4

Grateful!

I am so happy to say that I passed my second test for gestational diabetes! After learning about all of the risks to the baby if I did have GD, I was terrified. I assumed that most of the more severe risks are only if you do not manage your blood sugars, but it was very scary to think of the possibilities. I started a GD-friendly diet right away and now I hope to stick with a much healthier diet, but treats in moderation (as opposed to the state of pure gluttony I was in).

I found out the results at my regular prenatal appointment and I am thrilled to say that the baby’s heart was beating strongly and she was kicking up a storm. Also, I have now reached the point where my prenatal appointments occur every 2 weeks (instead of every 4). We’re getting close(r) . . . . .

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Lest I Forget

In many ways, this blog is my journal and not just a way of communicating with friends and others who have similar experiences. Therefore, I want to describe my symptoms so that I don’t forget the experiences of this pregnancy. This way, if I ever get to experience another pregnancy, I can make comparisons between that experience and this one. I wrote most of this partway through my second trimester and I’m finishing it up as I start my third, so I apologize if it seems disjointed.

In the first trimester, the first symptoms I noticed were constipation and sore boobs/nipples. I didn’t really start experiencing more symptoms until about 6 weeks. Then I experienced mild nausea and some fatigue. My appetite also increased and eating helped with the nausea. Unfortunately, the thought of salads, smoothies, and fruit (especially strawberries) made me feel really gross, but chips, green olives, and fast food were calling my name. These symptoms became more frequent and noticeable in the coming weeks until about week 9, then the nausea was more intermittent. Compared to what I have read and heard about from others, I had it lucky! I don’t think my boobs grew much, but my areolae got larger and darker. I have 2 freckles near one areola that are really dark now. I had some cramping, but I am trusting that it was due to my expanding uterus. I bloated quickly and was predominately wearing maternity clothes since 11 or 12 weeks. Baby brain started early on too. Two incidents stand out in the first trimester. First, I was at the mall and had bought things from a couple stores. I had my winter coat over my arm and as I was leaving a store, I panicked because I thought I had left one of my bags on the opposite side of the mall. I was tired and did not want to go back to the store, but I started walking quickly in that direction. Partway there, I realized that the bag in question was on my arm, hidden by my coat. Out of sight, out of mind apparently! The second incident involved taking my Toyota for an oil change. There’s this area of the city where a lot of car dealerships are clustered together. J drives a Mazda and without realizing it, I drove my Toyota into the Mazda garage, got out, and stated that I was a bit early for my appointment. The people at Mazda looked at me strangely and then said, “The is Mazda.” It took a minute to click, but they watched me as the “Oh, and I drive a Toyota” look dawned on my face. Feeling pretty embarrassed, I got back in the car, drove out of the garage and headed for Toyota. On the plus side, my nails are longer and stronger.

So far in the second trimester, nausea has been pretty much replaced by headaches and heartburn. The heartburn is less common, but headaches can come out of nowhere. I’ve always been an ibuprofen fan, but now I am limited to Tylenol. In the interest of taking as little medication as possible, I try not to take it even though it’s safe. I have taken it a handful of times though when I have particularly bad headaches. Unfortunately, I don’t find it helps. I experience other aches and pains too. I have definitely experienced pelvic girdle pain (often mistaken for sciatica) and round ligament pain. My stomach has continued to feel a bit crampy and like it is stretching out (which it is!). My lower back and tailbone also ache quite a bit some days, as do my neck and shoulders to a lesser extent. I have tried to exercise, but my calves absolutely burn after a short walk. I also experience tingling/numbing in my hands and legs more frequently than I ever have before. My appetite is still pretty high and I still love the junk. I think I am gaining far more than I should. My belly seems to be a combination of baby, bloating, and fat as I sometimes wake up with a fairly flat belly and I can suck in a fair amount (not so anymore). Baby brain is still present and I definitely feel like it takes me far longer to write a client report than it used to. I can’t concentrate as long and I definitely feel a bit mentally stunted. I seem to say “thing” a lot instead of finding the correct word. I seem to be getting more irritable lately too and a lot of it centers around a coworker who annoyed me prior to my pregnancy so I don’t know if my increased irritability is really due to pregnancy or reaching my limit with her. Other noticeable symptoms in the second trimester have included increased discharge (sorry for the TMI but sometimes it’s like someone squirted hand lotion in my undies), occasional nocturnal leg cramps, saggier boobs (they aren’t that big though so it’s not that bad), getting up several times a night to pee, and swelling in my fingers and feet (particularly on hot days). I even traded my engagement and wedding rings in for some silver and cubic zirconia knock offs (that I have to say, I love). Also, my feet are almost permanently sore now. I have apparently been snoring a lot lately, which I blame on pregnancy-related congestion, although I do have environmental allergies. Bending over has become laborious and now it is uncomfortable, sometimes painful to try to bend at the waist (lots of lifting with the knees, even for a dropped piece of paper). By far the best symptom of the second trimester has been feeling the baby kick, even if her daddy hasn’t managed to feel one yet.

Even though not every symptom or sensation is particularly pleasant, each is so very appreciated because they are signs of the life developing within me and my new role as an impending mother.

0

Inferno

When The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown first came out, I devoured it. I love mysteries and I find secret societies and conspiracies captivating. Also, my minor in my undergrad was religious studies, and as someone who has always questioned organized religion, or at least at the rigid, literal interpretation of it, I found it very intriguing. I went on to read all of Dan Brown’s books. The ones that feature the main character Robert Langdon are my favorites. My interest in these books is enriched by my travel experiences, as I have visited the cities in which they are set. The Da Vinci Code involves a battle between the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei over the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Leonardo Da Vinci’s artwork was heavily featured, which was also appealing to me because when I was 11, I went to Paris and actually visited Da Vinci’s home during a day trip. But I digress. Angels & Demons involves the Illuminati and papal conclave (the process of choosing a new pope). The Lost Symbol is about the Free Masons. Now I have finished Inferno, another novel featuring Robert Langdon. This one centers on overpopulation, biological weaponry, and transhumanism. I found it very interesting and, again, my religious studies history came into play because I once wrote a paper on Christianity’s role in overpopulation for a Religious Ethics and the Environment course that I hated. It’s probably not my favorite Dan Brown book but I think The Da Vinci Code will always hold that place because I tend to favor my first introduction to an author even when I really enjoy his/her other books. Still, it’s a good read. You learn some interesting history, it gets you thinking about topics you probably don’t think about on a regular basis, and it keeps you on your toes.

7

I hope my daughter doesn’t pay for my bad habits

Last Friday I did my 1-hour screening for gestational diabetes (GD). I wasn’t letting myself get too scared about it and I think I was naively counting on the results being normal. Wishful thinking. I got a call yesterday saying I that I failed the test and I now have to do a 2-hour fasting glucose tolerance test. I booked it for Monday and I should get the results at my next prenatal appointment on Wednesday.

As soon as I hung up with the nurse, I started bawling. I felt so guilty because I have been eating so much junk food and even though lots of people do and have no issues, I was engaging in a LOT of self-blame. I was so angry at myself for not being more responsible up to this point in my pregnancy and I felt like a bad mom. As I’ve mentioned several times here, J has type 1 diabetes, so my original concern with GD was adding more diabetes to the mix. Reading up on the risks to the baby, I got much more scared than I had been originally. My understanding is that if you manage GD well, the baby is likely to be healthy. Hopefully that is the case!

So right now, I don’t know if I have GD, but I am scared that I could. I was told that many people are sent for the 2 or 3-hour test and many of those people pass despite failing the 1-hour test. I hope that is the case for me, but I am starting a GD-friendly diet now so as to mitigate any further risk. I’m already feeling bored by meal planning and eating. Of course this diet is worth it to protect our baby, but I can’t help but think of upcoming events and amazing treats I had hoped to have. J and I have our 4-year anniversary tomorrow and we’re going to dinner, but now I feel restricted. My 30th birthday is in August and I selfishly think about not being able to eat cake. At work, we’ve been talking about going to this place called Peter’s Drive-In that has awesome, huge milkshakes and burgers. And I’ve been craving a big breakfast with french toast or pancakes, bacon, and home fries for months. These things are very minor in relation to creating a healthy environment in which our baby girl can develop, but I find myself getting hungry just thinking about them.

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Let’s Go To The Movies

It’s been awhile (well, months) since there’s been a movie I’ve been eagerly awaiting. I love movies and J and I watch a lot. We have made a point of going to the theater a lot this summer because we won’t have the same freedom to go once the baby arrives. Even though I have seen movies I liked and have been in the mood to go see movies, I don’t remember the last movie that I was excited to see based on the trailers. Now there are two that were recently featured on Lainey Gossip: 12 Years A Slave and Mandela. The acting looks so strong and the premises are so powerful. I have always been interested in Nelson Mandela and I probably have a romanticized, idealized version of him built up in my head, but he’s always been someone I admire. Add Idris Elba to the mix and I’m sold! The stacked cast of 12 Years A Slave is very promising. I have a thing for Michael Fassbender as well so for that alone I’d probably go see it, but my interest definitely transcends his appeal and I doubt I’ll be thinking “eye candy” while watching it. Since I was young, I’ve been interested in stories of slavery as I find myself very moved and impassioned by issues of human rights and equality.

Now on the purely eye candy front, I do want to see Pacific Rim as it includes Idris Elba (again!) and my number 1 celeb object of lust: Charlie Hunnam (those who watch Sons of Anarchy will understand and those who have to google him probably won’t since he’s much hotter in action than in candid photos). But I can’t say I’m truly excited to see it or I’m expecting a masterpiece of cinema.

0

The Birth House

While I was back on the east coast visiting family and friends, I finished the book The Birth House by Ami McKay. In a nutshell, the book is about a young girl who  becomes a midwife during the first world war. Of course when there are stories of women coming of age, finding their path, and babies being born, there are many other topics that are pertinent and interesting to women as well. The book also broaches topics of a woman’s right to choose her own health care options, sexuality, family planning, marriage, domestic violence, and the power of community.

Part of what made this book interesting is that it takes place in a small part of Nova Scotia. For those who don’t recall, I grew up in Fredericton, New Brunswick – part of the Maritimes (a select grouping of east coast provinces) in Canada. New Brunswick borders Nova Scotia, which is also part of the Maritimes, and my husband’s birth province. So even though I have never been to Scots Bay (the setting of the book), there was reference to other places I’m familiar with, including Fredericton, and living on the other side of the country makes me excited about any reference to the Maritimes!

All in all, I enjoyed the book. It was especially interesting to read it while pregnant. It’s a book I’ve wanted to read for awhile because of great reviews, but I worried it would be a trigger to read it while TTC. It’s not a fast-paced, thrilling book, but it’s definitely a story worth reading.

4

Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number (Or Is It?!)

*Warning: The post could be triggering for some women, especially those in their 40s who are trying to conceive*

A girl I know posted a rant on facebook yesterday and for the most part I agree with everything she said and others’ comments on her post. The rant was due to some unsolicited and entirely inappropriate advice from a female doctor. The girl, who is currently single, somewhat overweight (although she has lost a lot of weight and seems quite happy and active now), and pursuing her PhD, was told, “You should consider putting down the thesis and remembering your eggs are only good for another 5-6 years.” and she “should consider losing 5-7lbs in order to find love and have the babies, so that [she’ll] have someone to take care of [her] when [she’s] older.”

I find these statements appalling from a feminist perspective. As the girl in question so aptly put it, she does not need anyone to take care of her and being single does not mean that she does not experience love, caring, companionship, or happiness. She also reported that she does not need to sacrifice her family or career aspirations to achieve one or the other. I do agree with this last statement but I think there’s often give and take from each area in an attempt to have it all. In no way though do I think that you must entirely sacrifice one for the other. I went to grad school and am proud of my education and professional status, but I also really want a family that includes at least one child and to be a very nurturing, hands-on mom. It will be stressful and I won’t always be a superstar in both areas at the same time (or at all), but I will have my version of having it all.

The big thing that I took issue with was not the rant itself, but some of the people’s comments because I felt that they were misguided. I wasn’t about to say so though because I didn’t want to instill panic in anyone and it wasn’t the purpose of the rant. A few people made comments about being frustrated when people make it seem like there’s an age limit on starting a family and one person said she recently posted a link to an article about eggs dying at 32 being complete bullshit. First, I know 35 is a turning point in fertility (as a whole, not for everyone) so 32 seemed like a weird age to mention. Second, eggs start dying in utero and continue throughout our lives, yet the girl’s comment made it sound like there’s this “myth” that eggs suddenly start to die in early to mid 30s. These are nitpicky things. The thing that had me dying to drop some knowledge bombs on people was that age does actually matter. I feel this more so I think because I found out I have diminished ovarian reserve at 29. Of course, some people have way longer than others, but it’s not like age isn’t a factor at all. I was totally overanalyzing people’s posts, which is likely due to being hypersensitive about the subject, but I felt like people thought it would be effortless to conceive whenever they feel like it, regardless of age. Of course you can start families without conceiving and carrying a biological child and some of the commentators might never want to have children, but I just got this sense that people were oblivious to the effects of age, in denial, or relying on artificial reproductive technology (ART).

IVF and other ART are amazing medical advances, but they aren’t the easy guarantees that some people think they are. I have heard reference to people saying things like, “Oh, I’ll just do IVF.” These comments are clearly not made by people who are actually faced with the present reality of IVF because it’s not something you just do like booking a spa day. There is nothing easy about it, and I say this confidently without having had to follow through with our plans for IVF. Also, it’s not a guarantee. Because the number of eggs was a huge concern for me, I did some googling while we waited to start IVF. I found a great graph. For those under 35 (the category that most concerned me), there is a 65% chance of a live birth if the doctor can retrieve more than 10 eggs in an IVF cycle. Really great sounding odds, but as someone with DOR, I wasn’t banking on that kind of number. If 7-10 eggs could be retrieved, the odds are 56%. This is still great, and the number my doctor said he aimed for, but again, not a guarantee. My antral follicle count ranged from 5-7 and while some woman can produce more follicles and eggs during an IVF cycle, many seemed to report that they managed to get the equivalent of their AFC or less. So if the doctor retrieved 3-6 eggs, the chances of a live birth would be 38%. Not horrible, but the odds scared me. If less than 3 follicles were present my doctor said he would have strongly recommended switching to an IUI, which I agree with for a few reasons, one of them being that 1-2 eggs only gives 16% chance and the rates for IUI in that case would be higher. Now, for comparison’s sake, if I was 41-42, more than 10 eggs gives a 35% chance. So there is a difference.

Aside from IVF, there is a difference with natural fertility as well. The chances of a woman in her 20s getting pregnant any given month range from 20-25%, whereas a woman in her 40s has about a 5% chance each month of trying. After 45, it’s 1% per month. It’s not just the number of eggs that are left, but the percentage of remaining eggs that are considered normal. As my doctor told me, he would favor me with my 5-7 follicles over an older woman with the same number because the likelihood was that mine were higher quality. Small comfort when I was freaking out, but egg quality reportedly matters more than number.

Another thing that the rant and the above train of thought had me thinking about was the cost of IVF. We were given an estimate of 14-16K per cycle because I would need a very high dose of medication ($$) and ICSI was recommended. So while the 38% chance per cycle (in my case, this would be if I had 3-6 eggs retrieved) is higher than the natural cycle rate, keep in mind that it often doesn’t take just one cycle for natural or assisted conception. More than half (57%) of all people trying to conceive naturally will do so within 3 months of trying. I know it’s not equivalent, but translate that to IVF and that would equal 42-48K for us. Seventy-two percent conceive within 6 months of trying. Six cycles of IVF would cost us 84-96K. Within a year, 85% of couples conceive naturally. Our out of pocket expenses for 12 cycles of IVF would be 168-192K. We would never have been able to try 6 or 12 cycles of IVF. In fact, 3 was our predetermined limit. But doing the math and seeing the staggering costs really drives the point home that this is not an easy venture, especially considering that finances are just one component to the hardships couples face when pursuing IVF.