I thought I would say some more about the nature of the whining mentioned in the previous post. I am very healthy. I have the same perfect blood pressure I've always had, very low cholesterol, excellent digestion, no illnesses or anatomical problems. But I'm in an extended phase (which I know is a familiar one to many people) of receiving extensive and fairly complex medical treatments, some of which themselves make you physically sick and all of which you get very very tired of, especially perhaps if you've had the luxury of robust good health for most of your life. It feels very stupid and spoilt to have anything complainy to say about all this because, first of all, it's entirely self-inflicted, and secondly because I'm very well aware that it's an immense privilege that I'm able to have this sort of treatment at all - my luck in being born now and not twenty years earlier, my luck at living in a country where universal health care makes it financially possible for most people to access excellent medical care, and everybody who is really ill. Nevertheless, with this good fortune there does come another set of different challenges to negotiate. 'First world problems' - sure. But problems just the same.
Our baby was conceived through IVF and this involved a cocktail of drugs and a regime of appointments and tinkering which I will try to write some more about properly one day soon, in part because I think it might be a good idea to keep a record for future reference of the medications I've received and partly because even while it was mainly pretty horrible to undergo there was a part of me found it all really interesting. The analogy that came to mind often was (don't laugh) the Apollo 11 moon landing - this immense technological achievement - and how that was achieved using what would in only a few years come to be seen as incredibly primitive tools. From my own very limited involvement with it I suspect fertility medicine is in a similar state.
It is now at a point where it can (sometimes) do something that for millennia was so far outside the realm of human possibility as to be the subject of myth. But it is achieving this by a sort of Heath Robinsonesque assemblage of ropes and pulleys. Yet the demand for what it offers is so urgent and the stakes are so high that we're steaming ahead regardless. Maybe - probably - the medicine will refine and streamline in coming years. But I suspect it will have a tough time keeping pace with pressures on fertility coming from elsewhere in the culture. It would be good if they could work on some of the techniques, though: I think the drug Crinone is an unjustifiably dangerous thing to give to women in the vulnerable state brought on by the latter phases of IVF and I'll be happy to hear when its use is discontinued.
All the same, I don't imagine that any improvements in fertility medicine will make much difference to the tendency it appears to foster in fertility specialists to view themselves as modern day Prometheuses set to outdo all the other arrogant doctors in the world. My fertility specialist, a very capable and intelligent woman who I hated deeply, was once in the middle of saying what she planned to do about something or other that my pituitary gland was doing without her permission when she actually said that she would change the treatment after she had 'made me pregnant'. She immediately corrected this to 'after you fall pregnant,' so clearly she knew it wasn't a view of her role in the proceedings that would be appreciated by her patient.
Anyway, after the IVF and some disappointment there I was of course delighted to at last have fallen pregnant with an embryo which seemed interested in sticking around for the long haul, and I thought the endless doctor visits would tail off for a while until we got nearer to the business end of things. But the doctor-visiting been pretty consistent and I accept now that it is going to stay that way. About a month ago my obstetrician diagnosed me with gestational diabetes. This affects about 8% of pregnant women - there is a genetic predisposition, but otherwise one has no control over whether one gets it or not - and is insulin resistance caused by a hormone generated by the placenta, so it tends usually to develop in about week 24 to 28 when the placenta is quite large and to peak around week 35, and to go away entirely once the placenta is gone. Glucose crosses the placenta so if I can't use the glucose I take in the baby cops it all, and grows too big and has health issues later. I am now nearly 19 weeks pregnant and so I have four to five months to go with the diabetes. Usually it is controllable with exercise and diet and I am able to keep my blood glucose levels under control this way when I'm awake. But I have not been able to reduce my pre-breakfast levels to an acceptable condition and so I've begun injecting myself with insulin - before bedtime for now, but it will eventually have to happen at every meal.
Because it's something normally dealt with by diet and exercise, you can imagine there is a significant amount of body-related guilt and failure-feeling associated with having to be treated with insulin, so early on especially. I would, however, be pissweak indeed if, with all my education and so forth, I allowed this to matter to me for very long.
And to be very, very, truthful, I don't think the FAIL part of it does matter to me very much now. Giving myself an injection is still one of my least favourite parts of my day, but when it pays off, as I know it will, and my blood glucose levels return to normal, I'll be happy about it. Nobody wants to have to give birth to a baby who requires a two-person lift. It would be nice not to have to go to the doctor twice a week, but this too shall pass.