Embryo Pics

I finally found them! I hid them away for a while because I’d gotten attached to so many other embryo pics in the past, imagining them as children, just waiting for the day to show them their first “baby” pics… only to lose the pregnancy and have all those thoughts and plans turn to dust.

But then I couldn’t find them. Finally I started flipping through books looking for them, in case I stuck them in there for safekeeping. Sure enough, it was in my copy of Walden.

And now I have the problem of not knowing which is which — whether the embryo that looks like a negative of an eclipse diamond ring effect made it or the one that looks like the molten sun itself. (The embryologist said the black blob is just some “nursing cells” that hung around, and they didn’t want to bother it by trying to wash it off.)

Both

And it may be kind of sad for a kid to see this knowing he or she could have had a twin.

So I’m not sure what, if anything, to do with these pics now.

Lovely embryos, though.

Advertisements

Just Random Updates

We’ve decided to go with a hospital birth after all. Turbo OB said with infinite confidence that St. Francis is the best place in Oklahoma to give birth, and after the tour I believe it. Simple fact is, as fit and healthy as I may be, and as young as I may feel, it turns out there are increased risks when using an egg donor and when delivering at age 38. The main risks are high blood pressure (18%) and pre-eclamsia (11%, but that can be reduced to about 8% with 150mg/day of aspirin). But anyone can have stalled or stuck labor, or have their baby suddenly go into distress, or just start hemorrhaging randomly.

There’s still probably a 90% chance all will be fine (my blood pressure has always been exemplary), but I’ve come to realize that if I do try the midwife, I’m going to be stressing out the whole time thinking, “Please go smoothly, please just work, please don’t transfer me to a hospital…” Especially since the midwife’s place isn’t all that handy to a hospital. 15 minutes or so, which isn’t bad, but it can definitely make a difference if something crazy goes down.

Whereas if I’m at a hospital already, I can relax knowing this is definitely where I’ll give birth, and everything I or the baby could possibly need is right around the corner. And from what I understand, Turbo OB is one of the best in the state. It still seems crazy to me that I was able to just call up his office and get in within a few weeks!

Kinda sucks how expensive it’s going to be, though. My usual out of pocket max has been around $7,000, not including the premium (which will probably go up next year), and childbirth will probably hit that max, and this is assuming ObamaCare is even functioning well next year as Republicans try their best to sabotage it.

And to top it off, I’m thinking very seriously about hiring a doula, which costs another $800. Doulas are pretty much the only factor that’s been proven to reduce labor time and reduce surgeries and other interventions. The doc just shows up at the end, and the nurses come and go, and it seems like it would be really nice to have someone in my corner the whole time. My husband will be there, of course, but he’ll probably need breaks sometimes, and he hasn’t been trained as a childbirth attendant. (We’ll take classes, of course, but a few hours of classes can’t compare with years of experience.) Putting all that on him seems like a lot of pressure, when he should just be enjoying the moment as much as he can.

I just know so many people who’ve had traumatic, dangerous, or just miserable childbirth experiences, it seems eminently reasonable to me to tack a few hundred bucks more onto this astronomically expensive endeavor to have a much better chance of a healthy and happy birth experience. And I found a doula who seems crazy compatible. Just very cool. If all goes well, we’ll meet her next week.

But yeah… bracing ourselves for another massive drawdown on our savings, which were just starting to recover a little.

What else? I got my blood work back from my first OB appointment with Dr. Hillcrest. That’s not his real name, but he delivers at Hillcrest South and St. Francis South, and I call him Dr. Hillcrest to distinguish him from Turbo OB. Yeah, I made appointments with two different OBs who deliver at two different hospitals in case one doc or hospital ended up being insufferable somehow.

Dr. Hillcrest was recommended by a friend, and he was great (and so empathetic), but he doesn’t deliver at St. Francis, and ever since the tour I’ve kind of had my heart set on St. Francis. (It’s also where I was born.) Plus I understand Turbo OB’s caesarian rate is only 4% or so, which is phenomenal. I’m not sure what Dr. Hillcrest’s rate is, but it’s hard to beat 4%.

(EDIT: I tried to find that 4% figure again and couldn’t find it. Maybe my progesto-brain made it up? I’ll ask him at the next appointment. 4% would actually be worryingly low, from what I understand. But he is one of the rare docs around here who will do VBACs, which is not relevant to me at this time, but just shows he doesn’t mind pushing the envelope a bit to help women have the birth experience they want. He’s also happy to work with doulas.)

I keep putting off “breaking up” with Dr. Hillcrest because I like him so much (and I didn’t want to cancel the Thursday ultrasound because I still don’t know when I’m going to get set up with the perinatologist that Turbo OB referred me to), but I should really go ahead and cancel on Monday. Insurance is going to start looking at me funny if I keep bouncing between OBs, and I still have no idea what these appointments are going to cost. I have a feeling it ain’t small change. And they always take forever to send the bills, so it’s that much harder to make informed decisions.

Anyway, I had already done most of the recommended prenatal blood work just to qualify for the donor embryos, so I asked if I could just do iron, vitamin D, and TSH for now. He agreed, and my H&H was fine, vitamin D was 36 (low end of normal — I’m stepping up my supplements, and I’m going to try to spend 15 minutes in the sun around noon every day; the research I’ve done shows vitamin D is very important in pregnancy), and my TSH, all of a sudden, was 0.03! That puts me at hyperthyroid. Which isn’t that bad in early pregnancy — certainly better than hypo — but I’m cutting back my dose again, to 100 for a while to let it settle and then back to 112.

Strangely, neither doc talked at all about nutrition, exercise, what to avoid, and all that kind of stuff. I guess they assumed I already knew it? Maybe I fit the profile of obsessive researcher? I also had to bring up to both of them that I was using a donor embryo (they didn’t ask, which I guess makes sense), and both seemed relieved. A 31-year-old egg is much easier to deal with than a 37-year-old egg.

They didn’t recommend genetic testing and warned insurance wouldn’t pay for it for a 31-year-old egg. (Plus with a vanishing twin possibly contributing some of the cfDNA, results may be that much less conclusive and needlessly worrying.) So I guess we’ll have to have some faith that the small odds of genetic problems won’t clobber us and wait until 20 weeks like everyone else to know the gender.

(UPDATE: Just got the insurance notification for my first OB visit with Dr. Hillcrest. Ultrasound will cost me $150, minor blood work will cost $50. Still haven’t gotten a notification of the cost for the visit itself. Ouch. At least with Turbo OB, I’ll only be billed for a visit this time. Next time we’ll see what his ultrasound and blood work cost.)

Speaking of gender, I haven’t liked referring to this embryo — now graduated to fetus — as “it” or “he or she.” It makes me feel more removed from… it. I’ve always pictured myself with a daughter, and Ahmed feels the same way, so for now I’m just calling her “baby girl.” If I end up having to adjust, I will do so happily. Little boys are amazing, too.

Either way, we plan on raising our kid in a gender-neutral kind of way. We won’t force trucks on a boy or dolls on a girl, though of course we won’t forbid them, either — we’ll let them take the lead on what they like. But I worry that as soon as we do announce the gender, certain people will immediately begin purchasing a mountain of gender stereotypes. Ah well — there are worse problems. But it’ll be an interesting challenge.

One thing we both agree on: Our child will play soccer. Or at least we’ll do our damnedest to instill the love.

I’m also settling into the reality of not having twins. It’s fine, really. It just gives our next kid the chance to be that much more unique, and this pregnancy won’t be nearly so hard on my body or on the remaining child. (Most clinics recommend against transferring 2 or more embryos these days for that reason.) I still get a little pang every time I see twins in real life or on Facebook, but it’s OK. That’s just not our story. Our story will still be good.

One of the things that has helped me move on is a comment by a friend who’s a new father after a tough three years of trying. He said he is totally loving the infant phase, and it’s going by so quickly. He’s already looking forward to doing it a second time. And I realized — if we’d had twins, that probably would have been it. We’d have done a whirlwind double-duty infant phase, and then it would have been over for us for good.

Now we have time to really learn and focus on this one and then apply everything we learned to the second one and savor it all over again. It’s such a fleeting time, like an eclipse. Two eclipses at once — and then never seeing one again — would have been intense and wonderful, of course, but I’m OK with waiting a couple years for the next one. Hopefully not seven years, like for the next actual eclipse…

(Of course, having a toddler and an infant at the same time is surely going to be its own special kind of… intense. 😛 )

Finally, my husband and I rarely have serious disagreements. We’re pretty good at working things out and compromising and taking turns giving ground. But he put his foot down when I wanted to get a doppler fetal monitor. They’re only $40, and it seems like it can help put my mind at ease during the endless waits between ultrasounds. (Hearing a strong heartbeat at the midwife’s place let me breathe again a few days after my symptoms started tapering off.)

But he’s afraid I’ll just over-analyze every time it’s easier or harder to find the pulse, or what the heart rate is, and it’ll just make me that much crazier. Plus it’s not perfectly non-invasive. It uses ultrasound waves similar to those in a visual ultrasound, which can heat up tissue. It’s never been proven not to be safe, but the possibility remains that it’s better to limit exposure as much as possible.

So I’m trying to learn to breathe even without fancy hardware, and even when I’m feeling pretty good and not as tired or queasy as usual. (Symptoms coming and going is VERY NORMAL.) My next ultrasound is three and a half weeks away at most, and if the fetus dies between now and then, I’ll either know it right away or know it soon enough. A matter of weeks won’t make that much difference at this point. And so far all indications are that it’s perfectly fine.

And if it is perfectly fine in three and a half weeks (I’ll be almost 14 weeks by then), maybe I can start to relax for real, just a little bit.

I’ve already told a handful of close friends and family about all this, but it’s still hard to fathom a general announcement. I think I’ll need visual and tactile evidence before I can even contemplate that (i.e., a bump and feeling the baby move). And then I’ll have to figure out whether to do it at all, and if so, how to do it as sensitively as possible.

I really hope that’s a “problem” I’ll have before too long.

I really look forward to the moment when I stop holding my breath and stop instinctively clamping it off when I find myself feeling too much joy. But the joy is there, waiting to be unleashed.

Turbo OB or Laid Back Midwife?

I heard the heartbeat today after all! Still pregnant!

OK, let me back up. As I mentioned, I had an appointment with an OB today who offered me basically as many ultrasounds as I want, and he delivers in the best hospital in the state with the best NICU. If I’m paranoid about this pregnancy (which I am), it doesn’t get much better than that.

But… I also happened to have a consultation with a midwife today who runs a boutique birthing center. I set it up back when I thought it was twins just to learn more about it, and in case I lost a twin (which I did). She answered all my questions and laid it all out. She does very little monitoring other than manual measurements and using doppler to measure heart rate. She only recommends one ultrasound (and occasional minor blood work) unless indicated by her measurements.

And then the birth will be in water (if desired) with no intervention other than support and checking the heart rate every now and then.

She said only 10% of her clients end up going to the hospital due to complications. Pretty decent odds, and there’s no particular reason to think I’ll have a complicated birth, except maybe my reproductive luck in general.

I liked the two male OBs, but I felt like it was easier to be myself around her, and I felt more calm than with the male doctors. They were great, don’t get me wrong, but this just felt more relaxed. I felt more like things might really be OK. I felt more like I could breathe instead of holding my breath all the time waiting for the next ultrasound.

She also offered to let me hear the baby’s heartbeat via doppler, just for free, for giggles, and reminded me that I can get a doppler of my own to ease my mind whenever I want, which also makes me less anxious to get ultrasounds.

The heartbeat is still strong. She was actually surprised how strong it was. I was just lying there melting from relief.

I think I’ll be more chilled out with this kind of care, and I think it’ll be a healthier birth than in a hospital — after all, pregnancy is not an illness, it’s a natural process. I’ve always been drawn to this kind of “well woman” child birth instead of treating it like a disaster waiting to happen. That, after all, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When the mom is stressed, it can stall labor and stress the baby.

It’s only $3000, including everything but occasional blood work and ultrasounds. That’s crazy cheap compared to loads of prenatal appointments plus a hospital birth! (If I’m lucky, my out of pocket max will be about $7000 next year, and that’s probably about what I’ll end up paying just to deliver. It’ll be more like $14,000 if the baby ends up needing extensive care. The baby will have its own out of pocket max.)

Of course, if there are complications, I’m paying for the midwife plus the hospital. Or losing the baby if it’s something really crazy. And that’s a huge gamble that might, in the end, actually stress me out more.

I’m feeling torn, but honestly more excited about the midwife. But I know a lot of people would say that’s just reckless, especially after all we’ve gone through to get here.

Should I relax for once and do what feels right, or stay hyped up in hyper-vigilant mode to make double damn sure this baby comes out safely?

Thoughts are definitely welcome.

Baby’s First Eclipse

It’s still so hard to write something like that — to assume this pregnancy will actually end with a baby. I’m trying to go through the motions of having a little bit of faith. (Of course, I’ve done that before and it didn’t work out so well…)

I also thought I’d be getting an ultrasound today, but I’m getting referred to a perinatologist (not because my OB expects any complications but because he knew my history and saw the worry etched on my face — it’s for a little bit of “insurance” as well as peace of mind), and he suggested I just wait until that appointment (TBD) so I didn’t have to pay twice. I agreed, because that is logical, but it’s not easy having to wait for that reassurance, especially since I’m feeling a little better and even craving vegetables and other healthy stuff lately (totally out of character for this pregnancy!), and it’s freaking me out a bit. I’m on 9w2d — a bit early for first trimester symptoms to taper off a bit, isn’t it? (I still have symptoms, I just don’t feel quite as crap.)

Anyway. Total solar eclipse. It’s something I’ve wanted to see since I was a little kid and realized such marvels were possible. And it was coming to a ribbon of land just five hours away by car! I started planning as soon as I heard about it, and Ahmed got the day off work Monday and off we went.

It was a four-hour drive to Independence, Missouri on Sunday. It wasn’t where we wanted to be, but it gave us a choice of whether to go north or east to the path of totality depending on crowds, weather, etc.

Sadly, the weather was total crap, but we were told it should get better the further east and south we could go. We picked Boonville as a likely spot, knowing we could press on to Columbia if it looked more promising there. We got started at 7am, knowing we might have to end up going quite a bit further (or the traffic might be horrendous, or the good watching spots crowded).

We got to Boonville around 9:30am, and it was clear enough, but clouds were chasing us from the west, and by 1pm we were afraid they’d be upon us. So we decided to try Ashland, further south and east. Same deal. We pressed on to Fulton.

We just kept hopping east and south along the path of totality from one small-town McDonald’s to another (free internet), checking the skies and comparing whatever satellite images and weather forecasts we could find on my laptop and Ahmed’s phone. Further south and east always looked better.

Finally at 1pm we had given up finding the right town and were just randomly heading south and east on county roads and gravel roads, trying to get out from under the last wispy cloud above us, until we ran out of time. I saw a nice spot on a small hilltop with a decent view all the way around, and we pulled into someone’s long gravel driveway and parked close to the road.

We stood by our car, surrounded by trees and hills, and checked the last slivers of sunlight with our eclipse glasses and took in the atmosphere around us. I made pinholes with my fingers and showed Ahmed the crescent shadows they made, and I showed him a similar effect in the shadows of trees.

Even when the moon was covering maybe 97% of the sun’s surface, it was still broad daylight outside. We have a truly powerful sun. But then the moon kept going. The light finally started to dim. Something on the ground caught the corner of my eye, and I said, “Shadow snakes!” It’s a mysterious phenomenon that occurs just before and after totality, when bands of shadow shimmer along the ground. Science still doesn’t completely understand the phenomenon. It was plain to see against the gravel of the road.

The moon’s umbra continued advancing on us, and I looked up. “Look, the diamond ring!” I shouted. I was so excited, like a little kid. I was seeing it, for real, right up there in my own sky! The thing I’d read about since I was little! The sun covered by the moon, deepest black except for one flare of light along the circumference, the last point of the sun soon to be blotted out completely. It looks something like this (though the sky wasn’t black like that):

06mar29_diamondring

And then in the next moment it was total. The sky was a dusky lavender, not dark like night but like deep twilight. Venus came out, unmistakeable, but I couldn’t make out any stars or any other planets. (Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter were hanging out not too far from the sun but couldn’t be seen.) I’m not sure why it wasn’t as dark as I’ve heard it can get — maybe because of all the muggy haze in the atmosphere. The temperature also didn’t drop that much, though it was noticeable.

And there it was — the sun’s gossamer corona, the only time it’s visible to human eyes. Ghostly white tendrils extending far into space, one to the left (east) and two to the right (west). Below is the closest image I could find to what we saw, though this sky is darker than what we saw.

Eclipse

“Woooow,” Ahmed said. “I didn’t know it would be like this. Mind blown.”

He thought it would be like the way they’re always illustrated, for some reason — just a black ball with a thin white ring around it. Basically no one tells you what a corona really looks like.

For two and a half minutes, time seemed to stand still. We were just totally outside of time, absorbed in the majestic spectacle. The fact that it was so fleeting made it all the more precious.

“Look around,” I sad at one point. “It’s sunset all the way around us, 360 degrees.”

The clouds on the horizon, no longer menacing, were tinged with soft pink and other pastel colors. But mostly we couldn’t keep our eyes off the star of the show.

And then, in an instant, another diamond ring, then moments later daylight returned and it was just another sunny day in central Missouri.

We were both in a kind of daze. After six hours of chasing the damn thing, we finally caught it, and it was 100% worth it, and now it was over. We could relax, marvel, quit obsessing about Missouri weather, and even be home in time for dinner!

Except that last part was a pipe dream. Traffic was horrendous. We were still in Springfield, MO at dinner time. We finally limped home just before 10pm after a very long 15-hour day (just in time to take my progesterone shot — of course I had brought extra in case we ended up stuck somewhere, so I wasn’t stressing!).

We’re already planning for the next total eclipse in 2024. I’d love to have a telescope or at least binoculars on hand next time so I can really see the intricacies of the corona, though it was so beautiful even with the naked eye.

Ah, what a world. I hope our child(ren) are there to see the next one with us.

One is Healthy

I feel very happy and lucky to report that one of my twins is growing ahead of schedule with a beautiful heartbeat of 184. I honestly never knew if I’d get to this day. The tadpole was much bigger than I expected, with thrillingly well-defined features, and I actually got to hear the heartbeat this time. I think I was seeing its back with its little spine and the creases of its little arm and leg buds. It wasn’t just a blob, it was… an organism. A living, well-organized being. Growing so quickly.

This is not my ultrasound, but the closest I could find on Google images:

beast

Look how it went from being a tiny blob to crowding its little space! I’m 8 weeks 4 days, but it measured at 9 weeks. You go, embryo!

But I barely had time to be excited, because I could tell immediately that the embryo in the other sac was less than half the size of the healthy twin and not as well-formed. It looked pretty lifeless, and the tech confirmed it measured two weeks behind with no measurable heartbeat. We had just been chatting about pregnancy with multiples (she’d had IVF triplets). And just like that it was no longer relevant.

When the doctor saw the report, he declared the smaller twin non-viable, and it was hard to argue with him.

It’s a strange mix of emotions. I am elated to know one is in there growing like a beast with every marker favorable so far. But I’m devastated that this child is losing its sibling and scared that if something does turn out to be wrong with the twin that is still there, I’m fresh out of back-ups.

I’m also relieved to have a much better chance of having the natural, relatively uncomplicated childbirth I always wanted. The risks of complications go way down when it’s just one in there, along with the risk of c-section and other interventions. But most people who have twins, their kids are just fine, and a ready-made sibling for my child would have been more than worth a surgery.

Everything I pictured about having two kids, right around the same height, one holding each hand as we walk along the river… that’s gone now. The hope that they would have that special twin bond and be there for each other through life, through everything. The fact that they would be full genetic siblings, even if they weren’t genetically related to anyone else they knew. Suddenly the world feels a little more cold and lonely for the one who remains.

I know embryos are lost all the time, including “vanished twins.” It’s a very normal thing to happen. Especially in my uterus, apparently, where this is the seventh embryo that went in and never came out the way it was supposed to.

The OB was very cool. Like the ultrasound tech, he had been through IVF, and they were both more empathetic than usual. The doc congratulated me twice but was also sensitive enough to say he was sorry for my loss, also twice. I do feel this loss harder than I expected, probably because it’s not just me losing a child but also my child losing its sibling.

And it does put more pressure on us. We’ve always wanted two, and if we could have had two in one shot and been done with it, it would have been such a relief. No more thinking about this crap. No more worrying. My biological clock could finally go straight to hell. But now I’m looking at having my second child at forty, and that’s if I’m very, very lucky. (Nothing inherently wrong with that, but it was never in my plans.) And the kids won’t be age-mates, which makes things that much more complicated in general. They could have entertained each other endlessly, right from the start. They might even have had their own little language.

I do feel incredibly lucky to still have one, don’t get me wrong. It is so strange to be exulting and mourning at the same time. For so many years I was a mother of none, or briefly a mother of one, and for ten days I was a mother of twins, which was so thrilling. But now it’s already over. It’ll be a little while before I fully process this hope for twins that I’ve always had being finally dashed.

But it will put less pressure on my body. It’ll mean less danger, less stress. (Believe me, I’ve heard plenty of twin horror stories, and they put the fear of God in you. Odds are still in your favor, but if the worst happens to you, odds don’t mean squat.)

I’m sure I’ll be fine once I’ve had a little time to process and adjust. And of course I’m beyond delighted to have one looking so healthy, though there’s a bit more pressure on that one since, as I said, I don’t have a back-up anymore. My overall confidence isn’t as high as it was yesterday, but it was still magical to see that little beast chilling in its little water world, its little heart pumping away. Live, little one. Please live.

But yeah. This loss hit me harder than I expected.

Not Complaining, Just Remarking

I always make this caveat to my husband before telling him about my latest symptom. He knows as well as I do that it’s a huge privilege to be experiencing any of this, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But I find it interesting to hear about other people’s symptoms / physical experiences in pregnancy, so here are some of mine, for posterity.

The nausea has been interesting to me. I expected it to be like the horrible feeling just before you throw up. Instead it’s been more like mild seasickness. The problem with seasickness is not the degree of discomfort as much as the relentlessness of it. There’s pretty much nothing you can do about it other than get off the boat, and God willing I won’t be getting off this boat for a while.

It’s kind of like being poked in the ribs, not hard, but enough to be annoying. If someone did this one or five times, you’d just shrug it off. But if they kept it up for hours, you might eventually find yourself turning into a rage monster. I do find I’m a little more short-tempered than usual, but so far not so bad.

Another way to think about it is like feeling hungover. You feel sluggish and tired, a little queasy, with your throat kind of burning. (If you were drinking, that may have been from vomiting; in this case it’s from reflux.) You just feel off. You want to drink some cranberry and soda, watch some Netflix, and wait for the time to pass until you feel OK again.

Only it’s not going to be 24 hours in this case. You’re not really sure how long you’re going to feel this way. They say it starts to clear up in the second trimester, but not always, and that’s still a month away in any case.

Some days and hours are better than others, and all in all it’s annoying but fine. To be honest, I revel in every feeling of nausea. It’s like a little message saying, “Yes, this is really happening.” Thankfully, so far, I haven’t actually vomited (though I’ve gagged a few times).

My brain can be painfully slow, though, especially if something unexpected happens and I’m thrown out of my expected groove. Working on a novel, as I’ve mentioned, is damn near impossible, though I try to chip away at it a little at a time. I feel safe driving, but only just. I really force myself to stay focused at all times.

And I can be slightly bipolar. One minute I’ll see something totally random, like grass, and be swept away by mild euphoria at how beautiful and perfect everything is. The next minute, I’ll feel nauseated and blame whatever song is on the radio and turn the radio off and then find something else to hate and blame for making me feel like warmed-over dog poo. I mostly just observe these impulses and let them pass without attaching too much significance to them. My husband says he hasn’t really noticed this, so I’ll call that a win.

But I did cry three times while watching a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode I’ve probably already seen about seven times: The Inner Light. Granted, it is one of the most tear-jerking episodes of all time. But the little sweetnesses and rituals about having kids really got to me this time.

My boobs finally got sore and swollen, too. I guess it tends to wait until however far along I got last time to keep on developing, or whatever they’re doing. A new thing: My nips are really sore. I have to turn our new shower head down quite a bit so that the little jets of water aren’t hitting them too hard.

At night, somehow my guts know exactly when I’m wanting to go to bed, because that’s the moment they choose to blow me up with gas, most of which I have to burp out. I have to kind of twist and lean and contort myself to get it all out, and when I’m already so tired, I just want to go to bed, not do burp yoga.

Then it’s remarkably hard to sleep at night. It’s hard to distract myself from feeling so off, so I just kind of lay there feeling off, tossing and turning until sleep manages to overtake me. And then I have incredibly stupid, boring and/or stressful dreams. Things like my husband telling me we’re out of mustard (which I later can’t remember if it was a dream or not), or it being my first day at a new school, and the school is also a mall, and I have to figure out where in the mall is the door leading to the classrooms, and I can’t. I don’t wake up feeling very rested.

And I’ve definitely had food cravings. There was a week where all I wanted was Mexican food, and right now all I want is Turkey sandwiches and Blaze goat cheese pizza. I can kind of force down the much larger set of what I’m not craving, but it’s not nearly as appealing. When it’s not exactly what I want, it tastes kind of bland. When it is what I want — heaven.

Meanwhile the things I used to do to blow off steam are mostly off-limits, and I have to watch my husband drive off in his jersey, shorts, and cleats to have fun playing soccer while I’m stuck at home. It’s hard not to feel a little resentful. Not of my husband, but just that the universe turned out like this. Of course, I’d gladly take any pain or discomfort rather than give it to my husband, but… I wanna play, too.

But every time something failed and I consoled myself by going out and playing soccer, I knew very well that I’d rather be pregnant than playing soccer, and the same is true now. Hell, I probably could play (if I strapped my sore boobs in tight enough), but I’m just not willing to take the risk. And hopefully in a year or 18 months I’ll be back on the pitch. That seems like an awful long time right now. I guess I should be doing a lot of drills so I’ll be better than ever by then. But there’s just nothing quite lining it up and drilling it into the goal.

Other than, perhaps, giving birth and being a parent. 🙂

My Book is Free on Amazon

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it on this blog, but I wrote a memoir called Fast Times in Palestine that was published in 2011. The electronic version is free right now on Amazon (until Monday).

Here’s a description of the book:

Pamela Olson, a small town girl from eastern Oklahoma, had what she always wanted: a physics degree from Stanford University. But instead of feeling excited for what came next, she felt consumed by dread and confusion. This irresistible memoir chronicles her journey from aimless bartender to Ramallah-based journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate.

With dizzying speed she found herself attending Yasser Arafat’s funeral, tour-guiding Israeli friends around the West Bank, dating a Palestinian from a conservative village, being held at gunpoint and injured by a stun grenade, and witnessing the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip. The gripping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and politics but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between.

Funny, gorgeous, shocking, and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine challenges the way we think not only about the Middle East but about human nature and our place in the world.

Named a Top 10 Travel Book of 2013 by Publishers Weekly and a Best Travel Book of Spring by National Geographic.

“No other book has conveyed such an authentic, penetrating, and enchanting sense of the Palestinian people and their long struggle for rights and security.”

— Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories

“Harrowing, funny, vivid, entertaining and deeply humane, Fast Times in Palestine opens a rare window onto Palestinian life. It’s impossible not to be moved on nearly every page.”

— Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree

“A moving, inspiring account of life in Palestine that’s enormously informative yet reads like a novel.”

— Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, Jewish Voice for Peace

Please feel welcome to download your free copy by Monday 🙂