Career development as a new mother and infertility warrior

If infertility taught me one thing, it was that it is perfectly possible to be both happy for someone whilst being utterly jealous of them at the same time.  It happened often – a friend or even an acquaintance would share their joyous news of their pregnancy or arrival of their newborn baby.  Of course, I was happy for them, but part of me was sad and jealous.  Sad for myself and our infertility situation, and jealous at the same time that I couldn’t have what they have.  Of course I would never have said it to their faces that I was jealous or sad at their news.  But I sure felt it.  Happiness always won in the end, because I knew very well that every single conception is a wonder in itself and the great joy it would bring to them in the end.  And in the midst of infertility I learned to be OK with those confusing feelings, it turns out it is pretty normal.

It’s been a long time since I felt that way, happiness and jealousy at the same time.  But I recognized it immediately when it happened to me once again.  You see, I wrote a post about happiness is…..a while ago.  Everything on that list made me greatly and truly happy, but there was something on that list that also made me sad and jealous.  Chris getting promoted to director at work.  I was insanely jealous, and still am to be honest.  It’s not often I am jealous of Chris!  And he knew it as well.  He told me he was nervous about telling me and how I would react.  My instant and natural reaction was happiness, but it didn’t take long to make me think about me.  I know selfish.  Because Chris deserves the attention for his awesomeness and hard work he put in to get that promotion.

However, it made me think about the sacrifices I have made to my career progression to bring a child into this world.  Now, my sacrifices have been somewhat limited compared to some women I have met who have stopped working, or been trapped into changing careers because of infertility.  My sacrifices are not as great.  And indeed, my sacrifice is not uncommon when it comes to taking maternity leave.  But it’s the combination of both that do make it worthy of consideration in a different light.

What did I sacrifice?  I’m not sure what would be different if I either didn’t go through infertility, or have a baby, but here are my thoughts on where I have sacrificed my career development.

  • I couldn’t take on all the projects I could have otherwise done if it hadn’t been for infertility treatments and pregnancy.
  • I couldn’t always travel to the places I needed to, someone else did for me or the opportunity was lost.
  • I needed stability in my work to ensure that I could face the infertility treatments, so I didn’t always take on the work I would ordinarily have done before.
  • I had two interviews that I really did not do my best at, because I was distracted.
  • I have been out of work for almost 7 months, but it was probably actually longer than that because of course I had to wrap up and handover work before going on maternity leave, so I checked out earlier than that.
  • My brain wasn’t at its best in my third trimester, and probably not my in my first either because of my heightened awareness to the risk of potential loss of pregnancy.

Pregnancy on the face of it doesn’t stop career progression, it just delays it a little bit.  I’d do that any day to have my daughter, of course, that goes without saying.  But that doesn’t stop it being a fact, and I’m not the only woman, others face similar.  Some women take a whole year off work, some take several years off work to care for their children.  What about child number two or three?  It’s just the way it is.  If we were in the UK, perhaps Chris would have taken parental leave instead and I would have gone back to work earlier?  Who knows.  Would it have slowed down Chris’s opportunity for promotion if he went on parental leave?  By how much, if at all?  I have no doubt we would like to think it would have ZERO impact on that potential, but by not being physically at work progression stalls. I have often read that it is at this point in life where the bias for a man and woman with a family becomes more apparent, where a man having a family is seen as a positive, and woman with a family is seen as a negative.  I personally haven’t experienced this myself, but it makes you wonder.

But I also fought to maintain my career progression.  I decided to keep doing my executive development programme despite being pregnant and on maternity leave rather than postpone it.  I made sure I still went on transatlantic work trips even in my third trimester.  So, it’s not like I abandoned all effort in my career development.

I’m not saying that if I hadn’t gone through infertility treatment and got pregnant that I would be promoted by now, far from it! But rather, if I had have been at my best during this period, then it is unlikely I would be jealous of Chris’s promotion.  Isn’t that an odd thing?

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Our Frozen Embryo

It doesn’t seem fair that you existed in this world for 5 days, but we pressed the pause button.

We have frozen you in a moment in time, but we don’t get to meet you for a while yet.

You are known as the power of life, but we pay $60 a month to keep you just so.  It’s such a small cost in comparison.

You made it against all odds to grow strong, to be the strongest as you could in just 5 days, but we needed you to wait a while whilst my body repaired itself.

It’s been two years of knowing you, but we don’t know what the colour of your hair is meant to be, whose eyes you are meant to have, whether you have your father’s smarts or your mother’s craziness.

Will your sister ever get to play with you?  What do we tell her if you don’t get to play together? ….And if you do, how do we tell her that you have been in this world longer than her? It’s a mind blowing thought.

How can we ever make a decision not to meet you?  How do we make a decision instead that would result in us giving you to some researcher that will never think of you in the way that we do.  How do we make a decision that you are better off not with us?

I tell myself that you sing to yourself ‘The cold never bothered me anyway….It’s hard to imagine you with your own personality.  Your own you.  But we try to keep it clinical because that’s how we can cope, but it’s hard to not let our minds wonder to happiness and completeness.

Your existence in itself is both awesome but a challenge.  I wish it wasn’t a challenge, but it’s not so simple.  I wish we could look into that magic crystal ball and it tell us that you will be fine, it will tell us that you will fight to be here with us and you will win. We will win. The world will win to have you with us.  It would tell us you are small but mighty.

Infertility round 2

Caught between a rock and a hard place is what I would call planning for a second child after dealing with infertility the first time around. And we are not even at the stage of planning number two, we are still at the early stage of deciding whether we want a number two child.

Let's go back to times before we faced infertility. The times when we were naive to think getting pregnant was the easy, fun part, and it was the subsequent pregnancy and beyond that would be the more challenging part of growing our family. I'm pretty sure we would have said that our family would ideally consist of two children, a dog and a cat (or two). Today, if you asked us what our family would look like in several years time, I wouldn't be able to tell you because I just can't imagine it right now.

Today, I can't imagine Aviana playing with a sibling in the garden, showing them how to throw and catch a ball, or holding her baby brother or sister in hospital, asking THAT question 'where do babies come from?' or her poking my tummy and proudly saying to random people that mummy is having a baby. I can't see it. I don't want to see it. Because if I see it, I think it, I feel it and if it never happens, it will tear me up forever. But sometimes my mind does wonder there and I try not to cry over the fact that it is so distant and fuzzy. The future is so murky.

And yet, I am better prepared than I was before Aviana became part of our lives. Today I know I am infertile, I know what the chances of getting pregnant again are, I'm an infertility warrior, this isn't my first rodeo!

Somedays, I'm positive and hopeful….perhaps my hormones have 'reset' and I'll get pregnant without medical intervention, we have a frozen embryo I won't need to stimulate again, I now know all the IVF tricks of the trade, it would be a piece of cake!

And other days, I'm down and negative…I'm getting closer to 40 than 30, my eggs are even poorer quality than they were before, we only have ONE embryo in the freezer-it's got a 50% chance of surviving the thaw, there is a good chance I will have another IUGR pregnancy, we will be doing this with a toddler, I'm not sure I can cope with another IVF stimulation and suffer from OHSS. And then there is the risk of pregnancy loss, An ectopic pregnancy was a cruel experience.

And the negative is winning at the moment, infertility round two doesn't look good to me. I don't want to waste the precious time I have with Aviana whilst she is this small worrying about infertility. I'm not sure where this is going, but knowing I managed to survive that infertility journey the first time and looking back at that mountain, I'm not sure I can do it all over again.

Things you never ask a lady

Things one never asks a lady…

1. How old are you?

2. How much do you weigh?

3. Are you pregnant??

I am super sensitive to question number 3 for a couple of reasons. 1. Infertility, 2. When I was pregnant my baby was growth restricted, 3. Baby loss.

Whatever the reason. It’s never any of your business, whether you are a stranger or a friend. And if you are my best friend I’d have told you already if I was pregnant! So basically, no. You don’t ask a lady that question. EVER.

So you can imagine the horror when someone asked my friend who was not drinking alcohol shrieks “oh are you pregnant???!!” In an excited voice. Everyone looking down at her tummy, she replied “ummmm, no!!” Not knowing quite what to say. The other person pretending to joke about it saying, well if you’re not drinking alcohol then the only other explanation is pregnancy….

STUPID. 

I don’t think you have to be infertile to realize that this is a rude question to ask…or do you?? I don’t know!!! It baffles me even today!!

Let’s just be honest here

Life is like a box of chocolates….you never know what you are going to get (well, if you have the picture guide then it’s not much of a surprise, but hey just sayin’!). It is true that you can’t choose whether or not your child is going to be an angel newborn or satan in disguise.  We all want the angels, but we don’t always get what we want.  I hear you say, “Yes, Dani, we know that”.

Chris and I have differing views looking back at our time with Aviana as a newborn baby.  We also have differing views on looking forwards on the subject of growing our family again.  But that’s OK because we often have differing views on some of our important life aspects and we still survive today to tell the tale.

Looking back, for me, Aviana was not an easy newborn baby, but she also wasn’t hellish either.  There was that time when we were figuring out her silent reflux when I thought what did I do to deserve this nightmare?!  There was the worry of whether or not I was feeding her enough because she was an IUGR baby (I still worry BTW!) There were times when I was creeping around quietly, anticipating Aviana to wake up because she didn’t nap well and I am not a good napper during the day so I struggled with the 2 hourly feeds.  The times when I counted down the minutes to Chris coming home from work because Aviana had been fussy and I couldn’t help her no matter what I did, wondering if I would always suck at being a mother.  The times when I wished our family and friends back in the UK could be there with us to see Aviana achieve her milestones.  But I also put a lot of pressure on myself.  I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months.  I wanted to keep up with my work’s executive development program. I wanted to shower every day – haha!

So being honest, looking back at the newborn months, it was tough.  And now it isn’t so tough – it is actually fun!  I wanted the newborn phase to pass quickly, in the moment it seemed to drag.  Now here I am looking at my daughter wondering how she grew up suddenly as an almost 6 month old, eating solids, giggling, interacting, playing, standing and sitting up.  I can already sense she will want to be an independent kinda lady.  And I’m cool with that.  And now I want to spend MORE time with her, not less which was how I felt at times during the newborn phase.  May be it’s because I know her better, I know myself better and I am catching on to the parenting thing that it seems easier.  But raising a newborn baby is hard, and it does get easier (Although I am not naive to think that there won’t be tough times in the future, so I’ve been told teenagers are the worst!!!)

Would I do it all again?  Yes.  Would I do it all again with a toddler?  Yes.  Would it be harder?  I think yes and no.  Many of our friends are on their second child and I get a sense that I’m on the right track with this answer.  It’s only until the next child comes along that they  ever realised that they had an angel or a devil newborn baby.  And their second one usually ends up being the opposite of their first.  Because that is the whole life is like a box of chocolates thing  (and it sucks if you were lucky to get two angels in a row then get a devil for the third!!)  So this leads Chris and I to have the conversation about what Aviana could be considered as (angel or devil), what would our second baby would be like (with a toddler in tow don’t forget!) and do we want to make life harder for ourselves?

Why does this all matter?  Because it begs the question what is next for our family (Oh and of course everyone always asks us if we will have another baby!).  For those of you who may remember from the great pudding club hunt, we still have one frozen embryo stored away (that we pay $60 a month to keep there).  It’s not an easy question to answer because we don’t have the luxury of planning when we can procreate another child.  We are infertile and unexplained infertility means our future remains hazy.  Plus there is the added risk of an IUGR baby again, we were lucky the first time that Aviana has not been affected too much, we may not be so lucky with a second.    All of this confounds the basic question of do we want to grow our family for the second time?  And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Chris and I have different views on siblings and age gaps….. :-p

The fear

When we went to childbirth classes back in October we were all given a piece of paper to write down our fears about childbirth. Chris and I wrote the exact same thing. We were afraid of our baby girl being born sleeping. Everyone else in the class wrote things like fear of child birth being painful or having a c-section etc. we went straight to the most morbid fear! But was that a result of our infertility and our journey to bring Aviana into our world? Actually everyone else in the room nodded and said yes they too were afraid of losing their baby, they just didn’t write it down!! So maybe we were just honest in our ultimate fears. 

I had a flashback to Aviana’s birth today as I read an article about postpartum C/section bodies. It reminded me of the moments in when I was pushing and Aviana’s heart rate was slowing down after every contraction. This is actually normal to some extent, but her heart was slowing down too much too fast, she wasn’t coping well with the labour. There was talk of having to get her out right now or else it was emergency c-section time. I could hear the heart beats slowing to a point that I was imagining them leading to stopping completely. The doctor had to use the vacuum to help get her out quicker. I hadn’t been pushing for that long and I felt helpless in the moment. Equally, I felt determined that Aviana was going to make it out alive and so I focused on pushing hard, I don’t remember being in pain I was that focused. I do remember being exhausted and barely able to breathe myself. I knew I had to breathe deeply to get her the oxygen she needed but it was hard to find the energy, I was digging deep. But I remember in that moment the complete and utter fear of losing her. It was the most afraid I’ve probably ever been in my life, and I’ve had a few scary moments in my life!

Thinking about that very fear, I hadn’t even really met Aviana and yet I was already afraid of losing her. I loved her before she was even born. Now that Aviana is part of our world that fear has never really disappeared, in fact I’d say it’s even stronger. I can’t imagine ever losing her now that she is here. I imagine this fear is very normal in the parent population, but I wonder how our invested journey to get her here makes that fear higher? But does that even matter? No, not really… a parent is a parent no matter what. Becoming a parent is not only a huge responsibility it’s a huge burden of constant fear in the back of my mind. I imagine my mother right now saying to me – ‘well Danielle, now you finally know how I feel about you going away to dangerous places like Iraq and Afghanistan! Or when you go rock climbing or sky diving or many other types of dangerous activities You partake in etc etc!’. 

….Well here’s to many more years of fearing for my daughter!!! If she’s anything like Chris and I combined we are in for some ‘worrying’ times ahead of us 😋

My first Mother’s day

I spent my first Mother’s Day with Aviana in the UK at my parents house, but sadly no Chris. The big question is…which Mother’s Day do we celebrate? The US and UK Mother’s Days are almost always on a different date (unlike Father’s Day!!!). She’s an American-British daughter and I’m a British mother. If she goes to school in America it will probably be more likely we will celebrate the American one. 

But despite this confusion, Aviana surprised me with flowers, an abundance of chocolates, a balloon and some prosecco!! What a clever girl! OK so maybe she had a little help ☺️

Motherhood is wonderfully rewarding, despite the odd occasional trying times of despair. So on Mother’s Day I had a bit of a cry thinking that there are many women I know still without their babes in their arms. I know how tough that day can be. I wish they could have their hearts as full as mine is right now.

I am extremely grateful to have Aviana in my life, so for now I feel like celebrating her, my little Rocky 💕 Thank you Aviana for being our little fighter X

What a difference a year makes

After the second explosion I remember turning around to see an old lady cowering behind her suitcase. The fear in her eyes was immense, she was terrified. OK we all were terrified, but it was her who I vividly remember the most. I asked her if she was OK, was she hurt, but she didn’t understand me – probably because I was speaking English when I was in Brussels airport. 
I remember that moment today one year later after the Brussels terror attacks, not because it was the one year anniversary(?) but because of the terror attacks in London yesterday. I heard today that another person died from his injuries – a 75 year old man. It made me think of the old lady in Brussels. It then made me reflect about how different my life is today one year on. 
One year ago I was also in the midst of down regulation for my upcoming 3rd IVF cycle. The one thing I thought of alongside figuring out how to get out of the airport alive was my medicine…I NEED MY MEDICINE! Looking back now it was daft to carry my bags with me, I should have left them behind. But all I could think of was needing to take my next injection. Not even a damned terrorist was going to stop me from this IVF cycle! And now here I am, one year later back in the UK with my beautiful 3 month old daughter, Aviana, the outcome of that cycle. 
One year ago if you told me my future I wouldn’t have believed you. On the edge of quitting, I somehow felt strength from adversity. I’m so glad I didn’t quit because I can’t imagine my life without Aviana in it.

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.

-Walter Anderson
And so Life goes on. I will continue to fight terrorism and I will continue to fight the disease that is infertility with all of you. 
X

5 Surprising things about my postpartum recovery

When I was pregnant I geeked up on my pregnancy, what was happening day by day, how my body was changing, how it was going to change over the 40 weeks.  I read books, blogs, downloaded 3 different pregnancy apps and read them like the Bible everyday. Some of the articles touched on postpartum recovery, but really I didn’t pay that close attention. So there were some things that surprised me when it came to my postpartum recovery I wish I had known a little about before so I wasn’t obsessively googling!

1.Urinary Incontinence. I learned about incontinence fast. And I’m not talking about the kind of incontinence you get when you laugh or cough and just a little bit of pee comes out. I’m talking about standing up out of bed and your entire bladder falls out from between your legs into a warm puddle beneath you, with no way of stopping it no matter how hard you think about it.  Apparently postpartum incontinence is very common (1 in 3 will women suffer) – so how come I had never heard of this before?! What’s more…it can take months to recover.  When the nurse told me it should get better within a few weeks, I believed her.  But now, I am not so sure.  It has definitely got better since the immediate week after giving birth, but I am no way near being fixed.  Chris had me sit on towels on the sofa and in the car, he even put multiple layers of waterproof blankets under my side of the bed (a picnic blanket with a waterproof bottom, and one of the pads we took home from the hospital!).  Fortunately I haven’t had any real big embarrassing accidents.  I’ve been working on my kegels (I did do these when I was pregnant BTW) and trying to stop/start the urine flow when I pee.  Sometimes I can control the flow and other times I can’t no matter how hard I try, this gets me upset and frustrated at myself.  Here’s hoping the nurse was right and this doesn’t last long.

2. Night sweats.  The first night home I woke up after an hour (because that is all my sweet one would let me sleep) and I was DRENCHED – as if I had jumped into a bath in my sleep.  Weirdly, I had even managed to shape my duvet into a wet ball and was cradling it like it was my baby (that’s another story!).  The same thing happened night after night.  I suffered night sweats when I took the Progesterone in oil during IVF, so I hazarded a guess that it is hormonal related.  Again, a quick google, and apparently night sweats is very common in postpartum recovery! It is the hormones aiding the body to rid of all the excess fluid no longer needed that was made for pregnancy.  Oh OK then.  Could have warned me so I could be prepared with a few towels by my bed! Just as well Chris put those layers down in the bed for my incontinence!

3.  Body changes.  OK so I knew my body was going to change after giving birth – No shit Sherlock!  But what I wasn’t prepared for was how MY body was going to change.  Suddenly, I could sleep in what ever position I wanted.  I had got used to bending at the knees when I picked up things from the dishwasher/bottom cupboard etc.  But now I could put my shoes and socks on without having to contort myself into a yoga pose.  All of these things changed gradually when I was pregnant and now the change back was almost instantaneous…I couldn’t get out of the habit of doing my pregnancy moves! I only needed my maternity clothes for perhaps 2-3 days after giving birth, it wasn’t long before I was  able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes.  Yesterday I packed away my maternity clothes and I felt an overwhelming sadness.  I haven’t packed away my maternity trousers/jeans though because they are so comfy!!! I missed my pregnant body so I had a little cry, I don’t know why I felt like that because now I have more clothes I can wear!  Part of me was also deeply sad for myself as I wondered whether I would ever wear those clothes again.  It was hard to let go.

4.  Weight loss.  Speaking of body changes…within 3 days I was down to my IVF weight and within a week I was back down to pre-IVF weight.  Some of you are probably hating me right now.  But honestly I did not expect it to be that fast, I started to worry if that was even normal.  I must have lost my IVF weight when I was pregnant which would explain why I only put on a total of 12lbs.  Remembering that I felt guilty for Aviana being growth restricted (IUGR), this just reinforced my guilty feeling.  May be I hadn’t eaten enough when I was pregnant, may be I wasn’t nourishing Aviana.  I have so many questions about Aviana being IUGR and what this means for a future pregnancy if we decided to try again.  I am hoping that my OB will shed some light on this at my postpartum appointment with the results of my placenta testing.

5.  Phantom kicks.  It is the strangest feeling…I know there isn’t a baby in there, but I was still feeling ‘kicks’ for two weeks after giving birth.  Whenever I felt something I would rub my tummy as if Aviana was still in there.  So so weird.

None of these surprises are terrible (except for perhaps the urinary incontinence being rather a pain), just wish I knew about them before!

The Inconceivable Adventures of Parenthood

Welcome to the Inconceivable Adventures of Parenthood!

Please let us introduce ourselves! We are Dani and Chris… We moved to Virginia, USA from the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, UK in 2013. Although we speak the same language, life in the US is a little different to living in the UK. Our amazing daughter Aviana  was born in the US in December 2016 just 5lbs 1oz as she suffered from Intra Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR).

photo-dec-28-4-26-06-pm

Our new family of three – Dani, Aviana and Chris

Becoming parents wasn’t easy for us as we battled infertility.  The moment Aviana arrived into our world we were instantly smitten with her.  We had hoped and dreamed of becoming mummy and daddy for so long, you would have thought we were well prepared!  But no amount of classes, reading, family story telling or googling can prepare you for the whirlwind of becoming a parent.

This blog is a place for us to share our adventures in parenting.  It’s a place to vent, it’s a place for us to communicate with other parents, it’s a place to reflect openly on the things we have learned – the good, the bad and the ugly.  We may also talk about the observed differences between the UK and US as we navigate our way through the maze of advice, hints and tips on being awesome parents.

Sometimes we may talk about infertility, just because we have a daughter now it doesn’t mean our infertility has been cured.  We are still infertile.  Our perspectives on family may differ as our lenses have been coloured by the disease, both in the past and in the future.

Please join in the discussions by leaving us your thoughts in the comments section in each blog post!  We would love to hear what you think 🙂

If you want to know more about our infertility journey, I have a separate blog where you can find out more about how our family grew from 2 to 3…and may be in the future it will grow again!  I will still be blogging here on IF related posts.  Visit her at www.thegreatpuddingclubhunt.com

Dani X

Ps.  We are just getting this site up and running so forgive the cosmetics as we construct our blog home!