I realise I left my last post several months ago on somewhat of a cliffhanger: certifiably pregnant (for the first time in my life) but very very aware that that doesn’t mean much. There seems to be a common wisdom that first pregnancies are rarely successful and, given my extreme infertility, I was pessimistic.
My first ultrasound was scheduled for 7.5 weeks. In a way, I felt like this was good. No heartbeat at 7.5 weeks means a hard no. I’d rather that than fluff around in false hope for a week or two.
The first two weeks were uneventful. I tried not to think about what might be going on inside me. I cried a lot, terrified of what was coming. It’s one thing to watch someone go through a miscarriage, it’s quite another, I imagined, to do it yourself. The longer it sticks, the harder it is to get it out.
At almost 6 weeks pregnant, my wife had her 30th birthday party. I drank non alcoholic sparkling wine and no one suspected a thing. I did run off and cry for a while after some colleagues of my wife ambushed me to ask how the baby quest was going and give me tips on getting pregnant (thank you! 3 years of IVF and I hadn’t considered any of that!) Uneventful aside from that however.
At 6 weeks, I started to feel sick at work. I found that I couldn’t eat anything and ended up going home early. The next day, I was even sicker. I could barely eat and when I did, well, it came straight back out the other end. Over the week, I got sicker and sicker, to the point where I couldn’t sit up in bed, didn’t know what time or day it was and, if I managed to consume some water, it came straight back out again. I had to go to the doctor to get a certificate for work. Luckily C was able to drive me because I was in no state to drive.
“It’s morning sickness,” said the doctor. “It will clear up around 12 weeks”.
“If it is morning sickness, shouldn’t I be vomiting or something?” I asked. Apparently, although my lack of vomiting was unusual, there was no other solution.
So now I was faced with the prospect of being unable to work for 6 more weeks (at least). I did not have that much sick leave, given that I had spent the last 2 years taking at least one sick day a fortnight. I was freaking out a bit over what to do. How would we suddenly survive on a single income if I couldn’t work?
I tried acupuncture, nausea bracelets, medication. Nothing made any difference. I wondered if I should go to hospital because I was so dehydrated.
Then, I had a realisation. Every time I took the progesterone, which I was supposed to take for the entirity of the first trimester, I felt much much worse. I had been prescribed 400mg of progesterone, twice a day. I thought that was pretty excessive and decided to take half that, 200mg, twice a day.
So I skipped a dose and found that I could drink a bit of water. I skipped another dose and I could stomach a bit of soup. Another dose and I was able to get out of bed and walk around the house.
The thing about progesterone and IVF is this: after ovarian follicles are artificially interfered with, they don’t produce progesterone as they should and, in order for an embryo to implant, they need that progesterone. In rare cases, a progesterone deficiency after implantation can cause miscarriage but this is rare. If a placenta is not producing progesterone by 6 weeks of pregnancy, that pregnancy is not going to be viable regardless of supplementing with progesterone.
And yet, progesterone is prescribed in huge quantities for IVF pregnancies up until 12 weeks. Because it’s cheap. Because it doesn’t hurt the baby. Because why care about people’s well being when you can mindlessly prescribe unnessesary drugs?
C started freaking out that not taking their poison was going to kill the baby so I called the clinic and explained the situation and that I was not going to take any more progesterone. By this stage, I was back at work and feeling almost normal, despite being tired and wrecked from being starved and bedridden for a week.
I was sent for a blood test to analyse progesterone and hCG levels. After not having taken any progesterone for 4 days, my levels were 6 times what they needed to be and I was told that I did not need to continue taking progesterone. (No shit). I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had actually taken the amount I was told to, instead of halving it.
The upside, though, was I felt a little more confident that things were going OK.
By 7 weeks, I was feeling well enough to attend a friend’s hen’s night. I was the only one uncharacteristically not drinking. The bride-to-be kept telling me that, at the wedding, there’d be plenty of free alcohol. I guess she thought I wasn’t drinking because I was poor or something. “Are you pregnant?” really isn’t something you ask your infertile friends… and they probably are poor. I felt very nervous. Would I be drinking at her wedding? Would she ever even find out that I was ever pregnant?
We had to drive up to Sydney for the ultrasound, which meant a day off work. It was torturous. On one hand, I wanted to know and move on and on the other, I wanted the fantasy to keep going. I had been vaguely nauseous with strong aversions to anything sweet, which we took to be a good sign.
I had the ultrasound. There was one little critter in there. There was a little fluttering heart beat. Everything was textbook normal. Everything measured as it should. The little heart beat was perfect. It was a little unbelievable.
We took the rest of the day for ourselves, to get over the shock, and to look at baby clothes and stuff at the shops.