Water Redeemed

This was the weekend of another family trip, kind of a pair of day trips that got melded into a weekend getaway. The occasion was a celebration of Kat’s birthday (29 years young tomorrow!), and the destination was the Plymouth/Carver area of Massachusetts for some beach shenanigans and adventures at King Richard’s Faire.

Which went okay. King Richard’s Faire was, ultimately, a wash. We got there around 10:30 and were thrilled to get front row-ish seats for the tiger show, but around the time the show started, so did the rain. Within a few minutes, it went from spitting to a downpour, and the awesomeness of seeing big cats jump around the stage and show off their majesty was rapidly overpowered by the misery of palming handfuls of water out of our faces.

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Sam dressed up as a pirate but had no interest in the fair whatsoever because of the rain. He and Kyle went on a swinging boat ride, but after that, the whines set in and our attempts to keep Sam entertained despite the storm were mostly futile. He felt better once a few performers teased smiles out of him, and even better after he had a large pretzel and ice cream (look, you don’t go to the faire and eat healthy, ok), but the realization that we weren’t going to drop $300 on a shoulder dragon hit him kind of hard towards the end of the day.

Kat had initially planned an elaborate costume for this excursion, all feathers and corsets and the like. She wanted to portray the Raven Queen from Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder lore, but after we found out the weather would be iffy at best, she pared the costume down to just a feathery mantle and a gorgeous wrap that looked like wings. She looked awesome (though she won’t let me post the pictures; I have them on my phone, so I have proof) but also got drenched and learned that the black feathers of her mantle weren’t actually black feathers–they were rooster feathers dyed black, and the dye wasn’t set enough to not trickle down her arms during the downpours. That said, she got a gorgeous tooled leather collar as a birthday gift for herself, so all wasn’t lost there.

Kyle spent the entire time with a soggy Sam because I can’t carry anything that weighs more than 10 lbs (doctor’s orders; that along with pelvic rest make me basically the most pathetic wife ever). That said, Kyle was also sad that we didn’t have $300 to spend on a shoulder dragon.

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As for me, I managed to acquire a barometric pressure headache at around 3:00 in the morning before anyone woke up. The right side of my head felt like it was cracking open like an egg, and I ultimately shuffled off to the hanging swing chair building to rest both my pelvic muscles (which scream at me if I walk for more than 10 minutes or do physically strenuous things like rolling over in bed) and my head. To say I was disappointed is the understatement of the year; I LOVE King Richard’s Faire. I love exploring the shops, watching the shows, and overall just exploring. But my god, I was so miserable, I couldn’t even keep my head up.

And that headache lasted for two more days, until the stupid tropical rainstorm that caused it finally shuffled out to sea.

(I tried SO many remedies to calm things down, but ultimately, with a barometric pressure headache, you just have to weep and soldier through)

But that was just Sunday. Saturday, which we spent in Plymouth, was a fantastic day.

We went to Plymouth last summer, just on a fun day trip to Plimoth Plantation and to wander around on the beach for a bit; it wasn’t a bad day, though it was agonizingly hot. The beach was crowded, as beaches tend to be at the absolute peak of summer grossness, too crowded for us to get much farther down the shore than a tiny sliver of sand right beside the parking lot. This was meh in and of itself, but poor Sam had the worst time of it–being all of two years old, he was terrified of both the sand and the waves and remained either firmly planted in one place or attached to either me or Kyle like a lamprey.

So my expectations for a beach day on Saturday weren’t terribly high, especially as it’s October, and though the weather was nice, it was a little cool for the beach.

We started our jaunt at the Cabby Shack (if you’re in Plymouth, I recommend them very highly, though be forewarned that the cheese in the mac and cheese is basically queso–not bad, but a surprise), where we feasted on the thickest clam chowdah in the world, fried clam strips, and coconut shrimp. Sam was game to get his picture taken with one of Plymouth’s infamous lobsters…

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…and once we’d done that, we headed back to the same beach we’d visited the year before. Again, my expectations weren’t particularly high; Plymouth beach isn’t a bad beach, but I always prefer my autumnal beach jaunts to take place on rockier coastlines or somewhere on Cape Cod that’s removed enough from streets and bustle that all you can hear are crashing waves and seagulls.

(maybe I’m a beach snob)

(but not as bad as Kat is, though in her defense, she spent most of her life living in Santa Barbara)

Once we’d parked, Kat headed off to explore and Kyle and I escorted Sam down to the water’s edge. Things were already a little different–Sam eagerly kicked off his flip flops and ran through the sand, not at all wigged out by the different textures beneath his feet. He hesitated just a moment when confronted with ridiculously cold North Atlantic seawater (look, you don’t go swimming at New England beaches, unless you like turning into a popsicle) but a beat later, he was splashing through the waves and laughing gleefully as he found rock after rock to toss into the water with Kyle.

And they had a blast. Kyle isn’t a big beach person–his beach experiences mostly come from the Gulf Coast of Texas, and in his own words, those beaches “aren’t the best” (he’s very polite). Even when he’s not out of the car and splashing in the water, he’s expressed that the vastness of the sea and sky make him skittish (to which I always say, “You’re from Texas? Where you have nothing but sky?”), so when it comes to beaches, he’s reluctant, to say the least.

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But on Saturday, he and Sam dove in together. He tried to teach Sam how to skip rocks (that went about as well as you’d expect), and then they got to work trying to build a sandcastle. Kyle led Sam into the waves (pretty tame at this beach; nothing that went above Sam’s knees), and they both had an impressively great time frolicking about, as if neither had felt anything but love for a beach in their lives. Sam loved the beach so much that, at one point, he scooped up a handful of seawater in joy and tried to drink it as I squawked, “No, don’t do that!”

Well. It was a learning experience. And it didn’t ruin the day for him; he spat the water out and then went right back to playing happily, jumping up and down in the water and screeching, “Yay beach!” as loudly as he could.

Kat, meanwhile, returned to us with a handful of seashells (always her gift to me when we hit the beach) and a $20 bill (she called it her birthday gift from the ocean and used it to buy that tooled leather collar on Sunday).

Once we were all beached out, we packed up the car again, de-sanded ourselves, and headed back to the hotel. Most of Plymouth’s hotels are quaint little B&Bs or fancy spas, so our choices were either squeeze into a way-too-fancy room at a spa or B&B or the Hilton. Of the two, the Hilton seemed the better option, and we had a nice room on the second floor, just a quick walk from the pool and jacuzzi.

Yes, pool. An indoor pool, at that. Nothing terribly deep (the deep end was 4 feet even, the shallow about 3’9”), nothing too fancy, but we all wanted to get some swimming in, and Kyle and I wanted to give Sam a chance to try a swimming pool again, this time accompanied by our guiding hands.

He was reluctant to step into the pool, to say the least, but Kyle was right there holding onto him the entire time, and I was nearby (in a super cute suit, I might add; thank you, ModCloth, for still having cute plus-sized bathing suits despite your turn towards the awful lately). Gradually, Sam’s fear of the water began to disappear. He still didn’t want to try floating on his own (and every time we tried to sneak it in, he screamed, “I want to get out!”), but he liked “swimming” between me and Kyle and splashing about and playing overall. I couldn’t hold him as much because, again, lifting over 10 lbs (I gave myself some leeway because water makes things buoyant and that helps with lifting), but I held his hands and guided him around the pool and helped him get over his fear of putting his hair in the water.

So it went really well! Sam likes playing in pools now, though he’s still not quite independent in the water, but we’re getting there. Overall, Saturday was a day of redeeming water adventures, and I’m happy about that.

We ended the day with a trip to a local IHOP, an IHOP that was… surprisingly really nice inside. Most IHOPs have that really casual “yeah, we’re IHOP, don’t expect much” feel to them, but this one was decorated like some sort of fancy independent restaurant, with exposed industrial ceilings and the kind of shabby chic decor that would make it feel totally normal on any given HGTV renovation show. The food remained IHOP-y, but the fanciness and the fact that we were the only ones there turned it into this strange sort of liminal space, and I’m still not sure that it was a real experience.

And it was a good weekend. A wet weekend, a weekend that ended with us eating McDonald’s food instead of turkey legs at King Richard’s Faire and driving home at 2 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. like we’d expected, but a good weekend nonetheless. And best of all, Sam is no longer afraid of large bodies of water. Hallelujah.

Big Brother Blues

Sam’s been having a rough week. Roughly every night has been punctuated with nightmares, usually about Kyle walking away from him or Kyle not being able to help him with something scary (like falling into a pond). We have these nightmare phases whenever Sam becomes aware of a big change coming up, and there are a LOT of big changes coming up, one of them bigger than the others.

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(hint: the big change is acquiring two babies, seen here at my 11 week appointment)

All my life, I’ve imagined having a gaggle of kids (the “gaggle” in my imagination has shrunk to a “few” since getting pregnant is such a pain in the ass). I grew up with two siblings, and my parents have four siblings apiece, so the idea of only childhood is kind of a foreign concept to me, and has been since my sister was born in 1986. Kyle only had one brother, but he, too, couldn’t imagine having just one kid, even though that one kid took a LOT of work to bring into the world and has the energy of roughly five kids combined.

So it was never a question that Sam wouldn’t be our only child, but as our attempts to have more kids took longer and longer, Kyle and I started to wonder about something that never crossed our minds when we’d talked about family size before: how was this huge change going to impact Sam emotionally?

Now, of course, that question wasn’t enough to keep us from charging forward–we’re both oldest siblings, and we turned out pretty okay (most of the time)–but it still gave us pause. Although we know that Sam will eventually adjust to older brotherhood really well, the transition is something that’s worrisome because neither of us really remember how to help him cope with it.

As I mentioned before, I’m the oldest of three. My sister was born several months before my third birthday, so I wasn’t quite old enough to feel established as THE child yet. I don’t remember any strong emotions building up to my sister’s birth; anything I remember from the nineish months leading up to my big sisterhood is completely unrelated to that and more related to things like the awesome green icing on my birthday cake or the hurricane that knocked down the entire woods behind our house.

I don’t even remember anything about when my sister was actually born. Pictures exist of me visiting my mom and sister in the hospital, sitting on a rocking chair and holding her, counting her toes, playing with my mom’s wonderful hospital bed. I don’t remember feeling anything, though; I’m sure I did, but it wasn’t anything strong that my brain decided to store as a memory.

Family lore has it that at some point when my sister was very young, I remarked to my dad, “Daddy, do you remember when it was just you, me, and Mommy? That was best.” This seems to be a pretty common thing for kids becoming big siblings, even if I don’t remember it happening. Kyle’s mom tells the story of him asking, a week after his brother came home from the hospital, “So when does he go back?” My favorite, though, is the story of Kat’s father, who apparently punched his younger brother the day he got back from the hospital.

BUT. I don’t remember this conversation. What I do remember is Christmas. As with every Christmas, we spent a good chunk of the holiday season at my grandparents’ house in New Jersey, along with the rest of my dad’s family. The two years prior, I’d been the star of the show–I was the first (and to that point, only) grandchild, and all of the aunties and uncles fawned over me and played with me and indulged my toddler whims. My grandparents made remarkable gifts just for me (some of which are still in my house, like the enormous toychest my grandfather built when I was two? Ish?), and overall, it was a good time.

But this year was different. I wasn’t the only grandchild anymore. Now there were two new grandkids added to the equation–my sister and my cousin Tim, born about six weeks apart. The attention was, naturally, almost entirely on the new babies–that’s pretty much par for the course at holidays. Any time a new baby or two or three (as was the case on my mom’s side of the family one year) shows up, that’s what everyone wants to talk about.

(as an aside about my mom’s side of the family: by the time I came along, there were four older cousins, and my first younger cousin was born a year after I was, so jealousy wasn’t an issue there)

I remember feeling really sad. I wasn’t angry, not really. There wasn’t anybody to be angry with, because it wasn’t anybody’s fault. I was still the cutest kid in the universe (Sam hadn’t been born yet, you see)…

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…and I was still lavished with presents. But I felt left out of all the excitement, like I was no longer important to the family as a whole. This isn’t logical, of course, but three-year-olds are hardly known for their feats of logic.

It was my beloved Grandma who eventually noticed that I was sad. This is the two of us in that moment (I’m playing with what I mentally called “mean Santa” because he looked like he wanted to destroy the world rather than bring it joy).

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(I sometimes wonder if Sam got any of my genes, but this picture is exactly what he looks like when he’s being serious)

Grandma took me aside and gave me a big hug. She made sure to tell me how very much she loved me and that the presence of my new sister and cousin hadn’t changed that a bit. She told me that I was always going to be special to her, that nothing in the world would ever make her love me less. She took the time out to let me know all of that, and I believed her because that’s what I had been waiting for all along–for her to tell me that I still mattered.

(of course, I’m sure that people told me that from the moment my mom got pregnant with my sister, but this is the instance I remember the most, and also no, I’m not crying, I just have allergies to human emotion)

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(but I do miss you, Grandma)

So that’s been the first step of what Kyle and I are trying to do with Sam. I’ve noticed that it works pretty well: on Wednesday, when I got home from work, Sam was acting pretty aloof. He didn’t want to talk to me or give me a hug until I said, “Hey. Dude. I want you to know that even when the new babies get here, you’re still gonna be my guy, okay? I still love you just the same; that’s never going to change.”

And then he tackle hugged me, and we had spaghetti.

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(the universal language of reconciliation)

By the time my younger brother came along in 1988, I was an old pro at the sibling thing. I was also five years old, which helped a lot, I think. I remember how I felt when my mom was pregnant with my brother; I knew from the get-go that he was going to be a boy, and I was SUPER EXCITED about that. The day before he was born, I remember dyeing Easter Eggs, and the kit came with a tiny sticker that said “brother.” I held onto that sticker, and when I met him for the first time in the hospital a few days later, I stood on tiptoe and placed the sticker on his swaddling blanket, just so the world would know, this was MY BROTHER.

Probably because of my age, I felt compelled to help a lot more as well. With my sister, I’d been pretty limited in what I could realistically do to help–again, two-year-olds aren’t really known for their childcare skills. As a five-year-old, though, man, what couldn’t I do? I remember helping my mom to give my brother a sponge bath when he was still little enough to have the stump of an umbilical cord (“eww,” I remember thinking, but my mom promised me that the stump would be gone soon). I remember that he cried a lot, and I remember that I could help with that–I’d play music for him from a copper windmill music box we had, and that would help him feel better. I remember feeding him baby food from a bowl, disgusted that he was so eager to eat this mush, but glad to help him do so.

Being a helper was HUGE. It made transitioning from having two siblings to having three siblings a LOT easier on my emotions; I never felt left out or like attention wasn’t on me because I was necessary the entire time. Nobody could get my brother to sleep like I could (so my five-year-old brain thought). I helped and I was needed.

That’s part two of our strategy with Sam, and it also seems to be working to an extent. All of the baby books we’ve bought to explain things to him talk about how he can help with the new babies–playing with them gently, helping give them baths, helping them calm down when they’re sad. I know I’ll be relying on him for even more than that, things like fetching diapers and feeding them and helping with tummy time and who knows what else? He seems to like the idea of being a helper, and we’re trying to involve him even now, letting him choose a few things for the babies… nothing crazy and major, but I think it wouldn’t hurt to have him choose some blankets or this season’s Wubbanubs.

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(“What should I buy?” ask first-time moms. “WUBBANUBS!” I roar without letting them finish the sentence)

And, of course, there’s my dad’s brilliant idea: we’ll have two gifts at the hospital for Sammy “from the twins.” The more like Santa Claus he sees them, the better.

It’s a rough transition. I don’t think it could ever be anything but. At the same time, though… I think he’ll be okay. We just need to keep reassuring him that he’s loved and letting him be a helper, and he’ll be okay. Eventually.

The Right Choice

This was going to be a long entry in which I went through my mental list of “things we need for the babies” but when I got about halfway through writing that, something happened that made me change course.

I have a deadline coming up for my job; not for another week and a half, but it’s coming up. On Tuesday, my boss came in to talk to me about what needed to happen for the deadline. The meeting had me tensing up, at least partly because my to-do list got longer than I’d anticipated it being. When the meeting ended, I got to work on my first action item and paused midway through to run to the bathroom. I figured, I’d check the first thing off my list, have lunch, and then really dive in.

That all changed when I got to the bathroom because, you see, I was spotting.

Spotting is common in early pregnancy, even more common in twin pregnancies. Reasons for this vary–cervical sensitivity, old blood clearing out, one’s body being a COMPLETE JERK–but most of the time, it doesn’t mean anything, as long as it’s not (a) bright red and (b) accompanied by cramping. Still, when you’ve had as many miscarriages as I have, seeing any blood–brown, pink, or red–automatically sets off klaxons in your brain.

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I called my doctor as soon as I got back to the office, and the nurse on the line told me to come in for bloodwork to make sure that my HCG numbers were still high. I thought this was pretty odd–I’m 10 weeks along, so HCG should be kind of besides the point by now, right? But I needed answers, so I went, in a rush of panic; and once I’d gotten my blood drawn, I went home to rest and wait for the results. To my surprise (they’d told me that I wouldn’t get results until at least the next day), the office called me back less than 20 minutes after I got home, largely because the nurse had spoken to my doctor personally.

Let’s rewind some. My doctor, Dr. Solano, was my obstetrician when I was pregnant with Sam. I hadn’t planned to see him, but the doctor I had planned to see had apparently decided that she wanted to be a urologist instead of an obstetrician, which was weird, but okay. Dr. Solano immediately put me at ease with his friendliness and straightforward responses to my questions. He didn’t sugar coat things, but he also gave me information in a kind of enough manner that I could digest it without an ounce of panic. Even towards the end of my pregnancy with Sam, when my body went completely haywire, he stayed calm and optimistic, while still maintaining a realistic view of what was going on and making sure to get me the help I needed.

So naturally, when we found out that we’d FINALLY managed to get pregnant, I called his office right away. I couldn’t imagine seeing anyone else for my prenatal care, even though he’d since moved to an office that was farther away than the one I’d seen him at when I was pregnant with Sam. As soon as the RE’s office released me (that’s what they call it when you’ve successfully gotten pregnant and can start seeing a regular obstetrician instead of the REs), I called Dr. Solano’s office to set up appointments.

The new office handled appointments a little differently than I expected. When I’d been pregnant with Sam, I’d gone in for a blood test to confirm the pregnancy and then gone in for a complete physical with Dr. Solano a couple of weeks later, around the 8 week mark. By simple merit of the process I’d been through, I wouldn’t have been able to have an appointment at 8 weeks, but it turned out that they don’t really do that anymore anyway. Instead, I’d go in and see a nurse (in my case, a pair of nurses) ASAP to go over the whole pregnancy process. At around 10-11 weeks, I’d have an ultrasound with a nurse practitioner. I wouldn’t see an actual doctor until around 16 weeks, two weeks into the second trimester.

Odd, I thought, but alright. I went to the first appointment on Friday, September 22, and it was… well, it happened. A pair of nurses sat down with me and went through all the dos and don’ts of pregnancy with me, all of which I know by heart and could probably teach a class on. They gave me a booklet about those dos and don’ts, a slightly revised copy of the one I’d received four years ago, when I’d giddily gone in for my first appointment with Sam. The primary questions I’d had referenced any way in which twin pregnancy might be different from singleton pregnancy; mostly, their responses were “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to look that up.” When the appointment ended, they sent me to the building’s lab for bloodwork and a urine test, and then I was free to go.

That appointment left me feeling something I’d never felt during my pregnancy with Sam: processed. My appointments with Sam were never particularly long, but that’s largely because I didn’t really have any questions 99% of the time. When I did have questions, Dr. Solano answered them quickly and thoroughly, and I never felt the need to do more of my own research when I got home. The nurses were friendly and joked around with me a lot, and we all established a good rapport that continued when I went into the hospital to deliver.

This stood in stark contrast to what I’d heard about the differences between obstetricians and midwives in terms of prenatal care. For those not in the know, the obstetrician vs. midwife debate tends to be a hot one in pregnancy communities. People complain that obstetricians are too cold, that they leave patients feeling processed and rushed, that midwives are warmer and more caring and will take as much time as you need. I don’t have much experience with midwives (one checked me for dilation when I went to the hospital contracting at 36 weeks, and I later called the check “the fist of justice” because I imagine only God or an embodiment of Justice could cause that much pain to a person’s cervix), but my experience with obstetricians has always been enough for me to argue against this stereotype. Maybe some doctors are like that, but not my doctor.

And yet, after that first appointment, I had doubt. The nurses seemed dismissive of the miscarriages I’ve had (“oh, but those were part of the IVF process,” they said, not writing down the number 4 when I said that was how many miscarriages I’d had. “Yes,” I tried to explain, “I was going through IVF, but I was also pregnant and miscarried.”) and didn’t know that I was having twins until I told them three or four times, despite it being written on my file. I didn’t feel like a person to them; I felt like a number or a checkbox, just another person to process before getting to lunch.

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So I wondered if I’d made the right decision. Had medical care changed so much since Sam was born? Was this how all of my prenatal appointments would be?

And that brings me back to spotting on Wednesday. When the nurse on the phone told me I needed bloodwork, it seemed to confirm my worst fears: that nobody knew who I was, that nobody was going to actually treat me like an individual but simply as another cog in the wheel. And then she called back and said she’d spoken to Dr. Solano, and not only that, but he’d wanted me to come in immediately for an ultrasound and appointment.

Which, not to sound entitled to healthcare or anything, but that’s what I’d hoped for and expected.

Kyle and I hurried out to the car and drove all the way to Dr. Solano’s new office. The receptionist warned us that we might have to wait a while, but also told us that Dr. Solano was adamant about seeing us that day, even if we were his last appointment of the day. We did wait for about half an hour before being called in to the ultrasound, and though the technician didn’t know that we were pregnant with twins (honestly, I feel like I actually need to wear a shirt that says, “TWINS” or “#TWINNING” sometimes), we got to see that despite the spotting, they were perfectly healthy with strong heartbeats, tiny kicking limbs, and fingers.

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(the tech said that those aren’t fingers on Baby B, but COME ON, what else could they be?)

That put my mind at ease, but not as much as the appointment with Dr. Solano about half an hour later did. Once we’d gotten our photo booth strip of pictures, we returned to the waiting room and were shortly called into a small, warm office. Kyle and I waited in there for about fifteen minutes, sipping from tiny bottles of Wells Fargo water (no, I didn’t know they made water either) and joking around about various methods of contraception until Dr. Solano came in and shook both of our hands, looking genuinely happy to see us.

Which is always a good sign.

He told us that everything looked fine, that I should take it easy and stay on pelvic rest to prevent further spotting adventures (Kyle looked sad), that heavy lifting and heavy activity were out. We all caught up on our lives since Sam was born–he was promoted to the head OB/GYN at a new hospital (which he explained using Star Trek metaphors that Kyle later nitpicked), we have a three-year-old and impending twins.

Best of all, he was able to answer questions, and was happy to do so. He told me that my pregnancy wouldn’t be very different from a singleton pregnancy, except that it would be shorter and involve a lot more ultrasounds (at least one a month to measure the twins’ growth). When I expressed my nervousness at the prospect of needing a C-section to give birth (nationally, twin births are a LOT more likely to be C-section births–about 60-75%, depending on what you read, compared to 30% for singletons), he told me that he likes to avoid C-sections for twins at all costs. He talked about having a 40% C-section rate for twins, which blew my mind–that’s a LOT better than average. And he said, “If you end up needing a C-section, I’ll be right there the whole way.”

It’s a silly thing to be comforted by, but it worked.

The appointment ended, and as Kyle and I headed back to our car, reassured, Dr. Solano made it a point to tell us, “Guys, I was really, really happy to see you on my schedule.” And all the doubt was gone.

It all reinforces some of my strongest beliefs about prenatal care, namely that it’s less about midwife vs. doctor and more about who makes you feel heard, cared for, and safe. For me, that’s an obstetrician (a very specific one, but still an obstetrician). For someone else, that might be a midwife. You really just have to go with whomever works best for you.

My next appointment is on Wednesday, an ultrasound and all that blood drawn for various prenatal tests (I still need to make sure that our insurance will cover Harmony–that’s the most accurate test for chromosomal abnormalities–even though we’re having twins). I’m seeing Dr. Solano’s nurse practitioner, whom he’s said is really great, so I have high hopes. Overall, I’m feeling a lot more confident about this pregnancy, and that’s a huge relief.

Symptoms and Big Siblings

When you’ve had as many miscarriages as I have, you start to get paranoid about feeling those early pregnancy symptoms; if they aren’t overwhelming and making you miserable, you instantly start to panic and think, “This is it, I’m losing this one, too.”

I didn’t really notice my symptoms yesterday, because it was a crazy day at work (worked late for the second day in a row trying to meet a couple of deadlines). I was so worn out from work itself that I couldn’t even pay attention to the usual pregnancy stuff–sure, I was tired, but that’s to be expected when you’re busting your butt to meet a deadline. Sure, I felt a little queasy, but I’d also had some tense exchanges with a couple of people that would’ve set any anxious gal’s stomach a-fluttering. And I went to bed early, as I have every night for the past month, not thinking much of pregnancy but rather thinking of how crazy work had been.

So when I woke up this morning and didn’t immediately feel pukey and achy, a little bit of panic set in. I hadn’t been paying attention yesterday; had my symptoms been gradually fading into oblivion? Was I going to have to sheepishly delete my “Babies #2 and 3” album on Facebook and write another entry on miscarriage? Would I spend the weekend chugging moscato and Cosmos and drowning my sorrows?

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Well… no.

I had some breakfast once I got downstairs (not an easy feat–Sam was in a very friendly mood this morning; more on that later), and it only took about three bites, plus a sip of cranberry juice, for the nausea to return with a vengeance. Crisis averted, time to go back to whining about how sick I feel (the answer? Very).

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(I wish this could be me, I would love to be horizontal right now)

So in terms of emotions, I’m basically vacillating between paranoia at the idea of miscarrying and panic at the fact that I’m less than seven months away from having two newborns. I’m having such a hard time wrapping my head around the latter that I can hardly begin to plan things, which is a fine kettle of fish because I love planning things. I just don’t know where to start is, I think, the main problem. I know what we need, in theory, and I know that it’s going to be a lot of investment in Things, but it’s also pretty overwhelming.

A lot of it was easier to think about when we were thinking of just one baby because so much of the planning involved recycling what we used with Sam: one crib with its mattress already there, one pack ‘n play, one set of baby clothes (though if you think I wouldn’t buy more clothes if it turned out we were having a girl, you’re a little crazy), one this, one that. Now recycling won’t cover what we need; we’ve got to get double of everything. One more crib and mattress, more baby clothes, two car seats, two of this, two of that. It’s… overwhelming.

Less overwhelmed is Sam, who’s reacting to the fact of becoming a big brother with something between apathy and excitement. Most of the time, it’s apathy because I don’t think he entirely understands what’s happening yet. Occasionally, he gets excited. He pokes my stomach to try and “talk” to the babies (when he’s feeling more impish, he leans back on me to “squish” the babies) and asks if he can come with me to the doctor to see the babies (which is basically going to be impossible until I’m a lot further along  because all of my ultrasounds are pretty much going to be really early in the morning).

He’s making the transition from junior preschool to preschool, and it’s mostly going well, finally. The first couple of days, Sam was really nervous about the change–he hates change overall, and school-related change is the absolute worst. He cried every day at drop off and told us that he didn’t like preschool, that he thought the teacher didn’t like him, that he was afraid of the bigger kids because they play too rough, etc.

Gradually, though, he’s started to enjoy himself. I dropped him off yesterday (because Kyle is having car trouble, as is customary in the fall) and he was all smiles and excitement, talking about playing in the sand table and how happy he was to see his friends. When I got home from work, he was all smiles, cuddles, and giggles. He was really glad to have been at school, told me that he had a great day (compared to his “wonderful” day the day before), and I’m glad. Transitions are hard for a three-year-old, and he’s got a lot coming up.

Sometimes I worry about how this is affecting him, because it’s one thing to be gung ho about having a lot of kids when you don’t have any, and it’s another when you’re planning to add a sibling to a family dynamic that already exists. Part of me gets really nervous that changing up the dynamic of our family will cause him serious issues, but then I remember, “oh yeah, I had two younger siblings, and I’m mostly okay.” It’s just a different perspective, at the end of the day.

I miss spending more time with him; my weekends end up being completely derailed by how tired I am, the fatigue resulting in a 2-3 hour nap for me every Saturday and Sunday (I’d take one every day of the week, but for some reason, my office isn’t okay with that). When I am up, I feel bad because I’m overall feeling so crappy that playing with Sam is just completely outside of my capabilities, at least in most of the ways he wants to play.

He’s so very sweet about it, too. He tries to find ways to make me more comfortable and capable of playing with him, and some of those methods work (e.g., bringing a table over so that we can play a game together) and some don’t (putting a pillow on the floor so that I can sit with him). He understands that I’m not at my best right now, and he’s doing everything he can to accommodate me, and that’s sweet.

This morning, he tried to keep me from going to work by “locking” the door (he actually unlocked it) and demanding “one more hug” and “one more kiss” until I finally had to pry him off and tell him I’d see him tonight. If nothing else, I’m really looking forward to those couple of months between me leaving my job and the twins being born where Sam and I can have our days together like we used to. He’s such a sweet boy.

Anyway. First proper prenatal appointment tomorrow, next ultrasound on October 4. Until then…

Just a little anxious

The fact of being pregnant with twins keeps hitting me roughly every 90 minutes, which is about when my stomach acid bubbles up like some sort of asshole Old Faithful. “Gaaaargh,” I say, feeling as if I’m about to start breathing fire, and then, “Why do I feel like this?” and then I remember that oh yeah, I’m pregnant with twins. This sends me into a mild panic spiral because I still don’t know how to process this fact, that there are two fetuses in me, that both are healthy, and that come probably somewhere between mid-March and early April, I will be responsible for the lives of not one but two potato humans.

(I call them potato humans because let’s be real: newborns don’t do much besides lie around and be fleshy potatoes. I mean, they also eat and poop and puke and cry, but most of my potatoes do that too, so)

I can’t really figure out a way to come to terms with this because it’s never happened to me or anyone I’m really close with before. With one baby, I could look at the roughly six gajillion friends I have who’ve had exactly one baby, or I could plumb the depths of my babysitting experience, or I could even look back on when my mother had my sister and brother and say, “Hey, I know something about that.” With two, though? Honestly, I think the only example I can think of off the top of my head is Full House, and much though I’d love to have John Stamos come help me with twin care, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

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(but, I mean, John Stamos, if you read this and you’re like “hey, I want to go help that chick out with her twin care,” I will not complain, like. At all)

So I imagine it’ll be a lot of flying by the seat of our pants and a lot of swearing (newborns have the benefit of not understanding swear words yet and not being able to repeat swear words yet, so you don’t have to worry about embarrassing Target trips where they remark, “I have a mosquito bite. What the fuck?” and you realize that maybe you should start censoring yourself a little bit), and I don’t imagine I’ll feel very sane for at least another three years after they’re born. Once they’re born, I imagine all attempts at planning anything will go straight out the window, and we’ll just be improvising a lot. We’ll survive, and we’ll be stronger and better for it, but it’s going to be chaotic getting there.

That said, to my absolute delight, I can start planning for some things, and that’s heavenly. I haven’t been able to plan for things since we started this process, so being able to say, “Alright, in Februaryish we’ll do a maternity shoot and we’ll need to get a minivan by late February at the very latest, and we’ll learn the genders sometime in November, and I’ll have energy for the holiday season” and things like that is awesome. I can say with absolute confidence that I’m not making any plans between March 1 and April 25 but that other days and times are theoretically open, particularly before the first of the year.

And I’m making lists of things we need two of, like two car seats, a double stroller, two bouncer things, two new sets of bottles, two million white onesies…

So all of that planning is keeping me from panicking too much about other scary aspects of this, specifically the health aspects.

My pregnancy with Sam was probably objectively an easy one for at least the first ~8 months. I didn’t have nausea so much as I had fullness (read: I could only eat one taco at a time 😦 ). My emotions were chaotic, and towards the end, I got REALLY tired of hauling around all that baby; but for the most part, I was pretty healthy. I didn’t gain too much weight until the last month, I maintained my usual levels of activity, I got enough sleep, and much though I hate pregnancy (and I do; I’d like to skip the next 30 some odd weeks and just get them here), it wasn’t a bad time.

At least until the last month. The last month, my body just got fed up with housing my adorable squatter. I ballooned right up, gaining a good 50 lbs over the course of a month. I never had swelling above the waist, the general ticket to ride a train to Ohshitsville, but my feet and legs were so swollen that we could draw smiley faces in them with our fingers (by “we” I mean me and Kat and Kyle). My liver enzymes were pretty elevated, and my blood pressure kept skyrocketing briefly before going back down to pregnancy lows again.

It was miserable.

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(this is funny because no, I could not even move like this for half a second)

And that was just with one baby! I’m looking at a pregnancy with two babies and feeling pretty concerned because twins make basically everything more likely to happen. On the one hand, you have things that are fairly common anyway like gestational diabetes and early delivery; on the other, you have panic-inducing conditions like preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome and oh, just about every other bad juju pregnancy thing you can think of. Scientifically, pregnancy is already an extremely risky prospect for anyone; but when you add double babies to the mix, things get dicey real fast.

Even assuming everything goes really well throughout pregnancy, there’s also the realization that 60% of twins are delivered via C-section. Now, I’m not a natural birth junky by any stretch of the imagination. I loved my epidural (I wanted to take it home with me), and I’m very glad that medical interventions exist. I’m absolutely fine, on an emotional level, with doing whatever it takes to bring my babies into the world safely and without incident.

That doesn’t change the fact that a C-section is major abdominal surgery.

I’m not really wigged out at the surgery aspect of it; the only thing that’s been an issue for me in previous surgeries is the general anesthesia, which makes me nauseous. I think surgery’s kind of cool, honestly, and wish that I could simultaneously be on the operating table and watching my operation take place.

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(if only to avoid the possibility of being operated on by Weird Al)

It’s really more the recovery that’s got me skittish.

Because recovery is the hard part of any surgery. During surgery, you’re blissfully pain-free (in theory; I’ve read horror stories) and often times in dreamland. Afterwards, things get dicey. I know I take a while to recover from surgeries; when I got my gallbladder out, I didn’t really feel even close to myself again until a week later, and that’s comparatively minor surgery. What’s going to happen when they have to slice me up like a Christmas ham to get the babies out? How miserable am I going to be, and how much shit is going to end up on Kyle’s shoulders because I’m just not capable of doing things?

I kind of long for the days of families all living together in communes and being able to really rely on each other wholly when things got rough like this. I feel shitty putting a lot of the baby and house care on someone else when I’m recuperating; people have their own lives and shouldn’t have to spend their time helping me with mine.

Maybe I could hire someone?

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And of course, there’s Sam. Transitioning into life as a big brother was already going to be hard on him (we spoil him quite a lot, which I think happens even more when you’re infertile; you don’t know if this one is the only one you’ll get, and you’re so thankful that he’s here that you’re like, “Sure, absolutely, take all of my time and have a brownie and why not, you can totally have that four-foot-tall Darth Vader”), but even if I manage to deliver the twins vaginally, he’s going to be competing for attention with two newborns, not just one, and he may find himself wholly at the mercy of his mother’s C-section recovery.

I know that once we’re out of those first wild and crazy weeks of newborn-ness and into the baby life, it’ll be a little easier to make sure that he has time with us, just with us, but I still hate the idea of him feeling left out or neglected. And I shouldn’t be so concerned about it because I survived it just fine and Kyle survived it just fine and every oldest sibling on the planet survived it just fine, but you know. I want to make sure that he knows that he’s always our baby, even though we’re bringing more babies into the house.

ANYWAY. There are all my anxieties. These are not going to go away and will be hovering like a cloud of gnats basically for the rest of my life. And that’s not even touching on financial worries (I’m leaving my job, because daycare for one toddler plus two infants would be about twice what I take home in a month; also we need a minivan; also how are we going to pay for diapers and formula–because lol I’m not even bothering with breastfeeding this go-around–and also diapers and clothes and diapers and wipes and diapers for two infants?) and emotional worries (I AM FAT AND JIGGLY AND MY LIFE IS CHANGING) and more meta worries (I am bringing two new humans into a world with a Doomsday Clock two minutes to midnight and recurrent giant hurricanes because of global warming).

I think the only reason I sleep at night lately is because I’m on Effexor and am so tired from growing two humans that my brain starts to be like, “Let’s go over your anxieties!” and the rest of me responds, “Yeah, no, we’re sleeping now, bye.”

All the way across the sky

I want to try and get my feelings about this on paper (“paper”), but there’s a problem with that because I don’t know what my feelings ARE.

So let me document.

Friday evening, after a long and difficult week at work, I came home and sat down on the toilet to see a lot of blood in my underwear. No woman ever likes to see blood in her underwear (even when you’re hoping not to be pregnant, it’s kind of a mixed bag because periods suck), but for me, it was an added layer of NOPE. This is how all of my miscarriages began, and so I was more than a little frustrated–not really afraid (well, a little), but more angry because literally why does this keep happening to me?

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I called the emergency nurse line for the IVF place, and they told me that bleeding was pretty common in early pregnancy, that if I wasn’t filling a pad or passing clots, I should just take it easy and wait until my ultrasound on Monday to see what was going on.

So the weekend passed as usual, and also not as usual. This pregnancy has been really rough on me, and I wasn’t sure why. The morning sickness has been worse, the fatigue, sore breasts, all of it has been way worse than it ever was with Sam. I had plans for this weekend, but most of them ended up put off so that I could spend long hours of each day sleeping, so tired that I fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow and didn’t move from one position the entire time.

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(which says something because I usually sleep like an egg beater)

I didn’t tell Kyle exactly how tired I was feeling–or Kat, for that matter–because I didn’t want them to worry, but I think they picked up on it. And I think we all assumed that hey, pregnancy is balls, I’m just going to have to ride this out.

Today arrived, and I was ready for the ultrasound. I half expected to go in and see nothing, an empty uterus or a misshapen, ungrown fetus that they’d have to remove surgically. I had accepted it; I felt calm and, really, mostly just tired. Really, REALLY tired. We had our favorite ultrasound tech again, and within a few seconds of the ultrasound beginning, we saw something that has basically settled us both into stunned silence ever since.

We saw twins.

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Two gestational sacs, both measuring about 7 weeks, 2 days (I’m 7 weeks, 5 days, but for twins they just like the sacs to be within two weeks, size-wise). Two yolk sacs, both measuring about the same size. Two fetuses, one measuring 7 weeks, 5 days and the other measuring 7 weeks, 3 days. Two heartbeats, one at 157 beats per minute and the other at 131 beats per minute. Everything looks great. Everything looks perfect.

And we’re having twins.

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I’m–stunned, honestly. That’s the best word I can use to describe how I feel at the moment. This has obviously always been a possibility–and even a probability–but I never actually expected it. We’ve had such bad luck up until now, and the thought that just one of the embryos we transferred was growing strong was fantastic. To think that two were in there, growing strong, with healthy heartbeats and at exactly the right size?

Never mind that twins–TWINS–are just… it staggers your mind. Having one baby is crazy enough, but two at once? I can’t wrap my mind around it. How do you even begin to process this? Twins is something that happens to other people, not me.

I mean, I’m happy. I’m genuinely happy. Once this actually sinks in, I may even ascend to “thrilled” territory, but I just–

I have NO idea how to process this! I can’t even start planning, that’s how stunned I am! I plan everything, and I just– I know that we need like. A double stroller. Two more car seats. Another crib. Probably two bassinets. Twice the bottles. Twice the formula (holy shit we are going to go broke). Twice the diapers (AAAAAA). Two bouncy chairs. Two of everything.

But legitimately, WHAT IS LIFE EVEN? I AM HAVING TWINS. AAAAAA.

A Bottle of Whine

Even when you get pregnant through IVF and ages of effort and trying and stress, you still have to qualify any pregnancy complaints you have with the caveat that “I’m really happy to be pregnant! No, I really am! I’m thrilled, honestly! I can cope with the suffering as long as it means a healthy baby at the end!”

And it’s all true. This has been a long journey, and I’m happy to be where I am, but I’m also 100% miserably physically, and I’m going to whine about it for a bit.

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(sadly, not this kind of wine until May)

Two of my pregnancy complaints are normal and familiar: fatigue and nausea. The fatigue hits like a truck around 2-3 p.m. daily, without fail, which is fine on weekends–that’s Sam’s naptime, after all–and miserable on weekdays, when I’m using tape and prayer to keep my eyes open at work. Supposedly up to 200 mg of caffeine every day is alright during pregnancy, but most people think of that as coming from coffee, and I hate coffee. It tastes like licking the bottom of a muddy boot, and I can only stomach it if I drown it in enough cream, sugar, and chocolate to pretend that it’s not coffee at all but rather some sort of fancy chocolate drink with an Italian name that I can’t pronounce.

At best, I drink a Dr. Pepper at lunch, which is hilariously unhealthy (PURE SUGAR WATER HERE WE GO!), but it at least gives me a jolt that can keep me from completely disintegrating before the homeward commute… and then it wears off at 10 p.m. and I give up on my nightly activities of maybe doing some dailies in WoW (yeah, I’m still there, so sue me) or just puttering around aimlessly on YouTube watching British documentaries about reborn dolls and the women who love them.

(if someone held a gun to my head and told me that I had to invest in a reborn doll, I would buy one that looked entirely normal EXCEPT it would have glowing red eyes, so it would not only be the uncanny valley visit of “oh that’s not a real baby” but also “AAA IT’S A DEMON” and that’s hilarious to me)

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(or maybe this Voldemort one; take a moment to finish screaming, it’s alright)

Nausea complicates everything. I’ve had it since right after my retrieval, and it hasn’t really gotten better. I have my methods for coping (namely: peppermint candies until I die), but as a general rule, it just makes me miserable if I eat anything before 2:00 p.m., which is ridiculous because breakfast and lunch are things.

But nausea doesn’t care about that. Nausea doesn’t ask silly questions. Nausea just makes you incapable of functioning during the peak hours of the day.

And I do mean incapable. Twice this weekend, I had to turn around my plans for the day because I was so exhausted and nauseated that I couldn’t see straight. I never threw up, thank GOD, but I did go straight home and bury myself in blankets until I didn’t feel like complete crap, which took about 3 hours each time. I had so many plans–I had to exchange some maternity jeans that were too small for me, to swing by Target and Michael’s and various stores that may or may not have Halloween stuff out for me to ogle, to hit Barnes & Noble and pick up books about being a big brother so that Sam can get used to the idea–and they all fell apart because nausea.

Nausea and fatigue are both good, mind. They mean that your body is working as intended. Worse nausea is associated with lower risks of miscarriage and healthier pregnancies overall, which is comforting in a sort of “here are some positive facts about mosquitos!” kind of way. Like hey, it’s really cool that they provide a main diet staple for these neat birds, but maybe they can stop biting me now?

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(my opinion on this happening is not improved by the knowledge that a bird will soon be like “ooh lunch!”)

Abnormally speaking, I’m in pain.

Fortunately, the pain is also a good sign, even if it’s not a normal or typical sign. Unfortunately, that means that I basically have to grin and bear it with extra strength Tylenol and a lot of whining.

The pain is coming from two sources, as far as I can figure. First, it’s coming from my ovaries, those beasties. They’re still enormous from being overstimulated, still the size of fruit. When I’m lying down, if I gently press on my abdomen, I can feel them (and yes, it is very trippy to do so). They’re pressing against all of my internal organs and also are just IN THE WAY OF EVERYTHING, so if I sit upright like a normal person, they feel like they’re being crushed and I say “ow ow ow ow!” and then shift into a slouch or else go out to rest with my feet up because at least that doesn’t cause me endless pain.

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(do you know how difficult it is to get work done like this?)

My ovaries are also oversized because I’ve managed to acquire a large number of corpus luteum cysts, which would make sense for a normal pregnancy but not so much for an IVF pregnancy.

Basically, in a normal pregnancy, a corpus luteum cyst forms on the ovary after you ovulate. This cyst remains in place and produces progesterone until the placenta is mature enough to start doing that itself. It can cause some minor cramping or twinging in early pregnancy, but for the most part, it’s harmless and even a very beneficial sign.

The corpus luteum cyst is not supposed to form with an IVF pregnancy, or so they told me. That’s why I was on supplementary progesterone, or so they told me. And then when I went in to get my HCG checked, they saw that my progesterone levels were ridiculously high (on average, your progesterone is supposed to hover between 9-47 ngL for the first several weeks of pregnancy; mine was at 60) and stopped my supplementary everything because holy shit, what is happening here.

(this explains the high levels of nausea and fatigue and sore boobness I’ve been dealing with because guess what hormone causes those things? It’s progesterone :D)

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(YAYYYYY)

The second pain source seems to be a cyst in my uterus that may or may not be the other blastocyst not getting the hint that if it’s not going to grow, it should get outta dodge. I’ve felt that as a pressure in my pelvis that reminds me ever-so-keenly of when Sam was just days away from being born and decided to RAM his head into my pelvis as if by doing so, he could defy all laws of biology and physics and enter the world on his own terms. It hurts like the dickens, especially when I walk; the pain is only really eased if I bow my legs out and waddle about like a cowboy from an old timey cartoon (which I only do at home; I will cope with the pain to avoid being seen like that in public).

On Monday, we’re checking to make sure that the cyst is just a cyst and not the other embryo trying to be a pregnancy (it’s in the wrong spot and would pose a lot of health risks, which means I’d have to terminate, which HOLY HELL do I not want to do–I am as pro-choice as they come, but to get this far, to try this long, and then be told, “Whoopsies, it’s in the wrong spot! And if it stays you and the other baby might die!” is kind of a dick move, universe). If it is a cyst, I have no idea what the next steps are. Uterine cysts just don’t happen. Every time I’ve googled them, Google has come back at me like, “do you mean ‘uterine fibroids’” like it’s being smart. And no, Google, I do not mean uterine fibroids, but thanks for not helping!

Ugh. But the good news is that I’m still pregnant, I’m still pushing forward, and as far as I know, we’re still expecting to see good things on the ultrasound on Monday. We’re looking for an increased heartbeat and an embryo that’s gone through another week of growth, and if we see that, I may even get to graduate to a regular OB/GYN after this! Until then…

 

A Legume

In February of 2016, Kyle and I went to what we hoped would be our last ultrasound at an IVF facility. I was about 8 weeks along with our first pregnancy from an IVF cycle, and we expected to see a bouncy little bean growing healthily and to be dismissed from the IVF facility and picked up by our usual OB/GYN. Sure, some people struggled through years of IVF to get pregnant, but not us. We’d gotten pregnant right away and would have a beautiful baby in October of 2016. October 17 was the due date.

That… didn’t happen.

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(you start to ask yourself this a lot when you’re dealing with infertility)

Instead of an 8-week-old fetus, we saw something measuring about 6 weeks, if that, shaped like a flying saucer and not bouncing at all. We saw a heartbeat, but it was slow and weak, 65 bpm, very appropriate for a healthy adult, not at all for an 8-week-old fetus.

We had the cool ultrasound tech, the one we’ve had for nearly every ultrasound since then that’s brought us either good or bad news. She’s got a great sense of humor and was trying to keep us optimistic. “I’ve seen it go either way!” she said, but the doctor we spoke to afterwards was less than pleased.

“It rarely ends well when this is the case, but we’ll want you back next week to make sure. If the baby grows between now and then, we’ll take it as a good sign and just adjust your due date accordingly. If it doesn’t…”

So one week later, we came back, not expecting anything good, and sure enough, we got nothing good. The gestational sac was still there, but the weird little flying saucer fetus was gone. No heartbeat, no movement, nothing at all. We talked to the doctor again, who offered that I could wait it out, take a medication, or have a D&C. I chose the latter, not wanting to go through the pain of labor just to give birth to essentially nothing, not even remnants of fetal tissue.

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(it sucked)

In February of 2017, our first ultrasound for another pregnancy got bumped up a week because I’d started bleeding. A lot. I sat down on the toilet and it was like a murder scene. A clot the size of a lemon came out of me after I laid down and tried to slow things a little bit. The doctor wanted to see if there was anything left, if the bleeding had been the result of a subchorionic hemorrhage (a condition in which blood gets between the gestational sac and uterine wall and causes Problems).

I wasn’t surprised when nothing showed up on the screen. A clot the size of a lemon isn’t something that usually comes along with a healthy pregnancy.

Understandably, I’m a little nervous about these first ultrasounds. They’ve brought nothing but bad news so far, slow heartbeats, missing fetuses, nothing there. This morning, I’ve been shaky and tense since I woke up. I could barely eat breakfast, and only partly because of morning sickness. I couldn’t pay attention at work, and ended up pausing a lot of my tasks to just sit and breathe and try to calm down.

I got to the ultrasound place pretty early, but Kyle was running pretty late (like 15 minutes or so). Nothing distracted me or helped. None of the magazines in the waiting room held any appeal, Facebook and Tumblr seemed to just make me more tense, and I couldn’t even think of anything but “what if this is another miscarriage or failure? What if something’s wrong?”

Kyle finally arrived and we went back into a small room with dim lights. I changed and lay down on the warmed table, resting a hand behind my head and trying to stop shaking. I counted the tiles on the ceiling. The ultrasound tech–our favorite tech again–squirted warm jelly on the probe and told me, “alright, here we go.”

I saw it immediately, what I thought was a gestational sac. The trouble was, it didn’t have anything in it–no yolk sac, no fetus, nothing. That… wasn’t a good sign. At this point, we should’ve seen at least a yolk sac, maybe something more, but we saw nothing, just a dark circle surrounded by the grey of uterine tissue.

“Well, it’s something,” the tech said. “Let’s keep going.” She moved the probe around a bit, and suddenly, I gasped. There, right there on the screen, was a definite gestational sac with everything in place–the yolk sac, which provides nutrients for the baby until the placenta is fully developed, and the fetal pole, the beginnings of the baby itself. And flickering right there, in the middle of the fetal pole, was a heartbeat. Constant. Steady. And faster than we’d seen since Sam.

“98 beats per minute, which is excellent at this stage!” the tech announced. Faster than it had ever been with our first miscarriage last year. Steady. Strong.

We looked around a little more–I have some free fluid in my lower abdomen, likely thanks to my still-swollen ovaries, which are both still enormous (61 mm and 71 mm, respectively–that’s a peach and a pear in fruit sizes). The “gestational sac” we saw earlier looks like it’s actually a uterine cyst, which isn’t a bad thing but will have to be monitored as this pregnancy progresses. They want me back in a week to measure everything–to make sure the actual baby is growing and to make sure that the cyst is not (if it is, that might indicate that it’s an ectopic pregnancy, which presents its own set of Very Big problems).

But so far, it looks like finally, FINALLY, things are starting to go right, and I’ll finally have a baby legume come late April, 2018.

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(the legume in question, measuring exactly six weeks, one day)

Party Party Party

It’s been a big weekend for Sam, for a number of reasons.

The first reason is the most exciting for me: he actually has started running to the potty when he recognizes that he needs to pee!

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This is a HUGE milestone in potty training. For weeks now, he’s been reluctant to go, even when he needs to use the potty, and as a result, we’ve seen tons of accidents. Today, though, several times, he dropped what he was doing and RAN to the potty, doing a little dance as he did. You know the dance. That little panicked potty dance that toddlers do.

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(this one)

And holy crap, I was out of my mind with joy about it! This is potty training! This is success! He still doesn’t like to use the potty when he’s pooping (he’s super constipated because of it, which is SO MUCH FUN let me tell you), but he recognizes that he needs to go and he goes. That is potty training. I’m so pleased.

So that’s my celebratory thing. The second reason this was a big weekend for Sam was that he had his first ever birthday party at a friend’s house.

The friend was his best friend Hunter; the two of them are absolutely inseparable at all times. Hunter’s mom said several times today, “They’re meant to be best friends,” and it’s so true. They just will not go anywhere without each other, and I’m so glad. I love that he has a best friend from such a young age, and I’m hoping that neither of us ever move away from each other so that he and Hunter can go to kindergarten and first grade and every grade of school together forever.

So it was Hunter’s birthday today, and Sam had an absolute blast. Hunter’s family live on a wonderful plot with acres and acres of green land, apple trees, barns, the works. They pulled out all the stops for the party–they had a bouncy house and a piñata and music and everything. Sam had a fantastic time, he really did.

A couple of things stood out in particular, though: the pool incident and the Power Wheels incident.

The Power Wheels incident first, because that one doesn’t make me look like as bad of a parent. As toddlers do, Sam and Hunter have a hard time sharing things. At school, this isn’t a huge deal because nothing “belongs” to them–it’s just the school’s stuff that everyone has to share. At Hunter’s house, though, all the toys were Hunter’s, and it was harder to talk to either of them about sharing (I let Hunter’s mom take charge of that, because I’m not going to tell someone else’s kid to share with my kid).

So the Power Wheels incident began at the sandbox. Hunter had a cool front-end-loader type of gadget that he was using to “dig for treasure.” Sammy thought this was the coolest thing in history and wanted a turn, but Hunter was, of course, uninterested in sharing. Sam sulked and refused to play with much besides a large shovel until the managed to trick Hunter off the front end loader and steal it for himself. You could almost hear his little victorious thoughts. “Ha ha! You thought the front end loader was yours but IT IS MINE! Ha ha ha ha!”

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Hunter didn’t seem too bothered at this trickery, though, and a moment later, we saw why: Hunter came rolling out of the family garage on a Power Wheels John Deere tractor. He and Sammy met each other’s eyes, and he looked utterly smug as they passed; Sammy,  by contrast, was immediately awash in envy. Hunter had a tractor? That he drove? By himself?

Thus began Sammy’s quest to acquire a tractor of his own. In a shed next to the sandbox, he found a tractor, but it definitely didn’t drive on its own–it required foot power to go, like a Flintstones car. Sam discovered this the hard way by putting his feet on the footrests of the little tractor and not moving forward.

A beat or so later, Hunter abandoned the tractor for a four wheeler version of a Power Wheels that he maneuvered expertly around the apple tree and the sandbox and the shed and everything. Sammy was once again envious because although he’d snagged the tractor, he couldn’t get it to go forward. He wasn’t keeping his foot pressed down on the pedal, and the tractor was stopping and starting like an old jalopy driven by someone who’s never even seen a stick shift before. He thought the issue was with the tractor itself and watched sadly as Hunter zipped around without a care in the world.

Eventually, Sammy was so sad overall that he wasn’t running around playing. He stuck close to me and held my hand with a crestfallen expression. Hunter’s mom had to come over and convince Hunter to let Sammy have a turn on his four wheeler, and after that, they tag teamed–whatever it was they were doing. Zipping around, jumping in the bounce house, eating cake together. They had the best time.

The pool incident makes me look like a bad parent. Hunter’s family has an in-ground pool, and it’s pretty nice. We’ve been looking forward to it for ages. I got Sam some puddle jumpers and a new swimsuit, and I imagined hanging onto him and letting him get used to the water–after all, he’s never been in a big pool before.

He took a while to warm up to the idea of the pool–after all, there was a bounce house and a sandbox and Power Wheels–but eventually he decided that it would be fun. He’d been watching the other kids bellyflop into the water all day, and they were having a blast, so he was ready to give it a try.

We brought him back to the car and changed him into his swimsuit and puddle jumpers. Kyle then started stripping down to his swimsuit (I was feeling crappy; I swear to god, if there’s not at least one gestational sac and heartbeat when we go in for the ultrasound on Thursday with how awful I feel this pregnancy, I will burn something down), and we both figured that Sam would take his time getting into the pool.

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(expectations)

See, Sam is kind of… not the bravest child. He’s skittish about a lot of things, including being barefoot, petting cats OR dogs, eating new foods, sand, fried pizza, rain, and oh, ten billion other things that I could list that he has no reason to fear but does. When in a new situation, he usually sticks to me or Kyle like a barnacle until he’s feeling more comfortable. At the beginning of the party, even though he knows Hunter and Hunter’s entire family, he still would not leave us alone until Hunter finally wheedled him into coming into the bounce house.

So we figured the pool would be the same way. Even as he started to take the first step, we thought it would be the same way–the water was deep enough that he’d have felt that buoyancy right away, and considering that he’s scared of LITERALLY EVERYTHING, I figured the buoyancy would give him at least pause long enough for Kyle to get his shorts on.

Not so. In slow motion (from my perspective), Sam took the next step and the next, not pausing. His puddle jumpers lifted him up so he was floating. In the moment of confusion about “wtf is going on I’ve never floated before” he panicked. He flailed and sputtered. Never for a second did he go underwater (thank GOD, and thank you to everyone who suggested puddle jumpers), but his face went down for less than a second and came back up again in time for him to wail in terror.

He did an impressive doggy paddle for a kid who’s never swum before (thank you, puddle jumpers) as Kyle (also in slow motion, so it seemed) finished stripping down and got into the pool. He and Sam caught each other and Sam screamed and sobbed until Kyle put him back on the concrete.

I was frozen the entire time. From the instant I realized “that child is not stopping” right until he was back in my arms and wrapped in a towel, it was like I couldn’t move (which bodes REALLY WELL for future Situations). The other moms chuckled understandingly. “Ohh, is it his first time in a big pool?” they asked and chuckled knowingly when I nodded. They probably weren’t thinking anything beyond, “poor kid, oh well, now he knows,” but my guilt definitely projected into them thinking, “what terrible parents to let him just jump in like that.”

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(my expectations for the rest of the party)

We were watching him and right there the whole time. It was maybe three seconds between Sam stepping off the bottom step and Kyle getting to him. Logically, I know that he’s fine and we didn’t do anything wrong, but I’ve still been thinking that GOD, I should’ve been holding him, I should have yelled at him to wait for Kyle, I should have done anything to prevent that moment.

Anyway, despite his (understandable) fear, Sam tried the pool again with Kyle, but once he got a taste of buoyancy again, he shrieked and panicked and that was the end. He sat on my lap shivering and sniffling until he’d dried off and then mostly told us about the pool, “I was really scared until you got me, Daddy.” He didn’t have anything even remotely resembling a breathing problem, so we know he didn’t inhale any pool water, and his energy level was high until we got home after the party and he absolutely (and understandably) crashed.

And, of course, I’m now in a frantic search for well priced swim lessons near us because Sam thinks floating is the enemy.

But in the end, his memories of the party were good ones, and he had a grand time. He and Hunter remain inseparable, and he’s begging for both his own Power Wheels and a bounce house for his next birthday party (I told him “we’ll see” by which I mean I’ll be depending on Kyle and Kat and everyone I know to help me make Pinterest-worthy Star Wars stuff for said birthday party so that Sam doesn’t feel sad about the lack of bounce house). He fell asleep with a smile on his face. So overall: a win? Maybe?

T-minus four days until the ultrasound.

Numbers

Everything about IVF is a numbers game, which is a fine joke on me because I’ve always hated math.

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Your numbers when testing are important: what are your hormone levels–progesterone, estrogen, glucose, TSH, FSH, androgens? What is your partner’s sperm count? What does your blood look like? What does your partner’s blood look like? Is it worth trying IUI first or should you just skip ahead to IVF?

Then during the IVF cycle, it’s nothing but numbers. You have the numbers of your dosages, of Gonal-F and Menopur and HCG trigger. You have the numbers during your follicle counts and blood draws. You watch those numbers steadily climb, sometimes to astronomical levels. And after you wake up from your retrieval, you have the number of eggs successfully retrieved.

That number goes down a lot. We had 54 eggs retrieved. 38 were mature. 31 fertilized. By day 5, only 7 remained to freeze, besides the two we transferred. What a plummet, but I suppose it’s fair–with that many eggs, things are bound to be imperfect.

When you have your transfer, you worry about other numbers, mostly the number of blastocysts they put in you and their grading.

And then comes that two week wait, the time where you wait and wait and wait until your beta blood draw, where you can hopefully see a good HCG number. HCG is the pregnancy hormone, and you want yours to be moderately high and to keep climbing.

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(what you don’t want on The Price is Right but do want when you’re getting betas back)

Last Thursday, my HCG was at 223, which is a definite positive. I tested again today, and though my HCG has increased, it’s not by as much as they’d hoped–I should be at around 900 today, but instead I’m around 700.

In early pregnancy, they look for your HCG to double every 48-72 hours, but ideally every 48. I’m doubling roughly every 59, so it’s not great, but it’s not the worst, either. I’m still in that normal range, but I’ve got the doctor nervous enough, with my history of loss, that she’s ordered an early ultrasound. Usually, they don’t do the first ultrasound until around 7-8 weeks, but she wants to make sure everything is progressing, so our first ultrasound will be at 6 weeks, and likely we’ll have another at the 7-8 week mark before I’m released to regular obstetric care.

The good news, despite that worrying news, is that my hormone levels are fantastic. I could’ve told you that–between the nausea, fatigue, and sore boobs, I feel like I’m closer to 8 weeks pregnant, not 5. All of those early pregnancy symptoms are caused by the excess progesterone in my system, and I apparently have a LOT of that, so I get to stop with my supplements, hallelujah. The supplements had nasty OTHER side effects that were just exhausting.

I’m still not counting any chickens; we’ve got to get through the six week ultrasound and then the 8 week; then maybe I’ll breathe easy. Until then…