Tag Archives: family

Back on the Roller Coaster

It has now been two full months, or about 9 weeks, since my (2nd) miscarriage.  I’ve honestly been pretty numb to it all… except the last few days.

It’s a very different experience, having a 1st trimester loss after (1) a previous 2nd trimester loss, and (2) the birth of a living child.  Everyone’s experience of grief is different, and I know that if I hadn’t experienced those two key events in my life, this event would have been much, much harder for me to process.  As it is, I’ve mostly just been able to write it off as bad luck.  This is my 1 in 4 pregnancies that probably had some chromosomal defect that my body rejected.  We’ll move on and try again.  That’s that.

Until the last few days.

I’ve had highly significant ovulation pain every cycle since the birth of my son, so I’ve been able to tell pretty clearly when I’m ovulating.  I knew that I had ovulated about two weeks ago.  But as the days ticked by and my period didn’t arrive, I started feeling that roller coaster of TTC emotions that I remember so well.  It’s like there’s a constant subprocess looping in the back of my brain:

Could I be pregnant?  It’s too early to tell.  I could take a test!  No, that’s a waste of money — if I still don’t have my period by Monday, then I’ll be pretty sure and I can just take the test to confirm.  Let’s google when your period returns after a miscarriage.  Mine sure seems late!  But I think I know when I ovulated, and that was less than two weeks ago.  Let’s google about getting pregnant before you get your period after a miscarriage.  It’s a thing that happens to people!  But it probably won’t happen to me, because we don’t tend to get pregnant easily.  But we did this last time.  But I really shouldn’t get my hopes up.  Chances are I’m not pregnant.  But could I be pregnant?

And repeat, with increasing intensity, for three days.  UGH.

I won’t keep you hanging any longer — I got my period yesterday.  I’m not pregnant.  I didn’t really think I was.  But boy, did I hope!  I was so mad at myself for hoping, too — or really, for caring so much.  It was so nice after my son was born to just not obsess about my cycle endlessly, and I’m annoyed that now I’m back to doing it even though I really don’t want to.  I guess it’s a good thing that I got my period, since it hopefully means my hormones are back to normal (or my body’s best approximation thereof) and now we can really start TTC again in earnest.  But it’s also a reminder of just how much time it’s taken to go through this miscarriage — this is my first period since March.  Four months of lost time, and another lost baby (albeit a very small one).

Well, I knew that getting pregnant again was likely to be a long haul, so it’s good that we started trying early.  And we’re still in the zone of inconvenient timing relative to my tenure clock, so from that perspective it’s OK if this takes another 6 months or so.  Just not much more than that, please.  I’m not sure I can handle the emotional roller coaster for another two years.

Hopefully the approaching onslaught of teaching and advising and committees and meetings will distract me from the TTC roller coaster.  Hopefully I can just turn that subprocess down to a dull roar in the back of my mind while we keep pushing on with our quest for another living child.  Hopefully it won’t eat up too many more years of our lives and hopefully there won’t be too much more disappointment and heartbreak to come.  Hopefully it’ll be a smooth journey and another uneventful pregnancy.  That’s a lot to hope for, but hopefully at least some of my hopes will come to pass.

Talking about Family Planning with Students

Last week the senior faculty member in my department hosted his annual 4th of July barbecue for our department — all the faculty, their families, and all the students who are here doing research for the summer were invited.  It was quite a crew (for a liberal arts college), with 30 or more people hanging out in his backyard, munching hot dogs and (veggie) burgers, and splashing in the pool.  It was a beautiful day with some really great people, and I love that my department is such a welcoming and family-friendly place (this is one of several regular events throughout the year at which partners and children are explicitly encouraged to attend).

I was sitting on the grass with my son on my lap.  He was contemplatively munching on a veggie burger.  We were surrounded by students.  They were commenting on how much he’s grown since the last time they saw him, how long his hair is (it’s in these amazing platinum-blond ringlets right now since we haven’t cut it yet), asking what new things he can do, etc.  Then, one student busted out with “Are you going to have more kids?”

I gave my stock response: “We’ll see!”

Another (perceptive) student said: “It sounds like maybe you say that a lot.”

I laughed and said, “You’re right!  A lot of people are curious.  Almost as much now as when my husband and I first got married and we got lots of questions about when we were going to have kids.”

Another student said, “It’s kind of a personal question, isn’t it?”

I said, “Yes, it’s personal.”

The student who asked in the first place apologized.  I told her I didn’t mind, that I was also very curious about things like that when I was her age.

It was a brief twinge of discomfort in an otherwise lovely day.  I kept turning it over in my head.  I almost wanted to tell them why it was personal — to tell them about the daughter we lost before our son was born, or the fact that I’ve been pregnant three times with only my son to show for it, but I didn’t want to spoil the festive mood.  On the other hand, I feel that we generally do our young people a disservice by being so closed-mouthed about the realities of pregnancy loss and infertility.  I teach my students lots of things, and sometimes they learn from me whether I want them to or not — I know that the students have been keenly interested in my life since I revealed that I was pregnant with S (the students were also keenly interested when I was pregnant with his big sister, although that generation has all graduated by now).  I also know that for all the young women, I am the sole example they have of a female professor in our field, which can feel like a heavy responsibility.  I want them to be encouraged by my example, not daunted.  But I also want to prepare them for challenges they are likely to face.  There were about 8 students sitting with me on the grass during this conversation — odds are that several of them will experience miscarriage sometime in their lives, and probably one of them will experience infertility.  Is it better to prepare them, or to let them find out for themselves?  I made a choice in the moment, a choice that felt right to me at the time, but I could imagine having handled it a different way.

For now, I educated them that asking questions about fertility plans is personal.  I’ll save the conversation about pregnancy loss for another time.

My Blog Title is Apt Again

Well, whaddya know.  I’m pregnant.

It has never taken us less than 8 months to conceive before.  This time, first try.  We are thrilled and a little stunned.  I’ve always been a little skeptical of the stories you read of how people who have experienced infertility/loss often get pregnant quickly after a full-term, healthy pregnancy — I mean, maybe it happens to some people, but I was sure it wouldn’t happen to me.  Well, here I am!

For now, of course.  I know as well as anyone that first trimester miscarriage is a distinct possibility, as are losses at later stages of pregnancy, as are all manner of other health problems (I’m still at elevated risk for ectopic pregnancy and placental abruption, for example).  But for now I’m pregnant, and that’s a very, very good thing.

We’re a little shocked at the timing — I mean, we were trying to get pregnant, obviously, but we just didn’t expect it to happen this quickly.  Of course our minds started jumping to the possible reality of having a new baby join our family in January.  Two under two — yikes!  It would also throw a monkey wrench into my tenure plans (I’d been on track to submit my materials a year and a half from now), but… we’ll deal with that.  Our family is more important than my tenure case, and if I wind up using both my clock extensions and spending nine years on the tenure clock, so be it.

I was also just starting to cut back on pumping at work this week, but for the moment I’m still breastfeeding/pumping four times a day, which is going to start feeling like a lot as I get more pregnant.  But… what if I wean, and then miscarry?  I’ll be mourning the loss of a baby simultaneously to mourning the loss of a wonderful breastfeeding relationship.  I suppose I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing (i.e., weaning from the pump during the day, since I would never mourn the loss of a relationship with my pump!) and see how things go over the next few weeks.  I’ve got a viability scan scheduled for a week from Monday, after which we’ll know a little more (and, if all goes well, I’ll start back on Lovenox).

What a weird and wonderful week it’s been.  Pregnant again.  Holy cow.  Here’s hoping this little bean sticks around!

A Plan

Yesterday I visited my reproductive endocrinologist (RE) for the first time in almost two years(!), and now we officially have A Plan.

I’d originally intended to wait a little longer, but last week I had my annual OBGYN appointment, and of course the fact that we were already trying to conceive came up during my visit.  I mentioned that it was hard to know how long to try on our own before going back to the RE, especially since we don’t know whether things are the same or worse than they were at my abnormal HSG right before we conceived our son two years ago.  I also mentioned that the HSG seems to be helpful, or at least lucky, for us since both times I’ve gotten pregnant before it’s been the cycle after an HSG.  She encouraged me to go back to the RE and talk to her about getting another HSG sooner rather than later — as she said, it won’t hurt (too much), it will give us more information, and it might help!

So after that appointment I called the RE’s office, and they had a cancellation this week so they were able to get me in right away.  Yesterday I made the trek back down (it’s about a half-hour drive — in the smallish college town where I live there are no REs so we have to go to one of the large state hospital systems).  It felt so odd walking into that building again, realizing that I hadn’t been there for two years!  And since it’s National Infertility Awareness Week, they had cupcakes in the waiting room — hey, sucks to be infertile, but here, have a cupcake!  Actually, I thought it was very sweet — they were clearly homemade, and I wondered who among the office staff took the time to bake cupcakes for all their patients.

The RE was very sweet, and excited for us, and positive about our chances of conceiving again.  As expected, she gave me a talk about cutting back on breastfeeding before we start getting serious about intervention.  But she didn’t take as hard a line as I was expecting — she said that once a day was probably OK.  She would have been happy to put in the order for the HSG right away, but she pointed out that to maximize the fertility benefit it might make sense to wait until I’ve cut back on breastfeeding.  I was cool with waiting a few months — as I’ve mentioned, we’re really not desperate to get pregnant immediately.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trying to at least wean off of daytime pumping, since I dislike it so much and I’m not convinced that at this age there’s really any benefit to breastfeeding four times a day as opposed to two.

So, here’s the plan: I’ll slowly (super-slowly, since I’m so prone to clogged ducts!) wean off of pumping during the day over the next ~month, but continue to nurse morning and evening, plus maybe a little extra on weekends or sick days if S asks for it.  I have the order for the HSG whenever I’m ready, which I’m thinking will be around July or so — if he’s still nursing then, I’ll see how I feel about cutting back to one session (probably bedtime, since he’s often impatient with the morning session anyway — too excited to start his day!).

So that means that we’ll keep trying on our own for a few months, then probably do the HSG and my bloodwork mid-summer, then try on our own for a few more months while my husband gets his testing re-done, and then if nothing has happened by mid to late fall, we’ll be ready to escalate.  The timeline I discussed with the RE is that we’d like to be pregnant within about a year, but it’s OK if it’s not immediate, so we’re content to try this for a while.  She’s optimistic about our chances for a spontaneous conception.  I’m happy with the plan, my husband is happy with the plan, and it just feels good to HAVE a plan and know what to expect.

So, we’ll see what happens.  I’m feeling more positive these days about trying again.  And little S is a huge light in my life, making me appreciate so concretely every day how fortunate we are to have him, even as we look towards a hopeful future of perhaps, someday, a family of four here on Earth.

Dragging My Feet on Trying Again

I’m curious whether any of you have ever felt this way.  Before we were pregnant with our daughter, and then again after her death, I was laser-focused on getting pregnant as quickly as possible.  I was temping, I was charting, I was using OPKs, I was doing everything I could to time things properly and maximize chances of conception.  This time around feels… different.

I want another living baby, very much.  Therefore, I want to be pregnant again.  And rationally, I realize it makes sense to start trying now.  It has never been easy for us to get pregnant, and it probably won’t be this time either.  I’m 34, so Advanced Maternal Age is staring me in the face.  If we want another kid, there’s no time like the present, clearly.

But… our son is still so little.  Our breastfeeding relationship is still going strong.  He’s only just started reliably sleeping through the night.  I’m enjoying the mommy-daddy-baby triad and am not eager to upset it with another little one, even though it’s absolutely what we want for all three of us in the longer run.  Starting over with a newborn sounds exhausting.  Being pregnant again sounds exhausting.  Heck, even getting pregnant again sounds exhausting — getting pregnant with my son was an exhausting and heartbreaking almost-2-year-long haul, counting everything we went through with my daughter.   That’s part of what makes me eager to get started sooner rather than later, but it’s also a big part of what’s making me reluctant.  I just can’t imagine going through it all again.

So, I’ve been dragging my feet a bit.  Just last night my husband asked… isn’t this the week?  And I was surprised to realize that it was, and I just hadn’t really been on top of keeping track.  But he’s keeping track, apparently!

Are we really ready to get back on this roller coaster?  I know that another living baby in our family will be more than worth it in the long run.  But it’s been a LONG run to get to where we are now with our son, and it’s daunting to think about going through it all again.  There’s also my tenure clock lurking in the back of my mind.  If all goes as planned, I’ll submit my materials about a year and a half from now.  Another baby between now and then would practically require me to push back that clock.  But since it’s probably going to take us a while, it still makes sense to start now so that ideally our pregnancy will be timed (ha!) so that my due date would be shortly after I submit my materials.  So there’s the gamble about trying to time it so that it’s soon… but not too soon.  But I also fully subscribe to the mantra that there is no good time for a baby, and that the potential pitfalls of waiting too long are far more dire than the pitfalls of moving back my tenure clock a bit… or even than not getting tenure at all.

Maybe it’ll be easier this time.  Maybe we’ll surprise ourselves and get pregnant quickly without intervention (unlikely, but possible).  Maybe I won’t lose another pregnancy.  Maybe the Lovenox will just inject itself every day.  Maybe we’ll get a magical easy newborn (ha).  Right now, it just looks like a lot to handle, and I’m tired (but not newborn tired, thankfully!), and I want to enjoy my son, whom I love to the very depths of my soul and with whom I never feel like I get to spend enough time.  I’m sure this ambivalence is normal.  But I’d love to hear any thoughts about how to get past it.

In other news, S continues to delight.  He’s walking and climbing all over the place these days, and starting to communicate.  No clear words yet, but definitely several expressive gestures that he uses in different contexts (I won’t call them “signs” because they’re not the official ones that I’ve been using with him, but he has clearly developed his own signs — instead of “all done,” for example, he’ll grab the front of his high chair tray with two hands, and just this morning he also did it when he wanted to get out of his jumparoo.  It was very clearly the same communicative gesture in a different context, and it was so cool to see that he is actually putting together the pieces for communicating with other humans!).  He’s big into blocks and wheels and gets delighted whenever he manages to balance a thing on top of another thing.  He’s very snuggly and pretty social and loves to hang out with our friends and family members, or walk outside and just look at the world and touch the bushes and trees.  I simply can’t get enough of him these days!  Having another little one to watch grow up has to be just as great… right?

The First Year

Hard to believe it, but the first year of my son’s life is past.  No longer an infant, he’s officially a toddler.  He decided to take his first four steps on his birthday, and watching him wobble from the kitchen island into my arms was an amazing moment — literally walking towards me, but figuratively taking steps away from his babyhood and into the little boy he is starting to become.

What a year.  It’s been hard, of course… but not as hard as I feared.  Mostly, it’s been amazing and surreal.  I still look at my son every so often and marvel at this little human, this creature who now exists and didn’t before.  This person who grew inside my body.  I wonder what’s going on in his mind.  I wonder what his life will be like as he grows.  I delight in watching him discover the world, discover his new capabilities, discover communication and connection.

He is his own little person, developing his own quirks and preferences.  He snuggles by rubbing his forehead against us (where “us” refers to my husband and me, our dog, his stuffed animals).  We discovered on his birthday that he has a healthy skepticism of helium balloons, which appear to defy all the laws of physics that he has come to know through experience.  All week we’ve watched him come to terms with the unnerving balloon in our living room, first glaring at it while pressed into my shoulder, then eyeing it warily while he played, then gradually moving closer, then touching it and recoiling as it drifted back towards him, then eventually grabbing it and giving it a good shake.  He’s cautious, but becoming an explorer.  Those first steps have been followed by an occasional one or two here or there, but he still prefers the speed and certainty of crawling.  He’s not saying any words yet, but he’s demonstrating that he understands a surprising amount of what we say to him.  He knows who Mama, Dada, Goldie (our dog), and Nana (my mom) are, he knows how to clap his hands (even if we just tell him without showing him), how to shake, how to dance, how to put one block on top of another, how to give us a toy (even if he doesn’t always want to), how to “come here,” how to “go get it,” how to snuggle, and how I ask if he wants to nurse.  He makes his wishes known if he wants us to read a book again, or press the button so that his stuffed elephant will sing again.  He is eating a wider variety of solids, and strongly prefers to finger-feed himself, generally refusing a spoon (unless it’s mommy’s spoon with mommy’s food on it). This week he ate blueberries, kiwis, clementines, quesadillas with beans, cheese, and avocado, polenta, toast with peanut butter, graham crackers with cream cheese, and a ton of fruit and veggie puree.  He is still skeptical of squash and green veggies that are not in pureed form.

My attempt at gentle night weaning has been a rousing success this week — after his birthday, I started nursing him for one minute less each night, and after the night when I fed him for only three minutes on each side, he just… stopped waking up.  Last night was night three of a solid 11-hour night without a feed, and without any fussing that required us to go in to comfort him.  All of a sudden my little guy is sleeping on his own, and it’s glorious.  He seems better rested and is sleeping longer too!  Now if only he’d nap longer than 30 minutes at daycare…

I love this little guy to the moon and back, and can hardly remember life without him.  Sometimes it takes my breath away how much I love him.

And… we are officially trying to have a sibling for him.  That’s probably a subject for a whole other post, but I am fully expecting it to be a long haul.  So we’re getting started now, planning to try on our own for a while before going back to the RE when he’s somewhere around 18 months.  I’m approaching this attempt much more like a marathon than like the furious, desperate sprint to get pregnant as quickly as possible after his sister died.  I just turned 34, so we don’t want to wait forever, but we can afford to take it slowly for a little while.  To be honest, I’m not exactly eager to jump into having two kids right away, even though we know it’s something we want in the longer run.  We’ve just hit our stride with one, and rewinding back to the newborn days looks daunting, to say the least.

In the meantime, we have an amazing little boy to enjoy and to care for, who fills our lives and our hearts to the brim.  We are so fortunate.  What a difference a year makes.

Two and a half years later

I got a phone call about my daughter this week.

It came out of the blue.  Hardly anyone talks about her to me anymore, and all the medical tests and analysis of her short life are long finished — or so I thought.

The call was from Natera, the company that runs the Panorama screening test that checks for common chromosomal abnormalities in the first trimester by isolating cell-free placental DNA from a vial of the mother’s blood (also known as NIPT or NIPS).  We used the test as our primary first-trimester screening in both my pregnancies.  When they called this week, they wanted some more information about the posthumous testing that was performed on my daughter.  When the autopsy was performed, there was so much autolysis that they were unable to definitively identify her sex based on anatomy alone, so the hospital contacted Natera to confirm the sex they had identified chromosomally.  Apparently the hospital also told Natera that we had decided to opt for a microarray analaysis of our daughter’s tissue to determine whether less common chromosomal abnormalities contributed to her death, but they never followed up with Natera to let them know the results.

So, two and a half years after our daughter’s death, Natera called to follow up, and to make sure that the microarray results agreed with their prenatal screening results (they did).  Apparently this confirmation provides valuable verification data for the company.

The woman I communicated with was lovely, and very sensitive.  She expressed sorrow for our loss, and apologized if the inquiry was in any way upsetting.  I didn’t find it upsetting at all, in fact — I like thinking that the data generated by my daughter’s short life might in some small way be helpful for improving the science of non-invasive fetal testing.  It’s one way in which her life has meaning to people beyond our immediate family.  And I am always interested to learn more about scientific fields other than my own; this gave me some insight into the scientific (and commercial) practice of genetic testing.  Even the corporate flavor of the interaction doesn’t bother me too much, since I believe that the development of non-invasive testing is already providing a great benefit to pregnant women as well as their unborn children (since the false-positive rate and the risk to the fetus are significantly lower than many other screening methods), and I’m basically OK with the fact that someone is making money from providing this service.

I did feel a sense of wistfulness about this conversation.  It’s probably the last time I’ll ever get a phone call about my daughter.  It also made me remember some of the other phone calls I have gotten about my daughter.  Some were very upsetting, like the phone call from my primary care doctor’s office the Monday after I delivered our dead baby in the hospital, congratulating me on my pregnancy (some seriously poor communication happened somewhere… I have since switched doctors, for this and other reasons).  Or the phone call from the campus daycare several months after her death, informing us that a spot had opened up for our daughter.  Those were very difficult calls to receive.  But some calls about our daughter were thoughtful and loving.  There were calls from friends and family — and not just immediately after her death (when I wasn’t always up for a whole lot of talking anyway), but weeks and months later.  These days, it’s hard to imagine that a call about my daughter would be upsetting.  Those wounds have been healing for a while now, and while I still miss her terribly and often wonder who she would be today if she had survived, her memory is not painful to me.  My pregnancy with my daughter was a time of extreme joy, hope, and love.  Her death was the most difficult experience of my life.  But my memories of her now are mostly of the experience of being pregnant with her and our hopes for our lives together with her. I love remembering my daughter, even when it also means remembering the pain of her death.

She lives on in our family.  Our son will grow up knowing that he had a sister.  When he was born, one of the most precious items I packed in my hospital bag was the hand-knitted had that the hospital dressed her in when she was born — the only clothing she ever wore.  Because her life was so short, the few reminders that I have — ultrasound photos, the hat, pictures of her after she was born, her hand and footprints, some certificates from the hospital — are all the more precious.  Even though I was surprised by the call this week, it was nice to talk about her for a little while, and to have an opportunity to remember her presence in our lives.