This Time Last Year

Every so often (especially when I’m the only one in the office on a slow and sleepy Friday afternoon) I like to look back on my blog archives and see precisely where we were at a year (or so) ago. Of course, I remember the general shape of this journey, from hopeful deep mid-winter to struggling spring to the longest, hottest and saddest summer, and then the downward slide into fertility treatments that has been the fall-winter-spring-almost summer again. (BTW, I know that the length and shape of my journey is so much shorter than so many others, so I am not trying to bemoan our experience. And I do really dislike the misery competition, anyway.) But I am so glad that I began this blog (Nov 2012) so that I could more firmly capture the things I thought and felt during this process. Especially when they are even farther away. 

And, of course, I do enjoy when there is some parity between the now and the then. There is a little, my recent forays back in time showed. 

A year ago this week I got my period following our 5th attempt at DIY home insemination. La and I were getting ready to take a very belated honeymoon to Cancun. And I was beginning to feel not just disappointed but devastated when the tests stayed so solidly, heartlessly lineless. But still I said,

I still believe that a year from now, I will have a baby. I am letting this co-exist with the many other layers that seem in contridiction.

Of course, I do not have a baby, a year on. In fact, in many ways, I am no closer to having one than I was a year ago, although that is both technically and metaphorically untrue, as we have 5 frozen embryos, possibly the first time my eggs and BFF’s sperm have successfully met, hung out, and started a little thing together. But I don’t feel stupid or sad at year-ago-me. I feel grateful for my hope. 

Other parallels? On July 2nd last year, we saw the OB and started down the path of fertility treatments – on July 2nd of this year, we will officially begin our FET cycle. On July 17th of last year, I got my period, ending our 6th and final DIY try – the try to prove the numbers wrong. We knew BFF’s morphology was shit, but I still didn’t have an official PCOS diagnosis. On July 17th of this year, we will – please, please – be putting one chromosomally normal day 5 embryo into my uterus. Are those actually as poetically linked as I want them to be? I don’t know, but everything is made significant by our particular lens anyway. . . and its good enough for me to imagine it means something.

Yesterday was lupr.on day 1 – nothing terribly exciting, except it means we are on our way towards the FET. I’ll finish up what I sincerely hope to be my last package of BCP’s ever on Monday night. Its still a lot of waiting but . . .at least there are a few things interspersed to look forward to . . .I mean, if a shot in the belly is something to look forward to – oh, who am I kidding? when you’re in IVF land, a shot in the belly is absolutely something to look forward to!

The Pills Made Me Do It

Hi friends. Its been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been keeping up with everyone’s blogs via the wordpress app, but verbosity + fat fingers makes for difficult phone commenting, so I mostly just keep my thoughts to myself unless they can be captured by a hearty ‘congratulations’ or ‘fuck that!’ 

There’s been a lot going on, but most of it has kept me away from regular contact with my computer and/or time I can spend on a blog post. And most of what’s going on has little or nothing to do with baby making (or, with me making a baby, since technically, a lot of what I do is at least tangentially related to some people making babies or trying to keep them from making babies unintentionally.) Really, the only thing of baby-making note is that I started birth control pills last week. 

Which is actually a big deal because BCPs kind of make me want to die, and I’m actually not being hyperbolic about that, ok?

Which is what I want to talk about right now. 

You may remember this post about how birth control makes me a bad person, and you may also recall that for this reason, I requested to be put on another form of hormonal birth control (ie: the ring!) for the subsequent phases of IVF that require it (in my case, a lot, due to cancelled cycles and lazy ovaries) I made the request again for the FET cycle but was told by the FET nurse that BCPs (specifically, lo ogestero.l, my very favorite of all of them!) were my only option. This may or may not be factually true but given the fuss I put up about timing and my suspicion that Nurse Incommunicado was punishing me for my squeaky wheelness, I decided I wouldn’t push it and just took the damn prescription.

I started the pills last Tuesday while I was away in D.C. for work. Because I was out of my normal context (maybe) and because the pills hadn’t had time to build up in my system (more likely) I was lulled into a sense of false security. Maybe this time I won’t actually hate everyone and want to sob for no good reason! Maybe I will be a normal birth control pill taking person!

No luck. On Saturday, La and I were laying in bed watching “Big Love” (I am working on catching up on years of good TV I missed while not owning a TV or other such accoutrements) with which I have become recently obsessed. I was filling her in on some back story, since she hasn’t been watching since the first season, and she said, “I don’t want this to offend you, but the relationships are pretty simple. I get it.”

Would I have been offended if she hasn’t told me she didn’t want to offend me? We will never know. But I was. Well, not offended so much as hurt. My feelings were deeply hurt, although now I can’t really tell you why. After we had a small spat (I’m pretty good at recognizing when the BCPs are informing my feelings) I just wept for a good 10 minutes into her shirt. 

Last night in the car I started crying after she asked me if I was ok. To my knowledge, I had been ‘ok’ (for all intents and purposes) up until the moment she asked if I was ok, at which point I started crying. So, its not even like I’m maybe ‘more sensitive’ about little things. No, I am apparently able to have deep and intense emotions that are actually totally disconnected from . . .well . . .anything.

And I’m making light of it, right, because it is ridiculous. Truly, it is. And, it doesn’t really matter how funny, in retrospect, any of this is. Because when you are in the middle of feeling awful, it just feels awful. And while I know, rationally, that what I am feeling is being caused by birth control pills, I am still feeling it. And that’s the point, right?

last time around, the lo ogester.ol made me ragey. This time, it is making me deeply sad. Like, problematically sad. Sad enough that if I didn’t already know that asking for something else would totally fuck our timeline (which would also make me problematically sad), I would be on the horn with the nurse immediately demanding something different. But I can’t really fathom another setback right now, and I’m already a week down. Although two more weeks of this feels really, really unimaginable.

But I need to figure something out, because I can’t keep feeling the way I have been. Right now, I’m ok. But its so volatile and it feels so distinctly NOT ME. That’s the hardest part, i think . . .feeling like I have lost my sense of humor, my ability to banter, my thick skin and sharp wit. Sure, I’ve been known to be a bit of a cry baby, but I tend to feel very clear on why I am crying and it is always with purpose. I want myself back. I want to be the wife, friend, colleague, daughter and person that I have been before. Two more weeks. 

How do straight women who don’t want babies DO this? Thank God for IUDs and patches and rings, amiright? The separtist in me thinks this might be some horrible male conspiracy.

Just keep waiting

 

 

 

Image

 

I spent most of the long holiday weekend looking forward to a half hour consult this morning. I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed by that or not, but its the truth. My lovely lady was out of town visiting her mom in Florida, and I didn’t have a whole lot to do other than finish my recovery from the Sinus Infection from Hell and get excited about how close to the next step we were getting.

On the other side of the appointment I am . . .exhausted. And ambivilent, generally. Although I am also so very grateful for my doctor, again. 

I waltzed in (late. ugh) in excellent humor. Things are good! We have four embryos! The nuvari.ng comes out tomorrow! I will be pregnant so soon! Dr. Awesome was also in good spirits. She talked about our embryos and gave me the full report on them, talked about wanting to transfer only one, and asked about choosing the sex (we don’t want to choose, but we do want to know.) She said she’d look at the embryology report and then let me know which she would be thawing for transfer. Then she explained the FET process – birth control pills, lupr.on, estrogen patches and pills, HCG shots, progesterone in oil . . .and started doing the math in her own head, then looked worried, grabbed a piece of paper, and shook her head.

“The embryology lab is closed for two weeks in July for cleaning and maintenance. I think your transfer might fall during that time.” She clarified that I still had the nuvarin.g in, got out her calendar, counted, muttered, and then said. “yes. you’re going to have to wait.” WAIT? AGAIN? “How long?” The tears were, of course, flowing full force by now. “Another cycle. I’m sorry.” “So . . .what does that mean? August? September?” Suddenly the Grief of Lost Expectations, the hallmark grief of infertility and trying to conceive, a grief I have not had to deal with so much in this process, flooded me. All of a sudden The Plan was getting moved. Again. “August.” She said. “I think.”

I was confused. I didn’t understand. Late June, Nurse T had said, or maybe July. Maybe. But August? Somehow two whole weeks felt unliveable. Two weeks more felt inpossible, incapacitating. I asked her to explain, over and over. How many bleeds? And why? And why couldn’t birth control, supposedly the magic wand in RE world, fix this? Why did we have to wait an entire month?

Finally, she said that MAYBE . . .maybe the week after the lab opened again they could make it happen. Rather than taking out the nuvarin.g tomorrow and waiting to bleed, I would just switch one ring for another, wait a few weeks, then take it out, bleed, and start the FET calendar. That made sense. Ok. End of June was off the table, middle of July was a possibility. She cautioned me that, depending on what was already scheduled for that week, it might not happen. “Then it would be the next week, the 23rd maybe?” And even that, just 10 days from August, felt more possible. 

She told me she would talk to the FET Nurses and one of them would call me today to tell me if they could do middle of July, and if so, how it would work with the nuva.ring process. It still felt . . .well, crappy. But who could I blame? The lab closes every year, its mandatory. And the doctor had excellent reasons for the process, even if I didn’t understand them. 

So I drove the starbucks and ordered a giant americano with fancy syrup and drove around town crying for a while before going in to work. And while I was doing that, Dr. Awesome called.

“Hi Andie, how are you?” Of course I lied and said, “Oh, fine!” “I think I might be able to make it work for us to have you start the FET process this month . . .we might be able to get you in before the lab closes.”

She explained that, IF she could make this happen, it would mean manipulating my estrogen so that it was higher than usual. And that, she said, might make me feel kind of crappy – kind of crappy in a post-retrieval way. But, she might be able to make it work. Was I willing to feel crappy to save a few weeks?

Should I be embarrassed that I said, “yes. I think I’m fine with that”

Was she really testing my sanity?

So, she said, once again, she’d try and work things out, then have a nurse call me by the end of the day. 

And so, right now . . .I am waiting. And maybe, I will keep on waiting. And maybe, I will wait less. The Hope of Expectations is back, but its dulled. Knowing that the very worst case in August, and the better case in mid-July, and the maybe-best case in still the end of June . . .well, maybe that was all I needed to at least not feel crushed.

And, as a cherry . . .when I apologized for, you know . . .losing it in her office, Dr.Awesome said, “I gave you bad news, on something that is already difficult, after pumping you full of hormones for months. If anyone should be apologizing, its me. And, in that circumstance, I could hardly expect you to do anything but sob.”

So, Dr. Awesome is, in fact, the appropriate pseudonym for her. 

Update forthcoming, but if you could keep some things crossed and say some prayers to whomever/whatever you pray to, I sure would appreciate it. two weeks shouldn’t mean the world, but right now, it does.

OMG. I wrote a lengthy and (I think) enjoyable post yesterday and then wordpress said some BS like ‘function not allowed’ when I tried to post it, and then claimed it saved a draft but actually didn’t. So now, not only is that post lost to the internet gremlins, I will absolutely not be able to recreate and that makes me mad. I also tried to leave a bunch of comments on y’all’s blogs and got some other weird error. Clearly, despite mercury travelling in the correct direction, technology was not on my side yesterday.

Because I now have yesterday’s post to capture as well as some new things, I’m going with bullets!

  • Sickness: After watching my beloved begin the ascent to recovery and even seeing some of my symptoms lessen late last week, I felt confident that this weekend would be sickness free. Unfortunately, my body had other plans. I took a nosedive for the worse on Saturday night and could hardly get out of bed on Sunday. Being knocked down for a week is not typical for me, so I made the decision to see my GP to see what was up. Going to the regular doctor when you are in the midst of infertility treatments is weeeeeird. After all, I have been to the ‘doctor’ more in the last year than ever before in my life, which has made it strangely normal. But also, IF medical stuff is, in many ways, quite different from other treatments. In any case, it was strange to have so much comfort and not fully be able to conceptualize why. I saw a doc in my GP’s practice, since my doctor (AwkMD) was not available. And new doc was *awesome*! She was straightforward, kind, and quick. She peeked into my ears and nose and throat, took a quick listen to my lungs, and then pronounced that my viral cold had grown bacterial legs and become a nasty sinus infection. She asked me how I did with antibiotics, then prescribed the one least likely to give me a yeastie (which I have a tendency to get when I’m on the bug killers) AND gave me a paper script for difl.ucan just in case. THAT is good patient care! After two days of antibiotics, I have regained some sense of smell, although I continue to have swollen and snotty sinuses. Hoping things clear out fully by the weekend. 
  • Uterine Testing: From the GP, I raced across town to make it to my previously set appointment for uterine testing – the last box to check before the transfer can happen. I am super glad my clinic has this piece in place – required trial embryo transfer, doppler ultrasound and hysteroscopy – because I really don’t want any of those precious embryos going anywhere that isn’t perfectly suited for them. But damn! so many things to do! I was hella nervous for the hyst because I had such a wretched HSG and imagined that a camera had to be 1000X worse than some stupid dye. Luckily, I was wrong. It was painful, yes, but if the HSG was an 8 on the scale of 1 to scratching my own eyes out, the hyst was closer to a 6. But, the ol’ ute got the all clear – good blood flow, just one little curve and then straight forward, and no polyps, adhesions or scarring! 
  • Losing My Shit: Before the hyst, and before the all clear, came the losing of the shit in the lobby of the fertility clinic. Let me provide some context by saying that my experiences with my nurses, doctors, techs and phlebotomists at the clinic have been EXCELLENT. I have felt cared for, treated as an individual, and all around appreciated at every turn. The same cannot be said for the financial and administrative staff. At one of our IUI’s, La reported to me that the front desk ladies were talking shit about patients while she waited for me in the lobby – something we were then able to overlook since we were only sort-of patients for that IUI. Then, after my first IVF cycle was cancelled, I received an e-mail from the financial coordinator that pretty much just said “you owe us $1000 before you can start again.” No, ‘sorry about the cancellation’ no ‘we understand you have so much to think about in this time, this is a gentle reminder that the balance due is XX’ no understanding in general. But, whatever. Generally, the only admin/front desk person I like is the girl at the Denver satellite office who might also be problematic, I just haven’t witnessed it. But back to Monday. So, I show up at my appointment sick, on an imposed caffeine break that has left me a sobbing mess, and exhausted from my haul from one side of the metro area to the other. I’m also anxious about the myriad things that are going to be shoved into my vagina. I check in and the girl at the front desk tells me I owe $350. I tell her I don’t think that’s right, since today’s procedures should be included in my IVF package, which was already paid. No, she insists, you haven’t paid your day 3 balance. Yes, I tell her, I have – I paid it in March when I started IVF #1. She looks confused then says she’s going to call the financial people. The financial lady comes out and tells me I oew $350. I say, really? cause I thought it was included in the package. No, you need to give us $350 today. At which point the sickness/lack of caffeine/general IF anxiety kicks in and sends me down the rabbit hole of “omg what if this delays the transfer and omg what if I have to go another 72 hours without even decaf coffee and what do I do because omg I lost my wallet last week and I don’t even have a credit card.” So, I start sobbing. And I tell the lady that 1. I lost my wallet and don’t have a way to pay the fee and b. no one, in the approximately 5 messages I received about this appointment, mentioned that I needed to pay this amount and c. Since I had paid them thousands of dollars they could trust that I was good for it. The lady was unmoved. She didn’t care. And then the front desk girl rolled her eyes at me. At which point I truly lost my shit. I reminded them that they were in possession of 5 of my embryos, and so it was highly unlikely I wouldn’t pay my bill – at least as long as those embryos are outside of my uterus, and furthermore, I felt like I could probably be trusted to pay the bill – since I had already forked out thousands of dollars – but that no one had told me I owed this amount, and their chart was confusing, and also maybe the staff could be a teensy bit more understanding about the complexities of fertility treatment and not be all weird about money? I mean, in what other context do you pay that much to be treated like a deadbeat when you can’t instantaneously produce even more? Finally, perhaps just to shut me up, the financial lady said she’d “let me be seen” as long as I could commit to paying my bill by the end of the week. She’s just lucky I didn’t punch her in the throat. I fully plan on giving some feedback to my Dr. at our FET consult this coming Tuesday. 
  • Death: This week, two major contributors to my community died, leaving a pretty significant hole in the Denver social justice world (in my opinion): Dr. Vincent Harding, a professor of mine from graduate school and general bad ass, who taught me the significance of stories and living and loving into community even when its terribly difficult. Dr. Harding and his generous spirit and ability to teach difficult ideas to damn near anyone will be deeply missed. As he taught us to introduce ourselves: My name is Andie, my mama’s name is Cherie, and my mama’s mama was Mary Margaret. Thank you for the gift you left the world. Another huge loss was Matt Kailey, a trans* activist, author, and community advocate who challenged what it means to be gender non-forming and welcomed all kinds of ideas of transition and transience into his life. RIP, you marvelous, marvelous men. 
  • AYFKM? The Duggers: I don’t think I’ve gone into my psuedo-obsession with The Duggers (of “19 Kids and Counting Fame” if you somehow are unaware) here, but that’s only because I haven’t had good reason. I am simultaneously fascinated, disgusted and intrigued by The Duggers and The Quiverfull Movement of which they are the most obvious poster-family. While I’d like to think this obsession is academically based (I did, afterall, get a master’s degree in theology and social change) its probably more true that there is something weird and unsavory about the attention I give the Dugger’s. In any case, did you all see this? The Dugger’s went to a ‘fertility doctor’ (actually a high risk MFM ob-gyn, so, you know, not exactly the same thing) to talk about how they can have their 20th kid (for the record, Michelle is 47 years old and has now been not-pregnant for three whole years – the longest she’s ever gone since she started reproducing.) I struggle with this because, here’s the thing: I think everyone should be allowed to make their own decisions when it comes to reproductive care – whether that is access to information about terminating an unwanted pregnancy, preventing pregnancy with birth control, or getting support to have children. But this definitely runs along my edge . . .so, y’know, talk amongst yourselves.
  • No-Fetus Fun: I’m trying to get in as much deli meat, sushi, soft cheese, wine and roller coaster riding as I can before the transfer. yesterday we did mid-day sushi special work lunch, which I think can/should happen at least once a week until the FET. 

 

That’s all, friends. The ring of fire comes out next Wednesday, FET consult with Doc Awesome on Tuesday, and then hopefully a FET calendar soon after . . . the waiting is still happening, but it might be coming to an end soon!

Chromosomes!

I managed to pick up a pretty nasty spring cold thanks to my lovely La. This means we are both sick, which is really the worst part of catching sickness from one another. La is a beautiful, amazing, brilliant caretaker. . .when she is well. When she is sick, she is bratty and needy. And this is fine when she is sick and I am well, but doesn’t work out so well when we are both down for the count. Needless to say, when people ask if we ever want to get pregnant at the same time (which happens ALL.THE.TIME.), the answer is a resounding NO. (I did just find a blog of two women who DID get knocked up simultaneously – doing reciprocal IVF for them both, which is quite poetic, and seems to be working for them. So, its not a universal eye roll) 

So I was awake but hating life at 7:45am when the clinic called with the results of our PGS screening. I could also hardly talk through my dry mouth and snot filled head, but that’s ok cause I didn’t have to talk much.

Of the 8 embryos sent for biopsy, four came back normal. FOUR. This seems like an awfully high proportion of good:bad, but once again, no one* seems to be worried, so I am trying to also not be worried. Of the four that are normal, one of them has a lower ‘confidence rating’ on an abornormality, which means, according to the embryologist, ‘that wouldn’t be the first one we put in’ but that it also didn’t mean we wouldn’t transfer it. Of the four good embryos, two are XX (one of which is the lower confidence embryo) and two are XY – meaning because we are not choosing, our chances of getting a boy (or, I should say, a baby with XY chromosomes who is likely to be assigned male at birth) are slightly higher. My mom probably doesn’t need to know that.

Of the four that were abnormal, one had so many problems it almost certainly wouldn’t have even implanted, one had trisomy 21, and the other two had other trisomies that I wasn’t familiar with. All abnormalities came from the egg – which of course will give you a complex even when the embryologist tells you this is common since the egg is older and a more complex structure in which more things can go wrong.

So, mostly I am glad we did the PGS, since without it we had about a 50/50 chance of having an embryo transferred that would have miscarried or had some other issues. The attrition in this process is astounding though. From 53 eggs retrieved, 29 mature eggs, 21 of which fertilized, 12 of which grew to day 5, 9 of which were able to be frozen, 8 of which were biopsied, four of which are chromosomally normal. 7% of the harvested eggs turned into (we hope) viable embryos (if my math is good. so, maybe less actually)

Now, I’m going to finish some e-mails and try and blow some snot outta my brain.

Calendar!

Got a call from T, the IVF nurse (who I am very certain I like MUCH better than the IUI nurse) and got the go ahead to start birth control pills. She also sent a calendar – thank God – since I have been feeling like I’m rather aimlessly floating in this IVF sea, not really knowing what to expect or how to plan. But now I do!

So, its BCPs from now until March 3rd, starting stims on or around March 8th (looks like, right now, Meno.pur in the morning and follis.tim in the evening) until day 6 when they will add ganirelix in the evening. For the record (because I love this shit and google it all of the time) I am on an antagonist protocol. Tentative retrieval date is March 19th – two days after one of my organization’s biggest events. So, let’s all cross all the things that the date doesn’t get moved up too much and also that I am not so swollen with eggs that I can’t show up to the capitol to do some lobbying with youth advocates. 

Of course, then we’ll have to wait for a period to show up after retrieval, then sit out a whole cycle, then prep for FET. So, May or June is the likely target date for transfer. 

So, between now and early March, BFF and I have to get some additional blood tests and sign consents. Meds should be ordered early next week. The train is leaving the station.

Just a little shout out to Obamacare for picking up the tab on my BCPs. Not that it would have broken us, but what with the paycheck fiasco, every little bit helps!