Thursday, November 17, 2011

Keepin' it real

(Warning: this post is all about my pregnancy.  If you don't feel like reading about that right now, I understand.)



Some of my goals in continuing to write on the same blog I started while in the throes of infertility has been to be sensitive to my readers who are still trying to get pregnant, to not forget what it took me to get to this point, and to be grateful for--and enjoy--my pregnancy.

I feel that I would be remiss, though, if I don't candidly share some of my pregnancy experiences which I have not written about in detail so far.  Sure, I have shared some of the symptoms I've had in my weekly (and bi-weekly) updates, but I don't think I've given a complete picture.

Should another 40-ish woman who is contemplating transferring two embryos stumble across this blog and wonder about my experience, I want to give her a true impression of what twin pregnancy has been like for me.  I do believe knowledge is power, and while reading what I've written may not influence anyone's decision (and that's not truly my intent), I think it's important for this hypothetical woman who may be standing where I was eight months ago to know the whole story.

Allow me to preface the next part of this post by saying--as I have before on this blog--that I realize how very fortunate I am in relation to many others.  First, in just having the resources to pursue the fertility treatment we did to become parents and in having a husband who is supportive and on the same page as me.  Second, our DE IVF cycle worked on the first try.  I have made it to 25 weeks without apparent complications, and so far as I know, I am carrying two normal, healthy babies.  Also, I have now reached a point in my pregnancy when the odds of our boys surviving even an early delivery (albeit likely with a long hospital stay and possible ongoing problems) are greatly in their favor.

Having acknowledged all that, let me say that this pregnancy has not been all lollipops and rainbows for me.  Emotionally speaking, it has been mostly a very happy time for my husband and me.  We are both thrilled to finally be so close to being parents.

Physically, though. . . . simply put, I would say that this pregnancy is the single most difficult thing my body has done to date.  Since I hit 6 weeks, I have not had an entire single day when I have felt good physically.

Let me stop so you can think about that for a moment.  In almost 20 weeks, not.one.single.day.  Really.

And I haven't even reached "the hard part" of the pregnancy yet.

On the plus side, I've never had the experience I've heard some women report of "forgetting I'm pregnant."  No, my physical symptoms are a constant reminder that I am gestating.

Allow me to share the physical symptoms which have been the hardest for me:
  • Fatigue.  My fatigue was crippling during the first trimester.  Up until around 14 weeks, I literally did nothing but go to my office each day.  I took an hour-long afternoon nap AT the office on the days when my schedule permitted it.  Evenings and weekends, I did nothing but lie on the couch.  I had little to no energy to read a book or talk with friends, let alone go anywhere or accomplish anything around the house.  During this period, my husband did all the household chores (which weren't being done by our housekeeper at her bi-weekly visits) and got most of my food for me.  I know everyone who gets pregnant experiences fatigue, but I do feel that mine was much more severe than what has been reported to me by most of my friends and acquaintances.
  • Lack of energy.  Despite what the books and websites say, I never saw a "return to normal energy level" with the arrival of the second trimester.  I continued to have much less energy than pre-pregnancy.  I discussed this with my OB at two different appointments, hoping that there was some explanation which could be treated/fixed.  Nope.  I was told by two different OBs in the practice that this was "normal" for a pregnancy with multiples.  (And yes, possible medical explanations were ruled out.)
  • Difficulty concentrating.  (I do think that this symptom is an outgrowth of the previous two more than anything.)  Tasks which would normally take me hardly any time to complete now take hours.  I have to read and concentrate for work (I'm a lawyer), but the idea of trying to do so when I don't "have to" is anathema to me.  This is a HUGE change from my normal self.  I suspect this one isn't going to return to normal too soon after our babies arrive either, if for no other reason, because of the sleep deprivation I'm sure to experience.
  • Nausea.  Oddly enough, I have never vomited a single time since I've been pregnant.  BUT I had unremitting, severe, all-day nausea from 6 weeks to 15 weeks.  Between 15 weeks and 22 weeks, I was able to wean myself off Zofran (I was glad to quit it because of the BRUTAL constipation it caused) and only had nausea a portion of each day.  Since 22 weeks, I have had no true nausea but must be careful about what I eat, am still sensitive to smells, and occasionally get "gaggy" if I smell something bad or go too long without eating.  (Examples: this morning I had dry heaves in the car on the way to a deposition because I'd been awake for 40 minutes and hadn't eaten yet.  Last Saturday, I went into a bathroom at Babies R Us where there was a rancid smell and spent five minutes retching.)
  • Heartburn.  At first, my heartburn was something which was associated with my nausea and only developed if my stomach was empty too long or I ate something which disagreed with me.  Since my nausea has subsided, my heartburn has stuck around.  My OB tells me that the babies are not yet big enough to be crowding my organs and that this heartburn is due to hormones, not mechanics.  (I still have the crowding-related heartburn to look forward to.)  The heartburn is the usual burning sensation in the esophagus with which we are all familiar, as well as sometimes feeling I have a large "lump" stuck midway between my mouth and my stomach.  So far I have tried Pe.pcid, Za.ntac, Pril.os.ec, and lots of Tums to treat it.  The first two didn't work at all, the Pril.os.ec helps a little (takes the edge off), and the Tums only work for a half-hour or so after I take them (in addition to tasting chalky and gross, which can also turn my stomach).  Ironically, drinking water--which is otherwise highly recommended; I'm supposed to drink 2-3 liters a day--seems to make my heartburn worse.
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness.  I can no longer walk up a flight of stairs, or even walk at my normal (fairly brisk) pace without getting winded.  If I stand up quickly, I often feel dizzy.  Again, I am told these are normal, and I am not anemic.  I actually started this pregnancy in pretty good physical condition for me--readers who've been with me for a while may recall that I dropped 15 lbs and completed a month-long fitness boot camp just prior to our DE cycle--so I don't think I can attribute my shortness of breath to being out of shape.  (Though goodness knows, I have done very little exercise since I've been pregnant, between early activity restrictions, fatigue, nausea and the like.)  I also can't really attribute my shortness of breath to carrying more weight than I am used to: I only weigh 4 lbs more today than I did the morning of transfer, and I've weighed as much as 20 lbs more than this within the past five years (and I could still get around then without huffing & puffing).  It's also too early to blame the shortness of breath on the babies' crowding my lungs; they aren't big enough for that yet.
To leave nothing out, let me share these additional symptoms which most pregnant women probably experience and aren't likely due to increased stress on my body from carrying twins.
  • Hemorrhoids. I don't think I need to go into great detail here. Moving on. . .
  • New skin growths and moles.  I had a few moles pre-pregnancy, and I have had skin tags removed in the past, but I now have skin tags in (unmentionable) places I've never had them before.  I also have several moles on areolae of both breasts, a few of which are large enough and close enough to my nipples that they give me cause for concern, since I'm planning to breast-feed.  Again, I am told this is all normal.
  • Other changes in my skin.  I've mentioned here before that I've never had a pregnancy glow.  My skin is dry, sometimes peeling--despite using more lotion and moisturizers than normal--and I just look old and tired.  I haven't had the "mask of pregnancy" develop, and so far no line or stretch marks on my belly--though they may still be coming, so I guess I've actually been pretty fortunate here so far.
  • Headaches.  Actually, mine have been fewer and less severe since I've been pregnant.  (I usually average 2-3 migraines a month and have only had two in the six months I've been pregnant.)  The hard part about headaches in pregnancy, though, is that I'm not permitted to take anything which might actually help: "Tylenol only."  This means that a headache which would normally be cleared up in an hour by two Advil now persists all day and sometimes into the next day.
It's somewhat ironic to me that, during a time when I have felt emotionally GREAT (truly: I haven't been very moody and am obviously very happy to be pregnant), I have felt physically the worst I've ever felt in my life.  Infertility and weight issues notwithstanding, I've always been a healthy person.  I was used to waking up feeling good most days, working long hours without problems, eating whatever I wanted without adverse effects, and generally living my life.  Those days are gone now, and I'm not sure when/if they are coming back.

I think I knew that being pregnant would not necessarily be easy, but I don't think I truly knew how difficult it would be.  Based on what my OB has told me, I do think part of the reason it's been particularly hard is the fact that I'm carrying two instead of one.

I hope I've done a decent job of stating facts here and not whining.  I'm not trying to complain, just want to keep it real.

11 comments:

  1. As another woman who had my first pregnancy after 40, I second almost all of what you said.

    As for the heartburn, I had it big time ... the only thing I found that helped was to constantly (and I mean all day and as much of the night as possible) I chewed on soft ice. I took Pepcid with tums chasers and chewed on soft ice. That finally did the trick. I say "soft ice" because you teeth will take a beating if you chew hard ice. I don't know where you live, but Sonic has soft ice.

    Make no mistake ... twin pregnancy was hard on my body. It took me two years to get my PPD under control after my twins were born ... turns out I was very, very low on vitamin D. Once I started on that I was back to normal in less than a month.

    The only advice I have is to rest. I know that you probably want to work as long as possible but you will be amazed at how little rest you get once they are born. I wasn't working but I had a 6 month old when I became pregnant with my twins ... I was sleep deprived before they were born.

    Hang in there ... I promise that everything will be worth it ... my kids are 5, 5, and 6 now and life it busy but totally fun.

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  2. Can't read the whole post and comment thoroughly right now but at first glance I totally agree with you. Heck, I had a double mastectomy and did 8 rounds of chemo. And this twin pregnancy is definitely up there in terms of physical exhaustion and mental challenges. But, emotionally I know I'm getting something totally awesome out of this so that makes it easier. Will comment more later.

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  3. Thanks for the descriptions, it's good to hear about the good and bad sides of pregnancy. I see some of the things I have to look forward to!

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  4. I'm so glad you wrote this! I've been composing a similar post for weeks but nervous to post it for fear of being a complainer who forgot her roots...

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  5. I appreciate your honesty. Being pregnant is not for sissies! I hope that your pregnancy symptoms don't get worse. I am only 10 weeks with a singleton and in good shape and I get winded walking up stairs.

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  6. Totally...pg is soooooo hard! Like WAYY harder than I ever thought it'd be and I'm 8 years younger and was pg with a singleton?! It just baffles me how ppl can get pg like more than once?! And they say oh you'll forget...as if...my baby is just a few days shy of 5 months old and I VIVIDLY remember how tough it was. So yeah...hang in there!

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  7. Heartburn---that was the worst part of pregnancy for me. I had it all the time. Bleah!

    Back pain---last few weeks I could barely function/walk due to sciatic.

    Pregnancy is no fun. I don't know who these people are who think it is a cake walk. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I can't begin to tell you how I frequently felt guilty and ashamed for wanting my body back.

    I don't miss it, either, but I'd do it again if I could. Weird, eh?

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  8. Yes! Actually, I carried my twins when I was 31, and it was really hard, so I can't imagine how hard it would be at 40. I already feel so much more tired and older now that I am 33. It didn't get as much easier as I expected after they were born, either, but this is totally dependent on how much help you can get, since at least people can help you after their birth!

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  9. Thanks for sharing this with the community. I think it's important to "keep it real" and tell it like it really is.

    I'm having a relatively "easy" singleton pregnancy (also 40+) and it's NOT easy by any means. I too feel amazing emotionally (soooo happy to be pregnant). Physically it's tough and I never threw up, my skin is happy, and my hair! Well, it's just awesome. It's still hard to be so winded by just climbing stairs.

    I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

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  10. Thanks for being honest about all this. I am so with you...pregnancy for me has been like a BAD, BAD 14-week hangover (from Week 6 on)...the physical part of all this has just been so hard...

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  11. Thanks so much for this post! We're planning on transferring two during our upcoming DE cycle. I didn't make the decision easily, but mostly focused my research on the risk to the babies, not to me. It's helpful to hear the specifics from your point of view. Of course, after all we've gone through so far to conceive, at this point it's impossible not to feel like I'd endure any discomfort to FINALLY have a baby to take home. It doesn't hurt to have a reality check, though. I want to know that I'm going into it informed. Thanks again!

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