The (un)joyment of early pregnancy

I’m just slipping into week six of pregnancy and already the symptoms have gotten pretty intense. I graduated from just feeling nauseated to gagging last Sunday, and since then have also begun actually puking. Fun!

It’s especially fun because it’s exacerbated by exercise, especially if my heart rate goes up, which is sort of an issue since working out is my job. I can limit my own training at the gym and reduce the weight for my deadlifts, for example, but I sill teach 6 group ex classes/week. Training my PT clients has also been a hoot while trying to discretely swallow vomit while gagging.

It’s only time that clients will suspect something (why is my trainer carrying around a plastic bag, why does she keep sitting down in the middle of my set of bicep curls? And why does she keep turning away from me covering her mouth like that…)….

Then there’s the fatigue. And the dizziness….and I can’t even ride my bike to work any more because it makes me so dizzy and sick.

Wah wah wah!

Calming down

I got the results from my second beta, and I think I can stop worrying now.

First beta hCG on 10/17: 283
2nd beta hCG on 10/23: 3736!!!!!!!!

Okay. Stop worrying. I’m definitely, definitely preggers even though I didn’t throw up yesterday. Today the nausea is back and trying to get the best of me. Plus my boobs are getting so sore and heavy that I woke up from boob pain multiple times during the night. Ouch!!

Worrywart

It seems so far off–our 7 week ultrasound on Nov 4th. An eternity without any appointments or confirmation about YES THIS IS REAL. You spend so much time preparing for disappointment because you’ve been disappointed so many times, that you completely forget to prepare for it actually being possible to succeed. It’s hard to be excited, because you don’t know how to be. What you are used to is waking up bleeding and cramping and in ridiculous amounts of pain. You’re expecting there to be blood every time you go pee. And you keep expecting… to just suddenly stop being pregnant

Today I made an appointment for the free national pre-natal health care. The appointment will be near where we live, and we’ll have the same pre-natal nurse for the entire duration of the pregnancy. There are monthly check-ups which last until your child goes to school (obviously there are fewer visits the older the child gets), there’s family coaching, birth coaching.. all kinds of groups for pregnant women… aaaand.. this just feels so bizarre. I don’t really even believe I’m pregnant yet! And here we have an appointment to the place where you know, actually pregnant women go.

I’m trying to tell myself that as long as the nausea is getting worse (yes, it’s getting worse–I’ve progressed from just feeling nauseated to actually gagging without anything coming up), then I’m probably still pregnant and I probably don’t need to go in for another blood test. That and I’m probably going to have to go and get larger sports bras soon.

Those of you that have been in this situation… I’d appreciate any tips for helping with the nausea… and have you managed to stop being paranoid at some point? At which point did you actually believe the pregnancy was real?

 

The numbers are in!

So the numbers are in! The results from my beta hCG levels are 238, comfortably in the range of definitely pregnant. Of course those numbers are from yesterday and today they’d be something else…

Our clinic doesn’t routinely do more than the one so our next appointment is November 4th for our first ultrasound!

So the waiting game continues…

Is this real?

So I pretty much spent yesterday nauseated from the time I got up until going to bed. I was also experiencing vertigo, extreme fatigue, and dizziness. I was also cramping quite much in the morning– so much that I chose to take the bus to work instead of riding my bicycle. All day I was thinking: ” Well, if I’m NOT pregnant, what the hell is all of this…” So I asked my wife to go pick up some home pregnancy tests. It’s been over a week since I took the last injection of Pregnyl, so that shouldn’t give us a false positive at this point, even though our doctor told us to wait until Thursday…And so the decision was made: to take the test this morning.

And so it is, that very soon after peeing on the stick it said: Pregnant. What seemed like forever later, it said 2-3 weeks.

Hopefully this means that my hCG-levels are high enough to show us that result (instead of 1-2 weeks, which would have been expected with the false positive). Thursday I’ll go in for some blood work to test the exact level.

And if I don’t seem excited, it’s because I can’t believe it’s true! Could our first round of IVF really have worked this easily?

Period panic

Today was 14 dpo and 9dpt and I’m absolutely losing my mind that my period is going to start at any moment. I’ve experienced some slight on and off “period-y” type of feelings in my lower abdomen for the past few days, so of course I’m worried. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling suddenly very “wet” panicking of course, that it was blood. It wasn’t. It’s like a nightmare really—that feeling.

I’ve had some on and off nausea and dizziness, which for sure are partially due to the progesterone and the last injection of Pregnyl almost a week ago. Oh and these ridiculous mood swings… is it the prog? is it PMS? Not to forget SuperBoobs…But of course a large part of me is thinking.. hoping… that maybe this time…?

My history with prior IUI’s has been, because of my short luteal phase, that I never even get to the pregnancy test part. Every. Single. Time. It gets to be around the time my period is supposed to start (for me 24 day cycle) and I get anxious, but with the hormone injections, it’s sometimes given me a day or two extra. And always about 2-3 days before a pregnancy would be possible to detect, BAM! It’s time for my period. And maybe it’s crazy to keep putting yourself through this–each time being so disappointed for something you never even had. Too many IUI’s, and I can only imagine the disappointment from IVF will would be manyfold.

It’s in the middle of the night now, so I’m running a good 4-5 days past my expected period. These period-y feelings are not helping, and the test day is still looming exasperatingly far away (our doctor said I get to pee on a stick on Thursday). Still so many days for me to fret, so many more days for my period to arrive before I even get to the test day. And so many more days for me to keep losing my mind over this and being a terrible, snappy, moody and overly sensitive partner. 

How on Earth do I focus on something else?

 

Download complete!

Today is the day our little embryo should have finished implantation and should be starting to secrete hGC. I still can’t stop worrying (constantly) that all this progesterone won’t actually keep my period away. At the same time I can’t tell if the slight nausea and dizziness is completely psychosomatic, actual physical side-effects from the progesterone or the Pregnyl, or just residual flu. I woke up feeling a bit nauseated, and it sort of came and went all day.

Today after work, my partner picked me up and we went to a large shopping center to pick up some essentials, and while we were browsing for work clothes for her,  I suddenly started to feel very dizzy and so sick that I had to sit down..and soon had to go outside to sit until my partner finished all our shopping. 

If all is well, this actually is the beginning of a pregnancy and the slight nausea will only get worse from here…In any case it’s one more week before I can take a pregnancy test, and all I can say is that this will be one long week of waiting. Thankfully I’ll be going back to work tomorrow and will be able to focus on that, instead of constantly thinking about what’s going on inside of me.

 

Double Taboo

No preface. But it has to be said.

We live in a world where infertility is a taboo. In many cultures that I’ve studied during my years in college, the very idea of being a woman is defined by motherhood (You can find numerous examples of this from the Bible to so-called primitive cultures around the world). In some countries and cultures the concept is taken further than in others.

During my junior year in college I wrote a paper examining certain aspects of a small Senegalese Tribe called the Seereer Siin. In that society becoming a man or becoming a woman are not things that automatically happen at a certain age, but require going through a specific, very physical ritual. After the successful completion of the ritual your status in society and in the community changes. Boyhood is something you literally cut away in the form of hair and girlhood is left in the woods upon going through labor and delivering your baby alone (Kalis 1997).

I have also studied India (though I claim no expertise on the entire continent and its long history and tradition) and the ‘traditional’ role of women as son-bearers and defining women through their marriage and their husbands. Many aspects of organized religion also paint the picture of the demure, silent woman whose will is expressed through her husband and whose womanhood is defined by her functioning reproductive organs… But since I don’t have a pile of essays here to reference and to quote, I’ll leave the search up to you.

Even in our Western society, despite the much more equal status of women where you can theoretically choose building a career instead of raising a family, you don’t HAVE to stay at home looking after 8 small kids, you can wear whatever you want to and even choose what to believe in, there’s still that unspoken question and assumption on everyone’s mind.

It’s sort of an extension of heteronormativity–where the unspoken assumption that everyone abides by traditional gender norms and relationships are always formed between cis-men and cis-women. That having children is automatically a result of a long-term relationship or marriage (and I could go on a long thing here about biological vs. chosen families, but I’m not going to) and if for some reason a couple DOESN’T have kids, it’s assumed it’s only a matter of time. Of course Lucy and Peter are going to give us grandkids! They just haven’t gotten around to it yet!

Just to be clear, there is no Lucy and Peter.

Children (and I’m talking about the concept of children here) are not just the magical and sometimes accidental result of a passionate moment: they represent the future and the continuity of humankind. Lee Edelman has all sorts of things to say about this idea of “reproductive futurism, ” that I won’t get that much, because I was never that adept at psychoanalysis and getting through even a chapter of his book was a challenge! The short point being that a child is always more than just a child. It becomes the Image of the Child that keeps the machine of the governments running… But think of the children!

Image

Photo from here.

I can’t speak for any other experience than my own, but in our little corner of Europe infertility is not something that you talk about. In fact, couples (especially single women!) trying to get pregnant rarely talk about it at all until they are securely 3 months pregnant. Because being infertile is such a taboo! Included in it is of course hidden that no one wants to have anything less than a perfect pregnancy. Miscarriages are also taboo because they break down the idealized picture of the Mother of the idealized couple that is fulfilling that societal expectation. Because perhaps in a way, we (secretly) believe we are not women until we become mothers?

So what do I mean by a double taboo? It comes back to Lee Edelman and also some volatile current topics. What about when you’re gay? The assumption of heteronormativity also assumes the reproduction of straight couples. The whole debate around the issue of gay marriage seems to come back to the idea of gay people having kids (oh, but it’s not natural! But think of our children who will be traumatized and will grow up thinking it’s okay to be gay!). That assumption of reproduction doesn’t generally seem to apply to us…or then again?

When I came out to my mom the first thing she said (in tears) was: “I’ll love you no matter what, but I’m just so sad you won’t ever have kids.” My dad’s response was: “Oh, I don’t care if you’re with guys or girls, as long as I get to be a grandfather someday!”

So maybe our parents just want to be grandparents and want to ensure the continuation of the family line…and of the entirety of humanity! Okay, but seriously, reproduction isn’t what society expects fromus anymore. Suddenly it doesn’t matter how reproductively able we are. (And yet gay people have kids all the time…)

I’ve already established (well, sort of, at least) that in some way motherhood becomes a definition for womanhood. Also, infertility is taboo because of the assumption of heteronormativity and the continuation of the human race .. and that gay people theoretically pose a threat to that continuity. We literally represent No Future.

So what if you’re gay AND infertile. Is there even a place for you in society? That’s the double taboo. I’ve been trying to break the silence by talking a bit about our process, trying little by little to ‘normalize’ it. After all, one thing I’ve discovered in this past year is that, this affects a whole LOT of people.

Apologies too all scholars of Lee Edelman for myover-simplification and non-academic rendering of this great work.

Sunday musings

It’s been a Sunday where I woke up feeling ridiculously sick, considering my first flu symptoms occurred a week ago, on Monday evening. Massive headache, feeling so congested my face felt like it could have burst, and a rising temperature. And so my paranoid wife searches the internet for me to reassure me, that is flu will not affect our currently implanting embryo. (As long as my temperature doesn’t rise too high).

According to this chart, today our little embryo is starting to implant. By Wednesday the implantation should be complete and the embryo will start secreting hCG. I’m already starting to over-analyze every signal of my body… I’ve been feeling dizzy through out this flu… but now I’m starting to attribute it to all the residual hormones. Or maybe it is the flu. Back in March when I was certain I was pregnant for a short while, I felt dizzy all the time. At least I know it can’t be that. Knowing myself, I’ll be looking for every possible symptom come Wednesday and Thursday…

So today. I’ve been reading, watching TV, playing silly computer games and sleeping. Taking a few more days off work to recover, and hopefully I’ll be well enough soon.

IVF: Becoming a pincushion

It was a relief to take the summer off from treatments, because you realize that the past six months of your life have been measured in two-week increments and bi-monthly clinic visits. Especially with the hormone treatment, this is what an average month would be like: upon getting your period, you call the clinic to make an appointment for an ultrasound around the time you’d ovulate. You go into the ultrasound around 8-9 days post menstruation to see how well the follicles have developed, and at a precise instant a few days later you inject the Pregnyl after which precisely 36 hours later we would go in for the insemination. And then you wait. You get paranoid about experiencing signs of early pregnancy. The first week flies by, the second week you wake up each day hoping you won’t get your period, which of course eventually you do and you start the cycle all over again.

Over our month of summer holiday, during which the clinic was also closed, we had time to reflect and prepare for the next set of more intensive treatments: IVF. I had a lot of mixed emotions about this: mostly fear and worry about the discomfort, but also about the cost. It ain’t cheap makin’ babies, that’s for sure. On the last day of our holiday I experienced the most severe cramping I ever had before and had to go in to see a doctor, who of course wouldn’t/couldn’t believe that it could possibly be related to menstrual cramps. (It was).

Upon returning home, I immediately made an appointment with my doctor who confirmed that my endometriosis had flared up, and was the source of my pain. She thought I should get a second opinion. Also, she thought it was wise to first take care of my pain and only then continue with the treatments. After preparing for it emotionally for a month, we felt disappointed and very unsure: the second opinion could mean being put in line for surgery…which would effectively force us to take a break from treatments until the following summer!

Luckily for me, pregnancy (if possible!) is actually a great temporary cure for endometriosis. Without the hormonal fluctuation of the menstrual cycle, the endometriosis chills out, dries up and can greatly be diminished. Our second opinion doctor showed us the green light, and two days later we are purchasing hundreds and hundreds of Euros worth of injectible hormones. (Thanks to the health care system, I only pay a small fee for ALL prescription drugs for the remainder of the year!).

On the second day of menstruation I took the first shot: Elonva to stimulate follicle growth. Five days later began five consecutive days of injections of Orgalutran to keep me from ovulating. On the last two days, I additionally injected Puregon to boost the rest of the follicles. On the 6th day at precisely 10pm I injected a full dose of Pregnyl to release the eggs for the harvesting on Monday. Three days into the Orgalutran injections I had had an ultrasound, where they discovered about 15 follicles. To ensure the maximum amount of mature follicles, the doctor calculated their growth rate and debated whether or not there would be enough on Friday–eventually she decided on Monday.

I had anticipated extreme discomfort and swelling to the point of being unable to work. Instead, the only side effects from being a pin cushion seemed some minor mood swings and a significant increase in sexual appetite (insatiable!). Not so bad 🙂

On Monday, after being a nervous wreck all weekend we arrive at the clinic in the morning. I’d taken a few days off work since I was expecting some soreness and my wonderful partner had taken that Monday off work completely to be with me. After a little bit of waiting we were called into the “resting room” where they prepared a cannula in my hand for the medication. And then they called me in! I climbed on to the exam table and immediately I was prodded and poked and washed. I was injected with a sedative and pain killers… and they administered a local anesthetic to the vaginal wall. Soon the sedative started to have effect… as they began the ultrasound and the harvesting from my right ovary. Unfortunately the machine got stuck and the sedative and pain killer started to wear off… so when they resumed I felt very distinct pain. But soon they gave me more things to calm me down and the rest of the procedure went quickly and painlessly. All in all it took about 20 minutes.

While I was blissfully unaware of what was happening, they managed to extract 14 follicles, of which 7 had an ovum. They immediately took them to get fertilized and I went in to recover.

I can only say that I was positively surprised at how easy and painless this whole procedure was! To any of my readers about to go through this: It’s really not so bad!

A few days rest at home and three days later we returned (yesterday) for the implantation! Of the seven ovum, five had split from the nucleus and were unusable, but two were prime 8-celled little embryos! Because I’m not very tall, they only implanted one.  The procedure was comparable to an insemination: A quick stretch and a wash and catheter in, catheter out–look at the little embryo on the ultrasound screen…And now we have a picture of this light blob in my uterus.. possibly the very first picture of our future baby!

Until I get to take a pregnancy test, I’m inserting a progesterone tablet three times daily to support implantation…and injecting a few shots of Pregnyl over the next week to support my short cycle.

So all that’s left to do is WAIT.

I’d appreciate your support!