"Edited to Add"....

This started as a pregnancy blog when I fell pregnant in May 2009 after four years of finding a donor, doing all the counselling / paperwork / tests and trying.

And now, thanks to a 4WD which skidded onto our side of the road, killing our baby daughter at 34w and injuring me, my partner and two of my stepdaughters on 27 December 2009, it has turned into something else. We didn't want this something else, but apparently it is all we've got to go on with.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Shopping for my ghost-baby

I don't know if this was torturing myself, but I got the idea in my head that I would buy some Christmas things to donate to the giving tree at work.  The instructions said to label the gifts with the age and (if appropriate) gender of the child the gift would be suitable for.  Here, let me imagine a hypothetical child who I wish I was buying a Christmas gift for.  She's about to turn two, and apart from her curly dark brown hair, that's all I know about her.  I'm not sure I can successfully combine my grief for Z, my desperate hankering for her to be here, with the altruism that Christmas giving really requires.  All the same, at least this way of remembering her, of showing my love for her, has some benefit for a child who needs it.  Yet it spikes my heart that a living child will get to use these things while Z never will.
The girls helped me pick out two things - a little navy and white striped summer playsuit and a fisher price pull-along telephone - ubiquitous toy of doctors waiting rooms and kinders.  I was amazed they are still making them.  Yay nostalgia.  Buying things was hard.  Leaving them there under the Christmas tree was harder.  It still shocks me that this happened to us, that I have a daughter, but she died.  I can't manage to pat this grief into any kind of shape today. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Don't mention the bump

I'm still here, but have gone quiet for a bit.  It is so hard to capture everything going on at the moment.  I'm at that funny stage where some people will look pointedly at my middle and say, "Are you....?" and I'll have to confess, Yes, Pregnant, while others are still surprised when I tell them.  Either way, there is a lot of telling going on, because being the blathermouth that I am, I'm not likely to leave things unexplained or unelaborated.  And yet, it all feels so awkward, because so often there is a great yawning gap between their and my understandings of what all this pregnancy business means.  For me, this is not a easy topic about happy future plans and discussion of baby products, it is a hot ball of molten lava which is both an amazing, miraculous thing and a very dangerous and unpredictable substance.  I need to put on the fireman's gloves for that.  It is here, on the newsy surface of things which people feel happy talking about, whether they know me or not and yet it is chained directly to my heart, so that even just telling people I am pregnant feels like an intimate exposure. 

For people who don't know our story, this inevitably leds into variations of the question "Is this your first baby?".  I'm getting better at getting the words out.  No, our first daughter died...  car accident ... eight months pregnant.  And now that I've said it so many times, I can almost roll it out easily and move on with the conversation - out of self-preservation rather than callowness.  They usually apologise - this was not the territory they were meaning to steer us into.  So I need to sum it up so that we can move back to safe territory - "It's okay.  It just meant that getting pregnant again was a Really Big Thing.  Extra precious."  Which doesn't really even begin to sum it up, but that's the best I can do for chit chat. 

For friends and family who know the back-story, many have surprised us with the genuine intensity of their joy for us.  It feels like a gift in itself, but I can't quite meet them on that optimistic territory - I just stand there smiling nervously and saying, "Yes, fingers crossed". And I think for a second - am I actually pregnant?  Or have I just made a silly mistake?  And I have to prod my belly surrepticiously, feeling for that taut roundness of womb. 

Because, as amazing as it is to be pregnant again and to be feeling those first flutters, I have no illusions that this is a done deal.  Knowing how many things could still go wrong (and have gone wrong for other babies I know of) makes it all the more precious.  That bit is true, even if a small corny word doesn't capture the tenderness of it.  But there's still a part of me that wants to save the celebrations until this chicken is well and truly hatched.

Zainab would nearly be two by now.  Most of the babies who were belly-side with her are now speaking, playing games, running on sturdy small feet and learning to crack tantrums.  Our street is lush with roses at the moment.  I lean right in to smell them, crush the petals to my lips and talk quietly to my baby daughter.  Her star has reappeared, now in a different part of the sky.  The ritual of missing her is built into my life now - I stand at the dresser and consult her serious sleeping baby face on which brooch to wear, which earrings.  When things are hard, I sigh "Oh Khallila" for her comisserations.

So many cues are interwoven with the missing of her.  Wind in the gum tops makes me picture her as snugglepot and cuddlepie bush baby, learning to sing magpie warbles.  The startling orange-red of pomegranate flowers against grass green leaves - those are the colours I wear for her.  Poems, comic topiary, haloumi cheese, earrings - my link to her is cobbled together from so many little things.  Even the little time I hive away for writing or art - this is a part of my life she reawakened in her short path through it.  And every bit of being pregnant reminds me of her - suddenly I can recognise myself again as the mother-body who housed her.  I'm becoming familiar with this mosaic-daughter, pieced together from so many small reminders and memorial acts.  But I still hanker for her wholeness, and the thought of her dark-haired small form moving and making noise. 
Image from here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Good Strong Knicker Elastic

I'm taking my title from Ann (Harvey & Dot's mum) and her comment to me on this post.
                                                           (image from here)

Good strong knicker elastic is indeed what I need - the kind that keeps your favourite saggy pair going until the holes make them  too rude to wear.  Persistence and strength in its most domestic and vernacular form.  Adzuki gave us a scare last night - bright red blood and a trip to the local maternity emergency department.  Our fabulous midwife was there before the doctor saw us, and took us into the birthing centre to use their Doppler - and found that lovely swishy heartbeat straight away.  (She seems to know everyone - I take that as a good sign)  The bleeding eased off very quickly, and we had to hang around to see the doctor and for blood test results and an Anti-D shot with the biggest needle El Prima's ever seen (I wouldn't look at it!). 

All that fear came flooding back - and we felt stupid for having already told so many people I was pregnant - as though we could have caused this just by having a little faith in the pregnancy.  It's hard to shake, that feeling that everything is going to be ripped out from under your feet again.  Who knows what will happen.  There's been no bleeding since, and the fact that there was no pain accompanying the bleeding is, I'm told, a very good sign.  I never had any bleeding with Z (even when the accident happened - that's one reason why I thought she'd be okay), and I'd dismissed the crazy scary bleeding back in March as related to that pregnancy being a blighted ovum that was tenuous from the very start.  Somehow, with my obstetric history, I've preserved some image of myself as a healthy pregnant woman.  But this pregnancy after loss caper is not for the faint-hearted.  Good thing I've got some sturdy knicker elastic on my side. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

El Dia de los Muertos

I'm slightly late, but wanted to say something about the Day of the Dead, especially given Angie's beautiful piece over at Glow.

I like Bionic Baby Mama's idea that wherever not-yet-born babies "are", spiritually speaking, they are probably in a similar spot as dead people, or are at least more able to get phone reception when the dead people call than we are.  So the Day of the Dead feels like a particularly appropriate day to celebrate my children - both dead and unborn.  (Gorgeous difficult-to-explain children that you are!)  I have no cultural connection to this particular tradition, but I guess Z and Adzuki may have, given that their donor (our beautiful friend J) has Colombian heritage. 

Given that, and my teenage obsession with Frida, I was excited to hear on the radio about a Day of the Dead party last Friday night.  So El Prima and I went, along with my brother, and danced and ate and drank margeritas (well, I had a sip) and invited Z to party with us.  It was beautiful to have a night in her honour, when thinking about our dead daughter wasn't "morbid" or weird, it was something to be celebrated and proud of, even if it did make us shed a tear while we danced.  And I dressed up, somewhat ridiculously, as Frida.  Yes, I may have ended up looking more like a dutch milk maid, but El Prima and my brother could work out who I was dressed up as. 
I don't know that I've written about Frida before here, but when I was in hospital, there was a moment when I was being wheeled into a new room, and my bed was piled high with the things I had surrounded myself with to warm my hospital room in the long quiet nights - blankets knitted by my mum and my best friend, the pink rabbit my brother and sister-in-law had bought for Z from Germany, an old bangle of mum's that smelled of her, Z's photo (in my arms).  And I thought suddenly of Frida - and how much time she spent in that state - building a small human nest and a way to function as a human through layers of pain, incapacity and isolation.  So I took her as my patron saint, and started documenting the experience, making art around it and through it.  I started taking care in what I wore, how I did my hair and ornamented myself, letting a new post-accident style emerge.  Good friends of ours were travelling in Mexico while I was in hospital, and bought the shawl I'm wearing in the picture above at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacán in Mexico City.

We had our 13 week scan this morning, and my first reaction when we saw a beautifully formed, very much alive little Adzuki bean was to burst into tears.   The same thing happens every time I look at the pictures.  I'm not sure what it is - disbelief combined with the scary realisation that so so much is at stake now.  I love this little thing with its own ribs and enormous head and tiny, pointy bum.  This small dancing skeleton-baby - just like the decorations at the Dia de los Muertos party, only without the sombrero.  And I'm so scared when I realise how little I can do to protect him or her.

As she was doing the scan, our sonographer gave us little snippets of good news - "there's the nasal bone - a good sign as lack of nasal bone at this stage is associated with Downs", "that's a good heartbeat, no sign of any valve problems", "you should be fine with the nuchal fold measurements from what I see here".  So it was a bit of a surprise when she rang back a few hours later with the combined test results and told me that I'm actually classified as high risk for Downs - while my ultrasound result came back very low risk (1:795), my blood tests came back very high risk (1:53) giving me an overall risk of 1:161. 

El Prima and I are agreed not to do any further invasive tests such as an amnio - our main reason for doing the test at all was to assess the risk of the other more fatal triploidies - 13 and 18 - as we would be okay with raising a Downs syndrome child.  And, when we separate out the figures, our risk level for those more serious disorders is tiny (1:100,000).  Yet, because the test is designed primarily to pick up Downs, that leaves us with all the uncertainty and anxiety that goes with the "high risk" tag.  Now I just wish I'd never taken the stupid blood test.  After spending most of yesterday reading medical journal articles on the risk factors, my learned view is to forget the whole thing and just focus on enjoying this pregnancy and doing our best to get Adzuki here alive. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Oh, the posts that have been floating around my head!  Sadly, I've had to direct my energy into marking two batches of 120 assignments - urk.  Meanwhile, my head is spinning with missing Z and being tentatively excited / worried for Adzuki, and alternately feeling guilty for letting doubt creep into this new pregnancy. 

Things seem to be going well.  We had another scan at 8 weeks, and there was Adzuki with a rockin' heartbeat, with the beginnings of arms and legs and measuring a few days ahead.  We've done crazy things such as book in with a midwife, and register with the hospital.  I had my ten week blood tests yesterday, and my GP had a poke around my tummy and proclaimed, "I think that's the uterus - it seems pretty big already", which was reassuring and alarming at the same time.  She's lovely though, as is our midwife, and I feel like we're in good hands whatever happens.  (*whatever happens*...  this is the kind of hesitant, tentative hope I'm holding onto at the moment.)  I'm glad I can blame my fat tummy on that old uterus, though, because I feel exceedingly lumpy already.  A student remarked on it today, and wished me luck! (Though I don't mind people wishing me well on the pregnancy so much when I actually *am* pregnant.  It was pretty awful when I wasn't.)

I've been delighting El Prima with continuing nausea.  She was very comforting but also a bit happy when I threw up my dinner the other night.  I'd forgotten the absolute desperation of pregnancy hunger, as well as the importance of eating slowly and being careful to stop eating when the nausea demands.  There is so much that feels just like my Haloumi pregnancy with Z, that it sometimes does my head in.  And yet the food I get hungry for is very different - all salty things.  So many little new bits of grief catch me by surprise - just the thought of explaining to a little child that her/his big sister died before she/he was born.  The thought that Z would in probability be talking by now, and how much that would delight my dad.  The thought of not having to explain to Z that she might soon have a little sister or brother. 

Just "gestating safely" and getting my head around the whole thing seems to take up so much energy, and yet this has been precisely when my work has stepped up and demanded more from me than I feel able to give.  I've also realised that I'm grieving the loss of my old job and workplace.  It was my choice, of course, but I miss my colleagues and a system that I knew my way around in. 

Our next scan is in two weeks at 13 weeks.  I don't want to wish that time away, because I started this pregnancy wanting to enjoy every moment of it, I know those are two important, beautiful weeks for Adzuki, but it is pretty scary too.  I'm trying to weave those two things together in my head - to know that this is the deal - this is what pregnancy after loss feels like - scary and amazing in equal measures.  I'm so grateful to be here, even if it scares the pants off me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Adzuki Bean

Once upon a time, on that other planet I lived on before our baby died, I was an ordinary pregnant lady who had a little bit of an obsession for red bean buns.   I loved them so much that I had long conversations with El Prima about why I loved them so much, and why Haloumi demanded that I eat them on a regular basis.  I googled "red bean bun" so that I could discover their principal ingredients.  Because if I wasn't eating them, I wanted to be reading about them.  And I discovered that the red bean paste is made from beans called (by some cultures at least) "adzuki beans".  El Prima and I mused, if we ever had another haloumi cheese after this particular Haloumi Cheese was born, maybe we'd nickname him/her "Adzuki Bean" in utero. 

That thought just floated, until our accident happened, and Haloumi died and was born - and was suddenly a real particular baby girl we named Z, rather than a Haloumi mystery baby-bump.  Well, she was still a mystery baby - but one whose face we'd kissed, and who we had given a name.  One of the few things we liked to think we knew about her was that she liked red bean bun and wanted me to eat it all the time.  So the idea that she had somehow 'picked' the nickname Adzuki Bean for her sibling became very tender to us.  

All of this is a long round-a-bout way of saying - we saw a heartbeat this morning - we've seen the Adzuki Bean!  The whole 5.5mm of him or her!  A copy of the picture is posted on the page I've just set up, specifically named "Adzuki Bean".  Our usual IVF doctor was away, so it was a doctor we'd never met before who started by asking, "Is this your first?"  (Cue a deep sigh from me, and a joint internal eye-roll, before El Prima launched into the answer) But once we'd told her, she was very sympathetic, and as soon as she started the scan was immediately saying, "Everything looks fine".  At first, I couldn't see anything in the sac, and didn't really believe her, thinking we might only see empty sacs and blighted ovums.  But she insisted, and there, indeed, was a tiny little adzuki bean, a promising little blob, with its own thumping heartbeat. 

It is strange to be back in pregnancy territory, with the same symptoms as with Haloumi, but with a body and a self altered by grief and motherhood.  It is hard to believe that pregnancy could possibly work along a similar timeframe, or work in the same way as it did before.  But while we'll always live with the chasm between 'before' and 'after', we're no longer in the wild woods of griefland.  (Where are we then?  Maybe we've found that grief has its own village, not all that far from where we lived before, and that as it turns out, many of the people we love have been a resident of that village at some time or other.)  All the possibilities bundled into a pregnancy - I now know how many of those can break your heart.  But this is the thing with possibility, you can't pick and choose.  All we can do is recognise that we're at the mercy of all kinds of good and hard possibilities, and we'll experience whatever we get as open heartedly as we can.

There's such a long long way to go, but stick with us, Adzuki Bean, this could be so much fun!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Taking it slow

Thank you so much for all the whooping and dancing on our behalves - each little comment I got through my email made me think - Ooh, maybe this really might be happening after all!

I've been on a blog moratorium while I finished writing a presentation for work - it is so hard to focus when my brain is going around in little circles like an excited puppy: "Hmm - I wonder if I'm still pregnant?  What about now?  .... Now?"

Something about this feels real though - definitely feeling nauseous and super-full-body tired. I walked out of the train station the other day and could smell someone's dinner (fish), and then someone else's perfume.  Smells are distinct, separate, detailed.  It feels just like the early days of being pregnant with Haloumi.  Which is a lovely feeling, but also scary.  It's as though there's been a pregnant part of me that's been on-hold for the last 20 months, and I've just gone straight back to 'pregnant normal'.  A part of me wants to leap straight into that certainty that things will work out, that we can start planning, while another a part of me has trouble imagining that this could end up with a living child.

It's now four sleeps until the scan.  I've titled this post 'taking it slow', but I think that is an aspiration rather than a description.  It is so difficult not to tilt forward and start planning or worrying about the future of this pregnancy.  I dreamt last night that I had another baby girl - fairer than Z, with a squished up newborn face.  She was alive, and I was trying to put a cloth nappy on her, but using ordinary sized safety pins.  We were locked in a room with someone with a machine-gun, I was contemplating whether we might be able to hide behind the couch so that we wouldn't be killed.  I though perhaps if I could hide her she'd be safe.  Maybe this is my unconscious brain's clunky metaphor for pregnancy after loss, or maybe I'm just really scared.  I also dreamt that we took her to the pub, where a band was playing - no idea what that means. 

It's a reminder too of all the dreams I had of Haloumi.  Despite me being convinced during waking hours that I was having a boy, in every dream I had she was a girl.  And my dreaming brain was right.   It had a 50-50 chance of being accurate I guess.  Just like trying to conceive, pregnancy is such a huge exercise in uncertainty - but with such a clear timetable of 'successful outcomes' that it feels even more difficult to just take one day at a time.  But we're here now, in this queasy, uncertain spot, and I certainly prefer this kind of uncertainty to the other uncertainty that follows a BFN. 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Well, be careful of those home pregnancy testing kits...

Because sometimes they are WRONG!!

Blood test showed HCG 539.    And then the nurse told me two completely improbable dates - 23 September for a scan to confirm a heartbeat, and 16 May 2012 as an estimated due date.  I very nearly said, "Ha ha, as if!" but that would have been rude.  And also showing very little faith in this tenacious little embryo's persistence.  Oh, it is so so lovely to be proven wrong in my sad scared little theories that everyone but me was allowed to get pregnant. 

Who knows what path lies ahead for this pregnancy, but we haven't gotten this far since Monday 1 June 2009, when I stood with a positive test in hand, staring at the wall - Haloumi's entry point into our lives. 

16 May 2012.  The day before my little brother's birthday.  Yikes.  But right now, 10 September 2011 is enough to deal with. 

Thanks so much for all your love & encouragement.  You rock too! xxxx h

ps so glad other people could see the elephant too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Not even a shadow of a second line.  Official blood test is tomorrow, so I really should hold off on the gnashing of teeth until then. 

And this... ?

This is the rock I found for Z's little garden.  I went rock-selecting last week at a landscape gardening supplies place, and as I wandered around the piles of slate and mountains of gravel I liked this one because I saw it as a little elephant shape - trunk down to the left, and feet standing strong. 

It's about a foot and a bit long, and maybe a foot tall.  Just big and round enough to hug, but too heavy to hold in your arms.  Woo hoo - so I can freak the neighbours out by hugging the rock in my front yard on a regular basis.  We're getting it engraved with Z's name and her birth/death date. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The lab promised to send me a letter telling me whether any of the other 8 embryos made it to blastocyst stage in order to be frozen.  When it hadn't arrived after a week, I was worried that perhaps none of them had survived long enough to freeze.  So yesterday, I made the call, and asked the nurses to tell me - two six-day embryos frozen!  Whatever else happens with this cycle, I'm taking that as excellent news.  Lovely procrastinating little embryos.

As for this one - the one transferred last week?  I have a blood test Friday to see if it is planning to stick around.  Now that it is only two days away, I can feel a magnetic force pulling me forward in time - I just want to skip ahead, to get that phone call from the lab.  But only if it is good news!  As for peeing on a stick - we'll see how far my patience lasts.  If I tested tomorrow, that would be 15 dpo, so there'd be a decent chance it would be accurate.  Meanwhile, I'm trying to breathe in the sunshine.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back in the game

Apologies for blog silence - I'm here, but just not feeling terribly verbal.

I think this photo kind of sums up the mood - whimsical old (slightly rusty) grater with a wonky handle and a goofy grin in the sunshine through the kitchen window. 

"Why yes, my handle might fall off at any moment, and yet small things, such as the smile-like turn of my cheese-slicer, still lighten my heart".  I'm a bit scared to jinx it by writing too much about it, though it's still punctuated with little bits of grief.  Yesterday I found El Prima's goodbye card from her work, with everyone's good wishes about our 'bundle of joy' etc.  I had a cry in the aluminium shed, then stepped out into the sun, cuddled the dogs for a bit under the plum tree,  and started preparing our tomato patch for this spring / summer.

In other news, we had our embryo transfer today.  One lovely looking blastocyst was welcomed into the hopefully friendly environment of my uterus.  Make yourself at home, sweetcheeks. 

This is our first go with a 5 day transfer (the others have all been 2 day embryos) so who knows whether that will make any difference.  Our doctor explained to us that he was very pleased that 11 of the 13 eggs fertilised (yay, go wonder eggs!) but disappointed that of the 9 that kept growing, only one made it to blastocyst stage by day 5 (alas, poor embryos, I'm sure you're trying your best.  Aren't you?).  We'll find out tomorrow whether any of the others developed enough to be frozen.  I suggested to our doctor that maybe the others were just 'late developers' - indeed my grandad hadn't grown to his adult height until he was 19, so there's probably a family tendency there.  That and procrastination, either of which are quite valid explanations, if not very scientific.  Meanwhile, we've transferred the little blastocyst that could. 

So, we're back in the slightly less than 2 week wait, and I'm back to humming my favourite little "who knows who knows" song.  Blood test 9 Sept.  And hope?  Don't mind if I do!  I think I'm just going to go ahead and hope this time, as there's no point pretending this doesn't matter to me.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Things that are lifting my heart today

1. This:

Spring is inexorably on its way. The hairy tree roots down in this hole of mine are starting to come to life.

2. You lot.

3. El Prima sending me pictures of camellia trees bursting into flower like popcorn.

4. An afternoon with P and baby A yesterday - I love that in the one visit I can bounce around my current ideas for the conference paper I am writing with P, *and* practice my baby vocabulary and silly faces with A. ("Ah-goo!" or "Lal!" are my favourites at the moment)

5. The sheer revoltingness of the herbal mixture I am drinking twice a day from my naturopath, along with her confidence that I probably don't need her help to get pregnant anyway. We've had to cancel the next cycle because my work travel next week would have collided with egg pick-up, so this foul-tasting mixture at least lets me feel like something is happening until we start again in mid-August.

6. The tale of Custard the Dragon, and the fact that a friend who knows how much I love this poem just sent me a photo proving that Dulux have named one of their paints "Cowardly Custard".

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dirt 101

There's a special art to running through crowded city streets.  Speed up, sideways step, watch for a gap.  My heart expands to knock at my ribs and nearly bowl over the people in my path, until I'm all heart - messy, beating, puffing and suddenly seeing all these messy human hearts around me.  A woman sees me running towards her and fear blanks across her face briefly - she looks wildly behind me, her own steps a little quicker.  I have a good reason to run - I don't want to be late for my osteo appointment, but I feel like I've just woken, as though my blood is reaching cells that have been slowly greying.

Things have been really grey lately.  Everything is a big effort.  I'm kind of embarrassed to write about it because this kind of sadness is dull.  I bore myself.  It's as though I'm stuck at the bottom of a big hole in the ground.  Poem by poem, I'm digging myself out, and I know from the voices of loved ones which way is up, but I can't really pretend to be anywhere else at the moment.  I have to make reluctant friends with this situation.

 (Image from here)

So what are you trying to tell me, deep dark hole?  To stop dreaming of the stars (and one particularly bright little star)?  That my little slow-crafted words will come to nothing?  That I am one and the same as the slippery grey-black clay on every side of me?  Come on, hole, teach me your lesson and then we can be done.  I'm not going to be bullied into silence and self-pity.  Enough of that. 

I'm not at all prejudiced against holes in the ground - in fact, my daughter lives in one, as do many of my favourite trees, earthworms and root vegetables.  If dirt is my destiny, then bring it on, dirt.  Show me your microbes, let me remember what dirt smells like, and the grit of it between my fingers.  

Time moves slowly under the earth.  Things are hidden, processes work slowly but powerfully.  Minerals are crushed, underground rivers carved, liquids percolate drip by drip, continental plates grind past one another millimeter by millimeter - all monumental changes occurring at a pace measured in centuries rather than minutes.  What else is down here?  Things unwanted or forgotten, buried and mourned - so many things lost and wasted which are slowly being turned back into the earth itself.  Nothing goes away down here, but is slowly transformed, releasing water and nutrients to feed patient tree roots, or our lawn.  This is where rivers are born.  Nothing flashy or spectacular, just cold humble earth.

Dear hole in the ground, that's what I'd like - some of that persistence - slow elemental momentum.  The ability to slowly work through this sad stuff with earthworms and use it to grow something good. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bower bird

Your poems and thoughts are handwritten on bits of paper and stuck with stickytape to the shelves around my desk, radiating warmth and giving me a fierceness to face the dementors.  I feel like a bower bird, collecting shiny things and brightly coloured objects, building a little nest for hope to come home to.  Thank you so much for all these small gifts - already I feel stronger and braver and more able to look up from the asphalt and see all the good stuff around me.  

El Prima and I broke with routine last night and went to the Circus!  All human performers - such talented people.  It is so good to look up, and remember all the amazing things that are possible, even on a grey Melbourne Wednesday. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's not just the weather (begging for poems)

The greyness has got its hands on me, dragging on every piece of clothing, slowing my brain. And even better, when I look around and ask why thing are so low and heavy at the moment, the greyness answers back (in my own voice) - it's YOU - just boring, sad, can't get anything right old YOU. Sad little tried-to-have-a-baby-but-lost-her, who-knows-if-she'll-have-another-one, probably-won't-ever-finish-that-phd-or-publish-another-article-again YOU. No wonder you're depressed, given that you're so crap at everything.

And, gullible girl that I am, I've been believing it.

Bloody dementors.

Can ask - what are your favourite words for unslumping yourself?  Do you have a spare poem to share? All donations heartfully accepted.

Here's my usual favourite - but it's not doing the trick today unfortunately.

A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island
By Frank O'Hara

The Sun woke me this morning loud
and clear, saying “Hey! I've been
trying to wake you up for fifteen
minutes. Don’t be so rude, you are
only the second poet I’ve ever chosen
to speak to personally
so why
aren’t you more attentive? If I could
burn you through the window I would
to wake you up. I can't hang around
here all day.”
“Sorry, Sun, I stayed
up late last night talking to Hal.”

“When I woke up Mayakovsky he was
a lot more prompt” the Sun said
petulantly. “Most people are up
already waiting to see if I’m going
to put in an appearance.”
I tried
to apologize “I missed you yesterday.”
“That’s better” he said. “I didn’t
know you’d come out.” “You may be
wondering why I’ve come so close?”
“Yes” I said beginning to feel hot
wondering if maybe he wasn’t burning me
“Frankly I wanted to tell you
I like your poetry. I see a lot
on my rounds and you’re okay. You may
not be the greatest thing on earth, but
you’re different. Now, I’ve heard some
say you’re crazy, they being excessively
calm themselves to my mind, and other
crazy poets think that you’re a boring
reactionary. Not me.
Just keep on
like I do and pay no attention. You’ll
find that people always will complain
about the atmosphere, either too hot
or too cold too bright or too dark, days
too short or too long.
If you don’t appear
at all one day they think you’re lazy
or dead. Just keep right on, I like it.

And don’t worry about your lineage
poetic or natural. The Sun shines on
the jungle, you know, on the tundra
the sea, the ghetto. Wherever you were
I knew it and saw you moving. I was waiting
for you to get to work.

And now that you
are making your own days, so to speak,
even if no one reads you but me
you won’t be depressed. Not
everyone can look up, even at me. It
hurts their eyes.”
“Oh Sun, I’m so grateful to you!”

“Thanks and remember I’m watching. It’s
easier for me to speak to you out
here. I don’t have to slide down
between buildings to get your ear.
I know you love Manhattan, but
you ought to look up more often.
always embrace things, people earth
sky stars, as I do, freely and with
the appropriate sense of space. That
is your inclination, known in the heavens
and you should follow it to hell, if
necessary, which I doubt.
Maybe we’ll
speak again in Africa, of which I too
am specially fond. Go back to sleep now
Frank, and I may leave a tiny poem
in that brain of yours as my farewell.”

“Sun, don’t go!” I was awake
at last. “No, go I must, they’re calling
“Who are they?”
Rising he said “Some
day you’ll know. They’re calling to you
too.” Darkly he rose, and then I slept.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thaw cycle #2 associated melancholy

I've kind of been hiding, feeling a bit sheepish, because although the last post I wrote was very true at the time, all my own optimism and philosophising feels very hollow now. I'd weathered our BFN from our last ivf cycle reasonably well, and was just relieved that we at least got a clear answer this time. But then I got some tricky work news a week ago and suddenly the bubble burst and things feel impossible again. Just moving my limbs feels like hard work and every decision a drama.

I can read that poem, but at the moment it just makes me cry, because having a daughter who is a star, rain, the ocean, and freaking fuschia buds feels like a pretty rough consolation prize. Just the thought of another thaw cycle made me cry, not because of the procedure or anything like that, but because I'm so exhausted with hope and so sick of history repeating. I know other women have been through many more cycles, but that's what I'm afraid of - that this will just go on and on. I don't know how you (amazing ivf veterans) do it!

I'd just turned thirty the first time El Prima and I sat in a doctor's office hoping to get pregnant, and next week I'll be thirty five. Friends who started their families around that time are onto their third child. I know it's not a race, I know comparisons are odious, but I'm so weary of failing at this. 'Fail' is an awful word, I know that doesn't help things, but I'm stuck between wanting a living child and knowing that there is nothing on earth that can make that a certainty. We're doing everything we can to up the chances, but we still have to play this bloody lottery, stake our hearts again and again, betting like the baby-hungry suckers that we are.

When I was about six, and had figured out the whole where babies came from thing, and realised that I was a girl and would hopefully be eligible for the deal, I told my friends I wanted to have ONE HUNDRED BABIES. We had earnest discussions about the logistics - I was happy to have them four at a time if necessary. Ha! (ouch!)

I've revised my expectations these days. Even when I thought I was being adult and realistic I was hoping for 2 or 3, though I found it hard to imagine. Now I'd settle just for one living child. Z counts as one, of course she does. Even on the rough days, I'm so proud of her. But I'd like to try parenting a living child too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Right Where I Am Project: One year, Five Months.

I love Angie's idea for this project - of putting a pin on our own specific grief maps and saying, "this is where I am now", "this is what the terrain looks like around here, this far away from the epicentre".

So here is my terrain: still bumpy, lots of debris, but we're making a road here, starting to clear a path. I have to be careful with this metaphor - I don't know that I want to describe Z as an earthquake or a volcano - though maybe the accident itself deserves that kind of imagery. This is part of my trouble (and I guess for many parents who lose a child before or soon after birth) - that I have two cataclysmic things to get my little brain around - being mother to Z, and the trauma of losing her. Each is so huge on its own, and then they are so intertangled.

I have a better sense now that part of my job in parenting Z is to trace where she went when she died - to resolve for myself where her little soul went so that I can keep loving her and learning about her. When you prepare for parenthood, they don't tell you that you'll need some existential philosophy. But I think that is one of my main tasks for Z. And as far as I can tell so far, she is here in this world - in fact, she is in the process of re-connecting me with the world I felt so lost in after the accident.

Something big shifted in the last couple of months so that I feel more settled with my grief. Where before, when I had heard people say that Z would "always be with us", I had nodded and vaguely agreed, now I genuinely and literally feel like she is always with me. Somehow it has become real. There's still sadness that she's not here in the fleshy, noisy way of other children, but I recognise that as my own small sense of not getting what I want, rather than any failing on her part. The sadness at losing her and the joy at having her as my daughter are getting woven in together, so that I can hardly tell which is which. It's specific to her, and my love for her, rather than being measurable as happy or sad. So, I'm still a bit of a weepy mess, but in an alive way rather than a broken or depressed way. I feel like because of loving Z I understand more about living and dying.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

No More / More

After Z died, once the reality started closing in and I was able to start understanding her death distinct from all the trauma of the accident, the thing that made me choke with fear and sadness the most was this idea of no more Z. I thought, that's it. My whole relationship with my daughter was over and done with before it had hardly started. 37 photos, some inky foot and handprints, a tiny amount of ashes and a drop of her blood on a blanket made by my mum - the count-able, finite remains of my child. It wasn't enough, it would never be enough. It was such a sad, awful, unfillable hole of 'no more' that to live in this world, I felt like I had to close that drawer, to look elsewhere for the 'more' that I needed.

Specifically, the 'more' that I was looking for was to get pregnant again. I was so sure it would happen - to be honest, I don't think I had really let go of feeling pregnant. This was my pregnancy and I would finish it, even if I had to mourn Z along the way. When I lost our first ivf pregnancy in March, all those self-delusions fell away, and I was left wondering, what if Z was my only child? Just even having to think about that question made me want to leap under a train, but with the molar pregnancy scare, I had plenty of time to think about it. I was scared that if really looked hard at my grief for Z, if I opened that drawer, the big sad black hole of 'no more' would suck me in and swallow me whole. Because there was no solution to it, there was no way my logical brain could think a way around the big stark reality of no more Z. I kind of lost my shit for a while there - as explained in this post. And then, exhausted with my own drama, me and all that sadness just lay on the floor, and breathed and looked at one another.

And I thought to Z, "Well, my love. I wish you hadn't gone and died. But there's not much you can do about it now." And in the spirit of parents whose kids have been conscripted to the army, I thought, "I wish you didn't have this job (being dead / being "one with the universe" or whatever it is that baby souls do after they die) but I still love you and I wish you'd send me a postcard or call me sometimes". And then I felt silly, because there was her star, which is always there twinkling at us, and the camellia tree which burst into bloom just when my heart was breaking, and her pomegranate tree, and her roses, and leaves in the river in Cairns, and clouds, and the sea at Somers, and the bird noises in the bush chapel where her ashes are, and I realised I really was being a pretty demanding mama. And I realised, I actually know Z better now than when she was born. And if somehow my knowledge of her and love for her has expanded, then there is more Z. She is still growing, she's finding her feet in the world, even if we have to guess about what exactly she's doing, even if I don't (in the way of all parents) really understand what her job entails. It's not how I wanted my daughter to be in the world, but I know now that whatever she is doing is important, because it is important to her, and therefore to me. If I just keep demanding her to fit in with what I need (which I know she can't do anymore) then we both feel awful, and maybe I'll miss seeing what she can do. I wish we'd had more time together in the conventional sense, but I can't be churlish about it because it's not her fault. And if I want to love her exactly as she is, then I have to be open to getting her little hippy-style postcards in brightly coloured leaves and odd cloud formations. I think she's also fond of slugs. Not sure why, but if she loves slugs, then I love them too.

Just when I was starting to get my brain around all of the above, I got an email from Angie attaching a mizuko jizo painting she has done for me - and there was Z, peeking out. And it all made sense - slowly my sadness for no more Z in my arms, and in our house in her fleshy, nearly 18 month old realness, is mingling with a wonder that I can still get little peeks of her. I was walking to the shops the other day and it hit me that she might have been walking with me by now (perhaps that shows how little I know about the energy levels of nearly 18 month olds) - but I suddenly thought, here, this is where her little hand would be, tight in my hand. Walking together. And I could just about feel her chubby fingers, the softness of her skin, and could suddenly feel both the no more and the more at the same time. I love you exactly as you are, my darling girl.

Painting by Angie Yingst, reproduced with permission.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Seven little soap-bubbly cells is what we saw yesterday morning on the microscope screen when we went for our transfer. It was more uncomfortable than last time - I could feel the catheter poking about as our doctor found the right spot / angle, but he was lovely and gave me and El Prima a genuine good-luck shoulder squeeze before we left.

I'm doing my best to stay with each new moment - and my delight in my favourite number turning up in such an unexpected way - without veering off into good luck omens and what if they don't work, and worries about all the multiple possible futures held within those tiny gelatinous cell walls. We're giving this one every good chance.

Meanwhile, I'm blowing soap bubbles for Z, and Albie, and Esther, and Charlotte and Hudson, and all the other beautiful babies we are missing.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Grief & doing my tax return

It had to happen eventually. My 09-10 tax return has been sitting there glowering at me, waiting for me to pull out all the pieces of paper and play with spreadsheets. Tonight, I've finally started to wrestle it.

I was expecting the urges to procrastinate, the frustrations with having no filing system since we moved to Melbourne (the filing cabinet which I'd just gotten organised before we left sydney is in the garage), the general head-achey-ness of trying to find documents from nearly 2 years ago.

What surprised me was the emotional gut-punch of looking at our bank statements from before & around the time of our accident. There we were, doing mundane things like getting the dogs vaccinated, when we only had 12 days left with that beautiful round living bump that was Z. There is the parking fee for the last scan we had at the hospital four days before, there is the movie we went to see (Where the Wild Things Are), all weary from making the big move, the last bits of Christmas shopping. And then, suddenly just a whole lot of withdrawals from hospital ATMs. It still shocks me, even 16 months on.

[ps thank you so much for the beautiful warm welcome back xxxh]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Not Molar!

There has been much punching of the air in the last 2 minutes around here - not only was yesterday day 1, but I finally got a call from someone at the Womens telling me that the genetic testing has come back, and PLB was definitively NOT a molar pregnancy. (oh PLB. I wish I was hypothesising about who you might be rather than celebrating the fact of something you weren't) If it feels windy where you are, that is probably me exhaling after five weeks worth of holding my breath. No, that isn't exactly true. Okay, it's a big fat lie.

Somewhere after my last post, after I had been holding my breath for so long (metaphorically, people)that I just wanted to vehemently push each minute past me and away from me - just throw it away - I couldn't do it any more. I did kind of break, and came closer to realio trulio mental hospitalio madness than I ever wanted to come. But in breaking, I also exhaled, and felt what it might be like to live without hope dragging me forwards into an imaginary future moment. And I breathed in all the scary things that a molar pregnancy might mean - not knowing whether I could get pregnant again for 6 months, a year or ever, chemo, having to do stupid 24 hour urine tests and carry 4L plastic containers of my own wee into the Womens every week. And I breathed out, because I wasn't there yet, and every little second standing between me and a 4L urine sample container was a precious precious thing.

Breathing in an uncomfortable spot like that can be hard, but I've had lots of practice at it by now. I take great pride in the fact that when my brother and sister in law (both dive instructors) took me for my first ever ocean scuba dive this January, I used less oxygen than either of them, despite freaking out under water about how to clear my mask. See - that's my talent - breathing. Simple but actually pretty important.

I hope this is making sense. It isn't as though my life could go to bits and I'd still be happy as la-la because I could breathe, but you take comfort where you find it - and given my luck, I can't really be too picky. The work incident also reminded me how much I value my work - and forced me to start being more assertive with work, rather than continuing to be hedgehog-like and resentful about it.

I've missed my bloggy family, but needed to put my head down for a bit, and focus on holding onto my job, and breathing. We also got news over easter that left me without words - dear friends of ours who lost their baby boy last year, greeted a beautiful baby daughter - but she was in distress at birth, and was put on life support. She held on for four days, so she could meet all four grandparents, and then died in her parents' arms. Those 49 words can't possibly convey a scrap of it. Two entire universes-worth of love. I know that this is unfixable, as much as I've come to accept that my loss of Z is unfixable, but still my mechanical brain spent days going in circles, trying to think a way out of it for them.

I'm sorry I've been quiet for so long. I feel like I've done a bit of a mental spring clean - and am hopefully coming back a little bit fresher, even if I'm a little heavier with this news for our friends.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

the pieces

I'm still picking myself up after being bitch-slapped by last week. Partly, the telling is too exhausting, partly I'm now very wary of telling because of events at work last week. In dot points:

- diagnosed via a letter? Or maybe not. Seems to have been a hospital mistake...

- mucked up a work thing. Then made it worse. To the point that I've now been told my duties have been changed. Yes, yes, my job is not on the line here, they are all very understanding. But I'm kicking myself (and frustrated at being left out of the "what do we do with a problem like maria" discussion) nonetheless. There's nothing to make you feel like an incompetent crazy-lady than people treating you like one.

- best friend has had her baby, and he is alive and well - Yay! But whoa - intense emotion-bubbles. Thankfully she's the kind of friend I can weep on (and who was there to be wept on when Z was born).

- oh, I miss Z so much. More than the baseline, everyday, where is my baby missing. Big peaks of "I want her here", "I wish she was making 15-month old noises", "maybe she'd be wearing the trashy-fabulous gold sequined baby-sneakers that El Prima bought her for Mardi Gras by now" etc. At least I've seen her star again the last couple of nights - for a couple of weeks there I couldn't pick it out, and felt so lost without her.

- went to see stand up comedy to feel better, ended up laughing so hard I hit my tooth on the chair in front and broke it. (Yes, I have enormous front teeth) And it was the same tooth I chipped in the accident, which has been repaired three times, but is still weak. Gah.

The intensity-knob on all of the above has since been turned down, thank god, and I'm feeling much saner as a result. Suffice to say, I'm still waiting on the results about the molar pregnancy thing, but my doctor reckons it is pretty unlikely given that my HCG levels seem to be dropping rapidly. Tooth is fixed, thanks to delightful dentist recommended by best friend. Work thing is okay - not my preferred outcome, but I have let the colleague in question know that next time I'd like to be included in the conversation. It's all back down to a crappy but manageable level.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts and kind words, and especially for the various offers to kick the universe in the balls for me (but said nicely). You are all ace. xxxh

Monday, March 28, 2011

More uncertainty

I was gearing up for a cheery post about having El Prima's family (or rather, 7 of them) stay at our place over the weekend, and how lovely it was that her sister mentioned the accident, and said she was so sorry we'd lost our baby. This was the first time I'd seen them since mid 2009 (though El Prima and the girls had visited them in Sydney a few times since we'd moved), so I was very nervous about what might happen. But it was all good.

Then I got a call from the Women's hospital this morning. The pathologist had looked at the pregnancy tissue from my miscarriage and was concerned that it may have been a molar pregnancy. It will take about 4 weeks for the pathology tests to work out whether or not it is actually molar, but during this time, they told me it is important not to get pregnant again, as this can be dangerous. No chance of that happening.

F#$k. Just when I manage to swallow one nasty reality, there's another waiting for me. It is a pretty tiny chance that this will be molar, or even if it is, that it will require serious treatment. It may just be that I have to have further testing to ensure my HCG level goes down. And even the worst case scenarios (requiring chemo etc) still have good prognoses for survival and for subsequent fertility, though you may have to wait 6-12 months to start trying again. But whatever faith I once had in statistics is pretty much gone now. An old friend contacted me via FB after we lost Z, to send her love and thoughts and to let me know that she'd just been through a molar pregnancy. I had no idea what that meant at the time. The good thing is, she's recently had a healthy baby girl. I'm holding onto that thought for the moment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Snail

(detail from Frida Kahlo, Henry Ford Hospital, image from here)

Thank you so much darling ones. For the hugs and the donkeys balls and the love and light and thoughts, stories, your own tears - all of it. I'm so sad that so many of you know what this pain feels like (and that some are experiencing very similar losses at the moment too). It makes such a difference to know that others are cussing this loss for us too. I had no idea how many women have been through similar experiences - thank you for sharing your stories here - particularly what choices you made in similar circumstances.

Our doctor hadn't given us the medical (ie, non-surgical) option - the drug involved, RU486, was banned in Australia for nearly a decade thanks to a deal between a fundamentalist senator and the previous conservative government (well, it was listed as a legal drug, but the Health Minister - a conservative, anti-choice catholic - was given a power of veto to prevent it being used). Then, in 2005, a cross party group of women parliamentarians worked to lift the veto. But all of this was very far from my brain when we had our scan last tuesday morning and were sitting shell-shocked in our doctor's office.

I had thought, very pragmatically, that I could teach my seminars as planned on the Wednesday and Thursday, and then go in for the surgical procedure on Friday. But the anger wasn't going anywhere. I didn't feel safe to drive, so I walked and caught the tram to work, hoping that none of my students would see me sobbing. Finally, I spoke to my boss, let her know the diagnosis, and that I wasn't realistically going to be able to teach that day or the next. I haven't ever felt so violently angry as on that Wednesday morning - I'm just glad I got home again without seriously hurting anyone or myself.

Part of that white hot anger I think was with myself - for thinking that I could just timetable my grief around my work responsibilities. But the whitest white-hot anger focused on the planned procedure on Friday - I had handed my body over to the IVF people so many times already - I didn't want that again, not for something my body could most likely do on its own. I called our IVF clinic to ask about the medical option, and finally after a few hours, heard back from our IVF doctor - yes, it probably was possible, but you needed to be specially registered in order to prescribe it, and he wasn't. He gave me the name of a private provider, and I drove nearly an hour to get to an appointment on Thursday, but after discussion with the doctor there about wanting to be 100% sure this pregnancy was not viable, decided to wait and have a further scan before doing anything else.

All of which led to me and El Prima leaving the house in the morning dark of a tuesday morning - just like the week before when we'd been on the way to our scan, but this time with a tired sadness rather than the excitement of 'we might see a heart beat today'. The scan showed the same little empty sac - I was readier for it this time, and in a way it was relief - I wouldn't have to wonder if there might have been a chance. I opted to go to the public women's hospital, rather than with the costly private provider, and the Womens' protocol for "medical management" involved a day admission. While I could have done without some of the prodding (why put in an IV canula 'just in case'? Painful and unnecessary!) I very much appreciated the pethidine, and the nurses were universally kind and compassionate. This is the hospital adjoining the general hospital where I was taken after the accident, and where Z was born, with the assistance of obstetricians and midwifes from the womens, so I feel that at least this PLB has another connection with his/her sister.

I see now why Frida Kahlo included a snail in her painting, "Henry Ford Hospital" about her 1932 miscarriage to represent the slowness of the pain. For me, it took a while to allow myself the slowness - to realise that this loss can't just be skipped over so I can move onto the next thing. It meant so much for me to be pregnant - how could I expect it to mean nothing to lose this pregnancy, even if it were only very early in the piece? I knew all along that this was a very tentative, border-line pregnancy, but in a way that only made it more precious. Last night, El Prima took the girls and me out for an impromptu family dinner. For the first time since our bad news, we really laughed. I wish we had more family dinners to look forward to with the PLB, but I'm glad we had this one while we could.

I feel hopelessly sappy to be mourning for this tiny sac which never even grew the beginnings of a neural tube, but I'm learning not to expect these things to work logically. A little pink crepe-myrtle tree is waiting on our porch to be planted near Z's pomegranate tree.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


This morning's scan showed not much more than Thursday's - the beginnings of a yolk sac, but nothing more, and the gestational sac itself was way behind the size it should be by now. This means (according to our doctor) that it's a blighted ovum, "though that doesn't mean there was anything wrong with your eggs", he added helpfully.

So what now? Wait to miscarry naturally, or a suction curretage to speed things up. Our doctor recommended the second option, because apparently for miscarriages after 6 weeks, they are often incomplete and require a curretage anyway. Gah. As my best mate put it, I want neither of these options.

I've cried so much today, and now it has peeled back into a white hot rage - at our stupid extortionately expensive clinic, my stupid body, our stupid car, every stupid f$#ing 4WD on the roads, the ridiculous car-dependent culture I live in and this stupid little thing that was persistent enough to stick around through all that bleeding, but not persistent enough to grow into a baby. And which is still making me nauseous and giving me sore boobs. It is a destructive, petulant, three-year-old anger and yet I can't throw enough things to satisfy it, and calming adult voices only infuriate it. I'm not a very nice person to be around at the moment, as El Prima has found out.

Please don't tell me any stories about blighted ova you have heard of that grew into lovely healthy babies - we've already put this scenario to our doctor, and with three scans, he is 100% certain that this one's going nowhere. That doesn't mean I'm taking his advice and booking in for the procedure. At the moment, the idea of bleeding my guts out is almost appealing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

oh man.

I'm back in bed on a day when I should be teaching after some scary bleeding yesterday. I'm trying to think of how I can convey 'scary' without grossing people out too much. And having been this scared in the last 24 hours, I don't really want to put others through the same fear. We've just had another scan showing that the PLB is still in there (yay! though a fetal pole hasn't magically appeared yet). It is amazing news, given that yesterday, when I was I trying to leave work, and I realised I wasn't just bleeding, but passing big clots and blood suddenly gushed down my legs and onto my new white sandals, I thought it was all over. Horror movie scary.

Our clinic was closed so I spoke to my GP on the phone, and he told me to go to emergency at the womens. We did, and after an hour's wait (during which time we bumped into friends coming in for a 38 week check up... arg!) saw a doctor. They weren't able to scan until the morning, but they took bloods, prodded a little and monitored me. The blood draw was the worst I've ever experienced in 4+ years of fertility treatment - apparently my blood was sticky and my veins elusive. Ow. Thankfully El Prima was there so she could make faces at me and distract me. The doctor was lovely - he told me my HCG was in the 10,000s which was a good sign, but he wanted me to come back in the morning for a scan.

The next morning, we turned up at the appointed hour only to hear that the doctor had gotten their policy wrong, and they wouldn't scan me unless it had been more than a week since our last scan, and since I'd just had one on Tuesday, they couldn't do it today. Gah. At least the nurse did tell us the HCG level from the night before (14,515) and suggested we contact our clinic. Thankfully, our clinic were willing to 'indulge' us with a scan, and there it was, the little gestational sac, still bang in the middle of the uterus, saying "What?" as if nothing at all had been happening. Cheeky little bastard. No sign of a fetal pole or yolk sac - still a bit of a worry, but still consistent with the embryo implanting maybe a week late. Or with various other not so lovely scenarios. So we're back to where we were on Tuesday - waiting and wondering until next tuesday.

Monday, March 7, 2011

You guessed it...


Yes, there is a lovely little fetal sac. (hurrah!)
Yes, it is in the uterus, where it should be. (whoo hoo!)
Can we see a fetal pole / fetus / heart beat / tiny spongebob squarepants? Um... no.

According to our doctor (who did the scan - yay for not having to wait for the technician to send results through) this isn't as bad news as it could be, because it may just be consistent with our little speck being a very slow starter. It is still very early days (6w3d, or 4w3d from egg pick up), so this kind of thing only *just* becomes visible around now. Apparently sometimes embryos 'drop a few cells' before implanting, and that can set them back a few days - but nonetheless grow to become lovely healthy babies. Or sometimes not. Who knows. who knows!

What now? Stay tuned, because we have to go back for another scan, same time, same bat channel next week. Gah! As El Prima said, we're getting the good news one tiny spoonful at a time. Slightly frustrating, but still better than the bad news we were fearing.

Thanks so much for all your good wishes. I hope this little speck realises that it has an international cheering squad!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

*P* Being here

These are the things I would love to believe mean something:
- half-waking, trying to get comfortable in bed and thinking, "ow, boobs!".
- extreme 'right now or I'll eat your head' hunger mixed in with queasiness.
- having to get up in the night to pee.

Is my hope playing tricks on me? Meanwhile, I just continue to hum my vague little 'who knows, who knows' song.


Sydney is so thick with 'before' memories. They are heavy on the ground, mostly still undisturbed because I have spent so little time here since 27 December 2009. The sight of kids in the school uniforms from Snacky & Snazzy's old school, the shops where I bought ordinary, inconsequential things, the road that led to our house - all of these things can't fade into the background until my brain has trotted through its 'last time I saw x, Haloumi was here' routine.

Today, I returned to one of my favorite Sydney spots - the women's baths at Coogee:

Image from here.

The last time I was there, my haloumi-filled belly stuck out obscenely between my bikini top and bottom. I greeted other swimmers with my stretchmarks. That belly was remarkable - everyone remarked on it, speculated on Haloumi's gender and wished me well.

I first swam in this rockpool nearly ten years ago, when I was doing a temporary work placement in Sydney. And when I discovered it, I thought (or kind of *knew*) that would swim here when I was pregnant. Even in the pre-El Prima days, I was so hungry to have a baby, that that moment in the rockpool was one of the things that propelled me most strongly to move to Sydney.

I had so many unpregnant swims here over the years - some involving mildly athletic laps, some snorkelling and marvelling at the starfish, shellfish and once even an octopus under the surface, some splashy and noisy with El Prima's girls, some quiet and contemplative with no one else in the water. And so many beautiful pregnant swims with Haloumi - contemplating the sea snails and feeling her kick almost in time with me.

I've seen it in a storm, with the waves crashing over the rock wall, I've seen the surface sparkle with a beating sun, and I've eyed off the greeny-blue depths when it was far too cold to swim.

And now, who knows? I'm egging on this tiny potential, hoping it is in the right spot, hoping it isn't ectopic, molar, blighted, all kinds of words for 'lost already'. To swim there today felt like an act of love - towards my tentative self and this little question-mark of cells.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

a little thought

Around the time of our second BFN last year, El Prima and I turned up to our local SANDS meeting (stillbirth and neonatal death support) to find that every other couple, bar the convenors, was pregnant, including the ones who'd only started coming the month before. Better still, I found out that the psychologist who had urged me to wait a year before trying to get pregnant again, was herself pregnant. Within a few days, we found out that other dear friends, who'd lost their child six months after we lost Z were pregnant. It was such beautiful news for them, but I found myself feeling stingy with the goodwill - it felt like I'd been patiently waiting my turn, and had suddenly realised that there actually wasn't a queue at all - everyone else was helping themselves. And for whatever reason, I just couldn't manage to do the same.

From where I am now - holding four positive tests tightly against my chest and wrestling with hope and fear over next week's scan, it is easy to say that there is no fairness, conception happens when it happens - it (like death) is one of the ultimate uncontrollables. But I know that was no comfort to me when the BFNs kept coming and I wondered whether I'd lost the only child I'd ever conceive (don't laugh - I'm good at melodrama).

So that means I'm very conscious that my moaning on about my uncertainty where at least it does seem that there is some tiny little embryo to be uncertain about for the moment may be hard for you. Feel free to read or not read as you see fit, but please know that with every step I am sending love and the biggest, beef-i-est wishes possible that everyone who is wishing for a BFP gets it soon. And any posts blathering on about psychosomatic symptoms or thoughts about this potential PLB will be helpfully prefaced by a *P*.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Curiouser and curiouser

As promised...

This morning's number was 630! And although it was the same Nurse Realistic, she was much more upbeat this time. She's spoken with my doctor, and he didn't see any need for a further blood test, just a scan in a week's time.

When I started with my confused/excited, "So this might mean that it may actually be viable?", she did get all realistic on me, saying, "With all early pregnancies, but especially when your betas started low, we can't really confirm anything until the scan, but yes, congratulations. But if you do have any sharp pains or bleeding, don't ignore it, go straight to emergency."

So, somehow, my BFN of 15 Feb is starting to look a bit like a BF-might-possibly-conceivably-optimistically-be-P. It's now starting to feel like uncertainty of a much friendlier kind. Come on, uncertainty, welcome in.

My zen ran out last night

and now I'm just so impatient to know what is happening. I had fretful dreams of dodgy hotel rooms where one room connected to another and another and another. I kept waking up, thinking it was time to get up and go in for my blood test, even though it was 3, 4, 5am.

I think a little bit of hope has got under my skin, and with it, the fear that it will be dashed. In some way, I'm terrified that there might actually be a little speck of potential to mourn if the news is bad, and that that mourning may go beyond the sorrow I've already felt with the negative test and the bleeding, not to mention all our sorrow for Z. I've been ambivalent reading these lovely stories of tiny betas turning into beautiful babies, because I'm so scared my story won't work out like that. But there is a tiny potential that it will, and I want to treasure it while it exists.

In a few hours, I'll know a little bit more. If the numbers go up again, I think they'd like me to have a scan towards the end of the week when whatever-this-is might be visible, so that can see if it is in the right spot. And if they go down, probably just more blood tests until the level drops below 2. Thanks for being here on the rollercoaster with me xxxxh

Thursday, February 24, 2011

This almost deserves a spreadsheet...

Okay, so today's blood test (20DPO) showed a hcg level of 201. This time, I got the call from the specialist early pregnancy nurse. She asked me again about the bleeding, I explained that it had been heavy, like a normal period. That it had stopped now.

Nurse: "It's clear that there has been implantation, and that you've got pregnancy hormones being produced, it's just that those levels are much lower than we'd like to see."
Me: "So, have you ever seen a viable pregnancy with those kinds of numbers?"
Nurse: "I have, but it's important to be realistic about your chances here - realistically it is looking very unlikely at this stage."

Ha ha. Realistic! The realistic view is that they have no idea what is happening, and neither do I. The odd thing is, I'm kind of getting used to this limbo land. It's beginning to feel like a soapie where I can observe the drama knowing that while there will always be "something happening", it is never all resolved. Which is probably not bad practice for life generally.

Clearly, this little embie is making a go of it - I'm sending it good wishes and hoping it is in the right spot.

The next bloodtest is on Monday morning. Either way, on Monday night I'm heading up to Sydney. I booked the flights a few days ago when I was sure that this cycle had been unsuccessful. I've got lots of good excuses for spending the week in Sydney - I'll see my Phd supervisor and attend a coursework unit, and it's also Mardi Gras season, so after sitting last year out while El Prima went and had fun, I'm going in the march and out with friends. I also had an ulterior motive, in that if I did happen to be ovulating while I was up there, I'd be in the same city as our donor, and a fresh insem could be possible. But now, who knows? I feel like at least I've got a 'plan b', whatever happens.

Meanwhile, forgive me if I start making spreadsheets...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Does my reproductive system think this is some competitive reality tv show where you can string out a result across four ad-breaks?

This is just getting a bit embarrassing. I have to have another blood test on friday - they still don't really know what is going on. This morning's result was 78 - higher than saturday's, but too low to be viable (especially given the bleeding). So the range of possibilities has narrowed to two. The nurse explained that either the embryo implanted for a while, but then (maybe saturday or sunday) decided not to stay, or it is still implanted, but somewhere it shouldn't. "What we want to see", she says, "is your levels go down to below 2 before you can really think about a next cycle". I've been given the warnings about ectopic pregnancies and when to head off to emergency, but have been told it would really be a bit early for anything like that just yet.

Maybe I was bracing for bad news, but I'm strangely encouraged by the thought that this little embie made such a valiant attempt.

Thanks dear ones for all the support in this waiting time. xxxxh

Friday, February 18, 2011


Now I'm just confused. I had my blood test this morning and it was a faint positive...?!? HCG of 37. Which I think is low-ish for day 14dpo, but still positive. Given the bleeding, I really can't see how a little embryo could still be in there, but who knows. I go for another blood test tuesday morning. Until then, I don't know.

My gut feeling is that it will be negative by then, but I guess the fact that there was some hcg is a good sign, even if we're not successful this cycle. (When I was pregnant with Z, my hcg at about day 22dpo was 2063)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The plan was, that if my period hadn't showed up by friday, then we'd test again first thing friday morning. But looks like we won't have to waste another test - I've had some bleeding today, more than just spotting, so I reckon we're out of the race. Gah. I'm kind of numb about it - I got in early and did my crying and gnashing of teeth on Tuesday. Now I just feel silly for believing that such a tiny thing could actually turn into a baby. (of course they often do, just not in this case)

Thanks so much for all the lovely words of encouragement - it certainly got me through Tuesday and Wednesday! xxxh

Monday, February 14, 2011

10 dpo

I had a very vivid dream that El Prima and I were in a truck with two blokes. I was driving but it was very difficult to see because for some reason, the driver's seat was behind the back seats of the cab, and the truck was up so high. The two guys were sitting in front of El Prima & I - their heads were in my way, so I couldn't see the road. I was trying to drive along a narrow driveway in a fancy apartment complex, but I missed and the truck went crashing off a cliff. We all got out, but the truck hit other cars, and one of them rolled over El Prima. I was so distressed, but she crawled out from under it and was okay. I didn't see what happened with the two blokes - they ran away.

(Still talking about the dream) El Prima and I were running away - we thought we'd get in trouble for damaging other people's cars. The apartment complex was a very fancy, retro style one. Apparently my great aunt lived there, so we ran into her apartment and grabbed two yellow towels. As we were trying to sneak out, there were lots of people walking in - saying hello to us and being friendly - and I felt terrible and duplicitous because I was smiling at these people but also trying to run away because I had just caused a catastrophe, which they were about to discover. Better yet, someone complimented us on the towels, which I'd just stolen from my own great aunt.

Then, in that half awake time, after the alarm had gone off but before our brains had started working, I thought (in this order)... it is Snacky's birthday (my stepdaughter) ... it is the 15th... our egg pick up was on the 5th... so that would mean we are now 10dpo, and I can test... because I'm sure I'm pregnant...

So good old lizard-brain convinces me to test. BFN. Not a shadow of a line. El Prima thinks we tested too early. I know friends have seen a faint line at 10dpo. But this result is probably correct.

I pushed and got myself to work, but now I'm here, I just want to run away. I know there is no running away from this. After we lost Z, I was so confident in my status as 'pregnant woman' that I was sure it wouldn't take long to be that again. And I think part of the bargain with myself about doing IVF was that it would be "easier". Less of these heart-breaking bfns. A 40% chance each try rather than a 10 or 20% chance. But 40% still isn't all that much. In legal terms, it wouldn't even get you a win on the balance of probabilities. But (here's what I tell myself) this is the nature of the beast. Trying to make babies is a big game of uncertainty. I know all that but I still find this so hard.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

One year on

And our baby rose bushes are in full bloom again. I know I sat there, our our porch, hiding behind the rose bushes and planning Z's memorial, but it feels very distant. In amongst the buzz of our first IVF cycle, I'm glad we had time to go and visit Z's little spot, and take her some of the new roses.

Everything feels very quiet now - waiting to see what will happen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

where did it go?

It has been a big week, but in amongst the cyclone drama, being 'harvested' and taking a little embryo on board, something went missing.

All that bravado, energy, confidence (and along with it, my ability to concentrate and engage at work) is just gone. I was feeling so sparkly and amazing a week and a half ago, now not so much.

I hardly feel fit for walking down the street, let alone having a 'collegial' conversation with my workmates (not that I see them all that often). I spent much of yesterday in bed, and my inclination would have been to stay there, if I didn't have to work for a living. I'm not in that much pain anymore, but I still feel zapped. And while it is nice to hide under a doona for a while, I know that no one else can do the hard bits, no one else can live through this - but the thought of doing it myself feels impossible at the moment.

Thanks so much for all your beautiful good wishes. I feel like a big grumpy ingrate to be morose after all that. But just imagine how much lumpier and grumpier I would be otherwise!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Of the 12 eggs, 10 were mature, 6 of those fertilised, 4 kept growing. One (apparently the 'best looking' one)* was transferred, the other three, the clinic will try to freeze. We saw the one we transferred on the screen - it looked like this:

Two even little cells. Which may now be wandering around somewhere in my uterus - really, we have no idea, and we just have to get used to that state of uncertainty for the next two weeks. I think they are pretty magical little cells, even if they do something other than make a baby. Welcome aboard, tiny speck!

* We didn't really even toy with the idea of transfering more than one embryo. The higher risks of a twin pregnancy were something we really wanted to avoid, even if we quite liked the two-babies outcome.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Dozen

Twelve follicles & a dozen lovely little eggs. Not organic, not with all those ivf drugs, and not really free range, since they'll soon be getting a rather forcible ICSI-style introduction to some spermy boyfriends, but still, twelve little spheres of potential.

The procedure itself was no big drama - whatever sedative they used is nice & cruisey (but doesn't make for very proficient typing :) it feels like I'm wearing big fuzzy gloves). It was just like a little sleep. Clinic staff were lovely - with me and with El Prima. It was odd to be back in a hospital environment again - so easy to slip back into patient mode.

Now home, munching down leftover broccoli & gorgonzola pie made by the gorgeous matt (one half of our favorite gay boyfriends - we cooked & ate at their place last night).

I'll be back there Monday for transfer. In the meantime I'm practicing just being here - not wrapped up in any particular hoped for future. Just here, on the bean bag, enjoying the saturday midday movie and the last bit of this pleasant fuzzy feeling.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Showtime! (and a big sigh of relief)

You know that feeling, when you think, perhaps my life is a little *too* exciting? Thankfully my mum and brother & sister-in-law all weathered Cyclone Yasi well in Cairns - it hit hardest further south, where buildings in Tully and Innisfail were demolished. I think it'll be some time before the full damage is known. Between them, my mum and bro have now escaped the 2008 Black Saturday bushfires, a Bolivian uprising, at least four car crashes and a cyclone. Lucky buggers. Phew.

And it is nearly showtime for the little ovaries that could - I just spoke with our clinic, and I'm scheduled for egg pick up on Saturday morning. The other possible option was Monday, so I'm grateful to be getting it over and done with soon. It is hard to tell if it is from the ivf drugs or a blocked ear (from swimming in Cairns) or general cyclone-related craziness but today and yesterday I've felt very off-balance and tender, with a wierd low-level nausea. If my ovaries made noises, I reckon they'd be making those submarine depth-sounding 'pings'. Quite twingey. IVF veterans, does that sound familiar?

If all goes to plan, it will mean we'll do the embryo transfer on Monday - exactly one year after Z's 40-day memorial & due date. An auspicious day, I think.

I like the idea of a link between her and this new little chain of possibilities. And besides, isn't it always a big sister's job to steal the show?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A big dose of cyclone uncertainty

I was doing so well getting comfortable with uncertainty (ha ha), and then I got a text from my sister-in-law. The cyclone we thought would miss them is now heading almost directly for Cairns, where she lives, with my brother, and with my mum nearby. It has been upgraded to category 5 - which puts it in the ranks of hurricane Katrina. My brother was at sea (he works on dive boats on the great barrier reef), but thankfully, he got back to shore last night, and is now holed up in their Cairns apartment with mum and my sister in law.

There are lots of comforting thoughts I can have - that theirs is a cyclone-proof building, recently built, that they are on the second floor, with lots of mattresses up against the windows, water, food, and phone and internet access (for now). But I'm so scared, and the anxiety I thought I had just got a grip on is back with a vengeance. Those little budding follicles don't need the extra stress hormones though, and really, there is nothing to do but wait and see what happens with this storm.

Monday, January 31, 2011

In bud

At this morning's scan, there were about twelve follicles in bud. I'm sure that's not the technical term, but I like the idea of being in bud, like the branch of a plum tree, even if it is a chemically-induced harvest.

The buds above are from a Cannonball tree in Cairns, where I've been visiting my mum, brother & sister in law. Aside from growing amazing 'cannonball' like fruits, their flowers are amazingly complex and beautiful:

Thanks for bearing with me through all my little philosophical meanderings - it has been so good to have this time to think and write, and to have some amazing people to bounce these ideas around with.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The 'Awful' moment

I’ve just had a week volunteering at a camp for 16-18 year old girls. This camp is the place where Z’s ashes are buried, in a beautiful bush chapel where you can hear the waves crash and birds call above.

(Z's paper plane flying upwards into the trees above the bush chapel)

It was a busy week, but I woke up early to do my ivf injections, and afterwards, I’d go for a little walk on the beach and to Z’s little spot, to touch the sandy earth and bring her a little flower or shell. And after all the rushing about of the past year, I feel like I finally had time to think properly, and a good beach to do it on.

One of the things I found hard about the idea of being ‘in the moment’ was the fact that some moments are awful – if you completely focused on that particular moment, wouldn’t you drown in the sheer awfulness of it? Wouldn’t it be too depressing to survive?

I realised last week that I had a particular opportunity to test run this theory, because, for me, there is quite clearly one moment that I thought I would love to cut away from the fabric of my life – to slice away the moment of impact and everything it set in motion. I know that I can’t turn back time or undo it, but was it really a moment to relish, to pay attention to?

What if I had taken that moment, where I was sitting in the wreckage – trapped, bleeding and so afraid that the car next to us would explode – what if I had taken it and let my fears and hopes dissolve, so that I was no longer being tugged forward into a better or worse imagined future – what might I have experienced right there? With hindsight, I could have been fully present to the last moments of my daughter’s life. She was doing that hard work of dying while I was fervently wishing I was somewhere else – in a future where she was okay.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the reality of my situation – and for me to sit with that uncertainty felt impossible. I thought that me denying the possibility that she might die could magically save her. I know there is no way I could have known what was happening with her, but I do wish I’d been a bit more present for those last little beats of her heart. Instead I was demanding something of her which she could no longer do. (Please, Haloumi, please be okay. Please be okay, my little one) I don’t want to indulge in regret, because I don’t think dragging myself into the past helps either, but I’m open to learning from this, to realising that even the worst moments deserve my attention.

When El Prima tried to call me into the moment and asked, “Is Haloumi moving?” I was so angry – I stubbornly wanted to avert my attention, to avoid the uncertainty. I look at it now with tenderness – it was a futile denial, kind of like a three-year-old holding their hand up so they can’t see you when they want you to go away. I didn’t want to be engulfed by fear, but it wasn’t even conceivable that I could do something other than fear or hope – that I could just sit with the huge, frightening uncertainty of the situation – that I could treasure a moment with my daughter when it was possibly her last.

It seems odd to me that such an awful, traumatic moment can be – really – such a precious one. But it rings true with my other experiences – with that amazing preciousness of seeing her little, still face, and the pride I felt in labouring for her (even if I didn’t, in the end, birth her naturally because of the internal bleeding). And bizarrely, this realisation has made me feel calmer in my grief – this realisation that paying attention to a moment can’t make it any worse – and indeed, that running away from it (into fear, hope or denial) can cause further suffering. I finally feel like I’m learning something from all this grief – that I don’t have to keep grasping for some kind of solution – that I can sit with this discomfort and uncertainty, that I can feel that something is impossibly painful and still do it.

On the last night of the camp, we had a little non-denominational chapel service, and in the dark, with the bush noises around us, I told my story. I won’t repeat the whole thing here, but this is the main bit:

In the last year since the accident, I have had to do the impossible every day. I have planned my baby’s funeral from an intensive care bed. I have learned how to walk with a broken knee. I have held the people I love the most while their hearts are breaking and there was nothing I could do to fix it. And every day, I live, while she is dead.

For a long time I was desperate to escape my grief – I thought there would be some ‘solution’ to it – a time when I might feel some ground under my feet again. But like it or not, this is the nature of being a human being. We know that we are fragile, and we know that we will all die, but it all seems pretty theoretical until you lose someone you love. It seems impossibly cruel that a baby could die when we loved her so much and we hadn’t even had a chance to see her open her eyes. But, this is what life throws at us - impossible miracles like babies, and impossible losses.

And while I now know there are no guarantees, this is what gives me a little peace – that what we have experienced is not a terrible aberration from the good life that we are all entitled to – but that the sadness and wretchedness of grief is part and parcel of the love and inspiration I still feel for my daughter.

And this is the strange thing. As this loss has carved my heart out so painfully, I’ve also felt an intensity of joy beyond anything I felt before – often mingled together – a bittersweetness. Things feel sharper than ever before – more intensely painful but also more intensely beautiful. Where I thought this pain would crush me, it has transformed me and by feeling it, and gently observing it, rather than trying to escape it, my heart has expanded.

I have a different kind of uncertainty in front of me now. It won’t begin in earnest really until the embryo transfer – maybe Thursday next week. But then it will be an uncertainty marathon. I’ve found the discussions in the comments about hope in the last post to be really useful in getting some perspective on it. Thank you so much for all your thoughts. I can already feel my hope building – I actually look forward to giving myself the injections because it means we’re one day closer – but I think I’m being gentler with it – not setting big expectations, and not presuming that I’m responsible for generating a result. I’m going to try to “lean into the sharp points” as Chodron would say, and see how that goes.

**apologies for long post!