Monday, August 31, 2009

The Money Blues

I’m having a lot of trouble getting into my pregnancy. So for those of you who can’t imagine anything other than joy at finally achieving a pregnancy—with twins no less—feel free to skip this post. Because I’m pregnant after four years of trying, and all I feel is scared, desperate, and as always, sick to my stomach.

This conversation is about money. So if you’re uncomfortable about that, oh well, this is my blog. Because right now all I can think about is money.

I grew up really fucking poor. Poor enough that ordering out for pizza was a luxury in my family, and I was forced to try to dress myself all through junior high and high school on practically nothing. (Thank god for goth and grunge!) I was flat broke in college, and even more so in law school. By the time I got out of law school I was $110,000 under on student loans, and another $20,000 under on my credit cards, with no full-time job in sight. And then J graduated from design school with another $65,000 in student loans and even worse earning potential.

Ten years later and we’re starting to see the light. We still owe more than $140,000 in student loans, but we own a house and have rehabilitated our credit. We go out to the movies when we feel like it and have HD TV without feeling guilty. We’ve even saved a little, enough that we’ve been able to afford three years of fertility treatment with only a $21,000 loan for the IVF flat rate.

And now that we’re here, now that we’ve reached our ultimate goal, all that is about to come crashing down upon our heads. Because in the next five years we’re probably going to pay more than $100,000 in child care. $100,000! Enough to put me through law school all over me again. Or, more accurately, to smother me with another life-sucking, panic-inducing, soul-crushing debt like my student loans. If I could even get that much of a loan. (Do they give out day care loans? How far will they extend my home equity line of credit—already under $21K for IVF—when home values have dropped so far?) How am I ever going to come up with this kind of money?

A day care center is pretty much out of the question. The going rate around here is $300 per kid per week. Which amounts to about $30,000 a year. Maybe a nanny would be cheaper—if somehow J can manage to be home most Mondays we could try to find a 4-day-a-week nanny for $400 a week or so. Sure, I could find a nanny for a bit less, but I’d be risking my career by hiring an illegal. There is a chance that we can find a “family day care provider,” a woman who takes up to 8 kids into her home at once. But the one person I called sounded so stupid on the phone she completely freaked me out. Even if we can find placement for two at a place like this, can I really trust one person taking care of 8 kids to handle my two small babies? And will we have to split them up into different homes to get them placed?

And for any of you who think I shouldn’t be thinking about this yet, guess what? The waiting list for day care for infants at most places is 12-18 months. At least. So I can’t afford to wait until I’m less freaked out about my pregnancy.

On top of all that, I keep hearing such terrifying things about a twin pregnancy. Leaving aside the specter of super-preemies, two people, one of them my nurse, have told me that there is no way I’ll be able to work the entire pregnancy. A woman in my chiropractor’s office told me that everyone she knew who was pregnant with twins had to stop working after 5 or 6 months. But I can’t stop working—I make somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of our entire household income! I don’t even have enough leave to pay for the maternity leave I plan on taking AFTER the babies are born. So how am I going to survive if I burn all me leave before they even get here? I can’t even think about how fast we’ll go into the hole if I have to take unpaid maternity leave. I’m sure I could work a few weeks from home at the very end, but if this turns into something more than that I’m fucked. So again, all I keep hearing about is ways in which I can’t afford this.

I want to be happy about this pregnancy. I want to just shrug my shoulders and say “oh well, these things will work themselves out.” But I’m not sure they will. Will I look back at these last few years as the only years of my life that I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck, wondering if I can afford to go to the movies or buy myself a new pair of jeans? Did I dig myself out of a lifetime of poverty only to get sucked right back down into it?

I’m so jealous of people with money. Sometimes I’m just sick with envy. When I told my sister about my childcare concerns she wrote back that, yes, it’s really hard. That when she was paying for a nanny one day she reached into her account and there was no money left. And all I could think of was: what did you do then? You reached into that giant family trust fund your husband has. What am I going to do when the bank account runs dry? I have no trust fund. I have no parents who can bail me out. I have no backup.

I think some of this funk must be hormones, which are sloshing around in my body like crazy. And a lot of it is probably due to the fact that I’m exhausted and nauseous. I haven’t slept through the night in two weeks—I have to get up every 2-3 hours to eat something.

I want to be happy. I feel like there must be something wrong with me. Because I’m not happy right now. Oh, I’m not sorry we did this. I know it was what I wanted. But all I feel right now is scared.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We went into yesterday’s sono expecting to check up on the little bleed in my uterus and maybe check the size of the embryos to see if they were still doing okay. I thought my RE had said that it would be too early to see the heartbeats. But the moment the dildocam honed in on the embryos, there it was. A little fuzzy ball of emptiness (which I’m told is amniotic fluid—eek!), with fuzzy little ball of substance in one corner (yolk sac), and a blinking fuzzy light in the center. Just winking away, like an old-fashioned Christmas tree light. And the moment the second, even fuzzier embryo came into sight, yet another blinking light. Two tiny heartbeats, blinking away on the screen at me. In these incredibly tiny creatures less than a centimeter long. Living inside me.

It took my breath away.

There was a new nurse working the cam and machine, so it took her awhile to take all the measurements and such. I just lay there, staring at the machine from my extreme angle, and watching J stare at the machine at almost as bad of an angle from the other side of the nurse and RE. I still didn’t know what to expect. But suddenly they turned the sound on, and I got really excited. I didn’t even know that sono machine—my old friend lo these many years—HAD sound capability.

The sound was mostly static and I didn’t think I’d be able to really hear much. I could see the soundline graphic jumping, so I knew she was recording the heartbeat. Then the nurse told me to hold my breath when she said to. And then she said “hold your breath now.”

And as I held my breath I heard the most amazing sound. Wump, wump, wump, wump, wump. The unmistakable, universally recognizable sound of a heartbeat. The sound of life. I almost gasped, which would have ruined their recording. And the moment she said I could breathe the words “oh my god” came out in a rush.

It took them longer to get a decent recording of Baby B. (Apparently Baby B is going to be both fuzzy and shy.) But I didn’t care. I just lay back on the table while a couple of tears leaked out the corners of my eyes. J looked at me, and I looked at him, both of us seeming to say to the other: well, this is it.

And then it was over and my RE was handing J a card with a high-risk OB’s number on the back and wishing us luck. And that was it. Released from IF care. Finito. Three years with this RE and I’m suddenly done (assuming nothing goes wrong).

I took some time saying goodbye to my nurses, the two women who’ve seen me through the most traumatic years of my life. One of them—who I’ve become particularly close to—was as close to tears as I was. And they both told me I had to come back and show them my big belly. And I told them I would. But I added to J as we walked out the door, “just not during morning monitoring. That’s just not fair to the other women.” I know. I’ve been there.

So now it’s on to a new doctor, one who treats pregnant women. I already feel like I don’t belong there. And my next appointment isn’t until September 11. That’s two and a half weeks away! I feel adrift, unmoored.

And then I spent the afternoon trying to research day care. (I was going to wait until the second trimester, but my sister—who’s always telling me not to worry about things—told me this was one thing I really needed to worry about NOW, especially with having to place two infants.) And then I spent the evening freaking out about the ridiculous impossibility of paying for daycare for two.

Welcome to a whole new world, Babychaser. Right?

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Whole New Roller Coaster

I am six weeks pregnant today, which means I’ve “made it” halfway through my first trimester. So I guess I’m supposed to feel all “whew, it’s halfway over, surely I can do that much again!” But of course this is a total joke, because I’ve been pregnant for less than 4 weeks and have only felt pregnant (and known I was pregnant) for two weeks, which means—wait, let me do the math—that I’ve really only made it 25% of the way through my first trimester.

However, I’ve hit a much more important milestone. I now have officially “made it” past the length of any of my other pregnancies. And given that much of our prior miscarriages primarily, we suspect, were due to wimpy sperm, and give the super high-charged professional sperm we used this time, both J and I are suddenly starting to feel like we’re going to end up actually having a baby or two.

So we’ve stepped up for a whole new roller coaster ride. Some of which is pretty cool, much of which is sucky, and all of which is scary as hell. Mind you, this roller coaster is WAY better than the crap-ass, rickety, piece-of-shit IF/ART roller coaster, and I’m oh-so-glad to be here. But it’s still a whole new ride.

To start with, there’s the physical. Every day I tell myself, “if this is as bad as my ‘morning’ (read: ‘any time of day’) sickness gets, I can totally survive this pregnancy.” And—with the exception of some random symptomless days—every day it gets a little bit worse. I have lowish blood sugar already, so I’m used to the frustration of having to constantly feed myself. But this is ridiculous. This morning I had a cup of 4% cottage cheese while I was making my lunch, then went to brush my teeth, and by the time I was back out in the kitchen gathering my stuff to leave for work the nausea/hunger was back, and even worse than before.

I took a couple of deep breaths, muttering something to myself about not really liking these kids growing inside me so much. Then I got out a yogurt and began to feed again. As my nausea rose up with the first bite, I had this image of my babies as petulant gods inhabiting my body. “Accept this offering,” I said aloud, breathing deep and taking another bite. “Please, just accept this offering and leave me be.”

It really could be much, much worse. As long as I keep eating, and eating, and eating, I seem to be able to keep the nausea at tolerable levels for fairly brief periods of time. And my energy levels, while low, are also acceptable. I’m still getting work done (for the most part) at work, which is the most important thing. As I said yesterday, if this doesn’t get much worse I’ll survive it okay. Then again, given that I’m only 20% into my first trimester, maybe I shouldn’t hold out too much hope that it won’t get worse. (I also know it’s folly to count on the “first trimester” lore, but I just can’t think of being sick an entire pregnancy right now.)

But even stranger is my topsy-turvy emotional state. This is where the roller coaster really gets moving. I’m up, I’m down, I’m sideways. I just don’t know what to think. On the one hand, I can’t help but start to get excited about finally having children. On the other hand, I feel like I should keep squashing those feelings down. Because what if this doesn’t work out? What if this beautiful glimmer of hope is snatched away from me, again? One of my friends (totally fertile mother of two) just told me she had a miscarriage last week. She was three months along, but was told by the sono tech that the embryo had died at about 6 weeks. (Can you imagine so little monitoring? Thank god for IF!) Six weeks, I thought to myself, that’s right now for me. What if my embryos just stop developing? What if their little hearts never start beating?

But despite the fear, last night J and I started talking about baby names. Not a serious, look at a list conversation. But, aside from his presumably facetious insistence on naming our baby “Jebediah,” J and I haven’t talked about baby names since our first miscarriage three and a half years ago. Some lessons are learned the hard way.

And it isn’t just an up and down roller coaster, because there’s also the twists, the curves, the g-forces taking my breath away. Because while in my head I know that I do want twins, my heart and soul are FREAKED AS HELL about it. High-risk pregnancy (or do I mean higher risk?), virtual guarantee of preemies, two infants to care for (while probably recovering from a c-section), and so so so much to pay for (like day care for two?). I wonder if I will even be able to bond with my babies if I’m stretched so thin?

My friends who know about this want me to be thrilled, but I find myself a bit shell-shocked instead. And I refuse to fake happiness. Any sane person would be frightened or at least seriously overwhelmed at the prospect of twins. I have every right to be freaked.

All this aside, last night I had an image of going on a family vacation with two kids (not babies), who could play together and talk to each other, and run around together and wear each other out, and I got a soft warm feeling deep in my heart.

I’m sure that happiness and hope are coming. Right now I’m just focusing on surviving the ride.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Double Your Freakout

It’s a good thing a picture’s worth a thousand words, because I’m finding myself speechless. Or at least as close to speechless as I ever get.

So . . . um . . . TWINS! This is good, right? This is what I wanted? We all sat down and agreed that twins was the best possible scenario—the only way I could get the two children I wanted.

So why do I keep shaking my head as if there’s something loose in there, and why is there one recurring thought looping around my brain: What the fuck have I done?

I’m sure I’m happy. Really. Somewhere inside me there is happy. And I’m definitely not sad or anything. Just completely freaked out. Seriously, what the hell was I thinking? What the fuck have I gone and done now?

I’m also a bit tense, as usual, about my health and the health of the pregnancy. My RE saw a “small bleed” in my uterus, and has given me strict instructions not to exercise for several days. (She wasn’t clear on how long, but I’m going to give it a week—we’re doing a check-on-the-bleed sono on Monday.) Also, my ovaries apparently are still enormous. So I’m worried that the bleed could get worse or my ovaries could freak out some more.

I’m also upset that I have to stop exercising again. I’m not exercising hard—just walking on the treadmill at a moderate pace for about 30-40 minutes a night. But that exercise is critical to the health of my lower back, which is FINALLY starting to feel better after weeks of stiffness and pain from the retrieval/transfer bed-rest time. My back just doesn’t do well with sitting around. It likes action.

If it’s just a week, I’ll survive. But I really need to be exercising to feel healthy and strong. And I really need to feel healthy and strong because holy fucking shit I have TWO embryos living inside me!

Like pregnancy with one wasn’t scary enough.

Finally, does anyone know what the odds are that both embryos will make it to “baby” stage? I have no idea, and didn’t want to ask my RE. (Seemed like a morbid question to be asking at this point in time, no?)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Feel Nothing (But Fear)

Apparently I can't be appeased. Even though Eva’s beta-calculator made me feel a lot better about Friday's beta, between yesterday and today all of my pregnancy symptoms seem to have disappeared, including the need to eat every two hours. Paranoia still dwells deep in my heart--and now I am worried that even if the embryo HAS stopped developing, the sono won't show it. (Does anyone know about this? Can the doctor tell from the sono whether the embryo is still alive? I can’t imagine how.)

It doesn't help that for the past two nights in a row, I've had a dream where I went to the bathroom and discovered that I had started bleeding, just a little bit, just like the start of my period. In both dreams I totally lost it. Very upsetting.

I woke up this morning (after a really long night's sleep where I only had to get up once and eat a tortilla) convinced that the embryo already had died. I can understand the lack of nausea—that comes and goes. But where is the hunger? Can that just disappear for a day or two?

I'm feeling a bit less certain about a loss in the light of day, but I wouldn't mind some mad hunger or morning sickness to make me feel a bit more--pregnant.

It must be frustrating being my friend right now. You probably just want to shake me. I know I do.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Frustration Continues

Beta = 2024

Sigh. Why can't it be higher? By my calculations, this is just above 66%. Barely adequate.

When do I get to feel GOOD about this?
Going into the weekend a bit less confident. Sono on Monday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sigh of Relief

Beta = 1219!

(For those of you who've lost track: Yes, that's more than double.)

One more blood test on Friday, just to be sure, then a sono on Monday to see what's in there.

Very relieved.

Don't have time to write, so wanted to pass along this article J sent me. He thinks we really missed a golden opportunity to pick our donor (he was leaning toward the young George Clooney):

Who's your daddy? A celebrity look-alike.

Personally, I think this feature is awesome!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Less Than Double—Why Can’t It Ever Be Right for a Change?

So my beta today was 584, not 652 like it should have been. My nurse was so chipper when she called with my “great” numbers that I had to call her back after I realized that wasn’t double. She said my RE “wasn’t worried about it,” and that we’d “just check one more time,” then schedule the sono.

I’m so confused. I’ve had a much higher beta—into the 2200s before it crashed—and they still were checking every two days. No one was even thinking about scheduling a sono. So why is everyone okay with this? Is it because my progesterone is high (70 on Saturday, 74 today)? Is it because it’s okay for the beta not to double the first time, but after that it has to double?

All I know is, last time they told me my beta hadn’t quite doubled, but not to freak out about it, I was in the hospital 24 hours later with an ectopic pregnancy and a broken heart.

My friend suggested that maybe there was more than one, but that one has stopped developing. Again, that makes sense to me but I don’t really know.

All I know is that before this, a doubling beta was essential. There was no wiggle room. And now everyone seems pleased with my less than double. I’m confused and scared. Do any of you understand how this works?

I can’t believe I have to go another two days before I can feel good about this. Fuck.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

4:47 A.M. (A Preview of Today's Attractions)

My plan had been to pee in a container this morning, refrigerate the pee until I went to the RE's office for bloodwork and my allergist for my shots, pick up a HPT on the way home and TEST. This plan would (1) allow me to not cry my way through my morning, and (2) give me a chance to pick up a HPT. (I didn't trust myself to buy one earlier in the week.)

But I woke up at 4:35 this morning with the thought: "Hey, do I still have a HPT from last year?" Guess what? I did.

Seriously, who expected me to resist?

The news is good, though I wish the line were darker. Silly, silly me.

I'm relieved, but so amped up/shaky I don't know how I'm going to get back to sleep.

A warning for all of you newish readers who are inclined to jump up and down and congratulate me: I'VE BEEN HERE FOUR TIMES. THIS IS GOOD NEWS, BUT IT'S JUST STEP ONE.

Beta later today. I'll post.

(You know what I love about this blog? You're finding out before J, who is blissfully sleeping away.)

* * * * * * * * * *

Update: BETA = 326!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Feeling Too Good to be Pregnant? (Oh, and I Might Lose My Job.)

I’ve done 5 ART cycles before (4 IVFs, one FET), and I’ve gotten pregnant three of those tries. And I have ALWAYS felt like crap. Crappy when I was pregnant. Crappy when I wasn’t. I’ve never kept a symptom log or anything like that, so I’m not really sure what symptoms came with what results. But I do know that sometimes my bad symptoms stopped abruptly, and it seemed that that corresponded with the decline of the embryo.

Here’s the thing: I feel really good. Not completely pain-free, mind you, I still have some cramps and twinges. But I feel strong, clear-headed, and energetic.

This worries me.

Here is a list of what I have always thought were my pregnancy symptoms:

Tender breasts

In fact, the insomnia and tender breasts have been my most reliable symptoms. After my FET last year, which was my last pregnancy, I had insomnia and very sore breasts for days. Then I tested positive, but it was a very faint line. I knew it might not last, but hoped for the best. Then one night, before I even had my beta, I slept like a baby, and when I woke up my breasts didn’t hurt (they always hurt the worst when I’m getting up after lying down for a long time). And I knew that my embryo probably had died. And I was right.

Now? No such symptoms. Nada. I’m a bit fussy at night, but I think it’s more due to stress and worrying than anything else. And I’m having some mild occasional cramping, but nothing serious. Even my lower back pain seems to have disappeared. But most upsetting—my boobs feel fine, normal, not a hint of soreness. (And yes, I’m constantly feeling myself up to check.)

Does this mean I’m not pregnant? Does it mean it didn’t work? Or were all those symptoms just symptoms of my impending PMS? Were they never pregnancy symptoms in the first place? Does a healthy pregnancy feel different from an unhealthy one?

Or maybe this is all just because I’m so much healthier than I was a year ago. Or maybe, though this seems a stretch, this is all because I did a cycle with lupron? Does lupron change things that much?

I’m not going to lie—I’m going to be pretty devastated if this didn’t work.

On a wholly unrelated note (related only in the sense of can-you-believe-this-fucking-timing?), I might lose my job before October. Our office is conducting massive layoffs—as many as 20 attorneys out of 200. And while I have put a lot of years into this job, I work in a very exclusive division in which I’m the baby. So odds are that if my division has to lose one position, it’s going to be me.

This is a threat that’s been hanging over my head for more than 6 months. It’s so upsetting to me that I haven’t even wanted to mention it to you. In May, our union voted to give up our 4% pay increases and 2% bonuses for next year to prevent them from laying off 12 attorneys. Now, just a few short months later, the government is back for more.

This is a shitty fucking time to be looking for a job. The only people in the area hiring are the Feds, and it can take more than a year to get into one of those jobs even after you’ve been selected (which takes forever too).

And this isn’t such a great time for me, either. Can you imaging job hunting pregnant? Losing all your saved-up maternity leave? Or going into a job knowing you need to do more IVF—with the inconsistent schedule, hormones, and everything else involved. The bottom line is that I feel ill-equipped to change positions now. I’m used to being able to come in late if I have doctor’s appointments, work from home if I need to. And I’m used to being able to wear sneakers all day (bad back), which I can’t do if I’m in a job where I’m in court all day. And I don’t want a high-stress job, but that seems to be all I’m qualified for.

On top of all that, it’s a real blow because I fucking LOVE my job. I had planned to stay in this job for the next 30 years, no joke. You give up a lot to work for the government—money, prestige, support staff, office supplies. The tradeoff is supposed to be job security.

So this sucks, big time.

But you see what I mean, right? This news alone should have me all physically fucked up—I don’t react well to stress, and this is as scary as it gets. But I feel okay. Calm. Capable. Energetic.

I’ll know about the pregnancy on Saturday.

I’ll know about the job by the end of the month.