Insatiable hunger

I’m exactly 16 weeks today and I really only have one thing to report: I am hungry all the time!

It seems like no matter how much I eat, not depending on what I eat, how filling whatever it is, I’m hungry 2,5hrs later. And not snack hungry, like I start to get nauseated and start-to-gag-if-I-don’t-get-food-ASAP-hungry. Hungry like I wake up at 4am hungry.

Funny story. On Friday, the wife and I traveled to a city about 2 hrs west of where we live to go to her grandmother’s book publishing party. Instead of driving back at midnight we decided to spend the night there since as discovered on our 5,5hr drive back and forth over the holidays, I’ve started to get lower back pain that is exacerbated by sitting for an extended time. Because my wife is amazing, she suggested we spend the night at a nice hotel and go out for a nice dinner, since there’s never too much romantic time together 🙂 We did just that: we used a free hotel night that we earned from last summer’s travels ( and threw in a bit extra for a river view and a king-sized bed) and went out to a Spanish restaurant. There we shared a grilled seafood plank served with roasted potatoes. Needless to say, that was pretty much the protein and fat quota for the day and we were both stuffed. We enjoyed a (non-alcoholic) drink at the hotel bar, had a hot relaxing bubble bath…and as we’re putting out the lights to go to sleep I say: “honey, guess what! You’re not going to believe it: I’m hungry!!”

What’s a pregnant lady to do?

In other exciting news I’m getting back to my fitness since I’m a) no longer puke-triggered by exercise and b) my busted finger joint is about 98% healed. So last week I clocked about 11hrs of exercise including 6hrs of work (group fitness classes) and the rest mostly from practicing all the new releases for BODYPUMP and BODYBALANCE. Let me tell you, that teaching BodyPump after a nearly 3 month break is an experience (I haven’t had a break that long since I started teaching it almost 4 yrs ago) especially while pregnant! Despite taking it really easy with the weights (dropping 1/3 to 1/2 from my regular weights pre-pregnancy), I had the most ridiculously sore legs for four days. Sitting, getting up…walking up steps..walking, in general…excruciating pain. So glad that rude awakening is over and it won’t feel like that again…until maybe the first class after giving birth.

I feel like more like my usual self, bar the belly, than I have in months, huzzah!

I’ve been experiencing a lot of ligament stretching pains recently, but we listened to baby, who apparently can’t stay still, so all is well with him/her! One week till our next pre-natal appointment!

Maternitywear!

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Maternitywear!

Last week I finally started showing a little bit, and this weekend it seems like my belly is really starting to come out. By now the uterus should have lifted up and out of the pelvis, so my lower abdomen is clearly starting to distend and round out. (As a result, I can’t stop holding my hand on my belly and just touching it! It’s so incredible!)

Last wednesday during orchestra rehearsal I started to feel very uncomfortable sitting (rehearsal is 3 hours) and realized that even the low waistband of my jeans presses against my belly. This pressure just feels incredibly uncomfortable–kind of like you just have this need to stretch out all the time…. and…

then a few days later I tried to wear a different set of jeans, which come up much higher on the waist, and I realized after spending several hours in them, that they just weren’t going to work anymore.

So today, we dared the christmas shopping masses, and ventured out to a mall and I finally tried on some maternity pants! What relief and comfort! In a few days I’ll be jumping into my second trimester, so this is perfect 🙂

This weekend I also picked up a packaged from the post office containing a few maternity shirts (for when I’m a bit further along), which feel amazing!

In other news it seems like the nausea might actually be subsiding a little. At least I’ve gotten a few easier days in there every now and then.

Wishing upon a heartbeat

It’s around 6pm on a Sunday, and I’m lying down on our pseudo-sofa, with a cat partially lying on me purring loudly. This weekend I have felt more exhausted than ever, crashing around 3pm, and then again around 8-9pm. The fatigue comes and kidnaps you like jetlag. When you’re least expecting it, you’re suddenly captured in this dark cloud and pulled into sleep practically against your will. It’s getting to the point where, I can’t hide it, and I have already suffered the consequences at work when I can’t just up and go take a nap in the middle of training a client. (Luckily, however, if the fatigue hits me earlier, I’m usually on my lunch break and can go take a nap on the sofa in the child-care area).

Tuesday has been the only day this week that has been manageable in terms of the nausea (no gagging or puking, just a twinge of nausea). Today has probably been the worst day of the nausea too. No matter if I’ve just eaten or what, but I’ve been pale as a sheet all day, and have been gagging and puking pretty much since morning, and it hasn’t really subsided at any point. Great. We were visiting my wife’s godfather, where there were also her second cousin and family visiting, and they all probably all thought I was hungover. Oh well. I guess the symptoms are pretty similar.

Tomorrow, tomorrow! In about 18 hrs, one sleep away, is our first ultrasound! We are wishing for a strong heartbeat! And though it’s a crazy thought—what if there’s twins in there? What if this little embryo decided to become identical twins? Or is this level of fatigue and nausea normal for a singleton? Anyway, we can’t wait!

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!!

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?

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!

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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.

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!