Adventures in making and raising our test-tube babies

Friday, December 19, 2008

I Hate Glucose

We just don't get along. When I see glucose, I run the other way. But not before pouring salt on it and watching it shrivel like a slug. I think glucose has had a terrible effect on our nation's economy and democratic process, and is contributing to the erosion of the Ozone layer.

As you can see, I'm glucose-intolerant.

Or so they tell me. I flunked my 28-week Glucose Tolerance test this week. It may be because I'm in Week 29, or may be because I ate a banana two minutes before I began the test. I found out several days after the test that I was supposed to have fasted for 12 hours before I got tested, but anyone who sees me can see there is nothing fast about me right now. And boy, did I need that banana!

The test is composed of my drinking a sweet orange beverage that tastes like off-brand Kool-Aid, then waiting an hour and having my blood drawn and analyzed. The analysis tells us whether I have gestational diabetes or anemia. Or rather, it tells us whether they can be ruled out. They can't in my case. Maybe because I ate before the test, maybe because I'm really diabetic and/or anemic, and maybe because I'm so intolerant on the subject of glucose. Bellicose on glucose. Belly-cose.

So next week, for Christmas, I am going to take the 3-hour Glucose Tolerance test. I fast, presumably, then have my blood drawn, drink the orange beverage, and have my blood tested every hour after that, for three hours.

And so, just in case it helps the results, I want to say for the record that what I said about glucose up there wasn't true. I love glucose. God knows I love all sugars (in spite of my troubled relationship with lactose). As far as I know, glucose has not affected our country or planet in the ways I listed above, and I do NOT advocate pouring salt on it. Or on slugs.

That's all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Left and Gone Away

The right ankle bone's back, but the left one is still gone. I'm not surprised. "Left" has long been associated with bad things: sinister and gauche both mean "left." Not to mention the "left-leaning" political thing, which some people don't like. I'm left leaning with no apologies. Not only do I believe in the things that Susan Sarandon espouses, but I also have severe scoliosis that tilts me to my left.

I wonder if it was all too much pressure on the left ankle bone. So much so that it left. Something about it just wasn't right.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The leg bone's connected to the --- wha?

My ankle bones are missing.

I discovered it in the shower yesterday morning. I had had them the night before when I went to bed. As I shaved my legs, I sang, "Oh where, oh where have my ankle bones gone? Oh where, oh where can they be?" I took it lightly. I assumed they were still in my bed.

Then I remembered about my ears. They've been burning. Not like I have people talking about me -- though if that's true, it's a whole lot of people at once. No: like I'm a human furnace and my ears are the pilot lights. The day before yesterday at the doctor's office, I got so hot that I told the nurse I was going to take off all my clothes and maybe shave my head. I fanned vigorously at my ears, hoping the fanning motion wasn't increasing my overall body heat.

So now my concern is, maybe my ankle bones got too close to my ears and burned up.

It wouldn't have happened while the ankle bones were still in my body, because I don't really fold up that way any more. I bend at the knees and hips and I can slump my shoulders, but that's it. The threat of vomiting and heartburn prevent me from using what used to be my... oh, man, I've even forgotten what it's called. Um, waste? WAIST. That's it. Yeah. I don't have one of those.

Anyway, if you see my ankle bones I'd be most relieved. I don't need them right away, but maybe in February when the girls are here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Making Triplets

I spend a lot of time during the night -- asleep and not asleep -- working on blog entries. When the morning comes, I find that my genius ideas of the night before don't actually make sense.

For example, two nights ago I composed something in my head about the question of whether pregnancy was good or bad. It all depended on which pillow I was sleeping on, and whether I was sleeping on my right side or left side. Doesn't make a ton of sense, does it? Unless you want to treat it as modern art and "see whatever you want to see."

I did have a couple of coherent dreams in the last week that seem relevant to the blog. In one, I was in my grandmother's living room where all eleven cousins used to pile on the couch for our Cousins Picture. This time, the floor was full of babies, all about six months old, who represented the Next Generation of Second Cousins. There was one set of twins there, and at different times during the dream they represented me and my twin brother (David), my two twin girls, and one baby belonging to me and one to David. Now this seems like something you CAN read into. Each time I looked at them I wanted to find out which one was mine. Even in the case where both babies were "my twins," I still considered one to correspond to David.

In the waking world, the buns and I went to the OB yesterday for a regular check-up. Baby A's heartbeat was in the high 150s per minute, and Baby B's was in the 130s. Both are in the normal range, but they are clearly very different from each other, as the OB noted with amusement. We see this pattern in all our ultrasounds and heartbeat checks: Baby A is frenetic and won't pose nicely for a picture, and Baby B is calm and provides a perfect, docile profile for snapshots. Baby A kicks more than Baby B, though B is catching up. Their size and health are on par with each other, but their behavior is strikingly different.

The personalities that we have read into these little bits of information seem to be parallel to my brother's and my personalities. I'm the wild one. He's the calm one. I'm loud. He's not. I've raced all over the world. He's better at staying in one place.

I have long been aware of my role in the generational cycle, the genetic line, among my women forebears. The connection between my maternal grandmother, my mom, and me has been very strong and obvious. You can see both a subjective and objective progression -- and lots of continuity -- from one life, one lifestyle, to the next. On the other side of the family, as I watched my grandmother's casket lowered into the family plot ten years ago, I imagined her as a young woman standing where I was, watching her own grandmother put into the same earth. Woman to woman to woman, sharing that experience.

Ever since I found out I was having twins, I have found my psyche spending a lot more time on my brother and me -- recreating ourselves in a way that incorporates our spouses, in a way that blurs whose baby/ies really belong/s to whom. Our identities are blurred, the generations are blurred. It gets a little confusing, really.

When David's daughter was born last month, I found I could look at her forever. I wondered about her future, her personality, her life. I made plans for her to grow up with her cousins, who were still hanging out in my belly beneath her. I was surprised at the immediate connection I felt to her. I've thought before that when David and I got married to the loves of our respective lives, about six months apart from each other, we all became a group of quadruplets. It was like we both got to bring our best friends into the twinship. (Erin and James, I hope you at least feel you were forewarned). I've never been so happy! Maybe out of our twinship, our quadrupletship, what we're doing is producing triplets. Gosh, if I weren't about to pass out from fatigue, I'd get giddy right about now.

Three babies is a charm.

I'm going to take a nap.

Monday, December 8, 2008

How to Be Pregnant When your SIL Wishes You Weren't

Someone named Anonymous commented on my "How to Tell your Infertile Friends You're Pregnant" posting tonight. She broke the news to her infertile sister-in-law (SIL) that she's pregnant, but her SIL won't acknowledge the pregnancy. She wonders what she should do now.

Here is my one-person's opinion on the matter:

1) You've got a tough situation there. It sucks on every side: sucks to be the infertile SIL, sucks to be the fertile SIL. No matter what happens, there is no perfect solution, and no one will come out of this perfectly happy.

2) You are luckier than she is because you get a baby and an awkward family situation, and she just gets an awkward family situation. You can keep your irritated hat on (hey, our feelings are what they are), as long as you put your compassionate hat on top of it.

3) If I were the one pretending my sister-in-law weren't pregnant, it would be because I thought I would start to cry the second I acknowledged she was. Your SIL might think it's better to say nothing than to act sad or mad. It's kind of an extension of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all": "if you can't say anything without crying, shut your trap."

Or her silence might be a sign that she's in denial about the situation. If she doesn't acknowledge the pregnancy to you, she doesn't have to acknowledge it to herself. As my therapist has told me, sometimes denial comes in handy.

No matter what, I am a firm believer in getting things out in the open, though, so since she's not likely to take the lead, I think it's up to you. The next time you see her, take her aside and tell her how much you care about her, and how much you hate that you're both in this situation. Ask her what she's feeling, and what you can do to make it easier on her. If you don't think this would go over well in person, write her a letter to that effect... on real paper with a real envelope (it will seem more thoughtful than email).

Once you get the communication flowing, if you can, take your cue from her as to how much she wants to be around you or talk about pregnancy and infertility.

Short of that, I'm not sure what else to tell you. So I'll open it up to my girls.

Ye women of this hard-knocks community, what advice do you have for Anonymous?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Other Part of the Journey

There is more to the journey toward the light at the end of the canal than just my emotions and physical changes. We also have to get our house in order. And that is not a metaphor.

For a very long time, this is what we have had in our guest room, the room that will become the buns' room.

  • Full-sized brass bed from my single days (and from my parents' married days before that) with a stunningly good mattress

  • A large Ikea dresser that was so heavy when I got it that I had to take apart the box in the trunk of my car and carry each board, one by one, to my first DC apartment. It has gone through three paint jobs and now has a purposefully splotchy part-colorful-part-white look that made my mom cry out, "Oh, what happened?" when she first saw it.

  • A LARGE filing cabinet, probably fire proof, the likes of which I dreamed of for a long time, holding old electric bills and transcripts and other stuff that I need quick access to.

  • An armoire from Ikea that makes up for the fact that there is no real closet in the room. (It has a door with access to the master bedroom closet, but we've hogged all the actual storage space therein). The babies currently have very good access to our winter shoes.

  • An Ikea "Robin"-style bookcase that is mostly full of law books. In particular, we have a stunning collection of 2004 Patent Bar Exam review materials. Anyone want them? Never opened...

  • Two prodigious piles of framed artwork that I removed from the stairway when we were getting our new mattress delivered. I never put them back up, so we have a very pretty nail collection on the stairway walls now. The art is in two and a half piles on the floor.

  • The beautiful Pottery Barn rug that I bought with my friend Leyla in New York in 1993. The cat has torn it up some, but it remains in tact in my heart. The function this rug now serves is to get bunched up from all the stuff placed on it and then moved, so that it makes large, trip-ready waves in the floor.

  • Two big, flat boxes that will render two baby cribs once assembled.

  • One Pack 'n' Play that my brother got from his neighbor. This "portable" crib and playpen is in a duffel bag with a few accessories piled on top of it. Not very stackable.

  • A laundry basket full of plastic coat hangers. Just 'cause.

  • Approximately seven clear plastic bins of my non-pregnant clothes, which should be transferred to the attic. The hold up on that is that the attic floor is covered with plywood on one side, and covered with no floor on the other side. When James saw it he declared that we were going to fix it before the babies came. Sigh. So the seven bins remain downstairs, capped off by the camping lantern we use whenever we venture into the attic.

  • Four red and green plastic bins that I've transferred our Christmas stuff into. That was a real splurge: I've always thought it was silly to have Christmas-colored storage boxes, but in an attic like ours, I've come around to thinking it is genius. So I have plopped one cardboard box, duly packed last year with Christmas decorations, into each bin. Those bins will be opened and used soon, but in the meantime, why not keep them in the babies' cave?

  • Two delightful bouncy seats that we received from our registry, each assembled and now holding a teddy bear. Those are perched on the bed.

  • A plastic bin full of baby and maternity stuff that my friend Julie gave me years ago, which I had to hide for a long time because they were too sad. That's now on the bed.

  • A weathered cardboard file box full of infant clothes that my brother and I wore as premies. Very polyester-heavy, with a few knitted items that may or may not disintegrate when worn.

  • An extra U-shaped "boppy" pillow from my parents-in-law-in-law (my bro's parents-in-law). Apparently my brother and sister-in-law had plenty of boppies, and us, we are going to need more than one.

So would you like to know whether the room is large enough to accommodate all the stuff that's in it? It's not.

Last evening while I was taking one of my many naps of the day, I heard some, well, activity on the stairs. My husband in shining armor was singlehandedly taking the armoire downstairs to the basement, which is to be the new guest room. It is not an activity that can be slept through. I am pleased and proud to say that the armoire is now safely two stories below us, albeit upside down, and required only minor podiatric repairs from its trip.

When I look at the huge gap that the armoire's absence leaves in the room, it makes me want to buy more furniture. Maybe a rocking chair?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Take your Daughters to Work Day

Today was Take your Daughters to Work Day. For me, at least. After six months of this pregnancy sickness, I finally had enough energy to start a part-time job. And someone, for some reason, agreed to hire me part time for a job they were looking to fill at 40 hours per week.

Twenty hours per week now, four hours every day, I will be working at a law firm as a contract attorney, reviewing documents written in Portuguese. It's thrilling! It's professional work, mingled with the fun of speaking other languages. I get to dress in people-clothes (Ladies 3X, specifically; I've grown out of the universe of maternity wear) and brush my hair and talk to people in an office about grown-up things. I forgot how good I am at listening in on conference calls!

And through it all, my buns came with me. They actually let them into the conference room with me. We sat there and, the two times we were collectively going to pass out, we surreptitiously ate some goldfish crackers and drank some emergency apple juice. We maintained the open, alert, and serious look on my face. We nodded at appropriate times and I even asked two questions. And then at the end of our measly little shift, we announced Sianora and came home for a nap.

I love every bit about this. I'm pretty sure the buns do, too. I'm pretty sure they want to be attorneys now.

I'll see what I can do to discourage that. After the nap.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life, Death, and What to be Happy About

I feel that I am existing in a swirl of life and death. I have talked about the cycle of life before, and infertility's place in it. But these days the deaths seem to be catching up with the births and it's time to get philosophical again.

In one week about a month ago, a good friend had a major fertility setback, and another friend died of cancer. I felt like a boulder-sized paperweight had squashed me flat. I felt so terrible for both of them. In neither case was there anything I could do; sometimes even crafts can't right the wrong. In neither case did the catastrophe really have anything to do with me. My codependent self yearned to take responsibility for Making it All Better, but there was absolutely nothing to do.

In reference to the infertility pain, especially, I thought through my grief, "Whom can I ask advice from here? Who would know the best thing for me to do to help?" The answer, it turned out, was me. I remembered back to the advice I'd given other people about dealing with an infertile me. Support the person who is in pain. Write to her. Let her know you're behind her no matter what. So I did that. And then a few days later I awoke one night with a gasp: I had forgotten something. The rest of that advice was to keep your distance if you're pregnant. Let her set the tone and pace of the communication. Once you're displayed your support, get the hell out of the picture, because your presence cannot do anything but hurt. This realization, now that I was on the other side, sliced me to the core.

And so I finally sat down and came to the conclusion that there's nothing I can do to anaesthetize the world at large. Pain is out there. There's nothing more I can do about it.

That was a biggie. It was humbling, and it felt like a great defeat.

It made me rethink this blog.

"Achieving Conceiving." I used to think that once a couple conceived a child, all the hard stuff would be over. I was right in terms of how it feels to go through the world and see pregnant women and babies abounding. It's a whole lot better now. Not only do I not wince at the sight, but I get treated like royalty. People are extra solicitous and respectful of me. I've become very very special to a world of strangers.

What I didn't know when I started and named the blog was that conceiving does not equal having a baby (I learned about miscarriage from my friend Laughing4Heir). The physical rigor of pregnancy also surprised me, as did the fact that a lot of my existence became dictated by disabling nausea and fatigue. I also learned post-conception about what it's like to move to the other end of the infertility boat: the side where you aren't fighting for life, but your comrades on the other end are. There was plenty of stuff to say, but I resisted writing about it all; the infertility community doesn't want to hear about pregnancy experiences.

But I looked back at my blog through a lawyer's eyes and was glad to note that I'd put a tag line on the blog, in addition to the name. "Chronicling the Journey to the Light at the End of the Canal." Whew. Fine print that would allow me to continue my writing, even though I'd already achieved/conceived. But could I do it? What would my internal feeling-protecting censors let me say?

Let's review this entry so far:

1) New life abounds and fresh death abounds.
2) No matter what I do, I cannot protect everyone from pain.
3) My blog's focus must shift from discussing conception to discussing the rest of the pregnancy journey. Lots more needs to be said.

Enter Iona.

Iona Kathleen Bailey is my twin brother's new baby girl. She is sixteen days old today. I love her more than anything. I look at her and cannot wait for her to wake the hell up (she's a sleepy baby), grow, delight us with getting to know her, and become our future. I can't fathom that my little bitty brother helped make a new person with our family's DNA in it. I can't wait to see a mixture of him and his wife at work.

At Thanksgiving dinner, my stepfather said that he was thankful for Iona and the cousins I'll be producing for her soon. He said that the births of these babies gave him perspective on dealing with his own mom's final days. Me, when I heard that Mrs. Bollyky passed away, I pled with her son: please tell me that she knew I was pregnant. He reassured me that she knew.

Turns out that the world needs babies. Babies are the only thing that can counteract death. They are essential. As a former infertile woman, I need to acknowledge that. My desire to protect my infertile friends and readers from pain may be noble, but it's never going to shield them entirely. In the meantime, the rest of us need to hear about the babies. Just like we need to reproduce, as I've discussed ad nauseum, we need our loved ones to reproduce. We need an infusion of life wherever it comes from. As Iona teaches me, babies fill you with an automatic love and joy, hope and expectation.

So this light, this blog, is coming out from under the bushel. I owe it to you, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to our two wonderful, kick-happy buns in the oven.

Let this Christmas season be about life.

The Point of Acupuncture

I have a new friend out there: BakingABaby, who commented on my Thanksgiving post. A fellow traveler in infertility, she asked why I stopped acupuncture after my first failed attempt at IVF. Here is the answer.

I've been guilty of piling on so many stress-relief activities in the past that I have actually gone a little crazier than I was before I started. One example is the meditation class I took once that made me hyperventilate with stress once a week because I had to drive there in rush hour and find a non-existent parking place in downtown DC. Boy, did that not help.

Like destressing, de-infertilizing can consume one's life. On my first go'round on IVF, I took the shots, took a leave of absence from my work, joined a gym, went to therapy, and did acupuncture. My acupuncturist told me that acupuncture could help almost any infertility-related condition except blocked tubes. That was what I supposedly had. So that made the acupuncture mainly for stress-relief, just like a lot of the other activities.

When the second IVF round happened, I had taken a full-time job again because we needed the money to keep up our habit. Right after I got my first BFN (Big Fat Negative), my beloved acupuncturist had moved to Dallas. I didn't want to spend the time, money, or psychic energy on finding another acupuncturist, then scheduling and keeping one more appointment a week. So in the interest of simplifying my life, I cut out acupuncture.

What was the point?

That's an acupuncture joke.

I do still believe in acupuncture, like I believe in most traditional Chinese medicine. I think those old medicine men and women, over thousands of years, have figured out a lot of stuff that we modern ludites can only guess at. The National Institutes of Health are conducting studies to try to figure out why acupuncture works; what the "chi" really is. Some medical insurance plans are (reluctantly) paying for acupuncture treatments because it seems to work well as preventative medicine, and is a lot easier and less invasive and more effective -- oh, and cheaper -- than Western treatments.

What makes me a fan personally is that years ago I saw an acupuncturist as part of my manic anti-stress regime. After a "cleansing" where he stuck about 10 or 15 needles in my back and left them there for a half an hour, I had an incredible experience. That afternoon I was driving on the parkway and felt a sensational rush of wellbeing. It felt like the fog cleared and the air was suddenly fresh, clean, and embued with lots of extra oxygen. I felt like I could do anything. In that instant, I made plans to write a book and do all sorts of lofty crafts projects that would save the world. After a while the feeling faded and I went back to normal. But damn. There's nothing like a drug-free euphoria.

If acupuncture can do that, why can't it make your ovaries work too?

Below is a picture of my friend's new little baby, conceived after three years with the help of Chinese medicine. Let's ask him what he thinks. When he wakes up.