A LOT TO TALK ABOUT

Hi, so life is busy.

Well, no. It’s busy but it’s also not. It’s fallen into this nice routine but I’m tired all the time, which is unpleasant and probably the fault of the nerve medication I’ve been on for a year at this point (more on that in a minute), but it also means that by the time I reach the end of the day, I’m a noodle who isn’t very good at writing things. And I have so much to update on and so much to talk about but again: noodle, living in a constant state of no bones.

So life. 

The kids have been in school in person for coming up on three months now, and it’s mostly been a pleasant time. We’ve had… mm, I want to say three Covid scares? Two that were everyone and one that was just Carrie. It’s a weird thing because I don’t like to send my kids into school sick anyway, but now in the time of Covid, you can’t just not send them to school sick, you also need to get them tested. And I am okay with that, just so we’re clear. It’s a pandemic, kids have only just started to get vaccinated, and I’d rather know one way or the other. 

BUT it does take a day home with a head cold to five days home because we couldn’t get in to get tested until 12 on Wednesday so the results aren’t back until 10 on Friday, so we’ve missed the last three days of the week plus the weekend, and by that point, all three children have gone completely feral and are jumping from couch to couch to couch to couch while scream singing “Grace Kelly” by MIKA.

Thankfully, our school has recently implemented a “stay and test” option for people who are just close contacts, but that does nothing if your kid has the vague “maybe it’s a cold or hay fever or Covid?” symptoms, so we just check everyone’s temperature in the morning and get really caught up in the mitigating circumstances of each and every symptom (e.g., our kids are hot sleepers, so if one seems warm but they were in bed all night, we wait another hour after they get up before doing a temperature check). 

Kyle and I are both triple vaccinated, so even with ominously named variants popping up all over the globe (seriously, if they’d just gone with Omicron from the start, I feel like this entire pandemic would’ve been taken a lot more seriously. Like I’m not saying that Covid isn’t a threatening name except it very much is not a threatening name), we’ve both felt comfortable and safe enough to go to the movies again and go out to dinner again and mostly resume our normal lives, sometimes with masks and sometimes not. And despite the handful of Covid cases in our schools, both of us feel pretty safe about our kids being back in person (and all three have IEPs, so even if schools went remote again, they’d end up taking the in-person option anyway, whee). 

Being back to school in person has benefitted Sam so very much. We weren’t sure how he’d take to it, since it was a full year away, but the phrase “like a fish to water” comes to mind. He picked up right where he left off with his best friend Hunter, and he’s made new friends (Declan and Eamon) in his class. His teacher has nothing but good things to say about him, even taking into account his reluctance to put away his scissors sometimes and his adorable motormouth tendencies. He comes home constantly with stories about the games he played at recess (apparently, Among Us is popular with the kids these days, which… okay, cool, it’s literally just Mafia, but cool) and the time he spent with his friends, which is enough to make my heart feel warm and mushy, but THEN you add in that he got the highest scores on their classroom testing in math and ELA and I’m just. Beyond proud. Is there a way to be beyond proud, because that’s me. I’m beyond proud.

I also feel a weird sense of pride because, as it turns out, Sam is also autistic.

Roughly around this time last year, his therapists asked us if we’d ever had him tested, which we hadn’t. Sam and Isaac are both similar in that, while they’re both definitely autistic, they’re also both really social kids. They like to make friends and be involved with other people, but where Sam was in daycare from the time he was a year old, Isaac was home with me. Isaac was also notably delayed from the start because he was a preemie, whereas Sam would’ve just stayed in for the next ten years if the doctors had let him. 

Anyway, we didn’t ever have Sam evaluated for autism because he’s such a social kid, and he learned from very early on that socializing means eye contact and it means language and it means doing things that autistic children typically aren’t seen doing. He had his pickiness sometimes and his need for routine, but we figured that was just typical toddler stuff. 

And then the pandemic.

And a fun thing with neurodivergence is that when those of us who fall under that umbrella get stressed, we don’t mask as well. Our divergences become more and more apparent, and as a result, people start to notice. 

The pandemic was stressful for everyone, and it was particularly stressful for Sam, who had his routine and life upended overnight and never quite found his footing again. Early on, we had him seen by one therapist who recognized that he has ADHD (both inattentive and hyperactive type, because we like to cover all bases here), and once he started receiving in-person therapy, his new therapists agreed with that and said that he also seemed to be autistic.

SO. 

It took a whole goddamn year to get him an evaluation because everything is absurdly backlogged and you can’t do an autism evaluation virtually. We went for the first available slot in Boston, and an hour and a half later, the doctor said, “Yep, autistic” and sent us on our merry way with a bunch of emails and links and information and suggestions about therapies and what-have-you. 

And, real talk, Sam is excelling so much in so many ways that I’m not super interested in pursuing therapy unless he asks for it. Talk therapy, sure, because I think that helps a lot with a lot of things. But ABA (gag)? Anything besides the OT he already gets? Nah. I think he’s doing pretty well on his own, and the diagnosis mostly just gives us a tool and a shield that we can use to say, “okay, because of this diagnosis, you cannot deny him services.” 

(not that our school district WOULD HAVE denied him services, but just in case)

Anyway, he’s doing SO well that we’re actually shifting his services to an “as needed” basis, meaning that he’ll still have the help if/when he needs it, but he’s transitioned so smoothly and is doing so well that we don’t need to force it on him. And my god, he’s happy again. Last year, it was like a cloud over him, but this year, the sun’s back and it’s so beautiful.

My health is also on the docket of things to talk about. A year ago this weekend, I was in the ER with nerve pain so bad that I couldn’t do anything but scream and shake, and in a logical world, they would’ve pushed me through getting an MRI and surgery ASAP because nerve pain that bad is a major red flag for nerve injuries that could become permanent damage.

But.

I got sent home with meds, celebrated Christmas and New Year’s, then saw a doctor in January. The doctor said it sounded like a herniated disc but I’d need an MRI to be sure, but the next available MRI appointment wasn’t until March. I would’ve taken that appointment, but it fell on the same day our insurance rolled over from one to another (not that the new insurance covered the MRI anyway?), so the MRI got pushed out to late March. Then I saw the doctor again in April, and he gave me the option of either getting injections to ease the pain while the nerve healed or having surgery. I said I wanted surgery, so I got to see ANOTHER doctor in May, and we scheduled the surgery for July.

So it’s already been eight months with this injury and things not really getting better, right? And then Kyle’s company laid off his entire department literally two weeks before my surgery and we had no insurance, so I had to postpone the surgery to August. And THEN we were in this kind of song and dance with MassHealth, where nobody was really sure if we’d be able to stay on it once Kyle received his unemployment payments (note: we still have not received unemployment payments), so we postponed the surgery indefinitely until Kyle got a new job and we were on that new insurance.

September rolls around, and Kyle gets his new job and good new insurance, some of the best we’ve ever had. I call to make a new surgery appointment, but first, I need a new MRI because it’s been, at this point, six entire months so who knows what’s going on in there? And I pay roughly the same for the new MRI that I did for the one with the shitty insurance, but whatever, right?

Within 24 hours, the doctor calls me back and says, “hey, you have zero herniation left. I’d do surgery on you, but it would be pointless because there’s nothing to remove. All you have to do is just wait for the nerve to no longer be inflamed.”

To get a clearer picture, I ask, “But what about the fact that I cannot feel anything on the inside of my left thigh and also at least two and possibly three of the toes on my left foot take a good thirty seconds more to get the message that I want to move them than the rest of my foot?”

“Oh, well, those are probably permanent, but in 90% of cases, the pain goes away completely within a year of pressure coming off the nerve.”

SO LET ME GET ALL OF THIS STRAIGHT. Because of insurance issues, I had to wait and wait and wait and wait on my surgery to the point where I’ve now been left with permanent damage and pain that has an okay chance of disappearing completely but nobody is really sure when that will happen?

I’m on this nerve medication, gabapentin, that makes the world completely fuzzy. I’ve been on it for a  year. You’re not supposed to be on it more than a few weeks because it makes you sleepy and messes with your memory (not permanently, thankfully, just while you’re on it). I don’t know when I can come off it because I don’t know when my herniation stopped pressing on the nerve because I had to keep putting off the surgery again and again and again.

And like. I don’t want to get into it about universal healthcare, but I’m pretty sure that my waiting would’ve been cut in half if I hadn’t had to change health insurance five times in the last year.

Whatever. I have an appointment on December 13 to talk to the surgeon and discuss my options. I want to see if I can get hydrotherapy of some sort to try and take some pressure off things, and I really just need to find a decent and quiet gym and go there in off hours to walk and slowly bring myself to a healthier level of activity. I’ve been in so much pain the last year (and still am sometimes) that activity feels daunting, but I need it to heal, and I need to find a way to do it that won’t scare me away. 

Meanwhile, I’m just keeping myself in a floating state of planning mode. Planning Halloween (Sam was a ninja and the twins were Spider-Man and Ghost Spider). Planning my birthday and a trip with two of my best friends to Cape Cod in the off season (was delightful but also very cold). Planning Christmas. Already thinking ahead to the twins’ birthday. Planning road trips. Planning planning planning. 

Planning that extends kind of far out as well, but only kind of. 

Kyle’s new company has some really great insurance, you see, and through it, we were able to cover PGS for our remaining embryos from the cycle that gave us Isaac and Carrie. Unbelievably, six of the seven embryos were healthy and there are exactly three boys and three girls.

Which brings us to the age old question of WTF are we going to do with all of these frozen babies?

I want one more. Not twins, please god not twins. I love the twins so much, and about 50% of the time, I love that they are twins (the other 50%, they are beating the ever loving shit out of each other for reasons that I do not understand, so I’m like, why couldn’t you be born one at a time so we’d have some buffer space?), but I physically could not do twins again. But I’d love one more girl as a coda.

BUT not for a while yet, if we did. Kyle isn’t fully onboard, which is fair because the twins are a LOT right now, and if someone dropped a baby in my lap right at this second, I’d be like, “WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH????” because I cannot infant right now. If we went ahead with one last transfer, it would be in 2023, no sooner. Too much is going on in 2022, and my health isn’t where it needs to be.

But it’s on the table now, and we didn’t know if it was on the table before. It was a daydream and now it feels like it could happen? I don’t know if it actually will, but it’s there. One last girl. 

Maybe.

Or maybe a puppy instead. I don’t know.

In case you were wondering

I mean to write about this every time a new abortion law gets pushed through somewhere, but I always end up chickening out for whatever reason (well. No. It’s not for whatever reason, it’s because I’m tired of discussing it with people who are coming from a position where their sky is a different color than my sky, so we can’t really talk about the conversation on even ground), but I’m tired and I’m headachey because of ragweed and Texas is being terrible, so let’s dive in tonight. This is the story of how I became pro-choice.

Because, you see, I wasn’t always pro-choice. I grew up in a moderately conservative Christian church (i.e., they didn’t make all the girls wear long skirts and prevent women from preaching, but they were Bible literalists and whenever I bring up things about my churched upbringing to people who didn’t share it as if they’re normal, I always get raised eyebrows) in the Nearest Moderately Sized City. Since it was the 90s, there weren’t a lot of major political issues for churches to get up in arms about besides abortion and who Bill Clinton was doing, and the former was easier to protest than the latter. Some subset of people from our church and other area churches would go stand outside the City’s Planned Parenthood and hold signs like “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart” and “God Forgives” and things like that. Never anything distasteful like “Abortion is Murder” because they didn’t want to be Like That, and they had to stand a not insignificant distance from the entrance because of the way things were set up, but the protests happened with some regularity.

I never attended one myself. My mom went a few times, I think, but I don’t really remember. I just remember that they happened, and I remember my earliest understanding of abortion was that it was killing babies (my understanding, not necessarily reality), and to my eight- or nine-year-old brain, that was ghoulish at best, and that understanding persisted well into my teenage years.

In high school, I was happy to play the Conservative Christian Girl role wherever I happened to be, though my views most frequently ended up challenged in history/government classes and English class. I went to See You At the Pole and prayed with people before drama club performances and had my purity necklace on and didn’t go on dates until I was 16 and didn’t listen to secular music or read Seventeen magazine, and I was against abortion. I had a little pin on my purse about it, a pair of tiny feet that were supposedly the size of a fetus’s feet at something like 8 or 9 weeks’ gestation. I liked it a lot because it gave me a chance to be like “I believe a thing” without being alienating; if someone asked me about the feet, I could explain it, but it wasn’t the same as having a huge red button on my purse that was like “I AM AGAINST ABORTION IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING.”

College was really where things started to change, though probably not for the reasons a lot of more conservative people would expect (especially in a lot of churches–and other people from super conservative circles can back me up on this–the fear tends to be that higher education will brainwash a person to become a liberal. In reality, you’re just suddenly exposed to viewpoints and backgrounds that differ from your own while simultaneously, your prefrontal cortex stops being underdeveloped and catches up to your amygdala… eventually). I went to a small Christian college, so I wasn’t really confronted with a whole lot of people who were pro-choice there; if anything, most of us existed happily in our little anti-abortion bubble. 

Instead, I was confronted with people who were even MORE conservative than I was, telling me things that I knew weren’t true. I remember one time, a friend spotted my birth control pills (which I’d been on since I was 16 to control severe menstrual cramping, something I didn’t realize at the time was caused by my PCOS) and was appalled that I had medication in my possession that could cause an abortion. I responded that (a) you kind of need to have sex to get pregnant and you kind of need to get pregnant to have anything aborted; and (b) what. Birth control pills, I explained to her (as had been explained to me by my mom, by my doctor, by everyone ever, because it’s how they work), prevent ovulation, and if there’s no egg, there’s nothing to get fertilized and aborted. To which she responded that yes, they usually do that, but sometimes, an egg gets through and SOMETIMES that egg gets fertilized and then it gets aborted.

(please remember this because I’ll come back to it later)

And it’s weird, because I’d been debating religion and politics online and with friends in person for 2-3 years at that point and had been confronted with all sorts of ideologies more liberal than my own, and those had never come close to swaying me. On the other hand, having someone more conservative than I was come along and say something blatantly false about an issue I’d studied in depth made me feel… well, more than a little confused. I can’t say why now, any more than I could then. It just made the whole movement ring a little less true for me, like if they’re lying about this, are they lying about anything else?

Senior year of college, we all had to take a course on ethics that was… well, I’m not sure what it was designed to do in other years, but during my senior year, it was supposed to teach us to form our own ethical opinions outside of what the people around us believed and taught (which, honestly? Pretty good for a small Christian college to teach their students to think for themselves). The final project was to be a ~15 page term paper discussing both sides of one of the ethical issues we’d discussed over the semester and coming to our own conclusion about it. And, like roughly half of the class, I chose to do my paper on abortion (the other half did gay marriage, which had been legalized in Massachusetts the year prior). 

The trouble was that while the school said they wanted us to think for ourselves, they didn’t allow us access to resources that would give arguments for opinions outside the Christian status quo. I don’t know what people doing their papers on gay marriage found, but whenever I tried to search the internet for accurate information on abortions (which should’ve been easy, even in those Wild Wild West internet days), I was blocked from accessing those sites. The school library was no better–they had exactly three books talking about abortion, and all three were checked out well before I even got there. And, yeah, I probably could’ve half-assed a paper about abortion without doing any real research for the pro-choice position, but I wanted to be honest about the other side (I said to myself, remembering the birth control incident), and I couldn’t do that if I couldn’t even access real information about abortion. 

Around the same time, I read an article in one of my parents’ Christian magazines about a young woman who’d gone to a Planned Parenthood and apologized to its workers on behalf of Christians and realized in doing so that, hey, Planned Parenthood wasn’t some awful place where babies were being torn limb from limb and then devoured by a demon in the back room (which, like… that seems like a duh thing now, but when you’re in the thick of it, they tell a LOT of lies about what happens at Planned Parenthood, and demon buffets seemed about as likely as anything else) (also Jemila Monroe, if you ever Google your name again and find this, hi! Hope you’re doing well!). And that basically gave me the skeleton for my own term paper: I would go to Planned Parenthood, get information straight from the source, and come to my own conclusions.

And, well. I didn’t come away from the term paper fully pro-choice, but suddenly, the anti-abortion side of things seemed a little less… right. None of the horrors I’d expected from a Planned Parenthood had actually been there (and I know my experiences aren’t universal, but other than the necessary metal detector, it was one of the nicer medical facilities I’ve visited). They had information on adoption, abortion, parenting, all the options someone could choose. The girls at the front desk were friendly and sympathetic (though I’m sure also skeptical when the friend who went with me and I remarked that no, neither of us were pregnant, we just wanted to get information on abortions for a term paper, and no, we couldn’t just find it online because our school blocked every website that gave accurate information on it). They seemed to have resources there for people no matter what they chose, while the anti-abortion side didn’t seem to have many resources at all and also seemed to be teeming with people who were against social supports and sex education and birth control and all the things that would prevent anyone from ever having to consider an abortion in the first place. 

It made me think a lot. 

The true clincher, though, was my own struggle with infertility and both of my pregnancies. 

When Kyle and I first decided to try and start a family, I had what’s called a chemical pregnancy. It’s basically when an egg is fertilized but doesn’t implant for whatever reason. It’s absurdly common, and the only reason I knew it happened was because we were trying to get pregnant and I happened to take a pregnancy test super early (factoid for you: the most sensitive pregnancy tests can detect the pregnancy hormone, HCG, at about eight to nine days past ovulation, which translates to a little over three weeks pregnant; but that said, nobody is peeing on those tests if they’re not obsessively trying to get pregnant). If we hadn’t been trying to get pregnant, I would’ve assumed my period was just a week late, whoops.

After that, months went by, and I still didn’t get pregnant, and I consoled myself during this period by latching onto conception, pregnancy, and delivery as an autistic special interest. Anyone who knew me at all during that time period knows that I was up to my eyeballs in literature and websites and videos and, hey, did you know that Richard Armitage narrated a documentary about getting pregnant, and hey, did you know that humans form butthole first, and hey, did you know that the natural birth movement really took off in response to the twilight births of the mid-20th century and hey hey hey

Understanding fetal development did a lot of cement my pro-choice position, which I’d casually started to adopt in the preceding years. Since most abortions take place within the first trimester (and, really, within the first twelve weeks, which isn’t even the full trimester), it was kind of hard to argue for personhood when I knew that scientifically, a fetus isn’t all that developed at that point. Up until eight weeks, it’s technically not even a fetus–it’s an embryo–and organ systems aren’t even fully developed until around 12 weeks. The brain itself takes a long time to develop, which makes sense when you consider how big and complex the human brain is; the neural pathways that distinguish pain aren’t even developed until around 26 weeks, so previous arguments I’d heard about fetuses screaming in pain as they were aborted clearly couldn’t be true. 

(never mind that you have to breathe to scream… which you can’t really do when your lungs aren’t developed, which doesn’t happen until ~23-24 weeks anyway!)

Being pregnant myself cemented things even further. I didn’t even have a terribly rough pregnancy with Sam–ICP and elevated blood pressure towards the very end, but I was overall healthy. But BOY was I miserable. I can say confidently that my body is very good at building babies–but that it absolutely cannot multitask while doing so. A lot of the things I’d heard about pregnancy being the healthiest time of a woman’s life also seemed untrue, or at least like things my body hadn’t been informed of (like why was the alleged energy surge of the second trimester more of an “oh, I can stay awake past 9:00 again, but I still want to be asleep by 10, neat” instead of the “ALRIGHT IT’S TIME TO CLEAN YEAH” I was promised?).

And I thought: could I really force this on someone who didn’t want it? Because the usual response to “look, some people don’t want to parent” is to say, “well adoption, duh” (never mind that adoption is not as simple as that, but we’re not going into that right now), but that doesn’t consider that while some people have really great pregnancies where they feel fantastic all nine months, others among us have absolutely miserable times, where this gestational period is nothing but a means to an end that we’d fast forward through if we could. 

(and yeah, cool moments like feeling your kid kick for the first time are cool, but they do not in any way make up for the inability to sleep from about 25 weeks on, the heartburn, the nausea, the aches and pains that are sometimes downright debilitating, the restless legs, and alllllll the complications out there)

AND THEN came my attempts to get pregnant with our second child, attempts that would eventually result in the twins, and I got to experience an abortion procedure firsthand.

See, the first IVF cycle we had was technically a success, but I had a miscarriage, and rather than suffer through the pain of miscarrying naturally, I elected to have a dilation and curettage. 

And admittedly, in my procedure, there wasn’t much of a fetus to remove because I was only about nine weeks along when the miscarriage was confirmed (really, it probably happened closer to seven weeks), but again: most abortions happen around that time as well. There’s not much in there to take out, and in the case of an abortion, medication stops the fetal heartbeat before any procedure takes place, so the whole argument of them tearing a squirming fetus limb from limb doesn’t even work because it’s already dead by the time the lamina are inserted into the cervix for dilation. 

(and like. You can’t really sell fetal organs on the black market because they just aren’t developed enough for it? Like cool, you’ve given me this glob of tissue that may have someday developed into a liver, what am I supposed to do with this)

When we had the fetal tissue tested, we found out that it had a chromosomal abnormality called trisomy 16, which some fetuses can have and continue to develop up to a point, but it’s absolutely not compatible with life. What were we to do with that information, if that fetus had continued to develop and we’d only discovered much later on that it would be born horribly malformed and not survive even a minute outside of me? I don’t think my emotions could’ve handled going through with an entire pregnancy and delivering a still baby. I don’t know how the people who do suffer that kind of unimaginable loss survive it. 

We also had to confront the idea of abortion when it came to the thought of how many embryos we would end up with as a result of IVF. It’s all well and good to sing a song of let’s keep all six sprillion embryos that have ended up implanting (and we were fortunate enough to have very ethical doctors who had a strict policy against transferring more than two embryos at a time… good thing, too, when it came to the cycle where we eventually succeeded because yikes), but doing that runs a very real risk of losing all of them… or losing your own life. 

I’ll be honest: even if I were in a position where I’d have to terminate a pregnancy to save my own life, I would have a really hard time with it. As exhausted as it leaves me sometimes, as stressful as it can be, benign a mom and raising my kids is one of the greatest joys in my life, and if I could do it healthily, I’d gladly have whatever children Kyle and I conceived accidentally or otherwise.

But my life isn’t another person’s life. Kyle and I are in a fortunate and comfortable position (more on that next week) with a lot of support if we ever need it. Not everyone is so fortunate. And just like I don’t want anyone to force something physically, emotionally, and financially difficult on me when I don’t want it, I can’t abide by forcing people to go through with pregnancies when they don’t want them; nor can I see a good, objective, scientific argument for doing so. 

Personhood is not something that can be scientifically proven, and even if it were, it would be difficult to argue that personhood objectively existed in a first or even second trimester fetus, as their brains just aren’t well-developed enough; therefore, you can’t argue that a fetus is a person with rights because that simply cannot be proven and, if it could, would likely be something proven for a time well past what most anti-abortion groups find acceptable. Physically speaking, pregnancy is essentially giving up one (well. All, really) of your organs for 40 weeks, something that’s great to do willingly but not something anyone wants forced on them. It’s kind of like donating a kidney, even if you could get it back after a few months: a lot of people are perfectly willing and even eager to donate an organ for someone else to use, but nobody’s very happy to wake up in a tub full of ice with a huge scar on their side.

I don’t like abortion. I don’t think it’s a position anyone should find themself in, but we know from history that criminalizing abortion doesn’t result in fewer abortions but rather in the same number of abortions, this time performed in unsafe illegal conditions that kill people. Other countries with lower abortion rates aren’t the ones where abortion is illegal but rather the ones with strong social safety nets, universal healthcare, comprehensive sex education, and a general societal value placed on people rather than on control. 

So that’s how I came to be where I am today: I started to realize that a lot of what I’d thought about abortion was simply untrue, came to understand both fetal development and abortion procedures through personal experience, and had rough enough pregnancies that I wouldn’t want anyone who didn’t want to be pregnant to go through what I did. And at the end of the day, nobody has to agree with me or any of this; I just hope some of what I’ve written makes you stop and think for a moment. 

Until next time…

Decisions

You know, if you’d asked me six weeks ago what everyone in the house was going to be for Halloween, I’d have rattled things off so easily that I’d have seemed like a mythical Good Mom, someone who’s got all her shit together and actually does the stuff she pins on Pinterest. 

(I do not have all my shit together, and Pinterest scares me)

And now I’m in a wild spot because while Sam has committed to being Darth Vader (“I’m going to do every other year, Mom! This year, Darth Vader; next year, Jack Skellington; the year after that, Darth Vader…”), I cannot decide what to do with the twins. 

A few weeks ago, Sam decided that he wanted to be Peter Pan, and I thought, well, that makes things easier. He’s Peter Pan. Carrie is Tinkerbell. Isaac is Captain Hook. I’ll be Wendy, Kyle can be Mr. Smee, and life’s fantastic. 

Except the next day (fortunately, before I bought anything), Sam informed me that he didn’t actually want to be Peter Pan. He was married to Darth Vader as a costume. Historically, he’s been unlikely to waver from a chance to dress up like Darth Vader, so I went ahead and ordered that, and it should arrive any day. I’m hoping it arrives while he’s at school so I can lay it out during the twins’ nap and he can try it on once he gets home.

14222370_10153829612385592_6350598245219719049_n(the infamous Darth Vader costume when he first got one, three years ago)

So he’s set. It’s the twins. Wayyyyy back months ago, when I naively thought that maybe I could convince my five-year-old to go along with my Halloween ideas, I thought that we could do a Toy Story thing. Sam would be Buzz Lightyear, Isaac would be Woody, and Carrie would be Jessie. It would be adorable, we’d get some great pictures, everyone would have a laugh. But nope, Sam wants to be Darth Vader, and I’m not about to tell my five-year-old that he can’t wear what he wants on Halloween, and the Toy Story thing doesn’t seem worth the expense (because Toy Story costumes are expensive, at least when you’re buying them for more than one person) if we’re not going to fully commit. 

Some ideas I’ve had and discarded:

  • Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It’s the obvious choice, but (a) finding a Luke Skywalker costume is very difficult when your costumee is younger than nine; (b) making a Luke Skywalker costume involves time that we don’t have; and (c) I kind of want to save that for when they’re old enough to understand the implications of what they’re wearing. So nope.

    731h

  • Grapes, purple and green. On the one hand: cute, easy, and cheap. On the other hand: there’s no way the twins would do anything besides sob wearing a costume made entirely of balloons. So nope.

    tumblr_ofxlxzdpsa1teql7mo1_400

  • Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. If you want the costumes to match somewhat (like, look like they’re of the same quality and you didn’t decide to save on one twin’s costume so that you can splurge on the other), you’re SOL. Tinkerbell costumes exist at every price point for kids Carrie’s size, but Peter Pan costumes seem to only exist for kids Sam’s size and older, which makes no sense to me, but I only ever did B2B construction marketing, so maybe I just don’t know the market.

    1gsq

  • The tortoise and the hare. Cute, but what statement is it making about the child we dress as the hare?

    legitimatesaneitaliangreyhound-size_restricted(flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, you’re an asshole)

  • Literally any famous male/female pairing in history. They are literally all romantic couples, and I cringe out of my skin whenever I find pictures of twins dressed as, like. Danny Zuko and Sandy or Fred and Wilma Flintstone or Mickey and Minnie Mouse. No offense intended, because finding boy-girl twin Halloween costumes is WAY harder than you’d think, but my twins are not Lannisters.

original(if you’re not up to speed on Game of Thrones, first: you are luckier than I am; and second: these are the Lannisters, Jaime and Cersei, and they are twins and they have three children together. My twins are not Lannisters)

I keep coming back to Carrie being a princess of some sort, which narrows things down basically not at all. She loves princesses and all things sparkly and traditionally girly, and a princess costume would serve possibly quintuple duty at Renaissance Faires and Disney World and a couple of Halloweens. Theoretically, I like dressing her as Rapunzel, and I like dressing Isaac as Pascal the chameleon to match…

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…BUT then it ends up getting to the heart of the issue, that being Isaac not having a lot of identifiable interests yet. Well, no, that’s not true. He has interests. He likes climbing and cleaning. He’s a voracious eater. He loves laughing and exploring and going into and out of things. He likes things being where they belong, whether it’s a shoe on a foot or toys in a toy box. He likes it when I sing “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” to them at bedtime. 

But how do you costume any of that?

With Carrie, when someone asks me to describe her, I have the easiest time ever. Picking her up is like picking up a baby made of cotton candy and bubble gum bubbles. She’s a princess with delicate aires and a constant song, a love for sparkles and prettiness and animal companions, a need to have things Her Way Or Else. She’s a gremlin, picking up dirty things off the floor to eat, hiding in dusty places, making weird collections of stuff. She’s a bottle of Diet Coke and Pop Rocks shaken up. You can’t help but adore her.

But Isaac. He almost defies description. He’s determined and needs things to be in their place at all times. He needs his routines to be followed and will get genuinely upset if the Thing that usually follows The Other Thing does not follow The Other Thing. If he wants something, he will get it, no matter how much you try to deter him. He’s fast, voracious, and beyond clever. And then when he smiles, you just absolutely melt, because his smile is incredible, the kind of smile that makes you feel loved to the core. 

Which… I guess is a fine description, but honestly, which one is easier to costume: stereotypical bubblegum candy princess or a clever, determined, fast, voracious sweetheart? 

I think he can be a dragon. 

I know it doesn’t matter a TON one way or the other because they don’t even understand Halloween yet. When Sam was their age, I dressed him as an owl because I told myself, “oh yes, he likes owls!” which he didn’t super like owls, but whatever. He refused to wear most of the costume and cried about it a lot, and I got zero pictures of him in the full costume. It wasn’t until the following year, when he dressed up as Darth Vader, that he really started having fun with Halloween. 

So I know it doesn’t matter, and they won’t care, but I still feel a bit like I’m letting Isaac down because finding a costume that matches who he is and what he likes feels impossible.

So maybe he’ll be a dragon.

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In other decisions news, over the last week, I’ve been asked more times than I realized (at first) if Kyle and I were planning on having more kids. 

Honestly, I have no idea, which is what I’ve said. Whenever people asked me during my pregnancy with the twins, I’d say “NO” and wax eloquent about hysterectomies, but twin pregnancies are awful, and when you’re in the middle of one, it’s hard to feel positively about growing any more humans. Kyle and I were talking today about one incident during the twins’ pregnancy, when Sam told me “Mommy, the poop is everywhere!” and he’d gotten poop all over his bedroom and I was so pregnant and so exhausted that I couldn’t deal with it and begged Kyle to come home from work to save me. 

So I can say with confidence that, given a choice in the matter, I will never have more twins. Absolutely no, not ever, never. 

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And there’s plenty of reason to have an overall “NO” on the books. Three kids is a fine number. I have my girl. Our bedroom setup works very well with three kids. A fourth kid would be a wild ride, financially speaking. I don’t know how my body would handle it. I’m just starting to get my body back into normal person shape after spending upwards of seven years either trying to get pregnant or being pregnant (that’s an additional +60 lbs that came from those seven years, too, which is fun). I want to gain some sense of identity and self outside of making babies. I want to have days with all my kids at school and me writing (or playing video games or, like, cleaning I guess). 

But on the flip side, there’s seven embryos on ice, and I went through hell to make them. No, I don’t want seven more kids, but I’d love one more girl someday, if we’re speaking from an emotional sense. I’d like to go through a pregnancy where (a) I know what I’m doing (like I didn’t with Sam); and (b) I’m not high risk solely because I’ve got more than one baby in me. I’d like to just do things normally and not be in a blind panic and then do the newborn days on Comparatively Easy Mode (because after you do twin newborns, any singleton anything is Comparatively Easy Mode). I’d like to have a matched set, two boys and two girls. I’d like to go into a delivery room knowing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it and with a playlist that I didn’t get to use with the twins.

Also I love babies.

So. I don’t know. And we’ve got time to make a decision. As long as we keep paying the $85/month storage fee, our embryos will be stored indefinitely. It’s the only way we CAN grow our family again, if we decide we want another child in the future. But I’m not thinking about it now (and I very much know Kyle isn’t), not more than off and on, as a back of the mind kind of thing. I’ve earned a respite from thinking about what my uterus is doing outside of my once-a-month adventures, from spending money on pregnancy tests and obsessively charting everything my body is doing. And I’m going to enjoy that respite. 

Starting with the Halloween costumes.

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I belong to quite a few miscarriage support groups–groups where people share their experiences, comfort each other, give advice, etc. For the most part, I post there to try and give advice on the medical side of things, as after nearly half a dozen miscarriages under my belt over the course of a year, I feel like I have a bit of experience in that area. I’m no expert, but I feel like sometimes, you don’t an expert so much as you need someone who’s been in your shoes before, like when you want to know how to distinguish contractions from gas or whatever. If you’re afraid of going in for a D&C, it helps to read about someone’s experience rather than just the pamphlet they give you beforehand. It’s all well and good to know that your cervix will be dilated by a series of rods called laminaria and that the remaining fetal tissue will be removed with a curette, along with the uterine lining and remains of the placenta; but it’s even better to hear, “It was like I blinked and it was over. There was far more blood than I expected afterwards, but it stopped by the next day. I didn’t have much cramping, and the cramps I felt were minor. Everyone was really nice and understanding on every level.”

So I like to post about those things. And I occasionally like to post about some emotional stuff, but not a lot, which I’ll get to shortly. Namely, I like trying to help people to understand that in 99% of situations, your miscarriage was not your fault. You’ll have the miscarriages that you know were caused by something external, but they’re comparatively rare. Nearly two-thirds are chromosomal abnormalities, and another sizable chunk are other biological issues–physical issues with the uterus or cervix, immunological issues, myriad other things that can’t be helped.

And the other thing I like to help with is telling people that it’s okay to feel what you feel. That it’s okay to cry, that it’s okay to be furious, that it’s okay to question everything, that it’s okay to grieve.

But that’s the flip side of things for me, because I feel weird on these groups. I feel like there’s something wrong with me.

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Nearly every post about a newly recognized miscarriage talks about devastation, heartbreak, being broken overall, just all this pain that makes it difficult to even get up in the morning, let alone live the day after and the day after that. And I get that. I objectively and intellectually understand this level of pain, because it seems like the correct reaction to a miscarriage, even a really early one. You’ve pinned your hopes on this life growing inside of you, and then it’s not there, and that’s logically devastating, heartbreaking, and painful.

But that’s not what I feel.

I don’t know why I don’t feel that. I don’t know why I never felt that.

My first miscarriage was very early, just a week after I found out I was pregnant. It was a chemical pregnancy, when an egg fertilizes but doesn’t implant for whatever reason. If you test early, you’ll get a positive, but the line will get lighter and lighter and eventually, it will just be gone. In that case, I didn’t feel sad. I just felt embarrassed; after all, we’d told so many people and now had to go and tell them, “just kidding, not pregnant after all!”

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I chalked the lack of emotion about that one up to it being so early on; I hadn’t been able to let the enormity of pregnancy sink in yet, so of course I wasn’t going to be miserable at the loss. Logical.

I didn’t experience any more losses until last February-Marchish. I was pregnant after my first IVF cycle and only found out that I was losing that baby at the 8 week ultrasound, which showed a tiny disc, like a flying saucer with a slowly flickering heartbeat. When we’d seen Sam at that point, his heartbeat was so fast we could barely see it at all, 179 beats per minute, perfectly perfect for that age. With this one, the heart beat about once per second, which is expected for a six week fetus, and that’s what this fetus looked like–a six week fetus.

The trouble was, of course, that we knew for a fact when we’d conceived. We’d been in that very clinic, me in a gown that didn’t cover my ass and slipper socks and a funny hat. We knew when the baby had been conceived, and it was eight weeks ago, not six.

And another ultrasound showed nothing there whatsoever. Not even a hint of a heartbeat, no more little disc, barely enough tissue left to scrape away and take to the genetics lab for a karyotype analysis. I had my D&C. I found out that the baby was a girl. I called her Finley.

The trouble was that I never felt devastated. Sad, sure. Disappointed, you bet. Angry, absolutely. But I didn’t reach those depths of emotion that people seem to feel over their miscarriages, despite that I probably should have. Finley was the girl we desperately wanted. She was our hope; we were sure that she’d be born. If she had been born, her name wouldn’t have been Finley. It would’ve been something like Evangeline or Arielle or one of my other girl names that I keep stored for such an occasion. There are so many reasons I should’ve been devastated and heartbroken and all those things.

But I wasn’t. I kept waiting for it to come, but it didn’t. I cried when I got home from the D&C, before I fell back asleep. That was it. I felt a little remorse when I found out that she was a girl, but it didn’t send me into any sort of spiral whatsoever; maybe it should have. I don’t know. I felt more like an adult celebrating my first grown-up birthday–no, you’re not really expecting anything, but you’re still a little bummed that nobody bought you a cake or flowers or anything.

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(my birthday is November 5, by the way)

The next miscarriage was an even shorter window. I wasn’t supposed to know that I was pregnant yet by the time I miscarried; I tested on my own, and by the time I went in for the blood test, I’d already started bleeding. That one was a disappointment on a different level–I’d made some good friends in my hopeful birth month birth club on BabyCenter and didn’t want to leave them behind.

(thankfully, I didn’t; we’re still in touch on Facebook and regularly update each other on our lives and ask for advice and are basically awesome with each other ♥)

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(I love you ladies ♥♥♥)

And then the third miscarriage, earlier this year. I didn’t feel really sad over that one, either. I felt fascinated at seeing what was probably the gestational sac come out of me. I felt frustrated that this had happened to my “perfect” blastocyst. I felt even more frustrated that I’d been at the whole IVF thing for more than a year with no results.

But sad? Devastated? Heartbroken? Agonized? No.

Instead, I find myself wondering what’s wrong with me that I don’t feel these things. Am I just so used to disappointment because of infertility that it’s basically the expectation now? Did I lose my ability to feel heartbroken over a miscarriage a long time ago? Am I just a heartless human being?

I get up every morning just fine. The miscarriages aren’t even on my mind. Sometimes, I’ll pass by the baby clothes section in Target and get angry–I should be buying those for one of the miscarried kids right now–but usually, I scoot on past to grab another Target thing.

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(I feel personally attacked by this gif)

I go through my day just fine. Sometimes, I have to explain to Sam that I’m not pregnant (he doesn’t have a very good sense of time; I was pregnant at one point in my entire life, so to him, I’m always pregnant), and that’s annoying, but it’s a dull annoying, more like an unidentified bug buzzing around at the barbecue.

I sleep just fine. Work fills my dreams because it’s stressful. My last thoughts as I drift off to sleep are of stories I’m writing or what the next day will bring, not of what I’ve lost. Day-to-day, I usually forget that I’ve had this many miscarriages. I’m focused on work or on the next steps in the IVF process or in my frustration with those steps or Sam or writing or gaming or any number of things.

I read about people who can’t stop thinking about it, and the promises that the pain will go away or change or something. And I wonder: what does it say about me that I never felt an unbearable pain at these losses? Am I heartless because I felt nothing but a dull ache?

Or am I just so used to loss by this point that I can’t feel it anymore, like a frog boiled alive in a pot of water?

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(anyway, pandas are cute)

A Clump of Cells

We all began as a clump of cells.

Or, really, just one cell, made from two. A sperm cell and an egg cell, each giving 50% of themselves to create a cell with a unique makeup… maybe not unique in all of history and prehistory, but unique in the here and now. The cell splits into two, then four, then eight, and so on. After five days, the cells with their own unique DNA number in the hundreds, divided into an inner cell mass and an outer layer. The inner cell mass will, assuming everything goes right, eventually become a human being with fingers and toes and lungs and a heart and a brain, and in the brain, a personality and memories and the ability to learn and think and grow.

And all just from a clump of cells.

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This is my clump of cells. We’re calling it Peanut.

Back in October, I did a round of IVF that went somewhat horribly awry. My RE decided, for reasons that I still haven’t figured out, to put me on really high doses of medication. It overstimulated my ovaries to the point that they were swollen to the size of apples rather than their usual almond size. I was in amazing pain; my organs had moved and shifted to make room for my giant ovaries, and in moving, they pressed up against my diaphragm and made it hard for me to take a deep breath. I looked like I was six months pregnant, when really, I hadn’t even conceived.

FullSizeRender (13)(I’m fat, but not like this; this is me right before I got the period that made this ridiculous bloat go away)

At the end of that cycle, I was supposed to take a final shot, a trigger shot, to push the eggs that had been developing in my ridiculous ovaries into maturity so that they could be harvested and fertilized to create embryos.

The trouble was that in the days leading up to that trigger, I had to take another medication to prevent my ovaries from releasing the eggs too early and making the whole month a waste. That medication did its job too well, and when I took the trigger shot, it did nothing. I went under general anesthesia and woke up just a few minutes later to my doctor apologizing and saying we’d try again the next day, after I took a stronger trigger. That trigger worked, but we only retrieved a handful of eggs out of the 40+ follicles my ovaries had created. And of that handful, only two fertilized.

Two clumps of cells, that’s all. Transferring one at that point would’ve put me in a bad place, physically, so we froze them to transfer later. My family and I went to Disney World, we celebrated Christmas and the New Year. And then, in January, I started the process for a transfer cycle.

Comparatively, it was an easy process. Instead of taking shots every day, I took pills–just seven tiny pills daily, plus a pessary (that’s a suppository in the front!). The side effects were negligible: sore boobs, wonky emotions, minor cramping. After 20 days, I went to the clinic and sat around with my pants off for a while before going into a procedure room. They transferred one of the embryos, one with a perfect score of 4AA. Everything was “perfect.”

But then it wasn’t. The embryo stuck, but then one Thursday morning, I went to the bathroom and saw blood gushing out. A lot of blood. I called into work, called the doctor, and then went to lie down for a couple of hours. When I got up, I sat down on the toilet and heard a splash as a clot of blood and flesh the size of a lemon fell out of me. Tests the next day showed what I already knew: I’d miscarried my perfect embryo.

Ultimately, it was nothing I did or didn’t do. My doctor assured me of that much. My hormone levels were fine, and everything looked good. That particular clump of cells, that hope for a person, had something irreparably damaged about it. It wasn’t viable. And it was gone.

But we decided to try again, and that’s what happened today. Kyle and I left the house around 7 to get to our appointment at 8:45 (we had to drive through awful I-95 traffic, which anyone in Massachusetts can tell you is pure hell). I had a bunch of talismans for luck:

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Lucky nails with Carrie Fisher-style “fuck you” fingers (see how they sparkle).

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Lucky socks with Princess Leia on them.

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A lucky bottle of ranch dressing, an inside joke with some friends also on TTC journeys.

They didn’t make me sit around with my pants off this time; I just changed in a little bathroom and scooted out, awkwardly trying to maintain some dignity while wrapping an oversized paper towel around my midsection. I sat down on the edge of the bed and put my legs up in a pair of stirrups. The nurse squirted some jelly on my lower abdomen and pressed down, showing me and Kyle where my bladder and uterus were. The doctor cranked open the speculum and inserted a catheter to guide the thawed embryo (technically, a blastocyst) up into my uterine lining to implant.

Kyle was excited because he could actually pick out the catheter and embryo on the ultrasound this time, a white line and a bright flash, traveling along the line and into the uterus. Less than a minute later, it was done. I cleaned myself off and tried to exit the room with dignity, but managed to crash into a cart full of instruments on my way. And then we went home, and I took it easy, on doctor’s orders. I slept a lot, then quietly entertained myself until Kyle and Kat and Sam took me out for a belated Mother’s Day dinner.

I don’t know what the clump of cells is doing right now; with any luck, it’s hatching out of its protective casing and burrowing into the uterine lining. With any more luck, I’ll find out that I’m pregnant ten days from now (probably sooner; I’ll definitely be peeing on a stick before then). With the best luck of all, this pregnancy will actually stick, and I’ll be able to write about that journey here, too.

For now, though, I’m PUPO–pregnant until proven otherwise, and all thanks to a clump of cells.

Here I Go Again

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This is my second FET cycle and my fifth overall ART cycle. (that’s frozen embryo transfer and assisted reproductive technology, for the uninitiated)

I got the go-ahead to start medications yesterday, so I’m currently on 1mg twice daily of estrogen and 81mg once daily of baby aspirin to keep me from getting blood clots (a serious risk when you start pumping your body full of estrogen). On May 1, I’ll be switching over to 2mg twice daily of estrogen (still just 81mg once daily of aspirin), and then on May 5, I’ll start taking 2mg three times daily of estrogen… and 81mg once daily of aspirin. On May 9, I go in for bloodwork and an ultrasound to make sure that my uterine lining is thickening the way it should be and that my body has enough hormones hanging out in it, and the next day, May 10, I start with my progesterone.

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(the progesterone is not a pill)

In theory, this all means that the embryo transfer will be on May 15, which is both earlier and later than I’d hoped. Thankfully, I’ll be insanely busy during that particular two week wait, since Kyle and I are taking Sam down to Texas for a long weekend between May 18 and 22, and travel always gets me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I’m already anticipating the chaos of the week leading up to that trip: finishing last minute things at work, trying to make sure I’ve got enough cute and summery clothes for a weekend in Texas in May (which is like a weekend in Massachusetts in July, really), packing ALL the things, etc.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up, like I’d said before. It’s entirely possible, in fact based on all the available evidence, it’s likely that this transfer will end in a failure or a miscarriage or both at the same time. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I still keep finding myself imagining the good ending, the one where this pregnancy actually ends with a baby.

I imagine finally getting to announce a pregnancy to my family and friends, having no trouble keeping it hidden until whatever date Kyle and I agree on as an arbitrary “hey guess what, we’re finally knocked up” date. I imagine what our announcement will look like… maybe something simple like Sam reading a book about “how to be a big brother” or just wearing a T-shirt that says “big brother” on it. Maybe something like last time, something that employs Kyle and my design knowledge.

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(actual announcement when we were expecting Sam)

I imagine feeling movement for the first time, recognizing it as such before I recognized it with Sam. I imagine seeing a viable heartbeat fluttering away on the first ultrasound, the nuchal translucency scan, the anatomy scan. I imagine watching another baby kicking and arching and moving and alive, beautifully alive.

I imagine losing my feet, waddling about in absolute agony with a baby settled between my hips and not moving anywhere for the life of me or itself. I imagine being swollen like a sausage and being able to draw smiley faces in my swollen legs as I countdown the minutes to giving birth. I imagine making excuses for myself throughout the summer as morning sickness keeps me from enjoying company breakfasts and barbecues and much beyond a summer treat. I imagine how incredibly tired I’ll be for the first three months and the last three, how warm I’ll feel, how Kyle will inch away from me while we’re sleeping because I’ll be a little oven of a person.

I imagine the celebratory things that I usually think are way too twee for me but that I really want to embrace this time. I imagine having a wonderful maternity shoot with my friend Melanie (who took our wedding pictures and my maternity pictures with Sam AND Sam’s newborn pictures… what can I say, when you find the best photographer ever, you stick with her), and I imagine somehow managing to score a photoshoot at Boston’s Museum of Science. I’m pretty sure this can’t happen unless you pay them a hefty fee, but I still like the idea of a baby conceived through science being celebrated surrounded by science (ideal shots: me next to an oversized model of a pregnant mom, me among the planets in the solar system, me next to the giant model of a black widow spider looking sufficiently freaked out).

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(literally this but the size of a small dog)

I imagine, too, that I’ll give the whole thing a rainbow theme. In miscarriage and infant loss circles, a “rainbow baby” is any baby conceived and born after a loss–the rainbow after the storm. Kat thinks this whole idea is, frankly, silly, but I love it, maybe because it’s silly. I don’t want to do anything really elaborate–no flying with rainbows or running around naked surrounded by rainbows of tulle or anything like that. Maybe just a rainbow of paint or a rainbow in my hands. Something simple.

In the vein of twee things, I imagine doing a gender reveal. I know, I know, gender is a social construct and the genitalia of a fetus does not necessarily determine how said child will identify later in life and does not take into account intersex children and furthers the gender binary and so on. I still want to do it. I still want to go and get some balloons for Sam to discover in pink or blue. I still really hope for pink because my god, do I want to have a little girl. I’m still a little nervous about blue because I have no idea what I’d name another boy or if I could handle two little boys.

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(it is my understanding that the more boys you have, the more your life starts to resemble Malcolm in the Middle, and I’m just not cool enough to manage that)

I imagine celebrating in one more twee way: I want to have shirts for me and this imaginary baby that say something along the lines of “made with love and science.” I really want to honor that, the impact science has had on the creation and expansion of this family. It’s something to be celebrated, I feel; without science, there wouldn’t even be a me and Kyle, let alone a me and Kyle and Kat and Sam and maybe one more.

I imagine exhausting late pregnancy appointments, ignoring the number on the scale whenever I step on it, going and going and maybe having another induction or maybe needing a C-section or maybe delivering completely without intervention (except an epidural, I want like ten of those). And then I imagine actually holding this child that I’ve been trying SO HARD to conceive for the past two years and knowing that it’s all been worth it.

That’s what I imagine. And then I remind myself that it hasn’t happened and that the odds are not in my favor, so I should probably get back to work and planning Sam’s birthday and getting ready to head to Texas and things like that.

The Wait

Anyone who’s ever been involved in reproduction will tell you that the process involves a lot–A LOT–of waiting.

Even in an unassisted cycle, you do a lot of waiting. There’s the Two Week Wait–the week between when you hopefully ovulated and when most pregnancy tests would be able to detect HCG in your system. There’s the wait for the first doctor’s visit, the wait for the first ultrasound, the wait to hear the heartbeat, the wait for the anatomy scan, the wait during gestational diabetes testing, the wait for breakfast after GD testing, the wait for your body to go into labor on its own, the wait for your doctor to recognize that your body isn’t going into labor on its own, the hours and hours of waiting that we call “labor.” You hurry up. You wait. It’s the month before Christmas times a thousand.

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(Linda Belcher understands me)

When you bring assisted reproductive technology (ART) into the picture, there’s even more waiting. You wait to get results back from the battery of tests (blood work, semenalysis, hysterosalpingogram, hysteroscopy, sonohysterogram, karyotype screening, etc.). You wait for the doctor to determine which line of treatment works best for you. You wait for insurance approval. If you don’t get insurance approval, you wait to have enough money. You wait to get your blood drawn again and again and again. You wait for an ultrasound and another and another. You wait with IVs in your arm to be taken back for your egg retrieval. And then you do the normal pregnancy waiting, only this time, with less optimism and more medication.

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(everyone around you is getting pregnant and you’re just like :|)

Kyle and I are moving into our next FET cycle straight after the most recent one ended in a miscarriage. I was, frankly, tired of waiting. So much of infertility is putting your life on hold because you’re actively doing all of this stuff and putting all of this effort into getting knocked up but you never know if it’s going to work. Should you go on that vacation? Should you dive into an intense fitness plan? Should you work towards that promotion? Should you buy that car? Who knows?

At this point, I’ve been putting a lot of my life on hold for two years in the interest of getting pregnant. I’ve been hesitant to really jump in at work because I don’t know if I’ll need to leave for maternity. I’ve been holding back on trying to really lose weight because I don’t know if I’m going to be pregnant sooner rather than later. I’ve been planning everything for the short term because I don’t know if I’m going to have to plan for a baby in the long term.

And, I mean, nobody does, but I think it feels different when you’re putting this much time, money, and effort into the process. You want to make sure that you’re going to be available, and you don’t want to overextend yourself to the detriment of your body and your potential baby’s health.

So you wait. I wait.

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This time around, I was waiting for my period to start, and it did yesterday. I think the entire neighborhood heard me yesterday morning when I exclaimed, “Finally! Thank GOD!” right next to the open window in my master bathroom (I have a master bathroom, I’m super posh, it’s in desperate need of a good cleaning). I figured that aspect of waiting was over, but I still went for the testing I had scheduled for yesterday morning, just to make sure nothing was super chaotic.

And nothing was. The nurse called me right before the lunchtime meeting I had scheduled for one of about half a dozen projects I have coming up in the next several weeks. She started to give me my calendar (basically, with a FET cycle, you have to switch your medication dosages on specific days; when the nurse tells you what days you’ll be switching things, it’s called “giving you your calendar”) but then noticed that the system wasn’t showing that we had insurance approval yet.

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A bit of insurance backstory. When Kyle and I were trying to get pregnant with Sam, Kyle worked through a staffing agency that didn’t offer insurance benefits (this was before the ACA passed and such things were mandatory). We live in Massachusetts, so we were able to purchase coverage through MassHealth, and it was ridiculously expensive–half the reason we were so broke for that year he worked through the staffing company was because of the insurance payments we had to make.

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(exactly like this)

The insurance we got was bare bones, too. We could go to the doctor again, and that was nice. We could pay for medication without going broke, though our copays were much higher than those of many people we knew. We could not get an ambulance if we needed it (during the first month of my pregnancy with Sam, I had to take an ambulance to the hospital because I fainted at a Renaissance Faire–long story–and we ended up paying for it for the two years). We could not get any infertility medication unless we were willing to pay out of pocket (clomid, the medication I was on, costs about $6 a pill, making me very happy you only get five pills at a time).

When Kyle started his current job, they gave him fantastic insurance, some of the best I’ve ever seen. I love this insurance; it’s covered all but probably a tenth of the cost of our IVF cycles. It doesn’t cover PGS, but not many carriers do. Ambulance rides and medications are all taken care of, and I am ridiculously grateful.

But. In order to start a fertility treatment cycle, you need insurance approval. They want to make sure you’re not gaming the system, which is fair. Usually, our insurance carrier approves treatment cycles within about 24 hours; we’ll go in for a meeting with our RE, we’ll settle on a treatment plan, and then they’ll call our insurance carrier and get us approved.

Apparently, though, this speedy approval process has vanished into the ether. Lately, our insurance carrier has been taking three weeks to process approvals rather than 24 hours.

k9al8

I don’t want to sound ungrateful; I’m not. I know that a lot of insurance carriers don’t cover infertility treatments at all (I was on one of them for a while). I know that we’re lucky to have insurance that isn’t causing us to go completely broke on a monthly basis. I know that we’re lucky to have insurance at all.

But the wait.

We went in to figure out this cycle on March 30. If I’m counting correctly, three weeks for insurance approval should take us to about April 20, another week from today. It’s not the end of the world, not by a long shot.

But it’s another wait in the process that, while objectively a short amount of time, feels like an eternity.

I’m trying to pass the time as best I can. I have a lot of distractions. Work has picked back up after a month or so of being slow as molasses (the nature of the field I’m in is such that you’re either drowning in projects or spending every work hour reorganizing your desk to make yourself look busy). Sam has a doctor’s appointment next Wednesday, and Easter is this weekend. I’m going to bake a cake (a butter cake, from scratch, and I’m going to fill it with candy).

And I wait.