Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Conceivable!

I am still stunned to near disbelief. I gave in and peed on that stick and got the first second line I have ever seen in my life. It was faint, but there it was. Two days after I had my beta. My Dr. called that afternoon with the most wonderful news! I am pregnant. I did a second blood test, still pregnant and then a third, status quo with an ever increasing beta! Last Friday, I had an ultrasound and not only was I still pregnant, but I saw the sac. It was a square-ish blob on the screen. I think it looks like Matt.

It is a little hard to accept that this actually worked. I was really preparing myself for IVF round 2 and the big bad news. I almost feel like I got off relatively easy. Isn't that twisted? I only had to inject myself 30 times and have surgery twice to get pregant.

I am still proceeding with cautious optimism. I started telling friends and dreaming of names. I suppose I have to call it Cornell.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

To Pee or Not To Pee

I said I would be strong and wait until my beta to get confirmation, but the suspense is killing me. I have a box of home tests just begging to be urinated on. They call my name in the morning and dare me at night. I keep opening the closet and looking at them. The entire experience toys with your emotions and then they throw in the industrial strength dose of progesterone to top off the mindfuck. I honestly can't decide what would be better. Get the negative and to not have so much pressure at the blood draw? Do I really want to find out this didn't work from a phone call? During my work day?

I am going to go talk to some food about this!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Pregnant Pause: The Best of Skintentions

A while back, after a trying week, my very sweet and very selfless friend gave me a gift card for a facial. She insisted I treat myself to a relaxing afternoon. (Because nothing says serenity like having an ex Russian gymnast squeeze blackheads on your nose.) When I arrived at the spa, I was greeted by a cheerful lady who enthusiastically showed me to the locker room to change. (It still seems wrong on some level that you have to get naked for a facial. But call it whatever you want. I am more than happy to strip down if my "facial" will include a mini-massage.) I was then directed into the ladies' lounge and instructed to fill out a treatment questionnaire. It was all pretty standard: name, date of birth, allergies, health conditions. Then I got towards the bottom. "Are you pregnant? " Jeez! What's with the hard questions???

Am I pregnant?

A myriad of responses popped in my head: Maybe? How should I know? Probably not. I hope so. Outlook hazy; try again. And finally, fuck off. I didn't want to explain that I was trying to get pregnant and was waiting to find out. I really didn't want to explain anything. As though it was a trick question, I debated back and forth, trying to decide what was the right answer. Saying no seemed pessimistic, but saying yes seemed, well, like lying. But at 5 days past transfer there is no right answer. This was supposed to be a calming break for me and there I was stressing over the questionnaire. What would I do when they tried to upsell me with add-on treatments? Well I would say yes of course, and so I said yes. I am pregnant. A week from now, I may not be, but Svetlana, the facialist, will never know any better.

When she walked into the room, she congratulated me. I cringed a little, thanked her and told her it was still very, very early. With that out of the way, the cleansing, exfoliating and extracting commenced. It was heavenly to be pampered -aside from the embarrassing amount of squeezing that went on. All that questioning left me so vulnerable that I even agreed to a hydrating seaweed mask which I am sure did nothing more then left me smelling like a california roll.

In the end, she wished me good luck. I started to tell her that I needed all the luck I could get right now. It did seem a little psychotic to be telling half-truths (or half-falses?) about the happenings in my uterus, but I didn't want to care anymore. For the first time in my life I was pregnant. And, apparently, neurotic. But Svetlana doesn't need to know that either.

I walked out glowing. It could be the pregnancy, but I am guessing it was probably the seaweed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pro-Jest-erone

It is no secret that progesterone induces the symptoms of pregnancy. Knocked-up or not, the hormone will have you checking out Park Slope preschools before the 2 week wait is over. Is there no justice for the infertile?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Hear There're Rumors on the Internets

When used correctly the internet can be a force of good. Because of the endless information available with a well placed boolean operator, I have supplemented what I learned from my doctors and prepared myself for each step down this barren path. But it is also a treasure trove of half-truths, dangerous advice and mindless information. Anyone with web access can say what they want (case in point: this blog), and it is our job to shift through the pyrite.

Because I have a one track mind, the vast majority of my searches have been related to infertility. (And you thought I spent all that time google-imaging Viggo Mortensen!) I admit that I first took some comfort in the boards and TTC websites, but soon I was choking on all that baby dust. I was never much of a joiner, and it felt a tad insincere to be cyber-sending emoticons to total strangers who are going through a traumatic time - "sorry your beta isn't doubling! ;P". Thus I have mostly stuck to informational sites and approached the message boards with a what-can-I-learn-about-my-clinic/current-condition attitude and less of a let's-share-everything-related-to-the-ups-and-downs-of-this-cycle. I like my message boards like I like my chocolate - dark, bitter and salty. And let's face it, I would make a terrible cycle buddy.

So yesterday as I was searching for tips on how to get my backside comfortably numb for these PIO injections, I came across this gem. The site was loaded with "advice" for your IVF cycle. Here are a few of the highlights:

    • Don't talk to your partner too much about his role. This may cause him extra anxiety during an already stressful time and the extra stress can aggravate the performance anxiety that men suffer on the day of retrieval.
    • Keep social contacts to a minimum.

In the site's defense there were some very reasonable and sane recommendations, but I was skeptical when I saw the knit booties on the masthead. Really, don't talk to your partner about his role? As though his role is solely that of sperm donor. If that is his only job then he hasn't earned the title Partner, Associate maybe. And what is this about minimizing social contacts? Am I really too much of a raging hormonal mess to enjoy a dinner out with my nearest and dearest? No better I keep myself locked in a dripping dungeon before I terrorize innocent bystanders.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

I spent the remainder of last night trying not to sneeze out the embryo. I have also become defensive at any perceived slights to the little package of cells: "it not an egg; it's an embryo!" I am relieved that the major cycle highlights are over, with, of course, the exception of the denouement: the beta test - let's hope this one isn't a show stopper. All I have to do now is drive a 25 gauge needle filled with viscous oil into an uncooperative muscle daily for the next couple of weeks and wait.

The infertility message boards are filled with warnings of how terrible these injections are, but they are also filled with a lot of acronyms that make me cringe more than a syringe to the ass, so I have learned to make my own judgements. I figured it would sting a bit and the muscle would be sore, but the sub-Q shots weren't too bad, and I didn't have the awful, prolonged side effects that many complained of. So I thought I was certain I could handle this. The first one went in with little sensation. It was difficult to coax the thick liquid out of the syringe, but it was by no means painful. We had talked about getting a heating pad, but it appeared to be fine so we resumed our movie. About a half hour later, not even the beautifully choreographed, stylized violence of Kung Fu Hustle could keep my mind off of the ring of fire around my injection site. A warm compress was applied to no avail. The next night was slightly less painful. I think because I was expecting it. To make it matters worse, I am only on my third day of the progesterone, and already I have discoloration and bruising the size of tropical fruit on my hindquarters. This significantly reduces the amount of usable flesh as I am not interested in said 25 gauge going into a knotted bruise. Did I also mention that the pricking had resulted in several broken veins? On my ass? There goes any hopes I had for a spot in the swimsuit issue.

It occurred to me that I spent the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day weekend, recovering from my laparoscopy. Because, I love a pattern, I finished off summer recovering from retrieval and transfer over the Labor Day weekend. It's like surgical bookends. I had an enormous amount of faith that the lap would be my cure. But another season has been lost, and here I am trying not to admit that I have the same faith in this IVF cycle.

It's My Embryo Transfer and I'll Cry if I Want To

On Sunday afternoon, we gathered back in the M8 waiting room for part II of the deranged slumber party only this time we didn't get pants. As I was coming out of the Robert and Gloria Randell Patient Changing Room (no, I don't remember the exact name of it, but yes, even the changing room is named after a benefactor), I heard very faint, familiar music. Then the lyrics became clear: "You would cry too if it happened to you." Not the soundtrack I would choose for an IVF waiting room. It reminded me of time at my other clinic's office when I walked in to George Michael singing: "Now you tell me that you're having my baby." Can I recommend that we stick with classical music? Even musak might be a better option. I am fragile and narcissistic (well at least narcissistic) and adept at making every song seem as though it was written about/or to taunt me, so how about piping down with the pop torment?

The transfer was more or less a glorified or big-budget IUI. It was the movie version with fancy lighting, costumes, and a larger cast and crew. Unfortunately the star was my lady bits. I lacked the benefit of sedation and that studio lot lighting was not flattering. I tried looking around the room to get my mind off of the enormity of what was about to happen, but I kept getting a glimpse of all of me reflected off of the glass of the opposite facing cabinets. Finally my eyes settled on a screen at one end of the room. My name was up there along with my retrieval and fertilization stats. On the other half of the screen was a little round bundle of cells - my embryo. The science behind that moment was awe-inspiring.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Picked a Bad Day to Quit Sniffing Glue

With retrieval behind us, I was able to shift my obsessive laser focus attention on the embryo transfer. Over the last couple days, Matt and I have discussed (or really agonized) at length how many embryos we wanted to transfer. We vacillated back and forth, pro'ed and con'ed it to death. It's Sophie's Choice over here.

At my initial consultation, my dr. indicated that with my age and health, he would consider transferring two maybe even just one. That was part of what sealed the deal between us (and the fact the the bathroom felt like a spa). When we started down the rabbit hole of infertility treatment, we decided that we wanted to minimize our chances of multiples. It seemed like the sane thing to do.

Now don't get me wrong, I love twins. I mean really, really love them. Afterall, I am a twin, and it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. But I am also a very selfish and self-preserving twin and cannot foresee raising two babies in New York City without the support of extended family or a small army of hired help, neither of which is available to us. I know that if I had them, I would man-up and make it work, but if those odds could be lowered than I could breath easier. But then we started to consider the fragility of those little embryos all alone in a cold lab. And the statistics weren't very promising. I also wanted to maximize the odds of those 45+ needle sticks paying off with a real live baby. This being our first IVF, we have not reached total desparation. But it was still a tough decision. My gut wasn't giving me much guidance beyond urging me to make for the nearest bucket into which I could toss my cookies. A great deal of time, resources and subcutaneous tissue had been invested in these last 5 weeks, and were we really so naive to think we could just throw one up there and hope for the best?

Yep, we were. Naive optimism carried the day. After consulting with the attending who was doing the transfer, we, nervously and with a great deal of apprehension, went with door number 1. We still have two weeks before we will know if there is a goat or a baby behind that door.

Putting My Eggs in One Petrie Dish

So far it has all the makings of a successful cycle. The retrieval yielded an impressive 17 eggs - enough for several generously-portioned omelets- and enough to jump start fantasies of the bounty we would be able to freeze. On Friday the news wasn't as great. Only 5 had fertilized. Usually there is something like a 75% fertilization rate, so my visions of a chilly carton of grade A's started to evaporate. But 5 was still workable, and if male factor was indeed the main cause of our childless state, than we had cleared a major hurdle with fertilization.

The retrieval itself was somewhat of a non-event. For having had a massive needle shoved up my delicates, I didn't experience any pain and walked-out feeling, well, 17 eggs lighter. I guess I was expecting it to be more, I don't know, epic, maybe with plot twists and a stirring soundtrack. My kind sister-in-law took me home in what we tagged the Sambulance. It's really just a mini-van with her hanging out giving a siren wail, but it was a relief to not have to go home in a taxi.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mr. Demille, I am Ready for my Close-Up

Sitting in the IVF waiting room preparing to undergo my very first and hopefully only egg retrieval, I looked around the tasteful room to the other infertile couples and thought "why us?" At that point, it wasn't really the pitying "why me?" that I am usually all too quick to proclaim, but more of a scientific why. What went wrong? I wanted to go around the room and ask "so what are you in for?" Male factor? High FSH? Most of us appeared young and healthy, so why were we on the unfortunate side of the odds? For me, I like to think it is a karma kick back for all those times I wore empire-waisted dresses and tried to look pregnant so that I could get a seat on the N train.

When we arrived the receptionist gave the ladies the gear to change into then we were to return to the waiting room until it was our turn to have our ovaries aspirated by a large needle. With all the women in gowns and robes, the waiting room looked like a deranged slumberparty. I couldn't concentrate on the newspaper (Gail Collin's fluff piece on Sarah Palin/Levi Johnson included), and didn't know what to do with myself especially after my IV was placed. It is hard to act casual and nonchalant when you are in slumberwear and there is a needle hanging out of your arm. I started to think about being a parent. I know I will make a good mother. Just the other day I stopped some kid from licking the pole in the subway. A few days later, I made another kid spit out the crushed (yes, by someone's shoe) skittles he'd picked up from the sidewalk. And these kids were mere strangers; imagine the lengths I would go to protect my flesh and blood from the dangers of New York City health hazards!

After watching everyone else get sent back, the receptionist whined my name and joked that she had forgotten all about me. Comedians! I was up. After being told three times to empty my bladder, asked three times what allegergies I had, and told, yes, three times to remove my pants (once by the anesthesiologist who sized me up and then directed me to "lose my pants." Fresh!), I hopped up on to the slab and started to assumed the position. No candy-cane, candied-ass stirrups, this time. My calfs were hoisted into these cuffs that rendered me completely exposed, baby-birthing exposed, ass-hanging-off-the-table exposed, Jennifer-Aniston-on-a date exposed. Mercifully the anesthesia worked its magic before I could get too worried about my vagina's extreme close-up.

I have always had a bit of fear of being put under - even that phrase makes my-need-to-be-in-control self bristle. After my lap, some of those fears dimished. That anesthesiologist was great -funny, reassuring, competent, not at all a heroine junkie. This guy, however, had the markings of a high functioning alcoholic. Maybe it was the way be commanded me to "lose my pants" while he questioned me on my smoking/drinking habits by rattling off an exhaustive list of possible makes and models of intoxicating beverages I might consume on an average evening. I think I even heard him say jungle juice. I started to panic that he might give me what they gave Michael Jackson. But functioning he was, because I happily emerged from my twilight sedation and announced that I had gone to Fiji.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In Full Bloom

The blood test confirms that I am ripe for the plucking, but for some reason, the clinic waited until the very last minute to call me with this vital information. I understand that they do a thousand of these and they are very busy and such, but I feel like if I am going to have game changing instructions (needle kick in the ass included), I would like a bit of notice.

In preparation for the shot I had enlisted the support of my dear friend to administer the all important trigger shot which in case I haven't been clear is completed with a "dart-like motion" straight into the upper quadrant of the rear. Now needles and I have come to terms with each other. We aren't friends, but we have a mutual respect. I have learned how to handle them with minimal pain, but putting one in my backside isn’t high on my list of challenges to tackle right at this moment. So J, an ER doctor, graciously agreed to a literal bootie call when the deed needed to be done. We were going to make social gathering out of it – Dinner and an Injection Part II: Bad Moon on the Rise.

Back to Tuesday evening: I get a 6:30 pm call telling me that the shot has to be administered at exactly 12:15 am. And that I was to return to the clinic at 6:30 am for the usual poke and prod andthe pre-op instructions. (When exactly I am supposed to sleep?) Friend that she is, J was still willing to do it, but I couldn’t see trying to meet up at midnight for this. So instead of a board certified physician, I had someone who was certifiable give it to me. We turned in early and set the alarm so my husband could bust a cap in my ass. Matthew was worried that he would be too groggy to do it right. I helpfully offered to prick him with one of my syringes to wake him up. To be honest, it wasn’t that bad. I hardly felt it and was able to drift back to sleep in under an hour which didn’t appear likely.

At 5:50 my chauffeured car arrived to whisk me to Manhattan. It was an unfair hour, but predawn colors were appearing over the East River, and they city that I love was still and quiet and showing her best side.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Counting my Chickens Before They are Assistedly Hatched

Today I went in for my daily bloodletting/date with a transvaginal ultrasound device. I had a different dr. One of my main concerns about switching clinics was the lack of personal attention I would be receiving. I wasn't keen on getting intimate with a rotating cadre of white coats. While this whole process has stripped me of any of my remaining modesty, I do like to do whatever George Michael tells me. But in actuality, I have been far less promiscuous than I expected. My dr has done the majority of my exams and another dr has done the honors in his absence.

So I was a little disappointed to see yet another stranger, but when he lowered that exam table all the way down so that I didn't have to leap off of it (I am quite short and that table is always unreasonably high for someone trying to nurture a womb full of rapidly expanding follicles), I officially felt like a clinic slut - I love them all, and they can all have a go at me.

In addition to losing my modesty, I have also lost a great deal of hope. I am trying to take a realistic and practical approach, but it is hard not to get excited about the growing menagerie of follicles during the exam. I also don't want to get caught up in the follicle count, but each one has the potential to become that beautiful little person who will one day look up to me and say "I didn't ask to be born!"