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Why am I not glowing? Post-infertility pregnancy not what I envisioned

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“You will come in for your pregnancy blood test on 9/11.”

The message was sitting there waiting for me in our fertility clinic’s online portal.

September 11. Of all days…

It had been eighteen years since I worked in Manhattan’s midtown. Eighteen years since I watched the towers billowing with smoke from my office building. Eighteen years is a lifetime on one hand, but it also felt like yesterday. I’m always a bit depressed and out-of-sorts leading up to 9/11, and knowing I’d learn the fate of our latest embryo transfer (our fifth total) on that day wasn’t sitting well with me.

“Your grandmother’s birthday is on September 11,” my mom texted to try and lift my spirits. My grandmother, my namesake, passed away when I was an infant.

“Your mother and I met on a blind date on September 11,” my dad added to our group text.

I welcomed these bits of family trivia and I was surprised I’d never heard them before, or if I had, they were forgotten. They gave me a thread of hope, but I couldn’t help still feeling pessimistic. After two back-to-back failed IVF transfers last year trying to have our second child (our 3-year-old son is an IVF baby and the second of four embryo transfers that somehow miraculously took), I braced for yet another bad outcome.

“Feeling good feels/karma here with the 9/11 symbolism,” a friend wrote on one of my Instagram posts.

Please, let this day have new meaning for us.

***

“Hi, Monica. It’s Dr. B—. Congratulations! You’re pregnant!”

I heard her words, but I didn’t really HEAR them.

“Wait, is this, like, THE Dr. B—?”

“Yes, can you not hear me? Congratulations!”

There was a minute of this “Who’s on first?” exchange with my fertility doctor. At one point, she responded laughing, “I’m so confused!”

I don’t think she’d ever experienced this level of shock and disbelief on the other end of a call like this.

I was floored for two reasons. A) Because she took the time to call me personally to relay the news (it’d been a while since I’d heard from doctors themselves on a call like this). And B) Well, because…

***

How do you measure a year-plus of buildup, heartbreak, disappointment and grief followed by this sudden gift of great, unimaginable news? The answer is, I’m still figuring it out.

We had about three weeks of bliss. With the climax being a vacation to Sonoma where I celebrated my 40th birthday, and our BFP (in fertility speak “big fat positive”), by renting a house with a group of my closest friends. It was a weekend that would go down forever as one of my life’s best.

Then the clouds came.

It started with unbearable exhaustion. For about a week I thought I was just tired from our trip. Of course I hadn’t been drinking, but I figured the weekend of non-stop celebrating and partying with my besties just walloped me. I was 40 now, after all.

After about two weeks of feeling like I couldn’t do ANYTHING more than the menial tasks of surviving from day-to-day, I realized this was more than just post-vacay tiredness. And I started to get depressed. Was pre-partum depression a thing? I didn’t like this feeling. At all. I wasn’t being the mom our son needed. I wasn’t being the wife my husband needed. I wasn’t being anything to anybody. I’d shut out friends. I’d shut out my family. I’d pretty much just shut down.

My sadness and lack of energy are compounded by morning-to-day sickness and a lack of appetite. I’d experienced morning sickness with my first, but it went away with a few bites of Saltines in the morning. And I was glowing for 40 weeks. Where was this happy, carefree pregnant woman I once was? I wanted her back!

I open my refrigerator several times a day looking for something to eat — I know if I don’t eat I will be over the toilet dry-heaving — but nothing looks appetizing to me. It’s been like this for about six weeks. A vicious cycle of not wanting to eat anything, but then feeling what I call “the vommies” coming on when I don’t eat something. Carbs (bagels, cereal, pasta, fruit, repeat) and yogurt have been my only dependable companions.

***

I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but rather than a good vs. evil twin, I’m either a chipper cheetah or a sad sloth. When I wake up in the morning, I have no idea which one I’m going to get. And there have been way more “sad sloth” days than I’d like. I welcome the bursts of energy on “cheetah days,” and when I get them, I’m a flurry of activity: cleaning, exercising, cooking, etc. And I dread the days in between.

“Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low… Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know…”

These song lyrics hit me on a “cheetah day” while I was on a hike. I’d listened to the song dozens of times before, but I suddenly felt a tear crawling down my face.

How can I possibly feel one iota of sadness when the one thing we fought and prayed tirelessly for, for so long, is here? I don’t understand. So many women and families would give anything to be in our position. I couldn’t wait to have morning sickness before LG because we’d fought so long and hard to get pregnant. I craved pregnancy symptoms again this go-around, and here they are, and I’m a wallowing, dysfunctional mess. This is supposed to be one of the happiest, most joyful times in our lives, but 75% of the time my mind gives in to the stress and discomfort my body is feeling.

***

The shining lights through all of this have been the unconditional love and support of my husband and LG. And LG’s priceless comments about his future sibling and mommy’s tummy. I pictured telling him in a very different manner, but when I did finally, it was because I felt like s*** and I was trying to explain to him why mommy was couch-ridden when he wanted to play “chase Superman.”

“There’s a baby?” he asked. I explained that it was making mommy “tired,” and I put his hand on my tummy.

“Do you want a little brother or a little sister?” I asked.

“I want both!” he said.

When I showed him the first sonogram photo from eight or nine weeks, he said it looked like a spider. We were on the phone with my parents when he said it, and it’ll go down in family history as the cutest and funniest comment ever made.

He’s run around the house with balls under his shirts and he’s asked me why I don’t have a bump yet.

“Soon, bubs. Soon.”

“Has the baby come out yet?”

“No, you’ll know when it does!”

He also let the kitten out of the bag at school. He walked by the baby room one afternoon and, according to his teachers, he said something like, “I’m going to have a baby in there soon.” They relayed this to me in the playground at pick-up time and they thought he was making it up. Imagine their reaction when I dropped the bomb that he actually was telling the truth. It was a delightful moment.

***

Today was a chipper cheetah day. And I’m thankful. I finally motivated to write this and I’m already feeling like a small weight has been lifted. Deep down we are so so so so-times-a-million excited. But I’m just trying to chip away at some lingering stuff that’s been corroding my heart for a while. A recent article in The New York Times was titled, "The Lasting Trauma of Infertility." No kidding. I don't know how long this will last, but I'm hoping it tucks itself away soon.

We’re at 13 weeks today. I hope *fingers crossed* I (we) are turning the corner as we enter the second trimester. And I’m hoping for more cheetah days. Until then… I’m just trying to let the feels come and go. As one of my friends so eloquently put it over dinner last week, “Cut yourself some slack, Mon. You’re over there growing an eyeball.”

Amen, sister. Amen.

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