Archive for April, 2011

To Sum Up

The past few days I have felt things/messages sent to my brain from my uterus saying, “Sorry!” once again. It’s hard to explain, and… it sucks. No one believes me because how would I know what’s going on in my body until a pregnancy test tells me?

In any case the blood test isn’t until next week. So while we wait, I thought I’d take a moment to summarize where we’ve been. I feel like I’m at the end of a long chapter, and, at least in textbooks, that’s where the summary goes.

I’ve always wanted to have a children, meaning, I used to think I wanted three (one girl and two boys, specifically). But as I grew up a little, I realized I just very much wanted the female human experience of making a baby and then raising it. I became an aunt at 10 and have loved me many a baby since. Once K and I were together, I knew she’d be the one I would do this with, but she was only 20 (I was 26). We would, of course, wait until we’d been together longer and she was ready to be a mom. After she became a massage therapist and we moved to Portland, we felt ready emotionally, but decided we should have a house first. So, we got our first home. Then we felt unprepared financially and had roommate drama to deal with. After a year or so, I got a job with health benefits and a salary. If I could wait to have a baby after my two-year anniversary at this company, I would get a lot more maternity leave. So we waited. In the meantime, I began charting and we began looking at sperm banks. Like all well-laid plans… About a year after I started this job, my dad’s health began declining pretty suddenly and confusingly. None of us knew the right thing to do, and so there was a lot of anxiety. About a month into this, K almost died. I spent a full month by her hospital bed while doctors (and our loved ones’ prayers) worked really hard and saved her. I spent the next year (and still) worrying about her and supporting her as she recovered and returned to her routine. During this time, my father got worse (with a lot of mini ups and downs). I traveled home a lot, often thinking it would be the last time I’d see him. A friend offered his services on the sperm front, and we got to try a couple of times. But six months after K came home, she had another, related health scare that just threw me over the edge. My systems shut down from all of the anxiety, and we put off trying again until after my dad passed away. At that point (early 2010), we needed to find a new donor. Once we did, we squeezed the hell out of him, thinking it was bound to work one of these times. I kept thinking there might be something wrong with his sperm, so we asked him to make changes and kept retesting him. It turns out that, all along, the problem was me. Here’s the cautionary tale part of this summary: ladies, if you’re thinking of trying to get pregnant, get your estradiol level tested, not just your FSH. For some reason that makes me so crazy mad I can’t think of it for too long, I had always had my FSH level tested, but it wasn’t until we’d given up on the “old fashioned” way and went to the fertility clinic that anyone mentioned estradiol. What we discovered is that I had a rapidly declining supply of good and/or healthy eggs. If I had known this at any point earlier, I would have done IVF then. But, as my dad said soon before he left, “What is is right.” And here we are. IVF (and the hormone injections that come with it) has turned out, for me, to be more physically, emotionally, and financially draining than I thought it would be. This is why I feel a chapter wrapping up; I don’t think I can do it again. Everyone likes to tell me that we can get a kid another way. I know this. But I am losing something if I cannot look into my baby’s face and pinpoint my father’s features. It’s this loss that will be the hardest to bear.

As I said, we find out next week. The following day is our 9-year anniversary. I made some plans for us to leave town the next day because, I figured, we can celebrate good news anywhere, but I can’t imagine all that devastation and disappointment ever coming out of our rugs, furniture and drapes if the news is bad. I want to be with K far away from things and people we know. I am hoping that, if it’s negative, we can scrub me of the horrible feelings many miles away and then bring me back a shell of my former self but one that won’t ruin our home or our friendships.

I know you’re rooting for us, and we appreciate it so much. I want you to know that I won’t be posting again for a while. I’m hoping to post sooner than later with good news, but it will still be some time. Thanks for your support and patience.

2, 4, 6, 8

I appreciate embryologists.

On Monday, embryo transfer day, I got to the clinic, emptied my bladder, and then began drinking water to fill back up. We had an acupuncturist do some pre-IVF voodoo for a half hour, and then we went into the procedure room. As K mentioned in her post-surgical update, these rooms have little doors through which the doctor and nurses hand stuff back and forth with the embryologists on the other side. What I didn’t notice last time is that there’s also a big man-size door right next to the mini-me door. After I got undressed, put my legs in the stirrups, and covered my parts with the paper napkin, a pleasant-looking man in scrubs walks through that door. Please note that the door is located just to the left of “the view.” Taken aback, a simply shook his outstretched hand and hoped he didn’t see anything before I clamped my knees together.

Embryologist-man came in to tell us about our embryos. He said that of the six eggs harvested, five were mature, and four fertilized properly. He said they were above average in quality, which was a big relief since I’ve been dreading my low-quality eggs this whole time. In fact, the two embryos being put in that day were quite impressive, he said. They rate embryos on a 1-5 scale, and E-man told us that no embryos get the full 5 rating but that these two got a 4 and 4.5. Without hesitation, I turned to K and said, “I’m already so proud of them!” The other two, we were told, were also above average but not quite as quality as these and that they’d be frozen… in case we need them. He said that there’s a chance they might lose some cells in the thawing process, but not to worry about that now. FYI, the two that went in had 8 cells and 9 cells (considering cells divide, the latter seemed a bit odd to me).

So, here’s how it goes… First, they do an ultrasound (external, booyeah!) to check the fullness of my bladder. (Btw, a full bladder helps the uterus be in a better position for the procedure.) The nurse keeps the wand there so the doc can see where she’s going with the catheter in the uterus. E-man comes in with an ultra thin tube that has the embryos in it. They are inserted through the catheter into the uterus. Then E-man checks to make sure the tube is clear (sometimes those sticky suckers don’t want to come out).

Once done, I was looking at another 30 minutes of post-IVF acupuncture (research, real research, has shown that this acupuncture increases chances of success by 16%; at my measly 10%, anything helps!). But I wasn’t allowed to get up to pee. You know what I’m saying here… Bed pan. First time for everything, I suppose. This/these kid(s) is/are gonna get an earful if he/she/they ever sass! (We’ve also discussed—jokingly—that if we have twins, we’ll tell whoever is acting up that he or she was the 4, and not 4.5.)

In about a week and a half, we’ll find out; I’ll go in for a blood test, since they don’t want us doing the home pee stick. In the meantime, the following are the joys of nightly shots of progesterone into my bum muscle: sore bum (obvious), major anxiety and increased heart palpitations, insomnia, nausea, and last but SO not least, swelling tetons. When I see myself in the mirror (let’s say, post shower), I seriously and truly do not recognize my own breasts. Bigger is an enormous understatement. When I stand up from the bed each morning, my first sensation of the day is ripping pain on my chest. I know at least one of you out there is thinking to herself, “Well, you better get used to it ’cause they’re only gonna get bigger!” Yeah? Is that true? I’ve never heard that! Fuck you (kindly, of course).

It’s Passover (starting Monday night), so I’ll have a little something to distract me. Being gluten-free, though, means no matzah, which really limits an already limited diet… for a week! I guess if the embryo(s) can stick it out, we’ll know they’re in touch with their Yiddishkeit.

Post-Surgical Update (From: The Wife)

Hello, dear readers. I wanted to let you know that Basted’s protagonist is doing well after this morning’s egg retrieval. She was very nervous by the time we arrived at the fertility clinic, especially when the procedure was delayed for a last-minute platelet check (her platelets tend toward the lower end of normal). Luckily it took all of 20 minutes to get the news back that we were good to go.

My sweetie was hooked up to an IV, a nasal cannula for some extra oxygen, and HR, BP and O2 monitors, and then she got pumped full of fluids, an antibiotic, a pain med and a sedative. Our doctor—and I!—watched on the inter-vaginal ultrasound screen as he inserted a long needle through the wall of the vagina, through the ovarian wall, and right into the follicle. Our doc/nurse team repeatedly flushed the follicle full of fluid, then aspirated all of the fluid (and the egg!) down through the needle and some tubing into a vial. Next, the vial was handed through a little window into the adjacent room, where the andrology lab techs located the eggs and transferred them into a petri dish. This was repeated six times for a total of 6 oocytes. Yeehaw!

The sedative messed with my beloved’s vision, making everyone look like they were pinned to a rapidly spinning Price is Right wheel (her words), so she kept her eyes closed during the surgery. She developed some CRAZY itching from the painkiller that started at the bridge of her nose, then slowly spread down her face to her chest and belly. The anesthesiologist pushed some Benadryl into her IV line, which helped decrease the itching. Despite her now doubly sedated state, she labored to stay awake and express her gratitude to her nurse and both physicians (later remembering her desire to tell everyone how much she loved them, but feeling just alert enough to recognize stoner talk).

As the sedation and painkiller wore off post-surgery, stabbing cramps that went from pelvic floor to diaphragm set in and our protagonist’s face went white as a sheet. 500 mg of Oxycodone, one painful vaginal ultrasound and 45 long minutes later, our lovely nurse wheeled my girl out of the clinic, down the two elevators to the parking garage, and into the passenger seat of our car. She was given hugs, a shoulder rub, and many words of comfort and encouragement along the way.

Every little bump on our way home sent a spasm of pain up through her abdomen—I think my shoulders were glued to my ears with worry! My sweet girl was desperate to sleep when we finally got home, and she stumbled across the backyard and down the hall into bed, relief spreading across her face as her body settled into a familiar bed in a warm, dark room. She’s been napping (sometimes just lying still while her thoughts circle round and round) most of the day, waking up to eat, drink water, and take Vicodin. We’ve been able to stay ahead of this morning’s stabbing cramps, but she’s still in a lot of pain. She assures me that when she’s not moving, breathing deeply, or peeing, it’s manageable. On the upside, our nurse told us that she might not feel like eating much today, but to try to get some toast down with the painkillers—yet, our brave author ate her toast and jam and still desired a very specific cornmeal blueberry pancake from a nearby diner. Two angels (who happen to be just a week away from their own egg retrieval) helped her vision come to pass early this afternoon, and when she woke up from her last nap, she was disappointed to learn that I had not put together the slow-cooked apricot chicken Shabbos dinner she’d planned out yesterday. The course of the day has altered the menu to fish sticks for tonight.

So now what? E2’s sperm was injected into my girl’s eggs today, and tomorrow morning the doc will call and let us know how many of the eggs were mature and fertilized properly. Then the next evening brings the inter-muscular progesterone injections into my poor little blueberry muffin, but this time we’re working with the hindquarters. Meanwhile, the magicians in the andrology lab will keep an eye on the little embryos’ develop over the next 3-5 days, at which point an embryo/embryos will be transferred into a very nice new home. Ten days after that comes the pregnancy blood test. Please send your positive thoughts our way over the next couple of weeks; we could sure use them. I send my love out to all of you following along and supporting us through this long, trying experience—we appreciate you more than you can imagine.

Color Me Poked

While pin cushion is the obvious metaphor for my belly the past few weeks, it would be more apt if the pin cushion swelled to unbuttonable-jeans size, felt like it’s been kicked over and over, bled on occasion, got terribly itchy hives, and bruised.

Nobody beats my blueberry muffin top

Tonight is the last shot in the gut. It’s the trigger shot, which tells the eggs, “We’re comin’ in after ya!” We’ve been going to the clinic every other day (often way too early in the morning) to check my blood and follicles. Getting blood drawn every other day would usually irritate me, but after three shots a day, I’ve learned not to care so much about needles to the arm. I’ve even gotten accustomed to the ultrasound dildo on an every Monday, Wednesday, Friday basis. But what I never expected was to feel my ovaries. I mean really feel them getting large…from the inside. Get uncomfortable; that’s the first step of pregnancy anyway, right?

So, as of this morning, I’ve got four nice looking follicles in the right ovary and one in the left. For now, we stop all meds except for the trigger shot, and I get to Fleets myself tomorrow evening, just to get in the mood.

Two weeks later: the biggies are fading, but little green ones have popped up all over!

Friday morning, they’ll sedate me, pump me with antibiotics, and go in with a needle through my vaginal wall, on either side, to suck out the eggs. I’ll start the daily injections of progesterone into my tuchas on Sunday. Woo-wee! I never thought reproduction could be so fun.

They’ll inject the eggs with our donor’s sperm and see if any fertilize. If there are some good looking ones, they’ll put ’em back in on Monday. If they look really good, they’ll let them grow a little bigger in the Petri dish, into blastocysts, and place them on Wednesday.

Then we wait. We wait and keep injecting my bum. I’ll probably cry a lot about how it’s not gonna work and how we’ve blown so much dough. Then, about two weeks later, we’ll go in for a blood test. THE blood test.

So, that’s the plan. Let’s not ever do this again.

(Disclaimer: No men were harmed in the making of this blog.)

The Family

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