February 02, 2016

Is it possible to be terrible at pregnancy? I think I might be terrible at pregnancy.

First things first, the baby is doing great! This *baby* appears to be excellent at pregnancy. It just may be trying to kill me in the process.

Did you know that even if you've never gotten migraines before, they can crop up as a pregnancy symptom? I DO NOW! Thanks to the 30 hours I spent curled up in the fetal position on Sunday/Monday! Although I also learned that while pregnant people can't take anything useful like Advil, we CAN apparently take Percocet when your ob/gyn takes pity on you because you haven't slept for 2 night because the pain is too acute, and thank you tiny baby jesus for that. However, I've now had the pleasure of experiencing OHSS, severe enough nausea that I lost 7 pounds over 2 weeks, a 30+ hour migraine, and for a while there I thought I was flirting with prenatal depression... all in the first 12 weeks. Either I am - or this baby is - an overachiever. I'm not sure which.

Either way, I happily know the baby is doing just dandy because we had the extremely awesome 1st trimester screening last Friday, which is basically an extra-high-def sonogram where you get to see that your fetus is amazingly and inexplicably entirely human-shaped now, despite only being 12 weeks old. We saw its brain! And spine! and its actual defined arms and legs, which it was flailing all around like a real live baby! S/he turned over halfway through the sonogram! I MEAN! It was seriously splendid and exhilarating and wonderful, and most importantly for me at the time, confirmed that the darn thing was still alive.

I had spent about a week leading up to that appointment becoming increasingly morose, as I inexplicably came to the (unfounded, although try telling past-me that) conclusion that the baby was probably dead. I think the main problem was I had passed the point in my last pregnancy where the fetus died without me knowing it, and while there was no indication to think it had happened this time..... I also didn't KNOW that it hadn't. Not for sure. And naturally masochist-googling "missed miscarriages at 11 weeks" did nothing but confirm that what appeared to be MILLIONS of women had gone in for 12 or 13 week ultrasounds to learn that their baby had died 2, or 4, or 5 weeks prior and they had no idea, no change in symptoms, etc. I got so weird about it (and so uncharacteristically morbid / pessimistic) that I then changed my pain-googling to "prenatal depressions signs and symptoms," even though I was 90% sure I was operating under a potent combination of pregnancy hormones (WHICH YOU'D THINK MIGHT HAVE INDICATED TO MYSELF THAT ALL WAS WELL, but.. yeah) and vague PTSD-induced anxiety from the last miscarriage. You can just imagine how fun I was to be around that week. But now that we've seen the little nugget, wiggling around and measuring properly - and importantly to my brain, at 12 weeks and hence past my personally / arbitrarily determined Danger Zone - that particular anxiety track appears to have shut down. Which is nice for everyone.

And now that I'm past the Migraine of Doom, I am feeling pretty great! I had a magical 3 or 4 days last week where my nausea appeared to have finally kicked the bucket, and I was suddenly able - and desperately wanted - to eat like 6 meals a day to presumably make up for lost time (and lost weight). I'm headed back in that direction now as well, which is just fantastic. I am interested in vegetables again! Do you know what I ate for like 80% of my meals after I got back from Ireland? White American cheese on white bread with mayo. That's it. With some plain cereal in the morning. I'm pretty thrilled this little parasite is graciously allowing me to put some food containing actual nutrients in my body now. And as I round the corner of the first trimester, I have my fingers tightly, tightly crossed that I'll have a relatively uneventful second trimester, because this first one has been quite enough drama, thank you very much.

Then again this little jerk already looks pretty cute, so s/he'll probably keep getting away with whatever s/he wants.

Sorry for the blurry phone pic of an already-not-great sono pic. But! Squee!

January 15, 2016

Sexy half-nekkid photos! ...of my bloated stomach. YOU'RE WELCOME, GOOGLERS.

Quick interlude from trip photos for some inappropriate selfies!

I'm 10 weeks tomorrow, and the 10w bloat is in extreme full swing. I have only a few remaining pairs of pants left that are workable, and happily the investment in extra flowy tunic tops during stims / OHSS has had an extremely profitable (if repetitive.. sorry coworkers) payoff. But just for comparison, here's a picture of me the day before I had my first fluid aspiration back in early December. This was a full day before they took out 2L of fluid from my abdomen, and I felt too awful to even take a picture before the second aspiration. That's the picture on the right left . The picture on the right is from this morning, also showcasing some Xtreme Bloat, but... yeah. Not even in the same league.

Have I mentioned how ecstatic I am that I am past the OHSS!?! VERY VERY ECSTATIC. 

Edit: OMG, I apparently do not know my right from my left. Lordy. Pic on the LEFT is the OHSS one. Do I get to claim pregnancy brain yet? 

January 13, 2016


Baby update first:

We had our first regular ob/gyn appointment yesterday now that we've officially been released from the IVF world, and everything looked great. The fetus was measuring exactly 9w2d, which was precisely how old it should be, and we finally got to hear the heartbeat this time instead of just peering uncertainly at a grainy flicker on the screen. The doctor assured us that our risk of miscarriage at this point is down to about 3%, since the fetus is measuring appropriately with a strong heartbeat. This would be slightly more reassuring if it weren't also the super-low, never-gonna-happen probability I was going to get OHSS ;-) But still, I'll take it! Even though I'm 35 and thus technically of "advanced maternal age" in fertility-land, our doctor has decreed me low risk. On the one hand this is good, since it means everything looks exceedingly normal to him, and that I'm in good health, etc. On the other hand, it means I'm down to monthly appointments and won't get another reassuring peek into what's going on in there for FOUR MORE WEEKS!! Considering I was going every other day for a good stretch there, this is going to be an awfully long month.

On to Europe!

Iceland was positively enchanting. Freezing cold, but enchanting. I'm not sure I'd do another January trip in the near future, but I absolutely would go back, in a heartbeat. We sadly didn't catch the lights while we were there, but partly because after an unsuccessful first attempt, I was far too exhausted the second night to try again. My warm bed was just too tempting for a nauseated, nap-needing pregnant lady.

And Ireland... man. A heretofore dormant part of my somewhat dubious Irish heritage apparently clawed its way out of the depths of my psyche while we toured around the Western countryside, because I found myself thinking preposterous thoughts like, "I could totally see us settling down in a thatch-roofed cottage and owning sheep! This just feels... right!" Note to self: you would hate that. But Irish alter-ego made a pretty good case for becoming sheep-herding country folk, at the time.

I, of course, took roughly 40 billion photos, so rather than vomiting them all into one post I think I'll go slow and steady over the next week, focusing on one thing at a time. For starters: Reykjavik!

Look at the light!

We arrived at something ungodly like 5:20am, but by the time we got through customs, got our bags, and were transported nearly an hour from the airport in KeflavĂ­k to downtown, it was after 7am. Most hotels in downtown Reykjevik seem to be apartment style (or B&Bs), meaning it's a bunch of dorm-style rooms, often with with mini kitchens, but no front desk. So upon arrival we called the number at the door to have the landlord / owner come let us in. It ended up being quite a to-do (despite emailing multiple times, and then calling and confirming that arriving so early would be OK, whoever I talked to apparently never passed that message on to the owner, who was in quite the kerfuffled state at our arrival time) but the owner came careening up the street in his ancient, tiny, Mexican-made car that seemed altogether unsuitable for 6" of freshly fallen unplowed snow, and ushered us into the vehicle rather than into the building, since he had another hotel/apartment where we'd be able to sleep until noon instead of 10:30, and where he also had to start making breakfast for other guests in approximately 5 minutes. So off we careened down the dark snowy streets, in a complete stranger's car, hoping for the best.

Our first view of Reykjavik upon waking up: dang that's a lot of snow

It of course was fine, and he deposited us into a bare-bones but workable room in his second location, where we promptly passed out for 3 glorious hours, awakening to the view above. Light! And goodness.. that's a lot of snow! Those snow boots I panic-ordered 3 days before the trip were an immediate and welcome payoff!

Our intent was to head to the main downtown area for lunch, stopping by what I had read was the best bakery in Reykjavik on the way, but as we started our trek I was catching glimpses of the harbor through the cross streets, with this amazing pink light reflecting off the water, the snowy cliffs, and sky. I was like a moth to a flame: I had to go down to the water.

We started walking downtown, but I caught a glimpse of the harbor and couldn't stay away from this view.

Since the sun is only up for about 5 hours a day at this time of year, it also never actually gets very far up in the sky. So for the entire duration of daylight, the quality of light is this magical almost-sunset glow.

The Sun Voyager, a large scale sculpture commemorating the 200th anniversary of Reykjavik.

I couldn't get enough of it. I'm not sure these pictures are even doing it justice. I was basically just wandering around the path at the edge of the water with a dopey heart-eye-emoji expression permanently plastered to my face.

And then, within seconds... it was snowing. Heavily.

...And in literally the space of 2 minutes, it was snowing heavily (!?)

Sure, whatever Reykjavik. You do you.

But that building up there? That's the Harpa, a nearly-brand-new concert hall that I had read was really cool on the inside and worth a poke around, so we popped in to take a look (and get a break from the cold!)

Inside the Harpa, the odd-looking glass building from that last picture.

::cue me standing immobile, jaw hanging open::

The building is amazing. It's a new concert hall built in 2011. The interior seems to have no right angles, with mirrored honeycomb panels covering the ceiling and multi-dimensional cube panelled windows.

I mean. Would you take a look at this place.

Couldn't get enough of this place.

It is GORGEOUS. I don't think there's a single right angle in the place. The ceiling is entirely made up of layered mirrored plates, and the walls are these three dimensional honeycomb-like plates that diffuse the light in the most amazing way.

Looking out the honeycombed glass walls


Anyway! After that we did actually make it to the main downtown area, where neither the streets nor the sidewalks were plowed or cleared in any way whatsoever, nor did anyone seem to think that odd.

Typical downtown street. Not particularly plowed. No one seemed bothered in the least.

After a lunch stop (a giant bowl of lobster tails for Chris; fish and chips for me) we headed out on what ended up being a highly non-viable trip to what was supposed to be the hip new area of town, but was more like wandering around one of those sprawling big box Costco complexes on foot (eg, not ideal. Everything is really far away from everything else and all other visitors were in cars. Also there was even less snow trampling there than around the rest of the city due to the lack of pedestrians, so we were tromping through a good foot of snow at that point). While the initial goal was not realized, we did end up at another sea wall with more amazing views.

Walking the sea wall on the far side of the old harbor

Looking across (I think) at Seltjarnarnes

So, totally worth it.

OK! That's a good start.. I'm almost done editing the 18263517243 photos from our Golden Circle tour, so hopefully those to come soon.

December 31, 2015

Heartbeats and travel plans

Baby news first:

I had my first official o/b ultrasound last week (everything else has technically been an OHSS u/s up until this point) and they were able to re-confirm the presence of a tiny heartbeat. I was 6w4d at the time, but was measuring 6w2d. The heart rate was 118 (normal range is 115-125 for that gestational age). I was overjoyed to see the nugget was still in there, but pretty paralyzed with anxiety as well: in my last pregnancy, when I went in for my first just-past-8-week ultrasound, the baby was measuring nearly a full week behind. I didn't know it at the time, but measuring small/behind is an indicator of problems. (Not always! There are plenty of success stories for women who measured behind / small / early and everything was fine! But it's one of those things that CAN be an indicator of Woes To Come.) By the time I went in for a follow up u/s 2 weeks later, there was no heartbeat. That was obviously pretty traumatizing, so hearing that my 6 week old fetus was already measuring small was tough for me. The doctor was not at all concerned though, and said that it was completely within the normal range for that phase. I did a shitload of googling when I got home, and the consensus did appear to be that a few days off in measurements so early really was not too concerning, considering they are measuring millimeters on a screen at this point and 1 mm off in measurement can translate to a few days of gestational time. Basically, the margin of error is pretty high on such tiny measurements. This was somewhat gratifying to hear but did not in any way tamp down my anxiety.

I didn't sleep much before my appointment yesterday, and they were uncharacteristically short staffed at the office so we ended up waiting in the u/s room for a full 25 minutes before the doctor and tech came in to pop the dildo cam in. (Unconfirmed, but I suspect I may have had an actual stroke during that time.) To my shaky-handed relief, the heartbeat was still there. S/he's now actually measuring 2 days AHEAD, and the heart rate was a reassuring 155 bpm.

I am beyond relieved. I am starting to finally feel like this might be real, it might actually work out this time. I'm starting to allow myself to believe there might be a viable fetus in there.

I've officially "graduated" from the IVF facility and have my first "normal" ob/gyn visit scheduled for when I return from our trip. I doubt I will ever have a restful night's sleep before ultrasounds any more, but this is as much as I possibly could have hoped for from this last visit. The OHSS symptoms have all but cleared up, my ovaries are continuing to (slowly) shrink down to normal size, and while there is still a little fluid hanging on, it's not enough to cause issues or concern. And the fetus is strong and on track. (As I tell him/her/it regularly, he had BETTER be strong and hold on at this point, because you do NOT get to cause this much trouble and then give up! DO YOU HEAR ME FETUS?)

But also! The trip!

We leave tomorrow, which I am fully unprepared for, although I did finally book us some hotel rooms and train tickets in Ireland, which was a big gaping to-do on my list. I've been somewhat frantically Amazon Prime-ing several important items (like gloves! and warm socks!) and just realized last night that all the nice warm winter sweaters that I thought were stored under my bed were, in fact, apparently all tossed last year (justifiably, as they had become pretty ratty). But this does mean that I need to acquire a few warm sweaters, like, today. Although I do also need to look up the forecasts for where we'll be to see what the weather even will be, come to think of it. So prepared! As you can see!

The one thing I have done is packed up all the myriad medications I will require during the trip, including the prescription info for each, because I'm not sure how well it's going to go when I try to waltz through security with 8 syringes in my carry on. But since pregnancy = risk of blood clots, and flying = risk of blood clots, and OHSS = significant risk of blood clots, the combination of all three = I definitely need those blood thinners for this trip. Hope the TSA agrees.

I'm pretty bummed that I won't be able to eat some of the INCREDIBLY FASCINATING foods that can be found in Iceland, like fermented shark, or the huge tempting selection of not-entirely-cooked seafood like gravlax. On the other hand, my nausea levels are pretty high right now so even without the no-uncooked-food restriction that may have been off the table for me. Alas.

Weirdest current pregnancy symptom: my scalp hurts SO MUCH. Apparently it's because it's super dry, but it's amazingly tender as a result. It's excruciating to brush my hair after a shower. I've never experienced anything like it. It's apparently not super common, but is a definite known 1st trimester symptom for some lucky ladies. I'll take it if I can continue to refrain from any actual upchucking though.

December 21, 2015

Week 6 (!) update

OK! So, a week out, and I'm still feeling pretty good! I went in on Friday and there is still fluid up in there, but as the doctor so eloquently put it, "it's not looking so much like Lake Meade anymore." I've been relaxing my Gatorade-and-chicken diet as a result and I'm hoping my ultrasound tomorrow doesn't show that this was a terrible idea. But you guys. I didn't like Gatorate BEFORE this. I now actively hate Gatorade. I never want to drink Gatorade ever again in my life. And chicken! I've never minded chicken, but as the easiest source of lean protein at my disposal, I have had way. way. WAY. too. much. of it over the past few weeks. I want a solid 2 weeks chicken-free. At least. Give me 2 weeks of carbs and fats, please.

Except... maybe don't, because as I am gloriously coming out of the OHSS haze, I am starting to enter the morning sickness phase, which seems pretty unfair but then again HEY! NOT OHSS so nevermind, I'm not complaining. There's nothing like starting a pregnancy with OHSS to make the rest of the first trimester woes pale in comparison, as I'm now learning!

As for the pregnancy, it still seems.. you know, there. My last checkup coincided with the 6 week mark almost exactly, so in addition to checking on the OHSS, they also pulled up a nice view of the gestational sac, which is happily there and in the right place (aka, not in a fallopian tube or something) and they were even able to get a tiny flicker of a heartbeat to show up. So! That is all excellent!

It's a kind of weird place for me though, because I have been so distracted by fighting the OHSS that I haven't really been able to mentally or emotionally acknowledge the pregnancy itself. Plus... I've been this pregnant before. I've had a positive test and I've seen the heartbeat, and supposedly once you see a heartbeat your risk of miscarriage drops dramatically, but that was obviously not my experience. So it's hard to get too invested in this yet. Which seems kind of cynical I guess? But also necessary, right now.

(Dangit! Accidentally hit publish too early. All posts in feed readers will now end on that bummer of a sentence. Boo!)

ANYWAY. Things are chugging along well: everything that should be decreasing - like fluid levels and swollen ovaries and alarming bloodwork numbers - continues to go down, and everything that should be increasing, like tiny fetuses, are so far continuing to grow. Keep it up, ovaries! And tiny fetuses!

Next up, another check up tomorrow, then we're headed to NJ for several days to spend Christmas with my family. I'm very excited to give several of this year's gifts! I think we did good with a bunch of them and can't wait see people open them. Our Christmases are pretty low key: we have friends over for Christmas Eve dinner, then Christmas is just immediate family - and then we usually lie around in our pjs all day, or go see a movie. If only I could partake in all the boozy parts, it would be just about ideal :)

December 14, 2015

Turning a corner....?


I'm now 6 full days out from my latest aspiration and I feel.... pretty OK, actually. I had another check up this morning, and while there is still fluid hanging out in my midsection, especially in my upper abdomen, the areas around my ovaries are looking waaay better. And I feel better. Like.. more human. Capable of handling (small chunks) of life. I will take it! Happily! Please and thank you! Let's keep this up, body!

Meanwhile the betas continue to go up, still peskily refusing to double, but the doctors still seem OK with it. They went from 715 on Wednesday to 1242 on Friday, and I'll get another reading later today. Then, assuming I don't relapse, no more appointments until FRIDAY! When I'll be just about 6 weeks, and they can start hopefully looking for some baby bits in there too.

One weird consequence of things finally starting to level out a bit (LET'S HOPE) is I no longer know the cause for, like, anything that I'm feeling. We went to the mall for a few hours on Saturday to pick up some gear for Iceland, and I had to abruptly cut the trip short because hey! I need to go lie down! Like... rightnow! So we went back home, where I settled into the couch with my feet up to rest... and promptly fell sound asleep for two full hours, at 3pm in the afternoon. After sleeping for nine hours the previous night. So, hormones? OHSS? Pregnancy? ANYONE'S GUESS!

So for now I just hope for good betas today, hope the fluid continues to drain, and hope that I can stop drinking two gatorades a day sometime very soon.

December 10, 2015


After writing that post on Monday, I got a call from the office: my doctor had seen my bloodwork and fluid-filled ultrasounds, and moved the aspiration up to Tuesday instead of Wednesday. This was highly fine by me because I was miisssserabllle at that point. My nurse called at about 1:45 with that news, advised that I should definitely keep on with the protein and gatorade, and by the way, I was home, right? I admitted that no, I was at the office, but planning to leave soon because it was getting to be too much. "OH MY. Yes. Leave now. Do you need a note? I can write them a note. Please go home right now."

I left shortly after that and was in tears for most of the ride home, because... just, everything. I was having terrible thoughts, wondering if it would be better for the fetus not to make it, because at least then I could recover from the OHSS. Which obviously is NOT what I want. But it was getting increasingly hard to face an undetermined amount of time dealing with this when there was nothing I could do to treat it, stop it, or have any idea of when it would fix itself. It's unbelievable to me that I've only been dealing with this for a week - one week! - because it feels like an eternity. And the thought that it could continue for several MORE weeks, when I was in such a bad state... it was no good.

I had another night of failing to sleep because everything was terrible, then worked from home for the morning ("worked") and headed back up to the treatment center Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, I had been all "oh yeah, let's try to wait until Wednesday, it certainly can't be good for me to go under anesthesia so frequently!" On Tuesday I could barely make the car ride without crying every time we turned, swerved, hit a bump, accelerated, you name it. I was VERY READY for some effing anesthesia if it meant GETTING THIS OUT OF ME.

This time they got out 2.4 liters. That is considerably more than one of those big bottles of soda. The doctor who performed the procedure came by to see me afterwards and was like, "Two and a half liters is a LOT for someone your size! You must have felt terrible!" Yes. Yes, I did.

But of course the benefit of getting drained is IMMEDIATE relief, so I felt a lot better than that sad picture up there as soon as I woke up. I more or less hadn't eaten in 2 days at that point (Tuesday in preparation for the anesthesia; Monday because I had run out of room for food) so we went straight to a pho place where I downed a very respectably sized - and protein-filled - bowl of soup.

I went back in Wednesday morning for follow up bloodwork and an ultrasound to see how my insides looked. At this point I was about 15 hours post-draining... and I already had some pockets of fluid back. WHAT THE HELL BODY JESUS H CHRIST ON A CRACKER. The pockets were still comparably small, at least, and were still just in my lower abdomen around the ol' ovaries, nothing (yet) up higher where it starts making it hard to breathe.

The good news is we're now another day out and I have not yet ballooned out fully, so I'm hopeful that this time maybe I'll be slower to refill. I finally have had 2 good nights' sleep in a row - much more manageable without a grossly distended stomach! - and I am feeling exponentially better as a result. But good gods I would love to also kick this freaking thing.

And now for some numbers! My first beta was early, at 8dp5dt (this is how every post on IVF/fertility message boards look, by the way. They are entirely in code, and I frequently have to google these abbreviations in order to follow along. 8dp5dt = 8 days post 5 day transfer, meaning my blastocyst was 5 days old when they transferred it, and my beta was done on the 8th day after transfer... or what would be 13 days after ovulation in a normal person).

8dp5dt (13 dpo) = 223
11dp5dt (16 dpo) = 475
13dp5dt (18 dpo) = 715

So the numbers are going up, which is reassuring, but they are not quite doubling each time, which is traditionally what you want. They assure me that this is OK in my case, because my blood volumes are so messed up right now. Hopefully they are not just saying that to placate me.. I'd rather know up front if they are concerned so that I can manage my own expectations. But for now I'll assume numbers going up = good and leave it at that. And obsessively checking my numbers against online databases for reassurance, naturally.