The Unexamined Pregnancy – Part 2

That was easy!

That was easy!

I hadn’t meant to make this a two part post, but after the last post got too wordy, I figured it was time to shut it down and start over again (after all, I have 9 months of pregnancy to catch up on). Some random musings are below.

Differences this Time Around

Once the initial disbelief that I was pregnant again subsided, I was able to very quickly get comfortable with the idea that this pregnancy would again result in a take home baby. While I was  pregnant with Gus, I believed that I did a good job enjoying my pregnancy, without letting the past trauma of infertility and pregnancy loss affect me too much. However, it was only with this pregnancy that I realized how far I still had to go emotionally and mentally last time around.

Despite being fortunate to have straightforward pregnancies both times, I did have a fair bit of anxiety while pregnant with Gus. I was very conscious of how hard we’d worked to become pregnant, and hyper aware of all of the things that could go wrong. I was grateful for every milestone that passed – I still remember counting down to the magical 24 week mark, at which point if you delivered, your baby would have a fighting chance of surviving. I also remember how I felt in the days leading up to our anatomy scan – the excitement of getting a detailed look at our baby overshadowed by the fear that the scan would reveal that something was horribly wrong. I even remember sitting in his nursery in the few weeks leading up to my due date, and feeling sudden terror that it was not too late yet for something to go wrong, and that if it did, it would be the end of me.

This time around was a world of difference. By the middle of the first trimester, I just knew that things would work out. While the pregnancy with Gus felt like it lasted forever, this pregnancy has flown by. Every time I checked in with how far along I was, it seemed like a few weeks had passed since I last thought about it. While I generally saw this as a positive development, and a sign of healing, part of me also wanted to slow things down so I could savour and appreciate every moment. While the anxiety I’d felt with Gus was not present, I did worry from time to time that I was taking this pregnancy for granted, and letting it fly by too quickly.

The Gender Reveal

As I alluded to above, physically this pregnancy has been very similar to the last one, down to the fact that I am carrying another boy.

Like many couples, we were excited by the possibility of having a boy and a girl. We had the perfect girl name picked out (first and middle), which we’d come up with while pregnant last time, while we were drawing a blank on boy names. Early on in the pregnancy, I found myself peeking at the adorable baby girl clothes when shopping for clothes for Gus. I fantasized about what my daughter would look like. And yet, the second I found that out we were going to have another boy, the desire for a girl melted away.

Instead, I realized I could stop sorting Gus’ old clothes into “boy” and “gender neutral” boxes, and stop the practice of the last few months of buying new clothes for him that were more gender neutral, in case they were to be passed down to a girl down the road. I appreciated that I could relax a bit with the toy budget for Gus (both in terms of money spent, and space available to store everything) now that there were two boys who would be enjoying everything, instead of needing to budget for future purchases of equivalent girl toys. I was suddenly grateful that I would not have to figure out what my stance was on “princess culture” and how much I wanted to limit its impact on my daughter (and that down the road I would not have to deal with the stress of her dressing too sexy at too young an age).

Aside from the more immediate benefits of having two boys, I felt an excitement about down the road being the mother of two strong, capable men.

Recently a friend asked me if we would try for a third baby to “try for a girl”. I have enough issues with people asking about your plans for future children shortly after (or in this case even before) the current child is born, not to mention a distaste for any mention of “timing” pregnancy or trying for a certain sex. Despite my usual inability to think of the right answer to these types of questions until the moment had passed, in this case I was able to answer without skipping a beat that at this point we were not planning to have more children, but if we did decide to try for a third, the motivation would be to have a third child, and not to try for a girl.

And I actually meant it! I’ve so bought into my role as “mother of boys” that if we did end up having a third, there is a big part of me that would be expecting, and hoping for a third boy.

I’m working on another pregnancy related post, so stay tuned!

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The Unexamined Pregnancy – Part 1

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I will probably be shutting down this blog soon, mostly due to the fact that I never seem to get around to  writing here (some combination of time and motivation). I’m also not sure (notwithstanding the above photograph) how comfortable I am with posting pictures of my child(ren!) on the internet  where anyone can access them and do with them as they please. I have considered password protecting posts, watermarking the photos, and other measures, but given that there are about, oh maybe 3 other people who even bother reading this blog other than me, nobody would even miss it, so simply taking it down, or making it completely private may make more sense.

In any case, if I do take it down, I have wanted to write a few final posts to wrap up, as there is nothing more annoying than an abandoned blog, especially given the somewhat cliffhangerish tone of my last post.

When I last wrote, I was in the two week wait of our first embryo transfer for baby #2. I was six days post five day transfer and planning to do a pregnancy test the following morning – at 7 days post transfer, or approximately equivalent to 12 days post ovulation.

This was the same schedule I followed after my transfer with Gus, except that with Gus, my motivation was different. Last time, I just KNEW that I was pregnant. While I am not someone who gets much (if any) pregnancy symptoms early on, there were a few subtle things that convinced me I had an embie (or embies) snuggling in. At four days post transfer, right on cue based on an IVF timeline I read, I was sure that I felt something implanting. It was a feeling like I’d never felt before….the best way I can describe it is that it felt like something was gently tickling me from the inside. I remember wondering if I was imagining it, and touching my stomach in the place where the tickle was, and each time my touch made it feel a bit more intense. This happened on a Friday, and over the course of that weekend, I became more and more convinced that I must be pregnant.

By Sunday evening, I decided that I was going to test on Monday morning, so that I could (most likely) start celebrating the pregnancy, or if for some reason I was wrong, bring my expectations back down to earth. Sunday night before going to bed, I had another strong sign that I was pregnant – I had some spotting, which I just knew was implantation bleeding.

Fast forward one hundred and four weeks, and I felt the complete opposite. Based on my past pregnancies, I knew enough not to expect any of the “typical” early symptoms such as nausea, heightened sense of small, painful breasts, or fatigue. But at four days post transfer, I tuned in to my body very carefully, being mindful so as to catch the slightest twitch, cramp, or tickle. And I felt…nothing. I continued being vigilant over the weekend, but there was still nothing.

By Sunday night, in addition to the usual lack of symptoms, there had been no twitches, and no spotting (no matter how hard I wiped). I was sure that the cycle had failed in a way that I had never been more sure of something. In my mind, I was already planning the timing for the next cycle and starting to mentally move on.

As it was our first assisted try for baby #2, (after only 2 months of “trying” on our own without any pressure/expectation that natural conception would happen), I felt like the failure was not only unexpected, but also that it would not be that difficult to process. After all, I had not really “earned” the right to be successful yet. The road to baby #2 needed to be longer and more difficult than this, and I could deal with it. We still had four embryos in the freezer, and would be transferring at least the next two one at a time, so I felt like we were far from panic mode.

This time around, the decision to test Monday morning was made so that we could officially close the door on this cycle and look ahead to the future (while continuing to be grateful for and cherish the child we did have). So, as I did 104 weeks ago, I went to the bathroom as soon as I woke up, pulled out my favourite brand of pregnancy test, which I’d purchased the night before, and peed.

I watched the light pink colour spread across the window, and the control line come into focus. As the pink continued to spread, I was shocked to see what looked like the faintest of faint second lines. I remember my husband coming into the bathroom with a concerned look on his face as I sat there staring at the test (I’d warned him that I was expecting a negative test). “What do you think? Do you see it?” I remember asking him. He nodded. “There’s definitely something there.”

Even seeing that second line was not enough to convince me I was pregnant. The line was very faint, and that first day I was convinced it signalled that a chemical pregnancy was coming. I had been through a chemical pregnancy before, so I knew what to expect. My husband and I were not yet ready to be cautiously optimistic – instead we agreed that “something” was happening, but it was too early to know what it would turn into.

Every morning that week, I tested again, and every morning the line got darker. The implantation bleeding I’d been looking for also arrived, though a day or two later than last time. My blood test was Friday, and by then I was getting comfortable that my beta results would be quite good, given that it looked like they had been rising since at least Monday. Sure enough, the bloodwork confirmed that I was definitely pregnant, with a very respectable beta result.

I still couldn’t quite believe it though – the pregnancy still felt precarious to me. My second bloodtest also came back with a strong result, with the appropriate doubling time. While the first bloodtest for this pregnancy was a day earlier than my test for Gus, in both cases, the second tests were 15 days post transfer. I was curious how they compared, and was shocked when I saw that my results were actually higher this time around than with Gus. It was only then that it really sunk in for me that I was pregnant again.

 

 

 

 

This Time Will be Different

Sometime this year, my husband and I will start the process of trying to conceive baby #2. This moment is still months away, as there are a number of moving pieces that have to fall into place before we can reasonably attempt any baby making. At minimum, I need to wean, get my chicken pox vaccine, and get my period back. Since we have five frozen embryos from our IVF cycle, we are planning on jumping right into doing a frozen transfer as soon as we are in a position to do so, therefore there will also be the various tests and procedures that our clinic requires before proceeding with a transfer, not to mention coordinating our schedules with both the clinic where our embryos are, and the clinic where we will do our monitoring for the cycle. The many joys of procreating by committee will soon be upon us.

While I have tried hard not to speculate about what trying to conceive will be like this go around until the time comes, in the last few weeks I’ve often found my mind spinning as I try to process the ramifications of what getting back on the baby making train will mean for us. This is due partly to the fact that we are starting to have preliminary discussions about what our timing is going to look like, and that I am getting close to weaning Baby Boy (I had planned to breastfeed him to a year, which is another two months away, but based on his lack of interest over the last few weeks I suspect our wean date will come sooner than that). I have also recently read a lot of blog and twitter posts that touch on some of the issues I have been struggling to get my head around, related to life after infertility, secondary infertility, and infertility amnesia.

I have no idea if or when we will have another baby. If we do have another baby, I don’t know if we will get pregnant via frozen transfer, natural conception (ha – sounds like immaculate conception to me!), or through further fertility treatments. I don’t know if it will happen on our first try, or after multiple attempts. But despite all of the uncertainty, rather than feel panic at the thought of climbing back on the roller coaster, I am at peace with whatever our outcome may be. I am at peace, because I know that the worst is behind us.

The experience of infertility while trying to conceive Baby Boy was akin to falling down a deep chasm, and having no idea how far you had left to fall, or what sort of landing you would have. Along the way, we were willing to grasp at anything that would help us achieve a quick and safe landing – in the six months before we conceived Baby Boy, my husband and I agreed that we would pursue donor eggs, donor sperm, or surrogacy if we got any indication that any of those would resolve our infertility (unexplained infertility is its own deep chasm, but that’s another story).

I am a planner by nature, and while trying to conceive Baby Boy, having a plan gave me some semblance of control over an uncontrollable process. I was always two steps ahead: if the current cycle/treatment option failed, I had a plan A, and then a plan B if plan A failed. At the time we conceived Baby Boy, I had my plan A and plan B all set, and my husband and I had the resources (financial, emotional, physical) to keep going balls to the wall until we achieved our goal. We were not at the point where we had an end date (whether fixed on the calendar, or based on a number of things happening, or not) at which point we would change course to pursue adoption (when we had last discussed it, this was an option my husband was not interested in), or living permanently child free.

While overall, our mindset was that given enough time and treatments, we would eventually be successful, not knowing how our story would end was still terrifying. The future held so much uncertainty, and there was no way of knowing how much more heartbreak in terms of failed cycles, pregnancy loss, or even just the cruel passage of time we would have to endure before we held our baby in our arms.

This brings me back to my original point about starting the process of trying to conceive again. No matter how many times I turn the idea of it around in my head, I come to the same conclusion: this time will be different.

This time will be different because we are not starting at zero: not only do we know way more than we should about all the ways that conception can go wrong and therefore are intimately familiar with how difficult it can be; but the existence of our five frozen embryos (that paradoxically only exist due to the extent of our struggles first time around), mean that we are starting out ahead of the game.

This time will be different because we are no longer in a chasm of unknown depth. I can look ahead and know with certainty that I will not have to endure multiple fresh IVF cycles in order to bring my baby home (I am not ruling out the possibility of doing another fresh cycle if none of our current embryos take, but I don’t see a scenario where I would do more than one more fresh cycle). I know that if we are to have another child, it will take us less time to conceive this time around than the 3+ years it took us the first time, for the simple reason that due to my age it has to (I’ll be between 37 and 38 when we start trying again).

This time,  there are limits to what we will go through in order to conceive. I know that we will transfer each of our existing embryos until one sticks, but if we are not successful, we are not going to go to heroic efforts to have another baby. Lastly, knowing that we had the strength to survive failed cycles and pregnancy loss the first time around gives me comfort that if needed, we have the strength to survive again. All of these factors mean that when we start trying again, we will be able to feel, or at the very least, see the ground below our feet. We will be able to reach our hands out and find something sturdy to hold on to, rather than grasping at air as it slips through our fingers.

This time will be different because no matter what happens, I will never forget that even our “worst case scenario” of being parents to one healthy, amazing baby boy is many people’s dream.