that normal embryos fail all the time. I’ve had anxiety before transfers in the past, but this is so heightened. I’m so hyper-aware that it could be successful and that’s just not my normal. I’ve had nothing but failure to point to; I’ve settled in and stayed awhile. As miserable as infertility makes me, it is my normal. I’m not resigned to it, but it is always there. It’s been the focus of my life for more than five years and it has become my every day. Popping Estrace pills morning, noon and night; the sore injection sites from the PIO; lying back and putting my feet in the stirrups for internal ultrasounds every few days. This is my life. It sucks so much, but there’s something that has become so comfortable, too.

Like many Type-A people, if I’m not good at something almost immediately I tend not to like it very much. I despise mediocrity in myself. When I was eight years old I played the saxophone for a little under a year. I was pretty terrible, and I quit because I knew I wouldn’t ever be first (or even second) chair in the elementary school band. Instead I did something I was much better at (cheerleading [current me still doesn’t fully comprehend how I was a cheerleader my entire childhood]), and spent the next 10 years engrossed in that. Captaining teams, winning an award or two and being pretty good at something like the Type-A in me wanted.

Somehow, I’ve never quit this. I’ve pushed through even though I am clearly terrible at creating babies. Infertility has taught me an awful lot about failure. And, in turn, resilience. It has absolutely shaped who I am as a 36-year-old woman.

With success as close as it has probably ever been, it is out of my hands now (and soon to be in my uterus). I have, officially, all the feels.

Also, f#*k you, Estrace.

Infertility grief