I had my annual exam with my ob-gyn yesterday. I was a little intimidated going in, because this is the guy who gave me a few mini lectures about gaining too much weight during my pregnancy, and how OC women overeat and the myth of doubling calories to feed a pregnant body. I only blew his maximum pregnancy weight gain by 5 lbs (I think I gained like 35) which he actually wasn’t that concerned about toward the end, and he was happy with my weight loss and all that in the post-pregnancy checkups, so I don’t know why I was still that concerned. He didn’t mention weight at all, and just asked how I was generally feeling about everything. I told him that I feel like after I stopped nursing, the fat just flew on. I now have fat rolls where I’d never had fat rolls before. He smiled and said that there is nothing disconcerting about my current physical state, and that he considers me “skinny” (which is WEIRD). He said, “You are probably the last patient that I’ll see today to whom I would say, ‘We need to talk about your weight.'” He said the difficulty I’m having in losing weight is more in my head than actuality, and that if more patients had my BMI (he’d guessed 20, but turned out it was a little over 22), the medical industry would save a lot of money. He said my only issue is a body image issue.
I did finally take my stats yesterday after Mr. W replaced the batteries in our Tanita scale. I was thinking that I need to drop 15 lbs before mid-March (we’ve got a Hawaii vacation planned), expecting my weight to be in the 130s. I weighed in at 120. My hydration was low, at 55%, and my body fat was at 23%. That’s just 1% over my old goal, so I couldn’t understand why I was looking at such grossness in the mirror. Then the lean muscle mass measurement came in at 38 pounds. THAT makes sense; at the peak of my fitness, I had more like 43 lbs of lean muscle, so of course I’d look less toned. I need to put 4-5 lbs of muscle back on and drop my fat a few percent, which would probably only end up being a net loss of 4-5 lbs on the scale. I’d be okay with that.
So my new theory is that the body DOES add new fat cells in places fat cells had never existed before, but that this LOOKS worse than it had before because the skin’s looser, so things aren’t as compressed.

After the doctor’s, I went to a hair appointment. This guy was recommended by my former court reporter, who had been going to him since something like 1991. The salon was only a few miles from my house. It was interesting having a tattooed Harley-Davidson enthusiast do my hair, and he was very nice, detailed, patient. I basically went in and said, “You’re the expert. I look like a cavewoman. Do whatever you think is good.” He was all happy he got to pop my cherry, as he put it, in getting a color weave done. It was a painstaking process in which he brushed on highlights in select strands of hair throughout the top half of my head and then wrapped it in foil.

After the color developed, he suggested long layers, and I said okay, fine, whatever. Then he changed his mind and asked if it’s okay if he did a clean blunt cut. I said okay, fine, whatever. As he approached the front of my head during the cut, he asked how I feel about bangs. I said okay, fine, whatever. So here’s what happened after being there over 2 hours:

At first I was like, “This looks like Cleopatra.” But I guess it’s not THAT short. And the color will take a little getting used to. People seem to like it. Either that, or they’re just being nice. Here’s a close-up of how he did the coloring.

I love the honey color of the streaks, but I wondered if it looked too much like I had a bunch of silver hairs that didn’t quite take to color just right. My roots are still black, tho. As we finished up, he teased, “So am I gonna see you in another 3 years?” Yes, yes, the color he cut off the bottom was from the frustrating dye job(s) I got for college roommie’s wedding in January 2011. My exterior maintenance is pretty neglected. I asked him ideally, how often would I need to come back? He said if I want to maintain the look, every 3 months. Otherwise he’d have to start from scratch if I don’t return for another 3 years. If I return regularly, he just touches up the roots. 3 months isn’t bad; I was thinking he was gonna tell me 6 weeks or something. I thought his prices were a steal at $120, so I tipped him $25.

I have other things to blog about, such as our trip to Dallas a couple of days ago (Allie’s first plane flight, first stay in a shared room with us, first stay in a different time zone), but here’s a quickie about something else cuz I’m SO EXCITED ABOUT IT.

Every so often, I try to do the Crow Pose. Just to see if gravity still applies to me. It always did, and I would quickly, sometimes slowly, roll forward face-first into the floor. I usually catch myself before my nose makes actual impact, though. Tonight, I thought I’d try again, fully expecting the reaffirmation that yes, I am not impervious to the laws of physics.
Only…I WAS. In disbelief, I did it again. And again. And again. There were a few times I couldn’t get up because I rushed it too much, but mostly, I got up. I don’t know what stars aligned themselves tonight, how it is that I’m exempt from Newton’s principles, and this will probably never happen again after tonight, but it almost doesn’t matter, because I set up my phone’s camera timer and I GOT PROOF!

I love my yoga photos. 😀 Here are the other ones I have, in reverse-chronological order.
9-25-13, with our yoga instructor, at work:

7-4-13. I think this is some sort of Pigeon Pose variant.

6-29-13. Elephant Trunk Pose. I have short arms so you’ll have to take my word for it, but I’m off the ground.

Hubby and I still haven’t reached any resolution on the near future regarding his imminent retirement. He knows he’s going to retire in about 5 years (he can’t wait, he talks about it almost DAILY, especially when traffic’s bad on the freeways commuting to work), and he still wants me to quit when he retires, so we can be a family unit all together, but I’m still not ready to give up the financial security of having my own money, and own work life. Maybe things will change in 5 years. Maybe Oregon, Hawaii or Florida (yes, Mr. W put FLORIDA on the potential retirement location list) won’t seem so far away by then. Who knows.

Mr. W took me to lunch today at a Chinese food restaurant. When the fortune cookies came at the end, he cracked his open, read it to himself, and then commented with a big smile, “Hey, I’m gonna get to retire this year!” Huh? He handed me the fortune. It says, “The current year will bring you much happiness.
He told me to open mine. I did, and read it silently. “Hey, I’m NOT going to be quitting this year!” I said in delight.
“Your fortune is ‘The current year will NOT bring you any happiness’?” he predicted.
I handed him my fortune, which says, “Depart not from the path which fate has you assigned.

Hubby is planning for retirement. I’ve been planning, too, but in an unspecific, nebulous, not-thinking-about-it sort of way. My retirement accounts and investments are in order and have been growing since I was 23, the Roth-IRA was begun when I turned 21, the real estate is in place with good renters in it, and the 15-year mortgage on it will be paid off in less than 6 years. But in hubby’s planning, he knows stuff like where he wants to live when he retires (Ashland, Oregon or the Big Island, Hawaii), what he wants to do when he retires (travel whenever possible for weeks or months at a time, internationally, depending on Allie’s school year calendar), and most importantly, WHEN he retires (in 5 years). This is troubling for me because this means he also knows what I’D be doing when he retires — at least, what he wants me to do. As I would be too young to retire and would be ineligible to draw from my retirement benefits, he wants me to simply quit.

This is many women’s Cinderella dream: to meet a handsome man, fall in love, have a family, and have him say, “I will take care of you financially. Just quit and travel with me and our child.”

I’m petrified. I have been financially independent since college and part of my sense of self, freedom and security are based on having my own money. I like not having to answer to anyone else how I spend, save, or invest my money and generally, I haven’t had any problems. I’m not irresponsible with money, and I like that I reap my own rewards that way. I don’t have to be affected by how others, even my husband, spend their money, and that’s a huge stress-saver in a marriage. To lose my job means to become dependent on my husband’s retirement income. He keeps saying that it’s “our” money and not “his” money, but in my head, I see myself as a helpless burden with her hand out for an allowance, sheepishly taking money she didn’t earn and would be afraid to spend without express permission for each item to be purchased. I feel small and powerless. Unentitled to an opinion on purchases or to have preferences. I feel like I should be calling him “sir” and hoping to please him so he doesn’t fire me or find a younger hotter model of companion and put me out on the streets. *cry*

Mr. W: Where should we go on vacation this year?
Me: Well, maybe —
Mr. W: The airfare to Afghanistan is at a nice low rate right now. Let’s stay there for a month during Allie’s summer vacation.
Me: Yes, sir.

I know, I know, it’s not that bad. We’ll get to take Allie on educational trips, she gets to experience different environments which will open her eyes and increase her tolerances to worldly cuisines, cultures, and people. We’ll make sure she’s fit and ready to do the nice physical excursions, too, like hiking to the nice vistas, rafting through the rivers, and, just for me, running with mom at Disney races and maybe even a Boot Camp Challenge or two. We’ll both get to be around for all of Allie’s school events and activities, or extracurricular stuff. We can move to places with excellent education systems and not be tied down by things like commutes to jobs. I’m trying to get my head wrapped around this to be okay with the major upheaval coming.

A lot can happen or change in 5 years, I know. But I know my parents aren’t going to be happy that their only child is moving their only grandchild out-of-state. They’re already unhappy that we live almost 40 miles away from them. Ugh.

Rebecca said something the other day about making and reaching for your dreams. “Think about what you would do if money were no object. Make a list. And then make those things your intention. The universe will pick up on it.” I guess my nebulous “retirement” will have to now take form.

P.S. Did I say that Mr. W can’t wait and talks about retirement daily, and contrasted with his retirement dreams, current daily life drives him crazy? He’s eager to not have to go to work anymore, whereas for me, I feel like I’d be abandoning my judge. =/ I’m also nervous that losing my salary would kill our safety net and if Mr. W has an unforeseen expense come up, I wouldn’t be able to spot him like I currently am able to during property tax or insurance due dates. I guess that’s why we’re consulting with a financial advisor right now. I need a realistic picture of when we can afford for me to quit. *biting fingernails*

I’ve had multiple friends (all female) ask me for my birthing story. I used to be all queasy about birthing stories, but ever since we decided to get pregnant, I had been very interested. It may have been from an educational standpoint. Anyway, here is mine, written in pieces over the course of the past few days (I didn’t have much time available in productive blocks). A timeline:
* Wednesday, 11/23, contractions started (~3am), entered hospital (~8:30 a.m.) and had baby (4:57 p.m.) (I was pretty happy I started in the wee hours of the morning, labored through the day with sunlight streaming through the windows and we weren’t feeling like we were up when we weren’t supposed to be, and I was done by the end of a regular workhour day. It was perfect. Oh! And I didn’t cuss, didn’t fly into verbal or physical attacks on Mr. W. I pretty much felt in rational control the entire time. [I just asked Mr. W if he was glad I didn’t cuss him out or scratch him to death and he said, “Mm-hmm! You were very pleasant to be with, as aggravating as it may have been to have me keep telling you to do stuff like breathe and count…”])
* Thursday, 11/24, stayed in hospital (we opted to stay overnight Thursday night cuz the nurses and staff were so helpful; otherwise they would’ve discharged us after 24 hours, since everyone checked out as healthy)
* Friday, 11/25, discharged early afternoon (~2pm) and came home for the first time with Allie

WARNING: This is long AND graphic; if you’re one of those queasy-about-birthing-story people, don’t click “more.” Otherwise, welcome to my last Wednesday.

Did you guys notice I was gone for awhile? No? Well, it’s my fault; I haven’t been blogging consistently. Only this time, I have an excuse! I’d like you to meet Allie Cat:

Friday 11/25, our first day back at home!

Born the day before Thanksgiving, 11/23, at 4:57 p.m.
8 lbs, 2 oz (I know! not my genes)
21 inches (again, not my genes)

Birthing dream scenario goals met:
* no epidural
* no episiotomy
* no IV pain relief (or any pain relief)
* mom healthy, baby healthy
* dad stayed by mom’s head the entire time coaching, and took no photo or video of objectionable stuff. 🙂
* no drama; only dad and medical team in birthing room with me through labor. 🙂 🙂

I know women who didn’t exercise during their pregnancy because they don’t normally exercise, period. Then there are women who exercised through their pregnancies; these second category of women had an easier time during their pregnancies and labor. Plus, the first category of women that I know bitched through their pregnancies and the second category seemed well-adjusted, excited, happy. When the doctor put me on a no-exercise restriction from before my egg retrieval (late February) through the time they saw a normal heartbeat on ultrasound (last week), nearly 5 weeks had passed and it felt like 4 months. I didn’t gain any weight, maintaining steady at about 121 lbs, but I felt like my muscles were atrophying, I was starting to feel crabby and sluggish, and I was going to fall off the workout wagon and have a hard time getting back on again. I WANTED to be exercise-minded, and here’s why:

Get On Up: 33 Reasons to Exercise Now
February/March 2011 issue of FitPregnancy magazine, a gift from the hubby. I’ve italicized the ones most convincing to me.

1.) You’re likely to gain less weight. Research shows you might put on 7 pounds less than pregnant women who don’t work out, while still staying within the healthy weight-gain range.
2.) Labor and delivery may be easier. No guarantees, of course, but strong abs and a fit cardiovascular system can give you more oomph and stamina for the pushing stage. One study found that prenatal water aerobics regulars were 58% less likely to request pain medication during labor than non-exercisers.
3.) You lower your gestational diabetes risk by as much as 27%. High blood sugar during pregnancy puts you at extremely high risk for developing type II diabetes in the decade after delivering and raises the odds of preterm delivery or having an overweight baby. If you do develop it — and many fit women do because genetics and age play a significant role — exercise may help prevent or delay your need for insulin or other medications.
4.) You get that “prenatal-spin-class high.” Active moms-to-be report better moods than their sedentary peers, both immediately following a workout and in general throughout their pregnancies.
5.) You’re less likely to cry, “Oh, my aching back.” Some 2/3s of pregnant women experience back pain, but water workouts, yoga and pelvic tilts can offer relief. Exercise during the second half of pregnancy seems to be especially helpful.
6.) You’re less likely to get constipated. Pregnant women’s intestinal tracts often get backed up due to high progesterone levels and a growing uterus, but exercise, along with a high-fiber diet, keeps your digestive system humming.
7.) You have more energy. On days when lifting your remote control seems like a tall order, even a 10-minute walk can revive you.
8.) Odds are, you’ll deliver a svelter baby. Babies born with excess fat are significantly more likely to become overweight kindergarteners, and overweight newborns of moms with gestational diabetes are more prone to develop diabetes later in life.
9.) You can enjoy the greatest flexibility of your life. Relaxin, a pregnancy hormone that loosens your pelvic joints in preparation for delivery, also relaxes the rest of your joints. With careful stretches, like those done in prenatal yoga workouts, you can capitalize on this window of opportunity.
10.) You’re more likely to avoid a forceps delivery, C-section or other intervention. Regular exercisers are 75% less likely to need a forceps delivery, 55% less likely to have an episiotomy and up to 4 times less likely to have a Cesarean section, research has found.
11.) You’re likely to be fitter in middle age. In a study that followed women for 20 years after delivery, those who’d exercised throughout pregnancy could run two miles 2.5 minutes faster than those who’d taken a workout break while pregnant. The continuous exercisers were also working out a lot more.
12.) You’ll get positive attention. Everyone smiles when they see a pregnant woman on a power walk. No one is more popular at the gym than the pregnant woman on the biceps machine!
13.) You feel less like a beached whale and more like a hot mama. Women who exercise throughout pregnancy have a better body image than those who sit out the 9 months.
14.) Your labor may be shorter. A landmark study found that among well-conditioned women who delivered vaginally, those who had continued training throughout their pregnancy experienced active labor for 4 hours and 24 minutes compared with 6 hours and 22 minutes for those who’d quit training early on. Two hours less of hard labor is nothing to sneer at!
15.) You learn to chill out. With its emphasis on breathing, meditation and joyful movement, prenatal yoga helps stressed-out moms-to-be stay calm. Plus, a regular prenatal yoga practice can teach you to relax rather than tense up when you feel discomfort, a helpful skill during labor.
16.) If you work out in water, you enjoy a wonderful sense of weightlessness. For some women, swimming or water aerobics may provide their only relief from painful foot and ankle swelling.
17.) You’ll likely experience less leg swelling. Your body retains more fluid during pregnancy, and your growing uterus puts pressure on your veins, impairing the return of blood to your heart. Exercise can limit swelling by improving blood flow.
18.) You may be less prone to morning sickness. Though nausea stops many women from exercising, many moms-to-be report that they feel less queasy after a workout or that the exercise takes their minds off the nausea for a short time.
19.) You may boost your child’s athletic potential. One study found that 20-year-olds who were exposed to exercise in utero performed better at sports than same-age peers whose mothers did not exercise during pregnancy.
20.) You’ll bounce back faster during delivery. Compared with new moms who were inactive during pregnancy, those who exercised are more likely to socialize and enjoy hobbies and entertainment post-baby. They just seem to cope better with the demands of new motherhood.
21.) You’re likely to be healthier and leaner when your kids head off to college. Twenty years later, fit women who’d exercised throughout their pregnancy had gained 7.5 pounds, compared with 22 pounds for women who had taken a break when pregnant and resumed exercising afterward. The continuous exercisers also had lower cholesterol levels and resting heart rates.
22.) The sense of accomplishment and confidence spills over to the rest of your life. Finishing a prenatal power walk makes you feel like you can conquer the world!
23.) Your child may have a healthier heart. The developing babies of prenatal exercisers have more efficient hearts than those of non-exercisers, and this higher cardio fitness level seems to last into the childhood years.
24.) If you smoke, exercise may help you kick the habit. In a small study, pregnant smokers reported that exercise gave them confidence to quit, decreased their cigarette cravings, boosted their energy levels and “helped them feel more like a non-smoker.”
25.) You might sleep better. Some pregnant women who work out say they fall asleep faster, slumber more soundly and snooze longer than inactive moms-to-be.
26.) You’ll meet other expectant moms in a prenatal exercise class. Get their phone numbers; you may be meeting up for playdates or babysitting co-ops soon!
27.) You may be at lower risk for the #1 cause of premature birth. That’s preeclampsia, a complication that involves high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. About 5%-8% of pregnant women develop it, and the numbers are growing.
28.) You’re more likely to avoid prenatal depression. This is especially true if you exercise outdoors because bright light has antidepressant effects. Some 12%-20% of pregnant women experience depression, which is linked to poor sleep and marital problems after delivery.
29.) You feel more in control. When your body is changing in all kinds of wacky ways and your entire life is about to be transformed in huge, unknown ways, a regular exercise routine offers consistency and the knowledge that you’re doing something great for both yourself and your baby.
30.) You look better. Exercise increases blood flow to your skin, enhancing that pregnancy glow. Plus, when you’re calmer and fitter, it shows.
31.) Your children may grow up to be smarter. Some research indicates that kids of moms who work out during pregnancy have better memories, in addition to higher scores on intelligence and language tests.
32.) You bust out of your exercise rut. Pregnancy often forces you to try something new — to swim when you used to run, to try Wii Fit Ski instead of snowboarding, to give Pilates a whirl.
33.) You keep your immune system humming. Moderate exercise such as walking lowers your risk of catching a cold by as much as half. Researchers believe the data applies to exercising moms-to-be as well.

A friend and I have been discussing lately what keeps people together as close friends through the years. Common interests? Common circles? Effort?

Mr. W has 3 people whom he’d previously identified as his “best friend.” One is his former brother-in-law, who we don’t see very often because their interests don’t cross much into ours, and when they have their wine events or superbowl events, they don’t invite us. The only “regular” event Mr. W and I throw is my July 4th/birthday bar shindig, and they came the first year but were out of town for the second. That family is still close with Mr. W’s kids (as the kids are cousins), so we hear of things and sort of trade checking-ups thru mostly Mr. W’s daughter (whose mom lives close to their house). I think the last time I saw these friends was when we all went whitewater rafting last summer. They do mail us Christmas cards every year; I’ve only returned the gesture once, cuz I’m horrible at card-stuff, even though I tell myself every year I’m definitely gonna make the effort to send out cards this year.
Another best friend is a retired coworker of Mr. W’s. She’s fairly newly retired, and she sort of mimicks the interests of Mr. W. When they worked together, he got into computers, she got into computers. He was into gaming, she got into gaming. They gamed all day at work, at lunch together, and in the afternoons. Then they went home and gamed online with each other. (That was a rough period, 6 months into our relationship, when I found myself completely replaced by their obsession.) Then he found an embroidery machine that would take any programmed designs you want to create or download from a computer. He had a lot of fun goofing off with that, and she immediately went and bought a similar machine. (Then she took embroidery classes, and traded her machine in for a larger, fancier, nearly professional industrial one. She retired around then and dedicated a lot of time to putting personal touches on her shirts. Now she’s using this amazing machine to start quilting classes. She’s loving her retirement.) Then he bought an iPhone. He showed it off to her and she very soon got out of her phone contract early and bought an iPhone. And then she outdid him again; she traded up to the new iPhone. Then he bought the iPad, went and showed it to her. It was a week or less before she bought one after seeing his. Now they get together for lunch or we meet up at the coffee shop for Rebecca and they bring their iPads and submerge completely into their iPad worlds (while I stare into space). I think somewhere in there she tried to follow along on Mr. W’s photography interest but it didn’t catch on the way the gaming and gadgets did. They’re both into the fantasy gaming/books/TV/movies genre, so they’ll get together for things like Harry Potter viewings while I, and best friend’s wife, bow out.
The third best friend is Mr. W’s former neighbor before Mr. W moved to where we now live. He’s got similar interests as Mr. W, but came with his own fairly advanced knowledge of the topics, so Mr. W trades info and experiences and ideas with him. The neighbor has taken formal training in computers, so they would get together and discuss things and revamp their desktops for hours (sometimes days). He’s also made a makeshift photo studio in his garage for taking portraits of his young daughter, so they discuss cameras and photography strategies. We’ve recently gotten him interested in eating better nutrition-wise, and he was a chef at some point in his life, so he tries to absorb and incorporate the new knowledge into what he does. One of the fun things about hanging out with #3 is that he’s game to anything you introduce him to, as long as you tell him you’ve tried it and it’s fun/healthy/interesting/educational. His response is usually, “WOOOOOW, this is SO good!” Or “WOOOOW, now THAT is INTERESTING!” And then he’d go and try it himself on his own, whether it be a restaurant or a new photography trick shared with him. Mr. W also sucked him into iPhone world. I think he’s on the verge of going into iPad world, too, but he’s waiting for the newest release of a future model. Mr. W and #3 used to meet on a man-date once a week on a set day, and Ann and I would go off and frolic somewhere on those days. We’d often come home earlier than the guys would, despite the fact that Mr. W typically goes to bed at 9p, sometimes 8p. He says he’s wide awake when he’s talking about or doing something INTERESTING, such as computer stuff.
Common interests, #2 and #3 have the most with Mr. W. But things in common, #1 wins — a longer history, relatives in common, the kids are related. But effort in maintaining friendships, #2 and #3 win hands-down. I even get texts once in awhile from #2, such as Happy Chinese New Year and stuff. So I guess it’s a combination of factors that keep friendships alive. Of course, also important — no backstabbing in their mutual histories. That’s how I drop off friends; betrayals and let-downs.

After her retirement, #2 joined the same gym Mr. W and I belong to. After a few months, she discovered the superior level of that gym corporation. With our lower-level membership, we can go into the superior gym, but we’d have to pay $15 per use. (Currently, Mr. W and my membership’s annual renewal is $49/year, so we don’t want to budge from that since the deal is now unheard of.) She fell in love with the superior level’s gym and upgraded her membership, calling Mr. W and raving about this club. She invited us to meet her there yesterday, and since Mr. W and I were introducing #3 to True Food Kitchen (“WOOOOOOW, I think this is THE BEST FISH I’ve ever had in my LIFE!” Seriously. Do yourself a favor, go to True Food Kitchen, and order the miso-glazed black cod dinner entree. You won’t regret it unless you’re allergic to fish or black cod or nutrition.) and he also has the same gym membership we do (following our lead, he got the same great deal we did years ago), we invited him along. And for the first time that I was aware of, the roles were totally reversed when we got sucked into one of their worlds.

Yesterday, what we walked into was the most glorious dream-gym. This is the ultra level, and there’s only one of them in California, and it’s less than a half hour’s drive from our home. Three stories of fitness equipment, more cardio equipment than you can count (well, than you’d care to count). Full-size basketball court inside, 3 squash courts, 2 raquetball courts, giant exercise class room with a glass wall with a view, olympic-sized heated outdoor-pool, outdoor jacuzzi and gas barbecue ranges, two sand volleyball courts (one in front by a decorative fountain lake and one by the pool in the back), private whirlpool, sauna and steam room in each locker room. The locker rooms themselves were stocked and arranged like dayspas with all the amenities you would need; blowdryers, brushes, lotion, q-tips, hairspray, towel service, flat-screen TVs, irons and ironing board. Lots of free fitness classes, and a full pilates class with pilates boards, all the equipment (for an extra $30 for 10 sessions). An in-gym restaurant and smoothie bar, 2 billiards tables, lounge areas with big-screen TVs scattered throughout. And then the very nice guy who was giving us the tour and information said some magic words. This gym is only “busy” at lunch hour when the surrounding businessmen in the corporate area come in for a quick workout, or many just for lunch in the healthy restaurant and to shoot a couple of hours of pool. Any other time, the place looks like 8pm on a Friday night in October. (Which is how it looked that Sunday afternoon.) I griped about the New Year’s Resolution Crowd. He said they HAVE no New Year’s Resolution Crowd. There’s so much equipment and free weights you never have to wait. And THEN, the on-site babysitting service will take your kids for up to 4 hours at a time, kids ages 6 months and up. SIX MONTHS! I asked if any of their trainers know how to work with a pregnant client, and he said there IS a female specialist for that. I was sold. Mr. W and I needed to get back in the gym (which we’ve been resenting and avoiding since the new year), and this gym solves all our current gripes, AND solves a future problem. The best part, they don’t have to change or cancel my $49/yr membership contract. They simply add a supplemental monthly fee on top of my existing contract, and I can cancel or freeze the supplement at any time without affecting my original deal. So if my fertility doctor tells me, “Stay out of the gym for the next 2 months,” I call up the gym or go online, and freeze the account for 2 months. I don’t get charged the supplement again until it unfreezes. Between this ultra level of gym and my level, there is also another level of semi-exclusive gyms that now also have access to world-wide. Plus there’s my existing level and the level beneath mine. So that’s 4 tiers of gyms and there are tons of new gyms now open to me, closer to home if I don’t feel like going to the ultra nice one to get spoiled.

Yesterday, after becoming upgraded members, Mr. W and I worked out (he enjoyed running the indoor track on the 3rd floor), hit the weight floorS, and then changed to swimsuits and did laps in the heated pool outside. There were other people there doing laps, but the pool was so big it accommodated all 4 of us (including Best Friends #s 2 and 3). I’m a crappy swimmer, but it’s supposed to be good exercise, especially when I’ll be too big to run, so I may as well get started now. Then we sat around in the outdoor jacuzzi for a bit before leaving. We’re going back today.

I’m so glad Best Friend #2 shared her newest interest with us!

TAXES: We visited the tax guy Thursday evening. It’s someone Mr. W has used in the past and I’m happy he found his way back and took me along. We were hoping we wouldn’t have to pay (much) given that our expenses are at an all-time high right now. Imagine our relief when we got a refund, and our tax refund came out to, not as much as last year’s, but about 1/3 as much. We’ll just say that if applied 100% to my “fertility credit card,” will pay off more than half of it. It’s like getting 20% off on fertility treatments. But now I’m thinking, we’re letting the government withhold way too much of our money for taxes. I should increase my exemptions for this year. (Mr. W has himself plus 8, I have just myself plus 1.) So, that went well. 🙂 The tax guy’s modest office lobby is well-stocked with hospitality, too, but I couldn’t indulge in the red wine, chilled white wine, Cokes and diet Cokes, coffee (which they had run out of anyway), so I chewed on a lemon Tootsie Roll (I didn’t know these existed!), flipped through a celeb mag, and played a form of Scrabble on my cell phone with Jordan and Mr. W. (They both cheat. What kind of word is “vim,” anyway? They both played it against me. Hmmph.)

FERTILITY DOCTOR VISIT: Friday morning, we went in to our fertility appointment. First, they did another ultrasound to count my follicles again. I don’t know what these drugs have been doing, but I’ve never seen my follicles (egg sacs in the ovaries) look so clear on ultrasound. I could finally tell what my doctor was counting. He pointed to various large dark circles and said these are the good follicles that will mature and he will take the egg from them. He pointed to various medium and smaller sized dark circles and said these probably won’t mature much, given how young and small they are, so he’ll just ignore them when he’s doing the egg extractions. He counted the viable (large) follicles. SEVEN on each side. Woohoo! (And, ouch.) I’m definitely at the right stage to change over my Lupron drug (halt ovulation) to Menopur and Follistim (start egg ripening). Since we were on the subject, I noted to him, “I didn’t feel anything on Lupron.”
“You’re not supposed to,” he said. “One out of six or so women get menopausal type symptoms, but most don’t feel anything at all.” Mr. W said he would’ve thought I’d be one of the six since I’m “sensitive to medication.” Lucky for him I’m not, although it’d be interesting to get a glimpse into what I’d be like at menopause.
After the ultrasound, I went to the phlebotomist station for a blood draw to test my hormone levels. We discussed what happened last time they drew blood early morning. (Before we left for the airport on our Europe vacation, we went to the fertility doctor’s for multiple blood draws. I stood up when I was done, waited for Mr. W to be done, then when I was at the payment desk, I started feeling nauseated. It got worse until I had to tell the receptionist to stop talking because I needed somewhere to sit down. Then ringing in my ears set in and I started getting a “static” thing going on the outside edges of my vision, which closed in until my vision went black. I told them I couldn’t see anything and felt really sick. A nurse and Mr. W led me into an empty room to a chair and the nurse fanned me (I had broken out in cold sweat) while feeding me a box of juice. Soon the ringing gave way to a water rushing sound and I could hear better and I started seeing shadows moving around in black and white. My vision then came back and they instructed me to sit there while Mr. W kept fanning. Apparently juice in the morning before a blood draw was not enough for my little body.) The nurse said losing vision without losing consciousness was “weird,” cuz usually people that start to black out on their vision faint. This gives me a little concern about “going under” during the egg retrieval; what if I’m paralyzed and blind but I’m conscious and can FEEL and hear? *vomit*

After the blood draw, we went into a separate nurse’s office and the nurse who was with me at the ultrasound came in to explain my next course of medication for the next 8 days. Apparently I’m not done with Lupron. I’m just going to halve the dose to the “5” line (.05ml?) on the tiny skinny subcutaneous syringe (the ones with the orange caps in the photo), and administer that in the mornings as I have been doing the last 10 days. I guess that explains why I got an entire separate pack of insulin syringes in addition to the ones that came in the Lupron box, and why I still have half the vial of Lupron left over. “We still don’t want you to ovulate,” the nurse explained. I’m adding Menopur to the morning Lupron poke, though. I found out Menopur can also be administered subcutaneously, so I was greatly relieved. That means I can still do it myself. But this one’s trickier to set up. Apparently the syringes for Menopur comes with a “mixing needle” attached to the syringe. She said I don’t have to use that because it’s more difficult, so to just twist that needle off and throw it away into the Sharps container (provided). That was a relief, because the “mixing needle” is thick, long, and scary. I then screw on a “Q-Cap,” which is shaped like those ointment tube caps that have an inset puncture point on the other side that you have to turn around and push into the foil seal of the ointment tube opening to puncture it. So you screw the Q-Cap onto the syringe and use it to puncture a small vial of clear fluid. The way the cap is shaped also snaps onto the vial. You then use the syringe to draw up the liquid through the hole at the tip of the puncture point into the syringe. Then you pull off the vial and insert the Q-Cap with syringe onto a second vial of white powder. Squeeze the liquid from the syringe into the vial, shake the vial, mix the two. Then draw up that bottle of mixed meds into the syringe. Remove the Q-cap and vial, screw on the thin half-inch subcutaneous needle head, squeeze the air out, tap out the air bubbles, and you’re all set.
In addition to those 2 morning shots, I have to do a Follistim shot, also subcutaneous, at night. This injection “pen” is the stupidest invention in my kit. The concept is cool; you load a vial of the liquid into the middle of the pen. You screw on a new needle tip. You turn the back of the pen until your directed dosage (225 iu for me) shows up in the window. You inject the half-inch needle into your skin and push the button at the back of the pen with your thumb. You pull out the pen, toss the needle, and you’re done until the next dose. Here’s the impracticality of it: The vial is preloaded with 300 iu of medication. My second dose, I use up the remainder of the vial (75 iu) and have to open the pen, pop in a new vial, screw in a new needle head after tossing the old one, turn the dial to administer the rest of my dose (150 iu), and re-poke and re-inject. That’s TWO POKES for one dose! And then the next day, I’m going to have 150 iu left, so I use it all up, then put in a new vial, turn it to dispense the remainder of my dose (75 iu), repoke AGAIN, and I’ll have 225 iu left in there, the full correct dose, for the next night. To make keeping track of all this easier, the Follistim pen kit has an instructional booklet with a chart in the back pages you write your doses and remaining iu’s in, like a checkbook register. WHAT THE HELL! The preloaded vial is 2/3 empty. Why can’t they fill the damn thing up so I get more uses out of one vial, or better yet, dump all that liquid into one big vial and let me draw up my own dose like I do with Lupron? Argh. It’s such a ridiculously fancy zippered kit, too. See the right side of the first photo. At least it’s in the proper colors of blue and yellow, altho it’s more of a Cal navy blue than the UCLA royal blue. =P

So this morning, I tried the new meds. Mr. W has always been eager to help and so far I hadn’t needed him to. He asks often, though, if I’d like him to do the shots for me. This morning, he woke up before 6am and laid there, fidgeting, keeping me awake. Then 45 minutes later, he prodded me and said, “Want me to set up the shots for you?” I said no, I could do it. He said he paid good attention to the nurse and can do the mixing. I said I can handle it. He offered to do one while I do the other. I still declined, and he said then I’d have to get up now and start setting up the shots to keep to my time regimen of adminstering the shots 12 hours apart each time. I got up and while I was in the restroom, I heard him opening up packaging, heard the clink of vials and the snapping of the Q-cap. I just let him do it while I set up the Lupron. It must’ve been fun for him. After he drew all the Menopur fluid into the larger syringe, I balked. There is SO MUCH FLUID in there, almost 2.5 ml. I’ve been used to .10 ml on the Lupron.
“How is all that liquid going to fit with a little half-inch needle under my skin?!” I wailed. He handed me the syringe. I stared at it, freezing up. I thought of what commenter Bat said (in my Pincushion post) about the discomfort in shots coming from the volume of liquid going in, and not from the prick itself.
“Want me to do it?” he asked again.
“Okay,” I said in a small voice.
I swabbed my problematic right side (which was next up in order of stabbings), sat on the bed, and administered my little .05 ml of Lupron. I felt nothing, which was great, except when the needle came out, a larger drop of blood appeared. Stupid right side. I was still gripping my abdomenal fat roll with my left hand per protocol for injection, and turned my head. “Don’t put it right where I put the other one,” I said in paranoia.
“I won’t, I’ll put it right here,” he pointed to a spot about a third of an inch away from the blood drop.
As I looked away, he went for it. “Hey, that’s good, I didn’t feel it,” I said. A second or two passed. Then I felt the fluid. “Ow. Well, it doesn’t hurt exactly, just sort of sore. Ow. Okay, I’m going to start letting go of my fat now so there’s more room for the fluid to go. Ow. That’s uncomfortable, it feels like pressure inside…” When I fully released my fat roll (I know, this sounds gross), the pressure was relieved significantly.
“Okay, and I’m done,” he said.
“Leave it in there for 5 seconds before you pull it out to let the drug settle,” I said. I had read that somewhere, altho it was probably the instructions for the Follistim pen that I’d be using later that night. My mind was a whirlwind. I figure it couldn’t hurt to prevent liquid from squirting back out like the stream from a clown’s lapel flower. I didn’t feel the needle come out, and he certainly didn’t leave a big mark on my skin the way I did with my dinky little injection, which was already bruising purple under the skin. So he did good, despite the fact that he dropped the Q-Cap when he took it out of the packaging and he stabbed himself with the needle before he administered my shot.
I laid back on the bed, afraid that movement would squeeze the fluid out. How does that much fluid fit in there?! I could feel the pressure as my fat cells were being pushed aside to make room. A minute later I got up and went about my morning and the pressure feeling went away after a few minutes. Now, almost 3 hours later, I still feel normal, not that there’s anything to cause mood swings anyhow. We’ll see how the evening’s Follistim goes.

NEW ANTICIPATION: The fertility doctor’s office called me a few hours after our morning visit yesterday. They said the blood test results show that my estrogen is indeed suppressed, so everything’s on schedule and going as expected. They said to go ahead and start the new drug treatment the next day (today). I go in on Monday for a blood test just so they can make sure the hormone levels of the new injections don’t need to be adjusted (I hope they adjust DOWN!). I go in again on Wednesday morning for another ultrasound and blood test to check the status of my eggs now that they’re being told to ripen, and to recheck hormone levels. At that point, they should be able to tell when the eggs will be ready for collection. (Like a hen.) Presently they expect tentative extraction dates sometime in the week after, so they’re going to call Mr. W’s urologist to clear Monday through Wednesday of the week after next for sperm retrieval. Whenever I’m set for egg harvesting, Mr. W will get the sperm retrieval done the day before so that it will be prepared and ready to fertilize my eggs the day my eggs come out. After that, I will get the best embryo implanted in 3 days or 5 days, depending how well the embryos are developing in their little petri dish beds. Throughout all this, I will be undergoing various shots and I’d still be shooting up, intramuscularly, a couple of weeks after the implantation.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and stayed awake a bit. I thought of how I’m not going to have sex for a year (cuz right now I’m in menses and after that we’ll both be going through surgery for sperm/egg retrieval and after that I’ll be pregnant and that just seems wrong to give the kid a visitor before he’s truly met his dad). And I thought of how starting now, our lives (well, mine mostly) will never be the same again and it will be completely new territory. I felt a little pensive, and I wondered if this was fear, or maybe cold feet. But then Mr. W snuggled up to me in his sleep and I remembered that one of his traits, which has sometimes annoyed me, is his overeagerness to help and take over on things that I’m doing, which has made me feel like he thinks I’m inept, but maybe when it comes to a baby, I’d really, truly BE inept. I’d certainly be inexperienced. I thought of how a couple of days ago, he was sitting on my La-Z-Boy recliner reading his iPad and I sat perpendicularly curled up on his lap, and he’d patted an empty spot between his stomach and my lap, and said, “In a year, there’s going to be a baby laying right here on us.” And I thought of how I’d been afraid that marriage would be a goodbye to all the things I loved about my life — the freedom to wander around the house nekkid or sloppy, the luxury of falling asleep downstairs in front of the TV for naps, the availability to hang out with friends and take trips — and how none of those things really changed. And then, with my husband curled up behind me and with my cat luxuriously balled in front of me and the rain beating outside, I fell asleep again.

The fertility clinic had me go in this morning before work for an ultrasound (to count the number of eggs I have in each ovary for this cycle that they’ll be using) and to start the paperwork for the process. I also had to turn in my surgery paperwork and photos from yesterday. The same female fertility doctor who found the polyps did this morning’s ultrasound.
“They didn’t find polyps? They’re gone? What happened?!” she greeted me as she came into the ultrasound room.
“Yeah, the doctor said I’m clean as a whistle. But she did look at your ultrasound pictures and confirmed there were polyps.”
This doctor suggested what yesterday’s doctor said: the polyps must have come out on their own between their discovery and their removal procedure, possibly with a menstrual flow. This doctor started the ultrasound and said, “Look at this!” She turned the monitor to face me.
“What am I looking at?” I asked, staring at the black and white image of what appeared to be a series of concentric ovals.
She pointed to the center, a black oval within the gray ovals. “You still have some fluid in here so we can see, and it’s totally clean in here. No polyps like we saw last time.” *cheer* She went on to count the follicles in each ovary, found 7 on each side, which she said is “more than adequate.” *more cheers*
“Now, you started on the pills, right?” she asked.
“Yes, I started yesterday.”
“Good, good, good!”
“The timing of this has really been amazing, to catch this cycle in time.”
“I like to think there’s some karma involved in this,” the doctor smiled at me.

Flat Coke & Flies emailed me this morning to congratulate me, and asked if this all feels surreal. No, it doesn’t feel as surreal as much as a “finally!” We’d been working on this for so long, and with the false starts, I feel more than ready for this. I’m sure actually BEING pregnant will feel surreal. For now, the only thing that feels surreal is the fact that I charged $10,000 on the new credit card this morning, maxing it out, and had to charge another $375 on another card, to start the IVF process. The only expenses left after this are a few thousand for the fertility drugs and shots (which I’ll be starting in 2 weeks), a few thousand for Mr. W’s urologist to extract his swimmers, and whatever it costs to freeze and store unused embryos (probably about a few hundred dollars, plus a monthly charge for storage). Given the few thousand I’ve already paid for the tests, consultations, and false starts, we’re well within the $25K expected range.

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