Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dodo Arms, Coffee Guilt, and Bellies for a Reason

I had excellent intentions. When we decided that we needed to take a break after our last disastrous attempt to have a baby, I was going to use the break constructively ("decided" is really a loose term since a break was pretty much mandatory due to school schedules, refusal to have a holiday with injections and blood tests, and the need to raise up a small fortune for our next opportunity). Take some time to grieve and throw myself into a new school year, and then really make an effort to lose the fertility pounds I keep padding myself with every time I go through this process. I was also going to live like a normal person, so that meant not taking 8 billion supplements each day, dropping the prenatals I've taken for almost 4 years now for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON, and not worrying so much about what foods were possibly destroying my fertility from the inside out. Drinking coffee and wine and the Friday night margaritas was a must, because feasibly these activities were to be short-lived. And exercising--I was going to exercise my face off.

That... did not happen so much. I forgot how much school swallows almost all leisure time, especially when you're teaching new classes and creating/modifing a ton of materials with the hope that you can use these materials in the future and not have to redo it all again. I forgot that when you are coping with a devastating loss and a plan to move ahead that is very different than how you imagined things would be, and when you are realizing that IVF really HAS NOT WORKED FOR YOU, you tend to get depressed. The couch becomes incredibly inviting, and staring at the ceiling with tears in your eyes as you replay the long and arduous journey that you have to take to have baby while Facebook is peppered with "easy" babies (beautiful, loved babies, but babies conceived in beds or bedlike structures and discovered via a second pink line or digital "pregnant" announcement) seems like a great way to spend several hours. I swear Bryce almost deactivated my Facebook account multiple times. Coming home with a bag that I could bench-press full of work tended to forgo my plans to do yoga or go for a nice brisk walk. I managed it sometimes, but somehow my state of mind did not lend itself to disciplined fitness attempts. In December I signed up for a fitness challenge through Facebook (motivating but utterly unenforceable), to do SOMETHING every single day. I did great through mid-December, and then I got an upper respiratory infection that totally waylaid me. And it was COLD, dammit. I don't have a house with an elliptical in the basement. I have yoga supplies, a hula hoop, and a DVD player. And I just didn't feel like doing any of that. So all of the poundage from Lupron and estrogen shots and progesterone shots and being pregnant for a brief, beautiful point in time just kind of sat. I got rid of about 7 pounds of it, but just couldn't dig deeper.

Enter January. After our beautiful vacation to snowy Vermont, I decided that I was going to TURN THIS SHIP AROUND. In a post-guacamole and -tequila trip to Target, I bought a handful of exercise DVDs to add to my neglected stack. I was going to DO SOMETHING! I bought Ballet Beautiful: Swan Arms, Ballet Body Blast, and Ballet Butt 1&2 (all one DVD in case you think I've totally lost my mind). I bought Core Yoga -- 3 DVDs in one! by Shiva Rea. And I decided to move these in and out of rotation with some Crunch videos I already had, mostly yoga and pilates-yoga blends. I started with the Ballet Beautiful to do something different. And uh, it's different. I thought I would do Swan Arms, since my arms are getting that lovely droop that can appear in your 30s and just gets floppier and floppier through middle age. Down With The Droop! Swan Arms sounded like a great way to battle this unfortunate side effect of aging and being on the pleasantly plump side. Except Swan Arms is by turns STRANGELY DIFFICULT and also UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS. This tall, lithe, actual ballerina who trained Natalie Portman in Black Swan and is the personal fitness guru to Zooey Deschanel instructs you on how to make graceful swan arms. Basically you flap your arms in a way that looks incredibly fluid and graceful when the instructor does it, but mildly seizure-like when you do it. I look like I'm trying to take off but I am obviously a flightless bird who has no business trying to become airborne. I am doing Dodo Arms. I can only imagine what my neighbors see outside as they walk their dogs and peer into open windows and see my arms flapping about, facing the mirror so I can see for myself how unlike the video I look. I do not strive to be ballerina-shaped. I just want toned, unfloppy backs of my arms. This DVD reminds me of an unfortunate and hilarious moment in my high school life, where my trio of bestfriend-dom decided that we were going to take dance lessons. I think we were juniors in high school, so we definitely did not have a long and illustrious background of dance (we had all taken ballet and tap as preschoolers, I think that's about it). Kelly was adamant that tap would be the best, but Shannon and I insisted on ballet. It will be graceful! It will get us toned! It will be awesome! We totally should have listened to Kelly. We walked into the ballet class, which was called Ballet I although it quickly became apparent that there must have been many fractions beforehand because these young ladies were NOT beginners like us. We were all pretty slender then--some of us naturally so (not me) and some of us from running cross country and track. But we did not hold a candle to these balletic bodies that lined up at the bar. There was stretching, and plie-ing, and leaping. The barre routine was horrifying because while we three were all not as lithe and willowy as the other more professional dancers, I was by far the most voluptuous. The teacher came over and shoved my ass in and my stomach in and yelled, "Pull it IN! Pull it IN! Long and LEAN!" until I just laughed and said "It's as IN as it gets!!!" I was an avocado in a sea of carrot sticks. And then the leaping. The leaping solidified that tap was better than ballet. These graceful skeletal creatures ran and leapt into the air, landing on the bouncy wooden studio floor with a tiny little tap noise. You can guess what that looked like for me. I ran and leapt with what I thought was graceful abandon, and when I landed the whole place shook. Ooops. Tap was a much better class for me, and no one yelled at me to suck it in when I felt like I was already blue in the face from the sucking. We were only scolded for not being enthusiastic enough with our smiles and our arms.

So anyway, Ballet Beautiful is nice because it is 15 minutes per mini workout and I can do as much or as little as I want, and the only person in the room is me. No one else can witness me feeling like the hippos from Fantasia. Then came the Shiva Rea yoga tapes. These are great and very relaxing, but holy moses, she is definitely a free spirit. Instead of being told to "hold in your center and contract" as in the ballet series, she tells me to "find new spots to work on in the garden of my belly." I am told to find my creative flow as she literally twists herself in a pretzel during the free flow time where I am supposed to independently do my own free-wheeling thing based on the poses she's showed me at the beginning. It's kind of nice, but I need a little more structure. I do feel less bullied in that video than others I've tried.

I did really well with these new tapes and my old standards until I started medication. I was doing something at least 4-5 times a week, and it felt great. I could feel nice hard muscle where things had been pretty soft as of late. And then I started medication. I don't know what it is about this medication that just saps me of motivation. Maybe it's the constant state of headache, or exhaustion, or overwhelming feeling of not being able to handle too much. Maybe it's that I need to go to bed at 8-9 in order to feel rested and my brain just can't handle any more after I get home from school. I started Lupron a couple weeks ago and did my favorite tape, SuperSlimDown Yoga/Pilates blend by Ellen Barrett. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE. I had just done this tape a few days before without any ill effects, just sore muscles that felt good the next day. But somehow it all changed on Lupron. I felt awful starting halfway through and almost stopped. This doesn't make too much sense, but it made me feel like the tapes weren't going to work out while on meds. Then I started these estrogen patches, which will be the subject of a different post because they are kind of hilarious in their own right. But ever since I've been on the patches I have felt completely wiped. I have had a low grade headache every day (sometimes it spikes up into a full-blown migraine) and have just been exhausted and unfocused. And I feel FAT. But unable to really do anything about it. I have been scolded by many people that the last thing I should worry about is my weight right now, that that is secondary and not so important. I mean, I still fit into my jeans and I still have fat jeans that are too loose to wear right now. But it's so frustrating to want to do something more active but then feel completely at a loss to do it.

Then there's the food piece. I am trying to be good, eating fruits and veggies and gluten free whole grains (the only kind I can eat, thanks so much celiac), and avoiding alcohol and coffee. Well, I was doing well with the coffee. But I'm so tired that I just can't get rid of it entirely. And here's the kicker--DOES IT REALLY MATTER? How many people drink oodles of coffee and get pregnant no problem? I didn't drink coffee for three months prior to my last transfer and I got pregnant, but it didn't last. So was the coffee really a key variable? I'm not talking a pot day here. I'm talking maybe 4 cups a week. WHY AM I SO WORRIED ABOUT COFFEE??? And, seriously, WHY NOW? I am on drugs, yes, and I am building a lining, yes, but there are no embabies going into that uterus at this time. This is a test run with the new meds to see how I respond before the big game. So my worry is, will the coffee disrupt my lining? I have a cabinet full of sardines. Yes, sardines. Convenience food popular with senior citizens everywhere. But sardines are a great source of omega-3s, calcium, and potassium. Sardines are great pre-pregnancy and pregnancy food. And, I will admit, I do like them. They are disturbing but delicious. And my sardines are sustainably harvested, low-mercury fish. I am so careful about the food during cycles because I am terrified that some food is going to hurt my chances. And yet, it seems it is entirely possible to get pregnant on a diet of cheetos and crystal meth. But here I am, dutifully downing lemon-flavored fish oil capsules in addition to eating TINY WHOLE FISH WITH SPINES IN THEM!!! And I am still not pregnant. And none of it has mattered up until this point. I am starting to feel a little disillusioned.

I want to be clear, I want to lose weight to be healthier. I'm not looking for 25 pounds here. I'm looking for just enough to feel like I would be starting a pregnancy from a good place. But people keep telling me I am putting too much pressure on myself. See, I lost a bunch of weight when I got divorced, and then even more when I discovered that I should be eating gluten free. But it is a total fallacy that eating gluten free will make you skinny. I eat not a speck of gluten and while I am not obese, I am definitely in the "overweight" camp. Stupid BMIs. But my body is meant to hover around this size. It's where I keep ending up. That must mean something. It's just so frustrating to constantly be at the high end of my size when I know if I wasn't on all this medication and under all this stress and constantly in a state of grief and loss, I could be 10 pounds lighter without much effort. But again, is this really worth the stress of worrying about my weight when I am so focused on getting knocked up? I mean, look at all the fertility idols out there across cultures. They're not the willowy lithe ballerinas, they're curvy and soft. In some cases downright zaftig. So if I fit in the middle, that should be ok.

It stinks that I have to think so much about exercise and foods and weight not from a downright health point of view but from a "how will this affect my chances to get pregnant?" Really, at this point when removing eggs from my body that were harvested like salmon roe and then individually injecting them with sperm and creating embryos to transfer back into my plush uterus hasn't done the trick, I shouldn't worry so much about sardines versus 4 year old cheddar from Vermont. And, it's not like you get skinnier when you are pregnant. Although, I have to say, I am very much looking forward to being chubby for a good reason. I will be wearing that baby belly with tremendous pride. I don't think I will be complaining about how "fat" or "huge" I am when it is mostly baby. Hard-won, incredibly precious baby. I just want to have a starting point that's healthy so that I can have the cutest baby belly ever, and finally be proud of my body for doing what it's supposed to do. I really, really hope we make it to that point when these injections and patches are on for the real deal. I am so ready to rub my big, hard belly to connect with the baby inside, instead of rubbing my floppy, bruised belly with isopropyl alcohol and injecting it with more drugs to try to have another chance at making that baby belly happen.