acupuncture, family, gratitude, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

birth story

Baby E is fed and sleeping so this is my moment to write his birth story! He’s in his newly-set-up rocker, with a gorgeous hand-knit blanket that just arrived from my sister D, and if he wakes I’m going to try gently rocking him with my toe while I keep writing, as I read that Louis Erdrich does–she says it’s pretty easy to have a newborn as a writer. We shall see…

Eight days have now passed since the birth and I want to get this down asap–we’ll think of it as the stream-of-consciousness Blog Edition, and I will refine and perfect it later for Baby E’s consumption later in life.

So, let’s begin where I left off–last Saturday, when we were preparing to check in to UCSF. All homey methods of labor induction (acupuncture, walking, spicy food, castor oil) seemed to have no effect–I had no signs of labor at all. The delay in our check-in time to the hospital from 8am to noon to 8pm helped me make the transition mentally to preparing for this new scenario in the hospital. I felt oddly calm, and focused on the benefits of being in the hospital–sometimes all that monitoring and state-of-the-art medicine can come in handy.

I had spoken with my midwife the night before and she walked me through what to expect with induced labor. I would go through a first step of medication (Misoprostyl or Cervidyl) to soften and prepare my cervix. This would take 12-24 hours. Once ready, they would start the Pitocin.

So, we were glad to start in the evening because we could knock out those first 12 hours while sleeping. Still, we packed books and Scrabble and all of our electronics thinking we’d get off to a slow start.

We were admitted at 8pm. It was much calmer on a Saturday night than during a weekday when I had been there for non-stress tests. We were shown to our room which had a partial view of the city at dusk.

I filled out a bunch of paperwork, including papers for the baby on which I was the signatory “parent” (gasp!), and decided to start with Cervidyl, which they described as like a tampon they would stick in and then wait. OK. They checked me at this point and I was less than 1 centimeter dilated, just the width of a fingertip. I called Em, my midwife, and she said to get some rest–we had a lot of work to do the next day.

(E’s eyes just opened but he looks pretty happy. Trying the Louise Erdrich toe-rocking method. Easy.)

I felt some cramping as I went to sleep, and proceeded to get up probably once an hour to use the bathroom. My mom slept soundly on the pull-out chair/cot. The clock on the wall proceeded onward. Everything was quiet.

At 5am, (uh oh–red-faced crying baby…one diaper change later and he is now on the boob. This is a little awkward but doable, Louise.) I was uncomfortable enough that I could no longer stay in bed, although I was hesitant to say what was happening since I’d been maybe feeling contraction-ish twinges for like two weeks and nothing ever turned out to be anything. Soon, though, the nurse came back in and said, “It looks like you’re having some contractions.”

In fact, she determined that I was going into labor without Pitocin. Huge victory at this point–of course, my fear was that Pitocin-induced contractions would be way too strong and start the inevitable spiral of hospital interventions…  and I seemingly had kicked off labor without it.

I texted my doula and she said she was on her way. We were moved into Labor Room 5, a huge corner room facing the entire skyline, East Bay, and the trees of Mt. Sutro. One of the last things I did before things really got going was to take this picture of the sunrise and text it to my sister D in Chicago:

labor room 5

 

We set up the birth shrine, covered the TV with a sheet. My doula arrived at 6:45am with soup to put in the refrigerator, a sitz bath tea, and a necklace for me that she got 15 years ago in Benin. She told me to set my intention on the necklace (“healthy mom and baby”). I feel like I was in ‘serious’ labor pretty quickly, although throughout the day was confused about the definitions of “early” and “active” labor (and active labor turned out to be much later)–very soon I stationed myself on a birth ball and was vocalizing through contractions.

My dad and sister showed up for a bit, which was nice. By the time they left, I was entering the naked phase which lasted the whole rest of the birth process–the only thing I wore was this halter top of rough fabric that held two circular monitors, one for the baby’s heartbeat and one for contractions. It was the nurses’ primary obsession to keep these circles in place, through many baths and position changes and moving around the room, which annoyed me, but also reassured me that we knew all was well with the baby. (Baby is now back in the rocker and I’m rocking it with my toe again. He’s moving his arms around–and his eyes are open. This writing may not last long as my mom is on a walk…)

Those early hours of labor are a blur…I think it was pretty doable, but felt like real work. I was being told all day that I was progressing steadily so I just progressed steadily. We did the birth ball, hands and knees, child’s pose, the bath. (Just did the 5 S’s of the Happiest Baby on the Block and now he’s swaddled and sleeping again. Man, I picked his fussier time of day to write but I’ll keep going.)

It’s hard to say how I “felt” through these hours–I was just “in it.” I was very present and my body felt strong. It felt intense from the beginning, although you never know how much more intense it’s going to get. They asked me if I wanted to be checked but said they didn’t feel it was necessary since my contractions were obviously progressing, and I said no thanks.

Coincidentally, my good friend M had gone into labor at the same time, and because she had also engaged the services of both my midwife AND doula, it was quickly determined that since I was already in the hospital and she’d be starting at home, she’d get the midwife and I’d keep the doula. Since I was already in labor when I heard this, I just accepted it and moved on–I was so happy to have my doula and my mom and the kind nurses. I knew M needed Em.

In other coincidences, my doula had a THIRD client go into labor and check into the room next to mine. Because this client was 22 years old, she was in and out in like 5 hours, so this was hardly a blip on my screen–my doula left for 30 mins for the birth and then she was back. Around 5pm, my doula’s backup came by, and when she came in the room, I noticed that I was able to have a whole cheerful conversation with her. Which I wouldn’t have been able to do in any of the previous hours. Which seemed not good.

I’d been throwing up multiple times and they had finally given me fluids and anti-nausea medication–I kept saying I felt so much better and chalked it up to that. But it wasn’t that.

It was clear things were slowing down as we approached 12 hours. My doula suggested we dance to move around and get things flowing again. I suggested the song “Happy,” knowing that this song should totally piss me off in labor–yet, there I was dancing through the whole song and not having any contractions. And it wasn’t pissing me off.

A doctor came in the room to say that my contractions were slowing down and we should talk about “augmentation.” Oh god, I thought, here we go. I had thought I was out of the woods and nope. I asked to call my midwife and had a whole phone call with her without contractions. She said I could go one of two ways–if I felt my body needed to rest, I could take a break, rest, see if my labor started back up on its own. I’d need strength for the pushing phase. On the other hand, I was already 12 hours in and in the hospital; if I felt strong enough, I could use a tool the hospital offered: Pitocin. They’d start me off super gradually and maybe I could just pick up where I left off and keep going. I wouldn’t lose any of the progress I’d made. They checked me and I told them I didn’t want to know how many centimeters. I now know that I was 4 cm and 70% effaced at 6:35pm. I had asked the doctor to consult with my doula and my doula would ‘translate.’ I didn’t want to feel the discouragement of the number after so many hours of hard work. Ultimately, the doctor wasn’t happy about not consulting directly with the patient, and my doula didn’t like having information that I didn’t have. (After that, I let them tell me the number.)

I told Em on the phone that while I did feel sleepy, my body felt strong. I wanted to keep going. They started the Pitocin. And, sure enough, within an hour, my contractions were back to what they were and the show was back on the road. (Baby E is gumming his swaddle and making complainy noises. He started crying and his Mimi picked him up and took him into the other room.)

Then we started the long night of gradual gradual progress–by 10:40pm I was 5 cm and 80% effaced. I asked to be catheterized because I’d been drinking all day and could never pee–they first said no, you’re just dehydrated. But I insisted and they got 1.5 LITERS of urine! And I had to be catheterized a few more times through the night.

To try to get things going faster, they turned up my Pitocin a bit and broke my bag of waters with what looked like a crochet hook. It made me a little sad that it didn’t break on its own but I quickly moved on–a small sacrifice.

I kept going and kept going, the contractions getting really intense. The best way to get a mini-break was to get in the warm bath, so I did that many times. My doula was so present, her big blue eyes right there when I looked up. She helped me dive under the waves, connect with my baby, told me over and over that I can do this. My mom was a total rock, even as my suffering intensified. (Right now she is dancing the cha-cha with Baby E.)

Nearly 4 hours after that, I was checked again at 2:20am: I was 7cm and 80% effaced. Such slow progress! Ugh ugh ugh! Starting to get really really frustrated! Starting to think I couldn’t do it. Starting to seriously doubt myself and the whole natural childbirth plan. I started to become desperate. I was so tired. My UCSF midwife, the one I saw for maybe two prenatal visits, happened to be working that night and she became another important rock in the room, total strength. I wanted to get back in the bath, my only respite. She mentioned on the way in that the bath won’t slow down “active labor.” Oh, so I’m finally in “active” labor at this point, I thought, as we approach the 24 hour mark.

Sure enough, the bath felt good but did not lessen the contractions. She sat on the bathroom floor beside me as I alternated between comatose sleeping and big, hard, anguished contractions. I started to say I didn’t think I could do this. She said, “You can totally do this. You ARE doing this.”

I got out of the tub and, in my memory, I crawled back into the room. I think in reality I walked in but ended up on my hands and knees somehow, and I felt so desperate. I was saying I can’t do this, that I was frantic, that I just wanted the epidural. My audience wasn’t really going to budge on that one–they looked at me blankly for a moment, then with compassion, then said again, “You can do this.” I was furious. But I kept somehow, somehow, kept going, one contraction at a time.

The midwife said, well we do have this drug called Fentanyl that can take the edge off, it lasts about an hour to an hour and half. And I said YES, bring me that, thinking OK good, maybe this is all I needed. They brought it in, hooked it up to my IV, and I felt lightheaded for a second, then the next contraction hit. It honestly didn’t take the edge off, at all. Still, lightheadedness was something… And I kept going. By 5:20am I had progressed to “almost 8.” (Yes, that’s right–between 2:20 and 5:20am I progressed from 7 to “almost 8.”)

At this point, I just felt beaten. Em says that this is when I surrendered. I told my mom and my doula to go ahead and get some sleep–there was nothing more they could do for me. They were utterly exhausted. I got in a side-lying position on the bed, the only position I could manage, and the Fentanyl allowed me to sleep for two minutes at a time between contractions. For this, I thank that drug, because although it didn’t make it less painful, I think my body could regenerate just enough. There were almost no thoughts. No more visualizations, no more mantras, no more words or ideas. I couldn’t think of myself or the baby. The only thought I remember having was to call the nurse and ask her to bring me the nitrous oxide setup and specifically not to wake my mom or my doula–it would be our secret! But somehow I didn’t hit that call button.

That last hour was the purest, most intense physical experience of my life. Just huge waves that completely obliterated me, punctuated by sleep. And, at around 6:30am, just as the second sunrise broke across the city, I had the blessed urge to push. “Mom! I have the urge to push!” She had the nurse on the line 4 seconds later, the nurse had the doctor in 4 seconds after that, I was checked, and I was 10 cm–complete!!! Oh, hallelujah! Let’s DO THIS!!!

Everything changed–I was giddy. My doula had gone to the cafeteria and I texted her: “Ready to push come back!” I also texted Em and she was able to come. Doctors and nurses and midwives were assembling in the room and I was getting a primer on how to push–my doula said, “It’s going to feel like you’re pushing a giant boulder out of your butt.” (It totally did.) Gather all the energy of the contraction at the beginning, and, when you’re ready, give it everything you’ve got.

I ended up on my back on the bed, holding my knees in the air, and the sun streamed in, and this incredible team of birth goddesses made a U around the end of the bed–my doula, my mom, a medical student named Kacy who held up my iPad like a mirror so I could watch, a new midwife, the OB who would catch the baby, awesome/amazing nurses, and Em walked in just in time! I actually said, “this part is going to be fun.”

The mood was like a party–after the dim and dark hours of labor through the night, it felt like a different room. Sunshine and the talents of modern medicine and midwifery and family and love all gathered close.

When my first big contraction came, I gave it all I had–and the team totally freaked out, telling me I was a champion pusher and they could see the head already! What?!?! Yes! It has dark hair! Incredible! Just keep doing what you’re doing!

So I did–I was yelling in that gutteral way you see in movies and just pushing like gangbusters, harnessing the freight train that was rushing through my body, like no other sensation in the world. And the baby moved down, and down, and down. They were all so encouraging and clearly having a blast. And, honestly, so was I.

This was the high point, the whole pushing phase, I was totally empowered and animal and in my body. The head started to crown–they were pouring mineral oil over the top and holding a warm compress to my perineum and cheering like a crowd in a stadium. I could see his head emerging on my iPad and it was so motivating!

At some point, Em said, “K, REACH DOWN AND PULL OUT YOUR BABY!” and I did, and his whole body slipped out of me and he was on my chest and I was hyperventilating and laughing and saying “oh my god” a million times and he cried right away and looked at me with his EYES and grabbed my finger with his HAND and everyone was crying and he was perfect. They were wiping him roughly with towels to get him to pink up and suctioning his mouth and nose and it was a short umbilical cord so I couldn’t get him very high up but I could kiss his head and say, “I’m your mama! You’re here!” and he cried and was adorable and HUGE. He was born at 8:51am on May 19, 2014.

(He is back in the rocker sleeping peaceful now, thanks Mimi. And I’m sitting here crying, reliving his birth.)

We stayed like that for a long time, I have no idea how long, and eventually I cut the cord myself (!) and they took him across the room to do a few things and my mom went with him. I overheard someone say “10 pounds, 2 ounces,” and was completely blown away–none of us EVER thought I had a 10lb baby. In fact, thank goodness none of us knew, especially me. He came out long and strong. All his checks went perfectly and they brought him back to me. My mom went to my dad and sister in the waiting room that it would just be a little longer and they could come in–fortunately they weren’t in the room for what came next.

The docs were acting a little nervous about my placenta. Because he was so big, his placenta was also big. Then they were reassured, “there it is,” and it was born 14 minutes after the baby. And, when it detached it caused a hemorrhage. My doula got in my face with her big blue eyes as the room filled with twice as many doctors and said, “So, there’s an issue with the placenta, it’s totally going to be fine, we have the best team working on this, and you and I are going to just stay right here and focus on the baby.” I stayed calm as they put all kinds of new meds in my IV to get my uterus to clamp down and stop the bleeding, which they did quickly, but not before I lost a lot of blood.

So that was scary but because they resolved it so quickly, and I was on Cloud 1,000,000, it felt more like an addendum to the whole experience. I’m just so grateful that it was quickly resolved and I made a quick recovery.

They cleaned up the room and brought my family in and there were tears and photos and we called my sister D and welcomed our new family member. We ordered food and marveled over this little (not so little) guy who was just impossibly cute for having been born just hours before.

They moved me to a smaller room and my family left and I spent hours just staring at him, the rest of the day slipped away and I barely even slept. He was and is perfect. A dream come true. I am grateful for every moment with this beautiful human as I complete one epic journey and begin an even bigger one.

Welcome, Baby E. (and, on cue, he just woke up.)

xo

 

acupuncture, anxiety, gratitude, meditation, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

‘late’

Well, here we are 4 days past the due date and babes is still acting pretty comfortable in there.

First, I should say that all is well! I feel great. I’m sleeping and eating well, walking, swimming, doing yoga. These days are still precious gifts of mental/physical/material preparation. AND I’m still within the range of normal: first-time Caucasian moms on average go 8 days past their due date. As you know, I am both a first-time mom and Caucasian, and I always thought/knew we would go late. So I’m honestly not too surprised to be here.

On the day after my due date, I went over the protocol for the next two weeks with my midwife. It’s crazy how on 5/3 he would have been “early” and on 5/5 I was already “late” and walking through all the possible complications and interventions. Damn the arbitrary due date! Yet, I reminded myself that even though this baby will most likely be born on a normal and perfect timetable of his own creation, we did need to walk through what-ifs now that we know he won’t be early or precisely on time. (It should be noted that, as a rule, I am neither early nor precisely on time either.)

So–this week, nothing really changes. I keep resting, eating well, getting my heart rate up for an hour a day, drinking pregnancy tea, taking Mother’s Blend and black currant oil, relaxing. Not stressing. Doing kick counts and taking fetal love breaks.

Starting at 41 weeks (Sunday), I need to go in for non-stress tests at the hospital to make sure the baby is still thriving. They check the variability of the heartbeat and the level of amniotic fluid. This can lead to a thumbs up and come back in a few days, or, if the results are not optimal, a quick induction. If nothing happens by the end of next week, we’d try natural (castor oil) and then finally hospital (pitocin) methods of induction to ensure that I don’t go past 42 weeks. So that’s the roadmap.

It’s a relief to have the plan although tough to so quickly be thrust into the mindset of being ‘late.’ (Even though ‘normal.’) Again–being ‘early’ would have completely thrown me and made me feel unprepared, yet ‘late’ makes me feel a bit like an overripe piece of fruit. I have seen this so often from an outside perspective–the mom goes past her due date and is just done, over it, uncomfortable, and all-around cranky. I remember thinking (in that way that you know you don’t really understand because you haven’t experienced it), ‘Why is she so cranky? She knows the baby will come soon one way or another and all she has to do is relax and watch movies…’ In yoga, the teacher often asks whoever’s at 41 weeks if her phone is blowing up and she nods and rolls her eyes and the teacher gives her strategies for telling people to back off (like sending them to haveyouhadthatbabyyet.com).

I now have four days of insight into this genre of living with uncertainty and managing the expectations of the outside world. I have the huge bonus of not being uncomfortable which means my own reserves of patience are pretty full. And baby is doing all his kicks so I’m not overly worrying about his well-being. The anticipation is growing but the days feel peaceful and luxurious and lovely.

What stresses me out is my phone. Every time I look at it, there’s another text or email or voicemail. Now, you guys know me by now– I love hearing that people are thinking about me and sending good wishes. This is always welcome and I have many times been the one impatiently waiting for news on the other side, sending tentative “thinking of you” texts while trying to avoid any hint that I’m actually “checking in” (which I probably am). You really want to know that the mom and baby are OK and sometimes it gets unbearable to hear nothing. You start feeling like the ecstatic new mom may have forgotten to deploy the basic stats in a birth announcement and is now ensconced in a love cocoon that will prevent her from remembering her outside world and their burning need for information. And you want to know the name and see a photo and be assured that all is well. I know. I’ve been there, even in the past few weeks!

It’s the questions (“Do you have a baby yet?” “Sooooo?” My favorite from J, “When is he coming!!! We are all waiting for him!!!!’). And any expectation of me calling back. I know these are also fueled by love and good wishes, but I then have to convey a disappointing lack of news and speculate about something I can’t predict, which turns out to be stressful for me. Which I know is no one’s wish.

So, here goes me asking for what I need. I humbly ask of my beloved community to please send frequent love and good wishes and ‘thinking of you’ texts and voicemails and blog comments which will be code for ‘I’m dying for news over here and love you and the baby so much my heart may burst!’ and I promise to get the birth announcement posted on the blog as soon as my new mom life makes it possible.

I’ll be over here focusing on being rested, fueled, and stress-free, and also getting things rolling with daily acupuncture and meditation and walking and generally getting my head in the game. And having chats with Baby Boy about how exciting life is on the outside. (“Here’s your new bed, and here are your new clothes, and here’s your Mimi and Chacha, and here are the beautiful woods, and over there is the Golden Gate Bridge.” etc.)

One thing we all know for sure: he’ll be here soon. And I can’t wait to introduce you!!!

xoxoxo

acupuncture, family, gratitude, homebirth, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

on leave

I finished up work–sent out my ‘bye for now’ email to my team and set my out of office reply at 11:30pm on Friday night, my last work day before maternity leave. I finished everything on my to do list and cleaned out my inbox completely. I changed the settings on my phone so I won’t get notifications of new emails. It’s an amazing feeling to put work aside for more than two weeks, something I’ve maybe never done since I started working.

I’m decompressing now. I’m so exhausted, like all the years of working just caught up with me and now I don’t have to keep up appearances anymore and I can just be super-preggers and slow and tired. Today I walked 3 blocks to the bookstore and was staggering with round ligament pain on the way back. Hopefully one of my belly belts will help with this so I can keep walking but man those ligaments are struggling to hold up the weight. I kind of want a little cart to wheel in front of me.

It hasn’t completely sunk in yet that I’m done working, to be honest. It still feels impossible and surreal that they will send me paychecks as I adapt to my new job of motherhood. I think it will begin to feel real tomorrow morning, which is Monday. My brain is already letting the details of my projects go…

Crossing work off the to do list is huge and allows me to fully focus on taking care of myself and putting the finishing touches on preparations. And did I mention rest? My schedule this week: midwife, catch up with dear C, massage, therapist, acupuncture, haircut, pedicure. Parents arrive Wednesday to take up residence in the guest room!

Right now, babes is flicking at my pubic bone and sticking out his booty, awaiting his big day.

Last night, I had to get up twice to eat and then was ravenous again in the morning, which has contributed to my tired state. Which is why I think I should wrap this sleepy post and put my prego ass in bed with the giant magical pregnancy pillow (which I am calling Nagini. Did I mention I finished the Harry Potter series?i). I’m reading the Sears book about vaccines, which is 7 years old but interesting and accessible. I’ll get the updates online. I’m definitely vaccinating, just good to read a voice of reason and understand the details of it when there’s so much ignorance out there fueling the controversy.

So, anyway, I’m feeling fine and happy and sleepy. Enjoying these last sweet, peaceful days of my old life. (My apartment is so noticeably quiet.)

Today’s burgeoning belly @ 39 weeks!

39wks

acupuncture, anxiety, breech, gratitude, homebirth, meditation, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

turn, baby, turn

I had a directional ultrasound yesterday and confirmed that bébé is breech at 34 weeks. Eek!

He was head down at every other ultrasound, and even two weeks ago when Em checked me she felt his head in my pelvis. But on Thursday, Em couldn’t find his head–it seemed that baby boy felt the need to explore upward. Now I need to do everything in my power to get him to head back down.

My childhood friend V is visiting and came with me to the appt at UCSF yesterday, which was with a certified nurse midwife I’ve never seen before and I’m pretty sure the one most people don’t like. After giving my urine sample, she rushed me to the exam room, saying she had to hurry to make it to her own doctor’s appointment. (We had been 5 minutes late after missing the exit in Daly City.) She got me on the table, lubed me up with not-warm lube, and the very second she got the image on the monitor said, “the baby is breech.” So, not a lot of mysterious waiting. Then I watched a series of baby images fly by on the screen as she confirmed his position (including seeing his boy parts for the first time–cool), and then she said things like, “I strongly recommend not having a home birth with a breech baby.” (My understanding is that due to recent legislation, midwives are forbidden from assisting home births of breech babies, twins, and any baby being born outside of 37-42 weeks anyway, and I obviously wouldn’t do it unassisted.) Then she flew out.

Mostly I was annoyed that we didn’t get the chance to leisurely gaze at my baby on the monitor. I was pretty sure Em was right after the appointment the day before–I’d been getting a little obsessed over the previous week with figuring out the position of the baby, waking up at 3am and going to http://www.spinningbabies.com to work on belly mapping. But I just could not figure out what was what. Big kicks here, little flutters there, what the heck is this bump? Now I feel like my intuition was telling me something had changed.

I called Em, and she gave me a bunch of strategies for the coming days as we have 2-3 weeks to turn this situation around. After doing a bunch of googling, I can see that these are pretty universal:

  • Lie on an inverted ironing board against the couch with feet up and head down for 15 mins, twice a day. (I tried it this morning and it sucked. I googled further to find people complaining about it but found no complaints…maybe I did it wrong, but it was the same old discomfort of being on my back which cuts off circulation, plus not being able to breathe, plus feeling all my weigh pushing down on my neck, plus my tailbone grinding into the board. This one needs work–I’ll try with just pillows.)
  • Take pulsatilla, a homeopathic remedy–I took some last night.
  • Moxa: Chinese medicine technique of applying heat near an acupressure point associated with turning the baby: the outside pinkie toe (bladder 67). I’m getting some moxa from Em when I go to breakfast at her house tomorrow.
  • Acupuncture (same pinkie toe point–already had this on Thurs)
  • Lean forward, crawl around on hands and knees, do handstands and flips in the pool
  • Put frozen vegetables by the baby’s head and a warm compress near pelvis, coaxing him toward the warmth
  • Play music or shine light near the pelvis, maybe he’ll get curious and come on down?
  • Talk to baby, meditate, write out emotions, chant, recruit support and head-down vibes from blog followers

I won’t bother going into all the scenarios if he doesn’t flip by 37 weeks, because he will. He just will! (Visualization from V: I’m so grateful my baby flipped and I got to have a natural birth!)

Still, it’s upsetting, and my first lesson in a while in You Do Not Control This. This one is really up to the babe. I’m showing him every 5 minutes with my hands the direction to go, which is roughly counter-clockwise. Turn, baby!

I talked to my sister D last night and she said the same thing happened with her first–and she turned with plenty of time.

Yay, baby, yay baby!!!

acupuncture, anxiety, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

intuition

Today is the beginning of my third trimester: 28 weeks. Baby boy is the size of an eggplant and I’m starting to slow down and focus.

My doula came over today and we talked a lot about holding a sense of peace and clarity and connection with the baby amidst all that life and well-intentioned people and Google may throw at you. An interesting case study on this subject is that I recently got off the fence and got a flu shot. I had been abstaining with the idea that I would rather not inject anything I don’t absolutely have to, especially when they specifically tell you that studies haven’t been done on pregnant women. However, my acupuncturist made a gentle but strong case to me and the risk of getting really sick finally outweighed any potential risk of the actual shot. I’d been unsure and getting mixed messages for weeks and months, but finally I got clear.

I got the shot on Wednesday night, and on Thursday I developed a paranoia that the baby was quieter than usual. I knew that it was a manifestation of my anxiety and probably nothing more, yet I somehow felt like I gave him the flu. Then, he woke me up at 3am that night with unprecedented tumbling somersaults–the first time he ever woke me with his movement. My doula took this as a sign of good communication–he let me know he was OK.

As I get closer to becoming an actual mom, I wonder–how do you trust that you know what is right for your baby even when your trusted experts may disagree with each other and/or you? The flu shot was a relatively low-stakes version of this scenario but the question still looms large.

Last night, my mom asked me what has surprised me most about being pregnant, and I told her that it’s the intuition, the sense that I do have an open line of communication with this little guy, even as I’m on conference calls and scrubbing the bathtub and riding the bus. I couldn’t have anticipated this. No one else knows what he’s saying through his interpretive dances. I get every single email. Now this extra sense is a part of every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment. I used to think it was a sci-fi alien experience to have a baby in your belly but in reality it feels like an extension of me, my new normal. I love his presence. I do have a sense of what’s right for him–yet I know it won’t always be black and white, and I will make lots and lots (and lots) of mistakes. I also know that I want to keep developing this intuition because it’s probably always right.

Today, my doula drew this for me:

photo (13)

Lately I do have a stronger sense of what I need, a tighter focus on what’s important. My former mentor once said, “Saying no to others is saying yes to yourself.” Saying no has always been tough for me. I won’t be able to be as accommodating as I’ve been in the past. No–I can’t make it, I can’t commit, I can’t say what I’ll be doing over Labor Day weekend. Even if I know that setting boundaries or opting out or canceling plans is really good and healthy for me, it’s still hard. Because it represents a fundamental shift in behavior–I won’t be so easygoing, flexible, no problem I’ll come to you. Some people won’t like it and will reflect back a note of disappointment. Most will completely understand. And I feel like this shift is something I’ve been working toward for a long time, and the baby is giving me a boost. Which is one of his first gifts to me.

The lessons just arrive one on top of the other through this journey. You know what you need. Trust it. Trust the emails from your baby. Trust that your body knows. Stay here.

This trust will serve me in the third trimester and in labor and through motherhood. Dropping the ‘shoulds’ and comparisons and what ifs and just being with what I already know, deep in my reptilian brain, ditching the frequently unhelpful neo-cortex. (As my doula noted, we are the only animal who attends birth prep classes.)

This week’s photo was taken outside the Kabuki Sundance theater where my sister and I saw “American Hustler” (good!) and ran out of interesting backdrops on this rainy night. The belly is now getting me a seat on the bus and my belly button is threatening to invert.

28 weeks

Have a great week, wise ones. xo

acupuncture, anxiety, family, fertility, IVF, meditation, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

the faith and the love and the hope

I’ve been hesitating to write lately, not sure what to say until the definitive results of Wednesday’s ultrasound. Then I realized that whatever is at the core of that hesitation is itself something to write about, so here I am with a cup of tea.

I suppose I’m afraid of sounding too triumphant or too full of dread when I really don’t know yet who’s in there, where they implanted, or if their hearts are beating properly. So much is still unknown.

We have a lot going for us:

  • we transferred two
  • both embryos tested genetically normal
  • my beta numbers were high

And yet: everything depends on Wednesday.

I’m not especially feeling triumphant or full of dread, managing to walk a line of relative peaceful neutrality as I exercise mildly, eat impeccably, and sleep up a storm. Buddha willing, I will maintain this as Wednesday approaches.

Olga made a point of telling me that Dr. T. insisted on doing this ultrasound for me, which of course I found reassuring. My sister will be there by my side. We will look at my uterus on a screen and see with our own eyes who has taken up residence.

I keep putting this in the plural and I know the top question on everyone’s mind is: one or two? Interestingly, I’m not as fixated on that question. My fervent wish is that I have greater than or equal to one.

On Friday, Walgreens let me know that my refill on estrogen patches would cost $300. I called my insurance to find out that if you order the same drug more than three times from a retail pharmacy, they consider it a maintenance drug and ping you $225 for not using their mail order service. And of course I needed it for Sunday night. So, I posted on the SF SMC listserv and asked if anyone could spot me some patches to tide me over.

The response was overwhelming and generous. Responses from all over the Bay Area. Responses from friends out of town (B wished she could remember where they were in her apartment, J offered to describe to me how to break into her house in San Rafael). I was instantly and deeply aware of this amazing community of hundreds of women to which I am connected.

I chose the offer that was located closest to me, a woman I met over a year ago at an SMC meeting. We quickly ran through our histories and statuses–we both miscarried last summer. We’re both on our second IVF transfer. And we’re both pregnant–she is 4 weeks ahead of me.

She confided about her anxiety that something will go wrong–she is trying to manage her stress and having a hard time, going to ultrasounds every 10 days, obsessing over reaching the magical 12-week mark when you’re more or less out of the woods.

She said that her acupuncturist reminded her not to resist the anxiety, but to surrender, to feel the fear and the pain of past loss and how hard it is to live with uncertainty, let it flow. It was a great reminder to me–honor whatever shows up. Awaken to the present moment. Sit and breathe. Be present with what is. My prescription from the universe.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the 
dancing.
                                          ~T.S. Elliot
acupuncture, dating, depression, fertility, IVF, meditation, outdoors, running, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

hope

First, thank you to all who have reached out to me in so many thoughtful ways. I love you.

It’s been hard to decide what to write as I navigate the aftermath of FET#1. The depth of grief goes well beyond what I’ve previously experienced in this process. I will admit that my last post was written hastily after learning the news myself–I was in shock. I wanted to appear strong to those who might worry that the disappointment would send me into total collapse. I thought I might be able to skip over dealing with it; with margaritas, keeping previously-made plans, and working hard. Keep moving forward.

Here’s a shocker: that didn’t work. By Thursday it caught up with me. I felt the familiar old tentacles of depression wrapping around me and pulling me down. The awful chanting of negative thoughts in my brain. The worst one: I spent my 30s trying to build a family, and I have failed. No one will attach to me permanently, not a man, not an embryo. (Not even a dog!) I sobbed to my therapist. Poor, poor me.

While grieving and disappointment and sadness (and even anger at slacker embie #1) are normal and healthy after how much time, money, and effort I’ve invested in this process, I also recognize the ‘poor me’ refrain. It’s a sign that I’m hooking into distorted thinking and descending into a place of hopelessness. I’ve felt it before. There’s a healthy grieving process and then there are the terrorists. The terrorists aim to use this as proof that hope is futile. Thank God I know the difference by now. I knew it was time to use my tools before I sunk any further. My acupuncturist reminded me that depression is a state of static and clenching, and, even if it sounds like the last thing you want to do, it’s important to force yourself to get out and be active, go for a run, be outside. It moves things around, helps you move through.

So, yesterday I hiked from 8-4, with MM, along the stunning, sunny coastline of the Marin Headlands–a big loop from Tennessee Valley up to Muir Beach and back through Green Gulch Farm. I cried to MM that there’s a big scoreboard and my score is zero, to which she responded, “And the game isn’t over yet.”

Toward the end of the hike, I stood at a single high point from which I could see Bodega Bay, Muir Beach, Ocean Beach, Sutro Tower, the GG Bridge, the SF skyline, the Bay, Mt. Diablo, I felt my body in the warm sunshine. My anti-depressant.

This morning, I listened to Tara Brach’s latest podcast, called “Part 1: Hope and the Spiritual Path.” I beg you to listen to this podcast. I command you. It’s one hour. You can listen to a lot or a little. Not only does it perfectly articulate where I am right now in terms of maintaining hope, it has priceless nuggets of wisdom for each one of you. I will listen to it many times. The potential of the oak tree is contained within the acorn. What we hope for is already within us.

There is egoic hope based in fear, and there is a holy hope based in a basic faith that God isn’t just rolling the dice on us. Our lives have meaning. It will be some time before I become a cheerleader for FET#2, but for now I feel, deeply, that I am still on my spiritual path, and this is all part of it, and it is all making me stronger and better prepared for whatever comes next. (That still sounds a little stronger than I feel, but I know it’s the right direction.)

At times, I have wondered how this blog could be inspiring to people–I have tried and failed ten times. Sounds like a bummer. Then, this past week, I have been reading other women’s posts online, and every time I see someone weather a failure and then somehow continue to put one foot in front of the other, my heart soars. I get it.

So, here I go, out for a run at Lands End. xo

[Tara’s podcast will be available within a week or so on her website www.tarabrach.com. Meanwhile, you can access this podcast by downloading the Podcasts app through the iTunes store, search for “Tara Brach. Enjoy, and please report back if you listen!]

acupuncture, fertility, IVF, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

happy transfer

Embie on board!

I took the Valium an hour beforehand, so by the time my sister got here to pick me up I was giggly. I was overly-accessorized, wearing one item to represent each family member: earrings from my dad, a scarf from my mom, arm warmers from my sister, a bracelet from my other sister, and a ring from each grandma. I was Ready.

Upon arrival, I took all that off and changed into my gown, cap, and booties. So did my sister so she could be in the room. We were invited into the transfer room adjacent to the embryologist lab and the first thing Dr. Tran did was hand me this printed photo of embie #1, freshly thawed and hatched this morning:

embie1 (2)

I am SUPER PROUD of this photo and it’s on my fridge now. Dr. Tran said that this is a “textbook” blast, looks really really good.

I asked how big it was and he said 75 microns. How big that is, I am not sure. Still very small.

The embryologist gave me a visual tour of the lab from where I could see it from the table, and I can’t say I remember any details in my loopy state but I was fascinated and thought he was cute. I thanked him a lot and he gave me a thumbs up.

Once we were ready to go and Dr. T. inserted the catheter, the nurse had put jelly on my belly and it was my first non-vaginal ultrasound perhaps ever. I could see the end of the catheter appear on the monitor, with a white dot on the end. The catheter nudged a little until the dot stayed in place and the catheter backed out. I saw the dot stay in my uterus and it brought me joy. I looked over at my sister and we were both wearing masks but had WOW in our eyes.

And that was that. I was given an “After Visit Summary” that begins, “We want you to know that once the embryo is transferred, there is really nothing a patient can do to influence the outcome of the cycle.” (And then goes on to list a bunch of restrictions anyway… Precautions.)

Mostly I’m supposed to take it easy for a couple of days and that’s it. Dr. T. said not to run a marathon or take up smoking. Be sensible. Modern medicine has done everything in its power to create a successful pregnancy, and now it’s up to the embryo to do this last step on its own. The handout also says, “Most embryos that fail to implant do so because of intrinsic genetic abnormalities.” We know my embie is normal so let’s hope it’s happening right now (implantation in the first 24-48 hours).

I told Dr. T. that I was so glad it was him today and he said he would have done it even if he hadn’t been on this week. Love him!

I’m really, really tired. I woke up at 4:40 this morning and couldn’t fall back to sleep in my excitement. Then the Valium knocked me out in the afternoon–I napped, then did acupuncture, and now I’m a wet noodle. Time for bed.

THANK YOU for the many good wishes today–love you all.

acupuncture, anxiety, fertility, IVF, meditation, outdoors, ovulation, parenthood, pregnancy, running, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

tomorrow

Tomorrow is my transfer day, at 12:15pm! Good vibes, prayers, and love sent in the direction of Sutter and Divisadero, SF, CA, USA are  welcomed and appreciated! Thanks so much for the love, hugs, texts, emails, and calls already flowing in.

The weekend was a slow and steady build toward the big day. On Friday night, I had my two-hour clairvoyant reading. The five readers sat across from me with their eyes closed as they took turns reading my energy. They checked all my chakras, cleaned out the old pictures, told me about some of my past lives (I was a contented Eskimo mom as well as a famous actress in the 1910’s), and generally validated my commitment to having a child. No major blockage toward reaching my goal. After the intensity of the reading, I felt emotionally delicate. I walked to Dolores Park and sat on a bench overlooking the twinkling city, and cried. It was cleansing. If that’s what it means to get your chakras cleaned out, I’m for it.

On Saturday morning, I ran to the top of Twin Peaks, remembering with every uphill that it would be my last challenging run for a while–I savored it. I don’t normally go to the tippy-top, but this time I did.

In the afternoon, I went for Maya abdominal massage. At first, we talked about diet. She gave me some foods to target: avocado (superfood), cilantro (cooling), cinnamon (anti-inflammatory), chia seeds (another superfood w/ omega 3s, she wants me to eat them throughout the day), have a smoothie soon after waking up (to maintain blood sugar), avoid grains in the evening (to not spike blood sugar then crash overnight), drink cranberry leaf tea (to support healthy lining), etc. She has a really soothing manner. We both spoke softly.

Then, we prepared for the vagina steaming, which was very simple: she had been simmering some herbs in a regular pot which she put under what I think was a birthing stool, with the lid at an angle to let the steam rise up. she had me sit on the stool and then she wrapped me in a thick red blanket, leaving me to meditate for ten minutes. It felt odd but nice, not too hot. Every herb in there had a specific purpose, the end result ostensibly being an irresistibly sticky womb.

Afterward, I got on the massage table and she said she was going to feel around for my uterus. Did you know this was possible? I did not. I would have thought it was too far in the middle of the body. The uterus is, in fact, impossible for me to visualize, unless it’s a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, or a pancake. In the 3D environment of my body, I am clueless.

She found it with her fingers, pressing gently. She exclaimed, “She’s pretty anterior!” and then gradually guided “her” back to center. It felt a little strange to have someone pawing at my belly, but not as uncomfortable as I imagined it could be.

She finished with a full body massage, my first in years–so amazing. I was jello after that. I had no choice but to go home and take a nap. The rest of the weekend I spent holding babies at parties and celebrating my sister’s graduation.

Today, I went around feeling like I swallowed a canary. At the end of the day, I stopped to pick up groceries for an uber-healthy, delicious dinner, and ended up spending $15 on a wild salmon filet that turned out to be maybe the best salmon I’ve ever had, simply prepared with lemon and garlic in foil. Also, broccoli. And chips with homemade guacamole w/ cilantro. Now I’ll drink some cranberry leaf tea and take a bath before bed.

My evening protocol right now has me decreasing the estrogen patches on my belly while I increase the dosage of intramuscular progesterone injections. This is mimicking what happens after ovulation, but without the ovulation, getting my uterus right where a Day 6 blast would want and expect it to be. The progesterone shots are gnarly–1.5″ needle and a funky angle to do on yourself. They’re not so painful at the time, but I have a little painful knot developing behind each hip. I massage them a lot. I’ll continue these for several if not many weeks–and it should be noted that the side effects are identical to those of pregnancy (including delaying AF!).

Tomorrow is a dream day: therapy at 7:30, personal trainer at 9:30, go home and take a Valium, my sister picks me up at 11:30, meet embie #1 soon after 12:15, then acupuncture at 3pm.

How do I feel? I feel like I’ve done a really good job. I have done everything in the world I could reasonably do. I feel really hopeful and a little anxious, also grounded, centered, uterus-centered, nourished, peaceful. I feel like all that I’ve learned and practiced around self-care these past weeks are gifts already received from the baby to be.

What a process. Grateful for you and all of the above and the chance to get pregnant tomorrow.

xo

acupuncture, anxiety, fertility, IVF, meditation, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc, two week wait

transfer date

You guys! At long last, we are almost to transfer.

I drove over to my lining check feeling happy to be going back to UCSF after weeks and weeks of no appointments. The woman at the front desk told me I owed “$27.99.” I looked at her in confusion and told her my co-pays are usually $40. She said, “No, sorry, I meant [whispered] $2,799.” OOHHH. Right. This is the cost of one Frozen Embryo Transfer, up front. This time, I had an amazon Rewards Card–see, I’m getting better at this all the time.

When Dr. Zamah walked into the exam room, I was reading through my lengthy FET consent form, getting my head back in the game. He said he’d be looking for a good lining and no cysts. I wasn’t anxious until that moment–who’s to say what’s going on in there??

Going in, though, I knew that throughout this entire process, I have not missed a single pill, injection, or patch. Amazing. That’s how #1 this is in my own mind.

Awesome results–lining is great, left ovary quiet, right ovary quiet; he said, “I approve! Green light!” He’s a nice, light-hearted guy. And, just like that, I was over the last hurdle.

Almost. I met with Nurse Claire, who said they’re having great results with FETs recently. We went over my new protocol. (I now have four calendars taped to my kitchen wall from this whole process.) Tonight, I’ll peel off one of the four estrogen patches on my belly and give myself a progesterone shot. Start Medrol tomorrow. Valium on my transfer date, which is:

—>Tuesday, June 11<—

My sister will drive me there and back. We are transferring one embryo, my Day 6 5BB, my frontrunner.

Between now and then, I’ll do acupuncture, a clairvoyant reading/healing, and Maya abdominal massage (including vagina steaming–you know I will report back). I’ll sit outside with friends, and otherwise relax and meditate and rest and drink smoothies. (I just had one with banana, avocado, frozen blueberries and strawberries, spinach, honey, almond butter, chia seeds, coconut milk, and ice. Delish.) I’ve got this covered.

Pregnancy test 2 weeks later on 6/25 (yep, it’s still a two week wait…if I don’t pee on a stick first).

On the way out, I saw Maria from the front desk and Lili the genetic counselor and gave them hugs. When I told them my transfer was Tuesday, Lili said, “O….M….G!!”

Exactly.