Our Christmas tree is, like, six and a half feet tall. Perhaps, to some of you, that doesn't seem so big, but when you look at it in the context of our teeny-tiny cottage, it's enormous. If I want to be able to access my back door, or the computer desk in the corner of our living room, I have to set it up so the back half is squashed into the corner, the branches bent upwards as if they never came out of the box. I can only decorate half.

And they're such adult decorations, too. The baubles and floral arrangements are insanely fragile and almost painfully refined. No bold primary colours here; no cheesy but unbreakable Rudolf figurines. Instead, we have delicate bouquets of golden leaves, glimmering, rust-coloured berries and little tiny harps. None of it is right for our house, or our lifestyle. None of it makes sense at all - except to us.

On the twenty-second of December, 2006, I wrote about our family's hierarchy of trees - the biggest at our Grandparents' place, where we all gathered to exchange gifts on Christmas morning, my parents' slightly smaller version, and our own, little desktop tree - just big enough for two. I wrote about how, over the years of our marriage, I had looked forward to upsizing our tree as we built our branch of the family, and about how, that year, I took it upon myself to re-evaluate our status in the scheme of things, to sit down with infertility and renegotiate what it could and could not have, and to, basically, buy a fucking big tree with a whole stack of very adult-looking decorations. Which is no longer right for our lifestyle.

But I put it up anyway, because it means something to me, this tree. It means something to me when The Prata Baby - bless his little heart - unpicks the very delicate, very refined bouquets in the earnest misunderstanding that the individual pieces are supposed to be separately distributed amongst the other decorations, or when he brushes against the very delicate baubles in his rambunctious charging around the house. It means something to see the playgroup craft activities taking over the branches, one by one, cutting an as-yet small, but nevertheless unforgiving line through the tasteful cohesiveness of the display. It even means something when I lift a broken decoration out of storage and wistfully place its pieces in the bin. Life is changing, and evolving; the past is gradually being chipped away. But I can still see the imprint of our history. And I can still taste how it felt to draw that line in the sand to say gosh, infertility, I can't stop you taking this or that. But these things here - they're mine. They're mine and you're not having them.

Merry Christmas to all, and special greetings to those still waiting for life to smile on them.


That's one other thing that happened in the prenatal class. The midwife was doing a brief overview of possible complications and signs to call the hospital about. "So if you notice any of these signs of pre-eclampsia, or even if you're unsure," she sub-concluded at one point, "it's safest to just give us a call and get checked out. Pre-eclampsia can be serious. Worst case scenario, you might even start having seizures and we'll have to admit you." Uh, no... worst case scenario, you die and your baby dies, too.

But, see, it's awkward to bring that sort of thing up.

I've been taking a prenatal yoga class. I was kind of just looking for the exercise, like I got last time, but for logistical reasons (see: work, babysitting, transport arrangements) I ended up taking about a quarter of this whole yoga-based prenatal course. It's a pretty useful format for prenatal yoga, actually, and I recommend it to anyone who can stomach instructors with high-pitched, breathy tones of voice who use oracle cards to the same extent as they use plastic pelvises*.

Last week, the topic was "dealing with the unexpected". We heard the story about ending up in Holland, rather than Italy, and then we were asked to sit with a partner and discuss our worst case scenario as a prelude to an empathy exercise. At first I tensed - I can think of some pretty bad scenarios, and it's not very polite to freak people out. "You go first," I blurted clumsily to my partner, before we'd even properly sat ourselves down.

"Damn. I was going to say that," she replied, and sat thoughtfully for a moment, before stealing a hesitant glance in my direction. "Well, this is my second time around," she explained, "and after what happened last time, I realise how useless it was to spend all that effort worrying about how I might handle the pain or about various interventions that may or may not be needed. I think as long as my son survives-" she touched her belly- "that's really all that matters."

I nodded gravely. Then, as gently as I could muster, I ventured, "It sounds like things didn't turn out well last time."

"Oh!" she hastened to assure me. "No, they did, they did. Everything went perfectly, in fact. No no no. I just realised, afterwards, how short and insignificant the birth experience was in the grand scheme of things. This time around, I know we'll be ok as long as everything turns out in the long run. That's all. So yes - my worst case scenario is that my son dies. Er... what about yours?"

"Well, it's hard to choose," I replied, feeling a bit reassured about my natural response. "I mean, your baby dying - that's bad. But then what if you died? Or both you and the baby? Or one or both got a very serious injury - in extreme cases, that sort of thing might even be worse." I stopped myself short. "Basically, I agree that I'm fine as long as it turns out ok in the long run. I mean, in the story, everyone actually landed, after all." As we were nodding, the instructor chimed the bells to signal the end of the activity and invited us to assume the lotus position and re-centre our energies using deep, cleansing breaths**.

But I couldn't help trying to think up ever wilder scenarios all afternoon, and when Mr Bea came home, it was his first instinct, too.

"What would be really bad," we found ourselves musing, "would be a coordinated terrorist attack on the hospital during the birth, wherein you and your partner and baby were taken hostage, tortured, and then eventually and horribly killed in some grizzly way or other..." there was a pause here whilst we ran through some grizzly modes of death inside our heads... "one by one and in front of each other. For an ignoble cause you were violently opposed to."

It's not just us, right?

---
*Although naturally cynical, I tend to think most of this hippy-dippy stuff is just one way of expressing otherwise perfectly sensible ideas. Which is kind of what my mother said when she saw my oracle card. After she stopped sniggering.

**Or in other words: everyone sit down now and shut up. See what I mean?


Short Version: we went to our prenatal refresher class at the hospital.

So. Anyway. Let's refresh the page on that old sleep debate.

We went to our prenatal refresher class this week. Last time we didn't take the hospital class, instead choosing a privately-run series geared towards expats living in Singapore. We chose this course for two reasons: the content was created specifically to bridge a few gaps for people used to other hospital systems and western cultural practices, and also we could actually get to the classes without having to rearrange our entire lives or spend a fortune on taxis.

This time we took a hospital class. We mainly wanted to tour the hospital, and hear what they had to say under the heading "coping strategies for dealing with siblings". I was a little disappointed in their coverage of the latter, but there were a few good suggestions as well as some references for further reading, and in any case I am less worried about that subject nowadays. The hospital tour was very worthwhile. I was comforted to note that their foetal monitors are much harder to tip onto the floor in an amazing cacophony which causes staff everywhere to leap around in fright than the one we used last time. Also, they served great biscuits.

I was amused by their talk on pain relief. Granted, the last class was a full series with much more time to discuss details at length, but last time we learnt about a range of techniques for managing pain, from breathing and massage, to TENS machines, to prescription drugs. This time, just the prescription drugs. "You have three options: gas, pethidine, epidural." Uhuh. Because I remember doing a lot of things last time, and none of them involved pethidine or epidurals, and I only used the gas mask to beat against the side of the bed and throw across the room* - which wasn't a mode of use they even suggested. Perhaps a quick-list of other options wouldn't have been overloading things. In any case, that doesn't worry me at all, because I can always bone up on my breathing techniques elsewhere, and I am not sure I'll bother hiring a TENS machine again anyway.

What stuck out for me - apart from the quality of the biscuits** - was the bit where everyone introduced themselves and told us a bit about their family. There were eight or ten couples, and all of us had a single toddler at home, in the two-to-three-year age bracket. After all that, after everything that's happened... how did we get to look so normal? Sometimes it's as if someone took our infertile lives and hit "refresh".


--
*I tried it over my face and couldn't stand the sensation. It was interesting to learn that they have dispensed with the mask at this hospital because apparently I am not alone. You can now get your gas on a T-piece, which means I might actually be tempted to breathe some in this time, who knows.

**Tim Tams. Mmmmmmm. I played the pregnant card heavily on those ones.


Short Version: discussion of parenting techniques as related to sleep.

We went to our prenatal refresher class at the hospital last night. But that's not want I want to talk about.

I want to talk about a sleep article I couldn't finish in one of the magazines they gave us in our sample bags. I couldn't finish it because it made me mad. Now, a lot of people follow a lot of different philosophies when it comes to sleep, and I'm ok with that. What I'm not ok with is people presenting one particular philosophy as if it's The Answer To Sleep Issues Everywhere. This is a huge disfavour to uncertain parents and causes untold (not to mention unnecessary!) distress to both parents and children.

I have binned the entire magazine in disgust, which I kind of wish I hadn't because it would have been more productive to write this to them, but so far as I read the article and for what it's worth, I would like to supply what I believe to be the correct answers to their quiz questions.

1. Rocking your baby in arms is not wrong and is not habit-forming. The baby was rocked frequently in utero and patted on the bottom by your beating heart 24/7 for nine months straight. By the time your baby is in arms, that horse has well and truly bolted, and nobody is to blame for that. Given that the baby is born used to being rocked through no fault of your own, there is nothing wrong with either continuing indefinitely or weaning your child more slowly onto self-settling techniques, if you choose to do so. I know one or two parents who swear by the cold turkey approach to rocking and patting, but they would both agree that, in the short term, it is the most difficult approach and that it won't suit everyone - parent or child alike. Almost all parents I know (not to mention a huge proportion of well-qualified experts) prefer something between the two extremes of cry-it-out-from-birth and give-them-anything-til-they-grow-out-of-it. Do not be afraid to choose an approach which involves rocking - there are pros and cons to all approaches and you will have to weigh it up in the light of your individual situation. Never forget - they will all sleep eventually, so the only thing you have to worry about in the long term is surviving the short term! The answer, therefore, is in fact b) it's fine as long as you're coping with it.

2. You do not "have to" start with the daytime sleeps. A lot of experts suggest - assuming you want to work on sleeping at all - that you start during the day time rather than at night, because that might be easier on you. If this is true, then by all means start with the day sleeps. A lot of parents find that they are more alert and patient at lunchtime that in the middle of the night. However, other parents will find that it is easier to work on bedtime or night sleeps - they will be equally tired more or less around the clock, may find that their child settles better at night when the environment is less stimulating, and/or may find it easier to stay calm when a second parent is at home and able to help out. The correct answer, therefore, is d) none of the above - assuming you want to work on sleep, you should start at whichever time is easiest for you, whatever time of day that is.

3. There is no bedtime. In Singapore, it is considered normal for children to take long afternoon or evening naps, then stay up until 11pm, then sleep in. In Australia, it is considered normal for children to take long morning or lunchtime naps, then go to bed by 7-7:30pm, then rise at the crack of dawn. These ideas persist year-round, regardless of changing daylengths or sunset times. Parents in both countries drive themselves spare trying to make their babies and their lifestyles fit these cultural norms. There is no good reason for this self-berration.

Some children do sleep better on certain "schedules" and I encourage you to consider starting with what is "normal" where you live - not so much because you'll get fewer busybody comments, but because this is no doubt a joint venture between nature and nurture with nurture playing an undeniable role, and the "normal" pattern where you live has probably evolved to fit in with the usual pattern of day to day activity where you live - both within your household and within its immediate vicinity. The likelihood, therefore, is that the "normal" baby schedule where you live will, indeed, suit your baby better than something borrowed from halfway across the globe. And who knows? Maybe there's also an early-riser gene and it's more prevalent in Australia than in Singapore, and it's just that I happen to have missed out. However, you should see the "normal" baby schedule where you live as a starting point or a guideline, to be adjusted according to the needs of both yourselves and your baby, and readjusted whenever normal development, a change of season, or a change of lifestyle demands. So the answer, dear magazine editors, is e) go fuck yourselves.

Gah. That's as far as I got.

Feel free to add your own priceless sleep advice in the comments, just in case one of their readers drops by.


Short version: finding secret sisters in infertility.

Sometimes the things people say make you wonder. At a party, several months ago, a woman noticed I wasn't drinking. "You don't drink?" she asked, by way of polite smalltalk.

"Usually, but at the moment I'm pregnant so I'm not drinking," I replied.

She smiled broadly. "That's really great!" she enthused.

"Thanks, yes, we're pleased."

But she wasn't finished. "It's just really wonderful news. I'm so happy for you. I just think every child is such a blessing, really," I nodded, accepting her kind words whilst thinking uneasily of all those who wouldn't agree so far. Then she said it: "You're really lucky to have the chance to fall pregnant and to carry a child like that."

It makes you wonder. Sometimes it makes you follow up, but only if you can work out how. In another situation, as background for a particular anecdote, somebody described this couple they knew whose eldest child was adopted, and whose youngest was conceived the old fashioned way, long after they'd given up on that possibility. "That happens so often," said someone else. "People conceive naturally after they've adopted because they stop stressing about it." And that was the last thing the second woman said, because the first woman corrected her at some length, quoting statistics from several studies on the incidence of spontaneous conception in infertile couples, both in the presence and absence of adoption, as well as on the role of stress in infertility.

Wait! I forgot. That first woman was me.

Later that day, a different colleague stated that I must be feeling tired and heavy now that I've hit the third trimester. "Not that I'd know from personal experience," she added. "Never having been through the third trimester of pregnancy." She looked at me keenly and continued. "First trimester I've experienced four times, and even bits of the second on one occasion."

"Oh. Gosh."

She looked down. "It was ages ago. I'm over it now."

"It must have been horrible."

"At the time, but I'm over it now. It was ages and ages ago. I decided I just wasn't meant to have children."

"Still, an awful..."

"It was ages ago," she said brightly, looking back up. "I'm over it now. You must be starting to feel tired and heavy, though."

Like a secret handshake. Sometimes, I'm not quite sure how to return it. I'm always glad for those who are.


Summary: The Prata Baby gets rid of babyish things as we prepare to pass them along to his younger sibling.

People had been at me to cut The Prata Baby's hair for the longest time. I remember it was the first comment a friend of ours made when we returned home last September. "He needs a haircut," B stated, ruffling his fingers through PB's curly mullet. I could only reply by looking at B askance, until he added, "Hey - I cut my dreadlocks all the time!" and then hauled their ends from somewhere near the small of his back to present them as proof.

"And I suppose that's a very carefully cultivated 'unkempt' look you have going on with your face," I supplied pointedly. He rubbed his cheeks and looked mildly sheepish. PB's curls continued to grow.

And despite increasingly consistent misidentifications by the general public of PB as a girl, they continued to grow, right up until that first ultrasound scan which showed (to my amazement and shock) a live, ten-week-old, intrauterine pregnancy. I think that was the exact day I first entertained the idea of actually taking the Prata Baby for his first cut. Also, I went out and bought a potty.

It's easier to let go of these vestiges of babyhood, knowing round two is probably just around the corner. Nowadays, not only are the nappies safely tucked in storage - day and night - but the high chair is gone, too, and the long-neglected cot has been completely packed away. One of the final pieces fell into place yesterday when we took his convertible birth-to-toddler seat out of the car and replaced it with a convertible toddler-to-child seat. We've told him that the baby is going to use his old seat later on, and so far he hasn't objected.

There's just one thing I can't bear to part with - the bedtime cuddles. I still lie with him on the futon every night as he drifts off to sleep. And whilst I sometimes wonder how I'm planning to be in two places at once, if the new baby is fussing over PB's bedtime, I always kind of conclude that we'll just have to cross that bridge as we come to it. We'll somehow muddle through - either Mr Bea will be home to help, or the baby will be cooperatively settled (it might happen), or PB is just going to have to learn to wait or do without. In any case, why would I withdraw every night's cuddles to save myself a few nights of hassle, especially when withdrawing those cuddles is going to present a hassle in itself? No - we'll somehow muddle through.

He's growing fast enough as it is.


A few notes I've been meaning to write. Topics for each paragraph are in bold for ease of skimming:

  1. Thanks. Your good wishes are, as always, appreciated. I keep meaning to email back to all commenters and not really getting around to it. Sorry about that.

  2. Sorry for not commenting better on blogs lately. Google reader has been stuffing me around. Besides, I have been busy with life lately, and PB has stopped sleeping properly due to suddenly-extending daylight hours (I'm pretty sure) and so I am sleep deprived with much reduced leisure hours and I have missed loads. Also I screwed up at work and it seems to be sorted now but it hogged all my time and energy and computering for days. I am in one of my feeling slightly unhinged periods again.

  3. Thanks for words of encouragement on hypnobirthing. They helped. Music suggestions were also greatly appreciated, although I think, in the end, Betty M's husband is the clear winner of the Bands That Sound Like Portishead competition. I have made a shortlist based on samples I listened to that gave me the right mood.

  4. Thanks for advice and positive stories on introducing younger siblings to older siblings.

    I have started reading a couple of books about the subject to PB. There seemed to be a lot of suitable bookds around when we were just thinking about trying, but now that I actually want one, I have discovered that a lot of them are narratives about children who are worried about or resentful of the arrival of a sibling. The feelings are resolved at the end of the book, of course, but I have no real reason to believe that's what we're dealing with at our house, and I am loathe to introduce such concepts where they are not already present. I am after more of a textbook-for-two-year-olds on pregnancies and babies - just the facts, presented in a fairly neutral way - and I have found them harder to come by. So far I can recommend There's A House Inside My Mummy (subject: pregnancy) and How To Be A Baby (subject: infants). Other suggestions are appreciated.

    PB seems to be coming along with his understanding. ("There is the little tiny baby and up there is the milk. And when the little tiny baby is born, he will come out of mum's tummy and the milk will come out of mum's chest. And mum will give him a drink of milk in a red cup. And he will not turn into a possum.") He has also been patting, kissing, singing songs, and delivering erudite instruction on the nature of trains and various construction machinery to the sibling in utero.

    I have decided I just don't like this business of buying the older sibling a present "from the baby". Babies can't choose presents, nor can they giftwrap them or present them in any meaningful way. The whole thing doesn't make any sort of... narrative sense to me. And with Christmas coming up, I cannot imagine the Prata Baby will be short of toys any time between now and, like, ever again. I am (still) trying to declutter our two-bedroom worker's cottage in anticipation of hopefully keeping four people in it, and a gift "from the baby" will not help with that. And I'm not at all convinced the momentary pleasure of getting a new gizmo will have any lasting effect on the relationship between the two. And it would kind of feel like we were valuing any concerns PB might have about the changes to our family at about, what, ten? fifteen? dollars or so, which seems kind of... dismissive. At the same time, I understand it's the latest thing to do and other people who've tried it will swear by it and I certainly don't think it harms or that people who do it are doing the Wrong Thing per se, but the idea just doesn't gel with me and I don't think I can bring myself to jump on board with it. Watch me stand corrected later on, but there it is.

    Here's my current plan: it's the baby's birthday, so we'll have a little birthday party. Which makes much more sense to me, because it is in keeping with long-standing cultural traditions, and a concept PB has come across before. It is also a more realistic representation of the role he will play in his relationship with the new baby over the short to medium term. PB will choose a simple gift, probably a onesie or a bib or something we actually do need, and he will wrap it and present it because he's old enough to do these sorts of things, rather than it being a completely artificial construct. This will make him feel Involved and Important. PB will not get a gift but he will get his share of birthday cake or something, and he will be more than happy with this treat, especially since it will underline one of the advantages of being old enough to eat cake, viz, cake eating.

    In summary: feeling much more confident about the whole sibling thing.

  5. Latest appointment with BOB was fine. All things are behaving normally, except my haemoglobin, which has actually risen since the beginning of last trimester, which seemed to surprise everyone but in a good way. Probably this is due to the fact that I have been craving half a chicken for breakfast every morning, and half a cup of milo - I'm not talking about the mixed drink here, I'm talking about the dry powder, as in, I make it up with about five teaspoons of milo to only slightly more than five teaspoons of milk - each night. The baby seems to be a "good size" again - these were actually SOB's words from the last pregnancy. BOB said something more like "bigger than average, by the looks". I think I prefer SOB's phrasing. Glucose tolerance test was fine. Yada yada it's all fine. I am fine. The baby appears to be fine. Nothing to see here.

  6. I started prenatal yoga again, but everyone seems to be going on summer holidays right when I need them, so I am still looking for December/January classes or it could be short-lived.

  7. I am peeved because there have been changes to the Bogan Bribe (incentives and tax breaks for having kids) which basically mean we will miss out compared to what we would have been able to claim if we hadn't taken years on end to have kids in the first place through no fault (and with much anguish) of our own. This is a really petty complaint, because we're not struggling and my official position on taxpayer-funded welfare is that it should be reserved (first and foremost) for those who are (evidence-supported arguments about gender equality and returning parents to the workforce so they can pay more taxes conceded), but I sometimes can't help thinking about all our just-as-financially-well-off-if-not-better-off friends who I had to see having consecutive children whilst we went through infertility AND they got all this extra money via the government for being so damned fertile, as if they weren't already luckier than us enough. ("Well, we did get at least an equal amount of funding via the government in the form of partially-claimable IVF treatments," Mr Bea pointed out not-helpfully. Uh, thanks - fail. That so totally isn't as fun as free cash.) Just a tiny bit of left-over pissiness about the suckitude of infertility. Also, maybe I am feeling less than enthused about the main reason we won't be claiming a fat cash bonus, that is... oh...

  8. Moving back to Singapore. Mr Bea's boss has asked him to. We are going to go sometime early next year, probably six to eight weeks after our current estimated due date. I know, it sounds insane to me, too, I swear it makes sense if you talk about it for hours and hours and hours and hours on end. Or maybe you just stop caring about sense. In any case, that is the plan, sense and taxpayer-funded baby bonuses be damned. I'll let you know how it goes.

  9. The post sort of descends into angry muttering, but the impression that gives is false, I promise. My general mood is appropriately upbeat. It's all good.


Today I'm 25w4d. One day further along than my cousin was, earlier this year, when she gave birth to her daughter at the same hospital I am booked into.

The child is doing well. Cousin still carries oxygen everywhere, but is hoping to drop to nights only within the next couple of weeks, and the doctors are generally very happy with how things are progressing.

I would like to cook this baby for at least a couple more months, of course. But yesterday it struck me that our chances of a good outcome are starting to get decently high. Which is a nice thought.


Short version: I talk about hypnobirthing techniques. Yes, already, yes, I know. There is a request for music suggestions at the bottom, specifically, music that has a similar sound to Portishead.

Last pregnancy, I didn't start thinking about birth until I was into the third trimester. This time, in a different part of the world, immersed in a different culture, I have been forced to start thinking of it already. A midwife rung a couple of weeks ago to conduct my pre-admission interview. The paperwork for the hospital is in. I was advised that the prenatal refresher classes are almost all booked out from now until well after baby's estimated due date, and have therefore already reserved a place. And I was told that, from now until the end of the pregnancy, any emergencies will be handled not by the general emergency department, or even the antenatal unit, but by the labour and delivery ward itself. Because although s/he's barely half-cooked, s/he's big enough that the only way out is via an actual, honest-to-goodness birth.

I guess I may as well start thinking about it then. Especially since it takes me about ten thousand times longer to read up on things these days than it used to.

Last pregnancy, I considered taking hypnobirthing classes, but when it came to the crunch, I couldn't go through with it. I was all on board with the concept of using relaxation and visualisation to help deal with the process of birth - however that might come to be - but I was scared off by the rah-rah woman-power talk. There was a lot of rhetoric about how producing a child was an entirely natural event that my body would instinctively navigate, the half-spoken caveat being that I had to believe it hard enough. After years of infertility, IVF, and pregnancy loss, I didn't think there was any way I could be made to believe that it was all just mind over matter. More than that, I was a little insulted, as if Mongan had given me the old "just relax" and started going on about how low sperm count was simply a manifestation of widespread cultural conditioning and perhaps some sort of subconscious expression of fear. I guess I just couldn't bear to learn a method which might - in the event of a less than calm, natural, and uncomplicated birth - leave me feeling as if I was personally at fault for any sort of calamity*. Plus, when I first heard the term "rainbow relaxation" I couldn't stop sniggering for days.

However, in many ways (I realise, now that I am reading Mongan's book for the first time), infertility was the perfect preparation for hypnobirth. Had I gone for it, I may have had to forcibly stop my instructor from referencing the "effortlessness" and "intimacy" of conception as either a) evidence that the body knows what it's doing or b) a model for how birth should proceed, lest I collapsed into the puddle of helplessness and despair I was specifically hoping to avoid, but I nearly laughed out loud when reading the techniques for breathing. How could I have made it through nearly two years with a fertility clinic if I hadn't figured out how to keep inhaling and exhaling, slowly and deliberately, learning to welcome each wave of treatments as bringing me one step closer to the child I so earnestly looked forward to greeting?

For that matter, how could I have retained any sort of paralysing awe in the face of complicated medical terminology - or, for that matter, personnel? How could I have failed to master the art of choosing a suitable practitioner, or negotiating an acceptable approach to to my treatment, drawing on the expertise of my specialist to make properly informed decisions? How could we - Mr Bea and I - have come through infertility treatments without discovering how to work in harmony together, even though the physical burden fell exclusively to me**?

As for fear of childbirth, and especially the pain of childbirth - there wasn't really any there to release. Temporary physical pain seemed far too trivial a thing to concern myself with, and the rest was squeezed out of me, not so much by positive affirmations that all would be ok, as by the sheer emotional exhaustion that came from having finally used up my almost limitless supply of anxiety over things I could not, ultimately, control***.

I'm not sure that I will attend an actual hypnobirthing class. It would be a big logistical effort with our current lifestyles, including the need to arrange childcare, and I'm not convinced it'd be worth the expense. There's too much I have to rephrase in order to make the philosophy work for me****, and I daresay that'd be much harder to do in a live class than whilst reading from a book. Also, the relaxation CD irritates the absolute fuck out of me, which is not at all relaxing*****.

But at its core... well, there's a lot of tricks I really believe will help with labour and birth, and a surprising number I've already tried out and found to be highly useful. And I'm really pleased to realise that, thanks to infertility, I've had a lot more practice than most couples out there.


--

*I have to give Mongan her due. I didn't read the text the first time around, or attend a class. A lot of this came to me through the filter of various marketing materials or internet forums, and some of it is just my own baggage. Mongan does acknowledge, explicitly and repeatedly, that some couples will find themselves facing "special circumstances" through no fault of their own, and that this is a good place to bring on whatever manner of intervention is required. Couples can still use self-hypnosis to aid them in these circumstances, and proceed as needed without blame or guilt. But she says this, and then in the next breath she displays a degree of confidence about a couple's level of control that makes me catch my breath. I am having to mentally edit the bravado into more of a zen-like acceptance of fate in order to make it work for me.

**I get that wanking in the "men's room" must be difficult, but I can't really see it as a physical burden.

***I also used to use visualisation a lot to get me through infertility treatments. Mainly, however, I would visualise the people who upset me with nasty or thoughtless comments tripping over and falling flat on their faces, so, I'm not sure if that counts.

****Nothing, for example, makes me more nervous than someone repeatedly assuring me that it's all going to be ok. Not a person on earth today actually knows that, and when they make me point same out with their perkturdy optimism, it just magnifies the negative possibilities in my mind because all of a sudden I'm having to talk about them. Forcibly and, perhaps, a lot. Admit you have no idea, that it could all fuck up and everyone could die, and then we can all gain some appropriate perspective and move on - that's what I need. I'm not certain hypnobirth practitioners roll like that, but I'm guessing not.

*****I actually have a question for you on the subject of music. Last time, I really found Portishead (Dummy and Portishead) to be exactly the right mood. Slow-paced, with that absorbing baseline; gentle, yet emotionally powerful. The music wasn't dismissive of the occasion, lightheartedly saying to sit back and take it easy, like a lot of 'relaxation music' tends to do. Instead, it was inviting the listener to quietly succumb to something too big to fight against. Plus, it sounded like something you might want to listen to, and not fucking irritating.

However, two CDs don't last that long, even if you do repeat them a few times over. On the offchance the style seems appropriate again - and if it doesn't, I'll still have some worthwhile music for general listening purposes - what can you think of that sounds a bit like Portishead?


Short Version: Talking with The Prata Baby about pregnancy and siblings.

Sometimes I have trouble communicating with children. One example comes to mind: when Nephew came to visit us in Singapore, we took him through a museum, and at one point he asked me to read him the blurb attached to a particular photo. The photo was a grainy, old, black and white picture of some working-class Chinese immigrants who, the blurb said, were often deceived into making the journey from their homelands to Singapore on the promise of good jobs and comfortable living conditions, only to find a much harsher reality on arrival.

"What does 'deceived' mean?" asked Nephew.

"It means, sort of..." I floundered for ten seconds or so before inspiration struck. "You know how we were reading that book about The Gingerbread Man this morning?"

"Yes."

"Well, you remember how The Fox told The Gingerbread Man he was going to take him safely across the river, but instead he ate him before they reached the other side?"

"Yes."

"Well you could say The Fox deceived The Gingerbread Man."

Nephew blinked at me a couple of times. Then he looked at the people in the grainy old photo. Then he turned back to me, his face grave and his voice reduced to a hoarse whisper. "You mean all those people got eaten?"

I've been having similar troubles trying to prepare The Prata Baby for what is likely to come. Not that I have somehow led him to believe that this whole baby-making business involves cannibalism - though, actually, who knows how he figures this foetus got in there - but my attempts at explanation seem to produce rather unexpected ideas in his head.

The first time I told him, we were lying on his bed reading a story. He seemed to notice that my stomach had become a funny shape, so I explained to him that the bump he was looking at was actually a baby. He lapsed into thoughtful silence for a minute, then slowly said, "There's a baby..." whilst pointing at my tummy. A few seconds later, he snapped out of his reverie and demanded to get on with his book. And that was that, until the following night.

The following night he lifted up my shirt and patted my stomach. "Are you patting the baby?" I asked him, and he flashed me a cheeky grin.

"It's not a baby, it's your tummy," he announced, as if it had taken him a while to figure out the game, but he was wise to it all now. "There's a baby! No! It's my head!" he continued, giggling furiously. I gave him a rather lengthier and more detailed explanation (at one point using pillows and blankets as props) which produced another thoughtful silence and abrupt return to the pursuit of bedtime reading.

A couple of days later, apropos of nothing, he lifted my shirt and pointed to my stomach. "There's a little tiny baby in there, behind your belly button," he informed me. I agreed, glad to have finally procured his understanding. Then he continued, pointing upwards to my chest. "And look! Two more babies!" Further explanations ensued.

At last the day came when, lying on the bed reading a story, I felt a succession of good, solid kicks. Taking The Prata Baby's hand, I placed it on a likely spot and told him that his brother or sister was kicking, and if he was lucky, she or he might kick his hand. And as we waited, it indeed happened, several times in fact, producing that same, silent thoughtfulness in PB, followed by that same, sudden desire to return to the bedtime narrative already underway. A full week later, in the car, out of the blue, PB announced that he didn't like the baby to kick his hand. Kicking, you see, is "not nice". We have told him so, many times, often sharply, and the baby, if s/he was doing it to PB, wasn't being very nice to him at all. After some furious backpedalling, we have agreed that the baby doesn't kick, s/he moves, taps, or pats. Gently and lovingly. So, so lovingly.

I keep wanting to prepare The Prata Baby for what is likely to come, and the truth is, there's no way I can. As hopeful parents, we tried to brace ourselves over a period of years of painstaking research, carefully sifting through whole libraries of information on the subject. That, in the light of complicated, adult thought patterns and a wealth of observations and life experiences. And in the end, how many of us got it exactly right? How many got it halfway right? The Prata Baby's got no hope at two, no matter how many books entitled Sammy Gets A Sibling I track down in the children's section of the library - my own explanations having proved to be thoroughly misleading, and sometimes rather gruesome.

I'm sure, if of nothing else, that the period of adjustment will be strange and confusing and upsetting and unsettling for him, and my heart breaks a little on his behalf, for having to go through it. I won't be alert enough to give him the attention he gets now, to play together like we used to or to go the places we used to go. What time and attention I do have will be sorely divided. And younger siblings - I know, I've had them - can be a damned annoying pain in the arse and a burdensome responsibility.

But then I also know he'll adjust, like I did, like I will. And I think, in the end, he'll be glad, like I am. And although I believe he would have been fine as an only child, I think this alternative life will have rewards to offset the initial setbacks, and sweetness to complement the sour. I just wish I could make him understand it all now.

But my track record isn't good, even for basics like a simple dictionary-style response on the word "deceived". It looks as if he'll find out the hard way, after all.


We had our gross morphology scan. Already! I know. There were no nasty surprises - everything looks fine. And I can announce that the baby is... either a boy or a girl. They certainly seemed to think it was one or the other.

I don't know how many of you recall the day we found out the sex of the Prata Baby, but to quickly recap, we were caught completely off-guard by the question at our sixteen week appointment, before we'd had a chance to discuss the matter at all, and after twenty seconds of umming and ahhing, Mr Bea gave a sort of shrug which I interpreted as not having any real opinion on the matter, so I confidently turned to SOB and told him to spill.

Apparently, however - and this would have been explained on my blog at the time if I wasn't so busy having an unnecessary freak-out about the Prata Baby's measurements - that non-committal shrug should have been interpreted as a mere continuation of the series of displacement actions already underway, and if I'd waited for the series to come to a close, Mr Bea would have expressed a preference for not finding out the sex of the baby.

This time, he expressed his preference early. He does not really want to find out ahead of the birth. And given that I had my way last time, I have ended up letting him have his way this time. So we don't know.

I have mixed feelings about this, the most prevalent of which is ambivalence. All the important bits - the bits that contribute to ongoing life and health - appear to be present, in the right places and proportions. What else is there to care about?

On the other hand, I do admit that it took a while to re-orientate myself after finding out that PB was a boy. I had it in my mind (I realised afterwards) that we were having a girl. Probably this impression was born of a) a dream I had and b) the slightly noddy "logic" that if Jester was a boy, then the next one was sure to be a girl, 'cos, boy, girl, boy, girl... you know. Although maybe Twin A was a girl, I'm not sure. In any case, it's not that I was disappointed to find out PB was a boy, it's just that it kind of felt, all of a sudden, as if there was a stranger in there, instead of the baby I'd been expecting. It took a few weeks to "get to know" him all over again. I was glad that happened during the pregnancy, rather than after the birth, and I'm feeling ever so slightly nervous about having to do it after the birth this time.

On the other hand, it seems very fitting to leave it shrouded in mystery. This baby has already given us the shock of our lives just by being there in the first place, and we really have no idea how it happened. It's our surprise baby, in more ways than one, and as long as they're all good surprises, I can be happy to roll with each and every one.


If I had to use one word to describe pregnancy after infertility, it would be "intense". I mean, wonderful, yes. Filled with joy and relief, but also anxiety and uncertainty, and sadness for those left behind. Perhaps woe, at a perceived drift from the tremendous community who helped me there, and a little touch of guilt, too. And wistfulness, that this might never happen again. And confusion, over how to build a new identity. And humility and thankfulness, with anger and bitterness and unresolved grief. Trepidation. Self-doubt. Love. Exhaustion. Happiness.

Intense. It was all pretty intense.

I don't have that this time around, and there is the slightest sense of missing something. It's not that I wanted to go through all that again, or even that I would have chosen to, if it had come to it. It's certainly not that I envy those whose second time around is more difficult than ours. I have always admitted that infertility had its gifts as well as its costs, even whilst concluding that the price was way, way too steep, and I suppose I am in the process of appreciating one of those (disproportionately small) gifts in a new light.

It's like Diggers, on ANZAC Day, standing around and reminiscing about the war long ago, and concluding that, although it was hell and they'd hate to go through it again, at the same time, good lord, people knew they were alive in those days, didn't they?

That's what it was - it was a sort of knowing that I was alive. It was knowing my baby was alive, not tomorrow, not at forty weeks or next year, but right now, at least, as the ultrasound transducer hovered on my belly, or as he kicked me from the inside. It was accepting that right now was all we really had, and choosing for it to be enough. It was profound. It was splendid.

I don't have that this time. It's a shame.

What I do have instead, I realised as I brushed my teeth in front of the bathroom mirror last night and glimpsed the start of a proper-looking bump under my top, is a genuine like for pregnancy. Last time, it was hard to disentangle the pleasure of being pregnant from the joy of not having to do another cycle of IVF (at least not yet) plus the gratitude I felt for having got so lucky (at least so far). Those feelings exist again, of course, but they are less, well - intense. My feelings towards pregnancy per se are relatively uncrowded this time, and as a result, much clearer. I like it. I just really enjoy it. I love what oestrogen does to my mood (if not my focus or intelligence) and the tell-tale curve of my belly. In fact, I love all the extra curves, from my thighs to my cheeks. I love the softness and glow of my skin, and the boost to my sex drive and... did I mention oestrogen does good things to my mood? Good things, people. Great things. Lovely things. It's... nice.

And I'm glad I had the chance to realise that now, because this time really might be the last.


We are not that original when it comes to family-building. We started trying for our first child only just before all our friends started trying for their first, and then, as you know, we watched them have one child after another whilst we continued to struggle. The logical mind concludes, therefore, that the reason we know someone whose baby was born around every single last one of our would-have-been-due dates was coincidence, pure and simple. We were enduring consecutive losses, at the same time as everyone around us was having consecutive babies. It's just blind statistics.

What most of you also know, however, is that the mind in crisis is not always logical. The mind in crisis wants to make sense out of senselessness, as if doing so will magically cause the suffering to cease, to be replaced by calmness and order - or at least the intoxicating illusion of it we always used to believe in. My mind in crisis - for a fraction of a second, before reason was able to assert itself firmly once more - somehow managed to picture a connection between our would-have-been-babies and our friends' babies of the same age. I began to superstitiously dread pregnancy announcements almost before I had started to dread our followup beta. I was convinced... no, not convinced. It was ridiculous, I told myself, over and over. I didn't actually believe it at all. Yet, in the absence of any rational explanation for our failures, the irrational explanation that a closeby pregnancy was the thing that would sound the death knell for our little embryos was the only thing I had. So I waited and hoped for the month that I, alone in my circle (excluding, for some reason, the blogosphere), was blessed with that second line. For surely, that month would be the month things finally went our way.

It never happened. What did happen (we found out later) was that an infertile friend of ours conceived around the same time as us, but lost her pregnancy whilst ours continued along.

I found out recently that friend - who is still childless - had a second miscarriage earlier this year. The baby would have been due just before our current estimated date.


One of the things I wanted to talk about was our renovation plans. We were very excited, last week, to get some sketches from the architect, and we are busily trying to decide between options and work out a few refinements. Hurrah! How awfully thrilling.

At the same time, this process has brought up, once again, the issue of our future plans, including family size. Which brings me to one of the other, rather lengthier things I want to talk about.

We still have those eight embryos left, you see. Originally, we were going to watch them fail transfer them later this year, then reassess depending on what happened. Way back when, before all this started, we were both keen to have two kids, with maybe more, providing it seemed to be going alright. As of a couple of months ago, we were unsure if we'd even try very hard a second time around. Now we're thinking two, with any luck, but what are we going to do about those embryos? Neither of us have really made up our minds, but Mr Bea was assuming we'd donate them.

"Well apparently we can make our own now," he said. Uh, yeeeeaaaaahhh....

I'll gloss over the myriad issues of third party reproduction, such as donor anonymity laws and genetic heritage, or the psychological feelings of the donor towards any ensuing offspring etc etc - not because these things aren't important, but because by the time you'd read through to the last "h" of "yeeeeaaaaahhh" you'd already listed them all off in your mind, as if by rote. Or in fact by rote.

Thing is, they're not the only issues I have. Most of those embryos are from a batch affected by OHSS, and so far their fellows have provided us with the joy of multiple chemical pregnancies and a miscarriage. Hardly something I want to inflict on an infertile couple who has endured many years on a waiting list for donor embryos and who-knows-what-else beforehand. If they were good quality, I might consider it harder. As it stands... well I guess I'd assumed we would transfer them at a later date and then see what happened.

"That just seems strange," Mr Bea said, shaking his head. "Why would we go back to IVF after having a natural pregnancy?"

Well, because we want to get pregnant again but we're still infertile, perhaps. Having conceived naturally doesn't mean your fertility is safe forevermore, less so in our case, where our problems are long-documented and our current luck is almost certainly the exception, rather than the rule. Especially given it still took us over a year to conceive this time around. (It's not as if we rushed out for contraception the moment the now-over-two-year-old Prata Baby was born.) And then there's the fact that we have, you know, all these embryos left and we're going to need to make some sort of decision about them, one way or another, and one option involves another round of treatment or two.

"I just... I guess I just thought this meant we could put all that behind us," he admitted, finally. "Because, you know, it sort of sucked."

Oh. So. That I understand.

And whilst I feel that donating embryos is a somewhat poor strategy for putting infertility behind you - even rubbish embryos might turn into fully-grown people, after all - I can sympathise with wanting it to be all done, already, and I suppose the knowledge that we've managed it on our own did seem a bit like a ticket out, no matter what the future holds.

None of this has to be resolved now. Nobody's doing anything other than continuing to pay storage fees for a good while yet. But I guess the architect's sketches have forced us to re-imagine our possible paths through the next five to ten years', knowing, as we know now, that there is a statistically good chance of a second child, plus eight embryos left in the freezer, and it's just... it's just strange, is all. Strange and unexpected.


It's here! The occasion for the 3... 200th Roundup! Since it falls during ekka time, I had to substitute ekka strawberry sundaes for cake. I had one today - ah, childhood memories. Unless you're currently in Brisbane, you'll have to make do with feasting your eyes:



Well done, Mel. This - the roundup, of course, but I am also referring to the whole community - is an outstanding community. Through it, I am saner and wiser.


Today I had my first appointment with my OB. Let's call him... BOB. Well, I had SOB for Singapore Obstetrician, so why not BOB for Brisbane Obstetrician?

My cousin actually recommended me to a midwife-led birth centre. "I can just see you there," she enthused, and I was completely sucked in right up until the point where they mucked me around for over a week and eventually reduced me to tears on the phone. Then I realised - I am not a birth centre person. I can see how my cousin made the mistake, with all the drug-free birthing, babywearing, cloth nappying, extended breastfeeding and cosleeping and no-cry whatever whatever, but the truth is I don't tend to react well to that kind of womanly care. No - give me detached, scientific reasoning any day. I'm an obstetrician's girl. Also, I need to be with someone I can reliably contact, who I trust to give me correct information, and who doesn't seem to spend most of their time buckpassing, blameshifting, and just generally being mean. (And whilst I will freely admit that the actual crying was a bit over the top, and can largely be blamed on hormones, the hormones aren't going away before the pregnancy ends, so, I really need a solution which deals with that.)

The downside is that I have ruled myself out of a water birth. And you know, I would have liked to keep all options open at this stage, but there are so, so many steps between me and a water birth, from "not miscarrying tomorrow" all the way up to "actually desiring a water birth, given the choice, at the requisite and still-hypothetical moment", that it just doesn't seem worth it.

In any case, I have decided to see BOB, who is fine, even nice, is happy to do things much the same way as last time (in terms of management technique, I stress, not in terms of the actual course of events which is somewhat out of our control), was able to confirm that our risk of screenable problems is too low to make any real recommendations for further testing beyond the gross anatomy scan at 18-20 weeks, and that the baby was, as of afternoon tea time today, still alive and kicking. And then he wrote me a form for some routine blood tests - the infectious diseases profile we were going to get done at the beginning of the FET cycle, for example - and the above-mentioned gross anatomy scan, which will happen mid-September.

When?

Last time, the twenty-week scan came around so very slowly. It took, literally, years on end, and they were long years, full of long days and long, long hours and minutes. This gross anatomy scan is coming up in slightly under a month and a half. It's going to take a little while to wrap my mind around that one. I'm not sure I even have the time left to do so. My mind may have to go into it unwrapped. (Or is it "unwrapping"?)

There are five more things I want to talk about. I am still hoping to go through the ones I can remember which still seem relevant by Sunday, so stay tuned.

P.S. 13w5d.


Keep those tales of what you've been up to coming. I am wading through about a hundred tons of laundry and other housework and various stuff and this week is looking pretty darn hectic so I'm going to catch up as and when I can but in the meantime... everything looks fine here. I don't have the odds from the nuchal translucency yet, but if you recall that was one test we decided to live without last time, so I'm loathe to put a great deal of energy into sweating those results this time, when everything else looks pretty much on track at this stage.

All for now. I have... five... wait... yes, five different things to write about, but... wait, no it's six. But honestly the chances between now and next week are slender, what with running around doing several of those things, so it will just have to wait.

Please keep telling me all I've missed!



It's an oft-reported desire: "I wish I could just wake up one day and be X weeks pregnant." X varies from one person to the next, depending on personal history, exposure to the misfortunes of others, and general nervousness of disposition. Some would be happy to confirm rising betas, others want nothing less than a healthy, take-home baby in their arms. Most people want to get past the point where everything's fallen apart before. But one thing we have in common is our collective sigh at the end of this reverie, the one we make as we regretfully admit that it's an impossible ask - a wish that could never come true.

Except, holy crap, I just woke up one day and I was already nine weeks pregnant. And now everything looks normal at ten, and we've never lost anything before that looked normal at ten weeks. Which doesn't mean (she adds quickly, before the powers of the universe can so much as draw breath to say, "There's always a first time,") that things couldn't go wrong from here on in. Heck, some days that still occurs to me even as I watch the two-year-old Prata Baby, formerly known as The Foetus Formerly Known As Twin B, formerly known as Twin B cavort vigorously around the park. Always, forever, each day is a milestone and a triumph. In this uncertain life, it never stops.

Will I be relieved to reach the end of the first trimester? Yes. For that matter, I will be a hundred times more relieved if we get a healthy, take-home baby, or past the main risk period for SIDs. It took a whole 0.000005 seconds in the ultrasound room yesterday to go from "Yes!" to "Ok, now we have to make the next step..." But. But. And yet. We have never lost anything that looked normal at ten weeks, and there comes a point at which you're doing yourself a disservice to wish away those precious moments just to spare yourself from their uncertainties. For us, that point is - about ten weeks. I can't believe that, in addition to falling pregnant without treatment, I got to skip that more-stressful-than-it's-worth first half of the first trimester and just wake up to find it over and done with and everything looking dandy.

I just don't know why we should be this lucky.

I guess luck never has a reason.


It's amazing what I've learnt since I first stepped into a fertility clinic in 2005. On Friday and Saturday just gone, I found myself distinctly a-flutter. On edge. Tense. In times gone past, I would also have felt slightly out of my depth. "How am I going to cope with this rising sense of panic until Tuesday?" I would have asked.

Five years and many test results later, I simply thought, "Of course - it's 3-4 days until the test which will tell me what I am waiting to find out. If I concentrate on breathing for the next 36-48 hours, I'll feel fine again."

I went to work. I came home. I actually got around to putting away the pile of laundry that's been inhabiting the couch for longer than I care to admit. We have a second couch again now! It totally transforms our living room. I did a lot of dishes, I arranged an expedition to the shopping centre for... a single packet of breakfast cereal. I suggested a home movie night, complete with Pixar animation and popcorn, and set off to the rental shop. I shuffled around, packing Mr Bea off on his latest business trip. I breathed. Slowly. Carefully. Deliberately. And tonight, at only t minus 36 hours, I can feel that wave of tension subsiding again - just like I knew it would.

The last twenty-four hours are easy. You just have to learn how to surf there.

So yes, to back up a bit, Mr Bea has gone off on another business trip to a place many time zones away. Yes, this was one of the chief reasons I wanted to get this over with last week, together with the I-have-to-wait-how-long-for-an-answer factor. The whole process would have been a lot easier with his logistical and emotional support, but what can you do? Except get your child up before their natural rising time, drag them to the clinic in their PJ's with a picnic breakfast, and then hope the timing works out so you can catch your husband by phone as your ships kind of pass in the night afterwards? If the result is good, I'm not worried - everything else will just have to work itself out. I don't have a plan B for if the result is not good, but I am toying with the idea of going completely to pieces on my blog. Consider yourself warned, and if you have any other ideas, let me know. Bad scan results with husband out of town is one situation I never really learnt how to cope with.


One of the first things the GP said to me on Monday was, "Are you a nurse?" I had just given him the potted summary of my reproductive history, up to and including that morning's beta hCG result.

"No, why?" I answered.

"You just seem to be very good at throwing medical terms around."

I shrugged matter-of-factly. "I think most patients with chronic medical conditions get pretty comfortable with the language after a year or two." He nodded. Score one for the team, I thought.

One of the last things the GP said to me on Monday was, "So... is this... does this news make you happy?" He seemed genuinely confused.

"Yes! Yes. Oh, yes," I replied, emphatically, but from his expression he remained slightly less than convinced. Probably it's more accurate to say that the news so far - a positive urine test and a good, solid pregnancy panel - made me happier. I'll save "happy" for later on, when I feel more confident of how things stand.

At the moment, my worries seem to be focussing themselves around the issue of clexane. Clexane, if you remember, is what we used last time, because of our recurrent early pregnancy loss. I imagine it's not to late to jump around and get someone to prescribe it for me, but I haven't done so, for several reasons.

The first is that nobody has ever been really convinced I need it. The most likely explanation for our losses has always been a fault with egg quality, owing to excessive ovarian stimulation. Obviously, no such problem here. Secondly, we are very probably already at the point in the pregnancy where our doctors suggested we discontinue the medication. Although I insisted on injecting myself up to a full thirty weeks, and although they went along with it on the basis that it was unlikely to do any harm, the longest anyone actually recommended we keep going was up to the end of the first trimester. I've been thinking about my cycle since I got it back around PB's first birthday, and I've been very, very regular - 4.5-5 weeks each time, a calendar month plus a couple of days. The odds, at this point, are probably shortest on finding out I'm about 11-11.5 weeks already - which is too late to bother starting. (How can I have walked around that long without even suspecting? Testament to the depth of my expectation that it just couldn't happen to us.) Even if we're as early as eight weeks, we're beyond the recommendation of at least one of our specialists. And we're just... the numbers are so high. So unprecedentedly, for us, within the usual range. So very normal. Not that the last is any sort of rational reason for anything.

Still, I need something to focus my concerns on. At least for the next four days. And counting.


I had a brain wave earlier today, just after my last post. I remembered that my cousin, in addition to being an all-round top gal, is an experienced midwife/lactation consultant who currently practices (part time) in my very own home town.

Unfortunately she can't get me scanned any quicker.

But! she was able to talk reassuringly about my options for care, and I think I understand the system a bit better now. She was also able to give me an OB recommendation, and will do some delving for a few more names, based on the "profile" I gave her in conversation. At any rate, she managed to do the sort of professional hand-holding I missed out on due to my FS and my usual GP and my backup GP all being away on holidays, all at once, just when I wanted them.

**

Something has been playing on my mind. When I fronted up at the fertility clinic yesterday morning, I hadn't quite worked out how I was going to explain myself. Then I realised I still had the pregnancy test in my purse, where I'd put it the previous day on account of the fact that I was on my way home from dropping my sister at the airport when I used it. I mean, I didn't use it on the actual way home, obviously. I can't recall ever peeing in a car, even when really desperate, especially not a moving one containing other people and whilst driving? impossible, not even counting the part where you have to fiddle around with the stick - and the scenarios only get weirder when you consider our other transport options. No - I used it in a toilet at the airport before getting in the car. It would be more accurate to say I used it just before I started out on my way home.

The point is, I had it with me, so after opening and shutting my mouth a couple of times at the reception desk, I just pulled it out of my purse and sort of held it up, and the receptionist squinted at the two little lines and said, "I've never seen one of those before... are you telling me you've got a positive pregnancy test?"

And at the time I just nodded, still not quite able to speak, but afterwards I thought, hang on a moment - you've never seen one? I mean, I get that you prefer to go by blood tests, but in all your years as a fertility clinic receptionist (at the place with the best stats in the state, I might add), not one, single patient has ever thrust something under your nose after first soaking it with her own urine?

Do other people consider this... unseemly? I've never been at the forefront of social graces.


OhmygoodnessI'meighttotwelveweekspregnantandIhaven'tbeendoinganythingright.

This is what I thought about all last night as I lay awake nursing the headache I got through either all the excitement of the last twenty-four hours, or perhaps the sudden caffeine withdrawal. Despite hours of wakefulness, I still can't remember how many months ago I bought the two-month supply of prenatal vitamins I still have one months' worth of left. Since I have ended up getting only a couple of hours sleep and still have my headache, I am seriously thinking of avoiding the pregnancy-unfriendly workplace hazards I have been merrily striding forth to face without any special sort of concern or precaution these past few months, and using my pre-arranged childcare to nap it off instead. Or panic about more of my recent lifestyle choices. You know, whichever.

T minus 7 days.


In the absence of my fertility specialist, who would have finished doing the ultrasound about eight hours ago now, they are treating me like a... like a normal person. I ask you!

I can't get in to see anyone for an ultrasound til next Tuesday, shaving a whole twenty-four hours off my wait for FS to return from his holidays. I took it, because there's little else I can do. (Believe me, there was a whooooole frenzy of phone calls to see if there was.) I mean, twenty-four hours is twenty-four hours, right? It's still a gain... and eight days is still better than a two week wait. And with a beta of 96 000, my odds are a bit better, too. Or at least that's what I'll be telling myself til next Tuesday.

Thanks for all your comments. They help, a lot.


My hCG levels were about 96 thousand - consistent with a pregnancy of 8+ weeks according to this site, which I hastily and rather sloppily googled just now.

The "bad" news is that FS is on holidays, so I can't get an ultrasound with him until next Wednesday, although I may be able to do better through my GP. Certainly it won't be today.

This is good, but I want to see a heartbeat.


I'm not sure how to say this.

I'm pregnant. (Huh. That turned out to be a lot more straightforward than I expected.)

I'm not sure how pregnant. At least five weeks, because Mr Bea's been away on some business trips and I have to have conceived whilst he was in the country, but given that my last period was about three months ago I guess I could be... up to three months. But if I had to guess, based on my symptoms, I'd say about six weeks. But I'm not sure.

I'm not sure how it happened. I mean, yes, I know it must have had something to do with that "special cuddle" a daddy gives a mummy when they really, really love each other, but... we have no sperm. Right? I mean, last I checked that was true. We did four semen analyses over a period of five months, not to mention the checks they did every time Mr Bea was sampled during our over-eighteen-months of treatment and... there's not too many and none of them swim. They didn't even recommend normal IVF for us. They said we would have to do ICSI. And I didn't believe them, and I demanded to see the reports for myself, and I took them home and brooded over them and pubmedded myself into a frenzy of denial and disbelief before I gave in and accepted that it was true. I'm not sure how it could have changed.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. Stunned, mostly - I only did the test this afternoon, after two weeks of feeling "yuk" which I thought, at first, was a tummy bug the Prata Baby had dealt with only a few days before my nausea started, but which I had started to become slightly curious about. The final straw was the homoerotic dream. I mean, the cramps, the nausea, the tiredness, the heartburn, the nocturia, the food aversions, the occasional dry retching, the sore and enlarged breasts, the bloating - these come and go as part of my normal menstrual cycle. But the only other time (I mused upon waking this morning) I've ever had homoerotic dreams was during my pregnancy with the Prata Baby. Oh just do a test and put yourself out of your misery, I told myself with a roll of my eyes, and that's how I expected it to go down. But it didn't. It came up positive. And even though we had plans to start treatments again next month, I didn't really expect to be pregnant any time within the next six months, at least, and I had made a whole stack of plans based on this assumption. Travel plans. Study and career advancement plans. Renovation plans. And now I am confused, and I am up in the air, and I don't know what's going to happen any more. And I am scared, because we have had a lot more positive peesticks than we currently have babies. And I am elated, because I didn't think this could ever happen, and because no matter how things turn out, this conception will always be a miracle. And I'm almost daring to hope that we may have avoided IVF in the foreseeable future. And I am a little overwhelmed (I haven't stopped trembling since that second line appeared) and just a fraction teary. And I'm not sure how to feel all this at once.

I'm not sure how this is going to unfold. I'm planning to turn up, unannounced, at the fertility clinic at approximately the crack of dawn tomorrow morning and grab myself some blood tests and hopefully also an ultrasound. By tomorrow afternoon, I should know whether things look hopeful or not. I'm not sure what they'll find. I'm just not sure, of so many things. I'm not sure how this news will find you who are reading - in some cases trying, unsuccessfully. I just don't know.

I'll tell you more as I find out.


So how does it feel to go back to the fertility clinic?

Mostly, it feels too far away to worry about. I haven't yet been reunited with the phlebotomy table* or the ultrasound room. I don't have a calendar of events. (I haven't actually had a period for over two months**.) Nevertheless, I am struck by one, particular feeling: a vaguely sinking one.

I thought we had two decent blasts from the last cycle, and I thought they were frozen individually, which would have given us more and better-looking options. We don't, and they're not - they're ok-to-freeze-but-not-waste-a-whole-two-straws-on blasts. And suddenly, I remember: everything has to be just a little bit harder than it should be.

It's never the end of the world, or at least it hasn't been for us***, so far, but it's never quite as good as you'd like it.

You never ovulate on time.

Your protocol doesn't yield the ideal number of eggs.

Or if it does, fully half those eggs aren't mature enough to ICSI.

And of the others, nearly half don't fertilise, or don't grow.

And you lose a couple more in the freezing.

And your thaw rate is below average, nevermind optimal.

And you get horribly sick during your luteal phase, which is a bit spotty.

And your beta isn't great, and it doesn't double well.

And your ultrasound - if you get there - is measuring behind dates.

And along the way, you get just about every unpleasant side effect, and at least three minor procedural complications.

Just a little bit harder. Just not quite as smooth. And with each step, you have to ratchet down your expectations just one more notch. Just one more notch. If you're not careful, it's the slow road to abject despair.

Nealy three years ago, I quipped that if I started titling my posts Just A Little Bit Harder Than It Should Be, pretty soon nobody would be able to tell one from the other. Then I went on to have a cycle where I couldn't collect the drugs when and where I'd planned, couldn't get plane tickets on the dates I needed, didn't ovulate on time, didn't have a good percentage of mature eggs, didn't get the expected number of decent embryos, got struck down by a horrible case of diarrhoea during a spotty luteal phase, had a marginally ok beta with a poor doubling time and embryos measuring several days behind on ultrasound, had a spotty first trimester, and lost one twin, after we'd seen the heartbeat. Just a little bit harder than it should have been. But ultimately (I try to reassure myself, desperately, over and over) every bit as successful as we wanted.

How does it feel to go back to the clinic? In a word, it feels deflating.

But I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.


---
*I always had to lie down.

**I'm toying with the idea that maybe my cycle is in a spin because I weaned the Prata Baby. I had been perfectly regular for twelve months until I did that, then all of a sudden... nothing. I know breastfeeding is supposed to suppress fertility and weaning should reinstate it, but this zag-not-zig is just the sort of malarkey my reproductive system likes to pull.

Or maybe it's the decreasing daylength after all.

***Although it has been the end of the world for a number of our embryos, at various stages of development.


I've been asked how it felt to go back, and I'll get to that, but I need to write this post first, for reasons which will eventually become obvious, if you're prepared to hang around that long. It's about taking kids to the clinic.

Before PB came along, my opinion was that parents should make reasonable efforts to avoid bringing their kids to fertility clinics. I always went on to say, however, that I understood that sometimes these things just have to happen, and that probably hurling actual firebricks at either the parents or offspring involved was taking your hurt feelings just a smidge too far. (Silent glaring and the odd foot "accidentally" stuck into their strollerway is almost certainly enough.) Here, on the other side of the fence, I maintain this view.

PB came to the clinic with us the other day. I expect it will be the first and last time. This is because, in future, Mr Bea will not be required to come along, and I will go alone, like I used to - how in hell do couples ever organise to both go at that notice, anyway? - leaving the Prata Baby home with his Dad. In the future, you see, my appointments will be before Mr Bea's usual working hours.

In the future, it will also be more desirable to leave The Prata Baby home, because my appointments will be during the hours that FS sees the bulk of his appointments, before he skips off to the day theatres to start retrieving eggs or popping back embryos. They will be during the hectic, morning rush-hour, when the clinic throngs with activity, and toddlers would get severely in the road, both physically and emotionally. In the future, my appointments will involve blood draws and vaginal ultrasounds - neither of which are child-friendly scenarios.

On this occasion, however, my appointment was in the middle of the day, when nobody much is around, except the pregnant people waiting to see the obstetrician next door. Mr Bea's presence was required. The only other babysitting option was my MIL, and she would have had to madly rush halfway across town from her usual Thursday morning business, then she would have commenced a deep and particularly vexing course of maternal worry that would have continued forever and ever, until the end of treatments, and possibly beyond. Given all this, I decided it was reasonable to bring The Prata Baby to the clinic, this once. In fact, I decided it was unreasonable to expect us to do it any other way.

We came upstairs immediately before our appointment time. We were in the waiting room for less than two minutes, and we saw one other patient on the way in. She was a fertility patient. She came out of FS's room, went straight up to the desk - which placed her with her back to the waiting room - paid, and left. I'm not sure she even noticed the toddler tucked around the corner, near the toy box, quietly looking at a book. When we came out of the room, there were two obstetrics patients in the waiting room. They both smiled at PB and said hi, then Mr Bea took him downstairs again whilst I paid and finished up.

Sometimes, it's hard to see where the other person is coming from - especially when your world is in crisis. Sometimes, it's just as hard to remember how you used to feel once the crisis is behind you. In this case, I think I've managed alright on both counts.

Now obviously, having the Prata Baby there coloured my view of the clinic and the appointment, which is why I wanted to go through this first. Next post, I'll get to the D&Ms you asked for.


The appointment went like this.

First, we went through our file with the nurse, who did a quick audit of our embryos. Six two-day-olds and two blastocysts - all frozen in pairs. The FS asked if we'd like to do a single or double transfer, and we said we'd lean towards a single, but since they're all frozen in pairs, if we ended up with two on the day we'd transfer them both rather than discard the "leftover". And then he said, really? they usually do freeze them singly, because we like to promote SETs. They only freeze pairs if they're not good enough to fly solo. Let me look at your file... oh... well... don't worry, we get a lot of pregnancies from all types of embryos. But what we'll probably do is thaw out some day twos and grow them on a bit and then see, just in case. But we'll also note down that if we have one decent embryo, that'll do, and we won't go crazy thawing lots more to ensure that we have a double transfer.

Then he said how is my cycle because isn't it a bit screwy, and I said well, not really, only when it sees you coming. For example, it has been like clockwork for over twelve months, set your calendar by it, except for this month, when it has decided to get, yes, screwy. I am on day I've-lost-count-maybe-fifty-something. (I've actually accrued enough years' worth of data now to suspect that I'm only seasonally polyoestrus, because I really don't cycle much from mid-Autumn through to the winter solstice, but then otherwise I am pretty much ok, unless I'm living near the equator, in which case I'm fine all year around, but I didn't mention this because it sounds whacko which, as an interesting aside, is how I get by February if I'm living in the UK over winter.) Anyway, to his credit he didn't make me do a pregnancy test, he just asked me what sort of protocol I'd like to start out on when I begin my next cycle.

Not much has changed. He still recommends a natural cycle for those that naturally have textbook cycles. He said I might like to choose a medicated cycle, though, which involves a protocol of the usual - basically oestrogen, followed by progesterone. Then I said, what about the OI cycles we were doing last time? and he said, we did what? oh right, flick flick flick, yes, so we did, I wonder why...? but everything did work very nicely didn't it, except that one time when we bumped the dose up and started a bit early and got too many eggs... so yes, if we did the same thing as we did those two times and look, you actually did get a bit pregnant, which is encouraging, isn't it? And I said that, all other things being equal I would stick with what I know, and he confirmed that all things were indeed equal - that the real reason they usually don't use OI with puregon is because (given that ovulation is not required for an FET and that women respond to such a wildly different range of doses) it's easier to take over the whole cycle than to tweak the FSH so you ovulate only a single follicle, and that as long as the oestrogen is right and the lining is good and the progesterone is afterwards what they'd like to see it is all the same, which I can understand, and so since, in our case, we seem to have figured out how to manage an OI/FSH cycle with approximately as much accuracy as a fully-medicated cycle and more than a natural one, that was that, except for the bit where we all laughed and said how my ovaries will probably respond completely differently to the FSH nowadays and therefore throw it all out the window.

And then I asked about clexane, and he said why the hell not.

And he wrote down FET, 1-2 embryos (from day twos), OI with FSH, clexane.

And then he said call me on day nine of your next cycle, and I said we were going to wait til after our July ski holiday because I don't want to be pregnant on the ski fields, and we laughed, and then I said no seriously though, we're going to start after the holiday, and he said fine, whenever, he's away for a week in July but after that he's all mine and I said good.

And then we left.

No wait - first we signed some new paperwork and paid more for our consultation than I remember paying several years ago.

Then that was that, til August.


I have a new referral letter. It says that my GP is sending me back into the capable hands of my FS, because I am "ready to have another baby". I keep getting stuck on that line. It's not exactly what's going on.

Not that I haven't spent a great deal of energy thinking about timing, but I haven't spent much of that energy pondering over pregnancy, birth, or newborns. Instead, I've been thinking about being ready to try. I've wondered whether I'm ready to face treatments again, whether I'm ready to drag myself into the clinic at fuck-o'clock in the morning, endure repeated blood draws and self-injections, and make nice with the dildocam. Whether I'm ready to live, once again, the hurry-up-and-wait, plans-on-hold lifestyle that ART treatments demand. Whether I can handle the emotional tension of a cycle whilst staying adequately and appropriately engaged with the child I have now. I've thought about whether I can bear to open the can of worms that using up one's embryos might bring - once we start again, will we be able to stop at a sensible point, or will we get sucked, by degrees, down the vortex of I've-come-this-far-and-I'm-not-leaving-without-a-baby? I've wondered how our finances will go, with the burden of treatments, which cost - by the by - more in a month than our last little addition, and that's with excellent insurance coverage. And of course, somewhere in this, I've considered the possibility that the treatments might actually work, but to be honest, I've quickly dismissed it as being the least of my worries.

Am I ready for another baby? Truthfully, I haven't bothered answering that question. If it works out that way, I'm confident we'll cope. If it doesn't? Well, that's what concerns me.

Then again, this time I have something I didn't have before - and I'm not talking about the Prata Baby, although he is also here, it's true. What I have this time is experience. I am not bewildered, or fearful. I am not lost or anxious. I am stronger, and less brittle. I have learnt so much about coping, and recovering. I don't know yet if this will be enough to see us through, but perhaps it is enough to begin with.

I have a new referral letter, and an appointment on Thursday. I think - and I hope - we are ready.




Alex wanted donations made to Rainbows for Kate, instead of flowers, at his funeral. If you would like to do something for Max/Alex and Vee, you can make a donation here. If you have a cancer charity in your home country that you prefer, I'm sure it would be similarly appreciated.

If you like the look of this dish, you can find out the story behind it and how to cook it here. Please take a picture when you're finished and help spread awareness of and raise funds to battle sarcoma.

Cook's notes:

I used 4 chicken thighs (deboned); about 2-3 tbl butter; maybe 5tbl of lime juice; 1 tsp crushed chilli (would have used more, but PB was eating it), about 2tbl cheat's chopped coriander leaves (from a jar - should have used more); maybe 1/2 tbl sesame oil; four pineapple rings (from a tin), and about 4-5 tbl of sultanas just covered with rum.

I also used a bit of the pineapple juice from the tin, added at the simmer stage, and reduced after simmering, covered.

The green stuff is julienned cucumber and some spinach leaves, which needed using up. They went in the leftover juices at the end, for maybe a minute (just until the spinach was wilted).

All juices left in the saucepan were drizzled over everything at the end.

I was initially sold after hearing "chicken" and "butter" in the same recipe, but even so I was surprised at how tasty it was. I didn't find it too sweet at all, and I'm sensitive to that sort of thing, but I did use a fair bit of cous cous and maybe I went light on the pineapple and rum.


It's funny. It's not really funny.

All week I've been opening my reader to look at the blogs, and then more or less just closing it again, a couple of minutes later. My eyes are kind of sliding off the posts. I haven't heard a word anybody's said.

Away from the computer, it's different - busy, bustling, self-involved. I have the luxury of being able to put the lid down on my laptop and thus gain a little precious distance, unlike Vee [invite only], who has to live wholly entangled in the day to day of having Alex gone. Me - for me it's moments like these, when I try (once again, again) to figure out what I'd like to say. I'm not sure what I'd like to say.

I've never been good at this. Others have written touching blogs, and Vee has the most heartbreaking post of all [invite only]. I keep searching, not so much for something to say, but for something to do, and it's eluding me somewhat, but here's a shot.

Alex wanted donations made to Rainbows for Kate, instead of flowers, at his funeral. If you would like to do something for Max/Alex and Vee, you can make a donation here. If you have a cancer charity in your home country that you prefer, I'm sure it would be similarly appreciated.

And if there's something more you want to do, how about joining me in this? Just over a month ago (on March 20th, to be exact), Vee sent me instructions for a dish Max concocted during a moment of respite [password protected] from the burdens of his illness. I'm going to the shop in a moment, to buy the ingredients. I probably can't recreate the exact dish, as it was sort of ad libbed in Vee and Max's kitchen as they went along, and I certainly can't recreate that day itself, complete with all its cast and crew. But I'd like to honour that moment, by putting this dish on my table over the weekend, and I'm hoping you do, too.

Here's how to join in:


  1. Read the instructions below, and shop for your ingredients.
  2. Cook the dish, or something close to.
  3. Take a snap of your dish and post it on your blog.
  4. Please leave this message at the top of your post:
    Alex wanted donations made to Rainbows for Kate, instead of flowers, at his funeral. If you would like to do something for Max/Alex and Vee, you can make a donation here. If you have a cancer charity in your home country that you prefer, I'm sure it would be similarly appreciated.

    If you like the look of this dish, you can find out the story behind it and how to cook it here*. Please take a picture when you're finished and help spread awareness of and raise funds to battle sarcoma.


    *Alternatively, write your own tribute, including the recipe and instructions for joining in.

    Links:
    Rainbows for Kate - http://www.rainbowsforkate.com.au/
    RFK Donations page - http://www.rainbowsforkate.com.au/donations.html
    This post for recipe and instructions - http://infertilefantasies.blogspot.com/2010/05/chicken-la-moondance-max.html



Recipe

Ingredients:
- lime juice
- sesame oil
- fresh, chopped chilli
- fresh, chopped coriander (cilantro)
- sultanas
- rum
- chicken
- butter
- pineapple
- cous cous

"I can tell you that we marinated the chicken the night before in lime juice, a dash of sesame oil and fresh chilli & coriander. Also soaked the sultana's in rum the night before.

Then cooked the chicken in butter just so it gets a nice golden brown...( yes not very health conscious we never used butter but gosh it tastes so good!)

Take chicken out of the pan and cook pineapple in chicken juices.

Add a bit more butter and then throw in sultanas with rum (you can add extra rum if you like at this stage) and sit chicken on top of pineapple and sultanas and put a lid on the pan and let it simmer for a while so chicken cooks through.

Serve with couscous.

It can be quite sweet but if you eat it all together then it tones down the sweetness down a bit.

And an after thought we should have garnished the plate with a coriander leaf and some chilli...but hey Alex has been watching too many cooking shows!"


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