Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For the very first time...

Last night, my husband and I had sex for the first time.... We’ve been married for over two and a half years.

Without more, that first line seems a little funny, doesn’t it? I guess what I forgot to mention is the next part... that we had sex for the first time after our miscarriage.

Ah, that makes a world of difference, those three little italicized words do.

Miscarriage. How I have learned to hate the word. Like I did something wrong, like I failed to carry our baby properly somehow. Sadly, miscarriage is often nobody’s fault, and often it’s impossible to tell why you miscarried at all. But it happens so very often, it’s actually amazing that more women don’t talk about it.

After getting our BFP, we were elated. And after only a month of trying! How LUCKY we were. I had the usual symptoms, like nausea, fatigue, backache, round ligament pain... one symptom that really surprised me was thirst. I could not believe how thirsty I was!



It was all too simple, or too easy, or something. Of course, like most women, I worried. I worried about our baby and whether everything was okay. If the symptoms went away for an hour, I waited on tenterhooks until they returned. Who knew you could be so happy about nausea?

I had discussed the chance of miscarriage with our doctor. She had told me that approximately 20% of first pregnancies end up in miscarriage. Of course, she stressed that 80% of the time, everything is fine. I tried to focus on the 80%. My husband and I whispered to one another, “How many of those 20% are like us, people who want their baby and do everything right?” We convinced ourselves everything would be okay.

As we neared 12 weeks, we got more and more excited. We fell deeper and deeper in love with our baby. We stopped worrying and started enjoying the idea of 10 fingers and 10 perfect little toes. I even went onesie shopping.

And then our world crashed in around us. I started spotting lightly the day after going onesie shopping. Three days later, it hadn’t stopped. I got worried. So I made an appointment with my doctor.

She couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler, but she wasn’t surprised since my uterus was so retroverted. She told me my uterus felt like an appropriate size, and that the type of spotting I was having was very normal. Despite my doctor assuring me everything was likely okay, I somehow just knew somewhere inside of me that it wasn’t.

To ease my fears, she sent us for an ultrasound. March 5, 2009. The most confusing and painful day of my life. The day we found out that our baby died.

And so, yesterday, my husband and I had sex for the first time after our miscarriage. And while it was perfect and beautiful, my body shook with sobs after the deed was done. I was overcome with so many emotions, it’s practically impossible to put them all into words.

As he has done so often this month, my husband held me while I cried, and told me that he loved me. It’s all he can do right now.

Stage 5

A week or two ago, someone mentioned to me that like all other significant losses in life (divorce, terminal illness, death of a loved one, etc.), the emotions surrounding miscarriage often seem to follow the five stages of grief; I was thinking about this today and decided to go through the stages and see if and how they applied to me:


Stage 1: Denial
Image source

"It's not happening...this can't be happening. It's going to be OK. It'll be fine." That's what I told myself when I first started spotting. I googled like crazy to find examples of women who had spotted bright red without losing their babies. I ignored all of the negative results and just focused on the (far fewer) positive ones. It would be fine - really, it would. It had to be.

But I knew deep down, with a quiet but definite certainty that it wouldn't. I knew that was it. That maybe it did turn out OK for some people, but it was not going to be that way for me. But I still tried to deny it. How can you not?


Stage 2: Anger

One of the hardest things to deal with about miscarriage is that it's not fair - not by a long shot. Over and over, you ask yourself, "Why me?" What makes it worse is the seeming arbitrariness of it. We wanted our baby. We wanted it so very much. We planned for it, prepared, did everything we could. I stopped drinking caffeine and alcohol and started taking prenatal vitamins well before we even started trying. We did everything right. And then we lost our baby.

Then there are the women who become pregnant on accident, who never even really wanted a child, who smoke and drink and even take drugs throughout their pregnancies and yet somehow their babies stick. Where is the fairness in that? Why do they get to keep their babies and we didn't? Yes, I was angry - at the world, at other people, at life.


Stage 3: Bargaining

When the spotting started, when the heavier bleeding started, even when it was nearing the end and was far too late for change, I begged. "Please make it stop. Please - make it stop and make everything turn out OK. I will do anything to keep this baby - please make it stop."

Of course, it didn't stop, and I knew it wouldn't. But you can't help but beg and plead and try to bargain, even if you know it won't do any good. What else can you do?


Stage 4: Depression

One of the most difficult parts of miscarrying is that not only do you have to deal with the inherent sadness that comes with your loss, but also the massive hormonal swings that take place as the placenta stops pumping hormones into your system. It's basically the same as the baby blues that most women experience after giving birth, only without a baby to show for it.

Those two things combined make the grief overwhelming; for about a week and a half, I didn't want to do anything. Literally. All I wanted to do was sleep or stare out the window at nothing. I didn't want to get up in the morning, didn't want to go to work, didn't want to cook or eat. All I wanted to do was huddle down inside myself and cry occasionally.


Stage 5: Acceptance

"It's going to be OK."

I can finally say this and believe it. The last two weeks have been pretty dark, but for the past couple of days, it's gotten better. Just a little, but it's steady - a bit more every day. I've finally stopped crying randomly, I can laugh and smile again without struggling, and life feels more positive. It feels good to be able to begin to move forward - not to forget (never to forget) - but to continue on with life and our hopes and plans. Today was a good day, the first in a while...and I'm grateful for that, and for where I am now.

P.S. Mr. Bibliosaur and I are going on a 2-week vacation starting April 2, and I probably won't have a chance to post until we get back - so Happy Easter, readers and Pregosaurs!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Waiting to O


CD 16 is here! I am slated to O between CD17 and CD22 and the positive OPK this afternoon points towards tomorrow. So does my EWCM. I have heard that the 2WW is the worst ever, but I swear waiting to O is right up there. And my CBEFM continues to just give High readings, I wonder if/when it will show peak. Which is why I used one of the OPK strips I had left from last cycle. It was certainly positive, so I am hoping that the CBEFM shows a Peak tomorrow, otherwise I am not sure that it's working properly for me. Of course it's the first cycle using it and it does "learn" ones cycle over time, but I have been surprised that I have have 10 days of High readings, no Lows or Peaks. Whatever the case, all signs are pointing to O so now it's time to get down to business for real.

DH is hilarious and is ready to go...I told him I thought I would O tomorrow or the next day and he started doing jumping jacks and stretching like he was about to run a race. Too funny. Here's hoping this wait ends and the 2WW begins and come Easter time I'll get to POAS and get a BFP! That would so be worth the wait.

Infertility: What to Expect When You're Not Expecting

Your first visit to the doctor about possible IF (infertility) is the hardest (though I guess it never really gets easier). I think the hardest part for me was admitting that something was wrong and that we probably wouldn't be able to have a baby without the help of modern medicine. Then the worst fear is - exactly how much help will I need? Will we need to try artificial insemination through IUIs (intrauterine insemination)? Will I need to be on injectibles? Will I need to do IVF (in vitro fertilization) and if so, am I comfortable with the ethics of it?


The first step usually involves seeing an RE (reproductive endocrinologist). Some ob/gyns do know a bit about IF and can help you, but for the most part, the recommendation is that you go straight to an RE who specializes in getting women PG (as opposed to an OB who specializes in getting a woman to deliver a healthy baby). Some insurance companies require a referral from your ob/gyn while others will allow you to go straight to the RE.

Most women aren't sure what to expect on their first visit. The first visit usually entails a bit of discussion, so the doctor can learn about your history, what has been going on, take a look at your charts, etc. The doctor will want to order a SA (semen analysis) for your hubby and possibly some b/w (bloodwork) for you. Certain things can affect your fertility such as high prolactin, low thyroid levels, insulin resistance, etc. so those are just some of the things they'll be checking for. It's very important that this b/w be done on CD3, so if you are getting this done through your OB, make sure it is on the right day. Many women get the initial workup done at their OB, and then end up having to re-do it when they get to the RE because it wasn't done on the appropriate CD. Another value they'll check with your CD3 b/w is your FSH. Every lab has different "normals," but in general they like to see your FSH lower than 6. Anything higher than 6 indicates that your ovarian reserve is diminishing and that time is critical. Here's a quick run down of what values are considered normal vs. abnormal and what that might mean for you.


The last thing your doctor may want to do is an transvaginal u/s to take a look at your uterus and ovaries. Women who deal with IF quickly become familiar with what we jokingly refer to as the "vag cam" or "dildo cam." It's not painful or anything, but it's certainly a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing the first time you have to have one inserted inside you. When I came home from the doctor's office after my first transvaginal u/s, I told my husband that I had entered a whole new chapter of womanhood. He chuckled. It's kind of like going to see the ob/gyn for the first time to get a pap smear. You don't really know what to expect; it doesn't really hurt; but boy is it awkward! This is also often done on CD3 and many women are concerned that they may still be bleeding a little bit from their period. Not to worry - you can use the bathroom right before the procedure so you can remove a tampon if needed and when you are in there they put a pad underneath you. It's a bit messy, but they are totally used to it.


Depending on your history, the doctor may also order an HSG (hysterosalpingogram) to check to see if your tubes are blocked. Some doctors do it on every patient as part of the IF workup, while others only do it if there an indication to do so. It's a fairly simple procedure where they inject some dye into your uterus, then they take a radiograph to make sure nothing is blocked. Most women report very little pain from it, just some mild cramping. If you take some ibuprofen beforehand, you should be ok afterwards.
That's more or less the basic, initial IF workup. If you're "lucky," after this you'll get some answers explaining why you haven't had any success getting PG. Of course no one dealing with IF is really lucky, but if you have a diagnosis, then your treatment plan can be optimized to give you the best chances of success. Those who are unlucky get labeled as "unexplained" and the doctors just have to hope that something they try will help. Often times, those that are considered unexplained actually have a diagnosis, but it isn't discovered until much more testing is done. When it comes to IF, often doctors won't work towards an actual diagnosis if it doesn't come easily from the initial workup. As long as they can successfully get you PG, they don't care what's wrong with you. The additional testing is usually only done if multiple cycles of IUI's and IVF are done without any successful outcome.
So that's it in a nutshell. What to expect when you're not expecting. Not really what any of us who wanted a child ever expected as our reality.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Time to FWP!

Initially, I didn't want to chart. I didn't want to stress about it. But after reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility on the recommendation of the Pregosaurs and others, I decided that it would be a good idea. I wanted to know whether or not I was even ovulating. And I figure if I don't get KU within a reasonable amount of time, I'll have good information to take with me to my OB/GYN to figure out why.

So I started to temp this month, on CD11. This is only my second cycle off birth control so I had no idea what my cycles were going to look like. My first cycle was 31 days if you start from the day I should have gotten my period on my last pill pack. But I didn't actually bleed because when I was on the pill I only bled about every other month. Still, I thought this cycle would be similar. So when I got 7 negative OPKs between CD14 and CD20 and no temp shift, I started to get frustrated. And I've been staring at my stupid chart for days, wondering if and when I Od. I wondered if my temps were just off because I work night shift and wake up at a different time EVERY day. And I started wondering if something was wrong with me. Exactly what I didn't want to happen and why I didn't want to chart in the first place.

But today, things changed. I got true EWCM so I tested again and I got a positive OPK! Time to FWP! Had I not charted and had I not read TCOYF, I would have had no idea that I was about to O on CD30+! I would have probably assumed I already Od and I'd be wondering why I wasn't getting my period and getting negative HPTs. Thank you, ladies, for opening my eyes and my mind. I've learned so much! Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What not to say

I mentioned in my last post that one of the reasons I wish miscarriage was more openly discussed is so that people would understand the wrong - and right - things to say. So I'm going to write a little list of things that would be better left unsaid, and things that are a good idea.

Oh, and I'd also like to add a disclaimer: I don't think most people intend to be cruel when they say these things - I blame it on lack of experience with the topic, feeling like they don't have anything adequate to say and simply being uncomfortable. I think very few people would say these things maliciously.


"Now you can [insert non-baby friendly activity here]."
Look - we KNOW that now we can drink/smoke/go scuba diving/whatever. I'm all for looking for the silver lining, but no matter how fun those things are, they are not compensation for a baby.

"At least now you know you can conceive."
This is a bit like letting a starving man lick a steak, then saying, "At least now you know you can taste." Sure, it's a positive thing, but is it really something you'd want to hear?


"You need to get over it/move on."
The healing process takes time - longer than a day, a week, a month, maybe even a year for some people. There is no standard grieving period. I'm sure this statement is meant as encouragement, but it feels more like criticism, and that's the last thing you want when you're grieving something beyond your control.

"You can always have another baby."
We know that. But we wanted THIS baby. They're not interchangeable.


"When will you start trying again?"
Oh, in about noneofyourdamnbusiness. Most of the couples I know want to try again, and usually fairly soon. But like "you should start moving on," there's no standard time frame. And besides, since when is my sex life your business?

"There must have been something wrong."
Really? You think so? That never would have crossed my mind! I would never have stayed up crying all night and thinking of all the things I might have done wrong, all the things that might have gone wrong and could go wrong again the next time. Trust me, we've come up with this one on our own - we don't need your insight. (The same thing goes for any comments regarding things we did while pregnant - no need to say "You shouldn't have exercised so much" or "You need to be less stressed.")

"Everything happens for a reason."
I'm sure it does. But what was the reason I lost a baby? Was it because I did something wrong (see above)? Don't mention this one unless you can actually back it up (which you never can) or you know for a certainty the woman would find it comforting.

"At least it happened early - you didn't lose a REAL baby."
Excuse me? My baby might have been the size of an appleseed, but it was every bit as real to me as one I could hold in my arms. I talked to it every day, made plans for its future, did everything I could for it. Don't you dare tell me that I shouldn't be feeling this way because my baby wasn't "real."


"I know how you feel."
This is a tricky one. Don't say this unless you've gone through a miscarriage yourself, and are willing to share that information to validate your statement. Otherwise it just seems trite.

"God has a plan."
Another tricky one. Not suitable unless the woman is a believer - to a non-believer, it might backfire, emphasizing how random and undirected life is instead.

That's the end of my What Not To Say list (can any of you ladies think of any I missed? let me know in the comments)...now for the things you SHOULD say.

Ready? Here you go:

"I'm sorry for your loss."

That's it.

Really.

If you're feeling chatty, you can add on, "I know this must be a difficult time - please let me know if I can do anything for you" or a simple "I'm here for you."

The women I've talked to who are dealing with miscarriage primarily want one thing: emotional support. They want to know that you care, to know that you recognize the pain they're feeling and understand that it's genuine, to have their baby's importance acknowledged. That's as simple as telling them that you're sorry for what they've lost - I know it might feel inadequate, but that's all you need to say. And we'll be grateful - really and truly.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Baby Making Sex

Okay this may be an over-share or TMI, but hey! You're reading a TTC blog, so of course there's gonna be some sex talk. So, put on your big girl panties and get in-touch with your inner Dr. Ruth...

With the decision to TTC this cycle has come a whole new approach to making love. Mind you, I have been sexually active for nearly 20 years so at this point, I feel pretty seasoned at the doing the horizontal mambo. Well, I am learning that when you start to FWP it's a whole new dance.

First of all, let me just say that the first couple of times have been a little mentally challenging. I guess I have just realized how automatically programmed the lingering thought, "I hope I don't get pregnant" becomes after 20 years of knocking boots but not wanting to be knocked-up! This of course is probably magnified because for 18.5 years of doing it there was always a condom involved. And condoms seem to provide a whole list of "oh nos!" and "oops!" moments. At least in my experience. Honestly, once I started on BCP right before our wedding I already felt a huge sense of relief and freedom (and frankly, an increase in pleasure). Now that we're going for the gusto, For the first time in my life there are no "oh nos!" surrounding the deed itself.

I have found that there is a renewed excitement in the intimate time that Mr. Divasaur and I share. Not that it wasn't great before, but now that we're trying to make a baby it's like we're more intune with each other and more connected. And we're having fun, which I am thankful for since I have read on many TTC boards that it can start to feel like a chore. The last thing I ever want is to feel like sex is on the list of things to do along with laundry and balancing the checkbook!

Are you still with me? C'mon, don't be shy. We all know where babies come from and how they get here!

Of course there are some things we have to take into consideration now that we're FWP. First, the best lubrication is natural CM. If that happens to be lacking then we need to use Preseed as saliva and other forms lube kill sperm. We're still trying to figure out how much saliva is too much when it comes to foreplay and for the life of me, Googling it hasn't yielded any concrete feedback.

Also, some experts purport that certain positions are better for getting the swimmers to their target. So, we still mix it up, but make sure that when the time comes (literally) we are in the missionary position which is purportedly the best baby-making position besides doggie style. Finally, there are mixed reports on frequency...some say every day, especially in the fertile window is good. Others say try to do it every other day so the daddy-wanna-be has time to get his sperm reserves built back up to maximum capacity. Right now we're just paying attention to my fertility signs (thanks to BBT, CM and CBEFM all plugged into Fertility Friend) and making sure we're active as much as we can muster during the "green" (predicted higher fertility) days. Most all, we're making sure we having fun and enjoying the process. Personally, I think practice makes perfect.

At the Turning Point

I have now completed Week 17, which all my pregnancy books tell me is called the "turning point."

That name has nothing to do with entering another trimester or hitting the half-way point. Rather, it's because it's at this point in my progress that I'm supposed to turn over in bed (or during yoga) and lay on my side.


Lying flat on your back puts extra pressure on the aorta and vena cava. Not really sure what those are, but putting pressure on them can result in reduced blood flow to your baby, which is a bad thing!

Since I usually sleep on my side, I didn't think this would be a problem. However, lately, the only position I've wanted to sleep in is on my back! Obviously I wouldn't do that on purpose, but who knows what happens when you are sleeping.


In any case, I have been trying desperately to sleep on my side this past week. I even told Mr. Politisaur about the "turning point" concept, which prompted him to wake me in the middle of the night recently by saying urgently: Turn over! Turn over! You're on our back!


And to make matters worse, I just learned in prenatal yoga class that it's not just sleeping on any side. You're supposed to sleep on the LEFT side because the aorta and vena cava are on the right side. That makes sleeping on my side incredibly difficult because if I have to sleep on my side, I prefer my RIGHT side!

I have recently taken to sleeping with a pillow between my knees. I use the "cushie" pillow that is made for air travel. But that makes turning over a chore! And when I need a sip of water or need to get up, it's an ordeal! I can only imagine it'll get worse.


However, there are a vast array of maternity pillows out there, from the ever popular Boppy to full body pillows and smaller wedges (pictured below).


Since it turns out that Amazon carries Boppy pillows, we might have to order one - or two.

Because I'm sure if I start using one, Mr. Politisaur will want one too!

The name game

The very first thing that Mr. Shopasaur and I did when we found out we were KU was to think of a few names that we liked and would consider naming Baby Shopasaur [Don't all parents do this?!]. Our first list consisted of one boy's name (Brody) and a few girl names; Bailey, Lily, Jillian. . . none of which screamed out, "THAT'S IT!"

Fast forward 20 weeks and we discovered that Baby Shopasaur indeed, was a little girl.

10 weeks after that, and we're still drawing a blank to what Baby Shopasaur's real name will be.

It's not that we haven't tried to decide on a name-- in fact, in front of me sits "100,000 Baby Names: The most complete, fascinating, and helpful name book you can find"-- & I seriously think that Mr. Shopasaur and I have perused through every.single.girl's name.in the.book. HOWEVER. Every name that was suggested was shot down for various reasons.

For example:
Madison: LOVE this name (so does Mr. Shopasaur!). It however appears that so do fifty trillion other parents in the United States-- and I really don't want Baby Shopasaur to be the next "Stacey" or "Jennifer"-- nothing against the Stacey's or Jennifer's in the world (my best friend's name happens to be Stacey), but I personally know at least 3 of each.
Lily: Beautiful name that could potentially "age" with a child-- but I have an elder aunt with that name and a girlfriend's mom with that name. It also appears to be rising on the popularity charts.
Mia: Our next door neighbor's daughter's name is Mia and idk ... it might seem like we're copying them? [P.S. We live in a townhouse and walls are very thin--- it just seems a little TOO close for comfort]
Sadie: Mr. Shopasaur liked this name when he first heard it-- personally, to me it sounds like a dog's name. He thinks I'm ridiculous for thinking this, of course.
Bailey: Same as above.
Brynn: I liked it, Mr. S. didn't.

. . . and so on and so forth. You get the picture. I'm sure some of you are reading this and think I'm completely insane for being SO picky about a name-- for goodness sakes, who cares, right? And the answer is that I do. I think a name says so much about a child-- and their parents. This article is only one of many that states how important a name is in a child's future.

So where does that leave us? Basically, where we started off 31 weeks ago. That means we have 9 weeks (give or take) to decide on the "perfect" name for our little one-- but if we haven't found it in 31 weeks, I'm at my wit's end that we won't find it within the next 9.

On a more Shopasaur note. . . my fabulous Mr. Shopasaur did buy me the Gucci diaper bag I previously mentioned.

And one last thing: On TheBump many future mommies-to-be talk about a "push present"-- essentially a present for the new mommy for enduring all of the aches and pains of pregnancy. Has anyone heard of this? If so... what's on your push present wish- list? I'll save mines for my next post. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The dark side

I was very interested to read this comment from CryBabyInk on my last post - she mentioned that she's glad I'm continuing to blog, because 'pregnancy is more than ribbons and rainbows, there's the "reality" of it too...m/c, infertility and all sorts of other issues are the dark side.'

The reason this came to my attention was because of a conversation I recently had with other women going through the same thing - the discussion was about whether or not we would discuss our miscarriages openly, after the initial rawness had passed. My first instinct was, "yes - of course." I found it strange that anyone would even ask that...until I started thinking about it.
[all charms from here]

I had no idea how many women I knew had suffered a miscarriage until now. It's not discussed. And I can understand why - it's agonizing. Every time you tell someone, you're ripping open the wound again. But at the same time - I had no idea how many women I knew had suffered a miscarriage. I was shocked at how many women in my personal circle came forward to say, "I've been there." In some cases, not only did I not know at the time, but I didn't even know months or years after it happened - I didn't find out until it happened to me.

I had no idea.
Although our society has become far more open about sex, pregnancy and childbirth, there is still a kind of dense fog surrounding miscarriage. For something that happens to one out of every five pregnancies, there is a deadly amount of silence surrounding it.
There seems to be an underlying sense of shame and secrecy about it. It's almost as though it's a disease, as though there's a kind of karmic reasoning that you must not have deserved a baby for some reason; as a society, I think we have a difficult time accepting that things happen without a reason, especially regarding tragedies - that life simply isn't fair. Sadly, the silence makes it seem as though somehow we are to blame. And this is horrible, because trust me, we don't need any help blaming ourselves: was it something I ate? Something I didn't eat? Too much exercise? Too much fat? When a baby is growing inside your body, you feel responsible even if there was nothing you could have - or shouldn't have - done.
Right now, if I could single-handedly change one thing about the world, this would be it. I want people to understand how common miscarriage is. I want people to understand that most of the time, it's not anyone's fault - it just happens. I want it to be accepted and discussed so people understand the right thing to say when they find out (more on that in another post). I want women going through this to understand that they're not alone right from the start, that there is a massive sisterhood of support available.
I guess what I'm trying to say is...I'm continuing to post because I want to be open about this. I want people to realize that it happens all the time to women all around them, and they may not even know. I want people to understand the rage and pain and sorrow and frustration that we feel inside. I don't want to be secretive, because that makes it feel shameful, like I did something wrong. The things I talk about might not be pretty or always happy, but they will be honest - hopefully I can help bring miscarriage out into the light a little more, even if it's just in my own tiny world.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Five Reasons to Monitor Ovulation

I came across this article on Discovery Health today and wanted to share it here. I was glad to see this summed up neat and tidy in an easy to understand list. Seems that some folks think tracking ovulation is too much work and too controlling of the TTC process. I personally do not understand this mind-set and it frustrates me that some women think knowing how their body and cycles work takes the fun and spontaneity out of making babies. Unless these women think charters only make love when the chart says it's time to FWP, I don't get how they would feel this way. Anyway, if you're one of the doubters, check this out:



Five Reasons to Monitor Ovulation
By Deborah Gaines

1. Your cycle may change from month to month.
The length of a normal menstrual cycle varies from 28 to about 36 days. These variations are based on a number of factors, including your natural body rhythms, stress levels, and weight gain or loss. Ironically, the stress of trying to conceive may throw your cycles off kilter. Monitoring your cycle through ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), charting basal body temperature (BBT), and/or examining cervical mucus can greatly increase your odds of becoming pregnant during a particular cycle.

2. All cycles are not created equal.
Even if you menstruate every 28 days without fail (and few women do), there's no guarantee that you'll ovulate exactly midway through your cycle. In fact, women with 28-day cycles may ovulate anywhere from day 12 to day 16 — or, occasionally, not at all.

3. You're only fertile for 24 hours.
Once you ovulate, there's a small window of opportunity — roughly 24 hours — before the egg degenerates and is reabsorbed into your body. Fertilization must occur within this period. Yet sperm, which live for three to four days, can take eight hours or more to swim up the cervix and rendezvous with the waiting egg (like men, they're not always punctual!). Monitoring your cycle helps you predict when you're going to ovulate at least 24 to 36 hours in advance, giving you more time to get the sperm started on their journey.

4. You may have a short luteal phase.
The second half of your menstrual cycle — between the day you ovulate and your next period — is called the luteal phase. Although the normal length of this phase is 12 to 16 days, for some women it is much shorter. A fertilized egg needs 10 days to reach the uterus and implant. If your luteal phase is shorter than this, you will need drug therapy to increase it before you can successfully get pregnant.

5. Cervical mucus may help — or hinder.
Cervical mucus (the vaginal discharge that accompanies ovulation) varies in consistency and appearance, from thick and cloudy to clear and elastic. In order to provide a fertile environment for the sperm, mucus should have the consistency of egg whites: clear, slippery, and slightly stretchy. It's important to monitor your cervical mucus around the time you ovulate and plan intercourse accordingly. Otherwise, even if you ovulate right on schedule, the sperm might be unable to reach the egg in time.

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, www.acog.org; American Society of Reproductive Medicine, www.asrm.org

Content courtesy of American Baby

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Could've done without that

Work today was kind of a bust...I made it to noon before I pretty much had a total breakdown. Luckily there was just me and my supervisor (who is also a friend and knows what's going on) there at the time. So I've come home at lunchtime instead of staying at work the rest of the day. I thought maybe things would be OK today, and I'm trying to get back to normal, but I guess it's just too soon still. Anyway, there was a box waiting on the doorstep when I got home.


I was a little confused until I opened it up and saw this:


It was the pregnancy books I ordered a couple weeks ago (books in Australia are ridiculously expensive - it's significantly cheaper for me to get them shipped from the States than buy locally).


Two for Mr. Bibliosaur, two for me.


My Boys Can Swim. A funny (yet not condescending) and realistic look at pregnancy, written by and for a man. I wanted something entertaining to break him in gently.


The Expectant Father. A entire book (not just the usual chapter relegated to the back of a woman's guide) written about what fathers-to-be can experience emotionally, financially and physically. I loved that this is a (relatively) serious book that is totally about the father - there aren't many of these books out there.


Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I wanted something technical, written by actual doctors, not full of hearsay or personal experience or just funny stories. This is one of the few no-nonsense books that's still accessible to someone without a medical background, and I appreciate that it's from such a reputable source.


The Pregnancy Bible. More modern, less biased and more positive than What to Expect When You're Expecting, and featuring fewer models than The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy. I also chose it because it has a fabulous week-by-week section, instead of buying Your Pregnancy Week By Week separately (this is the sole reason I chose it over The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, which didn't seem to have the weekly guide). It's gotten some flack for using nude photos of pregnant women instead of drawings to illustrate changes in your body, etc., but I actually like that.

When I ordered these, I was eagerly hoping they'd arrive before next week - we're going on an 11 night cruise (we planned it as our last big baby-free vacation), and I wanted to take them with me to read by the pool.

Yup. Could've done without this today.

The hard things

It's been a few days since my miscarriage began. They've been hard days. Emotionally, physically, mentally - hard.

Dealing with the physicality of the miscarriage is difficult, although thankfully, I seem to be having a quick time of things - I was warned that the bleeding would likely last for a week or possibly even two, but after four days I'm down to just spotting. I'm grateful that I didn't see an identifiable sac or tadpole fetus as some women do - I don't know how I could have dealt with that. But I'll still be glad when this is done - one of the worst parts is the constant reminder of what is happening every time I go to the bathroom.

Losing the sense of feeling pregnant has been hard as well - my symptoms are dropping off, in the reverse order that they arrived. First to go was the breast sensitivity and backache, and now the bloating and food aversions/cravings are fading. There's still some gassiness (remember how burpy I was?) and a lot of fatigue, although I suspect that's due to emotional stress and not hormones. I never thought I'd miss having sore breasts, but I cried the first time I touched them and they felt normal.

My doctor warned me that for a while, it will seem like that everywhere I look, there will be babies. She was right. Even just on the short drive home from her office, I saw three separate women out with their babies in strollers. The stores are full of women with round bellies - there seems to be an epidemic of pregnancy in my town.

One of the toughest things has been going out in public. Even pregnant women and babies aside, it's so strange that everything should be the same, that people can go about their lives, laughing and talking. Don't they know what's happened? How can this not affect them? It's like when you're so in love with someone that you just can't understand how not everyone else in the world isn't in love with them too - only instead of love, it's pain. How is it that something that hurts so much, something that has changed our lives forever, has no effect on everyone else? Can't they tell what's happened just by looking at me? Can't they feel this too?

I was talking to a friend who has previously miscarried, discussing the most difficult parts of this process. She said that the worst part was the feeling of losing her "innocence." I have to agree. Before a miscarriage, even if you're a hypereducated person like myself and Divasaur, everything you know is still academic. You know all the things that could happen and you feel the fear of the Unknown (it's a very real fear - I loved Diva's post and am not belittling that in any way), but after it happens, there's a difference. I will never feel so carefree and confident about a pregnancy again, not ever. I will always be cautious, anxiously wary of any sign that things might be going wrong. My friend mourned that when she heard a coworker giddily announce her pregnancy at only 7 weeks, her first thought was not, "How wonderful!" but "I hope nothing happens." You feel jealous that anyone can be so securely happy, and then feel ashamed of feeling that way.

And you feel enraged with the pure unfairness, the sense of arbitrariness in your loss. We did everything - everything - right. Why then did we have to lose our baby when there are so many women out there who fall pregnant that don't even want a child, who smoke and drink their way through their nine months?

I know this will get easier. It will. But getting to that stage, making it through this initial time is difficult. It might sound silly, but I keep singing 'Tomorrow' from Annie to myself.



It was a movie I adored as a child, and somehow this song has really helped me through the last couple of days. Things will get easier. I just have to hang on 'til tomorrow. It will get better.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Unknown

After reading Bibliosaur's last post a couple of days ago, there has been a heavy weight upon my heart. First of all, I am just devastated for her and Mr.Bibliosaur. I hesitated to even write this post because what can I write after that? How can anything I am thinking or feeling be worth taking up the space after her posting those most feared words? I imagine that I am not alone in these thoughts though and wanted to share them here.

When you decide to take that next step and really, really allow yourself to want to start a family, something happens. In that place where selfishness has lived a small break is made. When you decide to be married it is broken open slightly, allowing the love for your spouse to come in and grow. But even in marriage, some selfishness remains. And in the new marriage, although you give of yourself to your spouse you discover that there is more room to give...and that space expands and grows into the desire to be a parent. For one that has been selfish in many ways for most of my life, wanting to be married and now, wanting to be a mother, has been a true marvel and revelation.

And now that I have allowed myself to dare to want a baby it's quite scary. There's so much that is unknown. Will it happen? Will there be complications? Will I be challenged with infertility? Will I miscarry? Will they detect genetic issues? Will there be pre-term labor? Will I have problems with the labor and delivery? Will the baby be born healthy?

And all of this comes up before you ever get to the place where your take your new son or daughter home, which brings up even more fear and anxiety. Will I be a good mother? Will I be able to breastfeed? Will I have to suffer a loss to SIDS? Will this baby strain our relationship? Will we be able to afford it emotionally, spiritually, mentally and financially?

I have always been a realistic optimist in that I am fully aware of reality but choose to see the positive side of it as much as humanly possible. In my three-plus decades on this earth I have learned that no matter what negativity comes my way, I can handle it, even if at the time I don't really believe that I can. That said, I am open to challenge and know that it leads to growth, but I don't welcome those moments readily.

When you're TTC it's easy to fall into the worry and fear. At least for me. Maybe it's because I know too much. I have known several women who have struggled to even get pregnant. And another who got her BFP only to find that 8 weeks later, it was a blighted ovum. Or who miscarried for no detectable reason. Or who went into pre-term labor and lost the baby at 20 weeks. Or who made it to 38 weeks only to deliver a stillborn. Or was told that her day old baby had major heart defects and would need life-saving surgeries for most of his childhood. Or who brought home a perfectly healthy infant daughter only to lose her 12 weeks later to SIDS. I know these women personally and I know that there are many, many more with similar stories. It frightens me to think that I may just share their story at some point in my journey to motherhood.
Wanting to become a mother is not just about being ready to TTC. It's not just about being ready for morning sickness and stretch marks; sleepless nights and dirty diapers. It's about being ready for The Unknown in every way that the world can be unknown. And it's about letting go. Letting go of what is truly beyond my control and holding firmly onto hope. Hope that it will be okay and that, even though there may be challenges, my life until this point has prepared me to find a way to cope. It's scary, but I don't want to be afraid. And so I will take a step into the unknown and try to approach whatever lies before me with an open heart and mind.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's over

I miscarried yesterday.

I've been sitting here, staring at that sentence and trying to figure out what else to say. It sums up everything but says nothing - it doesn't explain what happened, or how we feel. So I'll do my best to write those things, if I can.

The night before last, I started spotting. Not a lot - it was only visible when I wiped. I knew that brown blood (i.e., old blood) was normal, even expected. Pink was a minor worry, but probably OK as long as it stayed light. But this was a bright red-orange. I frantically googled to see if it could possibly be normal, and though most reports were bad, there were a few women who said they had that kind of spotting their entire pregnancy and everything was fine. So I clung to hope, even though I got out of bed every hour so see if it had gone away or gotten heavier. Neither happened, so early the next morning, I called my doctor.

When my husband and I arrived at her office, she sat me down and gently explained what I already knew - I was miscarrying. My HCG levels from the blood test the day before, which my multitude of pregnancy symptoms had clearly shown to be elevated, had dropped like a stone. There was simply no way a pregnancy could be sustained. She explained that the spotting would worsen until it was a steady flow, and I would feel cramping - that it would seem like a heavy period and might last longer, even as long a couple weeks. At under 10 weeks, there was no need for an invasive D&C - nature would simply take its course.

Why did it happen? There's just no answer. My doctor's suspicion was that because I became pregnant so quickly after coming off birth control (period --> off birth control --> surprise ovulation --> even more surprising positive HPT), my body might not have had time to fully prepare itself. Maybe the uterine lining wasn't thick enough, or the egg didn't implant quite well enough. The same thing happened to my doctor when she and her husband were first trying to start a family; she also became pregnant nearly instantly after going off birth control, before miscarrying at 12 weeks. There's no real reason, no good or sure reason other than things just weren't right. No one did anything wrong. It just happened.

As I sat there crying and holding my husband's hand, she leaned forward and gently told me to cry as much as I need to. "It's not just the sadness, you see, even though this is painful and you ARE sad. It's the hormones, too. They're dropping right now, and that leaves you in a terrible state. It's the same reason women get the baby blues after giving birth, it's all those hormones leaving your system. So I want you to understand - right now, it seems like this will never get better. But it will. It will."

Intellectually, I know that's true. But she was right that it doesn't feel like it. I spent all of yesterday in tears, and much of this morning. The constant reminders are hard - my stockpile of caffeine free teas, the bedroom we had plans to turn into a nursery. Even just walking around the house is difficult - the day before it happened, I cracked a joke about being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen while I made dinner. I can't step foot in there without thinking of that.

In a bizarre way, under all the pain and tears, I feel remarkably calm (not happy - simply calm, or perhaps it's more like numbness). I don't know what to attribute this to, except that maybe - this is it. This is as bad as it can get. There is nothing more I can possibly worry about, because this is the bottom. I feel utterly drained. My husband is struggling with his own sadness - last night he told me that he didn't realize just how much he wanted this baby until we lost it. I know what he means. I'm glad we can be there for each other - I can't imagine going through this alone. We spent most of yesterday holding hands or curled up together.

I used to wonder how badly an early miscarriage affected a woman. I understood that it was bad, a terrible thing, but in my ignorance I assumed that since you couldn't feel the baby at that stage, it couldn't be that bad, right? I was so very wrong. I didn't understand the emotional investment you have, even at just 6 weeks. I used to talk to my baby. Every day I would whisper that we loved it, tell it how excited we were. At home I'd constantly run my hand down my stomach, and at night I'd fall asleep with one hand on my abdomen. This is the worst part, in a way. When I wake up in the morning, I have to stop myself from thinking, "Good morning, baby. It's a pretty day outside." I step out of the shower and put my hand on my stomach out of habit, then catch myself when I realize that there's nothing there anymore.

The hardest part was telling our parents. We hadn't even told them we were expecting a baby - we wanted to wait until after the first ultrasound - and now we had to tell them that we lost it. How do you tell someone that they were going to be a grandparent, but aren't anymore? With my parents on the other side of the globe, my mother-in-law was the only mom available for a hug. We've had our differences in the past, but I can't begin to say how much I appreciate her presence right now.

I know there's probably more I could write, but I'm so tired, so drained. Maybe tomorrow or the next day, I'll have something more to say. Right now I just need to go hug my husband and cry again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Show me the levels!

I visited my GP/OB (small town = many local GPs are also OBs) for the first time today since finding out I was pregnant. Before we start any other tests, she wanted to do a couple blood screens, just to confirm that things are progressing as they should be and that I’m about as far along as we think. If you don’t know much about beta HCG levels, here’s a quick rundown:

In a normal, non-pregnant woman, the hormone "human chorionic gonadotrophin" (aka HCG) is normally under 5 – once you get knocked up, it rises dramatically, doubling every couple of days until it peaks at 8-11 weeks; this is the same hormone used by pregnancy tests to determine whether you get a negative or a positive. Unusually high HCG levels could indicate a multiple pregnancy (often), a molar pregnancy (rarely), or just that you're further along than expected.


According to my Fertility Friend chart, today is day one of week six, or 26 days past ovulation/conception. So hopefully we'll see some numbers in the mid-thousands...or above 1,000 at least. As you can see, the actual numbers vary widely depending on the woman, and in and of themselves are not as important as the rate of increase - that steep rise is the important part, at least in the first weeks (it usually slows down after week 6).

I had one vial of blood drawn today, and my second will be the day after tomorrow. And even though I know this is an ordinary test and nothing to worry about, I’m worrying a little.

My hypereducated, Type-A personality (as my dear Divasaur calls it) means that I tend to be obsessive with new information. The second I embark on a new project, I research the hell out of it. Which is mostly good – it means I'm generally well informed and know what to expect. But the downside is that I know what to expect. Not only do I know about what a normal pregnancy entails, but I know everything that could go wrong.

I know exactly what low levels could represent, especially if they drop in the second testing; this far from my last period, it would almost certainly be bad news: an ectopic pregnancy or an early miscarriage. My last post was all about how much I love this baby already, and I can't imagine what it would feel like to lose it.

I know that everything is probably fine. I know that worrying won’t do any good – it won’t make my levels any higher or change a pregnancy that’s already doomed, and it won’t help a good pregnancy along either. That said, I don't think it's necessarily unusual that I'm worrying a bit - after all, I've never done this before, and I'm nervous. But you know what? Expressing all of this has helped, and I feel more confident now.

Bring on the levels!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Being grateful during pregnancy. . .

After reading my debut post on pregosaur, I feel that I gave the wrong impression about my feelings toward pregnancy. While I am getting to the point of uncomfortable-ness (not quite there yet, thank God), I am still amazed and thankful for this surprise that currently lives in my belly.

After reading this blog, I feel utterly and completely rotten for ever having complained about backaches or weight gain (SO.superficial). If you are not a religious person, please take the basic message to heart-- which is, of course, to be grateful for every second of pregnancy-- yes, even the gross/disgusting/unpleasant/uncomfortable moments. [I'm currently struggling with trying to be grateful for the insane heartburn/acid reflux I have been experiencing after ever meal]

But she really put my attitude into perspective.

On a more "shopasaur" note, please vote for a diaper bag. All superficiality aside, I know how expensive these bags are and how ridiculous it is to spend so much $ on a stupid diaper bag that will most likely get vomitted on or something like that. HOWEVER, I am justifying this purchase with the fact that every mommy I know has told me that they used their diaper bag for 3 years +, and one particular mommy (who owns a Louis Vuitton diaper bag-- $2100!!!) justified that a nice quality diaper bag can be used for carry-on luggage in the future. :) I like that kind of logic!!

Option #1: Not too good at this posting picture action. . . hmmm... Anyway I'll provide the link! (And it would be in black, of course)

Option #2: More expensive than Option 1, but not as "diaper bag" looking?

Anyway, please vote. And back to the initial reason for posting-- count your blessings everyone!!!

Eye candy

As my name suggests, I love photography. I've always appreciated great photography. If I had known at an earlier age that it was possible to make a career out of it, I definitely would have pursued it. Even now I secretly dream of changing careers, though all the technical stuff is very new to me.

My first camera was this 110 film Hello Kitty camera:


I loved it, but sadly I lost it at Circus Circus while playing video games. (Note to self, do not entrust a 6 year old with valuables!) I got another one, which I still have somewhere. I wonder if it still works?

Somewhere down the road I graduated to a 35 mm point and shoot camera and then on to one with APS film cartridges, which were pretty cool at the time. I finally went digital in 2004 but it wasn't until last year that I discovered the DSLR. For those not in the know, a DSLR = digital single-lens reflex camera. Basically it gives you the freedom to manually adjust all your settings and change the lens to make amazing photographs. It's what all the professionals use. And I was fortunate enough that my dear friend gave me her old Canon 20D to play with. At first I was completely overwhelmed and had no idea what all the settings did. Slowly, though, I've learned how to take some pretty nice photos.

Okay, so I know what you're thinking. What does this have to do with pregnancy and babies? Well, during the craziness of wedding planning and researching photographers I discovered that most great photographers these days have blogs where they post some of their recent work. Photographers also often blog about their photographer friends so one blog can lead you to another blog and suddenly you're subscribing to 30 photo blogs in your Google reader!

I digress. Somewhere, somehow, some photographer's blog led me to one of my current faves, Drew B, a wedding and portrait photographer based in Orange County, California. She often blogs photos of her adorable son Brayden and recently started a new blog called Momtog, "For moms who love photography". I absolutely love her style of photography. She takes amazing photos of newborns and I really love the photos of couples with their newborns. And how cute is her logo?!


Carrie Sandoval of Captured by Carrie is another popular newborn photographer. Her style is a lot like Anne Geddes. She recently photographed wedding photographers Chenin and Doug Boutwell and their newborn son, Max. The Boutwells are the geniuses behind Totally Rad Actions, Photoshop actions that are used by many of the great photographers around right now. You know a photographer hired by other photographers has to be good.

I'm excited that when I have a baby I'll always have an available, if not willing, subject to practice my photography skills on. And I'll have tons of photos that document his or her life. Perhaps someday I'll be as good as Drew B and make the career switch? A girl can always dream.

Three cheers for prenatal yoga

I just signed up for a a Candlelight Prenatal Yoga Series at the yoga studio across the street from our condo. It was a last-minute decision (um, I pulled on my yoga pants at 6:20 p.m. and the class starts at 6:30 p.m.) -- But I'm soooo glad I signed up!

It's a small class of about seven women. We all range in due dates, from a woman who is barely 15 weeks, me at 15 1/2 weeks, another at 17 weeks, 18 weeks, 23 weeks, 27 weeks and finally, 32 weeks!

It was such a relaxing and peaceful class. For any of you who are pregnant and looking for exercise, I totally recommend yoga. And a prenatal class is a great way to learn what you can and can't do in traditional yoga.

Here are a few things to keep in mind, for those of you who are huge yoginis:

* Do not lay on your stomach. This means no up-dogs, cobra or any other move that requires you to smoosh your tummy. Bad!

* No deep twisting. You can do modified twists where you keep your belly forward and twist only your arm and back, but you absolutely do NOT want to twist your belly at any time!

* No jumping. So when you are in down dog and the teacher says to "step or hop to the front of your mat," you ALWAYS need to step. Take a big lunge step with one leg, and then step the other leg forward. Take your time.

* Maintain space for your belly. In any pose you do, always make sure you are making enough room for your belly so that you do not smoosh yourself. So when you are standing up and folding over to touch your toes, a better way to do it is to spread your legs to shoulder width, bend your knees and place your elbows on your knees (camper's pose).

* After 15-16 weeks, you can't lie flat on your back. Ways to avoid doing this are to put a bolster or rolled blanked under your bum so that you are not flat but on an incline. This allows you to do a modified version of legs up the wall.

* Be careful balancing. When you have a big belly, there is NO SHAME in standing next to a wall when doing balancing poses like tree pose so that you can use the wall to steady yourself.

With all those things you can NOT do, you may be wondering why would anyone WANT to even try yoga? It's very peaceful and allows you to relax and appreciate what is happening with your body. It's also encouraging to see other women who are also in the same state as you.

One thing we did last week in prenatal yoga that I really liked is we all sat cross legged and put one hand on our heart and one hand on our belly. Our teacher then told us to feel the heartbeat of our own heart and imagine connecting our heart to the heart of our baby through our hands.

Another thing we did was to chant the sound "Om," and our teacher explained that our baby can hear our voice and also feel the vibration of our voice and it's soothing to them. Wow!

It was very special to take that moment to remember what an amazing thing is taking place in our own bodies. I hope this encourages you to try some prenatal yoga!

Menstrual...

... synchrony?

Once we had decided when we wanted to start TTC, I stopped using birth control two months prior, figuring it would take my body a few months to get back into its own groove. Surprisingly, that did not take very long and by charting, I was quickly able to pinpoint ovulation to around CD19-24.

I had only been charting for two months when I seemed to have the cycle that would never end. Of course my first thought was that I might be pregnant! But I POAS and got a BFN - this was on CD39. My cycles have always averaged around 33 to 38 days - which is why I decided to test on CD39. With a BFN, all I could really do was wait... and wait... and wait... until CD 41 when FF informed me that I O'd on CD38! I almost always have a 14 day LP, and just like clockwork, AF showed up after CD52.

That's one heck of a long cycle, you're thinking, right? Actually, some women, especially those with PCOS, have cycles that are even longer... sometimes 100+ days! I don't have PCOS, so that wasn't the case with me, but it was shortly after AF showed up that I figured out what was going on with my cycle. You see, I had 3 new coworkers join my office around the same time I started this cycle. Most women are aware of menstrual synchrony, but I still encounter a few that do not.

Apparently, there's something about our pheromones that causes women that spend a lot of time together to start cycling together. When I realized that this was what was probably going on, I asked everyone around me when they had gotten their period. Sure enough, all seven of the other women with whom I worked had simultaneously received a visit from AF within the last couple of days, confirming my suspicions! Interestingly enough, some reported that AF came early and some said she was late - so I wasn't the only one suffering from menstrual synchronization!

So, if you're just starting to actively TTC, be aware that not only will your body require some time to readjust to being off of birth control, but it might also take a little extra time if your body is trying to synchronize with all of the women around you!

When do you become a mom?

A few days ago, I read a debate about when you become a mother. Is it when you're pregnant? When your child is born? A few months after birth? When your child is a year old? Does babysitting or nannying someone else's children qualify you? What do you have to experience to truly become a mom?


I've been thinking about this since then, trying to work out my thoughts. If you're not a mom until you give birth, what does that mean for women who suffer miscarriages? Are you less of a mother if you adopt or have a stepchild, especially if they're not a newborn when you become a family?

After a lot of internal debate, this is the conclusion I finally reached: you become a mother when you are willing to put the needs and care of your child before yourself. Not coerced or guilted into this behavior, but when you willingly sacrifice your wants and desires for your child's needs and best interests.


Yes, all the things like caring for them when they're sick or kissing it to make it better are very important and I'm not denying that, but I think that motherhood is more of an emotional and mental state than a physical one. And the timing for this is probably different for different people; for some women, they might feel that dedication and love the moment they find out they're pregnant. For others, it might not be genuine until they hold their baby in their arms or give their new stepchild a hug.

Am I a mother? I find it kind of funny now that for so long I was worried that because I don't like children, I might not be able to love my own. But I love this baby. I love it with all my heart. No, I'm not wiping their nose or putting them to bed yet, but I will give up whatever I need to, do whatever I have to, pray and beg for this child to stay with me. I would do anything - anything - within my power to ensure their future. So although I don't yet describe myself as a mom, I would say yes - at heart, I am.