Sunday, 12 November 2017

A few words about how we got pregnant (and at least as many in caveat)

Sprite and I are entering the third trimester, with no known complications so far other than mild gestational diabetes (I might write about that in another post, although there's not much to tell). So I feel mostly OK about writing a post about our success getting pregnant.

A few things you won't find in this post:

  • Advice on how to get pregnant unassisted. I'll say what worked for us, but I'm not claiming it will work for anyone else.
  • New scientific information. I wish I could give you the science of why conception happened this time, because that might be useful, but I don't know unfortunately, and neither does anyone else.
  • Trying to conceive woo (I don't believe in it, and I don't practice it.)
  • Lifestyle advice (again, I'll say what worked for me, but it isn't anything special)
So what's the point? Well, first I assume people are curious. I'm curious about other people. Secondly, there might be readers out there in similar circumstances who will find this information useful, anecdotal as it is. Lastly, perhaps it would be helpful to read someone be very matter of fact about how they beat the odds of infertility, which is what I intend to be. Don't get me wrong, Sprite and her older sister, AJ, are miracles that rock my world and my whole perspective on the universe. But that's a topic for another post, or several over a lifetime.  Lastly, as I move through this pregnancy, I'm thinking about ceasing to try to conceive, permanently. Part of this involves revisiting pieces of the odyssey, honouring them, and hopefully giving them their permanent place in the past.

Here is the summary of our fertility status. According to the doctors, both Mr. Turtle and I are infertile, but having achieved two pregnancies after our diagnosis, I think subfertile is more accurate. It's the word I use however, not the one our doctors use.

  • I was diagnosed with severe premature ovarian failure by our fertility doctor, Dr. Cotter. In her words, at age 33 my ovaries were functioning "like those of a 45 year old woman." The implication being that things would only get worse with age. After we had AJ however, she added "Clearly there are some young eggs in there."
  • Mr. Turtle has sperm counts that fluctuate from very bad to not so bad. He has Crohn's disease (currently in remission) and takes an immuno-suppressant medication. Either the disease or the medication or something about his current health causes a genital lymphedema that flares up periodically especially when he is sick. He has observed a drop in sperm count/quality when the lymphedema is bad, although Dr. Cotter said it shouldn't affect the sperm until 3 months later.
  • We have been trying to have children since the fall of 2011. There were periodic breaks, particularly right after Mr. Turtle was diagnosed with male infertility (which happened before my diagnosis) and for about 6 months after AJ was born. Other than that we've been trying pretty continuously on or own or with treatments (IVF in January 2014, and Clomid from September-December 2016). We haven't undergone that many treatments because Dr. Cotter did not see promise in many of the options. IUI was not initially recommended because of poor sperm count. IVF was tried once, but without great hopes, because my high FSH/low follicle count meant that my ovaries wouldn't stimulate (and they didn't).
So, with that information, what did I do?

  • I trusted my instincts. More or less. Even without the results of the medical tests, I could see that I did not ovulate all the time. My cycles tend to be around 24 days, and they can go as short as 15 days or more rarely, drag on for two months or more. However, I'm still more regular than not, and I have fertile signs such as stretchy mucous and ovulation pain maybe 60% of the time. When I temped, I got a rise in BBT on probably 2/3 cycles. I did get positive OPKs.  I'm definitely not optimally fertile. But I couldn't quite believe that I was completely infertile, either. It felt like my body was trying to do the right thing; it just didn't succeed a lot of the time.
  • I have used the OvaCue fertility monitor periodically, although I've found it less useful in the past couple years, for whatever reason. The OvaCue was how we timed sex to conceive AJ. But more recently I found I was getting very wonky readings and they were not so useful. So I did not use it for the cycle where we conceived Sprite or several of the ones preceding it. 
  • OPKs. I had the most success  with the non-digital kind. I liked to see the lines getting slowly darker as the fertile window approached. I would usually continue testing a few days after seeing the first positive, to see how long it stayed positive and when it went back to negative. Usually the test would stay positive for 2-3 days. I tested around noon. There were many days at school I'd go around with an OPK hidden in my pocket, trying to find a convenient time to sneak a peak. I dreaded leaving it somewhere accidentally and people starting rumours (because they couldn't tell the difference between it and a positive pregnancy test).
  • I took a daily prenatal. I've been on those things for most of the past 3 years. Prior to conceiving AJ I took only folic acid. Sometimes I'd get tired of them and go back to only folic acid.
  • In the summer of 2016, I started DHEA supplements and CO Q10 again, with Dr. Cotter's agreement. I took 75mcg of DHEA and 300 of CO Q10 until I think about January of 2017. At some point, I forget exactly when, I decided to reduce the dose. I had no very logical reason for doing so; I was just tired of taking pills three times a day. I went down to 25mcg of DHEA and I think 30mg of COQ10.
  • I took baby aspirin off and on. I did this because it was prescribed for our IVF cycle and I figured if it helped with implantation during IVF, it might help with natural implantation too. Sometimes I took if for the whole cycle, sometimes I only started after I confirmed ovulation. Sometimes not at all. I did take it for the cycle we conceived Sprite, but I forget when I started exactly. I stopped a few days after the first pregnancy test, on the recommendation of my family doctor who said he saw no point in continuing it.
  • I would usually take my BBT until I confirmed ovulation. For a few cycles I took it the whole time, but I found I was getting stressed about it particularly after confirming ovulation when I would start obsessing over the temperatures wondering if they showed conception or not. It started interfering with my sleep patterns. So I stopped taking it after 2-3 days of a confirmed rise.
  • I tracked changes in cervical mucous, as I found this a pretty consistent indicator of fertility, though not 100% consistent, of course.
I haven't found a way to put a picture of my chart to the blog, but here is a link where you can see it (sorry, doesn't work, stumped again).
 

Summary in words:
  • Positive OPKs on days 10 through 12
  • Sex on days 7, 9 and 11
  • Temperature rise on day 10, with a dip on day 11, then another rise on day 12 and a fairly constant slow rise to day 17 when I stopped temping
  • Tender breasts days 11 through 18 (at least that's when I remembered to chart it)
  • High temperature recorded on day 29, when I figured I was a few days late. This followed by the first positive pregnancy test.
On Mr. Turtle's side, he had had one test in the fall of 2016 showing very low sperm count. Due to gaps in our appointments, we didn't know the results of this test  till January, but the sperm situation may have had something to do with why we didn't conceive on Clomid, as my ovulation was confirmed 3/4 times. However, I also had a very short luteal phase on Clomid, for whatever reason. In the spring Mr. Turtle re-tested and the sperm counts were much better, good enough for Dr. Cotter to recommend IUI as the next step. We were supposed to start that in June. I conceived Sprite in May.

And that's about it. We did much the same things on this cycle that we did on a dozen other cycles. But this time, it worked for some reason.

Lifestyle:

I was average weight, on the slender side. I generally eat a healthy and balanced diet, but I'm pretty relaxed about it too. There are no foods I avoid and no foods I eat especially for fertility. Stress affects my eating habits (I eat less). My job is fairly stressful, though usually manageable. I don't recall having high stress when we conceived Sprite. My stress was definitely much lower, for example, than when I was trying to adjust to my new job and being a working parent, and dealing with my dad's illness and death, etc. Our outlook toward trying to conceive was more positive then than it had been in a while, due to hearing about Mr. Turtle's improved sperm counts and having a treatment plan again.

I did not completely avoid caffeine, though never imbibed excessively. I had one cup of instant coffee most mornings (anything more made me feel sick).  I drank alcohol, mainly wine, periodically, once a week at most, often less. I generally avoided drinking when I figured I was in my luteal phase, but there were certainly days when I was like, screw it, a little bit won't hurt. Everybody has their limits, and one of mine is alterations in my diet. Trying to conceive means performing a lot of ritualized behaviours. Some of these I was OK with (to a point): Charting, taking pills, taking BBT, etc. Allowing ritualized behaviour to infringe on my food and drink choices, including my small pleasures such as a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, felt like a bridge too far. When I looked at it analytically, I felt there was no hard evidence it made any difference at all, at least not to me. So since I didn't want to change my diet anyway, I didn't. I share this in part to validate that it's OK to have boundaries around what you are willing to do when trying to conceive. Everybody has different ones, but whatever they are, my advice is to know and respect them. This shit can take over your life and drive you crazy. Don't let it.

That's about all. Why were we able to conceive? Here's my theory of subfertility:

  1. some people are fertile all or most of the time
  2. some people are infertile all or most of the time
  3. some people are infertile much of the time, but are occasionally fertile
I think we fall into group 3. Most fertility tests would put people in either group 1 or 2. Group 3 is hard to diagnose because they would have to be retested constantly to find the "fertile windows." The only way to know if you are in group 3 is by experience. Two pregnancies in 6 years does not = great fertility, but qualitatively and quantitatively, it's a helluva lot more than zero.  We are extremely lucky.

As always, love and light to all who stop by to read. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

I hosted a birthday party!

"I hosted a birthday party..." some people might read that and go, so what? Because there are people who grew up with parties, love parties, wanted children so they can throw more parties, get invited to lots of parties, are expert/competitive party planners, have parties for everything. They exist. I assume they are happy. I hope they live long virtuous lives.

I am not one of them.

Sometimes it feels like a character failing, but there are a few actual reasons:


  • My family was involved with a religious cult for a few years of my early childhood. One of the rules of this cult was that you don't celebrate birthdays. (Or holidays, or sing/stand for the national anthem, or participate in any mainstream culture, or be friends with people who were not in the cult....Yeah they were great for the social life.) Luckily, my parents saw  the light when I was around 4 and left. But old habits died hard and we never celebrated birthdays until I was mid teens or so. Honestly, I didn't usually feel the lack as a child, but it means I got no exposure to birthday celebrations and grew up indifferent to them. (There is one exception: I made a friend at around age 8 who probably struggled socially, though I didn't think of that at the time. Somehow my mom let me go to her St. Patrick's day party, and after that I remember getting an invitation to a birthday party....maybe more than one? I recall receiving one card that said "Please, please, PLEASE come to my party!" And my mom made me write a card back saying I don't go to parties. I felt bad writing that card, both for myself and for my friend, but I couldn't say why. To this day I feel sad thinking of it; it was just plain wrong to not go to that party. It was wrong of my mom to not allow it. The fact I lost touch with my friend later makes it feel more wrong.)
  • I got a better social life later on as a young adult, and part of that was going out for drinks or having little celebrations of friends' birthdays and buying them presents. I enjoyed that.  But I have never invited anyone to celebrate my birthday, partly because I wasn't used to doing so and partly because it's on December 26th. Kinda awkward.
  • I am an introvert and tend to shrink away from drawing attention to myself. There have been a few exceptions: one, when I graduated with my first degree I was very happy and proud and threw a party for friends. Two, before I went to live abroad I had a sort of going away party. Three, my wedding. There you go. Can count them on the fingers of one hand. Now, I have organized many other social events, but they weren't about me specifically.
So, fast forward to married and child bearing age....that didn't help, actually. As I've noted before, most of my close friends and immediate family are childfree by circumstance or choice. Whatever extended family I have or acquired through marriage doesn't live close by. This was quite convenient when we were struggling with infertility (note past tense) but there no invitations to baby showers, children's parties, etc. (OK, *cough* there was one...I didn't go) Again, nice for a childless infertile; not so great for a new parent who is supposed to know all about these things.

Well, so now I am AJ's mom and have to make decisions about her life. While there is much I appreciate about my childhood, the social isolation piece of it is not something I want to replicate. (My parents were very good, dedicated parents; they would have given their right hands before seeing their children harmed. They also had their flaws like anyone else and they were at times victims of things they did not understand.) So, Mr. Turtle and I agreed we would celebrate birthdays and holidays and encourage AJ and any siblings to be social. Excellent; but then we had to actually make it happen. Mr. Turtle is supportive, but unfortunately a little too similar to me socially and lacking the sense of urgency and obligation.

For AJ's first and second birthdays, I kinda cheated by only inviting adults to the parties. My excuse was I didn't have any mom friends, and she was too young to have real friends anyway, and, um, it was just easier to have our childfree relatives and friends over and have a good time. But I could see as her third birthday approached that AJ was forming relationships with children at her daycare, and was pretend playing at birthday parties (often with imaginary friends invited), and I started to worry that soon she would learn to feel different or left out if we didn't get our act together. So I felt anxious and did....well nothing until last month. OK, not quite nothing: I made friends with one daycare mom, and it turns out we have lots in common including subfertility. (In a lucky break, she is pregnant too, and hopefully it will continue to go well). So thanks to that AJ got *invited* to a party, and I had less excuses to not throw one.

So, what did I do to make this birthday party happen? Well telling that will take a lot less space than telling all the reasons I procrastinated.

  • I figured out who AJ's most consistent friends at daycare were, through observation and asking her several times and taking the mode of the answers. I decided we would invite 4 (two boys, two girls)
  • As I breezed past parents during daycare pick up and drop off, I worked up the nerve to say "We really should exchange phone numbers!" with enthusiasm. I was encouraged by the enthusiastic responses. Though none of us ever had our phones at the time.
  • Finally, with a week to go, I found some pretty note cards and wrote: "I always mean to get your number but it hasn't happened. Here's mine and by the way we are having a celebration for AJ....call or text me). And all four of them did and said they would come.
  • I printed invitations using a Microsoft template. No suspense wondering if people would say yes because I knew they would.
Party planning was pretty easy. I had a decent idea what the children liked from observing them, and I wasn't about to try anything too adventurous.
  • One and half days to clean the house and blow through the week's laundry to get ready
  • One trip to party store for decorations (I've bought the same polka dot themed stuff all three years, which means I can reuse some items every year.
  • Dairy Queen for ice cream cake (same as last year; AJ requested it again)
  • Activities: I set out some of AJ's toys that could be good for sharing, and set up a little craft table. We had playdough, colouring pages (AJ chose the pictures) and some puzzles.
  • Pre-made fruit, veggie and cheese trays from the grocery store
  • Pizza ordered in for early dinner
  • Picking out stuff for swag bags was actually kind of fun. I made them a little snapshot of AJ's current interests:


Kitty keychain, dinosaurs, Frozen crayons, Spiderman finger puppet.
The little bags were all different colours so each child could pick a colour.
AJ helped create the swag bags. They were a hit!
    So, if anyone is like me and has anxiety over preschooler parties, there's your easy party template.


    Also, not to leave out our relatives and childfree friends, we had a get together at a family friendly Japanese restaurant the night before the kid party. This worked really well since we weren't overwhelmed with too many people at our house and we could spend more quality time with everyone. 

    Hits:
    • Number of children (and parents). Four (plus one one year old sibling) was juuuuuust right. The house looked like only a small tornado hit it afterwards. And it wasn't too busy for some real conversation with the adults.
    • Playdough and dinosaurs
    • Ice cream cake
    • Snacks
    • AJ was mostly good with sharing and did a good job of welcoming her friends, paying attention to all of them and telling them what the activities were.
    • All the play, laughter, smiles and hugs. Social learning around sharing and party conventions happened too. We found a nice balance between letting the children do their thing and intervening to teach some skills. I didn't get a weird vibe from anyone and I made sure I was warm and welcoming to each child. It's not hard because they are all sweeties and really much less of a challenge than my special ed class of 9 teenage boys. 
    • At least one parent is keen to follow up with a playdate. I have confidence I can build further relationships with all of them now.
    Misses (not many, but live and learn)
    • Many colours of play dough. Looked pretty but in a few minutes all the colours were mixed together to make brown. Now I know why the daycare only puts out one colour at a time.
    • Pizza: the kids weren't that into it, and we had way too much left over and had to eat it ourselves. It was OK, but I think fried chicken next time.
    • Putting out new toys to share: AJ did great for the most part, and had no problem sharing her brand new dinosaurs. The  dealbreaker was a colourful domino set one of my friends gave her the day before. I think she just wasn't ready to share it. She wanted to play with it in her own way, and when her friends started grabbing the dominoes she was not happy with them. After some partially successful social coaching from me and the other parents, I decided the best thing to do was distract her with some snacks and make the dominoes discreetly disappear until the party was over. Luckily she easily recovered and did not get in a mood.
    The big win is AJ enjoyed herself, so did the other kids and I MADE IT HAPPEN. Woot! AJ has been dancing about  every since saying "I'm a preschooler!" Wait, how did that happen? Never mind, everything is awesome.

    Friday, 20 October 2017

    Baby Sister

    (Content: second pregnancy, siblings, ultrasound photos added maybe later)


    I don't have a sister, and Mr. Turtle doesn't have a sister, so "baby sister" means.....AJ is going to have a sister! Sprite is a girlie!


    Since I last updated in August, I've returned to work, which mostly accounts for the lack of posting: I've been floundering in Too Much To Do for weeks. This week I finished individual program plans and parent meetings, which is giving me at some space to breathe (lots still on the to-do list, but at least I don't have my face in the computer every available moment during workdays and weekends). I don't feel like SuperTeacher/SuperMom, not even close, but I feel less stressed. I can actually take a few minutes to myself and not give a !@#$.


    Pregnancy update:


    19 week ultrasound was at the beginning of September. Sprite looked good, and was identified as a Girl! whee! This will be my first life experience with sisters (I didn't even have close female friends until I was older). I hear they fight all the time, and are best friends, etc. I am quite particular to say "a girl" and not "another girl" because the latter can sound dismissive in my opinion. Sprite is not Another Anything: she is a freaking miracle baby, and treasured as such.


    My mother was concerned that Mr. Turtle would be disappointed the baby wasn't a boy. Uh, no. He had actually deternined the the odds were in favour of a girl, since he understands things about genetics and statistics. I think he said 5/8,  chance; don't ask me how he came up with that number. But as one of 3 boys, apparently he has more chances of having girls than boys. I always assumed sperm were 50/50 distribution but I guess not. Anyway, the way I see it the "girl sperm" were the fastest  and strongest, and who am I to argue with that.


    We had to do two ultrasounds as they couldn't get all the photos the first time. It was actually fun to get two looks, and it felt like we saw a lot more the second time. The procedure was done by a student and a preceptor, and the preceptor had to explain everything, which meant we had a better idea of what we were seeing.  They called the baby "cute" and "photogenic" with which we totally agreed....


    I still have a fibroid near the cervix, same as last pregnancy. I'm not concerned about it especially since it wasn't an issue before, but it means at least one more scan in 3rd trimester.  The first ultrasound at 19 weeks showed "marginal cord insertion" meaning the cord was near edge of placenta, but when they looked a second time they said it wasn't marginal anymore, so either the first photos were unclear or it changed.


    I feel lots of movement now, and it is sometimes visible from the outside. Of course this is lovely and reassuring, and I currently don't have any worries about this pregnancy, though I take things a week at a time. So lucky. I'm also quite big and noticeably pregnant, enough that "what's your due date" is a common conversational opener. I definitely feel awkwarder and heavier and I really don't like getting up from a squat position. I have been keeping up my stepdancing (easier class, drop ins) and so far I don't have any issues with my ankles twisting. I'm hopeful that dancing will keep them strong and improve my balance as things get more unwieldy. I haven't been able to schedule any prenatal yoga yet.


    One thing that's different from last pregnancy is I have great hair. When I pregnant with AJ I always felt like I had a dirty mop on my head. My hair was so greasy. Now it is thick and glossy and so well balanced I only wash it every 3 days. The other side of that though is I have struggled with shampoo. It started at around 12 weeks when I went to the stylist and pampered myself by buying some fancy shampoo. Problem was it had this weird smell, like olive oil, that grossed me out.  I didn't want to get rid of it because I paid so much money, but finally I had to. I looked for another which I thought had no scent....it was OK for a while and then it started to disgust me too. So now I'm using an organic shampoo that smells like peppermint, which so far is not making me gag. It's a pretty trivial problem in the big picture of things but still annoying.


    Speaking of the nausea, it's mostly gone. I went off the medication completely around 20 weeks and survived. For a few weeks I would get occasional waves of intense nausea, which mercifully would pass after a minute or so of deep breathing. Those too have become increasingly rare though. I don't miss that aspect at all! Other than the fact I am easier fatigued, I am following a regular busy routne with no major problems. I have a good appetite most days, even at dinner which was usually the meal I didn't want.


    I have had less round ligament pain than first pregnancy. I guess things just stretch easier.  Speaking of which I have no stretch marks or anything like that. I did not have them with AJ either. Lucky again I guess. I have a lot of veins showing.


    Last week I was 24 weeks, so we are at viability, which is awesome. November marks the beginning of the 3rd trimester, which seems kind of crazy, but I feel intensely happy and privileged that this process is proceeding smoothly and well....proceeding.  There is nothing like the growth of new life to make me feel the passage of time, but the feeling is sweetened by the expectation of a promise fulfilled.


    So, emotions and mental stuff? My biggest struggle has been coping with the busyness of work and trying to have enough time and attention to divide between family/health/pregnancy/work. On top of that I got quite sick with a bad cold / sinus infection for a couple of weeks which didn't help. I feel like I don't have much time to process the fact I'm pregnant or a second child is incoming just because I am always so distracted. I wish I could dwell on it more, take it in. Of course, it is due to the fact things are going well that I can have this distracted attitude. If they weren't, the whole shmozzle would come crashing down and I wouldn't even care. So anything I can possibly complain about is really due to amazing good luck.


    I do have moments of "wow" and it's starting to sink in that I get to give birth again, and have a newborn, and it's actually a very joyful thought. Right now I am only remembering the amazing, thrilling parts of the process so it's all positive. If/When we get around to doing more actual preparations for the new baby I'm sure these feelings will intensify. So far I've only cleaned out a closet which was a big accomplishment but only one of many steps that has to happen. Because we have a smallish house and we use every room, we have to do some pretty major reorganizing before we have a space for a new baby's room.


    We should meet with our doula soon, which should be awesome since we haven't seen her since the week after AJ was born. I've shown AJ some pictures of her so she has an idea who she is. We also have maternity/family photos scheduled for end of November.


    AJ is also awsome. She is 3 in two weeks and I hope to have more of a "real" birthday party with a few kids. So far I believe 2 of AJ's friends are coming and I'm hoping two more, but I've procrastinated getting contact info for AJ's daycare friends so I'm hoping to run into them. Or maybe just start distributing business cards, because whatever gets the job done. We'll finalize plans this weekend, now that I have more of my brain back. I've told Mr. Turtle he has to actively plan because I suck at this stuff.


    AJ has been processing that there is another baby on the way, in her way. She calls her "baby sister" and talks about things she will do with her when she's born. She expects that baby sister will inherit all her baby furniture, which is true. She also talks about how Spiderman (her doll) has a baby sister, Talking Baby (her baby doll).  It is quite adorable. AJ has been fascinated with babies for a few months so I think this is pretty good timing. AJ is well on her way to being a little girl. She is mostly potty trained during the day and is regularly discovering new interests as well as being very conversational and imaginative. Since this is a long entry already, I'll save AJ updates for another time.

    Sending love and light to everyone, wherever your path takes you.



    And when your river runs high
    Let it flow, let it flow
    It's your time with life to let your garden grow
    And when your burden gets rough
    Let it go, let it go
    Let your strength return on every breeze that blows

    -from Island Girl, 

    Monday, 14 August 2017

    #Microblog Mondays: Calm

    Not so micro, but I'm writing it on a  Monday.... (Content: pregnancy, emotions, partially clothed photographs)

    We returned from a 10 day family vacation on the west coast a few days ago. I had committed to having a healthy emotional state for this long-awaited trip, and hoped to be in a healthy physical state too (that being a tad less in my control). I managed both, for the most part. My in-laws from the USA flew in for a week, and we also had a few days on our own. Mr. Turtle and I call this our first "real" vacation in 4 years, because 4 years ago he started his Master's, and he finished it at the end of July. Although we've done plenty of fun stuff in the past 4 years, Mr. Turtle always had assignments hanging over his head, or the beginning of a new course to think about, and this time he did not have to worry about any of that (although he persisted on worrying about passing his final course, despite achieving a perfect GPA and several scholarships over the course of the degree....such is life.)

    Our goals for the trip were to get away to a fun destination, but one that could be reached in a short flight. Considering AJ's age, I thought she would enjoying exploring the seashore, and I wanted to share this exciting experience with her. We have many interests, but we thought a nature focus would be best, and save trips with emphasis on culture and history for a later date. I hope the state of the world does not preclude these trips in the future: I seriously wonder if AJ will have the same freedom to travel (mostly worry-free) as I enjoyed. I do hope so, though I have doubts.

    We divided our time between relaxing at the rental house, exploring parks including old-growth forest and beaches, enjoying a couple of local playgrounds and the waterfront, and a restaurant or two. My food aversions are not too bad this pregnancy, although I tolerate WASP food the best (and Greek). No fancy sauces or seasonings please. Of course, our destination is the origin of this eponymous treat, which was enjoyed by everyone.



    Fun things we enjoyed with AJ and the in-laws, in no particular order:

    • playing hide and seek (AJ loves to look for people but hasn't quite mastered hiding and staying quiet until found)
    • playing catch with a beach ball
    • exploring the roots of huge trees
    • making sandcastles, picking up shells and splashing in tidepools. AJ's first comment about the beach was "Sandbox....Sandbox....!" A very big and interesting one it was, too. She did not want to go in the "big water," i.e. ocean but loved the sand and small pools.
    • Playgrounds, of course. There were a few excellent ones in the area. Any excursion requires locating a playground ASAP.
    • Small "hikes" in provincial parks (like meandering walks....not backpacking up trails...lol)
    • An extended amount of time for AJ to bond with her out of town grandparents. This was so good for all of them. 

    We took a couple of day trips off our "big island" to some little ones. One was Gabriola Island, where Mr. Turtle and I had vacationed 4 years ago. I particularly wanted to return to this island. We had a great time back them, but that trip was also right in the middle of escalating infertility angst. My wonderful memories of swimming, kayaking, playing with cats, and exploring beaches are mixed in with anxiety about a very long cycle (I think I even took a pregnancy test at one point), several troubling medical diagnoses and one unknown genetic test hanging over our heads, and wondering if we would ever have a child. I still enjoyed it a lot, but I had an urge to go back with AJ, and little Sprite on board, and see the place from a different life perspective. So we did. And we just loved our day there.

    One of our favourite spots - then and now - was a beach that we reached by a short hike.

    Photo from 4 years ago....no scenery photos  this time!

    As soon as we reached the beach, I walked into the ocean. If my last thought on this earth is of swimming in the ocean, I think I would die happy. There is nothing like the feeling of floating in cool water surrounded by sky and mountains and trees and silence. Also, since my recent months have been dominated by fatigue and nausea and trying to mentally escape my body, it was marvelous and freeing to be in my body and enjoying its sensations and movement.

    Afterwards I went for a walk along the nearly deserted beach to dry off. Mr. Turtle joined me and we had a lovely talk. At one point he asked me "How are you feeling?"

    I chose to give a not so obvious answer; I've been thinking about it ever since.

    The answer was: Calm. But a specific kind of calm. Jordan Peterson talks about the both the fear and the appeal of the unknown (chaos). One one hand we wish to avoid the unknown because it means leaving the safety of the familiar. As humans we really, really like safety, because it allows us to create a predictable present and future. On the other hand, the unknown/chaos contains treasure to be discovered, and the possibility of a new, better kind of order. While the present order might be comfortable, it can also be stifling (or corrupt and decadent).

    I know many kinds of calm (I am lucky that way, I suppose). I have experienced the stifling calm, when I was physically comfortable and life was predictable but I wanted so badly to escape, to confront whatever chaos was outside my bubble and find out what I was truly made of. I felt this way a lot in my teens and early 20s. I had a fairly sheltered life, which had its advantages but also made me deeply uneasy.

    Then there is the calm that happens shortly before I know that everything is going to change. This is an amazing feeling that is hard to describe, but marvelous to experience. It's like a simultaneous acceptance of both the ordered present and imminence of unknown chaos. I found my mind going back to another vacation, more that 10 years ago, on the Greek island of Kefalonia. Kefalonia is a place of beauty, wonder and mystery; I could (and have) written plenty about my experiences there (not on this blog). I was in a very different life space then: 26, single, traveling (somewhat) alone in a (somewhat) foreign country and culture. I had no certainty about what I'd be doing in a few months for work or where I'd be living or if I would have a relationship.

    As I explored the tiny village where I was staying, and swam in the sea (of course) I had the profound conviction that my life was going to change, very soon. And the thought left me deeply happy, and calm, although I did not know what that change would look like. I had a fantasy in my mind at the time, involving a musician I had a crush on and was going to travel to see in a few weeks. The fantasy didn't come true, but my life did change in the the next few years. The mystical side of me believes Kefalonia whispered secrets to me; it is a magical place where I could "see" the future (not literally see in a vision, but see through my intuition). The rationalist in me observes that I was so determined that my life was going to change that I would have made it change no matter what. I think both are true.

    When I sat on the beach on Gabriola, I felt the same kind of calm. The present moment was perfect: Mr. Turtle, AJ, my happy in-laws sharing this time with us, a beautiful beach, the sound of water in my ears. I also knew it as temporary. Perhaps it was the expanse of the ocean whispering to me. And I loved the thought of change too: that I would evolve, that expectations and presumed certainties would crumble, but that in that change there is potential, and a new order.

    And some pictures. I guess this is my first "belly photo," taken at the same beach. I like it a lot.


    Glamour shot!
    Tree home
    AJ drawing a rainbow in the sand

    Happy summer to all.....I hope it brings a kind of calm to you that you can enjoy!


    Thursday, 27 July 2017

    Forward

    (Content: second pregnancy, ultrasound - including photo, at bottom - plans)

    For me, the first trimester feels rather like being on a runaway train (or at least, a train I do not control) heading toward a track switch. A hand is on the track switch, ready to send the train in one direction or another, but I don't know which, and I don't know what is down that track.

    I suppose all of life is actually like this, but being the (flawed, mortal) carrier of another life I always feel it more.


    Sprite's 12-week ultrasound, including nuchal translucency scan and other screenings, felt very much like an upcoming track switch. Of course I knew what I hoped to see, what everyone else hoped to see, and indeed, was expecting to see: with more confidence than I felt, it often seemed.

    I thought about and read about all sorts of possibilities in the days leading up to it. I can't say I had any coherent thoughts about them. I just had to look....at different possibilities.

    But we got the best possible results last week. Remembering that AJ was rather unco-operative at her scan last time around, and wouldn't move for the technician, I ate a couple of candies shortly before the scan. Maybe it worked, because the first thing the technician said was "there is the baby moving around" (phew) and then told me to go pee, because despite never drinking as much as recommended I still managed to have too full a bladder.

    Sprite was very wiggly throughout the whole scan, which was lovely and fun to see. There was no trouble getting all the measurements, and they lined up with what they should be. "Everything that should be there, and nothing that shouldn't," as Mr. Turtle put it. He/she is slightly longer than expected for gestational age - a tall baby? Heart rate is identical to AJ's (Ember's) at the same age: 150. I may amuse myself by trying to read (contradictory) things into that information: but mainly I'm happy - VERY happy - that Sprite is developing normally as far as we can see and my odds for chromosomal conditions are revised to 1 in the thousands, with no further screening recommended. I'll take those odds. My due date was revised to January 31st. I am rather unreasonably annoyed by that; I preferred February 1st. It's just a day though.

     Afterwards, relieved and ravenous, Mr. Turtle and I went out for lunch and had a nice visit. I had decided that if all looked good at this scan, I was going to make a mental and emotional effort to Move On: and follow that up with actual actions, in so far as I am able.

    First step: "allow" myself to be happy.

    And then:

    Start wearing maternity clothes. I actually washed them all the day before the ultrasound, but I didn't put them in my drawers: I left them in the laundry basket tucked away in a corner. I'm at a weird stage where regular size pants aren't comfortable, and tend to fall down, but maternity clothes don't quite fit right either (at least in the first part of the day). But the maternity clothes are still better overall, and unlike last time when I tried to stay in regular clothes with bella bands, and conceal what was going on, I'm all about comfort now.

    Referral to ob/gyn. I have the same ones as last time, which I'm happy about, and see them in the fall for the first time. I stay with my regular doctor till then. Again, I'm pretty matter of fact about it. It feels good to take this step.

    Contacted our doula from AJ's birth and made plans for her to attend the upcoming birth. I haven't discussed the "birth plan" in detail but assuming it will be the same as AJ's: hospital birth, as few interventions as possible but retaining all options, and Mr. Turtle and doula in attendance. I am really happy that I can have all the same pieces in place as for AJ's birth. I know I can't predict what will happen, but it is comforting to have familiar elements. I'm especially happy that we can have the same doula. Last year she moved out of the city with a new boyfriend, though she still returned for some births. However, the boyfriend is now a fiance and they are moving back to the city this fall. Another way in which "timing" has worked out just fine, despite having, like, no control over timing.

    Get my hair cut and highlighted for the first time in 4 months. I have been growing it longer, and then when I got pregnant and was sick all the time I didn't want to go to the hairstylist. But I have been feeling neglected. I had a new stylist this time, and I gave her my perspective that haircuts are temporary, I don't take myself too seriously, and I trust her to suggest what might look good. So I got a slight trim, not losing a lot of length but much weight, and some highlights that we tinted strawberry. The pinkish colour will fade in a few weeks but it's fun for now and I'm liking how it works with my skin.

    Manicure and pedicure, which I still haven't done.

    Embracing better daily energy and health. I still turn into a pumpkin around dinner time, but I can keep going quite well in the middle of the day for several hours, and I am even skipping my noon nausea pill. (I still carry it with me, in case things go south).

    Processing that this will most likely be my last pregnancy and child. I'm 95% sure it will be, assuming it ends in a live baby. If not, I might find the courage to try one more time, though I  don't like to think of that. At all.  I will be 38 in December and after 6 years of focusing significant time and effort on getting pregnant, I really think I'm done. Of course I have all these brain patterns specifically dedicated to TTC, and who knows what I will do with them all.

    I have to admit, that the thought "this is the last time I'm pregnant" has so far brought a feeling of relief. I want this pregnancy to work, because I want and love my unborn child. But also partly because I really don't want to do this again. The nausea was worse, the fatigue was worse; I'm older and busier with responsibilities. The screen didn't suggest chromosomal differences, but of course that's not a guarantee: I always have in the back of my mind I COULD have a special needs child (anybody can). I have faith that I'd face that reality with love and resolve, but I'm not anxious to take on further risks as we age.

    Still. I know my nausea and overall physical weakness is affecting my emotions at the moment, as as those symptoms (hopefully) lesson, I'll probably have more complicated feelings about this likely being the last time. I hope to embrace those feelings with the awe and gratitude that we are in the position to make this decision while getting what we wanted. It's a VERY different decision than the one we would face if the gamble did not pay off. And we were one little track switch away from that reality.

    But hey. In CS Lewis's Screw Tape Letters, the senior devil gives the junior devil this wise advice about humans: Do whatever you can to prevent your human charge from living in the present. It is better if he lives in the past, but better yet if he lives in the future. Because when they live in the present, humans are the closest they can get to heaven, if they only knew it.

    So, begone devils. Here is my present, my ever changing growing present. I give you: Sprite.



    Friday, 14 July 2017

    Life is easier, with some exceptions

    I'm cautiously optimistic I'm on an upswing. I'm getting some pleasure out of mundane things; that's how I can tell.

    The nausea seems better overall. I'm scared to write that because several times it seemed better and came back in various shades of awful. I'm still actually quite terrified of it, and reluctant to voluntarily reduce my medication dosage. But I do feel better overall: I have a good appetite most of the time, and my "yucky" times are more predictable: they mostly happen in the evening now.

    In the past few days I was able to go on a day trip with AJ and Mr. Turtle to the mountains and take a short hike, which was awesome. AJ loved seeing all the flowers on the trail: she rushed from one to the other squealing: "More flowers! More! And more! Yellow flowers! Red flowers! White flowers! Squeeee, A BUG!" This is a parenting fantasy come true. I always wanted my child's formative experiences to be with nature. We spend so much time in the created world of humans, and  the technological side of it is especially penetrative. But before AJ is too immersed in the created world, I want her to understand what it is created from and about. A flower is not just a picture or a symbol or a cartoon, it is a flower. She will have many mediated experiences of flowers, but nothing should replace her experience with a flower.  Seeing her on this hike made me feel like I am succeeding here. I'm happy.

    I also found the energy to do some daytime activities. We spent an afternoon with my mom at a local park and outdoor swimming pool. We had a picnic. We splashed for hours. Life was good. I had lunch with a (very pregnant) friend I haven't seen in a while.  I should be around 11 weeks now. My ultrasound (including nuchal translucency and other screening) is next Friday. No bleeding (but I check the toilet tissue every damn time; I always see blood in my mind.) I'm hoping this next ultrasound shows everything is just fine, and I'm hoping that it is a before/after milestone: Before, caution, hopefulness in check, fatigue, illness, disconnection; After: Feeling better, reassurance, more engagement with the world, more active planning for a baby. And family vacation. At the same time I know hope is just hope.  I know our lives could take other twists and turns. But I hope.

    In the meantime I'm starting to act a bit more alive, and to take enjoyment out of small things, and it's kind of satisfying to deal with small annoying things vs. terrifying things that derail my life. Today's accomplishment so far: using up the balance (minus a few cents) on a pre-loaded credit card I've had for....two and a half years? and which is about to expire. This was not as easy as you might think and in conclusion I am not a fan of either preloaded cards or online shopping. I must be old. This card was electronic use only. So I had to think of stuff I could buy most easily online, which isn't as easy for me as it might be for some people. Then it took me a while to figure out I had to register the card online for it to work at all. OK. The first few purchases (movies) were easy. But then when the balance got lower I couldn't just buy whatever I wanted. First I forgot the balance on the card, and went online to check it. Apparently I can't answer my own security questions correctly (is the answer to "what model is your phone" "iPhone5" or "iPhone" or "IPHONE 5" or......). Account locked, customer service called.

    Once I dealt with that I went searching for items on Amazon that were within a certain price range. I can never think of what I need or want when my goal is specifically to SPEND MONEY. I found a  CD that cost less than the balance. Good. Then I was down to just over 6 dollars, which is when it really got challenging. I filtered my search for items that were around two dollars. That should have made things easy, but nope. I don't know if it's just an Amazon.ca (Canadian) thing, but there are all sorts of items listed for a couple of dollars and cents, but when you go to order them, about ten dollars of postage is added on. Seriously, WTF? Who would buy pencils for $1.50 and then pay ten dollars postage? Why even show me that crap?

    Anyway, I finally ordered two sheets of stickers for AJ and reduced my balance to a few cents, which I don't care about. This is probably how the company makes money: if everyone leaves a few cents on their cards, they get to pocket it. Whatever. PSA: don't buy people preloaded cards. Give them money or a cheque FFS. Plus you don't pay tax on cash or a cheque.

    Other pregnancy stuff:

    -I have pregnancy bloat that sort of looks like a bump. It's kind of amusing. I haven't brought out any maternity clothes (waiting on that ultrasound) but I put away a lot of clothes because I have no interest in wearing them. The less is touching my body, the happier I am, so I'm living in sundresses and linen smocks. I finally did take out my maternity bras because I could no longer pretend my regular bras fit. I'm not quite filling up the G cups but they fit much better than the other ones.  It all suggests I'm probably still pregnant so not complaining.

    -Crazy vivid dreams. I think I had this during the pregnancy with AJ too. Sometimes they are disturbing, sometimes amusing, somethings just plain weird.

    -Peeing. A lot.

    -Fatigue and ickiness, but not as bad as it was

    -Unkempt hair, because I want to be feeling better when I get it cut and maybe highlighted.

    -No food aversions really, other than avocado. I just randomly like and hate things. I'm temperamental and kind of ridiculous.

    -Absent minded. If I don't literally say out loud "I'm now doing X. I have now done X" half the time I can't remember 5 minutes later if I did it.

    Carrying on. One day at a time, one small pleasure and errand at a time.

    Monday, 3 July 2017

    Microblog Monday: Exhausted

    I had some interesting topics in mind I was going to write about, but can't muster the energy or enthusiasm for them today. Which is often the story of my life. So I'll save the interesting stuff for later, and just write about how zapped I am today. At least I'll have a blog entry to show for it.

    I have good days. I was at a historical theme park most of the day Saturday with family and friends (I  have a real life mom friend now, wow) celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary. I did really well. And then yesterday and today I could do almost nothing. Putting a load of laundry in or picking up AJ's toys was a major effort. For every chore I contemplated doing, I contemplated just giving up and going to bed. Going to bed won at least half the time.

    I am sure part of this is physical but part of it is psychological too. It's hard to get excited about life when I am focused on merely existing (eat, sleep, not get sick). And then there's also the underlying pregnancy anxiety. It's not overwhelming at the moment, but it's there.  I'm not always scared but constantly managing it (and the tiredness and nausea) leaves me.....flat. I'm not really into anything.

    We also found out today that my sister in law (Mr. Turtle's brother's wife) is pregnant. She is due exactly a week after I am supposed to be. Hahahahahaha. I mean, this is good news. My BIL and SIL are lovely. Everybody wants them to have kids. I want them to have kids. They were married 4 years ago (3 years after us). I worried at first they would have kids before us, which I did resent, but they waited (voluntarily, as far as I can tell, and I have a good nose for these things). Even with all the fertility issues, we still had the first grandchild. And hey I'm pregnant again, against the odds, and currently no reason to believe it won't end well.  I have to admit the situation is kind of cute. It's something for Mr. Turtle and his brother to bond over, and I'm sure they will. Still. Part of me wants a belly buddy and part of me shrinks from the idea. I felt the same way when I was pregnant the first time and so coincidentally were many other bloggers I followed. You hope everything goes well for everyone but there's also that feeling of dread for what it will be like if one of the pregnancies ends sadly while the rest go smoothly.

    Anyway. SIL is across the continent so it's not like this will in my face all the time, though it will be an important part of our lives.  It's just rather ironic and it makes me both more aware of the shadows while pushing them away with whatever energy I have.

    The other thing I have to figure out is the best way to tell new mom friend I'm pregnant. She is older, needed fertility treatments to conceive her son, and had a loss last year at 19 weeks. I have to disclose at some point but I really want to do it in a way that is sensitive. We either text each other or see each other in person. I'm leaning towards texting but I'm traditional and cringe at disclosing something like that via text. I dunno. Maybe I'll try to think of an excuse to get her email. Email seems more dignified somehow.

    Maybe I'll figure it all out this week. Or maybe I'll just sleep a lot.

    Microblog Mondays