The rest of our hospital stay.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I’m sitting here writing listening to the soundtrack of my breast pump churning and wheezing and the little peanut is across the room cooing in her Rock N’ Play (which has been a Godsend since this child won’t sleep in many other places). I’m hoping that her little chirps are just indicators of sweet dreams and not the signs of her waking as I’m not even close to being done everything I intended to work on this afternoon.

Plans.

Go.

Out.

The.

Window.

When you have a newborn.

I mean, I knew that. People told me that.  But – I still thought my child might be different.

I can’t believe she has been out of my body for more than two weeks. Three weeks ago, I would have struggled to recall what life was like before my big belly. I didn’t remember what it was like to be able to paint my toenails, or shave in the shower, sleep on my stomach, or savor the rich taste of a glass of merlot. Now I’m struggling to recall what those tiny kicks felt like, or the weekly drives to the doctor’s office for my nonstress tests, or the round fullness of my pregnant belly.

I miss it SO much, sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that she is lying across from me. I love her tiny noises, the way her mouth curls up into a smile randomly (and then uncurls just as I grab my phone to take a picture), or the way she purses her lips with milk dripping from the corners when I pull her away from my breast.

I love how she wags her head and shakes her fists when she doesn’t get food fast enough: it’s like she is already demanding a space for herself in the world…asserting her needs…helping me to understand life on her terms.

But its not the same as when she was inside. She’ll never be as safe and secure. I’ll never be quite as full of life. We’ll never be physically connected ever again. And that made me just a little sad when it all finally set in.

The first night home from the hospital was hard.

Well, the hospital itself was hard.

Hadley was born at 7am, and I didn’t get to hold her until about 6pm that evening (I think…everything was a blur at that point due to the sheer exhaustion of having been awake for almost two days straight with short cat naps in between). They wheeled me in to see her in the NICU for the first time around 9am, I think. I watched her through the glass dome of her incubator and was only able to hold her hand and push her pacifier back in when she began to cry (which made ME cry). The soundtrack of our first official meeting was the bubbling noise of her CPAP machine, and all of the beeps from the monitors she was hooked up to. She had a tiny bruise on one hand from where they tried to insert an IV but failed (and she had one to match on the other hand once they finally removed her IV).

I asked if I could hold her and the NICU nurse scolded me: reminding me that she needed that time in the incubator and that the doctor would tell me when I could hold her.

That was so hard. She was MINE – just mine – for nine months. I knew her rhythmic kicks and she knew my heartbeat. And all of the sudden she belonged to a NICU nurse and I was simply a visitor.

I had a really tough time with that entire experience. I felt like I didnt know my child when she came home from the hospital and it hit me like a ton of bricks when I finally considered how traumatic her departure from me was after her birth.

My labor was so fast and intense and she came rocketing into this world quicker than I had a chance to process. Then she was whirled away to be measured and assessed while I delivered the placenta and got stitched up.

I was so bone tired that I didnt really process what was happening:

That we didn’t get to delay her cord clamping to give her a few extra minutes to build up her iron supply.

We didnt get skin-to-skin right away to give us a chance to bond and get to know each other.

I didnt get to feed her right away to help us bond and help my milk supply to come in faster.

I really didn’t “meet” my daughter until much later.

I joked that they could have taken my baby and given me back another and I wouldnt have known the difference.

That sounds horrible, doesn’t it? What mother doesn’t instinctively know her baby. But I felt like I didn’t. And that made me very sad.

I know everything was done in her best interest. I know she is healthy and more importantly – alive – because of the efforts of that medical staff. But it was still hard and emotional.

Before she was released from the NICU, I was able to see her four more times. That evening around 6 they allowed me to feed her after a lactation consultant visited me in my room earlier in the day for a lesson on breast feeding and pumping (thank God for that woman because breastfeeding is harder than it looks….more on that, later).

We went back with both sets of our parents later that night and again in the middle of the night to breastfeed. We went back for one final visit the following morning to feed her and give her a bath. I thought I knew how to bath a baby, but apparently there was more to it than I knew (like: wash the face first and dont use the same part of the cloth to wipe their eyes twice).

Around 4pm that next day (Sunday as I would later learn…what a blur of a stay) they brought her back to my room. She was all bundled up in the standard hospital blanket with a purple knit hat. I still wonder who made that – it gave me some comfort that she was adorned with something cozy and personal during part of her NICU stay.

They let us know that night that her bilirubin levels were high (which means that she had some jaundice) and they recommended phototherapy which commenced on Monday and earned us an extra day in the hospital. Fortunately, they allowed us to “room in” with Hadley so we didnt have to leave her and we were all able to go home together on Tuesday.

If you’ve never experienced phototherapy for a newborn: it looks cool but is actually torture. She had to lay on the equivalent of a bright tanning bed with foam goggles and she had to be naked (sans a diaper) and be swaddled down to the surface of the light board.

She hated it and cried hysterically all day, which led to us frequently picking her up to feed and comfort her which led to an extra 12 hours with the light when they came to re-test her later that night. In the middle of the night she was pretty much over the whole ordeal and cried hysterically at which point I said, “screw it” and swaddled her (against the rules since her swaddled skin wasnt exposed to the light). She slept soundly for two hours at which point I woke up in a sweat, terrified that I hadn’t heard her in two hours (the longest we’d gone with silence before that on the light treatment was about 20 minutes) and I was to find her not breathing. Both she and my wife (who was sleeping on a cot next to her) were sound asleep. Evidently the swaddle session helped her to reset and I was able to get her to sleep for the rest of the night without any major issues. No more two hour stretches but I think she slept for an hour at a time which was great.

I was super nervous for her morning blood test after basically removing her from the light for two hours, but I wasnt torturing the kid any more than she needed to be: we all needed that sleep and she desperately needed that comfort after the rough start to her life.

Fortunately she passed both that as well as the following blood test and we were discharged that afternoon.

That Monday (the day of the phototherapy) was HARD. I didnt leave the room all day and it rained so it just left me feeling very down. It was also tough because we had almost hourly checks from various hospital staff throughout our weekend stay, but that stopped on Monday when I was discharged and just “roomed in” with my daughter. The peace was nice, but when you have a newborn (especially a sick one) it is nice to just talk to other people. It helped me maintain sanity and normalcy: even though I didn’t know any of the staff particularly well.

When I got home from the hospital I cried a lot the first few days. I thought I would transition gracefully into motherhood: I’ve wanted this my ENTIRE life. But everything made me cry. Signs of my pregnancy like the big U-shaped pillow on the bed that had been my best friend for the prior two months. Or the look of my deflated belly in the bathroom mirror complete with stretch marks that I hadn’t really seen as they were on the underside of my belly prior to Hadley’s birth. It looked like a basketball that had been used too hard in its final game and was now deflated – sitting on the sidelines.

Even the sight of Hadley’s bedroom made me sad. We decorated it in hopeful anticipation and having her home was so scary: I didnt know what she wanted or needed in those first few days, and everything was so overwhelming.

I also wasnt making enough for her to eat which was nerve wracking, and likely was related to the fact that I didnt feed her for the first 12 hours of her life. I’m still struggling with breastfeeding, but I think that warrants it’s own blog entry.

Despite all of these challenges and the hecticness with which her life started, the love I feel for this child is indescribable. Even though I get so overwhelmed when she cries (mostly because I never truly know the reason), I know that the reasons are so basic: food, sleep (or lack thereof) and comfort. That’s basically it. She is so innocent and full of possibility and hope and I want to keep that alive in her forever. I want to meet any need that she ever has before she has it. I want her to see the world as beautiful, and kind, and loving. I want to ensure that she never knows hunger or pain or heartache. I want to wrap her in my love every day for the rest of her life.

I guess that’s what  being a parent is, right? Loving and supporting your child through everything, and taking the bad moments on the chin: knowing there are more good ones to come.

If that’s not it: let me know when you figure out the secret, will you? 😊

In the interim: some pictures of our little love:

 

28/29 Weeks

I have been so bad at keeping up with this blog. I always wondered why people dropped off writing after they were able to successfully conceive. While I still don’t have the answer, I am going to guess that it’s a combination of fatigue (oh you all: it’s so, so real), investment in planning and preparation (though I must confess that I haven’t made it all the way through a single baby book, yet, and the baby’s room is still a hot mess with no crib – long story – and piles of unwashed clothes and baby gear all over), and just general chaos.
I’m currently starting this entry on my Kindle as I’m parked in a beach chair with my toes in some densely packed, damp sand under a fishing pier at a beach not far from my in-laws home in South Carolina. I figured: no excuses. It’s now or never (or more accurately now or 32 weeks or whenever I set aside the rest of my chores to write again))). This is devotion, though. The keyboard on a kindle is larger than my phone, but smaller than a regular keyboard so typing is awkward and I can’t balance it on my belly because every time I set it down the baby must wind one of its limbs back in an effort to shove the device out of its space. I’m not complaining, though. I waited all morning for one of these kicks and began to grow panicked when the first one arrived later than it did the last two days. I swear: some days it feels like my life revolves around drinking enough water, peeing, and waiting for that next kick (but it NEVER grows old). Every one is still magical and even though this kid has been nestled in close for almost 7 months, I still can’t believe that I’m pregnant and I feel so freaking lucky every morning when I wake up.
This week, the baby has been in five different states. We started out at home on the east coast (drove to a neighboring state to catch a flight to the Midwest where we spent the next four days for work) then we caught another flight to South Carolina (and had a layover in between). I really want to plan to travel often once the babe gets here. I didn’t travel much as a child and I want this babe to experience everything we can expose it to. We actually even planned the nursery around that idea and have an assortment of map prints and a beautiful blue and gold globe with which to decorate the nursery.
We haven’t had any big scares since the SUA diagnosis at 20 weeks, and that feels like a distant dream, now. But every so often (such as this morning) when baby’s movements seem irregular, my wife and I both tend to panic and I lay on my side and grab a cold drink and hold my belly waiting for kicks.
Babe moved pretty regularly this week during my travel (which was a blessing since I tend to worry even more without my wife there to calm me) but when we arrived at her parent’s house (where she was waiting for us after a flight she took earlier in the week) the movements got stronger than the rest of the week and I really do wonder if the baby was happy to hear her voice after 4 days away from her. Whenever she puts her hands on my belly she tends to elicit some kicks, too. What can I say: babe loves its Mommy.
(I sound so horrible calling my baby an “it” but he/she takes longer to type…please know that our little “it” is loved profusely. ❤)
My colleagues at my travel office threw me a shower when I was in town this week. They told me I had a short meeting at the end of the day and had a conference room waiting with cake, a guessing game, gifts, and adorable Oreo truffle favors that one of my favorite co-workers made.
They were even kind enough to ship everything back to my office for me as I grew increasingly panicked with each beautiful gift that I opened that I wouldn’t be able to find a home for it in my small carryon bag (I’m a good packer….but not THAT good!)
Our families are throwing us a shower next week. I honestly prefer to be surprised, but they felt like it would be easier to plan if they didnt also have to worry about figuring out how to surprise me with an elaborate story.
If you live in the US, you probably know that Babies R’ Us is going out of business. My wife and I stop in weekly as the sales climb and have already bought a lot of what we need. She is starting to get overwhelmed thinking of the additional piles of STUFF that are going to flood the house post-shower. I suppose we will figure it out.
My wife is incredibly neat, a minimalist, and cant stand when things get messy. After a small disagreement a few weeks ago when we both started to get overwhelmed by how we’d fit everything for baby into our – already crowded – two bedroom condo, we decided to rent a small storage unit. It helped tremendously, but now we have to make sure we dont amass too much more just because we have the unit to fall back on.
Anyway: at 28 weeks (now 29 as I am finalizing this post the next day and officially turned 29 weeks today). Babe is supposedly the size of a butternut squash and weighs 2.5-3.5 lbs. (Which is unfortunate to read since I gained about 20 lbs so far…) It kicks pretty regularly now (except on days like yesterday when we have dry spells and I freak out) and we have learned that it either loves or hates live music (I like to think it loves it) because whenever we hear live music it starts kicking more than usual.
I still feel pretty good for the most part. Every so often I have cramps for a few minutes at a time, and I have this pain in my left rib that comes and goes and based been on what I’ve read I think it may be costochondritis which is inflammation of the cartilage(?) tissue in my ribs. Some days it is unbearable, but stretching seems to help and it isn’t consistent which is nice. Sleeping is getting harder (especially this week since I haven’t slept in my bed for 7 days now), but overall I really cannot complain. As long as this babe is healthy, I’m happy.
Leaving you with an obligatory  beach bathroom shot. I forgot to ask my wife to snap a picture in this full outfit with the hat while we were out so I grabbed one before I jumped in the shower. I’ll try to get a few more before we wrap up our trip.
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Xoxo
Jenn

Tomorrow’s the day!

It feels like we just started this journey – literally – February feels like YESTERDAY, but here we are – on the eve of our retrieval, trying to calm our nerves and keep our fears at bay, and fill our hearts with the hope of a bunch of healthy, thriving little embryos.

I thought that it might be nice to honor my rockstar of a wife (whose experience I haven’t blogged very much about as she’s generally more private and less eager to write than I, but who is also the one going through this egg retrieval process, so that her eggs with our donor sperm can help to create our future baby) with a little co-authored entry in Q&A fashion. I’d seen this done in another blog a while back and thought it was a great idea, so I’ll ask her a few questions about this process and transcribe her response into text for you all (whoever “you all” are) as well as for us and posterity 🙂

How do you feel heading into the retrieval tomorrow? 

Excited and nervous: I’m excited to see how many eggs we get, but really nervous that I’m going to develop OHSS [Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome – a condition that can happen more frequently to women with PCOS and with which symptoms include:

  • Mild to moderate abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating or increased waist size
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tenderness in the area of your ovaries
  • Sudden weight increase of more than 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) (borrowed from the Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-hyperstimulation-syndrome-ohss/symptoms-causes/dxc-20263586]

How have you felt – in general – throughout this process? 

Other than being pretty bloated, not bad. And uncontrollably emotional these past few days. 

Okay, so that’s the physical part: how do you feel emotionally about all of this? 

I just don’t want to let you down if something goes wrong. I also don’t know if I could do this again. I just hope we have a ton of embryos in the freezer [when this is all done] so we don’t have to worry about that. And I’m pretty sick of being fat [she isn’t – she gained a few pounds – probably partially water weight – and looks amazing, but I’m telling it like she’s saying it…] 

What do you want to tell people who might be getting ready to go through this? 

Be super patient with [your spouse] and start saving money. And don’t watch too many IVF blogs or watch too many vlogs, because you’re going to freak yourself out. You just gotta do it. 

What was your favorite part of this entire process so far? 

I actually like the ultrasounds daily at this point and seeing how big my follicles got. I like to see progress. 

What do you wish I knew about how this process has been for you? 

You can be more emotionally supportive. 

What else do you want the blogging world or families to know about any of this? 

I feel very lucky to have a wife who would give up everything to carry my baby, and I don’t know anyone else who would do that for me. (We’ve discussed this a lot. I literally cannot wait to do this – it doesn’t feel like a chore, or a burden AT ALL.)

I’m not going to lie, the one about me being more supportive hurt my heart a little, but it didn’t come as a surprise as we’ve talked about that pretty extensively over the last few days. This last week has been tough – I’ve been low on emotion and she’s been high and its usually the COMPLETE opposite, so we’re both struggling to figure out how to manage these feelings and how to tease out what is related to the medication and what’s related to the overall process and how overwhelming this all can be.

Overall, I think we balance one another out well, and I think I mentioned previously – I cannot imagine another human being by my side – this woman keeps me calm when I’m going crazy, pulls me in when I’m floating away, and makes me feel safe when I’m terrified. Tomorrow is really scary. We’re hopeful because the doctor told us at her appointment yesterday that our case seems to mirror another co-ivf case that he did a few weeks ago that yielded GREAT results for the couple, but we really do read and watch so much online and can’t help but get sucked in by the horror stories. All we want is one perfect embryo to transfer (at this point, it is looking like Monday) and a few solid embryos to freeze for the future or in the event that this first attempt doesn’t work as planned. Prayers, positive thoughts, good juju – whatever you believe in, please! And as always – back at you ladies. I have so much respect for ANYONE going through this retrieval process: you’re all rockstars and your partners are so, so fortunate to have you. What is it that the TTC community says so often? Baby dust….baby dust for all!

See you on the other side of this retrieval process, tomorrow.

The countdown is on!!

Way back in January, my wife and I discussed starting the journey to a baby around August/September. Back then, I felt such an intense ache for everything to speed up – for time to pass more quickly, even though I knew our year was jam packed with life events and activities that would keep us more than occupied throughout that span of time.

Little did I know that my job would throw us a wrench and add in a LOT of unexpected traveling, so this time seems to have passed even MORE quickly than we could have anticipated, but I’m still no less eager to get started.

Throughout this time, we’ve gone back and forth with the insurance company, pored over donor websites, and thought long and hard about how we would proceed: IVF? IUI? At-home attempts? After talking to some new friends and old, reading numerous blogs, watching numerous vlogs(?), and doing extensive research, we decided that no matter the cost: IVF was our chosen path forward. That being said, we are submitting one last formal request for insurance company coverage (especially after learning that my wife has polycystic ovaries which could potentially make this process slightly more challenging) and we are awaiting the results of that request – we will hopefully know with certainty on Tuesday.

Regardless, we cannot be too upset as our clinic worked with us to put together a multi-cycle package that will give us two attempts to get pregnant (assuming, fingers crossed, prayers, good wishes, and positive thoughts) that we walk away from her egg retrieval with more than one viable embryo for less than we had initially thought we’d pay for one (via co IVF – if you’ve read the other posts you know all of that drama). We also picked up all of the meds for our first round yesterday and after copays, we walked away spending a whopping total of $250 and change (which seems like a lot, but for IVF meds is AMAZING!!). We are counting our blessings and considering ourselves immensely fortunate.

IVF MEDS

(This doesn’t include a ton of stuff that we elected to not remove from the fridge for the photo)

Yesterday, we also had our nurse consult during which we learned how to administer the many shots we will soon have to give each other (well, mostly give ourselves but there is a big, bad intramuscular injection that my wife has to give me in the butt….I’m sure there is a good joke in there somewhere that I will appreciate when I look back on this one day, but I’m honestly just a little terrified of the needle at this point!), and discussed the timing. Initially, the nurse asked me to call on the first day of my next period to schedule my baseline blood tests and ultrasounds, but after learning that I was on day 4 of my current cycle, she snagged the ultrasound tech, and got everything done while I was there, and sent me on my way with instructions to begin birth control immediately, which is how my cycle will ultimately be synced to my wife’s. We’re now waiting on her period to start, as well as for a call back from the clinic to get a sonohysterogram and mock transfer scheduled so they can make certain that there are no issues with my uterus, and so they know exactly how they will be implanting the embryo when we get to that date (which should be sometime toward the end of next month if all continues to move according to the plan we assembled with her, yesterday).

Our nurse was kind of amazing – we were with her for almost four hours, discussing every detail of the process and getting my testing and ultrasound done (which was an unexpected surprise!) She encouraged us to call with any question or unknown symptom we may encounter throughout this process, and made us feel so comfortable. Her kindness and warmth was a stark contrast to the head finance honcho (we’ll call her Denise for the purposes of this blog) who we had the displeasure of meeting with again yesterday. We thought we made progress with her the last time we saw her a few weeks back, and she was just as ornery as ever and seemingly forgot everything we’d discussed during the last visit. She is the sole reason why I feel very confident that we will not be seeing any coverage by the insurance company, but either way – we’ll be happy to be finished working with her (hopefully very soon!)

The ultrasound tech confirmed that everything looked good, and found a total of 21 egg follicles (to the 18 the doctor found the last time) and although that isn’t super pertinent to our current situation, it just reassures us that we should have a smooth journey to baby# 2 should we elect to conceive via IUI. We ordered what we were advised by the clinic would be more than enough donor sperm (7 vials) to pursue this round of IVF, plus several rounds of IUI in the future.

So, folks: we are ready. We’ve never been praying so hard for an expeditious period (as well as good news from the clinic on a date to do the mock transfer in the very near future!) and we’ll be getting this party officially started.

partygif

Even more confused.

We met with the doctor we plan to use to help us conceive yesterday. Oddly, I wasn’t nearly as worked up about this appointment as I was for the first (probably because I traveled for work last week and work in general has been so hectic and preoccupying me quite a bit), but overall it went well and we are actually getting ready to take some finite steps forward in the next few weeks.

We told him in the prework that it was our desire to do reciprocal IVF as long as it is financially plausible (and according to the preliminary paperwork we got back from their billing staff, we think it is – we have a call tomorrow to confirm some information), and I expected a lecture when we sat down for the consult and he was surprisingly frank about the fact that he thinks it is a fine way to conceive and he has no qualms about assisting us with that without first trying IUI. I think his exact words were something along the lines of “this is great. We have two sets of uteruses, two sets of ovaries – I mean, we have options. You carry her egg. She carries  your egg. Whatever. We’ll get you pregnant.” We’d beern told that he has a dry sense of humor and he lived up to our expectations to a “T”. We felt incredibly comfortable with him (much more so than doctor #1). The only thing I didn’t love is that when I asked if he recommended a specific sperm bank, he said “they’re pretty much all the same. Just pick a guy who you think would be a good father to your kid.” Um…none of them, thanks. Our kid will have two moms. Then he made a comment about how if my wife’s eggs didn’t work for some reason, then I “could be the mom”. Again, I get where he is coming from but it felt like the first of many time that I had to point out that regardless of the biological link or the uterus used to grow the baby: we will BOTH be the moms. 100%. Full stop.

He told us that in order to begin this process, we would both need to come in for internal ultrasounds and bloodwork (during our periods as he said it would be easier to see our egg follicles or something like that – I don’t completely understand the science behind it and it kind of grosses me out to be laying on an exam table with my period, but he’s the expert so onward we march). Then I think he said that I would have to do a “mock implantation” to survey the layout of my uterus to determine how the actual implantation would commence, and then I *think* we are in the clear until we are ready to start the process for my wife’s egg retrieval (which will require her to self inject hormones for a two(?) week period with monitoring every-other-day until the date of her egg retrieval. After that they would inseminate the eggs, wait for a week or two for them to mature (I think its a week, but I honestly forget – I took fewer notes than I planned to as I forgot my good notebook and only had a few tiny sheets of paper – plus I was really excited and listening and not really eager to write). Then we have to decide if we want to do any kind of genetic testing which is not covered by my wife’s insurance (unless medically necessary – which is interesting as I’m honestly not sure what would constitute a need. Perhaps a known genetic condition? Not sure.) We’re still up in the air about this process which a few other people recommended and we’ve been doing some reading on, as it will cost somewhere in the ballpark of $5k.

Overall, he said that we will want to get started about 3 months before we are actually hoping to conceive (and he warned us that success rates for IUI hover around 20% and IVF is around 50% so he suggested that we be open to the fact that the first try may not go as planned) so since we were targeting August for implantation (for the reasons mentioned previously) we plan to go in April (within the next 2 weeks) for our “period ultrasounds” and then we’ll go from there.

I was already overwhelmed by all of that, and today I got an email (randomly) from one of two sperm banks that I created an account with and was notified that they were having a 2 day “sale” (yeah. Sperm banks run sales on sperm, evidently. Who knew??) It’s 20% off for 4+ vials (which we would likely require as we plan to use one for this round and perhaps several more in a few years if all goes well, as we’d like to conceive the 2nd time via IUI and have two biological siblings (one each genetically linked to my wife and I). We thought we had our bank narrowed down but this threw an interesting wrench into things (as that changes the overall price dynamics of one compared to the other) and then I started doing some google research and discovered a 3rd that we may want to check out. Initially, we were thinking that we’d wait until closer to the date to select our donor, but now knowing that sales are a thing, and that this process will likely begin to pick up more quickly once we get going with the initial testing, we are hoping to narrow down our “guy” sooner, so we are going to dig into some heavy research this weekend.

I’m almost glad that we set a pretty firm date (well…month, anyway) for our first targeted implantation, as I think if this were all a freely moving process, I’d really be driving myself crazy with the details at the moment (as I tend to do with a lot of things in my life such as our home search 2 years ago, and a lot of our wedding details). Knowing that we are not on a time crunch and can breath and relax through this process makes me feel so much better.

Here’s to continued baby steps (pun intended), and a narrowed down donor in the near future.