Documenting the Pregnancy Experience

Last month, I started writing in a pregnancy journal that my mom got me for Christmas, in order to document more of the details of this pregnancy. At first, the idea of a pregnancy journal terrified me. As I have written elsewhere on this blog, my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 11 weeks. As expected, this experience (in addition to 3+ years of infertility) changed my expectations for and experience of pregnancy forever.

In dealing with the aftermath of the miscarriage, I spent a lot of time with a friend who’d lost a pregnancy at 20 weeks about a month before I got pregnant, sharing our grief and trying to heal. I remember very clearly being with her about a week before her expected due date, and talking about whether she was going to do anything special that day. It turns out she had a small ritual planned, where she would open her box of mementoes of the pregnancy/baby and spend some time with these objects. The box included ultrasound photos, plaster impressions of her tiny baby’s feet, and a belly book.

I hadn’t heard of a belly book before, so she explained that it was similar to a pregnancy journal, and that it was where she had documented her pregnancy through weekly pictures of her belly. Upon hearing this, I still remember the two very strong emotions I felt. First off, I felt incredibly sad for her that she had this tangible reminder of the joy and expectations that she and her husband had for the lost pregnancy, and how difficult it would be to look through the book and contrast her grief against the memory of how she had felt while the pictures were being taken.

The second strong emotion I felt was relief for myself that I did not have a belly book, pregnancy journal, or any similar chronicle of my ill-fated pregnancy. The only remotely comparable thing we’d had was pictures of the pregnancy pee stick showing those two magical lines, which I deleted from my computer several weeks after the miscarriage because I couldn’t face accidentally flipping to them. The lack of a belly book or pregnancy journal was purely a fluke – it is totally the sort of thing I would have gotten if I’d been in the baby and pregnancy section of the bookstore at the right time.

When I got pregnant this time around, even though I was comfortable buying small baby things fairly early in the pregnancy (as I was able to tell myself they were for my eventual baby, whether it be this one or another one), I couldn’t bring myself to get a pregnancy journal or belly book, which would be so intimately tied to this pregnancy and baby.

However, when we told my mom about the pregnancy, one of the first questions she asked was whether I was keeping a pregnancy journal, and after I said no, she highly recommended I do. So, it was no surprise when I got one under the Christmas tree from her, but it still took me a few weeks before I was able to get over my fear and actually write in it.

Since then, I have written 3 posts with details of how our appointments went, or what new milestones we’re experiencing. I write when I’m in bed, just before going to sleep, while feeling the baby moving around inside.

In one sense, the journal is more about facts than this blog – a detailed explanation of how the anatomy scan went, a documentation of my weight and baby’s heartbeat, and other such factual details which I want to remember, but don’t feel quite comfortable boring my blog readers with.

However, one of the surprising things I’ve really enjoyed about the journal is that it is also much more personal than this blog. While the blog is primarily about my feelings and experiences, my journal entries are written to my baby, and focus on him. I honestly don’t know if he’ll ever read them (I think the fact that he’s a boy and not a girl makes it less likely that he’d ever be interested), but as I write”you” instead of “the baby”, and “daddy” instead of “my husband”, without fail tears of joy come to my eyes and I feel an uncontrollable outpouring of love and an intense connection to the miracle growing inside me.

A Telling Experience

Hello, poor neglected blog! I have had two posts that I started sitting in draft for several weeks now. I don’t really have an excuse (well, a weeks of Christmas busy-ness comes to mind, but other than that, no excuse!). I do have some time today to try to catch up a bit, so here goes.

Once we moved from the first to the second trimester, my husband and I turned to the crucial question of who to tell about the pregnancy, and when. Up until 12 weeks, the only people who knew about the pregnancy were: our fertility clinic in Toronto; our fertility clinic in our old city; my acupuncturist in Toronto; and my acupuncturist in our old city. And that’s it. No family. No friends. Nobody else.

I was pretty sure a few people had guessed (based primarily on my lack of drinking), but we hadn’t admitted to anything.

We had decided a long time ago that we wouldn’t be posting a splashy announcement on facebook (that will have to wait until the baby is born!), nor would we be sending out a mass email to all of our contacts announcing the news. Yes, someone my husband used to work with sent the following email a few years ago: “[Wife] is preggers!!”. Not for us.

Our original plan was to tell our families at Christmas time, which would coincide with the 17 week mark of the pregnancy. My husband actually wanted to wait even longer, until our anatomy scan at 18 to 20 weeks, but I didn’t think I could hold out that long.

Our first OB appointment after being released from the fertility clinic was at 13 weeks 5 days. Unfortunately, it was rescheduled last minute, and my husband was unable to go to the new appointment time, so it looked like I was going on my own. However, my mom and step dad were coming to our house for lunch the day before the appointment, and in the end we decided that if we told them the news that day, then my mom could come to the appointment with me (the OB and hospital are actually right across the street from her house, so even if she couldn’t come along, I would have wanted to park in her driveway).

So, that’s how it started! The following weekend we told my husband’s parents and my dad and step mom, and then started sharing the news with friends as we saw them/spoke with them.

Sharing the news has been wonderful. It’s a relief to finally be able to tell people about the pregnancy, instead of pretending there’s nothing new with us, and it’s great how excited everyone is for us. Nobody knows the full details of our infertility struggle, but most people we’ve told know we’d been trying for a while, and some know about our miscarriage and/or fertility treatments. So they understand on some level that this pregnancy did not come easy.

Wonderful as it has been, sharing the news has also been scary. With each new person we tell, the pregnancy feels more real. The more we talk about it, the more excited we get. However, facing the reality of the pregnancy also forces us to confront the fears that we’ve tried to suppress that there’s still so many things that can go wrong. I have another post started (which hopefully I’ll finish soon) which delves more into that side of things, so stay tuned.

11 Weeks 3 Days

I am back and hope to be posting more regularly. I have not given up on blogging now that I am pregnant. Everything continues to go well, but I still have a lot of posts to write. However, I have been ridiculously busy at work, and today was my first day off so far this month. Things will continue to be fairly busy over the next few weeks, but hopefully I’m past the worst of it.

Since it’s been so long since I’ve posted, and I have a lot to write, I’m going to try my hardest to stay focused and write about the most important thing that’s happened since I last blogged. I had actually planned on writing this post a few days ago, but due to the work insanity I had to postpone that plan.

So here it is – I am now officially 100% more pregnant than I have ever been. This is a huge milestone. My first pregnancy ended at 11 weeks – a day and a half of spotting, turned to bleeding (heavier than anything I have ever experienced), which turned into a d&c that evening. The Dr. told me afterwards that based on the size of my uterus at the time, the baby stopped developing somewhere around 8 or 9 weeks.

This time around, by the time I got to 11 weeks, I’d had three ultrasounds. The first one was at 6 weeks 2 days, where we saw a strong heartbeat. The second one was at 8 weeks 5 days, where we saw a head and body and little limb buds developing. After that second ultrasound, I knews that this baby had most likely made it further than the first one. But I didn’t know for sure. Our third ultrasound was mind blowing. Just a week later, at 9 weeks 6 days, there was a tiny little baby waving its arms and legs around, which we even go to see in 3D. This time I knew for sure that this baby had made it further than the first one.

But while that gave me a lot of comfort, I still hadn’t made it further than before. And then finally, two days ago, I was 11 weeks and 1 day pregnant. This was important to me for two reasons. There is the obvious one that it is one more milestone to celebrate, and one more reason to exhale. And while that is important, I’ve already had a lot of great milestones and reasons to celebrate this pregnancy.

The other, more important reason is that the experience of once again being 11 weeks pregnant validates for me that my first pregnancy was real; that it was more than just a forgettable blip. Unlike this pregnancy, I never got to see my baby on ultrasound the first time around –  my first ultrasound was before the d&c. I couldn’t face myself to look at the screen when the Dr. put the wand in, but after I already knew what the outcome was I willed myself to sneak a peek. And what I saw didn’t resemble a baby at all – my uterus was just one big mess.

We had told very few people that we were pregnant, and while we ended up telling some close friends who’d recently lost a pregnancy in the 2nd trimester, I still mourned the fact that there was no tangible proof that our baby had ever existed. I had no ultrasounds, and hardly anyone that had shared the joy of pregnancy with me.

Over the course of the last year, as I watched countless other women on my infertility forums get pregnant, I was surprised at how quickly their pregnancies flew by. I would blink and they would be 8, 12, 16 weeks pregnant. I couldn’t believe how quickly they became more pregnant than I’d been. As time went on, and my experience of pregnancy faded further and further into the past, I started to worry that what I had experienced wasn’t real; that it was so fleeting that somehow in the grand scheme of things it didn’t really matter, even though it mattered to me.

This was further brought into relief for me on the one year anniversary of when I first found out I was pregnant. It coincided with when I finally got the go ahead for IVF, and the timing was such that from that day to my egg retrieval was almost exactly the same amount of time as from the time I found out I was pregnant to the d&c (my egg retrieval was the day before the one year anniversary of the d&c). This strange alignment further saddened me, as I was anxious to get the IVF going and have things fly by as much as possible, while I was also conscious of the fact that if the time flew by it also meant that my pregnancy one year before had also flown by.

This past week as I once again experienced being 11 weeks pregnant, I realized that it feels like I’ve been pregnant forever (in a good way of course!). The last 7 weeks since I found out I was pregnant have been rich with experience; much more so than most other 7 week periods. This pregnancy is real, and it matters.

And the first 11 weeks of this pregnancy finally validate my feelings about my first pregnancy – it may have ended too soon, but that doesn’t take away the experience that it was real, and that it will always be a part of me.

Still Pregnant, Still Grateful

Today I am 7 weeks and 3 days pregnant. On the one hand, this should come as no surprise…last time I wrote was eight days ago, and I was 6 weeks and 2 days pregnant.

However, while my overwhelming belief continues to be that this will work out and come next June I will have a baby in my arms, I do find myself “holding my breath” about more things than I would care to admit. On a similar note, I continue to be amazed at all the things that have gone right so far.

For example, while it’s not on my mind every time I wipe, I am surprised (and very grateful) that I have not spotted even one tiny speck of blood (or any brown of pink discharge) so far. I have heard enough times that spotting is more common in IVF pregnancies, plus I am still on heparin, which is a blood thinner. Both of these factors suggest that I am at higher than average risk of benign spotting, which prepared me to expect some spotting. So I am incredibly grateful that so far nothing has come to pass.

I have had some pregnancy symptoms, but they have been pretty minor compared to what I hear of other peoples’ experience. I have not thrown up (or even come close to it); I am not suffering from fatigue; and I am not sensitive to smells. I am grateful for each of these things.

While a lot of women (particularly ones who’ve suffered through infertility or loss) want to experience pregnancy symptoms, my personal take on it is that it’s way more fun to be pregnant without the nasty symptoms, than to be pregnant and feel like crap all the time. I don’t need to throw up to know I’m pregnant, especially now that I’ve had an ultrasound and I’ve seen the tiny baby growing inside me.

All the indicators I’ve had from this pregnancy so far have been overwhelmingly positive. Both of my beta hcg numbers were strong and right on target. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it did. I was incredibly happy and relieved, but I still scoured the signatures of other women on my infertility forums to see if there were others with strong initial numbers that didn’t work out, and found several whose third or fourth betas (which I never went for) dropped, resulting in chemical pregnancies.

When we went for our ultrasound last week, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that at 6 weeks and 2 days it may still be early to see a heartbeat, so I mentally prepared myself for the possibility, and told myself not to freak out if that was the case. But, again the results left no doubt. Not only was there a heartbeat, but it was strong. Everything I read said that a normal  heartbeat at 6 to 7 weeks is between 90 and 110 beats per minute. Ours was 121 beats per minute.

When we left the appointment, my husband told me that he couldn’t believe things had gone so well. He said he was so used to us getting bad news, that part of him did not know how to react now that we were finally getting good news. And I knew what he meant.

After the good news from the ultrasound, I was ready to release a layer of anxiety and celebrate the milestone. While I celebrated the two strong beta results with some purchases at Pottery Barn Kids, this time around I got myself a ticker. This is a ribbon that counts down my pregnancy day by day, and the one I chose shows how big the baby is each week by comparing it to a fruit. I added the ticker to my signature on one of the infertility forums I’m on, and I love logging in every day and seeing each day tick by.

But, there are other things that will come only once more milestones are achieved. While the risk of miscarriage is much lower once you see a heartbeat on an ultrasound, it is still there. Again, I find myself looking at other women’s signatures on my infertility forums and noting the number that had a good first ultrasound, only to find out there was no heartbeat at their next ultrasound at 8 or 9 weeks.

My next ultrasound is at 8 weeks 5 days, and while once again, I fully expect things to go well, I am holding off on creating the “pregnancy” page for my blog where I will list my pregnancy milestones until I get the good news.

I continue to be grateful for every day that passes with no pregnancy related drama, because it means that I am one day closer to meeting my baby.

What a Difference Two Lines Make

This weekend, my husband and I are entertaining two sets of out of town guests. A few days ago, I realized what a different experience this is, compared to how it would have been if instead of being pregnant, I was dealing with the effects of another failed cycle.

This morning was my pregnancy bloodtest. Afterwards, we had brunch with a couple visiting from our old city, who have an almost three year old. Oh, and they’re pregnant with their second, due at the end of January.

Last time we saw them was at the beginning of July, just before we moved. My husband had told me that they had recently started trying for number two, so wondering whether they would be pregnant yet was in the back of my mind as we went over for dinner.

We were just coming off our IVF cycle in June, which, while overall a success, resulted in no embryo transfer due to my OHSS. Instead, I had just started my medications for my frozen embryo transfer to take place later that month.

We sat down to dinner, and sure enough I noticed that the wife was not drinking alcohol, in stark contrasts to the several glasses of wine that I was consuming. My heart sank thinking that here they were pregnant with #2, and we were still in this uncertain limbo.

I remember hoping that the pregnancy was still early enough that it would not become a topic of conversation. A few times throughout the night, she made little slips which impled she might be pregnant, such as saying “when the kids get older”, but overall I thought we were out of the woods. We had split up our conversation by gender, so I was catching up with her, and our husbands were chatting about their own things, when all of a sudden I heard my husband heartily congratulate the other guy.

Crap, I thought. Sure enough, we heard the pregnancy announcement, and had a (thankfully brief) conversation about how wonderful it all was.

Fast forward to a few days ago when I remembered that she was pregnant, and that several months later she must be showing quite a bit. I was so grateful knowing that I, too was pregnant, and could enjoy the brunch, without dreading an engagement with a huge pregnant woman the day of my negative blood test.

Our other out of town guest is arriving shortly and will be staying with us overnight and all day tomorrow. He’s an old family friend who I haven’t seen in many years. Two years ago, when my husband and I were on sabbatical in the US for a year, my dad had told me that this guy was living in New York City, which wasnt too far from the little town we were in, and that we should visit him at some point. I exchanged a few emails with him, but ended up not seeing him the first time we went.

We had another, longer visit planned later that year, so I was planning on emailing him to set something up. I remember the week before the visit thinking I should email him in the next few days to let him know we were coming out. I was pregnant with our first pregnancy, approaching the end of the first trimester and looking forward to announcing to our families in the next few weeks.

Instead, I started spotting, which turned to bleeding, which became a miscarriage and d&c. We still went to New York City the following week, but I never contacted the family friend. I just couldn’t stomach the idea of trying to have fun and make conversation with someone I hadn’t seen in over ten years so soon after such a horrible event.

A few days ago (maybe two days after my first positive pregnancy test), my dad emailed me to let me know that this family friend would be arriving for a short visit this week, and did I want to see him. We arranged some plans for him to arrive at our house tonight.

And once again, I thought what a strange coincidence that the reason our last visit with him was because of the miscarriage, and that the first chance we get at another visit I just found out I was pregnant again. Somehow it feels like we’ve come full circle.

Pregnancy Revisited

Four home pregnancy tests later, and I’m still pregnant. On the one hand, I’m starting to get antsy to finally go for my bloodtest and get things rolling “for real”. In some ways this time now feels a bit like cheating, like I snuck into the movie theatre when nobody was looking. But, on the other hand I feel safe and protected, and like nothing bad can happen yet, since nobody’s monitoring my pregnancy and measuring how it stacks up. So, from that perspective I’m in no rush to bring on the stress.

I’m in a great head space right now. Over the last year and a bit I have wondered how I would feel once I got pregnant again, and if the fear and anxiety of knowing too much, and my past experience would get in the way of feeling the sheer, crazy joy that I felt the first time around, not to mention the surprising, immediate connection with the tiny life growing inside me.

In that time, between twitter, infertility forums, and infertility blogs I’ve read about many other infertiles’ joy at becoming pregnant. I remember feeling jealous reading the progression of posts from those people who were pregnant for the first time – not because they were pregnant, but because of how easily they accepted the pregnancy and didn’t question whether it would last or not.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but for the most part, these people were grateful that after many months or years of trying to get pregnant, the hard part was over. Reading these posts, I felt like my innocence had been stolen, and that I would never again experience that same level of excitement at being pregnant.

The posts from those who had suffered loss(es) in the past were different. While they were also excited about pregnancy, for them the hard part was just beginning. It made me sad reading about all the fear and worry that accompanied their pregnancies.

Now that I’ve been lucky enough to experience pregnancy again, I am relieved and surprised at how great it feels to be here. The overwhelming emotion that I feel is happiness, mixed with a huge dollop of wonder. I am too busy enjoying myself to let fear and anxiety spoil my big moment for me.

I know that the odds are still on my side that this will work out. I have every reason to believe that my past losses were bad luck, and that this time will be different. And if for some reason that’s not the case, then all the more reason to enjoy every second of this pregnancy that I can, because who knows when I will next have the opportunity to feel this way again.

I know that there are many hurdles to cross before we can bring this baby/these babies home, but I’m going to take things day by day and try not to worry about them in advance. So far, so good!

Charting a New Course

I am still giddy with excitement about the positive pregnancy test this morning. I didn’t get much work done today, but thankfully I really didn’t have much to do, so I could revel in my newly pregnant state.

I’ve wondered for a long time what this would feel like, and how it would compare to the first time I found out I was pregnant, which is almost a year and a half ago now. Would it feel different the second time around? Would I act differently?

While in some ways this is my third pregnancy (crazy to think that way!), for the most part it feels like my second, as my chemical pregnancy from an IUI cycle a year ago this month never felt real. I never got to enjoy that wonderful state of thinking of all the possibilities that the pregnancy could mean since I never got a positive on any of the home pregnancy tests I took that cycle.

I was already mourning the cycle by the time I went to have bloodwork done. Even when it came back positive, it was so low that right from the beginning I was told to stop all medication and see what happened. So even though I’ve had two losses, for all intents and purposes I’ve only been pregnant once before.

I have few regrets from my first pregnancy, but one of the things that has bothered me ever since is that I only did one measly home pregnancy test, so until today I’ve only seen those two beautiful pregnancy lines once in my life (compared to the countless sad single lines of failed cycles past). I promised myself at one point that next time I had the opportunity, I would take more than one test so I could enjoy that moment of seeing two lines come up over and over again.

So, on my way home from work, I bought four more pregnancy tests: two of my gold standard First Response Early Response manual tests, and two digital Life Brand tests to use later this week once my beta levels should be higher (hey, the Life Brand were even on sale!). So, I now have five pregnancy tests to use over the next few days – I figure I’ll do one each morning until my bloodtest Saturday. And then I’ll lay off. Or I’ll buy more tests – I haven’t decided yet!

Last time around, my husband and I had made a pact that we wouldn’t buy anything baby related until the first trimester was over. Even though we had no reason to think that something would go wrong, we were very aware of the possibility of miscarriage and didn’t want to take anything for granted.

However, from week five to week seven or so, I went away to Europe on a business trip. While there, I saw a beautiful hand crafted baby toy. It was a quilted alphabet hanging. Each letter had a pocket, and in each pocket there was a little quilted animal whose name started with that particular letter. It was adorable, and I knew that was my only chance to buy it.

I agonized over whether to buy it or not. I took a picture, sent it to my husband, and we discussed it over skype. He loved it too once he saw it and told me to buy the toy if I really wanted to. “But it’s too early” I said. “What if we lose the baby?”.

“If we lose the baby, we’ll pack it up and save it for next time.” my husband said. “You can only buy it if you’re comfortable with that.” I thought about it, and decided I was. The toy would be for our baby, whether it be that baby or a future one, so I bought it.

After we lost the pregnancy, I didn’t regret buying the toy, because we’d had that discussion. I knew that one day there would be another baby that would get to enjoy the toy.

On that same trip, I started doing some nursery planning. I surfed websites like Pottery Barn Kids, the Land of Nod and Restoration Hardware for ideas, and cut and paste images into a document. When I was feeling stressed, or just wanted a break, I would open up that file on my computer and looking at all the cute little baby things would instantly relax me and calm me down.

We had a trip planned to New York City that June, and I was planning on visiting the stores in person so I could see what the cute little baby things looked like in real life. I would be right at the end of my first trimester, so was thinking that maybe I would even buy something if I really liked it in person.

Unfortunately, the trip ended up taking place a few days after my miscarriage, so we never ended up visiting any of the baby stores. I decided that my tastes would probably change by the time I was pregnant again, and there would be a whole slew of new equally cute baby things for me to drool over, so I put my nursery file away.

But there was one thing on it that I absolutely loved and felt I had to have. It was a wooden sheep sign from Pottery Barn Kids on which you would write baby’s name to hang on the nursery door. I knew that next time I was pregnant there was a good chance that the little wooden sheep would no longer be available, so I asked my husband if it was okay to buy it, even though we’d already miscarried. He agreed that it was really cute, so I ordered it online, and when it arrived I put it in the box with the toy from Europe.

Now here I am, in the early stages of pregnancy over a year later. My new job is across the street from Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids, so I decided that at lunch I would treat myself to a store visit, so I could once again start building my nursery file. I walked around the store in wonder, glad that there were no sales people around to bother me, as I examined cribs and dressers.

And then, I saw the cutest thing. It was a sheet set with what looked like my little sheep on it. There were sheets, a bedskirt, a quilt, and various other items, all with adorable little sheep on them (the series is called “sweet lambie”). Possibly the cutest thing was a mobile with five fuzzy little sheep (made of real wool!). While with my last pregnancy, many of the items I liked were quite feminine, the sweet lambie sheets were white and beige, or wonderfully gender neutral.

In that moment, I decided that I wanted to start buying some things for our baby/babies as soon as possible, even if it was early. Nothing major just yet, but a sheet set or two, and a sweet lambie mobile would be a good start. I am going to wait at least until my first bloodtest, and probably until my second before I buy anything, but at that point I feel like I’m ready to take my chances. At some point we’re going to need to start buying baby stuff, so why not build on the few items we already have in our baby box? I’m tired of waiting.