Saturday 29 March 2014

San Diego sun and cloud

So. San Diego has been pretty good. This is my last day here and the week has gone by quickly, which makes me both happy and sad - happy because every week is an achievement for Ember (and me), sad because I'm not terribly excited to go back home to snow and cold and whatever I have to deal with in my real life.

I was anxious about coming on the trip, because I get anxious about everything, after all. Also I'm painfully aware of being unable to predict/control anything about the future, and by future I don't mean a year or two down the road, I mean like tomorrow. Or five minutes from now, depending on the day.

But the flight was quick and uneventful (hurrah for direct flights!) and when we landed it was soooo good to be in a warm place and to see green trees and tropical plants and cacti and grass. In-laws were warm and welcoming, the house we rented is beautiful (even if fixtures and appliances don't always work) and again - warmth and greenness. I spent Sunday and Monday relaxing, reading and thinking this was such a good idea. I found little, secret ways to embrace Ember. We went for a walk by the beach and looked at the sea lions and seals, and I allowed myself to ogle the mommy and baby seals and feel affinity with them. Incidentally, this affinity still does not extend to humans. I don't identify with pregnant strangers and/or families at all.  In fact I am quite resentful of them and intolerantly critical of people's parenting skills or lack of skill. I am not a horrible person; I'm self-aware enough to know it is a defense mechanism. But looking at animals makes me feel better and more normal. Animals are therapeutic.

Then there was Tuesday.

I went to the bathroom and there was blood.  It was dark brown and there was not a lot, but considering I have had almost none for two weeks it looked like a lot. I scuttled into bed with a roll of tp, threw my clothes in random directions and stayed there all day. I wasn't quite as panicked as the first time it happened, but my thoughts for several hours were some variation of fuck you universe. whywhywhywhywhy. In between I tried to achieve numbness, which was the only way to maintain calm, because, well, I have kinda learned how to do that in the past few weeks.

Meanwhile the bleeding would taper off to a small amount of spotting, then come out more strongly when I would got out of bed, which I only did to go to the bathroom. A couple of times I saw dark red mixed with the brown. By mid afternoon I was crying and whimpering I can't take this anymore. MIL came and held my hand, went over symptoms with me. Do you have cramping? No. Back pain? No. Heavy, bright red blood? No. Well then, everything is probably OK. "My stupid body won't give me a break," I told her. "Your stupid body proved all those fertility doctors wrong," she reminded me. I sipped juice and managed to kind of believe her, especially since I started feeling quite queasy by the evening.

By Wednesday there was very little bleeding, just the occasional, light brown spotting like I had at 5-8 weeks. But inside I felt like I had lived through the same gory car crash yet again. I was angry. I wanted someone to say something stupid or rude to me so I could yell at them, maybe hit them or throw something at them for good measure. Nobody did though. I calmed down eventually. But just for the record, people with miracle pregnancies can have anger issues too. I think part of my problem is that while I'm not the same as I was before the pregnancy (reduced body confidence and energy, weird symptoms that remind me I'm Not In Control) I also have a ton of uncertainty about how all this will turn out. There's still a little voice in my head saying "It's too good to be true." So I haven't been able to embrace a "new" identity. I think it is both unresolved infertility grief and the pregnancy complications. So I'm in a no-mans-land where I feel like I've lost my former physical confidence, but don't trust my body to create this baby successfully and help me morph into a mommy-person with baby. And I'm not really dealing with any of this because I keep bouncing from one crisis to another.

Still, by Thursday I was OK to start doing activities again. As Mr. Turtle observed to me once, "Suffering looks like it's awfully boring." He's right of course. We visited the zoo on Thursday, and the naval museums on Friday. Both were awesome. My energy and appetite peaks around the middle of the day so I was able to fully participate in everything except for the day I spent in bed. The one part of the trip I didn't enjoy at all, as I knew I wouldn't, was eating in restaurants. We went to three excellent restaurants, but my appreciation of food is inversely proportionate to the level of imagination in the preparation. I tucked into hot dogs at the zoo ravenously - so delicious! But tapas was torture. Worst of all was was the chef's table at a swanky golf course. I looked at the three course menu and wanted to cry. Oh God do we have to eat all this I can't make it I can't make it. I survived - eating one bite of side from every dish and carefully avoiding any kind of meat - yecch! -   and I actually enjoyed the dessert - chocolate mousse with berry reduction and fresh blueberries and raspberries. Too bad I couldn't just skip to that. In any case, I made myself go along so the family could be together, 'cause family is important. And I'm here writing this, so clearly I survived.

So. This is our last day in San Diego. Mr. Turtle and I took it easy and spent a lot of the day on a trail above the shoreline, which gave use an incredible view of the coastline. We could see and hear the surf below, and sound I find profoundly calming and relaxing. We read and went to a little cafe once for sandwiches. It was perfect.

Ember is 10 weeks 1 day today. I'm going to say that with confidence because hell, all these weird symptoms got to mean something is happening.  A few weeks ago, during the first crisis, I had a very wonderful intense email conversation with a friend. She wrote to me: "Keep hoping as long as there is reason to hope." That line has stuck in my head. And day by day I'm trying to live it.

Saturday 22 March 2014

9 weeks and San Diego

So. The Ember is 9 weeks, 1 day today. Yes, he/she has a name and has had for quite some time now, although this is the first time I've worked up the nerve to write it down, and yes I'm still mentally saying "hopefully" 9 weeks 1 day although I at least worked up the nerve to leave off the modifier once.

The nausea is under control and I am eating quite well now, although rather unpredictably. Fruit is great, cheese is great allthetime. I actually ate meat (bison stew) yesterday for dinner (gasp). Ordered an omelet for breakfast today though, and then went, ew, why did I do that? I don't care for eggs at the moment at all (though used to eat every day).  So. I think it's a good thing the nausea is reduced, and I don't even seem to need the medication as often, although of course sometimes (allthetime?) I wonder if less nausea means doom.

Fatigue. Even with less Diclectin, very tired. Especially after a more active day. And by active I mean I got up off the couch to go get a hair cut and have my nails done. The nails are a beautiful shade of sky blue. The hair is nice and short. No hair dye. Although it does hurt my vanity, (I went grey young) I decided to not have my hair coloured for at least the first trimester, or until whenever my level of confidence in my body and the Ember's growth and development is slightly improved (read: I stop believing everything I do or feel means doom).

Instead of hair colour, I ordered this from Etsy. It is so beautiful and comfortable, and even has an adjustable strap. Beautiful craftsmanship from Jahanna M. Yes, I therapy shop.

Boobs are, well, big and veiny. I always wonder if they're shrinking (doom) but then they knock into something and ow. Finally bought one bigger bra yesterday. Most of my bras are still OK because I only ever wear ones with very good support, but they are stretching a bit at the edges. I occasionally have really intense pain too - feels like they are on fire inside. Rather awful but I try to be reassured that the boobs are just preparing to be useful for the first time ever.\

Peeing a lot. I've only actually noticed this one recently. I pee frequently even when not pregnant so it had to become really frequent to make any impression. Leaning forward on the can actually does seem to help bladder to drain.

Crazy vivid dreams. Yes. Puts me in a weird mood some days (of course I'm pretty weird already.)

And...tomorrow we leave on family trip to San Diego. I had been feeling a bit ambiguous about this. Even though doctor said it was harmless to fly, and so did everything else I read, still. My mother didn't exactly help either. She had sent an email asking if I'd considered this-and-that before traveling (insurance coverage, access to health facilities, radiation during flying, answer yes yes yes and everything else I could possibly have learned via google). Then she wrote back saying: "I think the real reason I mentioned it was because I had my miscarriage at 10 weeks, and that's when you'll be in San Diego." Um thanks Mom I hope disclosing that made you feel better because it sure didn't help me. Saying "miscarriage" to me is like showing me pictures of house fires. It doesn't matter how fire-safe my house is, if you show me pictures of house fires I'm going to see them in my mind on endless repeat for days and days, especially when I wake up at night. Rational risk assessment has nothing to do with it.

Anyway. I am cautiously looking forward to San Diego. In rational risk-assessment mode, I don't honestly think another week of sitting around at home would be all that helpful. It's been a long, cold winter, as others have pointed out. (In my province it will still be wintry for another 3 weeks, at least.)  I'm packed (I did that slowly over the past week.) San Diego is a beautiful warm city and we have a direct flight there. I'm feeling well enough to enjoy myself, I think. I hope everything goes well. With luck, I'll be too busy enjoying the city to update much. The laptop is coming along though, so I'll probably check in with everyone a few times.

Monday 17 March 2014

The Chronicles of Nausea, Adventures in Paranoia, and other epics in progress

I saw Dr. Gnomish today to follow up my weekend of puking, stressing and sleeping (when I wasn't puking/stressing). I went in with a list of questions this time.

During the worst of the throwing up early Saturday morning, Mr. Turtle took me to the hospital. We were in a smaller city for the weekend, however, and there was only a nurse at the hospital. (I guess there is a doctor on call too, but she didn't call him.) The nurse talked to me for about 5 minutes and then gave me a handful of Zofran and Gravol tablets. She said to take those (first the Zofran, then the Gravol if that didn't work). If it didn't stop the vomiting, come back and they would do an IV. I suppose that was a reasonable response, but I rather felt like she didn't care much - she didn't even take my vitals or anything. I had the impression she was lazy. That didn't make me feel better later on. Still, after being assured the medications were safe for first trimester, I agreed to take them (I was pretty desperate after all.)

Took a couple Zofran, threw up some more, took a Gravol, threw up some more, wished I was dead, and then abruptly fell asleep for several hours. I woke up Saturday morning and actually didn't have to throw up. I continued to take the oral meds every six hours though, hoping to stop any more throwing up. I spent Saturday in bed feeling OK and then had a long, queasy evening and night (the only way I could fall asleep was by leaving the hotel TV on to infomercials. It led to some interesting dreams.) 

By Sunday morning I was feeling sufficiently better to become worried about taking anti-nausea medications. So, I googled Gravol and Zofran! I don't recommend doing this ever because it is utterly confusing. Try it and you'll see why. Anyway, Dr. Gnomish said that Gravol and Zofran are used short-term to control severe nausea in pregnancy, but are not approved (in Canada) for pregnancy long term. He assured me that no, taking a few tablets once was not going to do any harm. (exhale. New mantra: Gravol did not kill my baby. Gravol did not kill my baby. Yes, I am most likely still pregnant. Oh hello again nausea, you heard I missed you?)

Dr. Gnomish also gave me 2 weeks prescription for Diclectin, which is approved (in Canada) for longer-term use during pregnancy.We'll see how that works.  I do feel better taking something that my doctor prescribed me versus a handful of pills given by a distracted night nurse. 

I am feeling better  today (so far) and actually ate a real meal (small serving of chicken soup and a half a small spinach salad). It actually tasted pretty good after nothing but yoghurt, ginger ale and juice boxes for the times I could keep anything down. Finally acquired some cheese today too and oooh, sooo good. I really hope I don't throw that up. Oh, and please nobody tell me to eat saltine crackers. I tried that. I'm so sick of them. And my bed is full of crumbs.

I also have a note from Dr. Gnomish saying I'm unfit for work for a week. So, once I've allowed my colleagues to talk me out of going in just for a little while, well, I guess I have a week to recover. Two actually, as the week after is spring break. But we are supposed to go to San Diego for a family trip with Mr. Turtle's mom and brothers next week. I was looking forward to this until last weekend. After spending my weekend away in the mountains lying in bed puking/sleeping/watching daytime TV/late night infomercials, traveling seems somehow less enticing.

I'm feeling a bit better, physically and mentally, and trying to have some humour and optimism here, but crap. Just when I think I'm out of the Twilight Zone, ready to experience some confidence and happiness, it's like something grabs me and yanks me right back in. It's hard.

All my life I've liked the expression "The body is the rocket ship of the soul." (Not sure who said it, and I've done enough googling for the day.) Minus a few inevitable teenage insecurities, I think I've always had a pretty healthy body image. I remember briefly worrying that I had fat thighs, for example. Then one day I was on a cross-country ski trip, and I was climbing the steepest, hardest trail in the park: about two hours' climbing brought me to an amazing 360 degree view of the mountains and the valleys. As I pounded up the hill thinking how much I like mountains, I realized: My thighs are fat for a reason. They have muscles in them! Duh! Rocket ship for the soul.

Except these days, I feel a lot more like this:

A bloated, leaky, dangerous dirigible.

I remember watching a TV documentary some while ago about the airship Hindenburg and the history of airships. At the time, my main thought was: How on earth did anybody have the nerve to get in one of those things? Although everybody knows about the Hindenburg disaster ("Oh, the humanity!") the track record of other airships was hardly confidence-inspiring. The Hindenburg and the German fleet actually had the best record for safety. But despite a history of accidents a lot of people still thought it was awesome to attach themselves to a giant bag of explosive gas and fly through the air hoping for the best.  You couldn't pay me to ride in one of those things.

Except, well these days, I feel a lot like I've booked passage on one of those airships, on a very long ocean crossing voyage, hoping on a prayer that I make it to destination city without crashing or immolating. And I have to find a way to be OK with that.

I'm trying. I really am.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Is it OK if I'm not enjoying this?

I am sorry if this comes across as a "poor me, I'm (somehow, apparently) pregnant" kind of post.

I know my luck is really astonishing - and I haven't even processed how it is that I am somehow pregnant in the first place. I still tend to qualify any statement about it with "as long as everything goes well..." and I'm still trying to believe it will.

But yeah.

I just spent about 36 hours (I'm trying to be optimistic and hope that the worst is behind me) in horrible throw-up land. After my pre-natal appointment where I told my doctor that the nausea was well under control, things went downhill fast.  As in....could...not...stop...throwing....up. For. hours. As one person posted on a message board "I feel more like I'm dying than creating life."

Poor Mr. Turtle was rubbing my back and saying "I wish there was more I could do to help." "Shoot me." was my answer (he hates when I say things like that).

I'm pretty sure it is pregnancy-related as it has been getting slowly worse this week. There's also always a chance I picked up something at le germ factory (i.e. school, where I've been showing up and getting by.)

I'm so glad things seem to be going well. But please. This part of it can end anytime. Not. Fun.

On an optimistic hope, here's a peek at what's hopefully going on this coming week: 8-9 weeks

Thursday 13 March 2014

This week

I went for my first pre-natal appointment today.  This is the first of the standard medical appointments, as opposed to all the tests and follow-ups of the previous 3 weeks (has it been almost that long already?!) when we thought this pregnancy was threatened. Hopefully it is the first of a series of uneventful standard appointments. I can wish, right?

(I talk - ramble - about pregnancy stuff below so if you don't want to read it, feel free to surf away. I will continue to write about my experiences if only to try to make them slightly less surreal. Because it is still very surreal.)

The days after my 3rd ultrasound have been pretty quiet.  I have been more nauseated in the past few days. Not actually throwing up, but with waves of queasiness that force me to move slowly and do a lot of deep breathing. I accompany the deep breathing with (usually) helpful mantras like "Baby is growing." "Baby is alive." "Everything is OK." "You are ridiculous!" (if the previous mantras don't work).  The nausea is usually worst immediately after getting up and after going to bed. So I have been having some trouble getting to sleep and getting up, obviously. Work colleagues have been informed that I probably won't make it  to any early morning meetings. They are very sweet and supportive. I am so lucky that way. I can't imagine trying to hide what is going on at work. I am in no way creative enough to explain my preoccupations or behaviour with anything other than the truth. Thank goodness I don't have to.

Food cravings: None really, though I could eat cheese any time of day and I have been really enjoying milk. I always liked those things, though. Any raw fruit/vegetable is good. Bead with margarine and/or peanut butter and jam is OK too. I just ate a couple of tomato and cucumber sandwiches. They would have been better with cheese (we're out) but they were pretty good anyway.  I am supposed to eat only one fish meal a week and my favourite is been a can of tuna in water. So, I can eat foods that are uncooked and cold and plain.

Likewise, have no particular aversions but I generally dislike anything cooked, any kind of sauce or flavour on food, in other words any dish prepared with imagination. I would definitely not be a good judge for the Food Network right now. No point going to fancy restaurants, either.

Other symptoms included an increase in twinges/pinches/pulls at the beginning of the week. I really hated these when they first appeared; they terrified me and all I could do was curl up and silently plead for it to stop. I still dread feeling anything unexpected in my abdomen. But after googling every descriptive word I could think of, it appears that lots of people have these sensations and it is just muscles stretching. The sensations are very small and don't last long - so my logical mind reminds me when the panic has receded.

Breast tenderness - this varies from mild to really intense throbbing pain (a couple of days ago). And yes, they grow. I don't mind - it's the one visible symptom so far (unless you count my general weirdness as visible).

Fortunately, the bleeding/spotting seems to have almost disappeared (fingers crossed!) I sometimes have a tiny bit of brown mixed in with clear discharge but no blood to speak of in 2, 3 days. This has really helped me to be more positive.

The pre-natal appointment was straightforward. We went through my medical history, where there was nothing to dwell on except the past mild case of thyroiditis that the fertility clinic diagnosed some months ago, and my physiological heart murmur (was diagnosed when I was 20).  Standard blood/urine tests were all clear. I had a pap smear. Doctor Gnomish confirmed cervix is closed and there is no bleeding from the cervix at all. (exhale).

The next step, in four weeks, is the nuchal translucency scan. In addition to the leap of faith required to believe that I will still be pregnant in four weeks, I do have a bit of anxiety about that. There was never any question of doing the scan but it is another unknown and a weighty one.

Still. After weeks of tests, appointments, panic, dread, grief and hope against hope, all mixed in together, the conclusion to draw from my appointment today is: I am being treated like any other pregnant person. Because everything looks.....fine.

I could say more, but...this is already a long and rambling entry. The truth is I have few energy reserves left right now. My life is still about day to day survival and thankfulness. But after my appointment (it is a beautiful spring day) I went on a little excursion to our local shopping mall. Since it was the middle of a workday, this place was actually quite peaceful and relaxing, as opposed to its weekend mayhem. I bought a frozen raspberry yoghurt and wandered aimlessly, quelling my queasiness with the treat. I looked at the shop displays with vague interest but mainly the knowledge that there is nothing more in the world I really want or need right now, that it is enough just to be alive and to know what I know.  I allowed myself to not feel terrified.

And then I went looking for some elastic-waisted pants because even though I'm not "showing," I find myself undoing my buttons rather frequently, and, um, socially awkward.

Wishing everyone the best in where their journeys take them, as always.

Thursday 6 March 2014

"There's a little baby in there!"

3rd ultrasound.

We (the tech, mainly, and me, kinda) saw:

- An embryo measuring 6 weeks, 6 days
-A HEARTBEAT of 139bpm

The tech found the embryo and heartbeat right away with the abdominal ultrasound, but decided to also use the vaginal ultrasound to get a better view. The screen above me was turned on. At first all I could see was grey and black blobs, and they all looked the same. But I was able to see the fetal pole when she pointed it out, and I think I saw the flicker of the heartbeat when she did the internal ultrasound.  Mainly I was stunned that I was actually hearing the words "There's a little baby there!"

I follow up with my doctor tomorrow (and they promised to fax him the results) so we will go over details then. 6 weeks 6 days sounds spot-on to me for an embryo conceived in the last 2 weeks of January.

I'm a bit dazed. I really didn't know how today would go. I've alternated between cautious hope and grim conviction of doom. I also know it's still early days and nothing is guaranteed.  But - but - there is something alive in me and I saw it!!  AlivealivealivealiveALIVE!!! I have (in the privacy of my sometimes cynical mind) been calling this "my horrible miracle pregnancy." Today though, I'm feeling the miracle part more than the horrible part. And I'm grateful.

Thank you all so much for all your support, for your courage and positive thoughts and faith and rational observations when I had none.  I know a lot of that courage and faith comes from a place of struggle and heartbreak. I wish it didn't come at such a steep cost but all the comments and good thoughts are so, so appreciated. Thank you. 

I think I have a nap now.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Dispatches from Limbo-Land

I am Turtle. I may or may not be still pregnant; I may or may not be staying pregnant; I may or may not want to vomit while writing this; I may or may not have a grip on reality.

Welcome to Limbo-land. I wish I could say things were getting better, but the fact is they are much the same, and it's hard.

I had another beta yesterday, and today the doctor's office called me at work. I wasn't expecting a call, so I immediately thought: Bad News! Only bad news would be urgent. Then the receptionist (nurse?) said: "The doctor just wanted you to know that your beta is still rising!" My next thought: How sweet! How lovely! Then she told me the number: 27 000something. Oh. That was not what I wanted to hear. 27 000 is nowhere near doubling in 96 hours (Thursday was 21 000something). But then is the hcg actually supposed to be still doubling at this point? I'm not sure.

Meanwhile I continue to bleed/spot brown. I guess it really is only spotting, but sometimes for short periods of time it is a bit heavier than spotting, then it will (almost) go away for several hours.  I went back to work this week, and it seems heavier since I went back to work, although again it's hard to quantify that. For example I might bleed a little bit more when I'm moving around, but then it goes away.  So it seems like more for a short time, but is it?

I don't have much abdominal sensation, but I get occasional twinges, prickles, clenches. It's all subtle, so far, but anytime I feel anything I go into fetal position (mentally and physically) and feel like a very tiny, miserable, helpless container of a tiny yet enormous universe. A universe which can pass soundlessly out of existence and leave me with an emptiness greater than the space between stars. I am terrified.

I have big boobs and I'm queasy, off and on. If it is pregnancy-nausea, I'm mostly managing it well; I'm remembering to snack often and I haven't actually been throwing up. I can never be altogether sure when it will hit me, though; it can totally go away and then come on very swiftly. If it is stress-nausea, then I'm probably making myself sick with worry about this whole situation.

I went back to work this week. I've survived. It is hard, because I'm always wondering what's going on while also being in the moment for the students. I'm taking it as easy as I can, but I don't have an easy job. Sometimes the distraction is good and I enjoy my other identity as responsible professional.  Other times I feel dissonant and unable to focus. My team is very supportive; they keep telling me to take care of myself although I know it was hard on them when I was away last week. I think it is good to have things to care about other than vaginal secretions, but it is a struggle to get through the hours sometimes.

I'm trying to be optimistic, but that's so different from actually being optimistic. When I melt into a puddle of exhaustion at the end of the day I just wish I could finally feel some real optimism instead of all this damned trying. To state it paradoxically: if I could just take something for granted, I would never take anything for granted again.

My next ultrasound is on Thursday.