Yeah we’re 10 weeks along and so far no symptoms and can we talk about something else?

kick

As I’m sure all of you remember, there was a big hullaballoo in the ALI blogging community a little while back — I wasn’t too involved in it, but I know it involved some harsh words exchanged between infertiles who were still in the trenches and a handful of infertiles who had finally, after YEARS of trying, become pregnant. As it happened, these three were also the hosts of a podcast about infertility, so some people felt this was hypocritical and they should be replaced. I’m not going rehash the whole thing because in my opinion it was pretty ludicrous — the whole point of going through infertility treatments is to get knocked up, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when this actually happens, nor should it suddenly discredit all the pain and struggle a woman has previously endured, pain that often includes not just repeated BFNs but horrible shit like late-term baby loss.

ANYWAY, it was a stark reminder of the weirder aspects of this world, specifically how the way in which an infertile behaves (or blogs) once she becomes pregnant is suddenly put under intense scrutiny — is she going to “forget” all that she went through and indulge in bumpdates and annoying pregnancy memes that compare her baby to fruit? Or is she going to “take the higher road” and constantly edit herself to make sure she isn’t offending anyone with too much baby stuff, and put warnings before any photos of pregnant bellies or ultrasound pics? Or is she going to close up her blog altogether and maybe restart another blog that is more geared toward the PAIL (pregnancy after infertility and loss) segment of the Interwebs? Whatever she chooses, there is much judgement.

What I’m realizing now, however, is that whatever a blogger chooses to do, it’s less of a reflection of how deeply she’s been affected by infertility and more a reflection of… well, just her. Period. Someone like Mo, for instance (I’m not going to link to her current blog because she’s asked not to be dragged back into the ALI scene) is the type of girl who is sarcastic and unabashedly critical but also self-deprecating — so, obviously, she’s not the type to get all gushy and dorky about pregnancy. Then you have someone warm and positive like Lisa, who made a very eloquent case for why she chooses to compare her baby to fruit and go into detail about her symptoms, baby shower decorations, weight gain, etc. Both these ladies have been through INTENSE struggles, both will NEVER forget their infertility pain, and yet, because they’re different girls with different personalities, they’re going to have different blogs, and I am all for that.

To bring this back to me (because I MATTER THE MOST), I was basically as curious as anyone else about how I would end up changing — or not changing — after I got that BFP. And I’m referring both to blogging and how I act in real life. Part of me thought, “OK, if you really get excited about the fruit thing, don’t hold back, just write about it and who cares if you lose readers.” I also told myself, “Don’t apologize for blabbering on at length to your friends and family about this baby because you’ve spent two years trying to reach this point and you deserve to indulge in conversations about due dates and cravings.”

But 10 weeks in, I’ve realized that I get very sick of talking about my pregnancy after about five minutes. This is because I get sick of talking about myself — in any manner — after about five minutes. As I was explaining to a friend the other day, I’m starting to have deja vu back to when I was engaged and the only thing people would ever ask me about was how the wedding preparations were going. I was happy to give a few updates, share a few anecdotes, but after a while I wanted to holler, “THERE IS MORE TO MY LIFE THAN THE FACT I’M GETTING HITCHED!” Now, I’m realizing that despite my struggles with infertility and how crazy-elated I am to finally be pregnant, this will not alter a fundamental part of my personality that has little patience for talking at length about one very specific part of myself or my life (in this case, the contents of my uterus). On a sidenote, I believe this is mostly due to having British parents — the approach to child-rearing in the UK is largely centered around making sure you never feel too good about yourself.

I haven’t really succeeded in making a coherent point here, but I guess I’m trying to say that: 1. We should all be accepting of how other bloggers decide to write about their pregnancies after infertility, because, 2. This probably has less to do with how infertility has affected them than simply how they approach life in general. So all the more reason to NOT criticize, but rather let everyone be preggo in whatever way they want to be. Fruit or no fruit. Self-awareness or self-indulgence. Just do what feels right.

Gotta not have KD, if I can help it

oldKD

*Love this old packaging. “The special macaroni and the grated cheese”

A little note: This post is on a topic related to pregnancy; obviously I will continue to write about such things, but please know that my brain and soul are still very much affected by infertility, and there will plenty of other posts to come that reflect this. At the very least, you can rest assured that I won’t be indulging in any annoying pregnancy memes.

I kind of only half-believe in pregnancy cravings. On the one hand, I have a friend who was lactose intolerant and when she got pregnant, she had these intense cravings for cheese — and weirdly, the intolerance suddenly disappeared and she was able to eat dairy again. That seemed legit, for some reason. On the other hand, I see women going mental for pickles and ice cream during their pregnancies, blaming it on the fetus, and I think, “Girl, that is just the same old YOU wanting those things and giving yourself an excuse to actually have them now that you’re knocked up.”

As y’all know, I’ve had zero symptoms throughout this pregnancy, starting from the moment Right On Time Blastocyst was transferred into my ute up until today, when I’m nearing the 10-week mark (we think, we hope, knock on wood, please please please please), and that includes cravings. OK fine, I recently purchased an enormous bag of sour keys, but that’s a one-off thing. Anyway, the closest I’ve come to cravings is with two particular items: Kraft Dinner, and a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

Normally, I could care less about processed cheese. It’s vile, and basically made of plastic and MSG. But a few weeks ago, someone brought a bunch of McDonald’s cheeseburgers to a dinner party (sort of as a joke, but not really) and I decided to eat half of one, just for nostalgia’s sake. My husband glared at me, as if I was effectively poisoning our unborn child and guaranteeing some sort of birth defect or behavioural disorder. I didn’t care, though — it tasted SO effing amazing. It took all of my will power not to go in for a second helping. And now, I probably think about McDonald’s cheeseburgers once every day.

Then, the KD (known in the U.S. as Kraft Macaroni and Cheese) — like most Canadians, this was one of the first “meals” I learned how to cook, and it got me through my university years. Everyone has different (and very strong) opinions on how, exactly, it should be prepared and consumed, and my personal stance is that you need to use half of the pasta in the box but ALL of the cheese. Or rather, “cheese”. By doing so, it’s basically like eating a bowl of hot, gooey Cheetos (win!). Always use both milk AND butter to melt it. And then eat half of it just as it is, then the other half slathered in ketchup. Most importantly, never substitute with white cheddar KD, microwaveable KD or imitation KD.

Anyway, once again, this admittedly disgusting product hadn’t entered my mind for years, but then I started reading all these articles about Michael Moss’s new book, Salt Sugar Fat. He explains how companies like Kraft created processed foods decades ago with semi-decent intentions — usually to cut costs or help women prepare their meals faster, to free up more time for other pursuits (like, you know, careers). But using cheaper ingredients meant the stuff would taste gross unless they added tons of extra salt, sugar or fat. It got out of control, and now North Americans are so addicted to these specific flavours that any attempt to lessen the amount of crap in a product almost always fails.

You’d think I would read about all this and say to myself, “I’m so glad we don’t eat any processed foods now — thank god I gave up on KD years ago!” But instead, all I can think is, “Mmmmm…. Kraft Dinner…..” And, like, I think this thought ALL THE TIME.

Are these two horrible items, of all things, really going to turn into legitimate pregnancy cravings?! You would think that, as someone who consumed two glasses of wine each night with dinner, I might be missing alcohol. Or craving something more mainstream, like chocolate. Nope. It seems the girl who can usually be found baking kale chips or making quinoa salads is no longer. I’m too busy battling with my inner Honey Boo Boo. Or at least my inner 19-year-old. ANYONE HAVE ADVICE? PLEASE?

Footnote: I’m currently searching for someone to make a special pilgrimage with me to Illinois, to witness this holiest of holy structures. Please let me know if you’re that someone.

Babymoon in Iceland

After a reassuring 8-week ultrasound, my hubs and I were kind of like, “Erm, now what?” We’re used to 2-week waits and constant monitoring of my ovaries, not entire months going by in between check-ups on a fetus. That is living inside me. Presumably. We’re also accustomed to hearing shitty news, not hearty “congratulations” from fertility doctors. All this to say, we’re finding it pretty damn weird transitioning into the life of a couple with a (knock-on-wood) healthy pregnancy. We still aren’t going to buy any books or maternity clothes or nursery stuff until waaaaay down the line, but one thing we have managed to do is plan a babymoon to Iceland. My logic is, if we go in early June, we’ll be halfway into the second trimester, which is a pretty safe time to travel. And if all hell breaks loose and Right On Time Fetus doesn’t make it… well, it’ll just have to be a miscarriagemoon because I will go stark frickin’ mad if I don’t escape Toronto in the next few months. This sounds insanely snobby, but I’m used to going on press trips, very regularly, to exotic destinations, and I’ve had to turn down COUNTLESS trips this past year (Cuba, Peru, Napa, Italy, Grenada, etc.) all due to fertility treatments. I really, really, really just want to fall asleep on a plane and wake up to puffins and tiny ponies and volcanoes and so many women named Björk.

I’m also desperate to visit the Blue Lagoon because, um, hello:

lagoon

And apparently it’s safe for pregnant women to swim in, being at a nice warm 28 degrees instead of a boiling hot tub.

Also, look how cute this wee little Icelandic pony is:

pony

He’s even got some kind of equine beard happening. You go, pony!

Anyway, we’re pretty stoked for this (even if our bank accounts are not) — but do you think we’re being reckless and stupid? All the “normal” parents we know say babymoons are essential to preserving sanity and we should go for it, but the infertile in me keeps saying, “Is this too risky?” The medical care in Iceland is top-notch and we won’t be straying too far from Reykjavik, the food is pretty guaranteed to be safe, and the flying/jet-lag shouldn’t be too taxing on the bod. Still, I have a mixture of fear and excitement…

Explaining my “unexplained infertility”

splainin

During my first visit to the fertility clinic, my doctor told me that when it comes to deciphering what’s preventing a woman from getting preggo, there are both macro and micro problems. Macro is the big-picture stuff — Are there functioning sperm? Are you ovulating? Are you a senior citizen who shouldn’t really be doing this in the first place? Are your tubes blocked? Then there’s the micro stuff that often goes undetected until the IVF stage — Do you have natural killer cells? Chromosomal issues? A missing protein in your uterine lining? Basically, I was told that, in my case, we were dealing with a micro issue. But looking back, I am pretty sure I know what it was: Itsy bitsy but super fucking problematic blockages in my fallopian tubes that were undetectable with an HSG.

Considering every single test I ever did was perfect, and I clearly am not dealing with repeat miscarriages or embryos that won’t implant into my lining, and considering that every single IUI failed, and that the only other time I got pregnant was with an ectopic, I’m almost certain that my problem comes down to my tubes. The difficulty with a saline sonogram is that it involves shooting water into the uterus and then, with some pressure, shooting that water through the tubes to check that they’re clear — and, well, this is hardly comparable to a teensie tiny egg making its way through. I would imagine that even the most microscopic bumps or scar tissue in a fallopian tube (that you wouldn’t detect with an HSG) would look like bloody Everest to your average egg and effectively prevent it from reaching its destination. And if it does get fertilized? Even worse, because it starts becoming stickier and stickier as the days go by.

So, why would I have a bunch of speed bumps in my tubes, you ask, especially if all my other tests come back with A+ on them? Well, my doctor-mom very bluntly informed me that I probably got chlamydia at some earlier point in my life when I wasn’t using condoms (thanks for the “freedom”, birth control pill!), had no symptoms whatsoever, and it went away on its own, but left scar tissue in my fallopian tubes. Not enough to fully block them (which is too bad, because in that case our provincial healthcare system would have paid for my IVF), but just enough to mess with me for two years.

Anyway, that’s my theory. And considering there are TONS of women out there dealing with “unexplained infertility” and the only way to test our fallopian tubes is by sticking a hose up our bits and turning the water on to full blast, I’m thinking REs should maybe look into this a bit more carefully, or at least skip to the IVF stage a bit faster when they get a patient like me (rather than doing 6 useless IUIs).

Thoughts?

And Lazy Embryo shall be rechristened Right On Time Embryo!

Once again throwing all logic and rationale to the wind, I woke up this morning and was convinced the sunshine outside my window meant my ultrasound would go just dandy. All this week, I’ve been coping with my usual dread that we wouldn’t see a heartbeat or we’d find out The Embryo Formerly Known as Lazy Embryo wasn’t growing on schedule. Add to this the fact that my husband is away for work, and it was just bad feelings 24/7. I couldn’t even blog, ladies, that’s how terrible it was. And yet, for some reason, I felt OK this morning, largely thanks to the aforementioned weather conditions in Toronto, as if I couldn’t possibly have a miscarriage while the sun was shining.

Fortunately, my gut was right. Yet again, I had the massively pregnant ultrasound tech, but this time I was kind enough to hurl fewer daggers at her via my gaze. Then when she started moving the wand around my stomach, she mentioned the transvaginal ultrasound that was coming up, and that it “should be the last one after this,” which sounded reassuring. Finally, right before the session was over, she turned the screen toward me and pointed out the embryo and the heartbeat.

I was shocked. Some garbled nonsense came out of my mouth. The image looked like all those images I’ve seen belonging to real, live pregnant women — but it was ME! As if!

spark

Granted, it still looks more like a series of blobs than an actual human, and I have no freakin’ clue where its head is, but those are MY blobs up in that picture, bitches! And they’re measuring at 8 weeks 1 day, with a heart rate of 173, which means I’m officially transferring to an OB. I was kind of speechless as my fertility doc said, “My work here is done.” Then he gave me a hug, which I thought was nice.

So with that, I’m renaming Lazy Embryo as the new and improved Right On Time Embryo. My husband also calls him Spark, because that’s all he was on the ultrasound screen at the time of transfer, but frankly I think that nickname is a bit too cutesy.

Anyway, thank you all for being such a wonderful source of support throughout this insane process and having faith in this little guy when I didn’t. I’m sure this journey will involve a heck of a lot more stress and anxiety, but for once I’m feeling genuinely excited about it.

Trust issues

So now that I’m between ultrasounds — a phrase I never thought I’d be able to say — I’ve had a bit of time to calm down from my last appointment and reassess. A few commenters (and friends in real life) called me out for being too harsh on my embryo and giving it a complex about being lazy before it’s even reached 7 weeks. Y’all were totally right about this; I mean, obviously I am kidding when I call a bunch of cells a lazy-ass, but it’s occurred to me that this is all a defence mechanism. Having dealt with my hopes being crushed by an ectopic last year, I decided to blame that embryo because my doctor said it was most likely just a bad egg that got sticky at the wrong time. But then, I clearly developed a mistrust of ALL my embryos — like they were ALL hell-bent on causing me pain when I least expected it. Because of this, I’ve been trying to not get too emotionally attached, to not even acknowledge this heartbeat inside me as a “real” heartbeat.

This isn’t right, though. It’s not fair to this little guy (I’m convinced it’s a boy) who’s clearly trying to do its best to grow. So it’s time I learn to respect the embryo, regardless of the outcome. I may not get carried away and start buying pregnancy books or maternity clothes, but at the very least, I am going to try harder to relax and have faith. Like that scene in Mean Girls, I have to own up to my unnecessary criticisms, apologize and know that if I were to close my eyes and fall back, my embryo would catch me. Wait, shit, that could actually turn out really bad. YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY HERE!

trustfall

Lazy embryo is alive… and still lazy.

I’m not a religious person and I don’t believe in signs, but holy crap was I ever searching for them this morning. Sitting in the waiting room at the clinic, I was all, “It seems busier than normal today, but also quieter than normal today — does that mean my baby is alive or dead? If they’re making me wait longer than five minutes, does that mean they somehow know my baby is dead and are delaying the ultrasound?” Then my hubby opened up his laptop, started doing some work and asked me for a sip of the tea I’d brought with me, and I was like, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?! YOU WANT TO START SIPPING TEA WHEN WE’RE ABOUT TO FIND OUT THERE’S NO HEARTBEAT?!!” Then, the worst of all possible signs: I get called back by a tech I’ve never met before, who is 8 months pregnant and doing absolutely nothing to conceal this fact, and she says my husband isn’t allowed to come in with me. Great — so I’m going to have a fucking pregnant belly in my face and nobody by my side as I listen to the absence of a heartbeat.

She asked when my last period was and we went through the awkwardness of IVF embryo-dating. Then we did the abdominal ultrasound — in total silence — and the only thing she asked me was whether I did a fresh or frozen transfer. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! Afterwards, we moved on to the trans-vaginal ultrasound and, once again, she’s saying nothing and I’m hearing nothing. Then she pipes up with, “I’m just going to check your ovaries because they can sometimes be a little tender at this point in time.” Again, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? WHAT POINT IN WHAT TIME, LADY?! Then it was over, and I had to sit in my doctor’s waiting room until he got the results. Basically, I assumed it was horrible news, and when we finally got called into his office, I couldn’t even look at his face because I knew what was coming. His cheery demeanour was clearly just for show.

We sat down opposite his desk and he closed the door.

“So, getting pregnant is easy, right?” he said. What? Was he joking about the fact that we’ve failed in this pursuit yet again? Then he sat down opposite us and said three beautiful words: “Everything looks good.”

I couldn’t believe it. I seriously couldn’t believe it. I’m pretty sure I made him repeat the above phrase at least three times. He went on to say that the embryo/fetus (what is it called at this point, anyway?) is measuring at 6 weeks 4 days — I expressed concern that I should be at 7 weeks by now and he said that, no, I was “naturally” supposed to be at 6 weeks 5 days, but it’s hard to be accurate at this stage anyway. Then I asked what the heart rate was and he said 128 beats per minute. This sounded low to me, so I asked if he was sure this was acceptable and he said yes. Then I asked, once again, if he was SURE this was acceptable and he rolled his eyes. Again, he said yes (and implied: shut up). Looking at the American Pregnancy Association’s notes on this, it does indeed appear to be fine, especially at this early stage.

And yet, because I had been hoping for an embryo measuring 7 weeks or more, and a heart rate at 140 or higher, I left the clinic still feeling nervous and worrying that these numbers were once again on the “lazy” side of things. The good news is that I don’t have to wait until 12 weeks for my next ultrasound — I’m getting another one in 10 days, when I should be closer to 8 weeks. Apparently, if that turns out fine, I can also request a photo of it (my clinic is seriously stingy when it comes to handing out images of anything).

We received some advice to “have sex but not intercourse” (um, OK), not get into an airplane, and not do ANY exercise whatsoever until we hit the 12-week mark. Then, it’s thumbs up to all the above, and no more progesterone suppositories.

So that’s all the news for now. I’m emotionally drained, to be honest. It still doesn’t feel real, and I don’t think I’ll actually believe this is happening until I can hear that beautiful, lazy-ass heartbeat with my own ears and see something that resembles a human on the ultrasound screen. Cue the 10-day wait, I suppose…

Btw, I’m pretty sure this is exactly what my embryo is telling me:

emotional