Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Let me start out by saying that baby is fine.

But we had a scare. And I have anxiety. Not a good combo.

I’ve talked on here before about my tendency to fret and worry, mostly in a jokey way, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever come right out and said that I have legit clinically diagnosed anxiety. It’s a disease just like infertility. And also like infertility, it’s not really something that’s readily understood or discussed in society. You can’t make it go away by positive thinking or relaxing. You can’t shut it off. You can do cognitive behavioral therapy, traditional talk therapy or SSRI meds, and all of those things help (although I personally haven’t tried meds), but they’re not a cure. I am currently in therapy. My therapist is good, but I only see her once a week. That leaves six other days for my mind to spin into circles.

Overall I’ve kept my anxiety fairly in check this pregnancy. I for sure had some very anxious bouts. The first trimester in particular was super scary, as was Christmastime. I’ve been keeping it together, though…for the most part.

But now? Sh*t has gone off the rails. Ever since I entered the third trimester, my anxiety has been building. My antiphospholipid antibody syndrome puts the baby at higher risk for stillbirth, so naturally I’ve been obsessing about stillbirth. Is this a productive or beneficial thing to do? Nope. Rationally, I totally know this, but anxiety doesn’t play nice with rationality. It actually beats the crap out of rationality on a regular basis.

Things kind of reached a peak over the last few days. On Tuesday evening I noticed that baby wasn’t moving as much as she normally does, so I did a kick count. A kick count is where you count the baby’s movements—you’re supposed to count 10 movements in two hours. She did her required ten movements in a pretty short span of time, so I stopped worrying.

Then later that night I woke up around 3:45 am. Baby usually wakes up every time I wake up in the night, without fail. The kid likes to party all night long already. But she didn’t wake up this time. I gave her about 20 minutes to start moving and shaking. Nothing. I ate a banana and waited. Nothing. I drank some orange juice. By this time I was wide awake, but baby wasn’t. She did eventually bust out ten movements after the OJ, but it took her the full two hours. Usually it takes her, like, five minutes. I got out of bed and was about to go into Labor & Delivery to get her checked out when Tim suggested I try drinking a Coke as a last ditch effort. I drank a Coke and it worked. She did ten kicks in about two minutes. I was semi freaked out, but figured baby was fine.

That brings us to this morning and my appointment with maternal fetal medicine. I have weekly non-stress tests now, and from 36 weeks on I’ll have them twice a week. A non-stress test is basically where you chill in a lounge chair and a nurse hooks the baby up to monitors. They are looking for baby’s heart rate to accelerate three times in 20 minutes. If that happens, they are assured that all is well. I was figuring the non-stress test would be a breeze like it was the previous week, and that it would provide me with some reassurance.

Only, the baby didn’t pass the test. The nurse told me that the baby did have some accelerations, but they weren’t fast enough. She then sent me for a biophysical profile. This is an ultrasound where they look for three things within 30 minutes:

  1. Baby needs to be seen practice breathing for at least 30 seconds
  2. Amniotic fluid levels must be adequate.
  3. Baby has to move her core back and forth three times, and she also has to show muscle tone, which means things like opening and closing her hand or flexing her leg.

She aced the practice breathing. She also had good amniotic fluid levels. But she wasn’t moving. It took that little runt almost the full 30 minutes to do her required movements. She did pass the test, but only in the nick of time. The nurse assured me that she was fine. She said she was the most conservative nurse there, and that she always errs on the cautious side, but even she felt confident baby girl was good.

So baby is ok. But I am not. I really am not.

I’m 33 weeks today, and my OB has already talked about inducing me around 39 weeks (common practice with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome), so there is an end in site. But I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next six weeks. I’m not trying to be dramatic by saying that—I really feel like I’m losing it a little. I feel completely overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. I’ve talked to my OB about these feelings. She doesn’t want me to take any anxiety medications because I’m already on so many other meds this pregnancy. She suggested therapy, which I am already doing. Basically the only course of action is to wait it out. I want this baby to be safe and healthy in my arms so badly, but right now that seems so far away.

Letter To My Littlest Love: Acorns, Stars & Other Things

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Dear Little Acorn,

You have many nicknames already, most of them generated by your sister. At first, you were Staircase Ball-Jar, followed by Cupcake Christmas Tree. Your current name du jour is Rocky Stone.

But there’s one nickname that belongs to you and I alone: Little Acorn. There is a story there, of course.

The day before I found out I was pregnant with you, your dad, sister and I were wandering through a boutique near our house. Hanging on the wall was a bright green onesie. I’m partial to crazy, happy colors, so it immediately caught my eye. On the onesie was an illustration of an acorn, and beneath it the words, “I will be mighty.”

Truth be told, I’m a little slow sometimes, so I didn’t immediately get it. “Wait. Why does it say ‘I will be mighty’ with a picture of an acorn?” I asked your dad.

“You know,” he said, “because an acorn starts out tiny and then grows into a big, strong tree.”

Oh. Oh. My heart started racing right there in that store. Because at that moment I knew: that onesie was for you. My little fighter embryo, destined to grow into a mighty oak.

I didn’t buy it, though. After all, I wasn’t even sure I was pregnant. I hoped, oh God did I hope, but I didn’t know. But I promised myself that I would come back and buy it for you if I was indeed pregnant.

Even though I found out the next day that you had decided to stick around, I didn’t go back. I was too scared. It took me almost six weeks to go back and purchase that tiny green onesie. And even then, when I was asking the sales associate about sizing, I didn’t tell her it was for my baby. I pretended it was for another baby, maybe a friend’s baby, or a random nebulous baby belonging to no one.

You see, I was worried sick. And if I’m honest, I still am, most days. (It’s no secret that your mom is a first class worrier. If you ever want to go skydiving or something, talk to your dad.) I feared that my instinct was wrong and that you weren’t a fighter after all, that you weren’t here to stay. That you weren’t mine to keep, not this time.

But you have proved me wrong time and time again. Out of dozens of embryos, you’re the only one that decided my inhospitable body was a fine place to hang out for a while. So far you are surviving and thriving. And just now you kicked me, as if to say, “That’s right, mom. Here I am!”

Yesterday, your sister and I watched a planetarium show. We learned lots of cool things. One of Jupiter’s moons contains frozen lakes with liquid water churning underneath. The hottest stars are blue. If you get lost on a clear night, you can always find your way home by the Big Dipper—it points right to Polaris, the North Star. The sun is so big that it could hold 1.3 million earths.

And even beyond our sun and our solar system, there are infinite stars and planets. An ever-expanding universe—over 10 billion light years that we will never discover.

It seems hard to believe, then, that with all of those things out there bigger and more awesome than we can even imagine, that something so small—an embryo, an acorn, a baby—could even matter.

But you, mighty one, are our whole world.

We are all counting down the days until we can hold you, kiss your new, soft skin, and see the stars in your eyes.

Love,
Mom

18 Weeks & Everything’s Still OK

Hi, friends. First of all, thank you for your comments on my last post. They were all wonderful and heartfelt, and made me feel significantly less crazy town. I’m sorry I haven’t responded yet, but I will. I love you guys.

I don’t have a single profound thing to say today. I’m thinking this is going to be a semi-boring update, so get your yawn faces on. In a nutshell: baby and I are ok. As of today, I am 18 weeks and 2 days. I had an OB appointment on Wednesday and that kid was moving around so much that my doctor couldn’t lock down a heartbeat! All we could hear for a minute were these swishing sounds. I’m thinking that means there’s a hyperactive boy growing in there. Anyone else have any gender guesses? When the doc finally got the heartbeat locked it sounded nice and strong at 158 bpm.

Following that appointment, I went to my dentist and got two more root canals. I only have three non-root-canaled teeth left in my mouth now. Can you even believe that? I kind of can’t. I half-jokingly asked my dentist if I had the most root canals out of any patient he’s ever had and he said “yes.” The man has been practicing for 33 years. Dude. I don’t even know what to say about that, so I’ll just leave it right there. Anyway, the one root canal went smoothly. The other was bleeding so much he couldn’t finish it. The dentist said he suspects it’s cracked, which means the root canal might fail. Which means a tooth extraction. The last time I had a tooth extracted, it took two hours and the head of dental surgery had to call over his colleague to help. Apparently I have the longest roots this side of the Mississippi. I do not want to go through this ordeal while pregnant. It’s already stressful enough getting root canals while pregnant. I’m really bummed about all of this, but it’s beyond my control.

I’m not sure if I told you guys about this yet, but I got a call from Dr. Braverman a few weeks ago. My long-awaited test results came back and according to him my immune system was “acting up again.” He doubled my prednisone dose. Dr. B assured me that he wasn’t worried about miscarriage at this point, but rather complications later in pregnancy. This increased dose will supposedly help prevent that. I was supposed to stop my intralipids after the first trimester, but those are continuing on for now, too. For those of you who don’t know, prednisone is kind of evil. I really try not to complain about it because honestly I am just grateful that it’s helping me stay pregnant. However, it causes major insomnia. I lay awake from roughly 1 am to 5 am every night. Once in a while I’ll take a Unisom and that helps, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that every night. More or less, this lack of sleep makes me feel insane. In-f*cking-sane. Like totally bonkers. I prowl around the house at night like a freaking cat, scouring the fridge for midnight snacks. Speaking of snacks, another fun little side effect of the pred is that I’m huge. I’ve been gaining a pound a week and my face is like a mylar balloon. Again, I’m growing a human, so whatevs, but it’s a little freaky to see the scale jump so much every time I go to the OB. The good news is that Dr. B wants to wean me off the prednisone by 24 weeks, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

All of the above BS aside, I really am doing ok. I’m still nervous as hell about our anatomy scan in two weeks, but other than that, I’ve been managing the anxiety. Here’s a couple of things that have been helping:

*The gym! I haven’t gone to gym with any regularity in three years (you can thank fertility treatments for that). But now that I don’t have endless doctors appointments and the first-trimester nausea has subsided, I have a little more energy (even with the lack of sleep, boom). It feels awesome you guys. I only do a half hour on the eliptical machine like three or four times a week, but even that feels like such a treat.

*I’ve been taking some space from Blog Land. I’ve found that it’s for some reason easier to manage my anxiety if I just keep my head down and don’t write about it.

*Staying busy. If I’m constantly moving or doing something I don’t dwell as much on the what ifs. I’ve been doing a lot of baking, organizing and even (gasp!) folding laundry.

*Planning a staycation. Tim and I booked a hotel in the ‘burbs next weekend. Lettie will spend the night with her grandparents. We’re going to get a couples massage and eat in a chain restaurant and swim in the hotel pool. I’m gonna get me a bottle of non-alcoholic wine, pop a Unisom and get a full night’s sleep. Romance, people!

Speaking of sleep, if you’re not snoozing yet, you deserve an award. I mean, I know how riveting reading about me folding laundry must be. Anyway, that’s about all she wrote. I’m still scared every single day, but I’m doing fine.

 

 

Anxiety At Large

hello-my-name-is-anxiety-1I haven’t updated you guys about surgery scheduling or anything else recently because I’ve been battling the anxiety monster. Like, we are in a full-on boxing match over here. And I’m losing. I’ve never kept it secret that I struggle with anxiety. I see a therapist, I visualize, I go to acupuncture weekly, I do yoga (when I’m not being a sloth). All of those things help. They keep it under wraps most of the time. But sometimes, man. Sometimes it’s rough.

Right now is one of those times.

Having to leave the hospital sans surgery two weeks ago really freaked me out more than I realized. It’s been looming over me, and the thoughts are spiraling: Will I get through it? Will something terrible befall me? Will it ever happen? Will it keep getting rescheduled until the end of time? Does that hospital have bad juju?

I was able to get the surgery rescheduled for this Thursday. This was a week earlier than what I had originally thought, so I was happy. Right around when I found that out, I started getting post-nasal drip, which is usually the tell-tale sign of a cold for me. Eff, I thought. Are you kidding me? Doctors really don’t like to do surgeries when patients have a cold. They like the immune system to be tip-top, and they want the airways to be completely open. This makes sense, obviously. So then it became a waiting game of will-I-get-sick-and-have to-reschedule-my surgery. And the anxiety just went downhill from there.

I went to the doctor yesterday because I having some chest tightness and achiness. I figured it was just from the post-nasal drip, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something more sinister, especially since I have asthma. The doctor listened to my lungs and said they sounded completely clear, but I seemed to be taking longer to exhale than normal, so he figured I was having a minor asthma flare up. He thought this, and the post-nasal drip (that’s such a gross term, by the way. Sorry for repeating it 65 times in one post), were caused by allergies. He said I had no swollen lymph nodes or anything else to indicate that I was sick. Lettie has a cold right now, so I am skeptical of this, but I really am not having any other cold symptoms. He put me on a “burst” of steroids to help with the asthma. He said I should be good to go for the surgery as long as my lungs still sounded clear on Thursday. He sounded really confident about this. So I felt better. For like 2.5 seconds. The steroids seemed to be working. I still had major PND (Does that sound less icky? Maybe a little.), but my chest weirdness was gone.

But anxiety, it doesn’t give a sh*t what doctors think.

I texted Dr. V. (my surgeon) after my appointment to see if the steroids were fine to take before surgery. He said they were. I then talked to him today. He asked me about my symptoms. I told him the tightness in my chest was gone, but I still had my friend PND. He said if I have any trouble breathing we should reschedule. I assured him I didn’t have any trouble, and he agreed that I sounded fine. He told me to call him tomorrow to check in.

After that phone conversation I worked myself into a panic attack. I somehow managed to get my work done, but I was freaking out all afternoon. I called Tim and could barely keep it together. He was all, “What? That convo with Dr. V sounded fine. It sounded like things are pretty much a go. It also sounds like he cares about you, which is a good thing.” All true, but I was out of control at this point.

All afternoon I felt burning hot. I was sure I had a fever. But when I finally got home and took my temp it was 97.6 degrees. No fever in sight. Then I could feel my chest aching again. Was this from the post nasal drip? Or from the anxiety? My guess is anxiety, but what if it wasn’t?

And so on and so forth.

Logically, post nasal drip is not a reason to reschedule surgery. I know this. And even if it does get rescheduled, so? It’s not the end of the world. I mean, I’d really prefer to not have this procedure looming over me anymore, since it triggered the worst case of anxiety I’ve had in years. Still, it’s not a reason to freak the eff out.

But anxiety doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t listen to reason. It doesn’t care.

It’s mean. It’s a monster. And some days it wins.

IVF #2: I Choose Hope

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It’s been a rough week. Since my last post I’ve pretty much descended into madness. I’ve been obsessing about follicle growth and root canals and estrogen numbers. My anxiety level has been out of control.

I’m pretty sure it reached its peak this afternoon. My clinic called to say that I would be triggering this evening. A few minutes later I emailed them to find out what my estrogen was at this point during my last cycle so I could compare. For real-life friends: your estrogen number can be indicative of how many mature follicles you have. The higher your number, usually the more mature eggs you’ll produce. You don’t want the number to get too high because then your ovaries can freak out and fill with fluid, earning you a one-way ticket to the hospital. But you don’t want it too low either. For reference, my estrogen today was around 1500.

So this one nurse writes back. I think she’s kind of new, but I’m not sure. She’s young and super sweet, but she just doesn’t seem as with it as the other nurses.

She writes, “Your estrogen at this time last cycle was 258.”

And I’m like, huh? That seems crazy low. So I write he back saying, “Wait, 258? Is there a missing number somewhere? That seems really low.”

And she writes, “Oh, I’m sorry, 258 was your first beta from your last pregnancy. Your estrogen last time was 2578.”

Cue multiple freakouts. Freakout number one: Who wants to be reminded of an unsuccessful pregnancy right before trying to get pregnant again? WTF? Freakout number two: Why is my estrogen so much lower this time? Does that mean I’ll get half the number of eggs? AAAAAAACCCCCKKKK!

So then I wrote, “Whoa, that’s a lot lower than last time. Does the mean I’ll get a lot less eggs at retrieval?”

After that, another nurse wrote me saying sorry for the miscommunication and that I had been given the wrong number ah-gain. The 2587 number was from the day after trigger shot. My number the day of trigger shot was like 1800-ish.

That’s really not that much of a difference than last time. Plus, I had 16 follicles last time and now I have 12, so it makes sense that the estrogen would be a little less. But by the time time I got that last email my anxiety was in super-freak mode, and continued on that way until about an hour ago.

Until I decided enough of this.

I can choose to keep going down this path of fear that I seem so hell bent on walking, or I can choose hope. That’s what has been absent from this cycle so far: hope. I completely lost sight of it. I got so mired in the teeth pain and the baggage from my last IVF that I let the anxiety completely overtake me. I lost sight of what I long for this experience to be: a chance to connect with the soul who will join our family.

Yes, I’m having major teeth pain and root canals. Yes, I’ve been doped up on Tylenol 3. Yes, I’ve been stressed to the max for days on end. Yes, I’m still sad about the loss of my last pregnancy. Ok, fine, these are not 100% perfect circumstances for an IVF cycle. But what in life is ever perfect? Just because it’s not perfect, doesn’t mean it won’t work.

So today, right now, I choose hope. I’m packing my bags and moving my whole family to Hope Street — and that’s where we’ll stay, for as long as we need to. Fear Street is derelict, you guys. And the neighbors are all paranoid assholes.

IVF #1: Beta Number 3

First of all, thank you so much for all of your comments and well wishes on my last post. You guys really know how to make a girl feel loved. And guess what? I love you right back!

Today’s beta was 2760. The nurse said that was great, but of course I had to look the number up on a beta calculator after the call. Can’t leave well enough alone, obviously. I found out that the doubling time was 47 hours, which means that things have slowed down from my last doubling time of 36 hours. I’m guessing this is fine, as it’s still within the normal range, but I do wonder if it’s normal for it to slow down. Does anyone know?

I have an ultrasound scheduled on Monday. The nurse said they are just looking for a “speck” in my uterus to confirm that the pregnancy is in the right place. My doctor won’t be doing the scan, which I’m pretty bummed about (it also won’t be the Ovarian Overlord, though, phew), but I’m going to request that she does the rest of them from there on out. I’d rather wait a few extra days between scans if that means she will be there to do them.

The anxiety has been creeping in today, big time. I think the first few days I was riding the high of hearing such good news, but now that things are starting to settle I feel uneasy. I’m a little nervous about Monday’s ultrasound, but I’m even more nervous about the one that will be after that if all goes well on Monday — the ultrasound at around six weeks, the one where we may or may or may not see baby’s heartbeat. I feel sick just thinking about it. As many of you unfortunately know, it’s terrifying to be pregnant after a loss.

Mainly, what’s freaking me out is this: I’ve just realized that I am wholeheartedly invested. After letting the news digest that I am finally pregnant, I’ve quickly become attached to this baby. My baby. And to lose everything now…well again, the thought makes me sick to my stomach.

But I am just borrowing trouble at this point. Right now, everything is ok. Everything is ok! And that is what I need to keep telling myself.

One day at a time, you guys. I can do this.

Broken Record: Anxiety, On Repeat

The Anxiety Monster
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35 weeks. Still anxious.

I have to get real here for a moment: I’m really struggling.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some peaceful spells since I last posted about feeling anxious. But the last few days, whew. Doozies.

On the one hand, I have less to be anxious about than I did just a few weeks ago. If the bambina comes now, she’ll likely be totally fine. That is amazing!

But for some reason, that’s not helping me much. I keep imagining worst-case scenarios in my head. Every time I hear of a stillbirth, it puts me in a bad place for days. Mind you, I do not seek out these stories of tragedy, but a few make their way to me all the same.

I cannot imagine losing it all this close to game time. The thought terrifies me.

An anxious mind is a scary place to be trapped in.

Does this sound dramatic? Anxiety is very dramatic. That’s one of the things I hate about it. I dislike drama queens and when I’m anxious that’s what I feel like—a big, ole drama queen.

I’m trying to work my way out of it. I started doing a visualization adapted from Julia Indichova. It goes like this: imagine your worst fear. Think of an image associated with that fear. Watch it be engulfed by fire and a then huge flood of water (how’s that for drama, eh?). After you’re satisfied that the flood and fire have obliterated your worst fear, you visualize yourself taking three steps forward. Then you imagine a successful pregnancy, a smooth labor and holding a healthy baby in your arms. Tim and I have been doing this together. So far it’s not helped much, but I’m hoping that after time and repetition, it will.

I’ve also started talking to the baby more. Today I told her about all the different seasons and what I love about each one. This really helps a lot in the moment. It reminds me that the baby is here with me now and she’s just fine. And it makes me happy to think of all the things I’ll get to watch her experience for the first time.

So I’m working on it. But the fact is that I want to hold this baby in my arms so much I ache for it. I want to know that she’s safe. I want to see proof of it with my own eyes.

And yes, I know, I’ll worry about her even after she’s here, etc. etc. But that is a bridge I’ll cross when I get to it. Baby steps, people.

So tell me. If any of you felt anxiety at the end of your pregnancy, what helped you? Or if you had a non-pregnancy-related anxiety bout, what tricks guided you through it?

And even if you have no pearls of wisdom to offer, I’d love a shout out of support. I could really use it right about now.

Until then, I’ll be taking it one day at a time…