Short Version: plans from here on out.

My mother asked what my plans were for returning to work. "Plans?" I thought. "Oh yeah - those things. I remember them now." I remembered them so well, in fact, that soon I was devising a quite elaborate one with Mr Bea, involving talk of frosties, breastfeeding goals, adoption, career choices, more international moves, and the astounding array of pros and cons that complicates family building with infertility.

"What would you prefer to do," he asked me, after we'd tied ourselves in knots via that old, familiar routine of looking for a perfect solution that doesn't exist.

"I'd prefer..." and I trailed off to consider my answer. "I'd prefer to take the rest of 2008 off being infertile. Let's pretend, between now and New Year's Eve, that we can fall pregnant again any time we want. I'll plan on finishing this degree, you'll plan on continuing your job here, we'll organise our holidays like people who aren't thinking about treatment cycles, we'll watch our son grow up as if nothing ever threatened to keep him from us, and we'll come back to these confusing questions in 2009." It sounded good to both of us. It still sounds very good. And it brings me to the purpose of this post.

Anonymous reminded me - and rightly enough - to move my blog out of blogher's trying to conceive category, and into the parenting one. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to, because I'm not planning on turning this into a parenting blog. Since the beginning, this has been the tale of our struggle with primary infertility. It has not been the tale of my career, my hobbies, my family and friends, my full autobiographical history, or my everyday perambulations through the town in which I live. Such things have been mentioned, but only as tangents to the main story. And I feel like the birth was part of that story*. But I also feel like everything to come is not. And despite flirting with the conceit that I want to close this blog in order to "give the infertility blogosphere a happily-ever-after ending" - which is what I came up with when I started drafting this post in my head - the truth is I just want a break from being infertile.

I'll keep this blog open for posts on general infertility or the infertility blogging community. Our personal story is going password-protected (email me, but I'll have to know who you are), although I can't promise the frequent updates you've slogged through enjoyed here. I plan to keep reading and commenting - I would love to see everyone I've come to know resolve their infertility, one way or another, and keep up with the friends I have made along the way. I may be back. Perhaps I will pick up the thread again on a quest for #2. Or perhaps - well, who knows? These are questions for 2009.

In the meantime, thankyou. Thanks for the comments, the emails, the pressies and cards, for coming on board with some whacky activity or other, for linking, for talking, for reading, for being there, for making this doable. I'm not sure what the journey would have been like without you, but I'm very sure it would have been much, much worse, and fuck, it was bad enough already.

And because I never know quite how to sign off on these things except by falling back on a lame cliche - all the best. I hope happiness finds you, or you it.

*After some deliberation, I chose an obvious title for that post. I didn't want people "accidentally" clicking over to find a birth story. I wanted a title which announced, in bold, neon writing, that it was not a post for a bad day. Perhaps just seeing the title upset some people. I didn't honestly think I could get away without causing any upset to anyone at all - infertility can be too sensitive a place. Hopefully what I chose was the best possible compromise. Apologies if it still stung.

Short Version: Birth Story.

For the first half a week I kept thinking, gosh, I haven't felt the baby kick for some time, I hope he's alright in there. Then I'd remember. He's out here. Our infertile fantasy has become reality. A blurry, fast-paced reality full of appointments with doctors, obstetricians and lactation consultants, hospital stays for jaundice, out of town visitors, and short bursts of activity punctuated by shorter bursts of sleep.

Labour was long, and it took several days to recover. Meanwhile, BayBea (damn, that sounded wittier in my head) got his first bout of nappy rash, and grew jaundiced and sleepy, leading to painful breast engorgement and subsequent cracked and bruised nipples. We were readmitted to hospital, where I had to fight tooth and nail to room in and breastfeed on demand, despite the paediatrician being on board with this plan. Everyone was "concerned that I wouldn't get enough rest" with the bright phototherapy lights and the fussing and unpredictable feeding patterns of a newborn. One night, after my least-favourite nurse tried to get me to succumb to her three-hourly, in-nursery, mum-gone-home-from-hospital feeding schedule by implying that I was an ignorant newbie who was going to harm my child, I found myself sobbing in bed. But they weren't tears of defeat. They were only tears of release, as I contemplated that after years of infertility and pregnancy loss, she was really fucking underestimating us if she thought we would roll over that easy.

Mr Bea brought me a travel mask, a pair of sunglasses, my breastfeeding guide, an armful of midnight snacks, and a wealth of freshly-googled information about newborn jaundice, and by the end of week one we had staked out our territory with the ward staff, and were getting into the swing of it all. Today I am thankful for the luxury of a cleaner. My housework got done this morning whilst I sat, and fed, and traced my finger around the line of our little boy's jaw. As I blog, he sleeps peacefully on my lap.

But I've missed a bit. Let me go back and give you the birth story.

The prostin gel was applied just before lunchtime on Friday the sixteenth. The Braxton Hicks-like contractions I'd been having started to get stronger and more regular within the next couple of hours, and with boyish excitement, SOB told me he'd be delivering our baby that night. I went home, napped, blogged a bit, and waited. Just after dinner, the contractions started becoming noticeably more intense. We popped some music on and I sung my way through a couple of albums' worth of cervical dilation, and then we both went to bed until 2:30am. That's when we made our move to the hospital. I lost my mucous plug on arrival, and they informed me I was 5cm dilated and The Foetus was doing well. Thus satisfied, we proceded to labour gently for the next several hours until SOB popped in on his morning rounds to see why I hadn't delivered yet. At that point I was 6cm dilated and The Foetus was doing well. We continued calmly.

At 1:30pm SOB turned up again to see why I hadn't delivered yet. We spoke about rupturing the membranes to get things going, but when he examined me I was at about 8cm, and The Foetus was fine, so we agreed that it wouldn't be long now and we would leave things alone. He also introduced me to his colleague (SOBC) who would be covering for him until the birth. The next couple of hours saw us going on yet more walks around the labour ward and using the TENS machine which, I had earlier discovered, seemed to intensify the contractions and bring them closer together, rather than providing any relief. Soon we knew transition labour had begun.

At 7:30pm SOBC popped in to see why I hadn't delivered yet. I was at 8.5cm dilated and The Foetus was fine. We went ahead and ruptured the membranes, and the fluid was nice and clear. The midwives were asked to page him when I started feeling the need to bear down, an event everyone agreed was an hour or so away at most.

I think it was about 9:30pm when I started losing my cool. The whole "breathing through contractions" was getting old, so I decided to try screaming instead. At 10pm the midwife examined me and said I was 9.5cm dilated. I asked for some gas, but it made me feel like I was suffocating, so after the first half a breath I just used it to hit against the bed, until after a few contractions something flung off across the room and Mr Bea quietly took it away from me. About 10:15pm I finally found the urge to push.

At 11pm I started asking why I hadn't delivered yet. I was tired of people telling me how close I was - they could tell me our baby had blonde hair, but it seemed to want to stay where it was, ie on a head jammed securely in my pelvic canal. But The Foetus was still doing well, wiggling into new, different, and sometimes counter-productive positions right up until the last minute.

At 11:30pm I started noticing the contractions getting further apart, and less intense, so I decided to call for assistance whilst I still had some strength left to play my part. The ventousse was brought in, and they turned me over into lithotomy position which oh good lord why would anyone give birth that way? My tailbone protested so strongly that I leapt off the bed, sending the foetal monitor flying onto the floor in a terrific crash where it continued to blip cheerfully as the attending staff jumped this way and that in startled panic. After they'd taken stock of the disarray, the bottom half of the bed was dropped down. The equipment was reorganised. I mumbled some lame remark about having not destroyed anything after all, and people laughed. We awaited the next contraction.

The first application of the ventousse nearly did it. I could feel him starting to crown, and when SOBC told me one more push would see him born, I actually believed him, despite the last day and a half's experience. "I can do one more push," I said, with sudden resolve, and in another couple of minutes, I proved myself right. Everything gets kind of jumbled after that. They told me the head was born, then the shoulders. To my utter surprise, someone put a baby on my chest. He felt heavy. And the kicks - they felt exactly the same from the outside as they had done for months on end.

SOBC asked Mr Bea to cut the cord about four times in a row, and Mr Bea dithered awkwardly. I sobbed uncontrollably and asked everyone in the room, individually and sometimes twice, whether the baby was ok, and never really took in their answers. At last I heard Mr Bea confirm that he seemed fine and the midwife said she'd help the baby latch on. Somewhere in the background SOBC was delivering the placenta, and telling me I'd torn a bit and he was going to put in a few stitches. I got an oxytocin injection. I made a passing comment about how weird my belly looked. I saw the baby latch on and suckle.

And then, for the trouble he'd caused us, for all the stress and the grief and the uncooperatively not wanting to be conceived or born despite every effort on our parts, I gave him the biggest serve of his life for some time yet to come, which everyone seemed to think was hilarious except for me.

At some point, all the others evaporated and left the three of us alone in the delivery suite. "What do you think?" I asked Mr Bea. "Shall we keep him?"

"I am way too tired to go into that now," he replied. "Let's talk about it in the morning."

Stats: Born 11:47pm, 17th May, 42w1d, 36hrs after prostin gel applied, head 37cm, length 54cm, weight 3.81kg.

Photos and Name: check the pwp blog later in the week.

Update re: twitter at bottom.

Thanks for all the emails, comments, and even gifts that have arrived this week. It's been enough to bring more than one tear to my eyes.

The Foetus and I are still doing fine here. This morning's monitoring showed everything to be as normal and healthy as at the last visit, and, in fact, there was so much movement going on last night that I ended up making a casual remark about him "having a fit in there". And shortly afterwards sitting down for several hours to google "intrauterine seizures".

SOB asked what I wanted to do. "I want to do whatever is safest," I told him firmly.

"Well, with everything looking so good, we can continue to monitor," he explained, "but at this stage, and with such a favourable-looking cervix, the potential benefits of a gel induction probably outweigh the potential risks."

Enough said.

So I had a dose of prostin, took the train into town for a meaty and sustaining lunch, and returned for more monitoring. Because The Foetus still looks fine and the Braxton Hicks-like contractions are starting to get nice and regular - although not yet painful - we have left it at that and I've come home. The nurses studied the CTG trace and unanimously predicted we'd be arriving at L&D between 10pm and midnight. SOB agreed, but asked me to front up first thing tomorrow at the latest. You'll have to excuse my lack of stats. Since the machine was recording everything, I chose to focus my mental energies on fashion magazines, so I really can't tell you exactly how far apart anything is or anything like that, however, I do think you should watch out for this season's floral prints.

I feel like I should say something profound, or meaningful, but I'm coming up short. Yesterday, I bought some groceries. The cashier asked, "How many years of marriage before get baby? One year?" and she waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

"Nine," I replied.

"Oh. Nine years," she repeated, her face becoming serious. "You try try lah, or just wait?"

I drew breath to answer before I decided what to say. "It's been a bit complicated," I admitted after a pause, and she managed to nod in a way that conveyed sympathy without a trace of pity or awkwardness. Then, as she handed me my change, she looked at me directly and sincerely. "Then I hope it goes very very well for you."

Yes. Well. Amen to that.

(Further updates probably through twitter, right sidebar, sorry, never did get around to fixing that.)

(Update re: twitter - it's 9:30 here, and things do seem a bit more intense, but I'm guessing it'll be more on the "midnight" side of 10pm-midnight.

Anyway, I dropped in because a couple of people have asked about twitter. You should be able to see updates on the sidebar as I text them, just like reading a really short post, in a sidebar. Otherwise, click a bit, see what happens.)

Short Version: latest appointment update, probably inducing Friday if no progress. Then some musings about the fundamentals of marriage, during which I discuss infertility and baby names.

I suppose I should update you on our latest appointment. After monitoring everything possible, no problems have been detected. I am feeling reassured for now. If nothing happens by Friday, however, we will probably try to induce. I rung Mr Bea to report on the appointment and told him that, whatever happens, he should avoid scheduling work meetings early next week since he'll no doubt be on paternity leave. This seems to have made him irritable. Husbands.


"The trouble with all your name suggestions," I said to Mr Bea, "is that they're far too common."

"One of my requirements is that the name be recognisably common," he retorted.

Seeing the impasse, I pressed my fingers to my temples and said, "I wish you'd told me your baby naming policy years ago. I could have gone off and married a whole different person."

He looked at me strangely - carefully - as if deciding how to react. Then he broke into the grin I was expecting and turned back towards the computer to google the biography of the most famous person to hold the name under current consideration.

It was a flippant comment, til he paused. I guess, in hindsight, it's kind of strange. You know, what with the male factor infertility and so forth. What with the IVF and the OHSS and the years of misery and loss and so forth. I'll admit I sometimes thought about how different our lives might be if he was fertile. I even remember asking myself, once or twice, if I'd trade him in for a different model with proper sperm. It never took long to answer no, of course not. It was like asking if I'd prefer to die than to struggle with infertility. Fertile or infertile, I always thought of him as the right choice of husband - there's more to the package than genes, after all. There's being able to navigate the maze of challenges life can throw at a marriage. You can't just pick that up at a sperm bank.

Baby naming, on the other hand - now there's something to make you consider your alternatives. I mean, this is the first time we've differed fundamentally over an important parenting decision which will affect our child for the duration of his life. These things, so seemingly surmountable next to the years of barrenness and grief, these are the real tests. It's not the biggest crises you have to watch out for, but the problems which most show your weakness and differences. The creeping catastrophes; the questions upon which you just can't agree. Sometimes the deal-breaker isn't donor versus IVF versus adoption, it's Billy versus Bobby versus Benjamin. On the home stretch of an apparently healthy pregnancy, it's worth keeping that in mind.

(Thankfully, we have made headway on a shortlist.)

Short Version: last-minute name crisis, and labour-inducing TCM.

So, several months ago - like, four or five months ago - we decided on the perfect name for this baby. Wait, no, that's the fantasy version we've been caught up in. What actually happened was we both thought we'd agreed on the perfect name for this baby, when in fact we had misunderstood each other entirely. Only recently did we discover this fact, which has led to much starting all over again from scratch. Obviously a good time to be starting from scratch on name choices, what with the baby overdue and visitors in the house and the subsequent not-having of private conversational moments. Does anyone know what cultural tradition withholds the name announcement for the longest time? Because I'm thinking of claiming that cultural tradition.


Everything is still fine enough in there to continue waiting, apparently. I've got to admit, this is starting to make me nervous. Mostly, I'm worried about the safety of The Foetus in utero, but I also have minor concerns about the level of intervention I'm looking at if labour doesn't happen as it should, mainly because I'm worried about the safety of The Foetus during a highly medicalised birth. Basically, I'm worried about the safety of The Foetus. I just think we'd all be better off if everything went normally, don't you?

This has led to much googling of terms such as "what does a mucus plug look like" and "ways of inducing labour". In terms of the former, it seems mucus plugs (should you see one prior to labour at all) can have anything from a distinctly, well, pluggy appearance, plus or minus a tinge of blood, all the way to the other end of the spectrum which is very nearly indistinguishable from globs of semen. The problem with which is, of course, that globs of semen are also very nearly indistinguishable from globs of semen.

On the "inducing labour" front, having ticked off all the at-home methods, I found myself reading about acupuncture. One article, based on an interview with an acupuncturist, raved that when labour-inducing treatment is given from 41 weeks, about 80% of women go into labour within 72 hours. The remaining 20% are given a followup round of treatment, and nearly all them will go into labour within 72 hours of round two. "Wow!" I thought. "So what he's saying is, nearly everyone he treats goes into labour by forty-two weeks! That's incredible!" So without pausing to so much as cynically ask what happened in the control group, I marched me off down to the clinic in Chinatown recommended by my yoga instructor.

I don't know what you're picturing here. I know when someone says "TCM practice in Chinatown" to me, I get visions of crowded and narrow alleyways punctuated by incense-spewing temples, wooden shopfronts decorated with lanterns and dragon motifs, mysterious little doors with bells on them leading into cluttered, poorly-lit dens, wizened old Chinese men with crazy beards and crazier mannerisms, and racks of pungent-smelling dried stuff, the origins of which you don't want to know.

It would be more accurate to picture a doctor's surgery. You know - blandly-coloured waiting area, polite nurses in crisp uniforms, practitioners strutting down the hallway in neat, white coats to their neat, white consult rooms with computer screens and tidily-framed certificates on the walls, the pungent smell of rubbing alcohol... doctor's surgery. I registered at the reception desk and cast around for a magazine. The nurses took my temperature and blood pressure, and I was called in by a young, female practitioner with neat, black spectacles, to whom I explained my situation.

"I see," she said, and wrote something in Chinese on my neat, white, patient card. "Could you stick out your tongue, please? Uhuh." More notes. "Now let me check your pulses..." What followed was a history of a vague range of medical conditions or complaints, at the end of which she announced that she would recommend a session of acupuncture, followed by "some herbs". You've gotta hand it to these TCM dudes. They don't hold with any of your new-fangled concepts like Explaining Things To Patients.

The acupuncture happened in a treatment room, and was augmented by a scary electrical device turned up high enough to make all four of my limbs twitch with every pulse. "Any pain?" she asked.

"It's not pleasant..." I replied diplomatically, hoping she would make it stop.

"Yes, but if no pain, then ok." And she left the room. For a loooooong time. And lo and behold, if my uterus didn't start to cramp and contract*.

Eventually she came back, switched off the torture device, and released me with my powdered... whateveritis which I am to take twice daily for four days, in a small amount of warm water, thirty minutes after a meal, and definitely not in conjunction with any "western" medicines.

My uterus stopped contracting on the way back down the hall.

I'll let you know how it goes.

*Although it has been doing this at random anyway.

Short Version: conversations with the fertile world: how I feel about "getting my body back".

I have an email sitting in my inbox and I don't know how to reply. It's from someone who's due just after me, and she chats merrily about how, like her, I must be looking forward to "getting my body back". I feel like I only just did. I'm more afraid of losing it again.

I don't have to explain it to you. I don't have to explain the tyranny of non-functioning organs and hormones. I don't have to explain the helpless pleading to follicles, eggs and embryos. I don't have to explain the gradual, humiliating submission of my self to my LH or P4 levels, despite expensive and painful efforts to whip them into line pharmaceutically. I don't have to explain the unbidden and unwanted anger, jealousy, frustration, anxiety.

To some of you, unfortunately, I have to explain what I wish you all knew yourselves: the triumph of winning the battle against one's own body. For some, this means refusing to be controlled, any longer, by a menstrual cycle, or defined, so completely, by infertility, childlessness, or loss. For me, it has meant lucking out in the treatment lottery. This pregnancy has been a leash on my errant body, a tattooed symbol of power and ownership. For the first time in a long time, my body has been doing what I want. I have it back. Now, this moment, I have it back. Who knows what happens from here?

I realise that even amongst those who have been pregnant, not all of you have experienced pregnancy in this way. At least since Twin A, I've had things go normally (touch wood) and that makes a difference. Still, I think all of you - however different your path so far - can draw on enough common ground to appreciate my point of view, and can see why I'm not feeling impatient to "get my body back". So I don't have to explain it to you.

I wish, though, I knew how to explain it to her.

I saw one, tiny glimmer of light when we got our MF diagnosis. Whatever lay ahead of us, it wasn't going to involve the type of lacklustre sex that has no purpose beyond that of producing a baby.

Let's just say I'm experiencing a sense of irony.


Almost forgot - there's some nursery pics up at the picture site. Don't get excited - we haven't painted and decorated (being a rental property) more just purchased and organised.

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