"Edited to Add"....

This started as a pregnancy blog when I fell pregnant in May 2009 after four years of finding a donor, doing all the counselling / paperwork / tests and trying.

And now, thanks to a 4WD which skidded onto our side of the road, killing our baby daughter at 34w and injuring me, my partner and two of my stepdaughters on 27 December 2009, it has turned into something else. We didn't want this something else, but apparently it is all we've got to go on with.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A breather

It's been a very intense couple of weeks, and finally, I've finished teaching for the semester (and for the year!) so I'm taking my therapist's advice and taking a week off work. We've got the sentencing hearing coming up in early November, and writing up my victim impact statement and supporting the girls and El Prima while they write theirs is about the only 'must do' thing on my list for next week.

Apart from that, there will be catching up with friends, planting vegies, playing in the garden and knitting.

Lots of this:

Our front yard - with the sage and lavender in flower and broad beans going gangbusters

* * *

The other thing hovering on the horizon is an exhibition opening on Friday night. One of the odd things that happened with the accident was that I suddenly became obsessed with taking photos... (I'm embarrassed to say this) of myself. At first it was to capture all the crazy bruising and gruesome wounds/ scars - I have a whole album of these ones - macabre but colourful - but then it became something I could do when I was alone in the hospital and trying to make sense of the senseless. (Here's a tip. You can't make sense of the senseless. All you can do is document it)

I needed to work out who this crazy lady in the mirror was and whether there was still any connection with the pre-accident me who felt like a very different person. And, given that a death had occurred within my body, was I really alive, or perhaps I'd missed something and I had actually died in the accident too? (I've seen The Sixth Sense, I know that it is important to check, even if you *think* you are alive.)

I'd had an obsession with Frida Kahlo as a sixteen-year-old, so I knew that she'd also survived a road accident and had lost babies (though not at the same time). So I took her as my 'recovery mentor' and made the decision that I was going to use art and writing to lever my way through. For a while, taking photos and writing was what I did. In hospital, I had to rely on carers to do the most basic things for me, and I no longer had my work to do or a family around me to organise and feed and transport to places. It meant that I had a strange trauma-led renaissance - as though the only way I could handle the onslaught of grief and trauma was by spilling it all from my head onto the page or into images.

One of the outcomes were these strange computer-animated self-portraits which blink in grief and disbelief.

They're being exhibited as part of a show put on by the Transport Accident Commission of artwork by survivors of road accident trauma. (It feels very odd to be a 'survivor'. I used to think that survival was a pretty low expectation to meet, but now I realise what a bloody effort it can be.)

* * *

It is halloween / all hallows eve and I'm thinking about ghosts. Apparently I'm not the only one. In fact it was Angie and Jenni's very apt words that tapped my thinking on this. Come haunt me, baby daughter, I miss you.

(First roses of the season - I've become a big gardening nerd and can't help myself taking photos of plants and flowers.)

** EDITED TO ADD** Oops - for some reason the .gif file is huge. But I rather like the effect when the webpage cuts of half my face, so I think I'll leave it. Please let me know if it does terrible annoying things on your computer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Conversation a hypothetical crazy lady might have with herself

Scene: toilet cubicle, pub. I'm rummaging in my handbag.

Me (to body) : So what was that about, all that nausea?

Body: (shrugs shoulders in a sulky way)

Me: I mean, I still feel green and spewy. Should I be seeing a gastroenterologist?

Body: Maybe it's in your head.

Me: Oh - in *my* head? Physical symptoms?

Body: (shrugs again) Even after a negative test result you wouldn't believe it.

Me: I took it 4 days early, so it was only 74% accurate.

Body: I thought testing early was supposed to shortcut all this drama.

Me : No, I'm afraid not. Last time I trust that theory. Or you and your "symptoms".

Body: (dissolves into a weeping hormonal mess)

Me: You really wanted that test to be wrong didn't you?

Body: (nods)

Me: Yeah, me too. I'm sorry I called you a weepy hormonal mess.

Body: I'm sorry I implied you were delusional.

Me: (glares for a second) Hmph. Speaking of which, I should probably stop talking to you as though you had a separate consciousness.

Body: Oh yes. But remember, you promised blue cheese and oysters if this happened?

Me: Yes yes. Enjoy it while you can, we're on again in November.

(I finally find something small and white - not edelweise - in the side inside pocket of my handbag.)

Yep, it's day one again, and even though it is the first month we've tried since losing Z, it still feels like groundhog's day. And as philosophical as I can be in my head about percentages and buying our lottery ticket, flipping our coin and whatever stupid metaphor you want to use, I'm still crushed because I'm a dirty hope addict, and I really did think something miraculous might happen. Bugger.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

5mm per minute

Yep, that is the speed that sperm can swim through an aqueous medium. That alone should tell you how productive I have been today. I know I'm torturing myself, but the issue is, we had insems on 9 and 10 october, but then I had EWCM (if you don't know what that means, it is probably for the best) on the 12th and then a postive LH test on the 13th, indicating that ovulation would happen within 12-36 hours. So, to have any chance at their booty, the sperm would need to have hung around for a good 4 to 5 days. And of course I had to turn to Dr Google for help.

Aside from the hilarous responses on yah.oo answers to "how long does sperm last within the human body?" (my favorites were "too long!" and "two days if you are trying to get pregnant, five days if you don't want to get pregnant"), I found this delightful article about Sperm Transport in the Female Reproductive Tract. I love that! All those little sperm thinking, what kind of transport should I use? Should I catch the bus? Or ride my teensy sperm-sized motorbike?

And a bonus - the article features a picture of sperm nestling into a "ciliated area of Fallopian tube epithelium" - please tell me this doesn't remind you of Nemo hanging out among the fronds of the sea anenome? (the white arrows point to the heads of the sperm)

Image from here.

I was reading out bits of this article to El Prima, and told her sperm had a usual swimming speed of 5mm per minute, and she said, that's faster than Ian Thorpe. Indeed it is. Given that sperm are only 5 microns in size (admitedly not including their tails), it would be like Ian Thorpe swimming at 1200 km per hour!

The upshot is, who knows. Who knows whether they got there in time, who knows whether they survived long enough. I got sad news yesterday that my friend doing IVF had a negative blood test - and am hoping the little fertility charm works for her next time. We're still waiting for our lottery ticket to be called, but in the meantime, I'm distracting myself with all these scientificky words:

In the uterus, muscular contractions may enhance passage of sperm through the uterine cavity. A few thousand sperm swim through the uterotubal junctions to reach the Fallopian tubes (uterine tubes, oviducts) where sperm are stored in a reservoir, or at least maintained in a fertile state, by interacting with endosalpingeal (oviductal) epithelium. As the time of ovulation approaches, sperm become capacitated and hyperactivated, which enables them to proceed towards the tubal ampulla. Sperm may be guided to the oocyte by a combination of thermotaxis and chemotaxis. Motility hyperactivation assists sperm in penetrating mucus in the tubes and the cumulus oophorus and zona pellucida of the oocyte, so that they may finally fuse with the oocyte plasma membrane.

So now I've got scientific evidence that fertilization can occur when the sperm arrive "up to five days before ovulation". Which leaves me singing my strangely hopeful little song, "Who knows, who knows who knows who knows".

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back in the game (yes, I'm a big superstitious hippy)

It was well past midnight when we finally got home from our flight from Sydney after our weekend of "baster-related" activities. El Prima was exhausted, and went straight to bed, and I meant to, but I kept coming back to the lucky 10c piece which we'd found yesterday (on the lucky date of 10/10/10).

I'd spent Saturday afternoon with a dear friend who is doing IVF, and had an embryo transfer on Friday, and we sat there eating yum cha - compatriots in this strange lottery of trying to get pregnant. When I found out that she was having the transfer, and that we'd cross paths in Sydney, I suddenly felt very pagan, and adapted one of my mum's shell mobiles to craft a little fertility charm for her - copper wire, mother-of-pearl, a shell spiraling into itself and infinity, and purple cotton yarn to connect all these things.

So when I got home to our house, quiet with the girls sleeping, I thought, I need to mark this moment - to embrace the hope and to give my little pagan thanks that we are finally back in the game - and to somehow weave together our love and grief for Z with the hope that one day we might bring home a living brother or sister for her. In the two days we'd been away, the sage bush in our front yard had burst into dark purple leafed flower. I went out, in the mild spring night, and cut two sprigs, and put them in the cornelia shot glass in our bathroom. I tucked the 10c piece into one of the shells which hang above the bath (also from my mum). And then, with the same special matches I use to light Z's candle, I lit a new little light.

Who knows what will happen? We've tossed* the coin, now we just have to wait two weeks to see which way it lands. We might be lucky, or it might take us a long time. But I'm so glad to at least be back in the game. Wish us luck. (and tell me, do you have little luck rituals? Do they work for you(either to make the good things happen, or to make you feel better about the trying)? I felt so secretive and embarrassed about this - I wasn't sure whether to post it or not. I know it doesn't make sense, and I know that these things won't change our odds, but they do help my heart, so that I can sit with this uncertainty and not let it drive me crazy)

And in related fertility news, look at my broad beans! We ate our first little crop tonight, with fresh tagliatelle, pesto and parmesan. So so good.

* ahem!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

afteriris response on good birth

EDITED TO ADD: **oops. I didn't mean to publish this as a post at all, only to save it somewhere before I posted it as a comment at Jess' blog, After Iris, in response to her brilliant discussion on what a "good birth" means for dead baby mamas. But since I stuffed up, I may as well leave it here, and extend the conversation. Is there such thing as a "good" birth when your baby dies? **

I was all geared up to (hopefully) have a birthing centre birth, and almost had a pre-emptively smug sense that I would be one of those women able to birth easily, along with a huge dose of anxiety just in case I wasn't. And when the accident happened, when the ambulance crew arrived and I realised that the car wasn't going to explode (I'd seen petrol leaking from the car that hit us and was worried because I was trapped in the car), I thought, it will all be okay. And I naively thought - I hope they don't give me a C-section. As if that was the worse that could happen. Ha.

I couldn't even let myself think that haloumi had died. She was right there, she'd been hiccoughing all morning.

Once we were at the hospital and it was clear that she'd died and that I had internal bleeding, I thought they would do a caesar right away, so I was very surprised when they told me they would try to induce me. So there I was, labouring with a broken knee and liver and spleen lacerations (and, thankfully, with lots of morphine). Except that it wasn't in fact labour, but couvelaire uterus, so that my contractions were six minutes each.

And as crappy as that was, it was the "best bit" of the whole affair. The sense of emergency was over, I'd been released from the horribly uncomfortable spinal board and neck brace, and I could try and move my body of my own volition, albeit with drips and bandages and monitors all over me. My mum and sister were there and had brought in my birthing CD, so the whole emergency room was subjected to hippy affirmations about breathing. And I thought, this is something important I can do for my child. This may be all the mothering I get to do for her. I also had a beautiful midwife who really did abide with me, in the way that yours should have Jess - she was there, she was with us, she did not look away for a second.

And when I had to get sent off for a caesar anyway (because of the internal bleeding) she helped us pick a receiving blanket for Z from the baby things my mum had made. And when I woke from the anaesthetic, the first thing I saw was her coming towards me to show me a photo of my daughter.

I'm still sad that I had a caesar, because it meant I had less time with her, and I didn't get to do something I was really looking forward to. But I'm not going to beat myself up about it, and I'm certainly going to be much less judgmental about others who have caesarians - because who knows what their reasons were (and why is it any of my business anyway)?

So, yes, I think conversations about a 'good birth' (ie a well-supported one, not any particular exit route) are really important for babylost mothers. Women are so vulnerable in birth and doubly vulnerable when they are grieving their child at the same time. In a way it makes good birth support even more important. Thanks for making me think about it.