A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Two Roads; or, Confusing the 8 Ball

I'm living parallel lives right now.

One version of myself gets a BFP in two weeks. She is then very busy. She needs to schedule new appointments with her doctor. She needs to cancel her dentist appointment next month (because she refuses to tell her dentist about another pregnancy in the first trimester and have to be reminded of the loss every time she goes back). She needs to start researching OBs. She needs to figure out exactly when and how to tell her family and friends the good news. She needs to come up with all sorts of crafty ways to pretend to be drinking in the meantime. She needs to go to yoga and/or therapy four times a week to keep from jumping out of her skin with anxiety. She needs to figure out how to handle not teaching Spring semester. She needs to prep for her oral exams on the double to get them out of the way by February.

The other version of myself gets her period in two weeks. Right now, it seems like she'll be okay with that. Disappointed, certainly, but not shocked. She's got six months of CBEFM pee sticks all ready to go and a four month supply of red raspberry tea, but she does need to order more vitex. She'll tell herself that she won't ovulate until CD 21 at the earliest, but she'll hope to have another early o. She'll visit her doctor for her annual check-up and schedule some fertility testing. She'll bring both kinds of peesticks on her trip to Scandinavia, just to cover all bases. She'll be one month closer to seeing an RE.

The Online Magic 8 Ball tells me I will "Definitely!" get a BFP this cycle. It also thinks I will "Definitely!" get my period. The Online Magic 8 Ball is confused.

Join the club, pal.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't Cry Over Spilt Wine; or, Choose Your Own Ending

Last cycle (cycle 4 post-miscarriage, for those counting), I made a decision. I decided I was taking a break. I was packing up Pissy and putting away the basal body thermometer and reclaiming my life and trying that hot new "just relax" technique that gets the kids all excited these days.

And then I cracked and went back to peeing on things. As you do.

This cycle, I made no pronouncements. I made no decisions. I made no declarations. Nope. I just forgot to refill my box of Pissy's peestrips. And lost my BBT at a hotel.

Look's like the break's on me.

* * *
I truly thought I was going to be fine on the m&m's due date last weekend. By this point, I understand that my first pregnancy was not meant to be, that something else lies in my future, that I've got to look forward rather than back. I greet every month with possibly misguided optimism, even if I don't always convey that here. And I don't even think to myself, "I wish I hadn't lost the baby" anymore, because I don't know who I would be right now if I hadn't lost the baby. Acceptance, right?

On Friday, Lawyer Guy and I had date night at a steakhouse before the welcome cocktail party back at the hotel. We had a great time and drank some wine and laughed together and I looked very pretty and all was well. Then we made our way to the hotel and met my friend the bride's family and her wedding party, and since I'd had pinot noir with the steak at dinner, I broke my 9-year streak of never ordering red wine at a party and got a glass of cabernet.

Fifteen minutes and one wildly gesticulating bridesmaid later, said glass of cabernet was empty and said cabernet was all over my hair, arm, chest, shoes, and the rather expensive, beaded, embroidery-embellished silk tunic I bought from a little one-of-a-kind shop on my trip to London last summer.

The bridesmaid felt terrible and frantically tried to find a 24-hour dry cleaner (none in Tampa, it appears), to dab the giant, blossoming stains with club soda, and to convince me it would come out when it was washed. But I knew the outfit was ruined (as indeed, it is) and was trying to hold it together until I could be alone. I didn't want her to feel worse about her accident than she already did.

After she left and I changed for bed, I pretty quickly began sobbing about my tunic, much to LG's dismay, and then somehow started keening "I miss the baby" over and over. The two things of course, as LG rightly pointed out, having nothing to do with one another. But in my mind, the fact that I was coated in cabernet rather than blood on the eve of my baby's due date had some deep three-in-the-morning kind of significance.

* * *
The break isn't quite as drastic as I made it out to be before. I had a few of Pissy's sticks left and was using one sporadically every few days, contrary to her methodical likings, as I waited for the new box to arrive. I took my temperature three or so times before losing the thermometer in Florida. And I added a new element to my already burgeoning pre-ovulatory routine: vitex (aka chasteberry root) in an herbal supplement, said to help regulate ovulation.

On Saturday, the due date, I went to the wedding. I wore my 30th-birthday purple petal dress. I danced to Madonna and Michael Jackson with my friends and Cole Porter and James Taylor with Lawyer Guy. I drank just enough and not too much. No one spilled anything on me. Everything that night was easy and happy and--yes--relaxed.

And then the next morning, with my very last peestick, Pissy gave me a Peak. On CD 16. About a week earlier than I expected.

* * *
This might turn out to be the ever-irritating story of The Accidental Break Cycle, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Got My BFP. This might turn out to be the amazing story of a Very Sad Day and Its Very Happy Ending. This might turn out to be your run-of-the-mill story of The Girl Who Spilled Wine on Her Tunic, Cried About It, Went To a Wedding, Woke Up the Next Morning, and Got Her Period Two Weeks Later.

As always, anxiously awaiting that last page.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Miss You, M&M

from "Maud Muller"
Alas for maiden, alas for Judge,
For rich repiner and household drudge!
God pity them both! and pity us all,
Who vainly the dreams of youth recall;
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;
And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!
-- John Greenleaf Whittier

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nice Day For A White Wedding; or, Mental Games

Last spring and summer and fall, before I got pregnant, I would play a little game with myself, one of my many tricks to moderate disappointment if and when another cycle didn't pan out. I would think of something I really wanted to do 9-months from then--or an event coming up in the meantime--and decide why it would be much better to not be pregnant then. Missing my sister's college graduation in Maine would have sucked. Not being able to fly to England for a conference would be frustrating. And I really wanted to attend my friend's June wedding in Florida.

When I got pregnant with the m&m, missing my friend's wedding barely even registered as something I considered. I was ecstatic and relieved and overjoyed and I couldn't think of anything I'd rather do on June 26th than welcome a baby into my life.

I'm leaving in twenty minutes or so for the airport. I'm going to Florida for the wedding. I'm glad I'll be away from home, doing something fun and different. I'm glad I can drink and dance and snuggle with my husband and see some good friends from my MA program and get dressed up.

I still wish I couldn't go.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lou-Ellen Returns; or, Answering E-mails

I got an e-mail from Clueless Preggo today thanking me for the note and book I sent her a few weeks ago. It came at just the right time. I'd been wondering if she received the package, becoming increasingly annoyed, wondering if I should contact her, fantasizing about yelling at her, worrying that she was offended, berating myself for being a bad friend. Dramatizing and staging entire five-act tragedies of revenge and betrayal in my mind, all of which ended very badly. As usual, reading far more into an innocuous silence than existed.

The e-mail was nice. She let me know how sweet she thought it was that I sent the book and card and that she does know I'm going through a hard time and is thinking of me. She also wrote "I have total confidence that you and [Lawyer Guy] will become parents very soon. I can feel it. And you'll be amazing. I can't wait for our kids to play together!" Which is nice (rather than naive), because I want that confidence back: the confidence I had even in the worst days after the miscarriage that this would happen again for us, the confidence that dissipates a little more with each negative cycle.

She said she would love to get dinner or coffee or to hang out on the weekend whenever I want and that it's been too long since we've seen each other. And then she let me know that her mother is throwing a baby shower (which I'll receive the invite for next week) in August. She would love for me to come but understands if I don't feel up for it.

I know it's the right thing to go to the shower, so I will go to the shower. And I expect there to be some very hard moments. But it takes some of the hurt away to have her acknowledge that it might be painful for me.

So, there it is. My third bridesmaid's shower to attend before I get a babe of my own. At least I'm not throwing this one myself like I did the other two.

I need to respond and let her know that I want to see her. And then I need to see her. I think it will sting, though the moment is always less painful than the anticipation of it. Time to call up Lou-Ellen again and survive another round.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cinema Verite; or, The Moment That Calls For Laughter or Tears

People say that we're each the lead character in the movie (or novel) of our life. Now I don't know who these people are, but I suspect they are right. And if this holds true, then naturally it's also true that we are but supporting roles, minor characters, and even walk-on parts and extras in other people's movies.

Nothing makes this clearer than facing fertility troubles in the middle of a baby boom. All around our Token Subfertile are fecund Mamas-To-Be enjoying their moment in the spotlight, their chance to take center stage in the Nativity Play: blue wimples on their heads, flour-sack babies in arms, Josephs standing by ready to beat back the Christmas crowds with a sturdy walking stick. Meanwhile, the Third Shepherd From the Back gets left off the program.

This past weekend, the distance between the Story of My Irritating Process of Trying to Conceive and the standard baby-making genres surrounding me (generally of the Oh Wow, I'm Knocked Up! variety) felt farther than ever. Allow me to present a dramatic moment:

(Scene: The kitchen of a suburban home. Brown cardboard boxes are everywhere along with newspaper-wrapped objects. A family is in the process of moving.)

Sloper (to audience):
Hi! I'm Secret Sloper. I've been trying to have a baby for about a year and a half now. It's been very frustrating and I tend to whine a lot about it. This is even more difficult because it seems like everyone I know is pregnant or just had a baby. Friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues. They all get pregnant as soon as they even think about trying to have a baby. Did I tell you that I've heard 20 pregnancy announcements since March 2009? And that every single one of my or my husband's married cousins or siblings has had a child in the last year? Thank goodness there aren't any family members left to worry about!

Mother of Sloper (taking a break from packing): Did I tell you that Older Unmarried Cousin is going to be a father? Yeah, he had a one-night-stand at a wedding in October and now the girl is due on July 4th. He's so embarrassed that he didn't use a condom. At 35 he should really know better!

(Sloper collapses to the floor in what appears to be a convulsive fit. After a few moments, her laughter is audible over the grinding of her teeth and beating of the floor with her fists. A mumbled, "You win, universe," is barely discernible between her hysterical shrieks).

End Scene.

Of course, in contrast to this darkly comic horror tale about a young woman whose evil, empty uterus eats her mind and turns her into a raving zombie, we've got an ABC Family special about a wedding-night gone wrong and the two crazy kids forced to raise a baby (and a little hell) while realizing how perfect they are for each other! Minus the perfect for each other part and plus the Older Unmarried Cousin's New Girlfriend throwing him a baby shower. But that's clearly the third act complication immediately preceding the inevitable romantic finish, right?

Here in brain-eating-uterus land, however, the baby-makers' happy ending is beside the point. This little anecdote is just further evidence of the universe's desire to completely fuck with Secret Sloper's shit. You think it's hard to see people getting pregnant around you as soon as they want to try? The universe asks. BAM! An unplanned pregnancy. Double BAM! Due one week after your dead baby. Triple BAM! From someone you never suspected in a million years! Ha ha ha ha!

Universe, you're totally funny, okay? I get the joke, I swear. You can stop telling it.

* * * *

Having survived the frying pan of Pregnancy Announcement #21 with no tears, I jumped immediately into the volcano pit of Father's Day Dinner with the In-Laws. Just Lawyer Guy and me, his father and step-mother, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, their kids, and sister-in-law's parents. You know, exactly the kind of event thoughtful family members invite their barren relatives to the week before they had expected to have a child.

It was mostly fine. I was nervous and uncomfortable at the beginning, but that was nothing a large vodka gimlet couldn't fix. My older niece wanted me to read her a story and to follow me to the buffet, which was cute. And I'm used to the rampant fawning over the children on the part of all the aforementioned adults.

But then immediately after dessert came the moment I was dreading: the opening and exchange of Father's Day gifts right there at the table in the middle of the country club. Yet another reminder that Lawyer Guy and I are spearholders in the back row of the chorus, not even given sheet music to learn everyone else's parts.

But if being completely left out sucks, being tossed a pity line or two sucks even harder. Father-in-law and his wife handed LG a gift as the other men dug into theirs. You see, he's the daddy to a puppy.

I spent the next ten minutes crying alone in the bathroom. So much for walk-on parts.

Friday, June 18, 2010

PSA for Friends

It seems there's ill wind in the air this week. Two people who have become dear to me through this internet world have received upsetting news about their pregnancies. If you're feeling strong and supportive, visit Adele and AMB and let them know they are remembered right now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friendly Nurses; or, Insurance Executives Always In the Way

Things are moving, slowly but surely. I played several rounds of phone tag with the appointment nurse at the office of the RE I've targeted (Jay at 2 Week Wait, I'm looking at your new RE) and finally connected with her today. She was so, so nice. I was very nervous to make the call, but she was reassuring and kind, which gave me a good feeling about the office.

I didn't schedule the appointment yet because of an insurance snafu. As of now, they don't work with my particular group, but are in talks with my provider to handle all of its groups soon. She said the deal is supposed to have gone through months ago, but they're still working on it and still waiting for the contracts to be signed. She thinks it will be all complete by August 1st.

Since I don't want to make my appointment until the last week in August or first couple of weeks in September anyway, we agreed that I will call back to schedule the appointment once they get confirmation that my insurance is now accepted. She promised to call when the deal goes through and let me know (she said she's keeping a list of patients to notify at that point). She also said I won't have a problem getting an appointment in September if I call in early August.

And finally, I told her that I've had no fertility testing but had a miscarriage in November. She said that when I do come to the appointment I should bring the testing results from the miscarriage, any ultrasounds that were taken during the pregnancy, and my results from my regular gynecological exam. She also suggested that I could have my gyno test my CD 3 FSH and Estradiol levels to save time with the new office.

While I'm frustrated and irritated with my insurance provider yet again (can you believe that we actually have good insurance?) I'm optimistic about working with this office. I hope that it won't get to that point, but it sounds like they really care about their patients just from the brief interactions I've had on the phone.

And thanks again for the advice! This is a scary step and I'm not sure how I would have made it without having followed your stories and hear your recommendations over the last year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Moving Forward; or, What Comes Next

I did it! After reading through all your comments and e-mails and listening to my gut, I called to set up my RE consultation. I called kind of late and didn't get through to the nurse, but I left my information and I'm hoping to hear back (or call again) tomorrow. I'm shooting for an appointment date in late August or early September, right around the time I estimate cycle #7 post-miscarriage will begin.

After I made the decision to set the appointment up, I began to second guess myself. What if I'm moving too fast? What if I'm not giving us enough time to get this done on our own? Four months isn't that long to try-- we got our BFP in cycle 7 last time. Maybe we just take a little longer than most people. But then again, Taking Charge of Your Fertility recommends seeking help after four cycles of timed sex that don't succeed.

I still have this fear that I'm making problems up where none exist, and that by worrying over when we'll get pregnant I'm preventing us from conceiving. I think when I schedule the appointment I'll feel a little more secure. And of course I hope that we get pregnant before the appointment and have to cancel. That would be the best outcome! But with only two cycles left to try, I need to be prepared for what comes next.

With all I'm doing this summer-- learning German, renovating our closets, traveling to Scandinavia, writing an article to submit to a journal and a paper for my conference, studying for my orals and working on several seminar papers--it will be August before I know it. And then this show will really start.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Taking Stock; or, Advice from the Blogosphere

Well, Cycle #4/#11 followed in his brothers' non-baby producing footsteps. Time to see what Cycle #5/#12 can do.

The days before I get my period are always the worst. I try to keep my hopes up, but the fact that yet another cycle has failed becomes increasingly hard to ignore. I rapidly leap from realizing that this cycle didn't work to predicting that no cycle will ever work.

But on CD2, cooler heads prevail. The past 16 months have taught me several good things about my and my husband's chances of conceiving a child. I know that:
  • He's got sperm, of whatever quantity or quality, and at least some of it is capable of swimming up to and poking an egg.
  • I have produced at least one egg at the time when my CBEFM said that I did.
  • I am capable of building a uterine lining thick enough to allow implantation.
  • I've got at least one clear tube.
Those are all positives, I'm aware. And while it's hard to watch other women conceive on their first tries without feeling like a failure, I do believe that left on our own, Lawyer Guy and I would eventually conceive another child.

But I also know that 18 months is long enough to try on our own. 18 months is a good, serious shot. 18 months is time to start looking for answers and possibly even solutions.

We're giving the unassisted baby-making a few more goes and then will visit our first RE at the end of August, right after our sixth cycle of TTC post-miscarriage and right after we get back from Scandinavia. I hope we get happy news before that point, but with only two cycles left, I'm prepared to begin testing.

And this is where you come in! I've done some preliminary research and am considering N.YU Fer.tility Center, based on their reputation and IVF results and the fact that they claim to accept my insurance. (My insurance covers testing and prescriptions but not procedures, so any iui or ivf would be out-of-pocket). I know that there are other good clinics out there, though, and I want to hear from NYC loss/IF bloggers. Please tell me who you see and why you like their practice. If you are not from NYC, never fear, I care about your opinion, too! How did you find your RE? What factors are important to consider when looking for one? How did you make your decision to start visiting a specific clinic?

With this info, I hope to schedule my appointment this month for the end of August. Scary, but exciting!

There's one other issue I'm looking for bloggy advice on. Over the 7 months since the miscarriage, I've put on some weight. Not enough to be "heavy," but enough to feel like my clothes don't fit great and I'm not happy with the way I look. I forced myself not to worry about the weight I was gaining because I didn't want to add stress to my life while we tried to get pregnant. But with that pregnancy who knows how many months away, I need to get back to liking the way I look and feeling good about my body again.

I want to lose 5-7 pounds and don't have a strict time frame in when it has to happen. Does anyone have any good weight-loss strategies? I belong to a yoga studio rather than a gym and I attend 2-3 classes a week. I try to eat healthily, though I do eat too many carbs and too much dairy, and I tend to snack when I'm in the 2ww and depressed. Any advice is appreciated--not just for the kinds of foods recommended to eat (most of which I can probably guess) but also for how to judge portions, figure out how much of what kinds of food to eat in a day, how to keep track of your calories and stuff like that.

By the end of the summer I want to be lean, relaxed, and pregnant, but I'll take the first two if that's all I can get.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bitch Stole My Bagel...Again!; or, Welcome to My Black Hole

Does my empty uterus emit high-pitched signals audible only to pregnant women when I'm PMSing? Is that why they like to announce their happy expectations to me right before I start my pre-period spotting? CAN I PLEASE HAVE ONE FUCKING MONTH WITHOUT HAVING TO ACT EXCITED ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE'S UTE FRUIT???

The faint brown spotting started today, 13 dpo. AF will start tomorrow. At least this is predictable. At least I didn't feed my stupid, pointless hopes by taking a pregnancy test.

Not so predictable was the email I got yesterday from the incoming co-chair of my Junior League committee entitled "News!" Oh, I definitely waited about an hour before opening it.

Sigh. Of course she's pregnant. Of course she's due on November 18th: the fucking anniversary of my d&c. Of course she's going to be giving birth and going on maternity leave right when I'm planning to take my oral exam and was counting on her to pick up the slack for me. Of course I'm going to have to carry the committee on my back all year, when I'm trying to become ABD (All But Dissertation, the last stage of the PhD process) AND when I'll most likely be undergoing fertility treatments.

And sure, she's a few years older than me, so maybe in one sense it's "her turn." But she WASN'T EVEN MARRIED YET when we started trying. In the sixteen months that we've managed to conceive one non-viable pregnancy, she was engaged, got married, went on a honeymoon, spent some time as a couple with her husband, got knocked up, and gestated to the point where she can announce it.

And now I have to work with her all summer while her fucking belly grows and arrange things to accommodate her pregnancy and I'm just pissed off about the whole situation.


Sorry about that.

The worst of it was the sound of the silence on the other end of the phone this morning when I told Lawyer Guy I started spotting. Just pure devastation. I thought it was hard back when I was the only one worried, the only one stressing, but this is 1000% worse. If Mr. I'm Not Going To Worry Until There's a Reason to Worry thinks we're doomed, we're really screwed. And I just feel so guilty. Especially because I know he's worried that this is his fault. Oh, this sucks from top to bottom.

It's not all bad, and I do know that. We booked the trip to Scandinavia last night-- seven days in Copenhagen and Stockholm in August. A last blast before we meet with the RE. And yesterday afternoon, FedEx delivered a package from my best friend, Doctor Lady--a beautiful bouquet of flowers to let me know that she's thinking of me as what would have been the m&m's due date approaches. I started to cry when I opened them, shocked that she remembered the month when I haven't spoken of it once since the miscarriage. I felt so alone, thinking I was the only person who remembered I could have had a baby in a few weeks, the only person on earth who still thought about my baby and grieved the life that he or she never got to live. I know how blessed I am to have a friend like this.

And I promise that I'll be okay tomorrow. I'll pick my spirits back up and start drinking my tea again and peeing on sticks and hoping that this will be the month. And I'll schedule some RE appointments and mark them in my calendar and hope that we'll get pregnant in the next two cycles and tell myself it's okay if we don't.

And I'll study and write papers and go to Father's Day dinner with my inlaws and help my parents move out of my childhood home and go to a Mets game with my husband and tell him every day how much I love him and walk my dog.

But right now, I need to revisit my friend, the sobbing bridesmaid:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wasting My Time in the Bagel Line; or, More Messages From My Subconscious

On Monday, after much dithering, I mailed Clueless Preggo the book and card I had decided to send her to explain why I haven't been a very involved friend since she announced her pregnancy just about a month ago. It felt good. I love scratching another item off my to-do list, and I was glad to get these feelings off my chest and unburden myself to her. I didn't write the note expecting any particular response nor did I even want one. Or so I told myself.

Early this morning I had another one of my patented "Hello Sloper, Allow Me to Tell You How You Really Feel" dream messages from my subconscious. Such a pesky subconscious I have, never letting me hang out happily in denial.

I dreamed I was at Clueless's birthday party (which she didn't celebrate this year thanks to the pregnancy). We were on a rooftop balcony, her friends and family and I, but the only people I recognized in the crowd were her and her husband. She was pregnant, of course, and we were talking and the whole time I was wondering if she'd received my letter and what she thought of it and why she hadn't said anything about it and if I should bring it up. As she was called over to blow out her candles, I sheepishly asked if she'd gotten my note. "Oh, yeah," she said in an off-handed manner and walked away.

Later, she and her husband were giving me a ride home, and when we stopped at a red light, she got out to go stand in the median of the road for some reason (dream logic, remember). Alone in the car with me, her husband told me that Clueless didn't mean to hide her pregnancy for so long, but that she forgot that it would be a sensitive subject for me that needed to be dealt with delicately. Then I woke up.

It was about 5:30 am, and I lay there with that icky discomfort that follows an unpleasant dream, a mix of anxiety and frustration and restlessness. I realized that she either received my note yesterday or will have it delivered today. And I wondered what she will think and what she will do, if anything. And I didn't like wondering. I realized that I am incredibly angry with her, and for an incredibly unfair reason. I realized that she doesn't deserve to be pregnant when I'm not. That she hasn't earned this pregnancy the way I have (and, yes, this flies in the face of everything I've written previously about how we don't "earn" babies, but it was that kind of morning) through sadness and suffering and horrible, horrible waiting. I've been in this bagel line for sixteen G.D. months and she just cut right to the front. And now they're making her bagel and slathering it with cream cheese and piling on the tomatoes and I'm standing here eating my own fingernails I'm so hungry.

At that point, I realized I was crazy. Hungry and crazy. And then I did something very stupid.

You see, Clueless is an infrequent Facebook user and hasn't posted a single thing about her pregnancy, despite being 5-6 months along. On the one hand, I'm grateful to her for that, grateful to avoid the gut punch of logging in and tracking her progress week by week. And yet, knowing that she was going to learn the gender back in May and knowing the only way to find out the gender was to ask her and knowing that I did not want to ask her anything at all about being pregnant--well, all I can say is that being both incredibly nosy and incredibly passive-aggressive and avoidant makes life difficult for me.

But lying awake in the morning light, I suddenly remembered: baby registries! Surely she is registered by now, especially now that she knows the gender. And I can look it up and find out what she's having and never have to talk to her about it at all! Brilliant, right?

Wrong. But I did it anyway. I registry-stalked my friend at 6 am. I found out they are investing in primarily gray and red items--car seat, high chair, bibs and bath toys. But there, toward the bottom of the registry, were a little pink hat, a little pink onesie, and a lavender romper.

She's having a girl.

This doesn't make me feel good.

I am officially a crappy friend.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Naming Names; or, When Hobbies take Over [Edited]

Those last three days of the two week wait are the worst, aren't they? You've got a bit of hope left, but it's rapidly eroding. The testing date is so close (less than a week away!) but the odds are you'll never make it there. AF's calling cards are increasingly difficult to ignore. The only worse part of my cycle is when I'm waiting on a late ovulation.

So to distract myself, I'm going to post about one of my favorite topics: Names.

I have always been fascinated with names. I think a lot of writers are. Names are such lovely symbols-- or at least I've been conditioned to read them that way after years of reading fiction. Names are musical. Names are adaptable, changing like a face over time as relationships grow or alter. Names are such a beautiful gift from parent to child.

I'm the oldest of four daughters, and I was seven when my youngest sister was born. My parents never enlisted our help in naming their younger children. They never even let us know the potential names before my sisters were born. But I can vividly remember reading through their baby name books during my mom's pregnancies, making lists of names I liked and suggesting them to my parents.

Over the years I made constant name lists that stand as a record of my obsessions and changing interests. Then in college, the internet revolutionized the way we name children. The SSA began releasing the annual Most Popular Names lists, parents started debating names online, google searches allowed immediate calculations of the incidences of a child's potential full name not only in his or her locality, but across the globe. I became interested in the sociological aspects of naming, the reasons certain names trend up or down, what names parents are drawn to at a particular time and which names they reject. Names are fascinating to research from that perspective, because they are both intimately expressive of parents' class, cultural, and other affiliations and also totally free!

Eventually, a few years ago, after becoming an active member of a community of "Name Enthusiasts," I was picked to co-write an advice column about names for an online publication (under an alias, not my own by-line, as it's a corporate endeavor).

So, suffice it to say, I've spent a lot of time thinking about names.

And naturally, after almost ten years with my husband, we've talked about names together. We hadn't even been dating a year before I started throwing "potential children's" names around, and once Lawyer Guy realized this was just a hobby of mine and not an indication of my desire to get pregnant at 20, he played along. I've even infected him with my name interest. He now remembers noteworthy (or appalling) names he hears on the street or given by acquaintances to tell me about them and has his own firm favorites and strong dislikes.

Our chosen names have changed over time: we started nine years ago with Eloise and James and moved through several other permutations over the years. But four years ago--after we became engaged--we finally settled on a different set boy and girl name. We loved them. When we started trying to conceive, we would talk all the time about what we would do with X or Y, where we would take them, what they would be like.

We purposefully left the middle names undetermined-- until I got pregnant. Roughly a week later, we had those pinned down, too.

After we lost the baby, we still kept those names. Since we don't know the gender of the baby we lost, I think of it only as "m&m," and I'm comfortable doing so. We feel no compunction applying these names to a new baby. They were always potential names, chosen for a potential baby, and they can wait until the actual baby arrives to fill that potential.

But maybe I did attach them to my first pregnancy more than I think I did. Or maybe (what I suspect is more likely), having the same mental names for my hypothetical, non-existent children has grown boring. Much of the fun of discussing names comes from the debate, the discovery, the moment when you and your partner realize that you both love the same special sound. We had those moments four years ago. Talking about these names isn't fun any longer.

So I've been cheating on X and Y. I've been pondering other possibilities. I've been filling out online stationery order forms for baby announcements (shut up, we all do it) with other monograms. There's a boys name lurking in the background, not ready yet to take center stage, but the situation is quite different for the girls. A new contender has emerged, a name we both adore, that is sweet and short and lovely: Nell Isadora (the middle for LG's grandfather).

I'd really like the little zygote to show up already, so we can hammer out this debate. I'd really like the pang that accompanies every column I write to disappear. I'd really like to comment on name blogs and message boards again, something I haven't been able to do since the miscarriage.

I'd really like to not get bored of another set of names before the baby arrives to wear them.

[Edited 1/21/12: Now that we do have a baby and have given him our favorite name, I have removed the distinguishing details from this post to protect his privacy]

Monday, June 7, 2010

Flunking out of Statistics Class; or, Signs Are Unclear

I'm no scientist, but even I know a data set of one is hardly the most reliable indicator of trends. But we work with what we've got, and I've got one: one pregnancy; one successful two week wait; one list of symptoms.

I assume that my next pregnancy--whenever and however it is--will resemble my last. I assume it will resemble that two week wait more than the 9+ others that didn't lead to an embryo in my ute. And thankfully (or more likely, unfortunately), I kept relatively detailed notes of my symptoms during successful cycle 7, notes against which I now compare every twinge and cramp and stomach burble in every subsequent two week wait.

"Let's see, I'm 6 dpo and feeling hungry but have no backache. And on 11 dpo my boobs are tender, but only on the sides and the cramps are dull and higher in my ute and my skin is oily. Let's turn to the symptoms bible and see how it compares."

Of course, the biggest mind fuck of it all is that I felt like my period was coming for much of that 2ww, too. And while my notes were frequent, they were also a little vague. I didn't give the intermittent cramps a ranking on the 1-10 pain scale. I didn't specifically note where in my abdomen they were located or perfectly time their frequency. I didn't jot down exactly how tender my boobs were, or which part of them was most sensitive. And seven months later, I somehow can't quite remember how I felt during that last week.

Clearly, these results would not fly in any scientific journal of repute, but that won't stop me from performing my calculations. I'm 9 dpo or so right now and things are not stacking up great. Rereading my posts from October, I see that I felt very much like my period was coming at this point (as I do now), so that's a wash. My boobs are a bit more tender than usual, but they're most tender on the sides (pre-period) rather than in the center or near the nipple (pregnancy). My boobs are also huge, as when I was pregnant. But the huge pregnancy boobs came after I took the test--my notes show that prior to that they were actually a little on the smaller side. I have one tiny baby zit near my right temple and my skin feels a bit oily, which is all very period and so much pregnancy.

Okay, I got that out of the way, and I promise I won't subject you to this sort of ridiculousness again. The only thing worse than running through these mental contortions is reading someone else's. Both lead to extreme grumpiness, which I am definitely feeling these days.

Not helping with my grumpiness: the skinny jeans arrived. Murphy apparently has it in for me. I couldn't even zip them up. Either AC.NE sizes their jeans way smaller than all the other brands I wear or I am having some outrageously intense period bloat. The third option--that I've gone up a size thanks to frequent "I'm not pregnant so I deserve this ice-cream/cake/jumbo bag of potato chips" binges--is not something I can consider right now. If the last 16 months have made me both fat and barren, the universe is going to get a crotch kick like it wouldn't believe.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Step Right Up and Try Your Luck; or, Exhuming the Inbox

Searching through my e-mail inbox for specific communications with my gyno, I stumbled upon the following e-mail:

Dear Dr. XXXXXX,

I know that it can take a year for healthy couples to conceive, but I'm getting very worried that there's something wrong with my husband and me. It seems like everyone we know gets pregnant after one or two tries and that if it hasn't happened by now, there's some problem. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get my period in a few days, so we'll be on our 8th cycle.

Are there any tests we can do before the 12 month mark to rule out easily fixable problems, or do we have to wait until then to do anything? Is there any explanation that can account for why this is taking so long?

Secret Sloper

Ignore the tone of slight petulance and the laughable assumption that eight months is a hideously long time to try to conceive. I was young and stupid, what can I say. In fact, ignore most of this e-mail except for two things. 1) "I'm pretty sure I'm going to get my period in a few days, so we'll be on our 8th cycle," and 2) the date it was sent: Monday, October 12. One week to the day before I saw my first positive pregnancy test.

If you held a gun to my head right now and asked me to tell you my innermost thoughts on the state of my uterus, I'd...well, I'd think you have a freakishly intense interest in my fertility and I'd also recommend your gun license be taken away. But I'd say, "Pregnant."

Which I've thought before. And haven't been pregnant.

And if you'd held the gun to my head last night, I would have said, "Not Pregnant." Which, as the above evidence shows, I've also thought before. And have been pregnant.

All of which proves that I am once again a passenger on the amazing One Week Wait Loop-de-Loop. I've ridden this beast so many times I'm quite frankly sick of it. And yet I keep getting on. Doing the boob mash (a little tender, but no more than PMS normal). Scanning my complexion (totally normal, not surprisingly clear, not notably broken out). Analyzing my appetite (strong, like it always is before AF). I thought that experiencing pregnancy would make this part easier, but each month it's the same stupid guessing game. Roller coasters and How Many Candies in The Jar-- my life has become a third-rate Carnival, right down to the chintzy Hall of Mirrors. Look in this mirror, and a lack of cramps at 7 dpo becomes a positive sign! Look in this mirror, and it's AF's latest disguise!

I've got a testing date in mind. It's far enough out that reaching it will make the test a formality. I don't expect to get there. I'm stocked with enough red raspberry leaf tea for the next ten cycles and I just ordered a pair of expensive skinny jeans from Gilt Groupe on the off chance that Murphy has a say in this.

And back in line for the Cyclone I go.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dream On; or, Past as Prologue

Back in September, in the early weeks of the cycle that would lead to my one and only pregnancy, I had a series of dreams. Most of the details are unimportant. Suffice it to say that various surprising and nonsensical events occurred in a variety of surprising and nonsensical locations. More significantly, the person in these locations and participating in these events was me-- a happily, healthily, robustly pregnant me. A pregnant me surrounded by all the other pregnant ladies I knew at the time.

Those were the first dreams I'd had in the seven months we'd been trying to conceive in which I was pregnant. It felt like a sign. And sure enough, a few weeks later I realized I was in Lucky Cycle Seven. My role as seer of dream visions seemed secured.

Of course, Cycle Seven turned out to be rather unlucky. And my dreams gave me no indication of that. No anxieties about the pregnancy. No prophesied miscarriages. No warnings.

In the subsequent months I have had many dreams: some happy, some sad, some strange, some dull. I had a dream in which I gave birth to a rubbery, dead child a few weeks after the miscarriage. I've had dreams about the pregnant women in my life giving birth or getting divorced or talking about their pregnancies. But I have not had a dream in which I am pregnant again--happily pregnant, confidently pregnant--like those first prophetic ones. And through these past few months, through these last four post-miscarriage cycles, as much as I've hoped and feared and swung between brisk assurance and downright despair, deep inside I've suspected that I won't, that I can't get pregnant again until I have the right kind of dream.

The kind of dream I had two nights ago.

Lawyer Guy and I were in the waiting room of a doctor's office. A doctor I had never met before approached me and said the words I long to hear: "You're pregnant." She knew this, she explained, because I kept standing on one leg without wobbling, which showed that my center of gravity had shifted (clearly some of my recent yoga classes were intruding into this dream). She offered to call my usual gyn in to do an ultrasound and suggested I might be carrying twins. When Dr. B (my real life doctor) arrived, she performed the u/s and told me that even though it was too early to see anything, she could tell that this was a singleton pregnancy, non-ectopic, and going to be perfectly healthy and fine. Then I woke up.

On the one hand, it's interesting to see how my subconscious feelings about pregnancy have changed since the miscarriage. My earlier pregnancy dreams were all about me waddling around, rubbing my huge belly and feeling that pregnant lady glow (and getting that pregnant lady attention). This dream was about the reassurance that I won't have another miscarriage. It was a magical vision of the medical community as 100% accurate, of my body as capable and healthy. It was about learning I was pregnant and feeling joy and confidence that the first trimester will likely never have for me again.

And on the other hand...well, I'm a complete fool. This dream has given me so much hope. Being pregnant this cycle seems possible because of this dream. Seems almost...inevitable.

I can handle this. I have enough of that hard-won self-preserving pessimism left to keep myself from anticipating too much. No buying onesies and What to Expect for me. Another failed cycle after this build up will be hard, no doubt, but not any harder than what I've been through already. I can pick myself up and go on, finally rid of the stupid superstitions that have wormed their way into my normally sensible brain. Accepting that dreams and signs have no place in a world of IVF and CBEFMs, that there's nothing inevitable about making a baby.

But I would rather be right than sensible.