Overachieving ovum and subpar spermatazoa

The results came back from BFFs repeat semen analysis: 4% normal morphology,  up from 2% in July.  This is,  add I anticipated,  a very marginal and pretty much inconsequential improvement.  Normal morphology is 14%. La and I were hoping for something like 8 or 10. 4% just feels.  . . Unfair.

So we will be going forward with the IUI using BFF this time and hopehopehope that one of those 4% of normal shaped sperm find one of my five follicles and make a baby.  It’s not impossible or even a total long shot.  This protocol is,  after all,  the recommendation for a woman with PRO and a man with poor morphology.  So hope isn’t lost.  But today is still sad.

We will be contacting our two other potential donors to talk about moving forward with one of them.

It can’t all be good,  I know,  and I am still grateful for the hope we have to hang on to,  but there is a fair amount of grief to contend with today as well.  Especially for La, who has held on to this idea for years,  the possibility for loss is just as present and palpable as the hope.

Bust.

Its been a helluva week.

Today is cycle day 22, still no positive OPK. After the almost-the-same test on Tuesday morning, I got almost no line at all on Tuesday evening. Wednesday morning I got another dark-but-not-positive and then . . .of course, no line Wednesday night. My cervical fluid has followed a similar, although opposite, pattern – with creamy fluid in the morning and stretchier, clearer fluid in the evening. My temperatures have stayed solidly in the pre-ovulatory range. This morning’s pee stick ritual yielded another dark but not positive. In other words, nothing to speak of.

I sent an e-mail to the Texas Ranger on Tuesday asking for an ultrasound to see what was going on, and mentioning that I would also like to talk more in depth about fertility medications. She responded telling me to come in for a blood draw to check progesterone and to schedule an appointment to talk about further interventions.

I’m a little perturbed about the progesterone check instead of an ultrasound. The progesterone test will show that I have not ovulated. Which I know, because I track my temperatures.  I’m not sure why I had to drive half way across the metro area and get stuck in the hand to prove what I already know. But I did.

The next available appointment for The Texas Ranger wasn’t until Oct 1st. Aside from this feeling like a lifetime away, I was also concerned with how it might work in terms of timing for the next cycle (assuming I ovulate in the next, you know, few weeks) and I was not willing to be patient to talk about something that I’d wanted to talk about a month ago. So, I am going to see a doctor at the same practice this coming Monday.

After a week of grief, anxiety, busy-ness and just general too-much-ness, La and I made the decision to cancel this cycle. Between the havoc that’s been wrecked on our lives with friends leaving and lives exploding in work and ovulation not coming, and the fact that we were advised an IUI wouldn’t be recommended with ovulation any later than day 24 (at this rate, we are almost past that cut-off as is), it seems like the best, most reasonable plan to forgo the IUI, take some time to breathe, figure out our next steps, and then move forward in September/October.

I’m terribly sad and also decidedly relieved. I have been exhausted by this process, wrung out with waiting, and blame filled (from myself, always only myself) when the OPK shows up negative. again. and again. And while there is loss – not getting to try is a particular kind of heartache I think – it feels quieter and more peace-filled.

The one sticking point from our conversation last night was whether to have BFF’s sperm analysis repeated before or after the IUI. Following the previously decided upon ‘plan’ would mean getting it done prior to the Sept/Oct IUI. La doesn’t want to do this. She wants to go forward and have the SA repeated after the IUI.

I have a lot of complex feelings about this. First and foremost, if we are upping our game so significantly, I’m not sure why we wouldn’t test the semen. Its been more than 8 weeks since BFF started acupuncture and supplements, and that was time time frame we were given to see some improvement. I think La’s desire to try is more about sticking her head in the sand and hoping for the best – a tactic I have often gone with when the emotional stakes are high. After all, no news is good news, right?

But it feels hard that in this instance, The Plan is being put aside in the service of BFF/La’s desire to use BFF as our donor. The Plan has been the primary sticking point whenever I wanted to bump the timeline up. Whenever I wanted to make an appointment or ask questions about interventions or see a naturopath or or or . . .The Plan has been the reason I didn’t do any of that. When I’d come home worried or wanting to try something, La would say, but we have The Plan. We have to stick with The Plan. and The Plan says we don’t try that until _____ (after 6 tries, August, if we get a bad test result.)

So I’m a little resentful. And I feel shitty that I feel resentful, but I do. We tabled the conversation and made an agreement to revisit after doing some more thinking and talking and uncovering. I certainly don’t want to make a decision based on my resentful feelings; I also want to give ourselves the best possible chance, because this shit is fucking hard.

 

All of the Feelings.

Welp. Its CD5 of the first IUI cycle. I’m having a lot of feelings.

I think I’m excited, because I think this is ultimately a better shot than we have had before. I think I’m hopeful because the acupuncture + supplements + diet changes have made clear positive changes for my cycle and that *must* mean that BFF’s swim team is shaping up too, right? I’m nervous about trying to fit an IUI in during a very complex three day training (because, of course, that is when I am due to ovulate) and having to possibly ask my colleagues to step in for me at the last minute. I’m scared this is a waste of money without any evidence that BFF’s sperm has improved.

My therapist, herself the mother of twins conceived via IVF and donor sperm, seems to be pretty pessimistic about BFF’s sperm working. While she understands that we have reasons for wanting to keep trying with BFF, she ultimately believes we won’t be successful until we switch to another donor. I’d prefer she at least not tell me this as I genuinely want this to work but have so much fear we are throwing money away and prolonging the awful roller coaster we are on. Its hard not to want to dive into whatever has the best success rates. And IUI’s with less-than-awesome-sperm aren’t it. Balancing the things I know rationally and the ones I know emotionally is, like always, fucking hard.

So I’m doing everything I can on my end to make my uterus the most fabulous place in the world. A friend bought us a BlendTek blender which is, I guess, a really fancy blender. Since we didn’t even own one before, I’m not clear on the details. What I do know is that I have been making fabulous green smoothies every morning for a week and its been delightful. I’m keeping up with the supplements, the less sugar less wheat diet plan, and consuming a truly remarkable amount of produce, god bless the summer harvest.

I’m trying not to be so damned down about the whole thing, but its feeling hard these days. In the grand scheme of things, we are still so new on this path of fertility. It feels so impossibly sad to think that there could be so many more months of this. And yet, I can’t imagine stopping here.  Some friends of ours will hit 2 years of trying with a known donor in the next few months. They have done some tests but are not going to do IUIs, use any fertility medications, or go to any further lengths. They are giving themselves until december and then calling it quits. That feels so foreign and impossible to me. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit to myself that I will absolutely advocate for us to do whatever we reasonably can to get pregnant. And, frankly, for me to be pregnant.

I think that fear is deep down inside of me. That while we will have children that I will never be pregnant. It feels like a grief I don’t want to admit to. Because I know and believe that children, however they come, will be mine. And still . . .still I want so so deeply to be pregnant and give birth and maybe that just isn’t in the cards.

Its too early to say that. But sometimes, when I try to unbury just how and why I am so morose, I come to that. And it stings because it means something about me that I don’t want to be true.

 

Almost as Good, and sometimes better

My nephew is here!

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Liam Greer came busting onto the scene on Friday night at 8:20pm, MST. He came in at a whopping 8lbs 15oz, 21in long and a 14 in head. I really, really hope the giant head runs in my sister-in-law’s family and not mine. Dear lord.

He’s pretty fabulous already. We haven’t hung out much, because he’s kind of a big deal and I really hate being *that* family member who doesn’t respect boundaries (because there are plenty of them already) We have a dinner date tomorrow. His mom and dad are coming too.

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I know I’m biased but he is a REALLY beautiful baby, amiright?

In other news . . .

Both BFF and I had appointments with the fertility acupuncturist on Saturday. She seems to see some evidence of PCOS in my chart, and explained that while I do ovulate on my own that I may not be ovulating well or producing very good eggs. She noted that having many days of positive OPKs could indicate ‘weak’ ovulation and eggs trying to be released in the midst of lots of cysts impeding them. Still nothing confirmatory, but I think I might push for some blood tests when I go in to see the Texas Ranger tomorrow.

I’m now taking myo-inositol (which, BTW, seems to have a LOT of clinical evidence of helping PCOS symptoms without side effects), fish oil and vitamin D3 to support ovarian function and increase blood flow. And, of course, it is now officially time to stop eating refined sugar, wheat and dairy again. Which I have always known I would have to do but have ignored for a while now. You guys, donuts are my kryptonite. This is no fun.

I’m feeling much more at peace with the path we are on right now. We are definitely taking this month off, and will likely not proceed to the IUI in the Aug/Sept cycle either, although we may try at home again (possibly using The Conception Kit – another recommendation from the Acupuncturist) BFF will get a repeat sperm analysis after 8 weeks of acupuncture/herbs/supplements.

There is a lot of waiting ahead of me, and I know it is being mitigated somewhat right now by the appointments I have. I’m working hard to put some other things into place that will help me get through the next (maybe two) month(s) of not trying. And, still, I know there will be times when it feels so so so far away.

But today, things are good. Today, I have a tiny (or not so tiny!) nephew who is precious beyond measure. Today I have a few more answers and a few more techniques to try. And tomorrow I see the Texas Ranger for more information.

The day after that, well, I will get there when I get there.

Things. Some good. Some hard.

I had originally wanted to wait to update you all until AFTER my nephew made his arrival earth-side – which should have been by now. Unfortunately (for all of us, but mostly for his mama) the induction using pitocin did not encourage Liam to come out to this side of the belly. After 12 hours of not enough progress, she was sent home. She will go back tonight to try again. Nephew Wath 2013 has been delayed. Adorable baby photos will have to wait until another day.

Some things have happened this week, like this:

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aka the best salad ever aka direct from the garden at the estate.

And this:

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aka the first egg from the golden girls (there was another last night too. So exiting!)

Eating stuff from your backyard is THE BEST.

But then this also happened:

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Which I guess for some people isn’t that bad, but made me feel like this:

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I find it shocking that for some people with uteruses, the HSG is totally like, no biggie. This is the impression I got when I asked about it on the babycenter board and when I did some pre-procedure googling. I find this shocking because it was absolutely, hands down, the most exrutiating pain I have ever experienced. Granted, I (thankfully) have not had a lot of run ins with excessive pain. But I do have a fair number of tattoos and have undergone surgery and busted my ankle up so bad that doctors now don’t know what to do with it. So . . .I have some reference.

In any case, yesterday was miserable. After screaming through the HSG, I was informed that my ovaries looked poly cystic. I’m going back on Tuesday for another ultrasound for them to check and decide if this is actually the case.

I feel somewhat confused by this. I have very regular periods (with the exception of the last year when two cycles were longer than usual – one very long, 60 days) and appear to ovulate based on BBT signs. My metabolic panels have always been good – no signs of insulin resistance, blood pressure issues or high cholesterol. I’m a bigger girl, but my weight is much more packed into my thighs and booty vs. my belly. I don’t have acne or hair growth. Basically, this is coming as a bit of a surprise to me.

The doctor who did the HSG and subsequently informed me of the appearance of my ovaries was not the Texas Ranger, but the follow up is scheduled with her. So I’m hoping to get some answers then, and also from the fertility specialist acupuncturist I am seeing on Saturday.

I know the PCOS is not the end of the road when it comes to fertility stuff, and that it can definitely be treated in a variety of ways. But this is not the kind of news I want on the heels of BFF’s less-than-stellar semen analysis results. But, if it is in fact the case, we will just do the next best thing.

At least I don’t feel like I have a knife shoved up my cervix anymore. See, there is a bright side to everything!

The Swim Meet

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When La and I had our Big Gay Love Extravaganza Event (GLEE) in April 2012, we knew that we wanted our best friends there playing some significant roles, and we knew that we wanted our best friends in costume. Because that is how we roll. BFF and my best buddy served as our “Men of Honor” and were tasked with determining their outfits, with some guidance about style (20’s and 30’s vintage theater.)

BFF initially decided he wanted to wear an old fashioned bathing suit (ie: the jumpsuit shorty kind, often seen with stripes) and a boater hat. I was very excited for this possible costume, since it was both a perfect fit with the theme AND hilarious! Unfortunately, because of cost prohibitations and the inability to rent said suit, BFF went with a different, but still highly fashionable, choice.

I mention this because I think it is oddly appropriate.

This morning, the Texas Ranger called with the results of BFF’s semen analysis. The results? Aside from what appeared to be an ‘incomplete sample’ (although it wasn’t specified if that was because of a screw up or something else) – normal count and normal motility (ie: the quantity of sperm and their ability to swim forward at a normal speed) but a poor morphology.

Morphology is, for those of you not in the know, the shape of the sperm. Here are some possible shapes of human spermatozoa:

ImageThere seems to be a lot of disagreement about what constitutes a “normal” number or quantity of “normal” shaped sperm, varying from 14% to just 4%. BFF’s semen has just 2% of the sperms that are normally shaped.

So . . .if we were to compare sperms to swim teams (because, obviously): Joe’s team is well stocked with swimmer’s that can totally get from one end of the pool to the other, they are just mostly wearing crazy swimsuits and outlandish hats.

The suck of it is that swimmer’s with wonky bathing costumes on can’t get the job done when it comes to fertilizing the egg. They are just not well equipped.

So. What now?

We don’t know.

It continues to be very important to us to use BFF as our donor, as long as that is reasonable and possible. Its not about the sperm being free or easy to access (it never was, although that definitely helped.) Its about our relationship with BFF, and even more so, La’s relationship with him. In the current scenario, having BFF donate feels like the closest thing to having La contribute the genetic material for our kid. It doesn’t make sense in a rational way, but our hearts both know it to be true.

So, on the one hand, we want to explore avenues for making this happen with BFF’s sperm. Because our hearts want that deeply. On the other, there is the reality that the poorer the quality of the sperm, the less likely we are to get pregnant no matter the method. And the longer it takes, the more money we spend and the more heartache we incur.

On the upside, poor morphology with good counts and good motility is the best of the bad situations. From what I’ve been able to read, there is a reasonable chance of success using IUI with this method.

But questions remain . . . .

  • We had initially planned to wait on some of the diagnostic testing for me until after a few IUI attempts. Do we bump that up to make sure we aren’t playing with an even bigger handicap than we think?
  • How many IUI’s do we do with BFF’s sperm before we decided to use an anonymous donor from a bank?
  • Do we investigate using other fertility measures (like drugs) even though it appears that I am ovulating normally?

I realize no one can tell us what to do, but I would appreciate your input, darlings. I realize that many of you didn’t have to think about these things – you got your sperm in vials with counts, motility and morphology all guaranteed to be super-awesome. But maybe you can imagine? For those of you who are using or have used a known donor, or have a male partner – what do you think?

As if to add insult to injury, today I got a spot of pink when I wiped. I realize it may not count me out just yet, but it certainly feels like some salt in the wound. I’m 12 DPO today and have had similar spotting right around this time the last few cycles. My insistence on not tracking symptoms too closely means I don’t have a lot else to cling to, hope wise. I’d been planning to wait to take a test but will probably go ahead and pee on one tonight or tomorrow morning. It would be a lovely surprise, wouldn’t it?

We might be underwater, but I’m not holding my breath.

Return from Paradise

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We are back.

If only everyone could spend a week in Cancun every time they have to wait to try again to make a baby. It really is an excellent way to stop thinking about the minutiae of getting pregnant and just really exist in the moment. I vote free beach vacays for all people TTC – every cycle you don’t get knocked up, you get to go away. Who’s with me?

Unfortunately, you can only suspend reality for so long before it comes crashing back down on your head. My usual M.O. is to have a mild-moderate panic attack on the flight home when I begin subconciously making the list of crap in my head. I staved it off until we were in customs this time.

But I have also managed to hold on to a teeny tiny bit of paradise. By this I don’t mean the white sand or water so blue you don’t remember its salt or a mojito whenever I ask for it. I mean bobbing in waves unaware of time, I mean moments without narrative or checklists or somethinganythingijustneedtothink, I mean seeing – actually seeing – all of the things around me, I mean looking at my girl’s face and feeling all of the big beautiful feelings bubble up.

So I’m going to try and float with these feelings, even in the midst of re-writing my work plan for the funder who it seems like I can never please, in the middle of managing money when an unforeseen expense or 30 pops up, and yes, right here smack dab in the center of trying to make a baby.

And we are smack dab in the middle of it, again. We arrived home on CD12 and I commenced peeing on things. I’m expecting to ovulate between now and Thursday and we did our first insemination last night.

BFF is currently living with us while he and BFFBF look for a new place to live. BFF got a new puppy (the biggest floppiest most adorable grand pyrenees named Yankee!) and the puppy is also living with us. Our house is kind of like Three’s Company on a farm right now, and yes its as ridiculous as it sounds. On the upside, we can do inseminations any old time we feel like it . . .which will probably be every other day until the positive OPK pops up, and then a few more tries.

ImageA few other notes . . .

On DOMA . . .Our Cancun resort didn’t have free wifi and pat of my vacation plan was to be as unplugged as possible. So, we didn’t find out about the Supreme Court decisions until we got home. And what a fuckin’ mixed bag, eh? I’m super psyched that DOMA was struck down and that same sex marriage will be federally recognized on some level. I’m also glad the shenanigans in California got addressed. I know that the DOMA ruling doesn’t entirely take care of the issues (I do happen to live in a state where a similar amendment has been enshrined in the state constitution) but I also think this is a sign that the BS is on its way out. Supreme Court precedent is a big f’ing deal, you know?

But OMG can we talk about the Voting Rights Act for a minute? That is BAD BAD BAD. The irony that this decision came at the same time as the Paula Deen scandal is just too much Americanism for me. Why are people not outraged about the VRA being dismantled in the same way they are ourtraged at Paula Deen saying the “N” word? For serious?!

And also . . .I really really really hope that now the marriage stuff is beginning to happen that the LGBTQ ‘community’ can start paying attention to the other million issues that really deeply impact queer folks. Like immigration reform, and health care, and homelessness. And I hope we care as much about those things as we do about the right to get married. I hope we give just as many shits about the way people of color just got totally disenfranchised as we do about the ability to file federal taxes jointly. Now that our relationships aren’t wedge issues, please let us keep standing on the right side of justice.

On Doctors  . . .

Tomorrow the triumverate goes to visit the OB/GYN. This appointment has been a long time coming. It was initially scheduled for three weeks ago, but has been rescheduled a million times (by both us and the doc) and it felt like it was never coming. Now that it is, I’m terrified. I’m scared of the possible homophobia (even though we have a referral from another queer couple using a known donor); I’m terrified of fatphobia (kind like this) and having to defend my body and my life; I’m terrified of finding things out that I don’t want to know about maybe why we aren’t pregnant yet.

But, I’m also hopeful. We have the opportunity to find out that everything is OK, or to fix things that might be getting in the way. We have a chance to ask a lot of questions. We have access to things that might support knowing, understanding, or making this happen.

One Down

Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting and my breasts were throbbing. As much as I have tried to stop paying attention to the minutia of my body, I couldn’t help from noticing the throbbing. And I got excited. Because that’s what we do, right? Look for throbbing breasts or extreme fatigue or maybe a touch of dizzy nausea and pray they will become worse or couple up with something else. Anything to tell me what I want to know without having to ask the question.

I came home and told La. She said, “isn’t it early?” Because my breasts always ache, but maybe this time they ached before they usually ache, or worse than they usually ache. But no. It was cycle day 24 and, if my prior record keeping is to be trusted, they always start hurting on cycle day 24. But maybe it was worse? More intense? Different?!

The truth is, I don’t know. The barometer of human feelings – never a very reliable instrument – has become increasingly fallible over the last 6 months. I’m not saying the throbbing *isn’t* different, I’m just not saying it is either. Because I honestly don’t know. I remember thinking, in the airport, at the tail end of the last wait, that my boobs hurt more than usual. But the thought is the only thing concrete. I can’t conjure up the feeling now. I can’t say with any accuracy that they actually hurt worse than the month before because the month before I was willing them to hurt too.

The reality that you just can’t know until you know just keeps crashing down on my head.

I said to La last night, when we were discussing when to take a test, that I just wanted *something* clear to happen this weekend so I would know without knowing. Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to – right? Its the same feeling that drives me to wait to the very last minute to take a pregnancy test. The same feeling that kept me from asking an ex girlfriend if she was cheating on me. Sometimes the world we make up is better than the one we know exists.

This wait has not been anxious. I’ve had a lot of feelings, sure. Just not anxiety. A few days after ovulation, I had a crystal clear dream of having a girl baby and naming her Dorothy. And that dream’s sweetness bouyed me with a feeling of just KNOWING this time worked, even though I also knew that was impossible to know. That lasted a few days before I resumed my general see-sawing and symptom spotting. One week down, one to go. Sometimes my calm is one of resignation. Sometimes it is one of serenity. Sometimes it is one of impossible knowing.

In the hope column for today: I almost fainted in the copy room an hour ago – had to catch myself on the table and squat down till my knees regained form and the dots dissipated. Since then I’ve felt near-nauseous. Not quite sick, just not quite well either.

Then again, it could just be allergies.