Monday, 26 January 2015

Do you think he knows there is a baby in there?

About a week or so after Angus's death, I announced that I was going to start interviewing potential candidates to fulfil the cat vacancy that had opened up at our house. Like hiring an employee, it was essential that we select the cat that would best fit within our family. Tyler's sweet face invited me to view his profile, which read "his resume boasts of lap-sitting, non-stop purring and looking supercute". It was a little eerie that the word 'resume' was used, as it fit just to perfectly with my interviewing approach. I had the feeling he was the one, and naturally, Tyler aced his call back.

Of course, I had to go through my own interview process to be approved for his adoption. His application form asked many details questions about our home life, including if we had any children in the house. Fortunately, this agency didn't ask is we had plans for children. When my friends Sam and Diane suffered a miscarriage, they decided to adopt a cat while they were waiting to try again. Hitting on a sensitive nerve, the shelter director asked if they were planning to have kids any time soon. When Diane admitted that they were, the director put her pen down and informed the couple they were considered unsuitable for adoption. "I've seen your type before." she explained "Once the baby comes along, you'll neglect the cat." Sam and Diane went to another shelter, this time they were prepared to lie if they were asked the same invasive question. Diane also employed a different tactic, she expressed interest in an older, hard to place cat. The rejection that she experience from the first shelter made her sympathetic to the cat that no one wants to adopt. Diane would go on to become pregnant with twins on their first attempt after her miscarriage, but the cat was actually a good fit for their soon to be expanding family. She actually prefers to be left alone, but she gets fed in the morning, finds sunny spots for her naps and sleeps on the foot of Sam and Diane's bed each night. For her, it's a great life.

It did give me pause to consider that not only was Tyler going to have to adjust to a new home and new family, he was going to have to learn his supportive role to an infertile couple. I once asked Husband if he thought Angus was aware of what we were going through with our fertility treatments and miscarriages. "I think he sensed the tension" Husband speculated. He sure did. He just seemed to know when I was down and in need of some kitty therapy. I just had to hope that Tyler was going to be a quick study. He had only been with us for about two months by the time I did my fourth transfer, and I don't think he was too aware of what was going on, although he did sit on my lower legs while I was resting. Two months later, when we did our final FET, I think he had a better understanding. Post transfer, he snuggled right on my lower pelvis as if he were acting as an incubator for my uterus.

"Do you think he knows there's a baby in there?" Husband asked as Tyler was once again lying on my lap. This photo was taken when I was nine weeks along. Could he sense baby Jate's heartbeat? Cats have a powerful sense of smell and are specially responsive to pheromones. My Vet mentioned that her cats seemed to know that she was pregnant before she did with both her pregnancies. A few years ago, an article was published in the New England Journal of Medicine about a cat who lives in a Nursing Home and would sense when residents were about to die. Dogs can be trained to recognised hypogylcaemic episodes or to detect seizure activity. Is it too much of a reach to think that a cat could detect life?

I like to think that he can. He still sits on my lap, but in a more protective manner. Dare I say even proud.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The 2015 Challenge

Prior to making our announcement to my parents, Husband speculated that they might offer us money or make some other grand gesture after learning that we needed to do IVF. The discussion made me uncomfortable, as it brought me back to my conversation with Myrtle, where she thought I was entitled to ask my parents to fund a night nurse because we had spent so much to give them a grandchild. I instructed Husband that he was only to discuss the financial aspects if specifically asked, and that he should reply with vague answers. It didn't take much prompting. After one question, Husband sung like a canary and divulged the full amount. Although we had agreed that we would only give each other one gift less than fifty dollars as Christmas presents, my parents announced that they would get us new garage doors. (As you read this, remember to pronounce the word gar-ege rather than gah-raghe.) Ours are wooden and they're pretty ratty.

The prior home owners removed the automatic operators, so they need to be opened manually and propped up...

Nonetheless, neither car has seen the inside of our garage since we moved in almost five years ago. The garage has served as a workshop during our renovation products as well as a location to store all things random crap. Finishing the garage has been on our grand to-do list, but relatively low on the priority ranking. In addition to the pregnancy and infertility announcements, the weather may have encouraged my parents' offer. It was pouring rain and unseasonably cold on the night they arrived. Getting wet and cold while lifting suitcases out of the boot yielded concerns about getting a baby in and out of the car seat. I was tempted to voice that the cold and rainy days are rather few, but Co-worker convinced me how useful a functional garage can be. "Your kids fall asleep while you're driving, and you just pull into the garage, put the baby monitor in the car, let them sleep while you go in the house and get shit done." So, we thanked my parents for their very generous present. However, this gift has become a little like one of those If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books...

Prior to mounting the garage door openers, we should dry wall the ceiling...

If we'll be dry walling the ceiling, then we finish the walls...

If we're going to be pulling cars into the garage, then we'll need to improve our "organisation" system

So, we should create some extra storage space above the rafters...

And we might as well give the floors an epoxy treatment...

Not to sound ungrateful, but this gift of the garage doors is going to involve a bit of money and work on our part, which we weren't quite expecting. My Dad suggested that he and Husband could tackle the project while he and my mother come to visit/help after Jate's arrival. I quickly rejected that suggestion. Firstly, I know how all-consuming renovating can be, and I want Husband to learn his fatherly duties. Specifically, nappy changing. Although, I know it's good to have normal volume in the house, as a fetus is exposed to a lot of sounds in utero, pure quiet can be startling, but I don't think the loud noises from power tools will be particularly soothing. I'm also not a germophobe, but no matter what room you renovate, the dust and dirt invade the entire house. Finally, although we've said that we'll fit baby into our lives, rather than revolving our lives around the baby, after all this time, he or she will have earned their moment in the sun... It later occurred to me that my Dad may not really know how to help care for an infant. Paternity time wasn't a concept in 1976. I was born on a Saturday, came home on Sunday and he probably went back to work on Monday. Scheduling conflicts don't allow my dad to come out before Jate's due date, so it will be up to us to complete the garage before Jate's arrival, which could be earlier than anticipated. Long time readers may recall our 2013 Challenge, when I tried to become pregnant before finishing painting and installing all our kitchen cabinets. Watch this space for updates on our progress.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Bump Denial

After announcing to our family and a few friends from Cross-Fit, it's starting to feel that I may just be, actually pregnant. We haven't quite connected this fact with the possibility that we might really be having a baby. It still seems like an abstract concept. We'll casually speak about a baby coming into our lives, but I think we sound like one of those fertile couples who discuss plans for their future children as they believe they're guaranteed to have kids. (One of my patients is trying to conceive her third baby, her last menstrual period was 22 December, so she's still in her luteal phase, too early to test with a FREPT, but she already scheduled a new OB visit in February. Probably while smoking the post coital cigarette. Just try to imagine that.) We're still working our way past the major hurdles. Although it was a bit perfunctory, we still scored our normal NT scan and negative first trimester results as a victory. Our Panorama testing was negative for the most common microdeltions, including 22q11 deletion syndrome. Also know as DiGeorge Syndrome, most notably portrayed as 'The Bubble Boy' from Seinfeld. The next stop is the Quad marker screening, to be followed by a hopefully normal anatomy scan. If all that goes well, then we focus on reaching viability and holding off pre-eclampsia. I still haven't purchased anything baby related, and other than my cousin's offer of her bassinet, I haven't given any thought to the nursery or the million other items we'll need, but I suspect that is to be expected for anyone at this gestational age, and not just those as wary as us.

I'm still not ready to be public about the pregnancy, but I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep it secret. I informed my mother that I won't have the fucking textbook perfect pregnancy that Myrtle did and I instructed her not to discuss any specific medical details with Mrs Myrtle. She later complimented me on how I looked, so I offered that she could mention to Mrs Myrtle that I was barely showing and had only gained one pound by 12 weeks. (Myrtle gained an excessive amount of weight during her pregnancy and her mother hounded her about it.) "I don't mind if you compare us in the categories where I'm WINNING!" Yet, I may have spoke too soon as my weight gain doubled by the time I officially hit my second trimester. I can still fit into my regular clothes, although I'm starting to hypothesise that work out clothes can serve as maternity wear. Fortunately, I have a lot of black dresses, so I've been relying on the slimming effects of the dark colours. I've been asking Husband to do a 'bump check' before I leave for work, although I claim that I don't have a bump yet. "Yeah... you do..." Husband counters. I argue that he's anxious for the bump's presence as he's been rubbing the space. As well as talking to it...

Concealing the bump at swimming has been easier than expected. As I tend to run a little late, by the time I'm diving in, everyone else is in the pool doing their warm up laps. I also decided to swim in the 6 PM session as it's been so cold in the morning. Thus, I get to avoid Lena and Summer and the other girls in the locker room. Actually, even pre-bump I was tempted to tell my latemates as swimming was such a struggle in the early weeks. Shortness of breath and reduced exercise tolerance are common symptoms and the high oxygen demands making swimming especially arduous. I went from being the lane leader, to barely being able to keep up with the interval. However my absence during our east coast trip and my post transfer recovery supported my claim that I was just really out of shape (kernel of truth). As an extra bonus, the swimmers in the evening session are much slower, so I'm feeling like I'm a rock star.

I don't check my blood pressure at home as often as I should, but I've been really diligent about taking my Labetalol twice a day, as well as my baby aspirin. When I went for my first OB visit, the medical assistant measured my blood pressure with the automated cuff. 166/107. Holy shit. I am going to die during this pregnancy... I asked her to check in manually and it was 130/84. While I am no longer in denial about my hypertension, I will always insist on manual readings. My mother also had a hard time accepting that I have blood pressure issues. She thought it could be attributed to my luteal phase support meds, and I ignored her advice to consider stopping the Labetalol after I went off my progesterone. Of course, this could also be her defense mechanism as I claimed that her genes were to blame. Nonetheless, I explained what is in store during my pregnancy. Frequent ultrasounds to monitor baby Jate's growth. ('Jate' was my mother's creation, as it's a combination of our intended boy name 'Jack' and girl name 'Kate'. More appealing that the other option 'Kack') Twice weekly survaliance testing starting at 32 weeks. Hopefully these aspects along with my lab work will be stable and I won't need an emergency Caesarean delivery. Otherwise, unless I spontaneously go into labour, I'll probably be induced sometime between 38-39 weeks. Yet, my mother asked me if I were planning to have a natural delivery. Twice. Bump denial comes in many forms.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Prodigal Daughter

A few weeks after the failure of FET #4, I received a call from my mother to discuss visiting over Christmas. My aunt expressed that she really wanted to see my father this year after her ordeal with breast cancer. As my mother works in health care, she isn't able to take extended time off around the holidays. So, she decided to move her retirement up a few months and come out to the West Coast for two weeks. During this time, Husband and I were discussing when to take the plunge with yet another FET. He wanted to defer the transfer until after October, so I wouldn't have to administer meds while visiting my parents in Connecticut, and it would give us a break financially. My RE's vacation in November meant the next opportunity would be in December, which would coincide with my parents' visit. It was interesting that Husband thought it was burdensome to shoot myself up with Lupron at my parents' house, but we could discretely run out for a transfer and then casually breeze through the two week wait while hosting my parents. Obviously, that was not appealing to me. I convinced Husband to proceed with the transfer in October, so that if it didn't work, we could perform the Endometrial Function Assay and prepare for a final transfer in January. Meanwhile, I tried not to think about the fact that if that transfer worked, we would be able to inform my parents when they came to visit for Christmas.

I scanned myself that morning to make sure we were still good to go. Their flight arrived in the early afternoon. Traffic delayed the drive home and my parents had just settled in with a glass of wine when I came home from work. I started opening the Christmas cards we received in the post that day, while on cue, my mother mentioned that she didn't receive one from  us. "Oh, we decided to save the postage"  Husband explained, as I presented them with their Christmas card. Tucked inside the card was a recent ultrasound photo with the announcement "Baby Allen, due July 2015" as well as the blastocyst picture. My mother burst into tears and revealed that for years she has been saying that all she wants for Christmas is an ultrasound photo. "Well, we've been trying for years to give you one..." these words began to explain our experience with infertility and repeat pregnancy loss. As I anticipated, my mother was upset that I didn't confide in her. She brought it up a few times during her visit. I reiterated my reasons multiple times, but I think it still bothers her. My father was much more understanding.

As we were clearing the table at Thanksgiving, I talked to my aunt about her chemotherapy treatment, so I could have some suggestions to help my friend who was about to start that process, and I felt badly that she was hosting both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I made what I considered to be a non-offer, and suggested that we could have Christmas at my house. She replied with the anticipated response, "oh, that's sweet! but no thank you, I was planning to have everyone here for Christmas." A few days later she reconsidered, and sent me a text, "Actually having Christmas at yours would be great". I didn't think that (A) my 76 year old aunt was texting and (B) that she would ever accept my offer. I had to break the news to Husband, who of course thought of all the practical considerations that I neglected. "Where are we going to fit 10 people?" and "Do we have enough matching plates and flatware for 10 people?" Fortunately, my parents are expert entertainers and worked this dinner as if they were our catering staff. We put our breakfast table next to the dinning room table and found it would seat 8 adults and 2 kids. I did an alternating plate pattern, which I thought I could pull off as being trendy. The only hitch in the day was that we asked my aunt to bring a chair for my cousin's older son, and we asked my cousin to bring her travel high chair. They both forgot, so we had to use our office chairs, which meant I had to re-arrange my entire table configuration. Grrrr.

We deferred to my Dad to lead a toast before dinner commenced, as he wanted to acknowledge his sister's triumph over her cancer. It was extremely touching to hear him recall his initial fear and anger after learning of her diagnosis to allowing himself to be inspired by her recovery. My father and his sister may only have one common parent, but they are full siblings in every way possible. He described how they made their decision to make the trip to the Bay Area this year, but then he added that they'll be back next year. "Only, I'll have a new title. I'll be called 'Morfar'" My aunt was the only one who recognised the Swedish word for grandfather and shrieked before hugging me and Husband, which clued in everyone else. I was able to disclose to my relatives that I've been pregnant for the past three Thanksgivings, but this was the first time I was still pregnant by Christmas. Husband quickly recapped our infertility stats. "Oh, we know all about going through that" my cousin responded.

There was so much venom that I wanted to spew. I wanted to express that as a fellow infertile I felt betrayed by the way they displayed amnesia toward their own experience. I wanted to express how shocked I was by their lack of sensitivity. I wanted to express my anger at they way they fueled the ignorance by proclaiming their spontaneous conception was the result of 'being so relaxed...' Yet, I knew it wasn't the time nor the place. Especially as my cousin offered to let us use the bassinet used by her sons and my other cousin's children, I retracted my claws. As infertility has made us chavs, we will accept any item offered to us, but I liked the idea that something used by other infants in our family, would be passed along to me. My cousin's husband was quick to say "Well, now you can forget all about that [our infertility experience]" NO WE WON'T. Husband and I responded in unison. He also warned that we might conceive spontaneously on our next trip to Hawaii. "No, I'm familiar with this stuff called birth control" I retorted with a snappy tone.

Trying to contain my parents' excitement was an impossible task. They were able to attend my nuchal translucency ultrasound, but following Husband's lead, they were watching my reaction as well as the screen. I'm not trained in performing NT scans, but I've seen enough images to recognise a normal versus an abnormal scan. Our baby looked textbook. My mother expressed that after knitting sweaters and hats for so many other babies, she was delighted to have the opportunity to work her knitting needles for her own grandchild. She mentioned that she recently donated two knit onesies to a charity event. "Well a knit onesie may be a little warm where we live" I informed her as I noted that we would love any hats, sweaters and blankets. Meanwhile, my father causally mentioned they visited a furniture consignment shop that was owned by an English couple. He later described that they had some nice leather chairs. The next day, my mother showed me a picture from her phone of my dad sitting in one of the chairs. Two days later, my dad described that the arms of the chairs were perfectly positioned for holding a baby in one's arms. Okay, I know they're excited about their future grandchild, but does that mean they get to redecorate our living room? Before I could address that, my mother pulled up a picture of the onesies she donated. They were actually more of a complete pajama with closed feet. I'm not an expert, but I thought you wanted something soft like cotton against baby's delicate skin. It didn't seem too practical. "I still think it might be too hot..." I suggested. "Fine!" my mother snapped as she closed the cover to her mini iPad. "I won't do anything for you!" Sigh. First lesson in parenting: learn to pick your battles with the grandparents.