IVF in the news

I was pleasantly surprised to read this today: https://slate.com/human-interest/2019/01/infertility-workplace-pregnancy-challenges-2019.html

They do a pretty good job outlining (some of ) the challenges and how it affects things like time off. Of course then I read the comments which ran the gamut from “just adopt” to “we shouldn’t subsidize designer babies”. Oh America, you really need to beef up your science education.

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The dreaded work-life balance

(Before I write this, I’m congratulating myself on finally making it back to microblog mondays!)

One thing I’ve been struggling with is balancing all my work and and personal commitments (and still staying sane). Surprise! I feel like this is a topic I’ve been thinking about and talking about with my friends since my early 20s, long before kids came into the picture.

I know someone looking from the outside at my life would think that’s its easy — my parents are around to help and do a ton of work at home to keep things running. A lot of it is coming up now because I’m wondering where to go career wise.

Late last year, I had pretty much decided to give up on academia and look for a ‘coasting’ industry job by which I mean something I could work at from 9-5 (or whatever) and not get stressed about and still be doing well. But then I had a conversation with my PI in January and .. suddenly something clicked. I saw a path forward for myself and how I would pitch myself as a researcher/potential faculty member. And so now I’m wondering whether to pursue this.

There’s so many trade-offs on either side that I have no idea what to do. As one of my colleagues said when I was discussing this with him, it’s down to whether I’m doing my family a disservice by pursuing this path. And there are many reasons for this — the hours, the money, the additional stress. Are all those trade-offs worth what a research position would bring? And here, I think it’s less clear for me. For my husband, he’s always been very clear on what his job gives him and why he wanted it. For me, the same reasons are less persuasive. And then there’s the other part of whether academia wants me.

Sigh, it’s all so muddled up and confused and I want to say that being a parent is a factor but now that I think about it, I’ve been going round and round these same issues for years. The only difference now is that I see a realistic potential path.

In which I talk about weight

Weight’s been a weird thing for me. And this is going to be a rather TMI and personal post but what has this blog been if not plenty of that.

I spent most of my life underweight and rather skinny. When I started college, I didn’t even fill out size 0 (in retrospect, that was probably a brand that ran too big) but the point remains. My main concern when I was on dorm food was would I get enough nutrition since I was vegetarian and watched my weight to make sure I didn’t lose any. I did gain some weight in college so I ended it at 115 lbs.

And then I got diagnosed with PCOS. I don’t know if it was the PCOS or adulthood or eating out more but ever since I’ve gained 3-5 lbs a year. Fast forward a decade and.. well, you do the math. I never worried about it since it was never a sudden weight gain but by my late 20s, I was actively trying to bring it down. I couldn’t understand why I kept gaining weight since I generally eat healthy food and I don’t eat a huge amount. One of my doctors kept saying that everyone always underestimates what they eat but no, I had done logs and for the most part, ate 1800 cal/day. By this stage, I had also learnt that PCOS is associated with weight gain in a way that made it even harder to lose weight.

The summer I was 29, I went through a summer trying caloric restriction and zero added sugar. It was supposed to be enough to lose 1lb/week but I was losing less than half of that. And so I went from being 115lbs when I was 22 to 157 at 32, right before getting pregnant.

And then I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes. That was it’s own stress but a few good things came of that. For one, I only gained 15lbs through the pregnancy. I lost all that and was back to pre-pregnancy weight 10days postpartum. I suspected that “I” had lost weight and “the pregnancy” had gained weight so once I lost the pregnancy weight, I would actually be at a net loss. I think this is roughly true. Fast forward to 6 months postpartum and I’m a solid 15 lbs less than my pre-pregnancy weight.

For me… this is amazing. I’m at a weight that I last saw when I was 27 or so. And unlike last time where I had to be so so careful about what I ate, now, I only roughly pay attention.weight_by_date_pregnancy_postpartum.png

One thing that I think happened is with the GD, I worked out some of what type of diet really truly works for my body. And I learnt how to stick with it and what are the ok cheats. Since then I’ve read a book (“The Obesity Code”) whose message roughly matches what I observed in myself — keeping blood sugars low is the key (technically his message is keeping insulin low is the key). And I had learnt to do that because I was measuring myself after every time I ate.

I’ve loosened a lot of the rules now and probably need to get back to a slightly stricter version. But for the most part, these aren’t hard rules for me to observe. I do indulge but  try and make it a rare event and not a regular thing (byebye chips with a sandwich). Given that the hormones running through my body now are massively different, I don’t know if the same diet will still work as well but so far, it seems to be.

Do I think this will work for everyone? – no. For one, I think this addresses some very specific issues that I was dealing with. I don’t want to be that person who’s obsessed with weight but I do feel younger (though that probably has to do with the fact that my younger self was skinny and so I conflate the two).

Mostly I’m rather grateful that I managed to learn a little more about what works for my body.

6 months

I’ve been such a bad blogger. Technically I have time but somehow it goes away in all sorts of things. Tons I want to talk about here but for now, I’m going to gush about baby.

Baby A* had his 6 months check up today. He did not like the shots (of course) and has major eczema but other than that, is growing like a champ. I still cannot believe how fast he’s grown! I love his 6-month old self but I also find myself missing the itty-bitty version.

Though I don’t miss the lack of sleep. That’s probably the biggest change for us – he’s (sorta) sleeping through the night, almost by accident. So he had been pretty regularly at 4-6 hr cycles and then with the 4 month sleep regression went down to 3-4 hr cycles which was so painful. And it’s not like he’d get up, drink 20 ml and go back to sleep – he’s have multiple full feeds at night. We couldn’t convince him to eat more during the day so it just ended up in a vicious cycle. So one day, when he started crying, we gave up and brought him into the bed with us. And.. it worked. He went 8 hours without food at night. And wasn’t exactly starving when he woke up – he played for an hour before eating. And so now we’re (reluctantly) co-sleeping because that seems to be working. He has a bath, eats and goes to bed around 7pm. Gets up around midnight for food. At 2am cries, we bring him to our bed where he then sleeps happily till 7am. It’s not perfect but sooo much better. And we’re nudging him into slightly better versions (for instance, doing a dream feed when we go to sleep).

Some consequences – he’s eating massively more during the day to compensate for no food at night. And so my milk supply has basically given up. Till now we were doing something like 70% breastmilk, 30% formula but with this, there’s too long of a gap for my supply and I don’t have the time or inclination to pump at work anymore so it’s quickly shifted into 30% breastmilk and 70% formula. And.. I’m making peace with that.

Another milestone -teeth! He has two little teeth peeking through on the bottom. Which at least explains why he spent a solid two weeks unhappily whining the entire time.

He’s started solids a while ago and now eats sweet potatoes, pears and apples. He kinda hated sweet potato at first but now is content with it. And yes we started early — the research seemed all over the place on the ideal time to start. Our pediatrician said that we could start and I had noticed him looking longingly at our food so I decided to go early. He isn’t the biggest fan of the sweet potatoes but loves the act of eating. He’s a very independent baby – he doesn’t like us feeding him but rather, we spoon some out and give him the spoon. A few weeks of practice and he gets more of it in his mouth and less all over his face. Today we got the go ahead to introduce whatever we felt like so I’m really looking forward to introducing more flavors and spices! And I’ve been thinking of doing baby-led weaning — he seems interested and has the pincer grasp but doesn’t seem to have figured out chewing so any advice on that would be appreciated!

Mostly now that the sleep is getting not-too-sucky, I feel like we’re getting into a better routine and getting better at this whole parenting thing. I’ve certainly struggled with confidence about parenting (to be saved for another post) but am feeling somewhat more confident.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! And my prayers and wishes to all of you that the next year brings all that your hopes and dreams to you.

When I think about this year, it’s just so much more than I could have imagined. For so much of the year, I was first worried that the pregnancy wouldn’t hold and then that there would be some major issue. Sometimes, it all feels like a dream. Physically, one of the few remnants of pregnancy that I still have are the stretch marks. And I’m finding that I don’t actually mind them – it reminds me that this did happen and all of this is real and that baby really did spend so many months growing in me.

IMG_20181226_133852_editI had a much needed week off this week and one of the things I finally got around to doing was putting together a pregnancy album. And taking this:

It’s all kind of amazing that all of that resulted in a living breathing person with his own personality. The hat is the one I knit for baby. The backdrop is one of my mom’s wedding sari’s. We want baby to know his story so in the album, I’ve talked about how much we waited for him and what it took. Putting it out there – any recommendations for children’s books to introduce ivf/other non traditional family formation?

Baby is amazing. There are times I get frustrated with him – like when he’s decided he doesn’t want to eat more and would rather look around him even though I know he’s going to get hungry in an hour. Or when he refuses to sleep even though he very clearly needs a nap. Or when he decides he’s bored and insists on being carried from room to room.

But there’s so much to love about him as well. He has this independent streak – we’ve barely started solids and quickly realized that he enjoys it more when we let him take the spoon rather than us trying to feed him. So we encourage that. Somehow I don’t mind the mess in the least – this was one of those vignettes I’ve dreamed of with my baby doing his own thing, albeit messily and it’s so amazing to see real life actually live out my fantasy.

He’s so talkative and keeps babbling to us. It’s the cutest thing – he’ll say something like “agablubah” and when we say the same thing back, he’ll light up. He’s definitely a morning person which rather surprises me since neither Hubby nor I are. But he’ll get up for the day (anywhere from 6 – 8 — there’s still a huge variance in his timings) with a smile and keep talking to himself or playing with his hands for quite a while. And when I greet him with a “good morning”, he gives this wide sunny smile.

We have this saying in Tamil which roughly translates to “his eyes are bigger than his stomach” which refers to taking too much food on your plate because you want to eat all of that but can’t finish it. Totally applies to baby. He keeps wanting to do things that he’s not anywhere near being physically capable of. Like he’ll keep bouncing on me and attempting to stand. He can only sit unassisted for a minute at a time so I’m not sure why he thinks he can stand. Or he’ll peer over the side of something. And expect mommy to come to the rescue? Or look at us with longing when we eat something in front of him.

As for the next year – I’m looking forward to a year of not worrying about cycles. Or doctors. Or injections. And watching baby grow though I’ll also miss his baby stages. And hopefully the things I’m worried about will resolve themselves.

Thankful for..

This one’s easy – I’m thankful for my family and friends.

Little A* was inconsolable last night (turned out to be gas) and so I cuddled him and was telling him his story. A year ago, he was just a little blob of 100 cells and a prayer. His implantation was a little before last Thanksgiving and I spend the whole day trying not to overdo it so he stands more of a shot of making it. I’m not utterly thankful that I get to share such moments with him – he’s more than I ever could have imagined.

This year, we’re not hosting Thanksgiving for the first time in.. 7 years? something like that. I was rather sad because I love Thanksgiving but realistically, we don’t have the spare capacity to host.

I’m thankful for my husband and my parents who have been amazing over the last year, supportive and endlessly helpful. I’m thankful for my health which, in spite of everything in the last year, seems to be not-to-bad. I’m also thankful to be able to enjoy food again without overthinking it!

 

Publicly Talking about IVF

Can I just say that I’m so happy that Michelle Obama went public with her IVF? Not that I wish the whole infertility hell on anyone. But it’s so nice to hear someone that high up normalizing it.

It’s also a bit of a relief seeing how her kids turned out – there’s a little (unscientific) part of me that always worries that IVF would negatively impact my baby. And actually seeing the IVF children grow up into such intelligent, wonderful adults is … not soothing but more of ‘see, I have nothing to worry about’.

Three Months

I’ve been such a bad blogger. Every week I mean to write a post and check in and every week I get swamped by stuff.

So.. life with baby is nothing like I’d imagined. It’s both harder and easier than I thought it would be.

The hard parts – mostly just how each day is so busy and can be quite grueling. I started back full time at 12 weeks and.. I’m still not ready to be full time. You do what you have to do I suppose. I love my job and working and the adult company but I’m also so aware of all the time that I’m away from baby. My day is basically: get up, pump, get ready, go to work, come home, play with baby for an hour (or feed him depending on his timing), eat dinner, give baby a bath, feed him, wrap up little things in the house, go to sleep by 9 (if I’m lucky), up at midnight or 1am to feed baby and then Hubby takes the other night cycle. I didn’t expect there to be so much to do all the time. And things that I’ve been meaning to do for ages keep piling up. We try to go out once a week because baby loves seeing new things but we’re too exhausted to do more than that.

This week also sucked at work. My PI went all “you guys are basically where you were a year ago” which considering I started on this project a year ago is complete BS. Anyways, I’m pissed at him, at the project, at my labmate who flaked out last semester, and work stuff in general. Makes me wonder just why I leave home every day.

But all this is the sucky parts. The easy and wonderful parts — there are so so many.

Baby is thriving. He’s grown oh so chubby. Makes me feel like my body’s been good at one single thing with all this childbearing stuff – producing milk. Very little supply issues, no pain anymore, and it’s clearly good rich milk (judging by baby’s arm and leg rolls).

I didn’t expect this but I like baby. In that I like his personality. He’s so curiousconstantly looking around and taking everything in. And now he’s babbling which is hilarious. He gives me wide gorgeous smiles when I wish him good morning. He’s also relatively easy going – he’s often happy just playing on his own. Though at his age playing basically involves fighting with his hands to get his thumb into his mouth. He ‘sleeps’ through the night in that he’ll get up to eat and promptly sleep again.

And whether I feel like a good mom or not, Hubby is an amazing dad. He never tires of taking care of the baby. He’s up whenever he’s needed at night (and often when he’s not). He’s constantly singing and talking to the baby. I’ve.. well, I’m constantly second guessing myself and don’t really feel like a mom. Mostly I try not to overthink that.

 

 

 

Physical memories of IVF

In the last couple of days, there’s been all sorts of little things that triggered my memories of.. everything in the last few years.

I was clearing and organizing my pile of medical documents. The bills/receipts from my fertility clinic – an inch thick. And another inch of test results and information from them. All my other medical documents combined are about the same quantity. It was a sobering reminder of even with all my sleep deprivation, it took so much to get to this point.

One of baby’s outfits was a gift that my friend gave when we were first pregnant – last March when it turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy. I had been debating whether or not to use it for baby A*. On one hand it seems a bit morbid. On the other, it’s a beautiful one-piece and why waste it. He did wear it this week (and promptly had a massive blowout so most of the white is now yellow). So now memories of last spring are taken over by memories of poop. I suppose that’s a good thing?

I know I shouldn’t compare but this year would have been massively depressing if things hadn’t worked out. About 80% of the friends I have that’s marriage announced a pregnancy or baby this year. Some were with their second kid. With some, I have no idea if they went through struggles of their own. Others I know they didn’t. Not that I’m not incredibly grateful for baby himself but I am relieved that I didn’t go through this year while under more treatments.

The remaining 20% .. well, some are close enough friends that they mildly gauge our openness to answering questions. We’re quite open with most people about IVF though, for the most part, we keep it super short (“Baby A* was an IVF baby”). Some of this is to normalize treatments. Some is that neither of us are the type to obfuscate. At any rate, a couple of friends asked us how long it took to conceive baby. For the record, they were asking because they and their wives are thinking about starting families and they wanted to gauge what they should prepare for (funny that this came from the male halves of the couples). My answer of “3 years” took them aback. And then I went into the probabilities and how common infertility is and what to watch out for. A short summary of the shittiness of the last few years. One had known about a lot of it. The other was surprised I think at how much can happen without others knowing.

I feel like my default answer to friends asking about conception related stuff is to point them to “The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant” and to feel free to ask if they have any questions/issues/want to talk. I don’t know if that’s the best way. On one hand, I want to let others know that issues are common and there are safe spaces to talk about them/learn about them if they need. On the other.. well, face it, most of these couples will get pregnant in a couple of months.

Hubby and I are starting to talk about long-term finances again. It’s something we’ve put off for years – I’ve never known when we would need a sudden influx of thousands of dollars of cash so we’ve kept most of our savings as liquid cash. And it’s kinda a shock to realize that we can move past that. I no longer have to save for IVF. At this point, I don’t know if we’ve decided on having another child. But if we do, we’ll use the rest of the insurance covered cycles and if that doesn’t work, that’s that. It wouldn’t be ideal but I don’t think I’d be at the same sense of desperation of throwing all our resources at it.

In some ways, I think I’ve moved past things. I can look upon all these and feel like a chapter in my story is over. Thank God. I might wish that things had been easier but I can’t complain with the end results. In others, well, I’ll carry my story and experiences with me. And I still feel a pang when I hear of a easy-to-achieve pregnancy of why was it so hard for me. But baby’s here and he’s strong and active and growing so fast so on some level, it doesn’t matter.

Breastfeeding

I’ve been wanting to write about so many things for a while but honestly, I’m out of energy most days. I have 1 week left of maternity leave and I have no idea how I’m going to have the energy to deal with a full day of work. And its been nice being in a baby bubble and I’m rather sad to leave it. Still, I know that going back to work is the right decision for me, even if I wish leave was a bit longer. (I hate the family leave policies in this country – they’re ridiculously backward and callous.)

Anyways, I digress. So I’ve been breastfeeding without really thinking about it – that was the default choice and I figured that if I could, it’s better. I didn’t really have much expectations or set ideas – if we need formula fine. If bf-ing is too hard/painful/low supply, supplementing is fine. I will say that I haven’t been a huge fan of it. Supply has been ok. It’s not painful anymore. But it has been making me feel rather.. trapped by another being’s demands.

We’ve largely been lax about certain things. Because of the jaundice hospital stay, I very quickly got comfortable with the breast pump. And formula for baby. When we came home, we decided to go with what’s already been started. So Hubby takes one of the night feeds while I get to sleep through that. Of course baby’s cycles are still so short, that really just means that I get a 3 hr stretch instead of 1 or 1.5 hr. Even with that, I’ve been feeling so restricted with constant demands. And I haven’t been particularly enjoying it or feeling like it’s bonding baby and me. I’ve been thinking of weaning from breastmilk earlier or keeping it to just a couple of nursing sessions a day.

For the last week, we’ve been pretending that I’m on a work schedule – I pump in the daytime and Hubby or one of my parents gives him the bottle. Baby gets used to that many bottles a day and I get used to the pumping schedule and we all work out the logistics of thawing/storing.

Funnily enough, I’m now finding that I like my sessions with baby. It’s something that only I can give. And he’s starting to interact with me (though its still usually a “what the hell are you doing and why am I still hungry??” look). And even if I completely stop nursing, he still needs food every couple of hours so someone still needs to be up. The long and short of it is that I don’t know how long I’ll continue and for now, I’m making the decision one month at a time. And for now, it’s working for us.