Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Let's Talk About Stretch Marks

I'm currently running a scientific experiment on my husband. He's been a semi-willing participant, complaining louder on some nights more than others. He has a hard time saying no to me these days (he totally let me lie on the couch like a lazy bum while he went grocery shopping on Monday because I was complaining that it was too cold to go outside), mostly because he thinks my "bump" is so darn adorable. I think this is funny because my "bump" is still barely more than a pooch. In fact, since I've only gained about seven pounds, I think I'm right on track for my normal winter weight gain. I've just stopped sucking in my stomach all the time. Either way, I'm totally taking advantage of his vulnerability and using him as a guinea pig in this experiment.

Let's back up. I'm vain enough to admit that I don't really want to get stretch marks. I mean, I think that's pretty normal, right? If I had a preference, it would be to keep my belly looking the way it currently does. But we pretty much always hear pregnancy = stretch marks. EXCEPT for all those advertisers and makers of expensive creams and lotions that promise use of their product = no stretch marks. So, I figured I should get some lotion.

But then I started reading some pregnancy books. Okay...I'll admit, my step mother-in-law gave me three books on pregnancy/babies. My clinic gave me two. I've read a combined total of maybe six chapters between two of them. To be honest, I gave up when they started talking all about rare complications and diseases. Like, am I supposed to actually memorize this stuff? Let's be real, if I get a rare complication or it turns out my baby does have some disease, I will do a ton of research then. I doubt I'll remember a short paragraph about the obscure complication anyway.

Back to the point, both books mentioned stretch marks. And both said that they are almost entirely genetic. There is no cream, lotion, potion, or anything else you can put on the skin itself to prevent stretch marks from happening. Basically, if your mom got stretch marks, you'll get stretch marks. Well. Okay. But what about what all those fancy creams promised!?

AND what about all the real-life stories from my own friends? Of course, they vary. One friend used Lotion A every night before bed and got no stretch marks. Her mom had stretch marks. Another friend used Lotion A five times a day and still got stretch marks. Her mom did not have stretch marks. I mean, what the heck?

Here's the thing. My mom doesn't have stretch marks (that I know of), and as of this moment, neither do I. I bought a cheap cream (some Palmer's Cocoa Butter that's like $4 at Walmart) mostly because my skin was starting to itch and I had to start putting some sort of lotion on it at night before I clawed through my belly button.

But I still wondered, is this doing anything? 

I do have some faint white ones on my boobs because in fourth grade I literally went from could get away without wearing a shirt in public to needs something with an underwire pretty much overnight. Yeah. Being nine and having a B cup? Not awesome. I doubled up sports bras for the next three to four years until the boys stopped making fun of me. But the white lines were pretty faint.

I started dating Bobby when he was a freshman in high school. He was pretty average, around 5'6" or 5'7" with a pretty normal build for a guy that height. Since his parents were divorced and his dad lived in very, very northern Minnesota, Bobby would spend the summer at his dad's. So he went away for three months between his freshman and sophomore years and came back over 6' tall. He grew five-six inches in only a few months. As you can imagine, there were some consequences. His skin definitely stretched, resulting in some pretty dark purple stretch marks on his hips, legs, and lower back.

You can probably see where this is going. I convinced him to let me put my lotion on him every night before bed, just to see if it really did anything. It's okay; it's FOR SCIENCE. Now I kinda wish I would have taken before pictures or measurements or something to put on my tri-fold science fair board, but for right now, I'm just going by what I can remember. Since he's starting to hate it more and more, I told him we'll keep doing it until Christmas (about two months total). If they don't look any different by then, I'll quit and decide the only thing the lotion was good for was to keep my skin from itching (which thankfully it has, that alone has made it worth it).

So...what are your thoughts/experience with stretch marks? What did you use to keep them away? Or did you not care? Is it all genetic and this is totally a waste of time? Is it totally unethical to use your husband as part of a scientific experiment?

Friday, November 14, 2014

An Anniversary

One year ago today I published the first post on this blog. I'd been reading infertility blogs for awhile before that, since we'd been trying for about a year and a half to get pregnant and it was clearly not happening. Most of my friends were getting pregnant. My doctor and my acupuncturist didn't seem to be taking me seriously since I was only 25 years old. Even my husband was convinced it was just a matter of time before it would magically happen. The only real way to describe how I was feeling is alone. I had moments where I literally felt like I was the only person in the world who couldn't get pregnant on command.

So I started with a Google search. It initially led me to BabyCenter and Bump threads that were catty and scary and, to be honest, a little bit crazy. Those were the kind of women that were like me? Those crazy-obsessive, snarky women who had been trying for all of three months for their fifth child and were PANICKING because it wasn't happening? This was the only place I could find support?

Eventually I found someone's blog. And then another and another. And then I noticed that the same people were commenting on each others' blogs. Wait...do they all know each other in real life? I finally put it together that, no, they did not know each other, but they were a community. And they were supportive and nice. And some were really funny. And some were sweet and kind. And they were all so honest and real. And they were infertile. Just like me.

I will never forget that feeling of realizing I'm not alone.

When I started reading infertility blogs, I didn't know very much about infertility. I knew almost nothing about IVF. I had no idea it required monitoring or medication. I mean, they just make a baby in a test tube and then shove it up your vag, right? Sure it was expensive, but it was pretty easy. And it ALWAYS worked - that's why celebrities did it. I had never even heard of IUI. I didn't know much about cycles or follicles or ovulation or cervical mucous. I had no idea that there was so much to being infertile--it was sort of terrifying. And overwhelming. And oh my gosh I think I need to get a PhD in human biology to have any idea what's happening to me right now. 

But I didn't need a science degree (thank God, I got a C- in Earth Science in COMMUNITY COLLEGE), I had all of these bloggers that had somehow learned all of this stuff. They understood their bodies inside and out. They understood medications and herbs and supplements and protocols. And they were nice enough to share that information in ways that I could (mostly) understand.

I know that I'm different from a lot of people in this community because I did manage to conceive naturally. But I'm going to make a bold statement here: I don't think I would be pregnant right now without all of you. Obviously, I have no way to back that up. Maybe I would be, but I doubt it.

When I started this blog, my cycles were just beginning to regulate themselves from mostly non-existent after being off birth control over a year (70-100+ days) to 40-50 days. With a change to my diet, more exercise, and adding in some red raspberry leaf tea, they finally settled themselves to 30-35 days.

But it wasn't until I started charting my temperatures (at the suggestion of many of you), that I figured out my ovulation. At first I was terrible at charting. It was all over the place. There were no patterns and none of it looked like the internet charts. But I eventually found my rhythm and actually had a normal looking chart for several months in a row. I could see post-ovulation spikes. I could see my temperature drop right before I got my period. It was amazing. My body was doing the right things--sort of.

And then you obsessive POASers got in my head. With your exact knowledge of ovulation, confirmed by digital smiley faces. I had started thinking about trying OPKs before I started blogging, but I wasn't sure I could do it accurately. I figured it was a waste of money. But I had some Amazon points sitting around, so I ordered a stack of the cheap ones. Because of you ladies and your pee stick worship. And that's how I found out that my ovulation was significantly later than I had previously thought, and my luteal phase was significantly shorter--like defect-level short. And I was totally inaccurately timing sex. Which is sort of an issue when you're counting on timed intercourse to get you pregnant.

So, again at the recommendation of many of you and after some lengthy research (that's right, I'm not even in school and I did scientific research), I started taking Vitex and B6. And after two months, it worked. It moved ovulation up by nearly four days, fixing the luteal phase defect, and making timed intercourse actually effective.

And well...you know the rest of the story.

While this is sort of the tale of "How I Managed to Get My Infertile Self Pregnant," what I really want it to be is a huge Thank You. I started this blog, like many of you, when I was at my lowest point. I was stuck. I had no idea what to do. And I was really, really lonely. And you all were there for me. You supported me, you offered kind words and helpful advice. You answered questions, shared your insecurities, and became my friends. Maybe not "friends" in the traditional sense, but you all genuinely cared about my life and my story, and I care about yours. Reading about your failed cycles and miscarriages and low moments were like a punch to the gut. I would read your blogs at work with the biggest, dumbest smile on my face when you finally got your BFPs. You were strangers, but at the same time you were my friends. We all wanted the same thing. I wanted this so bad for all of you. For all of us.

Many of you that read and comment regularly already have your babies or are currently pregnant. Some of you are still fighting--and I'm still cheering. My story is not one of the most inspiring ones out there (I mean, it's really just the story of a girl who finally learns some science), but I'm just so grateful that you all accepted me. You were the first people who took my struggle and my worries and fears seriously.

On this one year anniversary of this silly little blog, THANK YOU. I know I wouldn't be where I am without all of you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Maternity Clothes Woes

Today I'm wearing a pair of my friend's capris as full-length pants. This is the sort of thing you're able to do when you're only 5-feet tall.

This good friend dropped off two boxes of her maternity clothes at my house yesterday afternoon and I am sooo grateful. I probably could have used a belly band with my regular clothes for another month or so, but the constant adjusting and unrolling was getting a bit annoying.

My friend is probably a size or two smaller than me on the bottom (big butt here, remember), but most of it seems to work fine. I only ended up being able to fit in one pair of her maternity jeans--the others wouldn't go past my volleyball thighs. The dress pants are so comfortable, I'm seriously wondering why all pants don't come with elastic waist bands. Get it together, clothing designers!

A bit unfortunately though, my friend's kids were both due in late summer, meaning she was getting bigger in the spring and summer. She was able to wear her normal clothes in the winter. Much of one of the boxes was filled with tanktops, sundresses, and shorts. I'm entering this week's forecast of 8-12 inches of snow with three pairs of dress pants, one pair of jeans, and a pair of capris that are about 1/4 inch too short (thankfully as long as I pair them with boots it isn't noticeable).

Also a bit unfortunately, other than my direct supervisor, no one at work knows I'm pregnant. So I'm still covering my (barely-there) bump with sweaters, cardigans, and vests. Maternity clothes like to emphasize even the smallest bumps, so I still don't have a lot to wear at work unless I cover it with a sweater...which I guess in 12° weather (yes, that's the forecast for next week---booo), isn't really a problem. I'm not really sure how to tell everyone at work. The obvious answer would be to announce it during staff meeting. We always have a time at the beginning to share personal news, but in no world does that sound like anything I would do. Being the center of attention like that would be unbearable. I've also thought about telling a few people, and since I work with all catty women, just letting it spread on its own. But then I'll be answering individual questions for the next month until everyone has heard. And that sounds pretty awful too. I'm not really friends, or even acquaintances, with anyone at work. There are several days a week I don't actually talk to anyone here. I'm feeling really weird about the whole thing, because I'm not going to be able to hide it much longer.

In other non-clothing crisis news, I got to hear Cannoli's little heartbeat last Friday. Dr. G. said my uterus was measuring perfectly (um...thanks?), and he found the heartbeat instantly. None of the drama of last time, thank God. He also pointed out that all of the "alien noises" I heard on the doppler were the baby moving. He asked me if I had felt any. I said that sometimes I think I do, but I'm not sure if it's really movement or just digesting food. He told me that officially I'm not supposed to feel anything until 19-20 weeks, but many women report movement earlier. Even as he was speaking, there was huge static on the doppler.

"That was a huge kick," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if you feel those if you're laying still."

So I guess I'm going to try to pay attention more and see if I can feel movement.

I'm 17 weeks today and starting to feel like more of a human than in my last post. I even made it most days last week without a nap. I went to the chiropractor on Thursday and he fixed my back. I can walk upright again and actually move without my hips feeling like they're about to jump out their sockets. The nausea seems to be lessening. It's still there, but not as constant and not as strong. I mean, I've kind of forgotten what it feels like to have absolutely zero nausea, but I can at least live with this. We have our anatomy scan on December 1. We're not finding out the gender, but I'm anxious to see our Cannoli again (and hope that it looks more like a baby than a Cannoli--like it did last time we saw it).

I'm exciting to be heading into the holidays and how much time I'll get to spend with my family. We have so much to be thankful for every year, but we're especially grateful for our new little one this year.

I'm also very thankful for maternity pants heading into Thanksgiving...or, you know, Thanksgiving Pants.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Not Good At This

I don't know how to start this post, so I'm just going to drop this bomb:

I'm not good at being pregnant.

I always thought I would be. I don't really know why, I just assumed I'd be one of those ladies that loves pregnancy and waltzes around town with tons of energy, glowing, with a beautiful, round bump. I'm not that lady. I'm the sweaty lady that can barely fit into my sweatpants because I have an over-sized beer gut.

I'm 16 weeks today, and other than the fact that I'm so excited to be having a baby, I've hated nearly every minute of being pregnant. I'm still nauseated 24/7. I'm still exhausted. I've been worried about how my back would be affected by having a significant weight pulling on it from the front--and it has not been good. Last night I couldn't sleep. I couldn't lay on either of my sides without both my stomach and my back hurting, and I was not longer comfortable lying on my back. My bump isn't adorable, it's fat. It's too much mac and cheese and not enough veggies. My face is getting fat and so are my arms. I tell myself I want to work out, but I just can't force myself to do it. Our "nursery" is so full of junk it overwhelms me to even start thinking about it. I've worn yoga pants to work for the past 6 days. I just want to sleep all the time because it's the only time I'm not dry heaving. I'm not good at this.

A friend of mine once told me I'd be good at being pregnant. She's one of the butt-less women who's back flows directly into her thighs. She said she was constantly off balance while pregnant because she was so front-heavy. Of course, this friend repeatedly told me during high school how jealous she was of how my butt looked in jeans. It's not really a secret--I have a big butt. Like one of those rapper guys' girlfriends sized butt. So apparently, I was supposed to be good at being pregnant, because my butt would keep me from tipping over once my belly got big.

I've also been an athlete my entire life. I'm fairly strong, coordinated, and agile. Carrying around an extra 20 pounds didn't seem like it would be rough. I've always had decent ab strength, which I hear is good for labor. When my volleyball career ended, what else was I supposed to do with this life-long training? Why not be really good at having babies?

At the beginning of our infertility journey, when it was becoming clear that getting pregnant wasn't easy, I had to reflect for awhile. I was definitely pro-adoption (even over using ART), and I had to really decide if I was okay with not carrying my children. And I decided early on that I was. While I had always imagined carrying my children the old fashioned way, I didn't find myself "grieving" the loss of pregnancy. Of course, it never truly came to that, but what I realized was what I really wanted was to have kids and be a mom. I didn't need to be pregnant for that to happen.

And then I got pregnant. And it was rough. From about 7 weeks on, I was miserable. I was nervous about everything. I was sick. I was tired. I was lazy. I was hungry. I was pooping. I was anxious. And I was seriously questioning why anyone had more than one child after knowing what they were getting into. THIS was the magical time of pregnancy that everyone gloated about? No, thank you.

 I want this baby so badly to be here in my arms. I want to meet this tiny person that I've come to call Cannoli. I'm not even halfway through the pregnancy, but I'm so ready for it to be over. This might make me a horrible person for writing all this when there's so many women stuck in infertility wanting so badly to be pregnant. I know how that feels too. I thought this was what I wanted. I just didn't know that I'd be so bad at it.