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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Myths and Legends; or, Let's Hear It For the Boys

Lots of bloggers in our ALI community have been posting in honor of NIAW (that's National Infertility Awareness Week, dontcha know), and I love reading what they come up with. These women have shed light on some of the most pernicious myths anyone who suffers to bring home a child grows all too familiar with: myths about how to get pregnant, how to stay pregnant, how easy it is to adopt, or how having a baby makes years of pain and heartache disappear.

I love being part of this community that takes advocacy so seriously and thinks through some really tough questions in a calm, rational (mostly) way. And I love so many of the women I've grown to know over the last two years.

But that's also the problem with this community, and the myth I'm going to bust. The myth that:

Infertility is a "woman's issue."

Infertility is not strictly a problem of female biology. We all know that 1/3 of IF cases with a clear diagnosis are due to male factor issues and another 1/3 are a combination of male and female. It's important that we get the word out about this. So women don't always assume it's their problem when things aren't working right. So men don't refuse to get the simple testing that could diagnose a problem early on. And so men who do learn that they have male factor infertility are not left lonely and struggling, feeling like freaks in a world of super-sperminators.

Infertility does not only affect women emotionally. Women are (usually) more open about expressing difficult emotions like sadness, despair, and anxiety. They're typically better at communicating with each other about these things (hence the huge number of women in the online ALI community and the much smaller number of men). There's an image in popular culture of the "baby crazy woman" driving her husband insane.

But men suffer just as much emotionally from the inability to have a child. Men struggle with their sense of failure from a diagnosis of MFI just as much as women do who are diagnosed anovulatory or with other conditions. Even men who do not physically contribute to the IF diagnosis suffer as part of an infertile couple--they sacrifice privacy in order to perform embarrassing tests in hospitals and clinics, they wonder if they will ever get to be a parent, they suffer watching their partners undergo painful treatments and painful failures, they grieve miscarriages and infant loss.

Infertility is not only a woman's issue socially. As humiliating and difficult as it is for women to be open about their struggles to conceive or carry a child to term, I believe it is even more difficult for men to speak about this. I think this is partly because so much of the reporting, so many of the representations of infertility in popular culture, are focused on women. Are women waiting too long to have babies? Is surrogacy a great innovation or a terrible repudiation of nature? Do infertile women make better parents?

We need to bring more men into the conversation. Not only because, let's face it, politicians listen to men. But also because maybe having a more open acknowledgment of the male experience of infertility will help our husbands, brothers, and friends to find the kind of support we all receive from each other.

* * *

I wrote this post in honor of my husband, who went through more with me to achieve this pregnancy than he ever anticipated. I am so sad that, for the most part, he dealt with this alone. I wish he had some "fake friends" (as he calls all of you) of his own to help him through the past two years.

And I firmly believe that while he would have been an amazing dad no matter what, infertility and loss have helped him to appreciate my pregnancy tenfold. He's the most present, supportive partner I could ever ask for, and I love him so very much.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Days; or, Ten Fingers and Ten Toes (Plus a Lot of Other Body Parts)

Yesterday was one of my best days ever!

It started with Part 1 of our anatomy scan (at 16w3d). I was anxious beforehand, as was Lawyer Guy, but we both did a good job of keeping busy over the weekend and keeping our mind off the fear--and everything turned out great. Smudgie looks perfect: we saw the brain, four-chambered heart beating away, the spine and stomach and bladder and kidneys (two of them, phew!). We saw veins in different parts of his or her body. The tech counted fingers and toes and measured arm and leg bones. Everything you can see at this point looked good.

I had the follow-up bloodwork for the sequential screening, but the OB we met with yesterday feel confident that the results are going to be good. We scheduled Part 2 of the anatomy scan for 21 weeks exactly, 4.5 weeks away. I did NOT schedule an intermediate peace-of-mind scan. I'm going to try to make it the entire month this time (and hope that I start to feel some reassuring movement in the meantime). And I learned that I've only gained a pound in the last three weeks, so the run-away weight gain of the first tri appears to be settling now that I'm eating more fruits, veggies, and proteins. Hooray! Happy happy all around!!

At this point, we finally feel comfortable going public. We're letting our parents tell friends and extended family, we're telling far-off friends, I'm telling people at school. It's very scary to take this plunge, but I think it's time. As Doctor Lady said when I saw her last week, statistically, our odds are as good at this point as they will be at any point. And I've got to start coming clean eventually, right? We are still keeping mum on Facebook, though.

(And speaking of Doctor Lady: thank you for your support on my last post. As I suspected, I just needed some time to process the news. She came into town for Easter week and it was amazing to see her and to talk about this experience with her. I am truly excited now that we get to share this time after all these years of waiting).

After the scan, my happy day continued! LG had to head to work, so I grabbed a healthy, yummy lunch and hit the streets for a favorite, and long-neglected, activity: Shopping!!!

I stopped off at lululemon and picked up some yoga leggings and looser work-out tops and a bigger sports bra to last the rest of the pregnancy. I've heard such good things about how comfortable their clothes are throughout pregnancy, that I decided it was worth the investment. And as a plus, I can continue to wear these clothes postpartum (fingers crossed) and after.

I also stumbled into a crazy 80% off warehouse sale at one of my favorite chi-chi stores on the Upper East Side. And this sale was FULL of loose, drapey, light, cotton and linen and jersey summer dresses and tops! I bought a whole bunch that I can belt under the boobs and wear in the summer, and then have taken in a little afterward to continue to wear once the pregnancy is over. I love it! Other than some maternity bras, a pair of maternity jeans, and a few stretchy shirts and camisoles (all of which I still need to pick up), I've got all the basics for an awesome pregnant-wardrobe and I haven't stepped foot in a maternity store!

I also picked up two little things for Smudgie. One is a gray Primp thermal onesie with panda bears on it that I got at the warehouse sale. The other was a pair of cotton footie pajamas with little grey designs all over them that I got at my favorite French children's clothing store, jacadi.

(Yes, I have a favorite French children's clothing store. Yes, I am a New Yorker. Yes, I am crazy.)

I almost cried when I bought those pajamas. I have gone into that store so many times over the last few years and touched all the little cotton clothes and the little shoes and wondered when it will be my turn to get something. Buying that little item felt so special and important (even if I haven't cut the tags off, nor will for a very long time).

I feel good about buying those little things. They're easily stashed and stored and easily ignored should something go wrong (as I learned with the m&m--we've had two onesies in a desk drawer for 18 months now). It's not like buying a stroller or a crib or a rug, none of which I'm even close to doing yet. But these purchases felt like purposeful statements of hope, rather than blind optimism. And that's a place I'm okay being in for the moment.

One last thing to say before I return to my reading. We could have found out Smudgie's sex today, but we have decided to keep it a mystery until the birth.

(For which LG should be eternally grateful, because I swear, if I had just found out the sex and then walked into jacadi, there would have been a consumer binge the likes of which has not been seen since Vivian Ward discovered Rodeo Drive.)

People keep asking how I have the willpower to resist finding out--and my MIL has threatened to come to the next scan with us and force the tech to tell her. But it isn't a matter of willpower for me. I like not knowing. I like having this time to let Smudgie just be Smudgie--a sweet little baby, not a boy or a girl yet, just a special being that I love so much. Maybe deep down I like that not knowing the sex keeps everyone else at arm's length from the pregnancy. Maybe. I don't know. But I'm finally happy to be asking a question with only good answers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

An Unexpected Post; or, Scared of Perfection

Once upon a time, My best friend and I dreamed about the day we would have children. We were married one day apart, we planned to start trying within a few months of each other, so of course we would have babies on the same day! They would grow up to be best friends. Everything would be perfect.

Everything was not perfect.

She got pregnant her first month trying, and I...didn't. I threw her baby shower and then four days later had a miscarriage. She gave birth to her son, and I cried tears that were both in celebration and mourning. But through the next months and years, she was there for me. She even sent flowers on the m&m's due date, the only person in my life who remembered (and yes, this includes Lawyer Guy). She was the first person I told about Smudgie, at 5 weeks, when I was losing my mind with fear. She knew just what to say to comfort me without giving false hope.

She e-mailed me last night. She is 12 weeks pregnant. Her husband wouldn't let her tell anyone before now. She is due three weeks after me, also in October.

This is great news. I've mentioned before that she is a navy doctor and she was in fact scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan this summer. That is now, thankfully, off the table, for which I am beyond glad. Babies are always good news, right? Always a blessing and always a joy. I love her sweet 1-year-old son. I know I will love this little one, too.

And finally, two years later than hoped for, this is it. This is that perfect we wanted. Two best friends, pregnant together. Two babies nearly the same age and destined to be friends.

So why am I crying? And why am I suddenly more scared than I have been since our last ultrasound? Why does something that once seemed inevitable now feel impossible?

Why am I still so broken? Why can't I escape the "What ifs"?

I don't think perfect exists for me anymore or ever will again. And on good days, I don't mind that. I'm even grateful for it.

But right now, I don't know how to end this post. With the excitement I don't feel yet, or the sadness that isn't even close to as cutting as I know sadness can be. With joy in friendship or with loneliness.

I can try to end it with hope. And I can hope to feel hopeful again soon.

Friday, April 8, 2011

14 weeks!; or, Back for an Update

Today I'm 14 weeks and am finally, officially, in the 2nd trimester. Yay!!! I know it's an arbitrary marker (obviously, since there are so many different ways to calculate it), but I'm enormously glad and grateful to be here, nonetheless.

We had a quick and dirty ultrasound on Wednesday just for my peace of mind. Smudgie still looks good. He was much more active than he's been any other time, doing the worm, shaking his little legs around, and generally putting on a show before settling in for a little snooze. He clearly likes to suck his thumb--at both this scan and the NT scan he had his little hand up to his mouth. It was so, so sweet and melted my heart.

We met another OB in the practice. This one performs about 1/3 of the deliveries, so I was glad to get to know him. He took lots of time with us after the scan, answering our questions about weight gain, acid reflux and delivering on Yom Kippur--that last being Lawyer Guy's concern (as I expected, there will be an OB on call even on the high holy days. No hospital janitor need deliver this baby, no matter when he comes).

The doctor told me I'll start to feel movement in not less than one month and not more than two. He also said that I'll probably be able to relax more after that point, but until then I can call the office and come in whenever I get worried. I really love how understanding my practice is!

Our next appointment is our level 1 anatomy scan at 16 weeks. It's the day after Easter. It's also the arbitrary point I've chosen to "go public" with our news--though not on Facebook. I don't know when or if that will ever happen. But I'm going to let my mom and in-laws tell relatives, co-workers, etc after the 16-week scan, if all goes well. And I'll have to speak with the director of my graduate program and the writing program coordinator where I teach about taking time off, keeping my fellowship, returning to teaching later next year, all that good stuff I'm too nervous to address right now.

For now, I'm still taking things slow. I'm getting back into yoga after a long break. I'm trying to get as much studying done as I can manage, while still falling asleep on the couch for an hour every afternoon. I'm trying to eat lots of fruits and veggies, some fish, and other healthy foods. I'm planning to tell a friend or two this weekend, but no more than that.

So much of what has happened and is happening doesn't seem real. Did I really suffer for two years to get to this point? Am I really growing a baby inside me right now? Isn't this all some big cosmic practical joke?

But that's a post for another time.