A year had passed. I’d been seeing a fertility acupuncturist once a week and then twice weekly as it neared egg withdrawal and transfer. I brewed and drank stinky Chinese herbs three times a day. I had one acupuncturist at the transfer on IVF number one. For this round, I had someone else. I was now going to a fertility therapist as well to cushion the emotional toll.
IVF #2 yielded eleven eggs. By day three, they all died off except two, and one of those looked iffy. My RE phoned while I was in my fertility therapist’s office. He explained normal protocol would suggest with so few eggs we should put them back in on day three but if we did and they didn’t take, we won’t have learned anything. If we push them to blastocyst to day five and put them in then, and they don’t take, at least we know they can make it to blast and would warrant trying again. It’s more difficult for an embryo to survive outside the uterus but if it can make it to blastocyst (in layman terms, a heartier embryo) it stands a stronger chance of implanting.
I’d have to sign consent to take such a risky move. My therapist thought it was a bad idea. So did my fertility acupuncturist. My gut said, trust Dr. Naj.
Both eggs made it to blast, though it took until day six. The transfer was scheduled for December 23. I spent Christmas on bedrest alone. Two weeks later, I was scheduled for my blood test. In previous times, I was certain I was pregnant. This time, I’d mastered the art of being detached. It drove me crazy when well-meaning friends would ask if I felt pregnant. I tried not to feel anything, knowing any expectation could easily be dashed. Yet, being too negative might also sabotage the results.
One day, fourteen days past transfer, I cheated and took a home pregnancy test. They advise not to as they can give a false negative if taken too early, a false positive if it picks up any HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) from the trigger shot. I can never read the the home pregnancy tests with the bars, so I got the kind that say either pregnant or well, I’m not sure what it says when you’re not because mine said pregnant.
It was 6 a.m. I got out my camera and took a photo before the pee dried and it went away. Later that morning I went in for my bloodwork and told my RE the good news. “Is it for real?” I asked.
He said, “No, not until you get the bloodwork results back.”
It would be a long day waiting. I was about to go watch the Rose Bowl game with friends to see UT play USC. I got the call. “I have good news. You’re pregnant!” I can’t even remember who in the RE’s office broke the news.
A flood of emotion from all the months of trying hit the Kleenex box. Most people wait until after amnio results to announce such news. I was ready to call the newswires. Instead, I sent an email out with the photo of the pregnancy test saying it was now official to practically everyone I knew.
When UT spanked USC later that day, I had to contain myself to not jump up and down for fear I’d rattle something loose.
The pregnancy went as smoothly as I guess a pregnancy can for a forty three-year old. I turned forty-four right before my due date. A few days after the first positive pregnancy test, they took another blood test to see my HCG reading. Mine first test measured 448. If it doubled in two days, it was a viable pregnancy. Mine was 1423.I was pregnant with twins.
Since I was a little girl, I’d always wanted twins. I pictured them dressed alike in a cute double stroller. Then I started thinking about the not-so-cute double cost of daycare, double diapers, double crying in the middle of the night and the fact that I was a single parent. It also dawned on me that since I was a little girl, I’d also always wanted a monkey and perhaps I’d now be raising two kids, wild as monkeys, on my own.
A few weeks later, I went in for my first ultrasound. I was warned I might not hear a heartbeat so soon. I listened intently. When the volume was turned on, a thunderous heartbeat belted out just as my RE walked into the room. “Now that’s a healthy heartbeat.” Dr.Naj. said.
“Thumper,” as the little being inside me would be called throughout my pregnancy, was alive and kicking. The bittersweet news was that the other twin didn’t make it. It was sad to see the little embryo that could not, but I tried to focus on the relief of caring for just one kid instead of two. I think if I’d been married and more capable of caring for two, I would have felt more heartache. I was just so thankful to have one very healthy heartbeat.
Those hopes were almost dashed a few weeks later when I passed a blood clot the size of a golf ball. I was certain I’d lost the baby. I raced into Dr. Naj’s who assured me when I walked in with tears streaming down my face that it was all going to be okay. The ultrasound revealed Thumper minding his own business and thumping away. We don’t know if the blood was from the placenta adhering to the lining or the twin’s sack making its way out.
The rest of the pregnancy went fairly smoothly for an old hen. Everything underscored the term, “last call.” My age alone made me bear the title high risk. The CVS (chorionic villi sampling), which nowadays replaces the amnio, provides the same information as an amnio, but with results back much sooner (week ten versus week nineteen).
At the genetics counselor, I learned there are infinite genetic abnormalities and my age alone put me at a one in fourteen risk for one of the more common ones. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when my CVS results came back normal. At ten weeks I also knew I was having a boy.
As soon as I discovered Gymboree and knew they had just as cute clothes for boys as girls, I was elated. I made a celebration purchase of a little monkey outfit.
At thirty four weeks, my OB noted the girth of my stomach stopped growing (it’s supposed to grow one inch per week of pregnancy). I was sent to a specialist who determined my placenta was showing calcifications due to my age. I was told my baby had reached full term in size but likely wouldn’t fatten up much before delivery.
They’d monitor him now twice a week to see if he would grow and if indeed he stopped gaining weight altogether, they’d induce me early. A few weeks later my blood pressure was high. I’d now begun to really start swelling. I could only wear one pair of flip-flops and my feet looked like Fred Flintstone’s. My wrists swelled up too, causing them to feel arthritic. At night they were in such pain, I’d have to wear wrist gaurds.
At week thirty-eight, I was in for a cardiogram and I asked again if my blood pressure was still high. It was. They sent me right over to the hospital to see if I had protein in my urine which would indicate pre-eclempsia. There was. I did. They induced me right away and while the labor initially started out fine, by morning I hadn’t dilated any further and they thought I could have a seizure—putting my and the baby’s health at risk. They had to do a C-section immediately.
On August 29th, I delivered a healthy baby boy at 7 pounds, 3 ounces, 23.5 inches long. He was beautiful and perfect in every way. I named him Ames Somerset. Ames is a family last name whose genealogy dates back to the 1400s in the county of Somerset, England. I remembered visiting Somerset and standing in the church cemetery, surrounded by thin timeworn tombstones, feeling I’d discovered the end of my roots.
Throughout my pregnancy, there were times I wondered if I’d maybe romanticized this notion of motherhood. I also feared my late father’s depression might make me destined for postpartum depression. I feel like I have just the opposite: Postpartum nirvana. Ames is far more joyful than I could ever have imagined. The love I have for him is deeper than any love I’ve ever tapped into.
While Dr. Pelino didn’t end up being my OB who delivered Ames, I sent her a thank-you note for offering such outlandish advice and a picture of Ames to add to her bulletin board.
I’m blessed to have an exceptionally good-natured baby. His little hand clutches onto the top of my shirt, he looks me in the eye, with mouth full of boob and he just purrs in breast milk ecstasy. He grins ear to ear and has just learned to belly laugh. When I sing to him, he tries to sing along, cooing in harmony. When I look down at him while nursing and think that I almost missed out on this, I well up in tears.
photo: Classic Kids Photography