So life gets in the way, and I've been bad about posting travel stories/pics lately. But there is a pretty good reason - aside from moving to DC and starting to learn Indonesian. I'm pregnant! Most readers of this blog already know this from real life or Facebook, but I thought I'd share a little bit of my story here. I find out every day there are more and more women considering this path, and I know I wanted to soak up as much information as possible as I made the decision and started the journey.
I've always known I wanted kids, and I always said that not being married/partnered wouldn't stop me. But actually doing something about it is a long way from thinking about it in the abstract. I had arbitrarily set a timeline of 'mid-thirties' as when I would start seeking other options even if I wasn't with somebody. Then I thought maybe 40 sounded like a better idea, but I think that was fear/comfort with my current lifestyle talking. Then I realized that after Beirut I had the opportunity to bid on somewhere that would enable me to be a single mother, and the more I started thinking and researching, the better it sounded. And then I started talking to people. Around this time I learned the term 'single mother by choice' (SMC or SMBC) and realized there's a whole (global) community of women like me. And there are even a fair amount of them in the Foreign Service. Several of these women were kind enough to share their stories and give advice and support. And when I talked to friends and family I also found unwavering and unreserved love and support and encouragement. Getting assigned to Surabaya was the icing on the cake, and it was time to start moving from thinking to doing.
One FS SMC I spoke with shared her experience going through the process overseas, which I had not previously considered. I had initially thought I'd come back to DC and start the process while in language training. But the more I looked at logistics and finances, the better option seemed to be starting earlier. I started talking to several clinics in Cyprus, which is a fairly popular destination for assisted reproductive options and an easy trip from Beirut. I worked with an OB/GYN in Beirut to do all the preliminary testing and decided to start with IUI (intrauterine insemination), which is less invasive than IVF but also has lower success rates. Given my age and test results, it was a gamble whether it would work (it always is, really), but it was considerably cheaper and worth a try. So last spring I flew over to Cyprus and had a leisurely week's 'vacation' while going to the clinic daily for monitoring. This is the week that my laptop died, so it ended up being the end of a lot of my writing and blogging until I PCSed this summer too). I had the procedure on Thursday, flew back to Beirut that night, and settled in to wait.
Ten days later I went to Prague for the long Easter weekend, which helped break up the two week wait. I will eventually write about that absolutely perfect weekend. I had promised myself not to take a pregnancy test until two Thursdays later, but I gave in the night before. It was a line test, and at first glance it looked negative, no second line at all. I got disappointed and sad and resigned. But then I looked at it in better light and saw a visible - but still quite faint - line. Cue lots of Googling. I didn't take another test that night but slept fitfully and with a bit of hope and excitement. I took two tests first thing the next morning. One more line test and a digital readout test. The line test was a clearer second line than the night before but still faint. The digital test said in unmissable bright letters: Pregnant. Wow. I went straight to the health unit and had them draw blood for an HCG test and proceeded through the day in a fog. The test came back that afternoon - definitely pregnant. But I was only four weeks along, and there was lots of ground to cover. Two more HCG tests in subsequent days showed that the levels were more than doubling appropriately, so I set up the first OB visit. At six weeks I got to see the developing embryo, but there wasn't yet a heartbeat. But a week later there was. And baby kept developing appropriately over the coming weeks. I got great OB care in Beirut (and more sneak peeks via ultrasound than I would have in the United States, which was a nice bonus for a worried first time mom). I had a rough first trimester - fatigue, nausea, lack of sleep, etc. - but I was so darn happy to be pregnant.
At the start of my second trimester, I PCSed and flew back home. While some of the icky symptoms went away, I still had a lot of being sick. But it was great to be around family and have time to relax and take daily naps as needed during home leave. I strongly recommend this approach to pregnancy! The ensuing months have been filled with alternating feelings of excitement, complete fear and anxiety, and more excitement. I am so glad I've been in language training over the last few months, as the schedule still allows me some flexibility (especially getting to OB appointments), and, while intense, it's less stressful than my previous job. Physically this has been a tough pregnancy with some curveballs, but I'm thankful that everything with the baby continues to look great, and I've got a wonderful medical team.
I've taken all the classes, bought all the stuff (most of it completely unnecessary, of course), and made all the arrangements for post baby. But now it's time to know and accept that my ability to control everything is about to go out the window and to learn to embrace that. I've been surrounded by extremely positive people - both about my being an SMC and about all things pregnancy and birth and childrearing and breastfeeding and all the good and bad - and know that this support system will make the coming weeks, months, and years possible and wonderful. I love that I have friends and colleagues who will indulge my questions and give me honest - but not terrifying - answers and stories and who don't fall into the judge-y, my-way-or-you're-a-failure parent category that seems so prevalent these days. I hope to be the same. Here's to these final weeks (days?!) of waiting for my new EFM and the many adventures ahead!
(And if you're considering becoming an SMC and want some advice/stories - please feel free to reach out. We all need allies!)