Week 21: A bumpdate

Alternately titled: I outgrew my underwear but my maternity jeans don’t stay up

Here’s a statement that surely has never been uttered before: Pregnancy is so weird.

I’ve just passed the 21 week mark, and my body has entered that stage of looking pregnant with the bump shape (I’d consider myself Stage 3.25, according to Pregnant Chicken. Which is just about the realest pregnancy site ever and worth peeing yourself a little bit because it will make you laugh for sure). I’d transitioned to mostly maternity clothes (excluding a few tops from pre-weight loss) mid-week 19, with the hold out being one pair of jeans that still fit. Those no longer do as of last week.

I’ve tried on (at home because I don’t do fitting rooms or even much shopping outside the internet) at least ten pairs of maternity jeans to find one pair that met my criteria: 1. comfortable but structured (jeggings aren’t flattering for a woman of my ample booty and thighs), 2. still in my pre-pregnancy style (I like me a good skinny jean, but I am short and generally unwilling to have things hemmed because I am also lazy) and 3. cost less than my mortgage payment. I tried side panel, demi-panel, full panel… all of ’em. They. Don’t. Stay. Up. I even tried several with the belly band as an added makeshift belt. Nope. I’m apparently too early in the bump stage before my belly actually holds up my jeans, but still big enough that I’ve outgrown my underwear. It is a physically strange place to live in maternity wear.

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Note: Standard preggo wear of leggings and a dolman tunic will make you look deceptively more pregnant.

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Week 19: This is us

19wks

Yesterday I finally started to feel like this family of three thing could actually stick.

We had our mid-pregnancy ultrasound / anatomy scan and got to see the Little Wookiee in all the glory. A few pregnant or new mom friends had told me about how incredible this ultrasound would be, and I wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t know most of what I was looking at, but seeing sections of LW’s brain, blood flow into the umbilical cord… it is remarkable the detail made possible by technology.

Watching LW flip around, albeit being pretty uncooperative to the tech, I was smitten. Grown from the 5BB embaby into this real thing. Squirming around at pressure of the ultrasound wand.

It was a little mind-blowing, though, to watch the flipping on the screen — and know that movement in happening inside of me — and not be able to feel it yet. I think I’ve felt LW once or twice to date — just a brief twinge like some of the books describe — but nothing more definitive yet. Seeing it happen was pretty crazy.

We got a great report on LW’s growth, thankfully. I’d started to get a little more comfortable, and a little less anxious, when my belly started to pop about a week and a half ago. I was ready to pick out the nursery paint. I was spending more than half my time in maternity clothes. But not knowing what was really happening in there was still intimidating. I felt like I was standing on the line of a safe zone to just peer over it, but I wouldn’t step. It was unknown territory.

My husband and I had a conversation just this past weekend about expanding the bubble of people who know we’re expecting. We haven’t been keeping it quiet necessarily, but we weren’t eagerly awaiting a magic date to post it to Facebook either (I kind of have my own internal issues about why and how people share things on Facebook anyway, not to take away from anyone who does choose to make that sort of announcement. I’m just on the fence about it). When pressed by family about such an announcement I’d said, “just let us get through the anatomy scan first.” To me, it felt like a necessary step. Another box to check. A little bit closer to viability. To becoming a family of three.

My husband saw the scan as a formality. Another box, sure, but another chance to see LW. Because things are okay. Everything is okay now, he’d say.

I didn’t disagree, really. In my gut, anyway. But I needed the reassurance of a doctor saying, “it’s all good.” When I heard that, I mentally checked the box and felt better.

(It’s worth noting here that when the doctor came into the room, he didn’t immediately put me at ease. He opened with “As you know, PGS testing isn’t foolproof…” My eyes widened and panic rose. He’d said several more sentences before he registered my reaction and knew to say, “I really should have led with everything looks great…” Sweet jesus. He was a lovely doctor, though.)

Last night, following the ultrasound, my husband checked with me before expanding the bubble. I said okay. It felt like a big deal for me. I’m getting there. To a see a family of three. Us.

Week 16: I didn’t think I’d be here

One trimester down. Today I’m 16 weeks and 2 days.

Every passing week the idea of the baby becomes more real. I let go of a little bit more of the anxiety. That feels good. I still — absolutely — get stuck in my head, where it can be a dark place. I’m trying harder to talk through those moments, rather than keeping the fears to myself. In the better moments, I’m relaxing and letting myself feel excited about the life I’m growing.

Little Wookiee’s checkups have all gone well, but not without stress. At my 13 week appointment my midwife wasn’t able to find the heartbeat on the fetal doppler and I spent a few terrifying minutes thinking it was all over. She assured us that at week 13 it can still be difficult to pick up the heartbeat with the fetal doppler. The midwife was so understanding and very quickly found us a room with an ultrasound machine. Within seconds, we thankfully saw Little Wookiee wiggling around. We could breathe again.

Other than a nasty cold, the second trimester so far has been wonderfully uneventful, as advertised. I’m still tired, but overall feeling quite good. So far, I’m a fan.

Graduation Day 👩‍🎓

I graduated from my fertility clinic on July 4. Independence Day. Fitting, right? The greatest nurse on the planet came in on her day off to share the last appointment with us. Although I felt guilty that she took time out of her far-too-few-days-off, I knew that she would, and I was so grateful to be able to look into her eyes as I said my final thank you. (Although it’s hardly a final thank you since I’ve invited her to be in the delivery room with us.)

After what we’ve been through, I don’t think I’ll ever walk into an ultrasound not feeling at least a little nervous. By then we’d already seen and heard Little Wookiee twice, and my nausea, fatigue and sore boobs told me that things were still moving along in there. But I never feel 100% certain. Although they’ve been stitched up and will some day heal enough to scar, the wounds of infertility are still ever-present.

Following the ultrasound, when the wand was put away, my doctor took my hands in his and told us how excited he was for us. He said that while he was writing an email to my OB giving him my background, it stung at how much disappointment we’d seen when boiled down to a few paragraphs.

“You never gave up.”

He was right; I didn’t. I was very close many, many times. But I kept pumping my body full of hormones and wiping away the tears.

But I don’t see this pregnancy, or Little Wookiee, as a reward for not giving up. This isn’t a lesson about going through really hard shit to get what you want. For me — for us — it’s just not that simple. I’m incredibly happy to be pregnant, of course, but it doesn’t negate what’s happened to bring us here.

We’ve graduated but have a long way to go.

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.

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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.