Friday, November 22, 2013

Hazel Mae is here!

Our daughter Hazel Mae came into the world Monday evening, hungry and full of things to say. She's pretty perfect, and we've never been more in love.

We brought her home in the dress I was brought home from the hospital wearing... how perfect is that? My mom took care of it all these years. My sister and niece wore it, too, so Hazel's carrying forward an important tradition.

I'll be back with more details soon, but for now, we're going to keep getting to know each other. Yawning, stretching, snoozing... all that good stuff.

In the meantime, here's the last photo taken of us as a couple, before parenthood. It's from our DC "UnShower," which my friend Nole highlighted online here and here. She and Sara knocked out some amazing details for the party, and we had such a good time celebrating Baby H with friends before she came into the world.

Now that our girl is here, life feels so, so good. Be back soon... I'm off to soak in more of this goodness.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Almost there

This thing is almost over, kids! CRAZY.

I forgot the 37 week photo. Slacker. But here we go anyway:

Pregnancy still feels like a pretty miraculous thing. I went into it refusing to complain very much, since this is literally a privilege that we paid handsomely for, but I've found that I don't really have much to complain about anyway. Do I miss my old feet and ankles, being able to pee like a normal person, and bend over without grunting? Yes! But are these things pretty damn small in the scheme of what we're doing? Absolutely. I'm 25 pounds heavier with happiness, and it feels great.
Here's our singular pregnancy drama so far: Baby H hung out for at least a few weeks in the breech position. She was head-down for our 33-week appointment, but that Saturday we were in North Carolina for a family party and my mom surprised me with a "4D" ultrasound tech coming over to the house, who promptly showed us that H was hanging out upright. Eeeek. We spent the next few weeks trying to get her to turn with everything we could throw at her: acupuncture, moxibustion, temperature extremes, light treatment, and a chiropractor. Who knows what worked, but something did... she flipped about a month later at 37 weeks, a few days before we'd scheduled an "external version," or manual manipulation to try and flip her by hand.
I'm so relieved that she's head-down now (confirmed again this morning at our 38-week appointment!), but I'm also happy that I have the kind of birthing team by my side that would have let me try to have her vaginally even if she was breech. Natural delivery of breech babies is becoming a lost art, but our midwifery practice is extremely proud of their breech births. As long as I was progressing normally during labor, they were committed to helping me have a vaginal birth if that's what I wanted. Our practice delivers on the L&D floor right alongside OBs, so the risks are small and we're in great hands should anything more than their own expertise be needed. We're back in the camp of normal low-risk births now, and I'm thrilled, but knowing that the other side didn't necessarily have to involve surgery was comfort when I needed it.
So here we are... 38 weeks, belly full of an extremely active baby that wriggles a lot but seems cool hanging upside down for a while, and so much excitement about what's ahead. She is ALMOST HERE!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Maternity Photos

Also on the vacation agenda, besides the swimming and sunning and reading: maternity photos. As long as it took us to get there, there we are... pregnant. For real. It still hits me in waves sometimes, that this is actually happening.

Photos by Brooke Mayo Photography, at the Sanderling in the Outer Banks.


Breathing deep, pelican-style

I know. I know. It's bad.

I remember last year when my dear friend Mikaela was visiting and we were sitting at the table talking about the grand balancing act of life. "What do you let slide?," she asked. "What's the thing you let go to make the rest of it work?" At the time, I was still valiantly doing (or trying) 100% of everything at a little less than 100% - a juggler extraordinaire. Fast-forward a year later to third trimester me, working her butt off more than ever before, and I know in a second what my answer is: what I let slide is this. The blog, the creative release, the connections outside of my daily world. And I hate it, but sometimes, something's gotta give. Sometimes getting through the day takes every single ounce of what you have. Those aren't bad days, don't misunderstand me. Just very full ones, squeezed into very full weeks, squeezed into very full months.

So let's backtrack a bit, to that vacation we took that one time.

It was grand.

Some time ago I decided that the pelican is my spirit animal. Keep in mind that back in college I remember a discussion with my best gals where we voted me the lioness. So how does a lioness become a pelican? For one, she gets really tired. But what she really does is prioritize peace and quiet and relaxation above all else - above the hunt, above the kill, above the self-satisfied licking of chops. Pelicans have it going on.

The day is this: soaring above the water, sometimes alone, sometimes in a pack, sometimes with a partner. Diving in for food. Floating around. Soaring again. Water, wind, sun, air. Soaring. Diving. Floating. Repeat.

Doesn't that sound pretty magical? I'm pretty sure it's my life goal.

So on our return to our wedding locale, I spent a lot of time sitting and watching pelicans. And it made me so, so happy.

Beach. Pool. Read. Swim. Relax. Sun. Just what I needed at 28 weeks pregnant.

We were out swimming one day and the most miraculous thing happened. We were in the ocean fairly deep, and the water was just glittering with sunshine all around us. Suddenly, maybe 20 yards away, an enormous ray leapt out of the water, flapped its wings, and dove back in. I'd never seen one before. The wingspan was at least six feet wide, and it was miraculous. And right there.

I'm such an ocean girl, and I think Baby H might be, too. I hope she is, anyway. I love the thought of teaching her the fine art of beach lounging, the fun of wave-bopping, and the magic of breathing in that air. I hope she feels the same way about the Outer Banks that I do.

We took that vacation too late, and I swear we needed another one immediately after, but the important thing is that we got it in at all. No small feat these days.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

And suddenly it's the third trimester.

I distinctly remember a moment on our New Orleans trip this spring, browsing a bookstore with several finds stacked in my arms and saying to T, "I really want to read a lot while I'm pregnant." I also remember seeing a huge sun hat somewhere and thinking it was perfect for pregnancy, an accessory that would balance my belly while luxuriously lounging on a beach somewhere, aforementioned books sprawled on the towel below me.


This summer has gone by in an instant. Our already-tough homeowner luck in July got even worse with new rounds of AC and washer repair. Then my dad discovered a crumbling wall rotting with mold in our then-office (blocked since we moved in by a desk, something we never would've seen if not for the nursery switcheroo), and that required immediate action. And so on.

And then there's work! We are two tired pups. Overworked, overstressed, you name it. For both of us, it's been a summer of increased professional accolades and responsibility, which is wonderful. The downside is, well... all of this. And the unfulfilled promise of that ridiculously huge beach hat that I never bought for exactly this reason, dangling there in my mind while all my social media feeds burst to the brim with photos of your vacations.

So we've been a little bitter this summer, when we had time to stop and think about it. But I can't complain a bit about this pregnancy, even now. My body continues to amaze me, to show me that it's built for this, that it gets it. Every week I think maybe this is when I'll feel worse than before, and every week proves that nothing is worse than living with fertility medication side effects for years. This stuff is (so far, knocking on all wood available) a breeze.

Here's the catchup, bringing us to the third (!) trimester. Crazy.

There is one exciting personal life development, though, in the midst of crazy work stress. Let's take a closer look at some of those photos and the toll of it all in ultra-flattering office bathroom light:
That's right, folks, we've finally smartened up over here and stopped trying to power through the summer vacationless in order to save money and maternity leave. The realization that there will simply never be a good time to break away from work demands and take time off is an important one; sometimes, we just have to stake our claim. We'll be spending next week in the spot where we were married four+ years ago, and I can't even begin to describe how much better I felt as soon as we made the decision.
I like to think when I get back - tanned, rested, and ready, as it were - I'll be back in the blogging mindset too, ready to share house projects and other odds and ends. Time will tell. But until then... I have a large beach hat to buy. Ready yourself for sparkling ocean pics courtesy of moi this time, coming soon to an Instagram feed near you.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The downside to homeownership

Oof. We're in a homeowner tight spot right now.
  • Last week: Planned construction, plus planned expense of installing Elfa in the master closet. Expensive stuff, but at least planned.
  • Last weekend: Completely unexpected purchase of a new washing machine
  • This week: Completely unexpected (and unexpectedly large) AC repair bill
I suppose these things usually do happen in threes, don't they? Feel free to agree with me so I don't walk around in fear of house expense #4 hitting me in the face soon. Ouch.

My parents are coming this weekend to check in on the belly and help us move some furniture. We're officially christening the current guest bedroom as the nursery and turning the current office into the guest room. Now that I only work from home on Fridays, I don't really need a full-time home office. Maybe someday in the fantasy world where we live on the beach full-time and telecommute, but not now. I had a good run with this office, though.

Over at work, I'm finally getting an office with a door I can shut (hallelulah!), so I think my fun Amtrak print might have to make the move with me. Maybe I'll even toss in some wedding pomanders to jazz things up a bit.

My six-year old niece Taylor is coming up with my parents for her first trip to DC. Taylor told her mom that she'd only be happy to get a new cousin if it was a girl - "No more boys, Mom!" I'm so happy that our pregnancy is Taylor-endorsed.

Speaking of Taylor... holy CUTE flashback from almost exactly four years ago!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Nursery decorating begins.... now.

We have a normal [future] nursery! Without terrible built-in laminate closets featuring fading butterfly decals! The before, and the after:

I think it's fair to say that in the final tally of scheming versus reality in our wall/closet project, "our" master closet ended up bigger than we thought it would, and Baby H's closet ended up smaller. But you know what? Little ones don't need a lot of closet space. As long as we can get her out of this room before she's having freakouts about what to wear to school every day [see also: Maude Apatow in the funniest scene in 'This is 40'], we'll be fine.

But I'm getting waaaay ahead of myself, given that Baby H is still the size of a papaya. Before there are teen freakouts and goth posters on the wall, there is a tiny baby and a nursery. And for maybe the last time, I get to design it! Enter:

Maggie's Rules to Nursery Happiness
  1. There will be brightness
  2. There will be color
  3. There will not be pink
Here's what I came up with:

I see oh-so-me pattern play, great wallpaper, patterned curtains, and pops of color. Mostly I see the happiest room ever.

My first step is this wallpaper - easier said than done. It's Fireworks by Albert Hadley for Hinson, and I'm obsessed. My first leads went nowhere, but I have a couple of good investigators on the case, so there is hope. If any of you have any designer wallpaper hunting tips, send them on! (As for installation, I dare not do this myself, never fear.)

Who else is on Team Bright for a girl's nursery?

Edit: Additional comment on the room - we'd originally intended to buy a glider, but we've already been gifted a rocking chair, so we're going to try that first. We can always switch it out later, if need be.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Knocking down walls again

You know what we haven't talked about here in a while? House projects. Let's dive in, shall we?

Like probably 90% of the pregnant population, having a little one on the way sent our loosey-goosey "one day" house to-do list into overdrive. Some of the things we'd dreamingly talked about doing took on the urgency of my bladder at 3 a.m., while others just... yeah, not going to happen. Our priority projects are the ones in the future nursery/current guest room and the hallway outside her room. Basically, activities that could massively disrupt a (perfectly content and sleeping, obviously) baby.

Let's refresh. Our guest room is an average-sized second bedroom for Capitol Hill, meaning miniscule for you suburbanites. It has great light and is right next door to our bedroom, but it also features ugly built-ins from the 1970's-era ugly step-sibling of Ikea.

Here's the realtor-produced photo from the house listing along with how it looked six months later (including the junk below the "desk" - keeping it real!):

These things are ugly. And they're also a huge space hog. Meanwhile, our master bedroom closet is on the other side of them. I say "our" very gently - T had to move out of the closet a year ago due to space constraints and the peace of our marriage. It's not very big and also aggressively ugly. Let's take a look at the realtor-produced photo of the master bedroom wall in question, featuring classicly euphemistic language:

Note the "wall of closets." Well dang, how could I complain about a wall of closets?! I'll try:
  1. Completely disregard the "closet" on the far right. It's actually ten inches of usable shelves all the way down and the rest is the chimney. The only practical thing I've been able to do is stuff shoes in the shelves, which means half the time I can't see and/or reach them. Why, you might ask, did someone at some point decide to cover the entire thing up in a closet door to give the appearance of a normal closet inside? I have no idea.
  2. The main closet area is the two doors on the left. They're fine, sure, but very shallow inside and not fit for sharing. For perspective, I've already filled them with maternity clothes alone. Not a ton of space.
  3. The upper closets are good for storage bins etc., but damn ugly.
  4. Hadn't these people ever heard of trim? I'm pretty sure they thought these frameless closets looked "modern." The natural choice when your house was built in 1906, right?
So our closet situation sucked and we've always known we wanted to do something about it. Our plan was this: knock out the wall between the two rooms and completely redesign the closets in both.

Take a look at that upper photo again. We felt that by closing the wall of the future nursery in so that it's level with the window-side closet (which would a "real" closet, not an add-on), we wouldn't lose usable space. The room was already small-ish, and it's a nursery, so really... decent tradeoff. (We popped into an Open House on our street a few weeks ago that featured a nursery the size of our not-big bathroom, so I'm still feeling prety good about Baby H's abode.) And because we can use every extra inch in our closet (maybe even "ours" again?), gaining whole feet at a time could be transformative. Also, for the love of historic homes, there will be frames and doors that match the character of our house!

Our contractors have been working all week. The bad news is that they had to open up the entry to our attic for days a time, which meant a flood of 100+-degree air into the rest of the house. Which convinced our AC to stop working, naturally. But the good news is that they're almost done, and we're already pretty pumped up with what we see.

More soon! PROGRESS! Things HAPPENING! Good stuff.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Halfway home

The last you saw from me was a look at the first trimester from my office bathroom:

This one brings us up to date... the beginning of the second trimester through today, 21 weeks (good lord that flourescent lighting brings out eye bags!):

I'm definitely getting bigger, but I'm also feeling awesome. The universe has been so kind to me with this pregnancy - except for bouts of fatigue, I've felt amazing the entire time. No nausea, ever. Not once. No crazy side effects, except for the introduction of a sweet tooth for the first time ever! (Me to my sister-in-law: "Is this how the rest of you normally feel about dessert?!") Luckily summer fruit substitutes pretty decently for most of those ice cream cravings. Nothing is really cramping my style too much. Maybe it's the epilogue of living such a medicated life the past year - wow it feels good not to be full of medication every day. Or maybe it's because I've been smiling so much, the rest falls away so I don't really notice it. I mean, how can I not smile at this?!

I'm over halfway there now, which is mind-blowing. I'm feeling her more and more, and T can feel her now, too. I've been able to stay as active as possible and I feel strong; I've gained eight pounds so far. I know so many people feel gross when pregnant - and I'm fully aware I still have plenty of time to start feeling that way too, but so far I feel... sort of hot? Is that possible with such a big belly? My body just seems to be really happy, and it hasn't felt this way in far too long.

When we lost our twin, I high-tailed it out of the OB's office and into a midwifery practice at the same hospital. It's a good fit for me and how I'd like our little one to come into the world. As much as science and interventions helped create our little one, as soon as she was real I felt strongly that my body knew what to do and could take it from there. More on that later, maybe - I don't want to offend any of you making different choices. Midwifery is right for me, but being a supporter of choice in all its forms, I'd never presume that it's the right fit for someone else.

As for the little one... she's most definitely a girl, which makes us so happy. My family hasn't had a girl in six years, and she'll be the first grandchild on T's side of the family. We've known her name for a couple of years, but we'll just call her Baby H for now. At our 20-week anatomy scan, she was still as active as ever - not one of our ultrasound photos is in focus because she was so busy stretching and showing off her moves. T is convinced we have an athlete taking after her dad in there; he's (adorably) hoping for a lacrosse player. Me? I like thinking about that vintage Nancy Drew hardback collection I have in my parents' attic, and the voracious reader and independent thinker she might be if she takes after her mom.

Bottom line? Life is so good these days, and we've never been happier.

Friday, July 12, 2013

There's more

A few days after our positive blood test, we were back at the clinic for an ultrasound to take a look at the action inside. I'd been in that chair with those nurses on what felt like a thousand mornings before that day, but none quite like this. T was with me, the nurses were excited, I was grinning, and we let the wand show us the goods. What it showed was twice as much as we'd expected... TWINS!

Both transferred blastocysts had implanted, and we were absolutely giddy with the news. We maintained composure until we left the office, but out in the hallway it was a completely different scene. Hysterical laughter, lots of holy craps, hysterical laughter again, hugs so tight I was in danger of breaking, the works. A week later, we went back to see each of their heartbeats beating away inside me, tiny but strong.

Our biggest reaction at the news of twins - even more than happiness or nervousness about TWO of everything - was relief. We'd never have to go through infertility struggles again. No more IVF. No more drugs. No more countless clinic visits. We'd always said two and through, and now we had them in one punch. The news felt like such a gift.

True to form, I flew into twins research mode. I read three twin books before the month was up, I launched into research of what you need two of versus what you only need one of, I looked into local multiples clubs, and I started upping my protein intake dramatically, per the Dr. Luke diet for moms of multiples. We'd had a sure-thing girls name picked out for years, and had recently come around to two sure-thing boy names, so we launched into figuring out what we'd name a second girl if need be. Although a boy and a girl would be ideal, I had a sneaking suspicion that I had two girls cookin' inside. T - big brother to two sisters and big fan of girls in general - was happy with that scenario, too. We knew we were doing the Maternit21 genetic test at ten weeks, so we'd be able to find out the sexes early, but even that short wait felt too long. I wanted to know basically the minute we were sure we were pregnant.

After we saw our ferocious heartbeats, I became an official "graduate" of the IVF clinic and was transferred to an OB. I chose an OB at the same hospital who specializes in births of multiples, but had such mixed feelings leaving the close confines of the IVF clinic. For better or worse, those IVF clinics become an extension of family if you're a patient long enough. We'd been there for almost a year and a half, sometimes visiting multiple days per week. I also came to appreciate - after the fact - how much I'd come to rely on the very close monitoring the clinic provided. Think about it - I was used to near-daily ultrasounds, and an average pregnancy these days has maybe three of them... total. I was desperate to see the tiny beans again. In hindsight, I really wish my clinic had some sort of transition guide to help steel my expectations about the level of monitoring I'd receive with an OB, or an exit interview of some sort where they could warn me.

For some reason I was sure we'd have an ultrasound at the first OB appointment, but nope. The doctor felt my uterus and said it was larger than a normal pregnancy at that stage, thus indicative of twins, but that was it. I was definitely showing far earlier than a singleton pregnancy (it was there if you were looking by 9 weeks, and pretty obvious by 11), so it seemed like an obvious statement. I did the most "me" thing I could thing of to avoid focusing on how anxious I was about not seeing them - I kept very busy. There was workworkwork, there were weddings, there was always more twin research to do, and there was also resolving the difference in my head between my ideal birth and the realities of a twin birth... quite a gulf there.

9 weeks pregnant, at a wedding

10 weeks pregnant, at a work event

Our second OB appointment was on May 2, and I was sure I'd have an ultrasound this time. It was the day after that hard hat picture above was taken; I was a day shy of 11 weeks pregnant. I dragged T out of work again, but the appointment proceeded much like the first. When it was clear it was wrapping up and there was no talk of putting the babies on the big screen, I finally lost it. The OB called the sonographer and fit me in right away, and at last we were in a mini-movie theater of sorts, darkened and ready for the show.

What followed was one of the strangest experiences of my life, the most dramatic mix I'd ever experienced of terrible and joyous news combined. The terrible is this: there was only one baby inside, and one empty sac. Baby #2 had lasted well after we heard heartbeats, because it was significantly larger than what we'd last seen. The sac was completely empty, though - a blessing, really, since it meant no action on our part was required. The joyous news is this: the baby that was still inside was not just there but thriving. The sonographer burst out laughing at how much the baby was moving. We saw flips and waves and spins and kicks - pretty amazing for how early it was. We had lost one of our little ones, but the one we still had was there tenfold.

A rare still moment from our singleton, a day shy of 11 weeks

I think it took me a week to get over the worst of the emotions. I'd become so attached to the idea of two - and frankly, twins solved so many of our problems - that the loss cut deeply. Even acknowledging how much easier a singleton pregnancy and birth would be - not to mention having only one baby to handle at a time - didn't help that much, not at first. My biggest fear was that losing the twin meant we'd only ever have one child. Because siblings are so important to both of us, I felt like I was already robbing our baby of something important. I just didn't know if I could give her what I wanted for her, and that acknowledgement was searingly painful. Time heals most wounds, though. Today, we're... actually, this post is long enough, yes? I'll bring us up to date next time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Third time's the charm

After strike one and strike two, we had decisions to make. We'd always said if we weren't pregnant by the New Year, we'd start looking into adoption. And we did, sort of... enough to quickly see that the process was every bit as expensive as IVF with ten times the wait. For whatever reason, the idea of going through the adoption process never really stuck. I think if we'd been anything but "Unexplained Infertility," had any reason besides our history to believe that we couldn't get pregnant on our own, we might have been more serious about it. But something in me couldn't give up the dream of the wavy-haired kid with light eyes that I wanted us to create. Most adoption firms require applicants to pledge not to pursue assisted reproductive technology while pursuing an adoption, but that felt like giving up to me. Not that I wanted to go through IVF again, mind you - the thought made me instantly tear up. But there we were at the end of January, in our doctor's office, telling him we were ready to try again. In some ways it was easier to put our heads down and forge ahead than to think about the big, sad picture of being back there again, so we actively tried not to be big-picture about the choice. It just was what it was.

The conversation at post-IVF debriefs with the doctor is basically "what did we learn and what will we do differently?" This time our doctor wanted to use higher doses of stimulation medications and do a 5-day transfer instead of a 3-day transfer. The 5-day transfer felt particularly hopeful to me. On IVF boards this debate can get pretty heated, but the basic idea is this: by spending more time in the lab and giving the embryos the chance to develop into blastocysts, you're increasing the odds that what you transfer back inside the uterus is as viable as possible. Some people also like to point out that the uterus is the natural home of blastocysts, whereas embryos are still in fallopian tubes at Day 3 during natural conception, so you're making a more biologically sound choice with a 5-day blastocyst transfer. Here's the downside: waiting five days in the lab means more of your embryos will die off, embryos that you might have otherwise implanted if you weren't doing a 5-day transfer. Now I'd argue that I'd rather know up front that these embryos weren't going to make it before transferring them, but others think each one has a shot, so you should give them a shot. To each her own. The bottom line with 5-day transfers is that you need more eggs to begin with, because fewer will make it to the blastocyst stage than they would the embryo stage.

Blastocyst or exotic flower?

Despite the huge amount of dread I felt going into this cycle, the stimulation drugs in February (even with the mega-high doses) didn't grind life to a halt. Sure, I had a huge belly ringed with bruises. Sure, I collapsed at the end of each day... hard. Sure, I was sick to death of needles. But like everything, you get through it. For me personally, being busy in times like these is a blessing. I worked a million hours and ran a huge public meeting while looking like I was pregnant and took the elevator a lot, but I made it. I looked up and it was March 1. Retrieval day. I donated twelve eggs to a really good cause. We breathlessly awaited lab reports, and by March 6, we had two perfect blastocysts ready to transfer and one left to freeze.

Some funny things about our March 6 transfer day: DC had a freak snowstorm that morning - gorgeous, hard-falling winter snow to make our way through to get to the hospital. We were placed in a different part of the clinic than ever before - something felt new and positive about that. We were both laughing a lot that morning. I remember that I was wearing green. The transfer was a breeze (always so simple compared with retrieval), and before I knew it, we were on our way home. The blood test was in nine days.

I don't know that I felt different that time. Symptom-wise, I felt the same as always - still bloated, still sore, still not quite myself. I held out as long as I could to take a home pregnancy test. On March 11, just five days after the blastocyst transfer, I saw something. Not a line, mind you, but a shadow of a line. By the next day there was no denying it - we had something real cookin'.

That's "6 days past 5-day transfer," for those of you who don't speak IVF

We got our blood test results Friday morning. By that afternoon we were en route to the Outer Banks to see my family, calling T's family on the way. It was completely, insanely surreal - we were three months shy of a full three years since we'd hoped to hear that news. We were giddy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Strike one and two

It's hard to describe the utter despair when IVF doesn't work. There's the hollow feeling you're already used to, the one that's come at the end of every single month... for years. That hollow feeling you're already used to came even after the medications and interventions and procedures designed to prevent it. And it came again, and again, and again. Relentless emptiness, with each IUI, with each "maybe it'll work naturally after all" last hope. That's the feeling that leads you to try IVF in the first place, despite the extreme cost and the extreme toll on your body. So when you finally jump into IVF and at the end of the cycle - after a month of down-cycling, after weeks of stimulation and monitoring, after egg retrieval, and after embryo transfer - you're still not pregnant? It feels like everything you know - the floor of your universe - has just crumbled beneath you.

The floor of our universe crumbled twice.

Our first IVF cycle was in September. We hadn't planned on doing it then, actually, but our original doctor moved and our new doctor thought we should jump in. T gets a quarterly bonus that was coming that week, which helped us piece together the funding and make the unexpected - almost impulsive, really - decision to go for it. We were 100% out of pocket for IVF - zero insurance coverage, like a large portion of IVF patients. Because of that, timing the cycles are a financial decision as much as a health or scheduling decision. You've seen what all the meds look like for an IVF cycle, which represent one portion of the cost. The others are fees for ongoing monitoring, the retrieval procedure (which involves anesthesia), time in the lab while the eggs become embryos, the ultimate transfer back inside the body, and then the freezing of any leftover embryos. Understatement of the year: these costs add up quickly. The cycle itself was manageable - although learning to mix the shots was new (the fancy - and easy - injectable pens I'd always had with IUIs are more expensive than mixing the medications yourself, and since we were paying out of pocket I had little choice this time but to beef up my chemistry skills). I had dear friends visit and a big work event to plan while I was stimming, but I managed. By retrieval day, I was ready - I could barely walk I was so bloated from the medications and engorged ovaries. I was knocked out for the retrieval, in which a needle punctures the ovaries and sucks out the fluid containing all the eggs you've harvested. When I woke up I realized I was telling the nurse about our new puppy Eleanor. They write how many eggs they retrieved on your hand for you, so you can see it when you wake up (since you likely won't remember when they tell you). Here was my hand that day:

Of the nine eggs they retrieved, five stopped progressing over the next three days and four were deemed usable (results that are about average, by the way). By transfer day - which was also T's birthday - we transferred two embryos and had two more to freeze. We were happy with the results. I had to work a large outdoor event the entire next day (dubious decision, even though I had my doctor's permission). I was to go back in ten days for a blood test, but we started testing at home after about a week. Because IVF was new for us, I didn't know what my symptoms might mean. Just like many of you might have experienced, when a possible pregnancy symptom could also just be your period starting, IVF symptoms are an exaggerated version of "normal" events. You're also still on medications that make you feel tender/swollen/ouchy, so it's really impossible to know anything based on symptoms alone, and you can truly drive yourself crazy trying to interpret them. We got a hint of a positive one day in those ten days, but it was gone the next. Blood test: decidedly negative. Doctor's orders: take a month off to rest my body and decide what we want to do.

By November, we knew we were ready to use our frozen embryos. A frozen cycle is much easier physically than a fresh cycle, for the simple reason that you don't need to stimulate the production of eggs. It's a lot cheaper for that reason, too (finally!). My body would be rested and ready for the "frosties," we told ourselves... maybe the lower stress from a rested, umstimulated body would do the trick. We were pretty peppy throughout the entire cycle, actually - busy enough not to be counting down the days, which helped a lot. Our transfer was in mid-December, and our spirits remained sky-high. It was Christmas, we were trying something new, my body felt great on only one medication, and everything seemed rosy. I had tons of symptoms - symptoms that again could be either a period coming or a medication side effect, but they were something, and I felt different than I had during our fresh IVF cycle. We waited and celebrated the holidays with family. Despite the daily negative home tests, we  were still sure this was it. The day before Christmas Eve, though, my temperature plummeted, and I knew we were done. That realization was twice as hard as September's... probably the lowest point in our entire process. When I went in to the clinic on Christmas Eve morning, I knew it was a lost cause. Another negative blood test. Merry Christmas to us... I was emotionally numb for weeks.

Our drive-by of the Washington Monument on Christmas Eve morning, en route for another negative blood test. (By the way, all my scenic National Mall Instagrams over the last year, always early in the morning? Always a doctor's appointment.)

I came down with an awful cold/flu between Christmas and New Year's. Maybe I was so heartsick, my body decided it would join in, too. We'd had enough. 2012 was our hardest year together or apart... just nothing we wanted to repeat again. We rang in the New Year on the couch watching a movie, holding on to each other as if we were all we had. On New Year's Day, we did every good luck superstition we could think of. 2013 just had to be better, we kept telling ourselves... it had to.

Do I sound mechanical writing this now, a little numb? If so, it doesn't surprise me. I think our only way to survive was to shut down some of it. I wish now I had written my way through it, but I also know that was more than I was capable of at the time. Getting through each day, having a career, having the semblance of a social life (even it was painful to go through the motions)... after all of that, I didn't have anything left at the end of the day. Thinking back now, I may be forgetting just how raw everything was. The one thing I do know, though - more important than our eventual good news, actually - is that we survived. But I don't wish it on anyone.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The journey continues

Oh hi. I'm here. I know, I know... too quiet. Life is a little crazy again (always?). First the death cold, which clocked in at a solid twelve days of misery, then workworkwork, plus T doing workworkwork, plus a million other things, and you have me coming home from the office too tired to craft a sentence. I also just swallowed a cherry pit as I typed this, so maybe I'm too tired even to eat cherries?

At any rate... I feel like I should say a few words about why I'm not screaming pregnancy details from the blogging rooftops. It's not that I plan on keeping everything private, it's just that I want to tell our story in a particular way, and I haven't had time to do it properly. It's important to me to write from the beginning, no matter how fun it might be to skip to the good stuff. Maybe I'm overcompensating for the onslaught of shiny awesome perfection we see in so many other packaged glimpses of life online, but I don't want to be shiny. I want to dig in a little bit and be real about why I might actually, it's true, feel like the happiest person in the world right now, fatigue and all. But being real about my current giddiness includes the whole package - the bottoming-out, the waiting, the trying again (and again and again), the keeping hope alive. For anyone reading this who's still in that godawful cycle, they know what I mean, and it's a discredit to everyone who struggles with infertility to jump ahead to the "this week my baby is the size of a..." stuff. I don't want to gloss over the journey in my eagerness to celebrate the finish line. Doing so feels dishonest. And lame.

So for everyone hoping for the happy ending stories already, keep waiting. They're coming, and I'm smiling and feeling great, truly, but I don't feel like a finish-liner yet. Maybe I never will. That's partly humility, sure, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't also partly the journey speaking. So instead I'm feeling lucky. Really, really lucky, and really, really grateful. As for happy endings, I was always more interested in what happened to the couple after the credits rolled, anyway. Know what I mean?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Orleans, and my comedy of errors

Guys. Guys!!! You know how to make a girl's public preggo announcement pretty awesome. Thank you for all your kind words!! Each one made me grin or tear up in turn, and each one was pretty special.

I'm back from my trip to New Orleans with my anniversary man and his fantastic sisters. Sadly I brought the summer cold from hell home with me, but I'm hoping to run out the clock on that one any time now. Did you hear that, cold? Any. Time. Now.

For your amusement, I thought I'd offer a little "What Not To Do" for your next trip to New Orleans. Or anywhere, really. I am a comedy of errors these days, it appears.

Let's roll the tape!

1. Don't leave your wallet - including all forms of identification and methods of payment - at home.  I figured we'd just hit the big one right off the bat. Fun fact: you are in fact allowed to board a plane without ID if you submit to a thorough two-woman pat-down. Who knew?!  Helpful items include: husband to pull you out of the massive public breakdown that will occur at the airport when you realize your wallet isn't in your purse, husband who is willing to pay for your forgetful ass the whole weekend, and sense of humor.

2. Don't smugly fill out a full TripIt itinerary and then gallantly lead the walk to the restaurant only to discover you switched restaurant addresses on your iPhone App. Or you'll be us, walking hand in hand to our anniversary dinner at Herbsaint only to end up at... Bayona. And then racing over to "Real Herbsaint" in a cab, very late for our reservation. But, bright side, then gallantly leading the walk to Bayona the following night! (I highly recommend both restaurants, by the way.)

3. Don't slack off on the sunscreen. So there we are, our fun group, hanging at the pool and enjoying the amazing weather. I'm feeling great and hoping I look more pregnant than just "overdid it on the beignets" in my tankini. I applied sunscreen, yes, but the same amount as normal. Apparently I should have been aware that Little One baking inside means I have to be militant with the SPF. I mean... why would I know that? It's not in any pregnancy books of mine (trust me, I checked when I got back), and no one's ever told me (ahem sis and sis-in-law). That night I had to sleep in a bath of Vitamin E oil and sheets of cold compresses, then for the rest of the trip had to ditch my cute dresses for long cotton numbers with cardigans. Sigh.

PSA: if you or someone you love is pregnant, tell them to double up on the 'screen!

So yeah. Such a fun weekend, especially for everyone else who got to enjoy the comic relief I was packing. But even my poor (literally), ID-less, direction-challenged, sunburnt self had to admit there's no where else I'd rather be. I just love that place.

I know I lit up your Instagram feeds on Sunday (sorry), but New Orleans is just ridiculously photo-worthy. Here are just a couple, since you've no doubt seen them already.

When can we go back again? (If I promise to bring ID this time...)

Friday, May 24, 2013

A new day + a new life

Today's our anniversay. Number four, in fact. Four! Do you remember our anniversary last year? I flew away to New Orleans with my love to eat, drink, and be merry in one of our favorite cities. A year ago today I also confessed something close to my heart here, something buried and raw: our long struggle to conceive.

In so many ways it was a beginning, although I didn't know it at the time. The beginning of being more open about a problem so many couples experience yet so few discuss. The beginning to seeking more advanced treatment. The beginning to handling a new level of disappointment. The beginning of a new kind of dedication to having a family. A year later I'm more vulnerable, but I'm fuller, too.

The truth is, my heart is so full these days I feel like it might explode. It's time (once again) to let it all hang out.

(adventures in horrid office bathroom lighting!)

It took us nearly three years and almost everything our doctors could think of, but today I'm 14 weeks pregnant with a little girl! It's surreal to see that in print, still. I'll share all the details soon - the how (unlike most pregnancy announcements, I suppose mine does warrant a "how"!), the ups and downs, and the now. But first, I have a date with an airplane headed once more to New Orleans, where my love and I will eat (oh yes), drink(ish), and be very, very merry.

I'm getting all teary writing this - the journey has just been so... much. For everyone reaading this who's still in the trenches, please know that you have an eternal sister in me. My path toward pregnancy changed me; it's absolutely a part of who I am today. No smug preggo here - just an eternally thankful one, without complaint and with a lot of humility and love. I wish I could hug each one of you in person, right in the trenches where you are. If I could lift you out myself, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

More soon. After the beignets and the shrimp etouffee.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Landscaping our hearts out (thanks Mom!)

Thanks so much, everyone, for sending such warm thoughts about my grandfather. I thought a nice way to honor him here might be to share the love that his daughter - my amazing mom - puts into everything she does and everyone she loves. We've been so lucky to benefit from her green thumb and zeal for gardening here in DC, something for which we have my grandfather to thank.

A refresher, then. When we moved in two years ago, our yard was... a dud. And six months later, it was still a dud. We had the space to do something, but weren't at all sure what to do. And since our efforts were focused on some major projects indoors anyway, we were happy to let it be.

A year and a half ago:

Late last summer, we hosted my parents for a weekend of brainstorming and space-planning. We talked about how to salvage (or not) the ugly yew hedges that border our side yard, how to make our side yard more inviting, and how to maximize the space without making it too linear. They came back in October for a H-U-G-E planting weekend, all under the eye of our visionary commander-in-chief, my mom. We decided to rip out two of the worst yews to create more breathing room in the border, to weed our butts off and mulch the hell out of the side yard (I think we put down 30 bags that weekend), to define true planting beds for the first time, to plant some large, pretty things that would be dormant until spring (lots of peonies and hydrangeas), and add some great fall color, too.

My parents came back in late April to implement Phase 2 of our plan. Thankfully, everything we put in the ground in October lasted through the winter beautifully, and we were starting to see some real growth with the warmer temperatures. This time they pulled up in the BusyBee (nickname for my mom's car - long story) with a few more large plants, spring and summer color, and lots more classic "Mom" yard touches. Our big goals were to refine our space-planning now that our little plants were big plants, define edges, switch out cold-weather color for warm-weather color, and develop a path for the side yard. About a month after their visit, I'm pretty thrilled with our results. And to know that the color out there will just continue to intensify (the peonies are just beginning! the hydrangeas are coming!)... we are giddy.

Our front yard today:

(Hi E!)

Aaand... color! (Only two of our five peony bushes have bloomed so far... I cannot WAIT to see them all!)

(apologies for the ADT photobomb)


Here's our fantastic side yard. Keep in mind that most of these large plants haven't yet bloomed,  so as it gets warmer we'll have color there, too. Because our side yard is so shady we chose hydrangeas - blue, white, pink, green, and ivory lacecaps, too. The stepping stones are sandstone, and we've dotted the pathway with white star creepers, a groundcover that will slowly spread and turn our entire pathway green. As you look at these photos imagine a swath of green cutting through the mulch in between the stones - that'll be our path before too much time has passed!

(looking back to the front of the house)

And that's that! I'll be back with peony and hydrangea updates soon, so stay tuned. My Instagram feed is pretty much going to become a flowerfest for a while, so prepare yourself!

And I really do have to give another HUGE thanks for my parents for being the vision, the brains, and half the muscle. We could NOT have done it without you!
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