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.
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