January 2011

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Seeing Red

Four days ago everything was looking good. Today, not so much. Yesterday, I saw blood.

It was only a tiny bit, which is good. And one third of normal pregnancies have some spotting in the first trimester. But not mine. This is not normal or right for me. I had light spotting very early in my second miscarriage (at exactly this time last year), and then two weeks later it was over. That one ended on its own – no need for a D&C. I think something very different went wrong there. And that’s why I’m extremely worried now. I’m counting on the donated eggs to save me from the genetic abnormalities, but this indicates something else might be wrong.

So I’ve had to pull back on all my happy expectations – again. And now I just have to wait – again. There’s nothing I can do. I’m back in hell.

New York

We’re off to New York tomorrow.  Compared to last year, I’ve done almost no planning.  We’ll see Mary Poppins and have lunch with friends, but that’s all I have on the agenda so far.  I really wanted to take Sammy to see the Statue of Liberty, but I think it will be too cold.  Somewhere in my electronic world, I have the list of things to do with kids in New York that you all helped me with last year.  Maybe I’ll find time tonight to do a little planning.

We’ll be testing a couple of new pieces of technology on this trip.  First, my iPad. I usually just rely on my phone and Adam’s laptop.  I haven’t figured out too many uses for the iPad yet, but I think travel will be a good one.  I’m downloading my first movie as I write this – Tinker Bell – something for Sam to watch on the train.

Also, we bought one of these travel vests for Sam:

RideSafer Car Seat Travel Vest

It’s a vest that a child can wear and strap in using a regular seat belt, instead of using a car seat.  I don’t see any other way to take taxis in New York with a child.  It’s not possible to lug a car seat around all day just in case you take that 5 minute cab ride back to the hotel when you’re too lazy to take the subway.  This vest is small enough to put in a backpack, and it’s supposed to be pretty effective for safety.  It will certainly be safer than what we did last time: putting an arm across Sam to keep her from sliding off the seat where she sat, unbuckled, untethered, and squirming like crazy.  The big question about the vest is: will she wear it?  I’ll report back next week.

If this trip is half as good as our last trip to New York with Sam, it will be a fine time, indeed.

Seeing Double

I was really nervous about my blood test today, but it brought some news that rocked my socks off.  I could get used to this!  Here is the email from K.:

Amy,

Good afternoon!  More good news….the level went up to 12,700!!!  This is a great rise.  Also, be prepared….there is a definite chance that you have twins!!!  It could still be one, but with those numbers…I would guess two!

Please continue all of your medications and we will see you on Thursday, February 3rd for your sonogram at 2:15pm!

Also, let me know if you need anything in the meantime!

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

Okay, when a nurse hazards a guess about twins based on a blood test (not to mention losing control of her punctuation), you know it means something. According to Betabase (a self-reporting database of beta levels at various times during pregnancies which end up being successful),  the median beta level for a singleton at 14 days post ovulation is 101, and at 21 days is 1240.  The median beta level for twins at 14 days post ovulation is 206, and at 21 days is 2,520.  Both increase just about 1000% in seven days.

My levels at approximately those dates were 363 and 12,700, which is not only way above the median for twins, but the increase is over 3000%.

Holy shit!

This news bowled me over.  I’m starting to believe.  Both of our little embryos might still be going strong.  I can’t imagine how neither would make it.  I don’t have any problems carrying a pregnancy.  I’m in very good health.  All my hormone levels are perfect.  I don’t have any structural problems in my reproductive system.  I’ve never had any indication of problems with my body related to pregnancy, except the MTHFR issue, which seems to be a non-issue, especially with the extra folic acid I’m taking religiously.  The problem has always been with the embryos themselves.  Even my first lost pregnancy had nothing to do with my body in its role as host.  And now there are probably two embryos, created with someone else’s eggs.  Things can still go wrong, but the chance of something going wrong for two, at this point, must be tiny. And they both might make it.  The thought of twins is becoming more real and it scares and thrills me, simultaneously.  I’m freaking out in the best possible way.

I’m still not breaking out the baby name books or taking photos of my pregnant belly, but I’m feeling excited.  I’ve calculated my due date (Sept. 28) and I’ve written “1 week” “2 weeks” etc. on my calendar, every Wednesday, all the way through to “40 weeks.”  I’m almost ready to subscribe to a weekly pregnancy newsletter.  Having to delete my calendar entries and unsubscribe from the newsletter caused me great pain with my first miscarriage, so these are big steps for me.  If we lose this pregnancy, I’ll be devastated, but I won’t be any more devastated than I would be if I repressed my excitement.

I’m ready to start enjoying this!

I discovered something very interesting a few weeks ago: reading sentences is a separate skill from reading words.  I’m sure all of my books on phonics and reading already told me that, but I don’t remember anything about it.  I learned it from Sam herself when she started reading to me from her Bob Books.

We got her the Bob Books a few months ago and she’s read parts of them a number of times.  All of the words are easy for her now (“cat,” “and,” “bag,” “hat,” etc.) but she would still make guesses based on the pictures and what she had memorized.  She didn’t seem interested in reading a story all the way through, and now I know why.  She didn’t really get the concept of reading words in a sequence to make up a sentence.  I figured she would have learned this from the thousands of hours we’ve read out loud to her, but I suppose she couldn’t really understand it until she did it herself.

When we were reading together a few weeks ago, she had the breakthrough moment.  She would read a word or two  - say, “Dot and” – but then she would get confused.  She’d jump to the next page, or start the sentence over again, or just flounder.  I realized that I had to help her understand that the series of words would add up to a unit.  She knows that letters and words go from left-to-right (well, most of the time she knows that) but she still didn’t really get the idea that if she kept reading, she’d get an entire thought instead of just a word.   I don’t really know how I helped her.  I think I mostly just put my finger underneath each word to guide her.  But within a few minutes, she got it – I guess she was just mentally ready this time.  I observed her go from confusion to understanding.  I knew when she made the mental connection by the pride in her voice when she read, “Mat sat on Sam.”  (It’s a nice coincidence that the main character in the first book is named Sam.)  I could just hear it in her voice – that “aha” moment.  And I could also hear it in the fluid way she read the sentence as a whole.  She had never done that before.  It was an awesome moment.

Now I have to go back to my phonics books and find out if they really do address this.  In the meantime, I’m really glad we got Sam the Bob Books.

Our Egg Donor

So many of you have asked to know more about our egg donor that I thought I’d indulge your curiosity.  I double-checked with the clinic, and confirmed that it is okay to share some highlights with you.  (If you are looking for a great way to procrastinate, you can see everything we know about her, including her childhood photos, by going to GIVF’s donor database and looking up donor #1021.  I’m not even going to include a link but it’s pretty easy to find.)  The only things we are not allowed to share with you (or even with our family) are her adult photos.  We are also not allowed to attempt to identify or to contact her, so if by some crazy coincidence, this person sounds familiar to you, please just don’t tell me.  This woman gave me the chance to have another child and the last thing I want to do is to put her anonymity at risk.

As I’ve said before, we picked our donor based on five main factors:

  • She was Caucasian
  • She was available
  • She had a good history of producing many eggs
  • She was not shorter than 5’3″
  • We liked her photos

But here are some other interesting things about her:

  • She is 29 years old. (I did prefer someone in her twenties.  The clinic allows donors up to age 35, but fertility rates already start declining by that age, so I think that’s risky.)
  • She is a police officer and plans to go to law school (I really have a thing for lawyers, I guess).
  • She is 100% Italian, although I assume she was born in the U.S.
  • She is 5’5″ tall, weighs 120 pounds, and is athletic.
  • She has brown hair and large, wide-set brown eyes. (We really wanted a blonde, and there were a couple that looked remarkably like me, but they didn’t work for one reason or another.)
  • Her adult photos remind me of my best friend from childhood which is the main reason I liked her photos so much (yes, that’s you, Stace!).
  • She has 20/20 vision.  Now that’s a nice genetic gift!
  • She comes from what I guess you’d call a “blue-collar” background.  (I hate that term, but I don’t know a better one.)  Her father and many of her male relatives work in construction and she is the first in her family to finish college, unless you count two of her aunts.  (Yes, they collect information on her aunts’ and uncles’ educational levels – crazy!)
  • She loves dogs.
  • She lists “reading” as one of her interests.  I still don’t think genetics are relevant here, but that’s a nice thing to see.
  • She claims she can eat anything and not gain weight.  Of course, she is 29, but still.

I’m obsessing about these details much more now than I did during the selection process.  I wonder about her, and I go back to her photos often just to imprint her face on my psyche.  I figure that I should get familiar with her face so that if one or two of these embryos make it, I won’t be shocked at the stranger that comes out of my body.  But when Sam came out of my body, she was completely foreign to me.  She didn’t look anything like what I had expected.  (Read this beautiful musing about prenatal versus postpartum bonding if you want to know what I mean in a way that I can’t express nearly as well.)  So I suppose it’s silly, but that’s where I’m at right now.  And I suppose I wrote this today, not just to satisfy your curiosity, but to satisfy my own need to share yet another important part of this whole process.

Over Christmas we converted Family Movie Night into Christmas Movie Fest. We mostly watched the stuff you can record off the TV: the claymation shorts and Frosty and Mickey’s Christmas and things like that.  As always, mine and Adam’s favorite was The Grinch.  Sam seems to be in love with Frosty.  We watched that three times.

This past weekend, we got back into our habit and watched Toy Story.  I felt the same way about it that I did when it first came out – it was okay.  Usually I like a movie with a conflict between two good guys, but in this case, I wanted Woody to be good and Buzz Lightyear to be bad.  I’m not sure why, but I just can’t get over that.  Sam liked it, and she’s been drawing rocket ships ever since.

Another movie we’ve been watching a lot of is the documentary, Babies.  First, I watched it on my iPad.  Then I put it on for Sam to keep her busy for a few minutes.  She was fascinated.  So we’ve been watching bits of it here and there for a couple of weeks now.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s a great rental.  There is no narration – just scenes of four babies as they grow from birth to about one year old.  One is from Mongolia, one from Africa, one from Tokyo, and one from San Francisco.  The scenes are juxtaposed so that you can observe the differences in the cultures and also, the similarities in the babies.  I enjoyed seeing the difference between the African mom (I liked her) and the Mongolian mom (I hated her).  I also enjoyed seeing the African baby chewing on an animal bone that was lying in the dirt and then seeing the American parents using a lint roller to remove any possible particles of dirt from their baby.  Hilarious!  Now, whenever Sam does something gross, Adam says, “bones” and I chill out.  But all the babies made the “mama” sound, they all put things in their mouths, and they all learned to walk.  I see new things in this movie every time I watch it, and I think its a great one for kids, too.

We Did It!

Nine days ago doctors put two embryos in me and today, I’m four weeks pregnant!  Ah, the miracles of science – they can even warp time.

We did it!  You probably saw my home pregnancy test result two days ago, but today it is official.  The donor egg process worked!  We are now in the same place as any twenty-something couple who gets pregnant (since the eggs are from a twenty-something).  That is, we have a 90 – 95% chance of having a baby.

But no matter how good the statistics are, Adam and I can’t feel anything but a little relief that we made it past the next step.  It is just burned into our psychologies that pregnancy equals death.  Our minds can get over that, to a certain extent, but not all the way.  So I feel glad, but not elated or excited. Adam’s reaction shows how it is for both of us:  I took the home pregnancy test while he was still sleeping.  I woke him up to tell him I was taking the test and he said, “uh-huh” and went back to sleep.  Then I woke him up with “I’m pregnant,” and I think he said, “good.”  Then I made him open his eyes to look at the test stick.  He barely got them open, he grunted, and he went back to sleep.

But I am happy to know that my beta level is very high for how far along I am (and yes, I am considered four weeks pregnant in the crazy dating-scheme that the obstetrical profession has developed).  For those in-the-know, it is a dazzling 363.  The doctors look for 50-100 at this point to determine pregnancy.  No wonder I was able to get a positive on the home test two days ago – this pregnancy is just rockin’ right now!  This makes it feel a bit more real.  In fact, it makes Adam and I think we’re having twins, and that level of beta hCG does indicate that twins are a realistic possibility.  Well, then.

I have virtually no pregnancy symptoms, as usual.  A few days ago I did have a ligament pain in my abdomen that is associated with pregnancy, and I’m tired, but that’s about it.  I don’t even have the ravenous hunger yet, but I’m looking forward to that.

We’ve conquered the evil progesterone injection problem – I switched to a different oil medium and a lower concentration of progesterone.  We now have to do shots twice a day, but the pain is so much less.  I can definitely handle this for another month.

I’ll have another beta test one week from now, to make sure the levels are increasing appropriately.  Then, on February 8, I’ll have my first ultrasound. I’ll only be seven weeks along by then, and I’ve lost pregnancies a little later than that, so a good result still won’t make me comfortable.  But it will make the doctors at the infertility clinic comfortable, and they’ll release me to my ob-gyn.  I’m going to demand another ultrasound a couple of weeks later, even if my insurance doesn’t cover it.  If we make it that far, I might break out the baby name books.

Today, I had to prove to Sam that I was not hurting the cat when I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and that, yes, it is different than when she pinches him. Thank you, YouTube, for giving me instant access to videos of momma cats carrying their young, because when I explained it to Sam, she simply did not believe me. And that is today’s Little Thing: Sam no longer believes everything I say. You go, girl!

We had alphabet tater tots (yes, they make such a thing!) for dinner, and Sam had the letters S, B, O and O.  She put them together and sounded out: SOOB.  ”What’s soob, mommy?”  ”It’s a nonsense word – you just made it up – but you sounded it out just right.”

Then she ate one of the Os and I told her I saw a real word she could make (thinking of “sob”).  She put together BOS and said with the pride of reading in her voice: “Boss.  Just like when I boss you around!”

************************************

Adam’s phone made it’s low-battery chirp and I looked around in confusion. Taking the phone out of his back pocket, he said, “That was me.”  Sam said, “No it was not.  That was your phone.”

So, besides all of this donor egg stuff, there have been lots of other things going on in my life over the past two weeks or so.  Let’s see if I can summarize:

  • I booked our hotels for Rome and Florence in April.  WE ARE GOING TO ITALY!  I can hardly believe it, I’m so excited.  I hope to write another update about my planning soon.
  • We’ve turned our cat into an indoor/outdoor cat.  I have a great story about how he fell into the drainage sewer.
  • My dishwasher broke again a couple of weeks ago, and we just got it repaired yesterday.  We definitely got a lemon when we bought it a year ago, but it’s pretty much been rebuilt now.  Going a few weeks without a dishwasher over the past few months really makes me appreciate technology.  What an amazing, wonderful world we live in!
  • Our six-month-old coffee maker hadn’t been working right for months and I finally got around to calling Bed, Bath, and Beyond about it.  It was still under warranty, but they exchanged it with no questions asked.  I figured I’d have to send it to the manufacturer myself or something.  That was a wonderful surprise.
  • Adam has grown a beard.  He had one when I met him, but I asked him to shave it off.  He looks good in a beard, but I’m not a big fan of them, generally.  However, I kind of like it this time around.  Change can be kind of sexy.
  • We paid off our second mortgage and refinanced our house.  We actually started off with three loans because Adam’s parents lent us the money for the down payment.  But after paying off two of the loans and the refinance, our monthly payment is reduced by just around $1000.  We have an extra grand every month.  Wow!
  • I signed up for a creative writing class at the local community college which starts next week.
  • We completed our 2010 Adventure Box.  2010 was not a great year for us.  I guess the best part was that Adam got tenure.  OCON was also a big highlight.
  • When we took down the Christmas decorations, Sam was so disappointed (and so were Adam and I!) that we decided that we’re going to start a new tradition of putting up snowmen decorations for the rest of the winter after Christmas.  January and February are really the most drab months of the year, and the Christmas let-down doesn’t help.  Let’s keep the cheer going until spring, when nature will provide the delight.
  • We saw a nice performance of The Nutcracker (but it wasn’t a ballet – more like a fancy puppet show with singing and dancing).  Sam seems to really love live performances.
  • Speaking of live performances, we’ll be seeing Mary Poppins during our trip to Manhattan in a couple of weeks.  It will be only my second Broadway show, and Sam’s first.  I’m really looking forward to it.
  • We tried to take Sam to an elaborate ice-sculpture exhibit (so elaborate that they charged $25 each for tickets!) but she got so scared she wouldn’t go in.  I know another mother who physically forced her sobbing, scared three-year-old to go in and I got all judgmental about what a bad mother she was, but then I realized that she has more than one child, and that makes things not quite so clear-cut.  The other child might have missed out if they hadn’t all gone in.  Maybe I’ll have to deal with those issues someday.
  • My slacker-mom tendencies have resulted in Sam getting a staph infection on her bottom.  And I had to suffer the embarrassment of the doctor telling us we should bathe her more often.  Okay, so I wasn’t really embarrassed.  I actually found the whole thing quite funny, except for the infection part.
  • Adam and I had a nice adult night out at a party just after Christmas.
  • I sent my spit into a company who will analyze my DNA.  I’ll get the results in a couple of months. Fun!

That’s all I can think of for now.  It’s been a very busy time, but mostly good.  I have high hopes for 2011.

1000

I just noticed that yesterday’s post was my 1000th post!  And what a good one it was.  I have cemented that experience into my memory forever.  I’ve found the themes that ran through my experience, which give it it’s meaning.  It’s writing posts like that that keeps me blogging, even when I look at my tiny readership statistics and think, “why bother?” as all we bloggers do.

The Transfer

The embryo transfer was a breeze, and in many ways, an enjoyable, exciting experience.  We arrived early, but were shown in right away.  When the receptionist pulled my file, I noticed two other files in the stack with the same green sticker on them, which makes me wonder if they did three transfers that day.  I really have no idea what kind of volume this clinic does, but it makes me curious to find out.

We were shown into a comfortable consultation room.  (Last time we sat in one of those rooms, we had just found out that I had had my fourth miscarriage. Wow, how differently we felt this time.)  A nurse gave me my instructions, which were basically, “keep taking your meds and stay in bed for the rest of the day.”  She told me, “one pillow is fine, and you can get up to eat and go to the bathroom, but otherwise, you need to be horizontal.”  I was surprised.  I figured I’d at least be allowed to kind of recline in bed.  When I later asked my doctor about why bed rest was required (“do I really need to worry about gravity?”), he said, “Oh, no good reason.  We’re just being conservative.  There are no studies about it so we err on the side of caution.  But we used to order two weeks of bed rest and it’s slowly gone down with no ill effects.”  Two weeks! I have to say, a half day was torture.  Of course, that was mainly because I was in tremendous pain (which is worst lying down) from those damn progesterone shots. I ended up sobbing (the hormones also have me in a continuous state of near-emotional-meltdown) and having to ask Adam for a tissue and whining, “I can’t even get myself a tissue!”  Staying in bed all day by choice on occasion is fun.  This was not fun.

So back to our cozy consultation room. After the nurse spoke to us, she asked us to go in to the ultrasound room so they could check to make sure my bladder was full enough.  (A full bladder helps with the ultrasound, so I had guzzled 4 glasses of water an hour earlier.)  I knew we were supposed to meet with the doctor before the procedure, so I asked if we would come back to the comfy room or if he was going to meet us in the u/s room.  She didn’t have a clear answer, so I told her I did not want to meet with the doctor in that dark little room (which is filled with unpleasant memories for me), half-naked with my cold, bare feet hanging off the table.  I wanted to stay put.  She said that was fine.  I’m very proud of myself for thinking of this and being assertive enough to ask for it.  I have a bad habit of being completely obsequious with doctors, but I’m learning to conquer it now that I’m actually paying them directly instead of through insurance.

Now, the main thing that we needed to discuss with the doctor was the status of the embryos and how many we would transfer.  But when he came in and asked, “How are you doing?”  I answered, “Nervous,” but Adam said, “She’s in pain from those shots.”  So we somehow ended up talking to him for at least five minutes about the shots before we got the great news about having at least two viable embryos.  I can’t believe we didn’t pounce on him about that first.  I mean, everything depended on that, and it was completely uncertain until that morning.  I guess that shows you how horrible these shots really are.

So, as previously reported, we found out that we had three mature blastocysts, two early blastocysts, and one morula.  I’m still flying high on our luck with this!  We decided to transfer the standard two.  The RE told us that the others would need to be watched until the next day to see if any were viable for freezing.  I figured that we might get one.  In the end, we found out the next day that two continued to develop well, and now we have two frozen embryos just in case.  What a wonderful feeling, to have that in the back of my mind!  Although, at this point, the main reason I’m desperate for this attempt at pregnancy to work is that I never want to have to do these injections again!  Anyway, the doctor then told us that he would inform the lab to prepare the two best embryos, we signed some release forms, and we went into the ultrasound room.

When the doctor came in, there was some setting up of equipment and getting me positioned and ready.  (I was extremely relieved that my bladder was plenty full and yet I wasn’t dying to use the bathroom.  I’ve learned exactly how to time these things!)  At some point, somebody, I think the ultrasound technician, opened a little door in the wall – it looked just like a dumbwaiter door.  I had noticed this door on previous visits, but didn’t think much about it.  (I’ve been in the u/s rooms at this clinic six times now and have spent some time looking around. Oh, and I thought you should know:  I counted them up, and I’ve had twenty ultrasounds. Twenty.)  But I realized now that there really was something behind the door.  The tech was talking to someone back there.  And then my doctor said, “That’s our lab behind that door.”  I said, “Ah, so that’s where our little embryos have been cooking for the past five days.”  Awesome! I was really excited by that, for some reason.  I guess it was nice to know the concrete place where all this science takes place.  Then the doctor and some mysterious, half-visible figure behind the door began to exchange some formal communication – something along the lines of:

“Prepare embryos for Amy Mossoff.”

“Two embryos for Amy Mossoff.”

“Two embryos, check.”

“Roger, that.”

“Ten-four.”

Well, it was something like that.  I again pleased myself by having enough sense of humor at that moment to say, “It’s like a fast food restaurant.  Order up!”

I suppose I won’t give you the gritty details of the procedure itself.  You can look it up on the cloud if you’re interested.  But the cool part was that we could see, on the ultrasound monitor, the little tube that was inserted, and we could see two little blobs of white escaping the tube and landing somewhere inside me.  We saw it!  Again, awesome!

But then I wondered, and asked the doctor, “how big are those things now?”  He said they were still microscopic. What we saw on the monitor was the air and liquid surrounding them.  But you could see two separate masses.  The technician clicked the mouse and put two little arrows on the screen, pointing to them.  I don’t think I took my eyes off of those arrows until the screen saver came on a few minutes later.

Then it was done and I had to lay on my back for fifteen minutes.  I don’t remember feeling any pain from the injections that whole time.  The doctor handed us something before he left the room.  It was a photo of our embryos:

Aren’t they beautiful?

Here’s hoping that all my future experiences in ultrasound rooms are as wonderful as this one.

Catch Up Day

I know I promised a report on the transfer procedure today, but I’m going to be way too busy with errands and household chores.  I haven’t been planning well, and we’re running out of food in the house, there is a lot of laundry to do, and I have to go to the pharmacy (where I seem to have to go every other day).  It’s going to snow here this afternoon so I anticipate a snow day tomorrow.  This town shuts down if there’s more than an inch, so I’d better get going.

Day 5

This will have to be short because apparently, bed rest really means lying horizontally. So I’m craning my neck and typing this on my iPad.

Am I killing you with the suspense yet?

(Adam got me the iPad for Christmas; isn’t he sweet?)

Ok, ok.

It’s great news! We transferred two good-looking blastocysts. I’ll write about the procedure itself tomorrow because it was pretty cool. But the important thing is that all six embryos were still growing. Three were blastocysts, two were early blastocysts, and one was a Morula, which is a stage just prior to blastocyst. We didn’t get grades for them, but we obviously transferred the two best ones, according to the embryologist’s judgment. Wer’re hoping to freeze at least one more, but it is up to the embryologist to determine which are viable, and he’ll do that this afternoon or tomorrow morning. I’m a little peeved that we don’t get to be involved in that decision, but the clinic does it to prevent wasting everyone’s time and resources with embryos that are highly unlikely to make it.

But we have our two chances. Everything is on track. Now we have a 70% chance of getting pregnant. Whew! All of this, just for 70%.

I’ll write more tomorrow.

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