Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! and Happy V-Day to us!

On Wednesday the 30th we had our appointment for a growth scan and another check of my cervix.
The good news:
The boys are both measuring well, estimated at about 1.5 lbs each. The OB seemed pleased with this, and I was, too.
The bad news:
My cervix is still short. I had fantasized that it would have lengthened in its time off, but apparently not. The OB I saw did not seem overly concerned given its fluctuation over the course of the ultrasound, but of course my bedrest continues. He said to come back in two weeks for another cervical check.

I also received my first shot of steroids at the OB's; Eric gave me the second shot this morning. He is an old pro from my IVF cycle. I told him he should be a nurse in his next life, he gets that needle right in there and no pain, nothing. I have had experience with doctors and nurses who are so much worse! I hope that these shots do their job. I read somewhere that steroid shots are most effective in the two weeks after they are given, and I'm not sure what that means, exactly. Will my boys' lungs become less mature after two weeks? That doesn't make sense... In any case, I am hoping we have weeks and weeks to go and won't have to investigate further.

Wednesday night I began having more frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions a little after 6 pm. I started timing them and they were coming about 20 minutes apart, at one point two were 30 minutes apart, then 25... This is not normal for me. I am accustomed to having a few a day, generally hours apart. So I decided to just call the doctor. I would rather have the OB paged for nothing than ignore something serious. He called me back almost immediately and discussed my contractions. He said:

1) In a twin pregnancy, it is normal to get up to 6 BH in an hour
2) Contractions are more frequent from 6-10 pm at night
3) Steroids increase contractions! Now, wouldn't it have been nice if someone would have let me know that beforehand?

In any case, he assured me that I was fine, and said that I should come in next week for another cervical check for my own reassurance. I do hope it is for my peace of mind and not because he thinks that I am in big trouble... But I like the structure of weekly appointments, in the meantime I tend to just sit here and dwell and worry.

I went to bed early, hoping to just feel better and less worried in the morning. Today I am 24 weeks, which is considered the point at which a baby would be viable outside the womb. Now, the survival rate is still only about 50-60% for babies of our boys' size, so that is not impressive. And it comes with a whole host of long-term problems that no one wants to think about. Regardless, it is a pregnancy milestone, and when I was first pregnant, it was something that seemed so far off I couldn't fathom it. I am happy to be here, and sincerely hopeful that I have many more weeks left of pregnancy.

I feel the babies move frequently, which is nice. Although I feel A a lot more than B... Well, as long as things are moving in there, it relieves some of my anxiety about their well-being. Eric has yet to feel them from the outside. The few times he's been around and they've been going crazy, they stop completely the second he puts his hand on my belly. I hope he gets a chance to feel it soon, because I think he'll find it very exciting!

You can see in my belly picture that I am growing. I think I actually look better than in that photo. In that photo I look like boobs and a belly with a tiny head on top... I swear I'm in better proportion than that! Or maybe not, which means it is good news that I don't go out in public anymore.

Happy New Year! More to come about our guests and celebration.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

the good, the bad, and the ugly: 23w5d

The Good:
I have had many wonderful visits, and had people doing me all kinds of favors. I think I'm getting spoiled! On Sunday my friend Alex came over and brought me lunch. We sat and gossiped, which is normal for us, we can gossip for hours. When she arrived, my sister and mom were here and Alex said she had found some great bargains at Banana Republic, so my sister and mom dashed off to spend their money, too. I am totally jealous that I can't be shopping and buying stylish clothes on the cheap, but since I don't know when I'll next fit into my stylish clothes, I see no reason to spend the money. Alex left to run more errands (Christmas returns, mostly). After she left I had a nap, and then my friend Jenny and her husband Chris came over. Jenny and Chris live in Amherst, MA, so it is exciting to see them when they're here; we visited them around Labor Day but goodness knows when we'll next make it back to their place!

Jenny helped me open a registry at Babies R Us, but we were quickly interrupted when my mom, sister, and dad showed up with dinner. Mom and Elana had made Banh Mi from the January Bon Appetit, and they were so good! I had company almost until bedtime, which made the day fly by.

On Monday, a friend from graduate school came to visit. She came with lunch for me, including homemade Christmas cookies, and she can bake! We spent hours catching up and when she left around 4, I needed my nap (yes, my sleep schedule is screwed up).

Today my friend Molly came over in the morning. She came to help me register. Thank you, Molly! We put so many things on the registry, and without her I would have been lost. Registering online is overwhelming (as I assume it would be in the store, too), but since I have no idea what babies actually end up using/needing versus what is a scam for BRU to make money, I needed some pointers. I now have a good start to a registry, I even registered for car seats and a Double Snap n Go. I cannot wait to have my two little ones (ok, I mean, I can wait for them to be fully baked!) in that stroller and go out for walks.

Right after Molly left, my mom showed up and she took my shopping list and went out to run errands for me. She went to the library and got me 5 trashy novels, to Trader Joe's, and to Genuardi's to buy groceries for us and for New Year's Eve, when we are making dinner for 8.

So, I have had numerous visitors and favors and gifts of food, and I am so thankful for all of it. It makes the days fly by, which is good, because tomorrow is a big day! Growth scan and first steroid shot. My first goal, only about 15 hours away. Also, I got permission to go to my aunt and uncle's house for dinner tonight-- my first time out of this house since December 18th! I can't wait.

The Bad:
I have off-and-on pangs of sadness and feelings of loss for all the things I won't get with this pregnancy. I am sad not to just be able to take simple pleasure in feeling my boys kick or watching my belly grow, and I am sad that I have to register at home, rather than get to wander the store and ooh and ahh over all the tiny baby stuff. I also wish I had the opportunity to go out and show off my big belly. I know some women complain about strangers saying annoying things, or touching their belly without asking, but I would give anything for that, since it would mean that I got to be out of the house! I want to be out and have people ask when I'm due, and give me undesired advice, or share their scary and disgusting labor stories. I wouldn't care, because it would mean I got to share my pregnancy with other people.

The Ugly:
I feel like my belly is growing like crazy. I don't weigh myself, and especially now that I can't even get little bits of exercise, I can't worry about weight gain. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I don't recognize what I see! Between my belly and my breasts, all I can see is my head on someone else's body. Sometimes I look at myself from behind just to see something familiar. I am glad that my belly is growing, since that hopefully means the boys are also growing. I am still comfortable, probably because I get to spend the whole day in positions that are comfortable to me. But I have to say, between my changing body and the fact that I live in loungewear because I'm housebound, I don't feel like the sexy young thing I often do.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

23w2d: some people get to leave this prison...

Today Eric left the house. He went to see Avatar with my friend Shoshana and her boyfriend at a movie theater pretty far away from our house. Altogether, he'll probably be gone for an entire 5 hours! This is the longest he's been out since I got the bedrest sentence. He certainly deserves it after all he's been doing for me. But I have to admit that I am pretty jealous. There are a lot of movies out right now or coming out that I'd love to see, like Up in the Air, It's Complicated, and the new Sherlock Holmes movie. Or, maybe I would go do some shopping, or window shopping.

I slept really badly last night. I had about 3-4 oz. of Coke sometime around 4 or 5, so maybe it was the caffeine? But I did not feel especially tired, and was reading a book in bed, waiting to get sleepy. Eric, being his usual self, fell asleep within about 30 seconds. He then proceeded to snore regardless of what position he was in. So every 5 minutes or so, I would reach around and poke or prod or push him to try to get him to stop. Finally I woke him up and said, "I can't sleep!" He offered to go sleep in the guest room. I couldn't decide if I wanted him to go so I could just toss and turn by myself, or if I wanted him to stay because I always like having him in bed with me. It is a bit cramped in there, especially since we now have 3-4 cats on the bed, but it feels so cozy... He got out of bed and was standing there, half asleep with his hair all rumpled, and this confused look on his face, in his underwear (no p.j.'s for him!) asking "Do you want me to go to to the other room? Tell me now!" He looked so cute that I couldn't banish him. So he got back in bed and went back to sleep, and no more snoring. Eventually I did fall asleep, but not for a while, and then I woke up around 7:30 and couldn't sleep anymore.

Last night we had a lovely Christmas dinner with my sister. They did the cooking, I did some chopping from a nearby chair. We had a roast leg of lamb, roasted vegetables, risotto with peas, and challah (since it was Shabbat as well as Christmas). For dessert we had chocolate-orange cake. So good! Below is Eric's assembled dinner plate.
The lamb is:

Below is the cake:
It is from Bon Appetit, the December 2009 issue.
We skipped the orange compote and put vanilla ice cream on top.

So, it may not have been our traditional Christmas, but it sure did taste good!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day (23w1d)

Here is our one, and only ever, Christmas tree. We're trying to observe some of Eric's family traditions since he can't be with his family. It certainly has been nice to look at while I'm marooned on the couch! The gifts below it are things Eric's family sent FedEx from Maine so that we would have something to open on Christmas morning. We took our time opening gifts, since once I am downstairs I don't go back up for a long time, so I had to shower and dress and then put in my medication, which entails lying down for an hour... We finally got to gifts at about 10, which is probably the latest Eric has ever gone.

We got some lovely and thoughtful gifts. I got some maternity loungewear, which is perfect for the mom-to-be on bedrest, and some kitchen tools that I have been wanting for a long, long time (cookie scoops in the 3 different sizes!). Eric got some nice, warm clothes, which he is excited to have since we keep our house at a moderate 66 degrees.

We also got some pajamas for Babies A and B-- their first Christmas gifts. My mom had given them some adorable onesies for Hannukah last week, so these are going to be some well-dressed cuties. Here is Eric holding up one of the baby pajamas:

We then had a Christmas breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and coffee. We have a nice Christmas dinner planned tonight, my sister and Eric are going to make a roasted leg of lamb, risotto, roasted vegetables, and, because it is Friday night, a challah! And let's not forget that we are having an orange-scented chocolate cake for dessert. I am hoping all this food fattens up the babies! They have their growth scan on Wednesday and the fatter they are, the better their prospects at life if they make an early appearance.

Here is my belly this morning at 23 weeks, 1 day:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

22w6d: feeling scared

One week from today is our next ultrasound (or at least I hope so, since I don't have an actual appointment and was just told to "show up"). We'll check the babies' growth, fluid, and of course my cervix. Right after the appointment I'll get part 1 of round 1 of steroids. I feel as though once that happens, we will have cleared 1 big hurdle. Granted, there are many more to clear, but 1 at a time!

But today I feel scared because although at one point in my life 1 week was a short period of time, something that would fly by (especially when it was the week before a paper was due in school!), it now feels like each one of these days will drag on. 7 days in which something could go wrong and our boys will be lost. I know that is such a grim way to think, but today I am afraid. I talk to my belly every day, telling the boys to stay put and keep up the good work.

Just before I found out about the cervical problems, I went for a walk on the treadmill. Yes, I was more tired than I used to be, but I still felt full of energy. I thought to myself, "I would love to be pregnant again, I feel so good!" And I really have had an easy pregnancy, with very few symptoms and mostly general feelings of well-being and happiness. I have a tendency to get depressed, particularly in the winter, and this year that didn't happen at all. So I thought, "this pregnancy thing is so wonderful!" Now I feel as though my body has let me down again. I felt this way while going through fertility treatments, and now some of those feelings have returned. I would say they're more mild, because I know part of the complication is that I am carrying two and not one, and another possible complication is my previous Leep surgery on my cervix. So perhaps under better circumstances this would not have happened.

But now I am spending a lot of time alone and I have time to think, especially in the mornings and right before bed. I start to analyze every twinge and tightening of my uterus. I just spent the past 20 minutes googling "Braxton Hicks" contractions, since I've been having some. They are totally random and unpredictable, although last night after dinner I began having them every time I sneezed, laughed, or turned over in bed. I had been doing well earlier in the day, when I had had maybe 2 over the course of the day. This morning I've had another few, and am just hoping that drinking water and staying still can keep them away, which is not always effective. Ugh. The nurse at the OB's office says as long as they stay random and not painful that I shouldn't worry, but come on! Of course I'm worrying!

I am hoping that over the holidays, visits from my sister and some friends will distract me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

22w5d: here come the holidays

Today we were supposed to be arriving at my in-laws' house in Maine. I am Jewish, as is the rest of my family, and my parents leave town the week of Christmas every year, so Christmas with my family is pretty meaningless. When Eric and I married, we decided that we would spend every Thanksgiving with my family, since that is our biggest holiday, and every Christmas with his family.

I always look forward to Christmas with my in-laws. We get to see family we see only once a year, we eat a lot (and I love to eat), and my in-laws' house is always so welcoming. My mother-in-law decorates for the holiday, and there are all kinds of treats and candy all over the house. My sister-in-law comes over with my nieces, who are adorable and sweet, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and I sit around and snack and girl-talk endlessly. We watch movies by the fireplace. My in-laws spoil me rotten with gifts. I am someone who loves tradition, and have quickly fallen into their traditions.

Instead, my mother-in-law is cooking without me, and I am sitting home alone. It doesn't feel like much of a holiday, although we are trying. Once we knew we were staying for the holiday, we got a Christmas tree. Originally, we had decided to not have a tree-- we have a Jewish home, and my interpretation of that is that a Jewish home doesn't get a Christmas tree. But, Eric isn't Jewish, and with all that's going on, i thought it would be nice to have something cheery. He went with my sister and picked out a beautiful tree. My mother-in-law shipped our gifts, so soon we should have colorful gifts under the tree. And my sister is coming to town, so soon we will have family with us. I want to have a big breakfast Christmas morning, and we will have leg of lamb Christmas night. I also want my sister to bake lots of things so that we can have some desserts... but not so many that I eat like crazy and put on too much weight!

I am so sad not to be seeing my nieces. We won't see them until July (and then only if the babies are in good health and we can travel), and that will be an entire year between visits. Kids grow so quickly, I am sure they will have changed a great deal between our visits. They are so sweet and adorable. I hope they like the gifts I got for them!

Eric's grandparents sent me a fruit basket today. It is filled with all kinds of fruits, some cookies and crackers, and cheese. I love fruit, so this is perfect for me! I can't wait to eat it.

In any case, it is easy to forget a holiday is coming. I wouldn't say I am bored or restless at this point. I watch lots of TV, including constant Law & Order reruns. The highlight of my day is from 11 to 1, when the old 90210 reruns come on SoapNet. I loved that show back in the day, and it is so fun to watch it over again. Thanks to my lousy memory, I don't remember most of what happened so it's like new again!

Hopefully tomorrow will bring our boxes of gifts, and tomorrow night, my sister. We have a full house as it is-- my parents' two cats are staying with us. They are incredibly affectionate and make bedrest more fun, as I have an almost constant furry companion. This post comes with a picture of their cat, Ian, after he climbed the Christmas tree.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

22w3d. My IVF story

We had a lot of conflict over when my IVF would start; part of me wanted to start as soon as possible, the other part of me wanted to wait until July when I knew I had nothing else to do. I was a bridesmaid in a good friend's wedding in mid-June, so if I started medications immediately after returning from Italy, I would likely have to miss part of her wedding. Waiting one month was not a big deal to me, but missing her wedding would be, so the choice was made: July. Of course, the clinic closes for part of July so that people can vacation, so I was put on birth control and took my last pill July 12. July 16 I came in for an ultrasound, I was ready to start my stimulating injections.

I did 12 nights of injections (they say the average is 10), and then Eric gave me my trigger shot. I had very few side effects to the medications and generally felt wonderful throughout the cycle. I walked for exercise everyday. The day after my retrieval, we went to dinner at a friend of the family's, and everyone there was surprised at how healthy I looked-- no acne, no real bloating. And I felt great, it felt like the medications hadn't taken a toll on me at all.

Five days later, we went for our embryo transfer. I dressed really nicely and wore cute panties, just as I would have if Eric and I had been out for a date and headed home to have sex and make a baby the old-fashioned way. The RE told us that we had two perfect embryos and he recommended transferring both. Eric and I had already discussed this together and said we would transfer 2 and no more, so we said, ok, make it two! Odds of IVF working at all were about 50 to 60%, so what could the odds be of BOTH sticking? I went home and spent the rest of the day, and the next, in bed.

Again, I felt great. About a week later we left for vacation in California, which distracted me from wondering about whether I was pregnant. And then while we were away one of our beloved cats, Trouble, went missing. For two days I thought only about Trouble and had no time to even worry about whether I was pregnant. Then, on Monday, August 17, Trouble came home. I cried with relief! I also went and had blood taken to find out if I was pregnant.

I called the clinic around 11 AM California time and was told there was good news-- I was pregnant! My numbers were nice and strong. I couldn't believe it! I didn't feel pregnant, but if they said so... For the next few days, I woke up every morning reminding myself, "I'm pregnant today!" Hard to believe now that it was 4 months ago that I found out.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 2: 22 weeks, 2 days

I was told yesterday that I will have to remain on bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I've always been a busy person, and so everyone's first question has been, "What will you DO with all that time?!?" I am still not totally sure, but I thought since I'll be spending many hours with my computer nearby, I could keep track of what I hope will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.

So far none of this journey to have our family has gone as anticipated. In June of 2008, Eric and I had a discussion that we were ready to start a family. I wanted to try for the first time in either September or October of 2008, to ensure that I could make it through my final year of graduate school before delivering. Out went the birth control pills, and I began charting, using "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" as my guide. I dutifully took my temperature every morning, and we used condoms as a back-up method. July came and went, and I did not have a period, and it appeared I wasn't ovulating, either. By mid-August, I was worried. Everyone around me said, "Don't worry, it takes time after coming off the pill!" I called my gynecologist anyway. She started having me get bloodwork done at 2-week intervals. By mid-September, she had no idea what was happening. She asked that I take Provera for 10 days to see if it could induce a period and get my system going. One week after stopping, no period. More bloodwork, still inconclusive. My gynecologist threw in the towel and referred me out to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE).

I saw two different RE's in 2 days. Their diagnosis was the same: poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I am still not completely in agreement with the diagnosis given that I lack most of the characteristics of the syndrome, but what it all comes down to is that I wasn't ovulating on my own, and it didn't seem like my body was planning on it anytime soon. They both agreed on the first step-- a round of Clomid to induce ovulation.

I chose the female RE, and the first round went off without a hitch. I took my pills, suffered very few side effects, grew a nice big follicle, had a trigger, had lots of sex (not nearly as fun as that would have sounded before), and then waited. 12 days later, I got my period. I was devastated; knowing very little about fertility treatment I had sincerely believed that all I would need to get pregnant was one egg and well-timed sex. This seemed to really be rubbing in that "infertile" label. What else was wrong with me?

We immediately started round 2, Clomid again, and this time decided to do an IUI, or intrauterine insemination. Essentially, Eric's sperm would be washed and only the strongest would be placed through a catheter into my uterus where they would hopefully meet up with my egg and make an embryo. This cycle was not good: the RE started me on constant monitoring appointments, and it took a long time for the follicle to develop. She moved from the suburbs into the city and I was constantly driving in during rush hour to get monitored. We got a parking ticket, or I paid $10 for parking, I was late to work constantly... And it didn't work. I got my period again right before Christmas 2008. I decided I needed a break, and scheduled an appointment for a month later with the other RE I had seen.

In January of 2009, we met with Dr. Glassner and began treatment again. First the Provera to get my period, then I took a medication called Femara, which is supposed to work like Clomid. Except it didn't. After the 10 days, absolutely nothing had happened and it looked like I had just started my cycle. We decided to start me on much stronger injectible medications, and after a few days I had one big follicle and about 10 smaller ones, so I was quickly given a trigger to ovulate and told the cycle was a "bust" already. And it was. I let it ruin my spring break, a trip to Paris. I spent the whole trip feeling fat and bloated, not able to shop or buy cute French clothes, obsessing over symptoms, crying, and feeling sorry for myself after I got my period.

After this, I went right into another cycle of injectible medications. They started me off on one dose, found I was responding too quickly and dropped the dose, upped it, dropped it... after 2 weeks of this I was ready to trigger and have an IUI. Two weeks later, I was convinced I was pregnant (no period yet), took a pregnancy test, and it was negative. I got my period the next day. I decided to take a little time off (about two weeks) to see if I would start cycling on my own. I didn't. We went to start another cycle, and after about 10 days of injections, I had 20 growing follicles, but almost no lining.

I met with Dr. Glassner and he canceled the cycle. I said, I give up, let's do IVF. I figured IVF was my best bet-- it was obvious that I responded well to the injectible medications, and if we could just go ahead with it we'd have plenty of eggs to fertilize. He agreed that IVF was our best bet, and we said we would begin after I returned from Italy in June.