Tomorrow, our only hope gets transferred into my uterus.

Tomorrow, our only hope gets transferred into my uterus. And I can’t sleep. For the second night in a row. It’s 3am, and my internal search engine keeps running without any answers.

Will lack of sleep affect implantation? Am I destining myself for failure? Am I making my heart beat that fast? Or is it the prednisone? Or the giant shots in the ass we’ve been giving me every night? How long can one person go without more than 2 hours sleep? If this affects my chances, how do women with infants get pregnant? Better yet, how does anyone ever get pregnant at all? Am I working too much? Have I taken on too much? Am I not working enough? Do I need more of a distraction? Am I going to look back and wish I hadn’t been working so hard at all? Did I fuck everything up with that piece of dark chocolate? Is everyone going to freak out about me not drinking this weekend? Will I be able to handle the assumptions they make? Will I even make it to the weekend, or will time stand still like this forever? Will the embryo fall out into my underpants? Into the toilet? Is it even safe to go number 2? Safe to move? Safe to cough? Safe to breathe? Will the doctor call me tomorrow and tell me there is no embryo? That they lost it? That they messed it up? That this was all a misunderstanding? Can I handle 9 more days and nights like this? 12 whole weeks? 9 whole months? Can I handle not having to handle 12 whole weeks? 9 whole months? Will it wreck me forever?

Tomorrow, our only hope gets transferred into my uterus. And I can’t help but think that it’s the most dangerous place it could be.

And then there was one

Somehow I’ve gotten through 35 years of severe incoordination without ever needing surgery. Which means I’ve never needed anesthesia. So when it came time for my egg retrieval, more than anything, I was nervous about the idea of being put under. I may be just a tad bit of a control freak, so the idea of someone else having control over my consciousness totally wigs me out.

So when I was brought in to the official procedure room and positioned on the table with my legs all spread apart and 7 strangers in surgical masks surrounding me, I was almost shaking. Part of that was probably also due to the fact that I had convinced myself that I had ovulated early and had 20 eggs just hanging out in my fallopian tubes. I must have googled “possible to ovulate before egg retrieval?” 30 times the day before. And the fact that apparently everyone who has ever gone through IVF has had the same unnecessary fear and not a one had ovulated early didn’t comfort me. Since when does my body do what everyone else’s does?

Everyone in that room was just chatting it up as they prepped for the procedure, as if it was just an ordinary day and they weren’t about to knock me out and remove potential life through my vaj. And I was just trying to act like I was cool enough to go along with it. I started to feel a little droopy. And the last thing I remember was telling everyone that the ceiling looked like waffles, but that I was gonna eat a giant donut as soon as this whole thing wrapped up, and everyone laughing at me.

In those 20 minutes, I had the best damn sleep of my life. Afterward, I told the nurse if she could just send me home with a bag of the IV meds, I’d totally keep it under wraps. I was surprised to not feel nauseous or weird or even sleepy after. And you know what, on our way home, I did eat a donut. And after weeks of no carbs, processed foods or refined sugars, it was freaking glorious.

The next three days were not glorious. Nobody really warns you about how shitty you are going to feel after a retrieval. The doctor gave me meds for pain. But pain is not the word I’d use to describe the sensation of my ovaries swelling to the size of grapefruits and pushing my insides around. And it wasn’t until I googled some things that I figured out that that’s what was actually happening. At first, I just thought I had about 3 years’ worth of farts stuck up inside me, refusing to come out. Walking and sitting down felt like Olympic sports. And of course, I was working in an agency with a bunch of people all around to witness my grimacing waddle-walk.

Then the horrible numbers game began. There were 14 eggs retrieved. 10 were mature. Of the 10, 8 fertilized. But only 3 made it to day 5 blastocysts. Because of my previous miscarriages, we did PGS (Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening) on the three blastocysts so that we could be sure we weren’t transferring an embryo that I would certainly miscarry. And the results just came in. Only one out of the three is a chromosomally normal embryo.

I feel like I just played blackjack in Vegas. Stepped up to the table with pockets full of chips, and now I’m left with one. The reality is, if I hadn’t had such a great response to the stims, 1 chromosomally normal embryo would be reason to be ecstatic. It’s still a chance, with relatively better odds. But the 20 follicles on my scan played tricks with my brain. They got my hopes up. They made me think we were destined for multiple chances and possibly multiple babies.

Now, it’s all riding on this one little embryo we’ll be transferring in June. Our entire future rests on this thing that is still just a tiny clump of cells sitting in a nitrogen tank. Imagine if it actually does become a child. I think I already feel sorry for it. No pressure, kid, but all of Mommy and Daddy’s hopes and dreams are on your shoulders. If we hadn’t just spent so much on IVF, I’d start a fund for their therapy.

DOR, TTYL.

Yesterday I went in for my IVF treatment day 8 ultrasound. The drive there, I hoped and hoped that my 11 follicles were still there follicling. It would totally be my luck, I figured, to have ovulated through the ganirelix and have a cancelled cycle.

But when the dildo cam went up to do its thing, even the nurse started freaking out. “Oh my god! Oh my god!” she kept saying. I had 20+ beautiful follicles.  My sleepy left ovary had suddenly decided to throw a rager. Every move of the dildo cam revealed another big follicle. The nurse couldn’t even count them all. Mainly because all she could do was say “oh my god.” Apparently for someone with an amh of 0.04, 20 follicles is unheard of.

There’s still several steps to getting those suckers out of my body. But regardless, I couldn’t wait to celebrate. And then I remembered…until after the retrieval on Monday, I’m not drinking, I’m not eating anything that tastes good, and I’m so tired from the medication, I can’t really do anything but sit. But in my mind, I’m throwing myself a little party. Steamed broccoli and chicken breast, anyone?

My Stomach, the pin cushion

Well, it’s happening. And by “it” I mean shots. And by “shots” I mean stims, which is a term us in the infertile hood use to describe the stuff that makes our ovaries blow up.

Last Wednesday I started giving myself 225IU of Menopur in the belly and 225IU of Follistim in the belly. I like to think that when it comes to giving myself shots in the belly, I’m a bit of an expert. I’ve been giving myself a shot of lovenox in the belly every night for almost a year. So when the nurse at our RE’s office ran through the injection instructions and played the videos showing us how to inject the stims, my husband and I sat there all cocky thinking about how the poor hand model they cast for these videos had no idea what she was walking into on that particular day of work. At least, that’s what I was thinking about. My husband was likely thinking about lunch.

When my meds arrived earlier last week, I shut them all in a cabinet and didn’t give them much thought until 9pm on Wednesday night rolled around. And then, it was go-time. We unpackaged all the little bottles, containers, syringes, and sterile wipes in our family room and I set up my laptop to replay the instructional videos – you know, because even experts like us could use a little refresher. And then, we got going. And by “got going” I mean that shit started hitting the fan.

Menopur is one complicated bitch. My particular dosing involves four different bottles: one bottle of diluent and three bottles of the actual little powdery medicine. To prepare the injection you actually have to take your syringe, put a special cap on it to draw up the medication from one bottle, then inject it into the next bottle, draw that up, then inject it all into the next bottle and so on and so forth until all four bottles are now in the syringe ready to make magic happen in the layer of fat hiding under my waistband.

The video, of course, made it look rather easy – just pull on the plunger and up comes the solution. Ha ha. Not so. The syringe kept pulling in air with the occasional drop of solution and it looked nothing like the hand model’s perfectly full syringe in the video. After 7 or 8 attempts with no more luck, my computer froze. Like completely froze. Here it was, now 9:30 pm on the night it was imperative that we get this stuff in my body, thousands and thousands of dollars lay in our hands, and we couldn’t figure out how to make any of it work. I almost threw up. My husband had to set down the vials, now representative of our savings account, and leave the room.

Finally, we decided to lose the special cap on the syringe and just use a needle to draw up the solution and mix it. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. And each night has gotten substantially easier.

Now, on day 7 of stims we have a little routine where my husband pretends he’s a chemist and prepares all the injections while I search for an available spot on my black and blue belly and then inject myself. We added ganirelex injections to the list on Sunday to keep me from ovulating early. So now, including the lovenox, I have four different injections each night and sometimes five if I’m at the end of a cartridge on the follistim pen. In the mornings, I can’t help but lift up my shirt and stare at my marked up stomach. Each bruise and bump feels like a badge of courage awarded to me by the Infertile Powers That Be.

At last count, I have 11 follicles growing. The nurses all say that is extraordinary for someone with an AMH as low as mine (0.04). But the little overachiever inside me can’t help but feel a little disappointed by the number. In my dreams, my ovaries are exploding with so many eggs that they start shooting out of my lady parts and it takes a team full of doctors with woven baskets to collect them all.

The Egg Retrieval is scheduled for this coming Monday. And, in addition to getting these little suckers safely out of my body, all I can think about are the carbs I’m going to finally allow myself. I don’t care if I’m all drugged up from the anesthesia, I’m going to plop a bagel in my mouth that, at that time, may or may not be capable of chewing.

Return of The Dragon Lady

 

[Quick sidenote: Well, this is awkward. It’s been almost two months since my last post, which means I should definitely be fired from this whole blogging thing. Good thing I’m my own boss on this blog, and will therefore allow myself to keep on writing randomness with reckless abandon. The reason for my absence is that work has been nonstop over the last two months. And since I am now a freelancer about to throw a boatload of money toward IVF, that’s good news. Thanks for understanding. Now back to our regularly scheduled weirdness]

The Dragon Lady and I had a breakup back in September,  but it was the totally unawkward kind of breakup where we just stopped seeing each other and didn’t bother with the half attempts at explanations. If I had tried to explain it, I don’t think the “you told me I was having triplets when I wasn’t even pregnant” argument would have gone over so well with her. But it wasn’t just that. The main reason I stopped seeing her was because that voice in my head that sporadically pipes up to tell me that this is all a lost cause got deafeningly loud. So yeah, basically I ghosted the Dragon Lady.

But, now that we are about to drop a totally ridiculous amount of money on IVF, I’m going all-in on everything. I’m all-in on this whole fruits and veggies thing. I’m all-in on nasty wheatgrass shots. I’m all-in on no caffeine, no starches, and no alcohol. Okay, starting tomorrow. And I’m all-in on no chemicals, no phthalates, and no deodorant that actually works. And so it only seems right that I should also be all-in again with the Dragon Lady. That way, if things don’t work out, I won’t have the constant weight of “what if?” on my shoulders. I’ll have done all there is to do.

So after 6 Dragon Ladyless months, I scheduled an appointment and instantly turned into a barrel of nerves. Would she yell at me? Would she put needles in my eyes? Would she light me on fire and point out all my acne? Would I understand what she was saying anymore? Seriously, I had gotten really good at understanding the Dragon Lady’s short verbal assaults in broken English, but now I was out of practice.

The day of my appointment, as I lay there on the table, waiting for the Dragon Lady to enter the room, I brace myself. There will be lots of yelling, I just know it. Lots of tongue examining, pulse feeling, belly inspecting and yelling.

The door opens, and suddenly there I am face to face with the woman who will officially rip me a new one and then jab needles into it. And then it starts, the verbal assaulting.  “hi hun! How doing?!”

Wait a minute…

“I miss you. Want so bad you have baby.”

Um, who is this woman and what has she done with The Dragon Lady?

“Let me feel pulse. Then I see”

I hand her my wrist and she holds it, closing her eyes in concentration. Then I see it – a wave of true Dragon Ladyness wash over her face. There she is, the woman I have come to see today. Her eyes fling open, but inside her eye sockets there is only fire.

“No good! No good! No baby!”

I tell her how good I’ve still been. How I’ve even kept burning myself…sometimes. And that I am all-in for this IVF cycle.

“Pulse bad! Hormone bad! Kidney yang bad!”

I explain to her the protocol all my doctors now have me on, and that we have 6 weeks until the egg retrieval.

“Lot of work! Lot of work to do, hun!”

This, I figured. But I’m willing. Because, after all, I am all-in. So bring it on Dragon Lady.

And she does. By the time I leave her office an hour later, I am armed with four new supplements to add to my vast collection, strict orders to burn myself until I am bright red, and a mental list of all the things I cannot eat. Which, is basically everything.  And I am also armed with some words that surprise me.

“I pray for you. Tonight, tomorrow, I pray.”

Of all the things I had expected to happen this visit, this was not one of them. I’m not a huge prayer person, though over the last two years, I’ve definitely sent some prayers up to the man/woman/thing above about all this. But that voice in my head that sporadically pipes up to tell me that this is all a lost cause told me that praying wouldn’t make two craps’ worth of difference. So I’d given up on that front. But The Dragon Lady hadn’t.  She’s praying. So maybe I should too.

After all, I’m all-in.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now beginning our descent.

For the last several months, we’ve been in a holy-shit-what-do-we-do-now holding pattern over the treacherous land of babymaking. No longer willing to spend hundreds of dollars every month on methods that just aren’t working, though not yet fully-committed to the idea of dropping $17k on a last-ditch attempt with IVF, we’ve been going about things the good old fashioned way. That is, if you consider nightly shots in the stomach, bi-weekly IVIG infusions, taking 23 pills a day, peeing on sticks and setting alarms to have sex, the good old fashioned way.

And every month it seems the good old fashioned way continues to end in good old fashioned heartbreak. So now, as the husband says, it’s time to shit or get off the pot.

Sure, perhaps we’d keep going if it weren’t for all the above-mentioned shots, infusions and pills. But the reality is, they’re taking a very serious toll – both mentally and financially. Not to mention the possible affect all those dangerous medications could have on my long-term health.

So we’re about to end our holding pattern and make our final descent. But not without one last dance with destiny. I’ve officially entered what will likely be my second-to-last two week wait.

Which means it’s my second-to-last round of pausing with every belly twinge. My second-to-last round of incessantly checking my nipple status. My second-to-last round of not knowing whether or not I should feel guilty about that glass of wine. My second-to-last round of pills up the hooha and IV marks up my arm and searching for a bruiseless spot on my stomach to plunge the needle in.

My second to last two-week-wait is here. And then it’s on to our final destination: one round of IVF. And the hardest, most final two week wait of all. Please fasten your seat belts.

Everybody poops. And we all have our shit.

My husband and I left for a trip to Mexico last week. “But Zika!!!!” The world seemed to proclaim. “Not a present concern!” we silently replied.  And so we were off. To enjoy sun, margaritas, enchiladas, and a mostly free timeshare that my in-laws couldn’t use.

While there, we had serious plans of having no plans. And topping the list of our no-plan plans were no babies, no other people’s babies, no talk of other people’s babies, no doctors talking about babies, and no uncomfortable medical devices to fruitlessly produce such babies. Babymaking commenced without the mention or thought of actual babies.

And other than the daily game of me having to stash a box full of syringes somewhere in the room where the hotel maids wouldn’t spy them and trying to quickly and secretly down a baggy full of pills in every restaurant, it was like we were any other couple who didn’t have a daily reminder of the one thing we couldn’t figure out.

On our fifth day, we met another couple by the pool. They were our age, which was a big deal in this resort full of blue-haired timeshare owners, they just happened to be from our city, and they had all-inclusive wristbands they could use to order our drinks. We hit it off instantly.

That is, until they started talking about their kids. Yes, this fun, young, cool couple started telling us about how they had four kids back home who were just the cutest. And that they were so close in age because they wanted to have their babies close together and how two of them were VBAC babies (and luckily my husband had no idea what that meant) and on and on as I smiled and nodded and “that’s great”ed and “so happy for you”ed and secretly eye-rolled behind my ray-bans. Here it is, I thought, we came to paradise and befriended the very thing we wanted to escape.

But then they started telling us about Molly,* their second child who has down syndrome. And how they had no idea until the day she was born and the nurses and doctors all went silent in the delivery room. They told us about how they had to sell the house they had built so that Molly could be in a different school district and get the attention she needed.

Then, they told us about Beth,* their youngest, who has brain cancer. And how they took her to the doctor after she had a bloody nose and said her head hurt. And how a simple MRI turned into the worst day they could imagine. That she was only 3 and a half and couldn’t understand what was happening. They told us how it was stage 3 and doctors didn’t know what to do, but that they searched and searched and didn’t give up until they found the right doctor who successfully removed the tumor and continued to treat her.

They told us all those things. And then they asked a simple question, “Do you not want kids, or can you not have them?” It was the simplest, most straightforward way I’d ever been asked before. It cut right through the crap. No “why are you putting it off?” or  “clock is ticking” or “just wait til you have kids.” It was just a bit of simple understanding from one couple who’s dealing with their share of shit to another. So we revealed our own steamy, fly-infested pile of turds.

And as we flew home to resume our normal lives, childless woes and all, I got to thinking that we all have our shit. Our own just stinks a whole lot worse to us sometimes.

And since we’re on the topic: no, we did not drink the water and our poop was just fine.

 

 

*Names changed