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Pregnancy when you’re infertile

Before life went well, south with our infertility journey I’d imagined doing a trimester by trimester update on the blog – no biggie…

What I learned was, when you’re infertile & you get pregnant (not to mention and having miscarried before) is that all you really do is hope that you stay pregnant and nothing goes wrong – this time… I never got to pee on a stick and see the words “pregnant” (though I really should have Clearblue shares by now!). I never got to plan a cute, romantic way to break the news to my husband that he was finally going to be a father. Infertility robs you of the joy of the pregnancy experience because most of that time is spent living in fear. And even once you get pregnant, there’s no relief. I know you’re thinking its an awfully pessimistic way to exist but its a self defence mechanism – for me a necessary one.

After we found out we were pregnant via a blood test, we had to wait 6 weeks for our 1st scan – back at our fertility clinic. Thats when we saw & heard heartbeats for the 1st time and also confirmed it was twins. Those little heartbeats were throbbing so fast and loud! That made things pretty real. Even at 6 weeks our Dr could point out which was embryo was the girl an which was the boy (girls heart rates are generally elevated in comparison) which I thought was pretty amazing. All 3 of us in that room were so damn happy – the kind of happy you don’t have to say, you can just feel. My fertility Dr and his wife had been through IVF themselves and had girl/boy twins as a result so I knew he got us. Very few words were said in that room that day but few were necessary – we were all choked up and tears were just a blink away. After being there for so many years it felt super weird to leave our clinic and go to a “regular” gynae. I never thought I’d miss that place I’d honestly grown to resent having spent so much time there at but in some strange way the familiarity was comforting.

Now I didn’t have a gynae, but I did have one lined up as I went through that last IVF cycle – just in case. He came highly recommended, his office was close to home, ditto for where he delivered at (my dream was Genesis). I even went to meet with him once in the weeks leading up to our IVF cycle and laid out our whole long story. We parted ways with me saying I’d see him in a couple of weeks if everything went well and I was indeed pregnant.

And the twins changed all that. Suddenly I needed a specialist gynae (because multiples = higher risk plus “advanced maternal age”) and as soon as you mention twins or multiples there’s really only one guy to go to in Jhb and so off I went.  When we were struggling with infertility I drove by Genesis a couple times a week (it was close to home) and it always hurt a bit wondering if I’d ever see the inside of those walls. Ironically, in the end my plans for Genesis and natural birth pretty much went out of the window right from the beginning and I never thought I’d be grateful for that but given how things turned out, I really, truly am! (more on this later). I went to the orientation/tour day and Genesis just wasn’t keen to have me from the start. One twin could be breach, advanced maternal age (I’m so tired of those words!) – I’m actually glad they were honest with me.

All things considered, my pregnancy actually went pretty well. And I’m surprised by that because it’d been such a fight just to get to that point of getting pregnant that I honestly was ready for whatever struggles this pregnancy brought along with it. My attitude was “bring it”. I had all the regular stuff like nausea (although mine lasted right up to the end), lethargy, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and all the physical discomforts that was to be expected. My only major complaint was when I caught some flu from A and as I watched him medicate it away, I had to hope for the best and sleep it off. It was awful, but honestly, I thought to myself if this was the worst it was going to get, I totally got this. I reminded myself that I didn’t have any bleeding, my cervix wasn’t incompetent (requiring a McDonald stitch to keep the babies in for longer) and I never once needed to use my Dr’s emergency 24 hours number and call him in the middle of the night or be rushed to hospital – many women I knew who preggers at the same time as me had to endure one or more of these. Our babies were growing well & things were so, so good!

I had to keep taking my fertility meds (mostly hormones) up to around 12 weeks or so – thats when your body fully realises you’re preggers, the placenta is fully developed and starts to make the required hormones itself. I remember being so scared to stop taking my meds at 12 weeks. What if my body wasn’t ready? What if it didn’t know how to make all these required hormones I’d been taking? What if?!

It was a relief to come off all the meds and feel slightly “normal” in this pregnancy experience. At that point I was just taking a preggy multivitamin with folic acid and a blood thinner (pretty routinely prescribed as a precautionary measure to avoid blood clots which can lead to a miscarriage). I lived from Drs appointment to Drs appointment just for those scans – to hear the heartbeats, watch them do summersaults but mostly to make sure they were still alive. At the start appointments were every three weeks and as we got closer to the end they became fortnightly and then weekly (which was comforting). We bought a fetal doppler and spent nights in bed glued to my stomach (it really worked!). The first kicks and movement came in late – at the end of the 2nd trimester and only for Misha – Amir had an anterior placenta which “cushions” movements & the heartbeat somewhat so if anything I was a little more worried about him…

I need to dedicate some words to my nausea because I had never vomitted in my life before this. What an utterly strange feeling it is to have food coming pouring back out of your mouth. I threw up everywhere. At the dinner table, in traffic, in restaurants, in the middle of the night. I lived with a bucket by my side and when I wasn’t home I carried vommit bags and mints/gum everywhere. At a point in time I didn’t want to eat anymore because why waste time, effort and money preparing food when I knew 10 mins later it was all going to be in a bucket? Zofran really helped me significantly but I just couldn’t believe how expensive it was (around R50 a pill, some days I needed two per day!) – and this was for a locally manufactured generic. I know this is far out of the reach of the average South African woman who then still had to go to work, care for other kids etc. I don’t know how women do it, seriously.

Because we had opted to do genetic testing as part of our IVF cycle, we didn’t need to do the Downs tests etc. thats routine in a regular pregnancy. This bought me some relief early on – one less thing to worry about. Around 20 weeks my gynae referred me to Prof Niclau a foetal anomaly scan. This was more about looking much closer at the organ development, physical abnormalities (cleft lip, club feet, spinal cord defects etc – things that can’t typically be picked up in blood tests) of each baby and the condition of the uterus, placenta and umbilical cords. I was nervous for this one and A was away but my friend Danni insisted on tagging along even though it was a 7am the very next day I’d casually mentioned it to her. The Prof said everything looked good and this was a major milestone of relief for me – we were half way and had even further confirmation things were going well.

I’d been buying baby things for the last 5 years+ of us trying – mostly girl things and just putting them away in storage (shhhh don’t tell Amir!). It was heartbreaking but felt like it was my way of keeping our dream alive. There were many, many days I told myself I should just donate everything we’d hoarded so far “in hope of some/one day” to charity so at least some child out there could benefit from it. The excitement of suddenly have to buy for 2 was so much fun (and um, expensive!)! I dragged A to a CPR and antenatal course (I’m serious about my Vitality points!). After much debate we started getting the nursery ready and decided of more of an “open” (& totally impractical, lol!) look and went with grey, white and dark brown (because our floors are wood) as our main colours.

We were offered a complimentary 4d scan as part of the package at our chosen hospital. I was really excited to see those little faces & fingers & toes up close. We went around 26 weeks and on the day they just wouldn’t turn and we couldn’t see a damn thing. The nurse would be pointing things out on the screen & I nodded along, but I honestly couldn’t tell what I was looking at – even less so than our regular gynae scans. Our disappointment must have been evident because she offered us a rescheduled appointment about week later. And that session went pretty much the same! #TheAndersonTwins were playing games!

I gained a whopping 27kg and was over 100kg & pretty gatvol by the end of it. To be fair I was eating anything and everything – my motto was if I was going to be fat, I might as well enjoy it! A was ever too keen to drive anywhere at a crazy hour to get me whatever the latest craving was and I didn’t object! “Are you sure you’re having twins?” most people said me because I’m tall (1.78m) and carried quite well despite feeling like an elephant. I got addicted to ice cubes and wanted it all the time. A got me a Zuko slush maker and it was perfection!!!

I couldn’t do much without getting breathless – including walking. I proudly bought a sum total of zero maternity clothes & just hung out in my stretchy maxi dresses. Leaving the house only happened for Drs appointments and absolute necessities. But I always reminded myself that I couldn’t and shouldn’t complain – so many women would kill to be in my position plus the blessing of boy/girl twins. How lucky was I?!

I wasn’t cleared to fly (we’d left it too late, our gynae just LOLed when we asked if a 10 hour flight would be ok!) but we did have an ahmazing baby moon (which also coincided with my 36th birthday) in KZN at The Oyster Box – a week I’ll never ever forget. We hardly left the hotel except for a few dinners at our Durban favourites – not that we needed to because the food was out of this world. I’ll never forget those sushi breakfasts! The service was exceptional and our villa even had a private pool – this was probably the most luxe holiday I’ve ever had. We even had our own ice machine – I was in heaven!!!

As the  months rolled on, I stayed on my anti depressants (they’d put me on something pregnancy and breastfeeding safe) and continued therapy. I slowly stopped going to my infertility support group meet ups though – with my belly now bulging out I felt guilty for the women, some who had become friends who were still struggling. I didn’t want to add their pain.

My pregnancy was the realest definition of a miracle & it all went really, really well. We made it to 36 weeks 5 days – about a week ahead of my planned c section & I’m so grateful for that. I’ll be sharing our birth story in the next post and that unfortunately did not go smoothly… At. All.

W

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