Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter walk

Took the ol' pooch out for a walk this afternoon to try to get on her good side again.  She was our first (and only) baby for 4.5 years, and was none too pleased when a human pup joined our little clan.  Penny is the most gentle dog I know, and has never shown any aggression, but lately she has been sitting in her little corner looking lost and forlorn.

We both enjoyed our little outing: cold and blustery but it was wonderful to get out of the house, just the two of us.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thank you, 2011

What a difference a year makes.

Last Christmas we were nursing our failed IVF wounds, and this year we celebrated with our one-month-old daughter.  That is some crazy stuff right there.

The more I speak about infertility (and I do because I'll never understand how the whole thing got so taboo, and I'm not one to hold back if you've noticed) more and more couples come out of the woodwork saying they did/are having trouble themselves.  How the heck did this biological imperative become so damn hard?!

Matt and I decided we won't shy away from telling Annie how she came to be: we want her to know how very badly we wanted her to be here and how modern medicine played such a substantial role in her existence.  I want her to know about the long drives to the clinic, the crazy scenarios we found ourselves in (me constantly in  the stirrups, Matt having to, uh, give numerous samples in the clinic's multiple "male specimen rooms" complete with ample porn selections), and how we waited for the embryologist calls after the IVF extraction telling us how our little blastocysts were growing.  On our first IVF attempt nothing divided past the two-cell stage, but Annie's cycle resulted in many beautiful eight-celled little buggers.  In a way, this is her first baby picture:
I often wonder if the right or left blastocyst came to be our daughter.  The whole thing is mind-boggling.

It's not lost on me how very fortunate I am.  In terms of infertility our stint was not exceptionally long: we tried to conceive for a year and nine months before hitting the fertility jackpot with our positive pregnancy test.  We started right outta the gate from my April 2009 surgery (literally - I remember asking my surgeon - and I swear this on all that is holy - "Can my surgery incision, like, bust open with a growing baby stomach?").  I am obviously not cut out for a career in medicine.

After a solid six months of TTC ("trying to conceive" for the fertile bunnies out there) we went to our ob/gyn who performed a few tests and put us on Clomid to regulate my cycle.  After a solid year of TTC we met with our reproductive endocrinologist.  And then after two monitoring cycles (one sans meds and one with), four medicated IUI (intrauterine insemination) rounds, and two IVF rounds I had a bun in the oven and about 10 fertilized cells in the freezer.  It sounds so easy when I put it like that, but I will never forget the tears that cling to this process.

I recently saw this PHOTO ESSAY ON INFERTILITY on Slate, and I cried like a baby paging through the author's account of her journey.  The slide with medications piled high on her kitchen table?  I still have a stockpile in my closet and just recently threw out the refrigerated stuff during my eighth month of pregnancy. It's hard letting go of thousands of dollars of meds - even if they're expired and I'm already pregnant.  The photo of her sticking herself in the car?  Check!  I distinctly remember sticking myself in the car in a dingy parking garage in Philly.  The place had cameras set-up all around and I remember thinking the footage probably looked like I was doing something pretty nefarious as I stabbed my stomach roll.  Everything about the essay rang true: the damn ultrasound wand (we knew one another in a very intimate way), the near daily blood draws and subsequent nurse phone calls going over all my levels and dictating next steps.  When you're going through infertility the game plan can change almost daily: the medication dosage is constantly tinkered with or now they need to see you tomorrow morning for monitoring when you, say, have a morning meeting.  (I can say a lot of things about my last job, but I'll leave it on a positive note and just say this: they gave me the utmost flexibility during my unending appointments, and for that I am grateful).

I'm not sure why I'm writing all of this.  Partially I'm just taking stock of how far Matt and I have come.  Partially it's in response to a few conversations I've had with other women TTC: this process is absolute drudgery and there is no time when it's more pronounced than during the holidays.

I want to wish everyone a very happy new year, and I hope anyone who may be reading this who is going through infertility will find solace in the possibilities a new year can bring: I know 2011 has flipped my world upside down in the best way possible.

Here we are today lounging on the couch; Matt took this photo to show off Annie's swanky new sock monkey pants her Aunt Priscilla knitted for her.  That kid is gonna be such the little hipster.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Post-pregnancy: Crohn's and baby love

This was the front of our holiday card this year.  The photo is courtesy of Matt's super duper coworker who moonlights as a photographer, Jamie (check her out if you're in suburban Philly!), and the card is from Minted.  

Annie is tucked away in her Moby wrap with Dad, so that finally (woohoo, finally!) means I have a few moments to type.  

On Crohn's:  I went through a good week where my digestive system was absolutely, pitifully out of whack. It started about five days after Annie's delivery, which was not very fun as I was still in the heat of recovery from my (sigh) episiotomy.  You know you have a good marriage when your husband, very straight-faced, says after one of my bathroom runs, "Is your butt clean? (Thank you, honey.)  You should soak your butt in a bath so everything can heal."  (In truth, I ran several baths were I stole Annie's Burt's Bees bubble bath and I really do think it made everything better.)

Everything has settled down (I think I may have simply eaten some food that didn't agree with me) and I'm continuing with my maintenance medication, Pentasa.  My GI said to up my dosage following my delivery, but because my symptoms are currently in-check, and I'm breastfeeding, I'm very hesitant to do so.  There has been very little research on mesalamines and breastfeeding (although it is certain they do pass into the mother's breast milk), but due to the drug's category B status, there is currently little direct evidence of side effects to the baby except for an increase in diarrhea, although I still feel very "iffy" about the whole thing.  I think it's all about a balance of what's good for her, and for me, and it's something I will discuss when I see my doc in a few weeks.

On Motherhood: I spoke to my boss the other day and said very succinctly, "I love her to death, but I don't think I'm in love with motherhood yet."  I know it sounds harsh (and I thought about whether or not to even type this), but these past few weeks I've just felt out of it.  I miss being a part of humanity (even the crush of my god awful commute at times!).  I miss walking around the corner at work for a cup of coffee.  I miss my alone time where I could cuddle up with a good magazine in bed.  And even though I'm getting a decent amount of sleep, I am exhausted. Now when friends reach out (often over Gmail chat) I slowly peck out my responses with one hand, as I'm invariably holding and feeding her with the other.  How comes no one writes about this stuff?

The last few days, though, have been an absolute ball of bliss and I'm so relieved: her personality is coming out more and more and I'm finally interacting more and more with the little bugger.  I'm learning her grunts (and no, she does not coo, but grunts like an extra on The Walking Dead, and it's the dearest thing ever) and yesterday she had a blast grunting at her reflection in the mirror!  She even smiled!  We dance and look at the Christmas tree (she is absolutely, positively transfixed by the lights) and I'm starting to finally feel like more than a feeding trough.  I think she's beginning to really know Matt and me, and by golly, I think she likes us!  I return to work on February 13th, and I can safely say that date gets harder and harder to think about each and every day, and I've already had a few crying spells about it: 13 weeks just seems too young to put a little one in daycare.  It doesn't feel right at all, but it's our game plan for now.

Well, time to feed (but of course!).  Later we may go on a Trader Joe's outing and who knows what else the day holds in store for us.  I do know, however, it will be wonderful: I'm loving these little moments with Matt and Annie (or Jo-Jo as he calls her).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bathing beauty

This photo absolutely terrifies me.

I think it's safe to say Annie's first real bath was a complete, and utter, success.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fussy little one

Oh, Annie.  Today has been tough, and I know it only gets more challenging from here on out!  Our little girl cried for most of the day and I'm afraid I've gotten into a, "What's wrong?  What's wrong?  Are you hungry? Here's the boob!" sort of rut.  I'm stuffing my breast in her face every time she gets upset, and I swear the kid sucked me dry today.  (TMI??)

Speaking of breastfeeding, I have been very lucky.  She has latched without too much trouble from our first night and we only had one hiccup in our first week when my breasts became engorged and I had to bring out the pump for two days.  I know, I know; I'm on TMI overload these days.  But, whatever, it is what it is, and it's natural.  I love breastfeeding!  First of all, it's cheap, and I'd much rather spend our cash on adorable baby outfits - or chocolate cake and Target runs, in my case - than formula.  It's also, of course, good for her and I love the convenience factor.  And of course the closeness it brings between us (more so on my part because that barracuda is sucking away and doesn't have time to stare into my eyes the way I stare into hers).

Right now she's sleeping on my chest and I am TERRIFIED TO MOVE.  Matt is out playing basketball and I have to go the bathroom.  Yes, these are my "big" problems these days.

From one of the more quiet moments this afternoon - my two loves:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Welcome, Annie!

This post has taken so long because I write in five-minute spurts; my little firecracker always has other plans!  I suppose it mimics the pulse of my days now: I measure everything by feedings and diaper changes and hugs. 

I adore this photo.   This is Matt and Annie first thing in the morning.  (I just realized he looks naked here.  No worries though; I swear the boy is wearing boxers!)

It's Wednesday and Annie has been home for a week.  Matt returned to work this morning, and although it's nice for one of us to return to a routine - a set schedule - I already miss the three of us holed up in the house and his gentle teaming style as he cared for Annie.  I've always wondered how having a child would alter our relationship, and although it's too early to see the changes, and that only time will tell, this week's sneak peak is everything I could have asked for.  I am so in love with my little family.

I went into labor early in the morning on Monday the 21st.  My pregnancy was sublimely easy, but the Sunday prior there was a marked difference: basically, I was finally very uncomfortable.  (Thus my charming 11/20 blog post!)  I awoke at 3 am on Monday morning and went downstairs checking the news, leaving pithy messages on Facebook indicating the kid was never going to come, and then at 4:45 I started not feeling well.  I knew this could be a precursor to labor, but also knew it could damn well be anything due to Crohn's.  I woke Matt up and told him I wasn't feeling well and ran to the bathroom and lo and behold, my water broke (only after a careful inspection with Matt that I wasn't indeed just, you know, peeing or something).  I showered and he took Penny out and finished packing and we made it to the hospital shortly before 7 am.  My contractions were about four minutes apart on the ride over.  

The business of being admitted into the hospital was almost as laborious as having the baby itself.  We arrived at the 7 am shift change and there was a general nonchalance to the ward.  Obviously, these ladies have seen thousands of kids being born, but I think we spent no less than 45 minutes on paperwork (even though I pre-registered and went through all these questions on an earlier visit).  This was all fine and good, but the whole time I was thinking, "Shouldn't someone be checking the vajayjay or something?!"  There was no vajayjay checking to be had!  I felt I had to be at least 8 cm by this time.  Obviously, when I was finally checked around 8, it was a measly 4-5 cm.  Oh.  I guess now I understand the nonchalance.  

Let me stop here and tell you Matt and I had a birth plan.  It was short and sweet but said things like I wanted to labor as long as possible (and stay on my feet) and then receive an epidural, if desired.  It said I didn't want an episiotomy.  It said we wanted delayed cord cutting, skin-to-skin contact immediately after the birth, and have the baby with us at all times.  Now I will say this: None of this actually happened.  

It was really balmy this past weekend so we took a quick stroll through the neighborhood.

Because I was progressing quickly and my contractions were now two minutes apart (and doi, because I'm a sissy), I requested the epidural at 8 am promptly.  Obviously, an anesthesiologist isn't magically summoned and poof they're there, so we completed my paperwork, monitored the baby, finally checked under the hood, and they paged the doctor.  By 9 am he was there with his epidural cart.  He tried for 30 minutes and three different times to insert the epidural to no avail.  It's a bit unnerving to have someone repeatedly stab you in the spine, but heck, I was focused on some pain relief here!  Stab away!  He thought he finally got it (apparently I have tight vertebrae) and went on to his next victim....I mean, patient.  My pain didn't subside so he returned and after another 20 minutes said he'd have to find a colleague to attempt this.  Then he muttered something and left.  

At this point some may say, "Why didn't you just go the natural route?"  I mean, I was progressing quickly, but here's the thing when you're progressing quickly: that shinizzle hurts!!  I have the utmost respect for women who have natural births, but I feel I've been through enough physical pain with my Crohn's, and I had no desire to not take the more comfortable route to delivery.  By 10:30 another anesthesiologist arrived and shortly before 11 the epidural catheter was in and functioning properly and I was feeling sweet, sweet relief.  So much, in fact, I turned on the TV to watched a little "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" (for real, yo) for a few minutes.  As I was enjoying my really sub par reality programming, my nurse started moving the fetal monitor around and frowning.  Then she called in another nurse who did the same thing.  I was scared and asked if the baby was okay.  I remember getting upset and one of the nurses patting me and saying everything would be fine, they're getting the doctor and the slowed heartbeat was probably because the baby was so deep in my pelvis.  Then the other nurse checked my dilation and she yelled, "OH, SHE'S READY!", and paged a member of the NICU team because "We have a meconium birth here!" and my doctor was in the room.  

Matt was confused.  I was confused.  Our doctor, a man I hadn't met previously except for two minutes when I was admitted, instructed Matt to lift one of my legs and for me to grab the other and said, "Okay, now!"  I distinctly remember saying, "What do you mean?!  Push NOW?!?!"  You have to understand in about two minutes I went from tacky TV-viewing to having a kid.  I thought this would take hours!  I had a whole birth playlist, damnit!  I mean, the thing had Enya!  That's some serious stuff, right there!  We didn't even turn over our typed-out birth plan to the medical team since the whole morning was spent on the epidural fiasco.  

"Yes, now!" he said.  By now my nether regions were blissfully numb and I pushed.  He seemed pleased and asked me to push again.  Matt was there and staring at everything wide-eyed, but not making a peep.  I had no idea what the situation was, and certainly wasn't getting any intel from him.  The doctor then said to take one more push and the man grabbed a pair of surgical scissors and since were were in the heat of battle here and a whole nursing team was waiting (where did these women come from?!) I complied and  felt what can only be described as being "opened up" and a lot of pressure.  Due to the epidural, it was only uncomfortable and I saw Matt's face flicker with could only be described as dumb-struck man awe.  There was a pause as the doctor aspirated the baby and then he said for me to grab the baby's arms and pull him or her out.  I reached down and the baby slithered out and I can honestly say it was probably the most profound and surreal moment of my life.  I know, I'm terribly cliched.  And this is not good writing on my part, but it's impossible to capture that feeling and that moment.  (Not that the whole thing was sunshine from the heavens or something.  Matt commented later the room "looked like a scene from Dexter".  Lovely.)

The nurse reminded the doctor we didn't know if we were having a boy or girl and he held her up and I swear on all that is holy I thought, "Now what is going on down there; that's not a scrotum is it?!"  After a pause from Matt and I - the doctor -who thought we must have been serious grade-A twits, said, "It's a girl!"  (Both male and female genitalia is swollen and appears over-sized upon birth.  I even asked Matt if he was slightly confused for a hot second and he exclaimed, "YES!")

And so that is the story of how our 8 pound, 4 ounce Joanna Rose Hopkins came into this world at 11:15 am on Monday, 11/21/11.  Only later did I understand the need for an episiotomy and having to deliver her quickly due to the risk of her inhaling meconium during birth.  But in all, even though nothing really went according to my notion of labor, it was a picture-perfect delivery.  And by that, I mean things happened quickly (and isn't that what you want?!).  I labored drug-free for several hours and progressed at  a nice clip, and when I did finally receive the epidural it was time to push.  By 12:30 I was in my room enjoying an open-faced turkey sandwich (realizing my love of food - even hospital food - this should not surprise you).

And now here we are.  It's Friday today.  We were shocked Annie was a she; everyone said we were having a boy and you start to believe it, but I couldn't be more overjoyed to raise a girl.  Matt is equally smitten.  Facets of her personality are already making an appearance: she is often resolute and stubborn and gives us looks that can only be interpreted as, "Really?  I mean, REALLY?"  I think we have our work cut out for us, and I couldn't be more pleased or in love.

Mr Mom; Matt has Annie in our Moby wrap.