Perfect

Ah, sweet relief. Big, big, big sigh.

Ahmed and I are both so used to gritting our teeth and waiting for the bad news (a hard habit to break after four years), we were sweating bullets before my 12 week ultrasound today. When they took my blood pressure, I was shocked it wasn’t through the roof.

We went into the ultrasound room and I tried to blank my mind as much as I could. The gel was warm (and my newly estrogen-patch-free belly was smooth), and then… there it was. Looking just like a big-headed baby. Or, well, more like a potbellied alien with skinny arms and legs, but whatever. There was some confusion because I thought I saw one baby facing one way and another facing the other way, and I asked, “Are there two in there?”

She said no, she’d just switched the probe around. Ha. So I guess I got maybe five more seconds of wondering if I was a twin mom…

The other sac is still there and still the same size it was before. She said it may absorb or it may stay there the whole pregnancy. Doesn’t really matter either way. She kept jiggling my belly to get it to move this way or that, and every now and then the fetus would flop around a little, clearly moving on its own. Ahmed let out a small laugh of delight.

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There’s a part in the movie Baby Mama where the surrogate’s embryo transfer failed, but she pretended it had succeeded to keep getting paid. Finally it’s time for an ultrasound, and the surrogate knows she’s going to be outed as a fraud. But sure enough, there’s a fetus on the screen.

She jumps up in shock and exclaims, “There’s a BABY in there???”

(Turned out she had accidentally gotten pregnant on her own.)

That’s kinda how I felt.

Or I wanted to ask, “Are you sure that’s mine? It’s not just a movie of the last person’s ultrasound or something?”

It measured 6.4 cm from crown to rump (head to butt), which is 12w4d (today I’m 12w1d, so it’s measuring 3 days ahead), nuchal translucency was normal, heart rate 154. Two arms, two legs, heart and stomach in the right places. The tech, as usual, had to act pretty noncommittal, so I didn’t fully relax until the doc confirmed that everything looked great. Given all the parameters he’d seen, he said I had a 95% chance of a healthy birth.

I like those odds.

Next ultrasound will be at 19w1d (October 30), and we’ll find out the sex then.

Once all the formalities were out of the way, he asked my husband where he was from, and it turned out the doctor had been to Turkey three times. He sat there for 20 minutes regaling us with stories of his travels. (I hope he doesn’t charge us for those 20 extra minutes, lol.)

We were both just so happy and relieved we practically floated out of there. We’re still processing it.

I really, honestly never knew if I’d see this day. With my two pregnancies that failed, I had so much faith. I visualized, I talked to them, I wrote letters to them, I gave them nicknames. And then it all came crashing down. The joke was on me.

This time it just felt safer to be cynical. No nicknames, no letters, just kinda soldiering on. I don’t even think I’ve meditated since the positive pregnancy test because I was too scared to sink into any kind of relaxation and too scared to sink into the full measure of my terror. I didn’t want to face myself or what could happen (again). I practically assumed failure.

Now, finally, hopefully I can unclench a little and maybe even enjoy this a little bit. Start thinking ahead even. The due date is in late March (if my previous pregnancy had made it, I’d be giving birth about now!), and a bunch of my nephews plus my best friend’s daughter and niece (who are practically family) all have birthdays in March. Looking forward to our little one joining the party.

It’s actually been a charmed pregnancy so far, other than our anxiety. Everything has been on track, no scares, and I only threw up once. Not bad at all, especially for an ART pregnancy.

Today also happens to be the day I no longer have to put patches on my belly and needles in my ass. Really enjoying washing my belly in the shower and having it be smooth instead of covered in stickers and sticky gunk. And my bruised ass can finally be left alone to heal.

OK. Just gonna process this for a while. But so happy and grateful. Really never knew if we’d see this day.

This might actually work, y’all. We might actually have a baby.

P.S. As it happens, this week also marks seven years since the day we met (playing soccer in New York), and Ahmed came home only to find that his citizenship interview notification was in the mail. So he’ll likely be a US citizen by the end of the year. Today is a good day!

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Pedicure

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I’m about to have a what? Who said I wanted a sibling?

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Week 12

Another week on the books. Five more mandated shots of progesterone in my butt, then on Monday I’ll be 12w1d and (FINALLY) have my next ultrasound appointment, this time with a perinatologist (aka MFM).

I have to admit to being scared. It just seems like there’s no evidence of pregnancy. My belly looks the same, and I don’t feel “pregnant” (however I imagined that was supposed to feel), I just feel vaguely shitty all the time and look vaguely exhausted. It’s really been tough trying to have any faith at all, and my husband still won’t let me get a Doppler. (I could, of course, just get one anyway, but I do see his point. And usually when one of us feels more strongly than the other, we give ground. It’s usually me feeling more strongly, or so it seems, so it seemed right to defer this time.)

The biggest symptom right now, honestly, is the fact that I can’t sign up for my fall soccer league. And a part of me is rebelling, thinking, “You don’t even know if you’re really pregnant or not! Come on, your team needs you! The field is calling!”

Missing out on soccer was hard enough in the summer. But in the fall? The weather is so crisp, my team is gearing up to play all the other teams we’ve been playing for years, 11 on 11, full field, real soccer. The kind of thing that makes life worth living. The green of the field, your sweat cooling on the breeze, big trees and sunsets as a backdrop, sprints where you lose track of everything but stymying your opponent’s objective, flying kicks that seem to happen on a kind of primal autopilot (you know you could never make that kick on purpose), and licking wounds or celebrating victories with your teammates when the game is lost or won.

None of that for me. Just feeling vaguely shitty and hoping I’m not fooling myself yet again, hoping this pregnancy won’t end in searing defeat yet again. It’s lonely. I don’t know anyone else who’s gone through what we’ve gone through, so there’s no one who can relate, really. Instead of playing soccer with my teammates — that thing that gives me so much joy it seems like it should be illegal — I’m in an anxiety-ridden, queasy purgatory all alone.

And I feel completely shitty for feeling that way. I should be nothing but grateful. And perhaps as the weeks go on, if things go well, I’ll get to that place. But I’m not there yet. I still feel like a fraud. My mom and I went to get pedicures the other day and I asked for a face mask. My mom explained, “She’s pregnant.”

I felt embarrassed, like she was lying on my behalf. A part of me wanted to protest, “I might not actually be. But anyway, the smell is giving me a headache, isn’t that a good enough reason?”

It doesn’t help that my husband, for the first time ever, decided to sign up for THREE soccer leagues this fall. So he’s constantly out playing soccer, then coming back and telling me how it was. It’s so unfair. Why can’t I hand the pregnancy off to Ahmed every other week, or just one day a month?

Anyway, I’m not allowed to feel like this, it’s obscene to feel like this when this is what I’ve wanted for so long, but there it is. I would never trade this pregnancy for another season of soccer. (Two seasons, actually, at minimum.) But just right at this particular moment, it’s all downside, no upside. It’s all unpleasant and lonely, no fun at all. No thrill, no sweat, no green field. No feeling strong and lithe and like myself. I puked for the first time a few days ago. Yay.

(EDIT: It should go without saying that underneath all of this is a huge current of pure gratitude. I’m just terrified to dip into it because… well… I’m still so anxious this is yet another sad illusion. My resentment has a lot more to do with that terror than with soccer. It’s just that what I would usually to do get through anxiety, to unwind and detach from whatever was worrying me, would be to play soccer. And that outlet is taken away from me.)

Well, there is some fun. I started taking a prenatal yoga class.

I actually signed up for a different prenatal yoga class during my first pregnancy and paid $99 for unlimited classes. But my pregnancy ended after the first class. I persuaded her to let me try again during my second pregnancy without paying again, but that pregnancy also ended after the first class I took.

She can have my $99. I’m not going back there again.

So I found another prenatal yoga class at the Yoga Room, Saturdays for an hour and a half, and I can get three classes a month for about $35. Not too bad. Of course, I kind of felt like a fraud in there, too, because I looked exactly like I would look in a regular yoga class. Nearly all of the others were in their 22nd week or further. A couple of women brought their tiny babies in (it’s also postnatal). All in all a great atmosphere, and the workout, while not jarring or making any attempt to be badass in any way, was no joke. I was quite sore the next day.

It was funny, though. We all went around at the beginning to “check in” and talk about what was on our minds. The others were talking about feeling bloated or really really not wanting a c-section. Just ordinary pregnant lady concerns. I was honest and talked matter-of-factly (and briefly — much more briefly than anyone else) about the terror of loss after experiencing two losses after trying for four years, and being pregnant with a donor embryo. I felt like I was speaking a foreign language in that room. Like people kind of blinked and then were relieved when the next woman was normal again. But afterwards the instructor came up to me and gave me a hug.

We have two meetings with two different doulas this week, and I’m excited to meet both of them. One of them came recommended from friends of friends, and she also happens to be a certified masseuse. Never a bad thing in a doula. She doesn’t have any children of her own, and I guess that makes it easier to deal with the sometimes chaotic schedule of a doula. The other is a bit younger and has a child, and her profile really spoke to me.

They cost about the same, and I’m sure either will be great. I’m sticking with my general trend of picking two (hospitals, OBs, etc), checking them out, and choosing between them.

Speaking of luxuries we probably can’t afford… Ahmed has ten days of vacation to burn before the end of the year, and we’re thinking of turning at least one of those weeks into a relaxing trip somewhere. A “babymoon” I guess (if there’s still a baby by then). We were thinking of heading south, but hurricanes keep pounding the hell out of the South, and there’s nothing in Kansas, and we already went to Missouri for the eclipse, so that leaves New Mexico or Colorado (within reasonable driving distance).

We can spend a day in Santa Fe and then head on up to Pagosa Springs, where there’s a surprisingly affordable and really nice bed and breakfast kind of back in the woods but close enough to town that it won’t be much of a drive to get back there to visit the springs or grab dinner. Five days of that sounds cozy as hell, actually.

Then we can drive up into the Rockies over the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray, then on into Pueblo, then drive home the next day.

All in all, the trip should cost us a bit over a thousand dollars. Not bad for a week’s vacation. But should we spend it, considering that in our best case scenario, we’ll have shitloads of medical bills next year (birth ain’t cheap) and then a freaking baby to provide for?

I tend to have a “live for today” attitude. During my twenties, whenever I had a little money scraped together, I lit out for a trip. It’s a nice way to live. (Whatever I spent to visit the Galapagos, I don’t even remember. I’ll always remember the Galapagos.) But should I… like… grow up or something?

It seems to me that on the scale of the next few years, a couple grand this way or that (the cost of a doula + mountain vacation) just won’t matter that much. Whereas the memories of those things will matter a lot. They’re the kinds of things that make life that little bit sweeter. It could really be rejuvenating and refreshing after so much stress and strain.

But yeah… we have responsibilities now. And we got down to zero savings last year, and that’s not really an awesome place to be.

Just some thoughts in week 12. Hopefully there will be a week 13.

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.

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.