My Second First Trimester – Morning sickness, acupuncture and wrestling with hope

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Before I start gushing about how amazing it is to feel my baby move around in my belly and about how we are loving our midwifery care, I really wanted to reflect on my first trimester.  I think sometimes it’s easy gloss over the struggles when you have such happy news to share, but to honour my full experience it’s only fair to write about the darker times too.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to do this more often than I would like, but I know I am far from alone in this journey.

The first trimester was such a strange time for me.  Arguably, it is the most dynamic time in your body (though I may change my mind once I reach my third trimester…) with hormones constantly on the rise, no fully developed placenta to carry the load of growing your little one (shout out to placentas everywhere!),  morning sickness, fatigue and on top of that you don’t even look remotely pregnant.  At a time when you really could use some help with your groceries, a door held open or for someone to kindly ask how you are feeling, no one really does.  There are no outward signs of the intense and complex processes occurring inside of you.  It feels kind of lonely.

I found myself feeling like an impostor a lot of the time.  Like I was lying about feeling so terrible, because on the outside I looked totally normal.  I imagine it is perhaps similar to what people with a “hidden” chronic illness feel like on a regular basis; ignored, passed over and assumed to be just peachy, when really their bodies are wreaking total havoc on them.  I felt so guilty for not making dinner for my wife (and I normally love cooking) and for basically being a giant lump.  The fatigue just kind of crept up on me.  All of a sudden I was sleeping until noon, even when I was going to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 pm.  It was a struggle to even have a shower some days.  For someone who is always doing a million things, it’s hard to admit that you are tired without feeling incredibly lazy and full of excuses.  I didn’t even believe I was “that” tired until I started to feel like my normal self again in the second trimester.

In general, my second first trimester was a lot like my first first trimester.  All day morning sickness, hating all food, and all of the fatigue.  The picture above was a very familiar view, as it is for a lot of mama’s in those early days.  I lost a few pounds simply because I just couldn’t eat.  Perhaps some of you have had an experience when you indulge in that one certain type of liquor (we’ve all been there, right?) that even a whiff of it sends your stomach reeling back to that god forsaken time you swore off drinking forever?  Yeah, that’s how I felt.  About. All. Food.  Nothing appealed to me.  Occasionally I could stomach some raisin toast, maybe a popsicle.  Apple juice was really good, for like a week, then I hated it.  I would wander the grocery store (which has so many smells, that I couldn’t spend too long there) unaccompanied by my usual well-thought out list for my meal plan that week, and just bought whatever I thought I could stomach.  I happened to also be unemployed after our recent move to Winnipeg, so most of my days were spent watching Netflix, trying to write cover letters and thinking of something I could eat that wouldn’t make me vomit everywhere.

It was a fun time, let me tell you.

I started doing acupuncture every couple of weeks to help with my nausea and to hopefully prevent another miscarriage. The World Health Organization does list both morning sickness and female infertility as conditions that can be treated with acupuncture.  There appears to be some evidence of the benefits of acupuncture for women undergoing fertility treatments (they are looking especially at the potentially benefits for IVF treatment), but it seems much more research is necessary before that’s conclusive.  Even though I knew I had very little control over the situation (which was beyond frustrating for my type A personality), I still wanted to do everything I could to hang on to my little one this time.  Following the acupuncture treatments I only threw up a couple of times and found that it was very relaxing and soothed my nausea for a couple of weeks.  In addition to the treatments, my acupuncture doctor also left some very small “tacks” in place, under a small bandaid for a week at a time.  I had one on the left and right inside ankle, and one on either side of my chest.  They were freaky at first, but it really seemed to take the edge off of my nausea.  It was also comforting to have the acupuncture doctor (who was also a medical doctor) take my pulse and reassure me that it was strong and indicative of a healthy pregnancy.

Wait, did she just say her acupuncturist could tell she was pregnant by her pulse?!   Yes I did!  Here’s one study  I found that verified the theory in Chinese medicine that an expectant woman’s pulse is noticeably different (to a skilled practitioner’s hand) and also changes with each stage of pregnancy.  My acupuncturist not only told me I was pregnant before I confirmed with a blood test, he also accurately predicted the gender based on my pulse!

Despite everything I was doing, I was so worried about losing my baby again.  Pregnancy after loss, especially in those early days is so bittersweet.  Nothing seems worth getting excited about because you know it could all change in a heartbeat.  You are happy, but careful not to be too happy.  I was lucky enough to have a great circle of close friends who I told in the early days, but I didn’t tell too many people, just in case. Instead of feeling like we had a big announcement like we had last time, we refrained from telling our extended family for a while.  It just seemed unfair to get everyone’s hopes up.  It was unfair to get our own hopes up.

I had such a conditional love for my body.  I constantly felt like I was bargaining for the future.  After losing our first baby, bleeding out twice, emergency room visits and taking months to recover from the miscarriage, the trust I had in my body was shaky to say the least.  I tried my best to meditate, stay as positive as possible and to take care of myself, but it felt like it didn’t even matter.  I did my best last time and it wasn’t enough, so what difference could I make this time?

As the end of my first trimester approached, I did feel more at ease with myself and my body.  Slowly, I started to believe that I was truly pregnant and that maybe we would have a little one by the summer time.  I gradually allowed myself to be more positive in conversations about our future, started contemplating maternity leave and began moving some of our previously collected baby things out of storage.  Everyday I was letting myself believe that things would be okay.

It was a difficult time, as it is for many mamas who are experiencing pregnancy after loss.  Having a support system of friends and family was probably what helped me the most.  Just having someone to confide my worries in and share how I was feeling that day, whether it be good or bad, helped me process what was going on.  I don’t know if I could have kept all my fears to myself for all of those weeks, and I’m glad that I didn’t have to.  Even though I was nervous to announce too early on my blog and social media (I was even nervous to announce after my first trimester was over), I didn’t hesitate to tell my close friends and family from day one.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still uncomfortable to be open about the pregnancy early on, knowing full well it may not have a happy ending.  And I totally understand wanting to keep it a secret from everyone because I debated keeping it a secret from everyone until we knew for sure everything was alright.  Of course, it’s a very personal choice and I fully understand both approaches.  In the end, I knew that if my worst fears came true, I would want all of the amazing support that I had during my first miscarriage.

Despite my struggles over this past year, I feel so much gratitude for having a loving spouse and wonderful friends and family.  Thank you.  I feel so lucky.

-K

 

 

 

Moving On From My Big Fat Negative Pregnancy Test

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Well, round two didn’t work.

Following my second round of IUI in August, I had such mixed emotions.  I was much more prepared for my second TWW (two week wait, as it is called in the fertility community).  I was sort of excited, sort of nervous, and just generally conflicted as I described in my last post.  But overall, I felt like I had my shit together and was very familiar with the feeling of “waiting”.  So, like a good fertility patient, I waited.

Until I couldn’t wait anymore.

About five days before my blood test, some crazy switch turned on in my brain and I bought a million pregnancy tests. I just had to know.  It was killing me and I wanted so badly to see those double lines, that I tested every day until my blood test was due.

I fell into a really dysfunctional cycle of apathy, followed by intense hope, passionate excitement and finally earth-shattering disappointment.  My days were busy and distracting, but my evenings were quiet without my wife around (she had to go be super cool and fly helicopters in Manitoba) and my mind was left to dwell excessively on whether I was pregnant or not.  Whether I was broken or not.  Whether I could give us the family that we had always wanted…or not.  Every day I begged the universe to throw me a bone.  Hadn’t I been through enough?

Every night I fell asleep with the comfort of knowing I could take another pregnancy test in the morning. I fantasized about how it would feel to call my wife to tell her the good news and how it would feel to hug my mom and show her the positive results.  It was the kind of hope that was dangerous because the stakes were so high.  I taunted myself with visions of joy and perfection, knowing that they might not ever come true.

Every morning I woke up and grabbed my pee cup to dip yet another pregnancy test.  The minute that followed was excruciating.  My brain flicked rapidly back and forth between the two outcomes.  Positive and negative.  Light and dark.  Joy and devastation.  Success or failure.

And every morning, that one stupid single line stared back at me.

When I got the phone call from the fertility clinic with my blood test results, I was out for my last lunch with my co-workers before my move to Winnipeg.  I knew right away from the tone in the nurse’s voice that the result was negative.  Just as I had expected.  I held my tears back, but my lower lip quivered as I asked how I could continue treatments now that I would be an eight hour drive from their clinic in Saskatoon.  The nurse was very accommodating and said that they would work with me in any way they could.

I tried to be strong and not show how upset I was, but I just couldn’t hold back my tears.  I broke down on the way back to the office and had to see the rest of my patients that day with red, swollen eyes and a broken heart.

I cried all the way home, as I had so often on the highway between Regina and Moose Jaw.

After hearing the news, one of my amazing friends in Moose Jaw, texted me to see if I wanted to come over for dinner.  I really wanted to say no and just crawl into bed and hide with all of my sadness and pain.  But I said yes, because I knew how much better I would feel having a compassionate friend by my side during this time.  She made me dinner and we watched The Office and had vegan ice cream.  I was so thankful that I allowed her into my grieving space.  I rarely ask anyone for help or support of any kind, so this was a first for me.  I was embarrassed and imperfect and in my sweat pants and she accepted me just as I was.  When people say you need to surround yourself with a community of friends and family to support you through your fertility struggles, they aren’t kidding.  It’s an absolute life saver.

That night I got my period, like goddamn clockwork.  I had a perfect twenty eight day cycle, probably for the first time in my whole life.  Ovulation on day fourteen, menstruation after day twenty eight.

After a really long sleep, I woke up with a feeling of calm and acceptance.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still crushed and shed a few more tears that day, but I also knew that I had another chance in only two weeks.  I could wait another two weeks.  Just a little bit longer.  One step closer to our dream of having a family.

I called the fertility clinic to let them know about day one of my cycle and the nurse arranged for an ultrasound in Yorkton, SK on day thirteen of my cycle.  That was the closest she could get to Winnipeg.

Hey Katie, why didn’t you just go to the fertility clinic in Winnipeg?  I mean it’s way closer, right?

Excellent question, dear reader.  Turns out the two month wait list that I was told about a couple of months ago when I requested a referral, is actually a nine month wait list.  Yep, you read that right.  Nine. Months.

There was absolutely no way we could wait that long.  Our only option was to continue to go to the clinic in Saskatoon.  Which meant a lot of driving was in my future.

On day thirteen of my cycle, I drove five hours to Yorkton for a ten minute ultrasound.  From there I had a few choices: 1) drive back to Winnipeg, with the chance of having to turn right back around and be in Saskatoon the next day for IUI; 2) stay in Yorkton and do whatever people in Yorkton do for a few hours; or 3) continue to drive to Saskatoon and hope that my current cycle was the same as my last.  I opted to continue my drive to Saskatoon and hoped it was the right call.  I had a lot of podcasts to listen to anyway.

Of course, as my luck would have it, an hour outside of Saskatoon I got a call from the clinic with some good news and some bad news.  The bad news was that my IUI would be in four days, meaning I would have to turn around and drive back to Winnipeg.  The good news was that I had not one, but TWO follicles developing!  I was on top of the world!  I felt like some sort of fertility goddess!  This would potentially double my chances of getting pregnant, with a very small chance of having fraternal twins!

As I did a big ol’ U-turn on the highway and headed back from whence I came, I couldn’t even be mad.  This was excellent news!  I finally felt like I was catching a break.

Three days later, I jumped back in my car and drove eight hours to Saskatoon and treated myself to a nice hotel.  I had a bath and relaxed and meditated.  I set three alarms that night so I wouldn’t miss my early morning appointment.

As I was laying on the procedure table after my IUI, I popped in my headphones and did a ten minute meditation from my Expectful app.  I drove back to the hotel and put my legs up against the wall and was inverted for an hour and focussed all of my attention and energy on my nether regions.  I don’t know of any studies linking being upside down after insemination with successful pregnancy and it’s probably totally in my head.  But there are benefits from that position in the yoga world and it felt right to have a little downtime before my eight hour journey back home.

It’s been almost a week since that IUI appointment and I’m cool as a cucumber.  Next week may be a different story, as we start to close in on my blood test date.  With a bit more distance from my miscarriage, lower stress levels, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, lots of rest and potentially two eggs available, I feel a lot more confidence in my body this round.

“New sperm, new egg, new oppourtunity” is a saying I saw on a fertility message board somewhere along the way, and I really like it.  It makes me feel like I’m not trapped by what has happened to me in the past.  I had a miscarriage, but it doesn’t define what my body is capable of.

Here’s hoping third time is a charm.

-K

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