Night Weaning: Night 1

I’ve been reading the No Cry Sleep Solution, and I really like the book. It elaborates a lot of the things I struggle with regarding co-sleeping, nursing, crying it out, sleep training, etc. I have always considered myself a middle-of-the-road attachment parent. I didn’t start with any agenda or dogma, but I knew I wanted a strong relationship with my kid(s) and was willing to prioritize that. As the past 15 months have passed, these are the things I have found to be comfortable for me as a parent:

Co-sleeping, in my bed. I read the sleep books before birth. We had a crib in our room. I tried putting her to sleep in her crib, getting up to nurse her in the night in a chair next to the crib, then getting back into my own bed. It was awful. I have never been so exhausted. Within 3-4 weeks, I plunked her down into our bed between our heads and that was that. She slept happily there for the next 14 months.

Baby-wearing when comfortable and convenient. I wear her at least once or twice a day to walk the dogs, walk to the grocery, or get things done. I like it. She seems to like it. We also use strollers regularly, and she’s fine with that too. I don’t usually wear her for naps unless we’re hiking.

Extended (?) Breastfeeding. I hoped to be able to breastfeed and I was thrilled to have a good supply. In fact, I had an oversupply and a kid who would not drink from a bottle, so I was able to donate a few thousand ounces. I hoped to make it to six months. I then hoped to make it to a year. Here I am at 15 months, and while I am going strong, it now looks like I’m going to be doing some weaning to hopefully jumpstart my fertility. I would like to keep breastfeeding, but I’m happy with what we accomplished and proud of our journey thus far. I’ve introduced Ripple pea milk as a hopeful supplement/replacement. The jury is out whether my daughter is willing to tolerate it. Other than milk from the boob, she has previously only accepted water (since 10ish months) so any additional calories and calcium would feel like a win.

Anywho, back to the point of night weaning. I don’t like Cry It Out. I know it can work, I know it works well for some people, but I also STRUGGLE to hear my kid cry. I can ignore whining and fussing with the best of them. But the second I hear her start to have fear or sadness in her tone, I break. So I am not yet at the point of trying this, though I know it’s another option. In the meantime, I have a kid who wants to nurse back to sleep whenever she stirs. She isn’t always eating, and she isn’t even always awake. She just wants the comfort of the nipple.

I’m attempting the method of removing my nipple when she’s sleepy, but not yet asleep. Over and over and over. As soon as it comes out, of course she stirs and whines. I put it back, count to ten(ish) and then try again.

Last night she fell happily asleep by 7:30 (after nursing). She cried at 9:00, and I waited a long time to see if she could put herself back to sleep. She could not. I let her nurse, then started the nipple removal method, and she was frustrated but back asleep in a few minutes. At 10:15 she was up again, so I did the same thing. This happened about two more times in the night (I’m not totally sure when, because I was half asleep). At 4:30 she woke up because she actually wanted to nurse, not just comfort suckle. I let her, and I did pull away, but she may have been too soundly asleep for it to matter.

In summary, about 5 total wake-ups, two to actually eat, three to comfort nurse. At each wake-up an average of about 4 removal, root, repeats. Slept from 7:30ish p.m. to 6:30ish a.m. Overall rating of 3 out of 5 stars, not the worst, and not the best. Hopefully she gets better at having the nipple leave her mouth and being able to fall asleep without it.

 

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No Luck and a Change of Plans

Lucky IUI #7, inseminated on 9/9 (my lucky number) was not so lucky after all. My wife felt a lot of pregnancy symptoms: what appeared to be implantation cramping, nausea, exhaustion, etc. But the tests remained a stark white negative from 11DPO through 14DPO. Her period showed up just one day late, likely due to the progesterone.

This one was a blow, because everything seemed SO perfect. Two great follicles, an incredibly healthy vial of sperm, a thick lining, seemingly perfect timing, etc. We both had to work hard to get our heads around the idea that it had not worked, because I think we both convinced ourselves that it MUST work. A little bit of salt in the wound is that this was the last cycle that would give us 2-year spacing with the kids (our ideal).

My wife is struggling. She is feeling defeated, sad, frustrated, depressed. It’s really hard. She has done everything right. But, as so many people here know, this appears to be a game where effort and merit are not rewarded, but rather, luck and chance win the day.

We originally anticipated heading straight into IVF, but it is clear that my wife is just not quite ready for that. She needs a break, and that’s okay. She needs to find herself again, step back from all the vitamins, hormones, supplements, decaf coffee, moderate exercise, and charting. This is a familiar place for many – it’s so easy to be all-consumed by this project, one of the most important and monumental projects that many undertake. She is an elite endurance athlete, and it has been slowly killing her to be sitting on the sidelines. She wants to race (triathlon) and she had anticipated having crossed the birthing item off her life to-do list when she returned to the start line. Like so many of us have learned, there is often no point in setting concrete plans when it comes to parenting…you can plan and anticipate all you want, but the reality may be something totally out of your control. In good news, she’s only 30, so time is on her side.

Another task on her to-do list is getting more information about her thyroid. She’s been on Levothyroxine throughout this journey, after the RE found her TSH elevated. Not by much, but enough that they wanted it lowered. We’d like to get to the bottom of that problem, and not rely on the band-aid fix of a pill. We will likely check in with a naturopathic doctor to run some more tests and get some more information. If we could iron out that problem, we might feel a little more confident heading into IVF.

Lastly, but not of little importance: money. We are attempting to choose a more responsible route and save some money for IVF before the procedure rather than take a loan for the bulk of it now and pay that off with interest. If push came to shove, either would work, but it seems like a better idea to get ahead of the cost rather than play catch-up with 2+ little kids at home.

She has said she wants me to try again. This brings a flood of emotions to my heart and mind, many of which I cannot burden her with at this time. On one hand, I’m thrilled at the prospect of bearing another child. I have always hoped (known?) that I would have one more opportunity. I’m 35 now, and my blood work in the past has indicated that I’m still fertile. We have three remaining vials of our daughter’s donor, and it would be wonderful to have a sibling with one of those.

On the other hand, my stomach immediately tenses at the prospect of weaning my baby. She is 15 months. I know it’s fine. I know that this is far longer than vast majority of women breastfeed. I know she’s getting her nutrition from solids. I know that my daughter and I will connect in other ways. It’s just…

I love nursing her. Mostly, because she loves it. It is SO clearly apparent how much comfort and security she gets from curling into me, pinching my skin and patting my boob, deepening her breathing, eventually falling asleep against me or with her back to me, secure in the knowledge that her nipple is there for her should she stir. My heart aches at the thought of taking that from her before she is ready.

I am having regular cycles. Despite EBF, I had an obviously-anovulatory cycle just 8 weeks post-partum. Then I had another at 6 months. Since then I’ve had a handful of cycles, and the last three have been around 35 days long. I’ve always had long-ish cycles, so 35 isn’t totally outside my normal realm. I’m pretty sure I’m ovulating. I get EWCM at around the right time, and I “feel” like my hormones are swinging in that direction. However, our clinic won’t do an IUI while I’m lactating. I have a call in to the doctor to ask whether they would do an IUI if my prolactin levels are normal and if I’m only nursing once a day. The nurse was pretty sure the answer is no, because they require that you wean three months before an IUI, but she’s asking for me.

On top of that, I’ll probably need CD3 bloodwork and possibly a pap (I think I’m just due). I may also ask for the HSG, because it’s free and it can obviously rule out a lot. Another thing that has to happen (per our clinic) is that we’d need to have our communicable disease testing re-done. For a third time. We just got “re-upped” 9 months ago when we started trying for number two. And now we’d need to re-test again, since we’re switching back to me. It’s infuriating, but I’ve learned just to turn the other cheek.

What this means for me is that I am going to spend the next two weeks night weaning the baby, hanging on to the 3:00 p.m. pick-up nursing and bed-time nursing (just two a day) for now. We’ll see if that lowers my prolactin enough to shorten my cycle and ensure I’m ovulating. I may spend next cycle crossing off the above tests, and we could potentially try an IUI in the November or December cycle. If it needs to be January, I can live with that (October baby?).

In an ideal world, if I can put my wish out into the universe, I would be able to get pregnant in December or January and continue nursing once a day (bedtime) until my daughter turns 2 in June. At that point, I would commit to fully weaning her (if she had not self-weaned already) and prepare for a baby to start nursing in the 4,5,6 months after that. In a slightly frustrating way, if we had the luxury of being hetero, that would be a very realistic goal, because you just start having unprotected sex. In reality, the cost of procedures and use of our last vials prohibit us from just “going for it” and require a much more calculated and deliberate plan.

So here we are, a little stunned, a little wounded, spinning new images of what our life and family will look like in future years. Piecing together some plans, asking a lot of questions, and hoping for a change in luck soon. It’s a little hard going into the holidays knowing that likely neither of us will be pregnant, when we originally hoped to have another full-grown baby this year! But, I’m trying to be at peace, trusting the universe, knowing that we have one awesome kid already and someday we may be lucky enough to have more.

May the Luck be [Finally] in Our Favor?

We went for IUI #7 on Saturday morning. My wife’s lining was also thin on IUI #4 (around 6+ I think?) and afterward, we regretted using a vial on that cycle, because it seemed like the poor swimmers never had a chance. So, I scheduled a lining check the morning of the IUI this time. If the lining was under 7, we planned to give careful consideration to using the vial. Due to scheduling, the IUI was scheduled for 11 a.m. That meant the vial had to begin the thawing process at 9 a.m. That meant we needed to know before 9 whether it was a GO or a NO-GO. The only time they had for an ultrasound that early was 7:15 a.m. And because it was a weekend, our local office was closed and we had to drive to South Denver to visit the “main office.” It was an early morning, but we’re hoping it was worth it.

The lining was above 8. There was still one strong follicle on each side, and the ultrasound tech said the “walls were irregular” which meant “something was happening.” It just looked like the follicle was not a perfectly-lined circle, but more ragged around the edges. I took it to mean that she had not yet ovulated, but it was imminent. After consulting Lab Tech Google afterward, it appears as though ovulation can occur in under 20 minutes, and the follicle appears “collapsed” afterward. Given that this ultrasound was at 7:15, and the IUI was at 11:00, I’m thinking timing was pretty great.

The other good news was that the woman at the andrology lab (where they thaw and wash the vial) told us that she had never seen a donor vial like this – it had a higher count than many fresh samples. It had 180 million count pre-wash and something like 38 million afterward. I made my usual joke of “we only want one!” but I was secretly proud of our semi-anonymous donor who we’ve nicknamed Luke. High five, Luke!

Between the ultrasound and the IUI, we went to breakfast and then puttered around a mall. At breakfast, my wife said “well, I don’t know what I could do to encourage ovulation to happen now.” I winked at her and said, well, I’ve read one thing can help… Now, we had our daughter with us, and we’re about 50 miles from home, so that gave us few options. I said, “After breakfast, M and I will wait for you at Starbucks…the car is parked in a relatively private place…” And my wife, who is such a team player, willing to do anything for the collective effort, did her best to encourage the eggs to set sail in the parking lot of the breakfast joint. Hahaha, she’d kill me if she knew I was telling this to the internet, but it’ll be a great (private) story if this is the round that works…

And now were 2DPO. Trudging toward another round of everyone’s favorite game: should-we-test-or-should-we-wait. This truly will be our last IUI (for my wife), so my wallet is quivering nervously in my pocket, wondering if we’re about to take on IVF. Per the acupuncturist’s guidance, we’re not discussing future plans – only focusing on this round. Cross your fingers and toes for us, please!

In other news, our daughter’s newest obsession is chapstick…putting it on you, me, mama, even the dog. Take the cap off, dab on lips, put the cap on, take the cap off, dab on someone else lips, put the cap on. She regularly inventories her chapsticks, and if she does not find all four…she searches and whines until the missing treasure re-appears and she can clutch them all in her tiny fists.

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Thin Lining

Well we’re 12 days into IUI #7. As I mentioned before, we anticipated doing 6 IUI’s, then moving onto IVF. Because my wife has to travel to China in October, quitting after six would have meant (1) an entire cycle off due to timing and travel, (2) a “re-set” cycle of birth control pills while she’s in China, and then (3) IVF in November-ish. That felt like an awfully long time to wait, so we decided to press forward with one more IUI.

I was feeling pretty optimistic at the beginning of this cycle, because why shouldn’t it work? She’s 30, has regular cycles, very healthy, ovulates regularly, and we’ve gotten three early positives on 6 previous cycles.

She had her follicle check yesterday. She’s got two strong follicles (18.5 and 16.5) plus two trailers at 13 and 8. So, basically it’s looking like two viable (they could both be over 21 by CD14). The lining, however, was only 4.6. That is thin. She’s on Estrace now, so we hope it thickens, but it felt like a big blow to me. Our clinic does not do an ultrasound before insem (unless we ask for it and pay for it) so we won’t ever really know whether the lining thickened up enough. We’re going to insem on Saturday, which is CD 14 (that’s typical for her). To me, it feels sort of like we had the perfect cycle last month and missed our opportunity, and this month we’re back where we started. Maybe acupuncture will help, since it’s our newest trick that we’re trying this month.

As most of you know, this process is so draining. Of course we’re loving being moms to our happy baby girl (when do I have to start saying toddler?), but we really wanted kids close in age, and it’s feeling like the gap just gets wider and wider. Maybe we’ll get lucky on this cycle and all the frustration and worry about IVF, spacing, and what to do will vanish. That would be nice!

Thanks for any good thoughts or stories of thin linings WORKING with IUI! Crossing my fingers to see some positives out there in blogland!