Posts Tagged 'insemination'

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.

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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.

Body Shots

I’m not talking about regrettable Facebook photos. Nor am I speaking of the illustrious sucking of alcohol from another person’s body (why did I have to learn about this one from a boy in high school?!). When I refer to shots of any kind, ever again, it’ll be in reference to the Follistim, Menopur, Ganirelix Acetate, HCG, and Progesterone-in-Oil. It’ll be in reference to my stomach and my hips, which after the next few weeks (months if it works) will be pin cushions.

K and I had the pleasure of learning how to poke me (again, not Facebook related) today. The first shot we were shown was kind of fun; we got to assemble the syringe pen, set the dosage dial, draw out the drug, redo it to get rid of the bubble, and then stab it into a disc of boob-like foam (or rubber?). But after the next one, which was more complex, I began to feel a little overwhelmed. And then there was another. The last one we were shown how to do was the progesterone, which goes into the hip muscle instead of my belly flub. “Be sure not to hit the sciatic nerve!” was warning #1, followed by “You’ll need to draw up on the syringe a little each time to see if you’ve hit a blood vessel.” It was early in the morning of the first spring-forward weekday. I was tired, cranky, and now queasy.

I take my last birth control pill tomorrow night (yes, birth control pills are used to get infertile women pregnant—go figure), and then I get to have a period of sorts. We will shoot me up daily with all these shots for weeks. I’ll be going in to check on how things are progressing down there (ultrasounds and blood tests) every few days. I had to sign my life away by acknowledging all the bad things that can happen, including hyperstimulation of the ovaries, which is not a good thing. So, I’m glad I’ll be face-to-facing a doctor regularly, and they can tell me if I’m being hyperstimulated or just hyper.

In addition to the shot lessons, we got treated to some fine heterosexist paperwork. K pointed out to the needle nurse that now might be a good time to update their paperwork to reflect and not totally alienate their clientele. Something as simple as taking the word “male” out of the phrase “male partner’s signature” is what we were thinking. She told us she completely agreed with us, but proceeded to give us the excuses: well, we have to keep it this way for legal reasons; it’s because the male partner’s sperm is used so that’s why he signs everything too; it’s your eggs (pointing to me) and will be your baby so that’s why we just need your signature; and, finally, my favorite, things happen, and you two might split up (as if straight couples never split up). We explained that her first vague excuse (even though she totally agrees with us) is invalid because we’re registered domestic partners, which, in Oregon, means we have the same rights and responsibilities as married straight people. Her second excuse was bogus because the paperwork said zero about sperm, and, as K pointed out to her, we (as a couple) own E2’s sperm anyway. We explained to the nurse (who I would generally say doesn’t need to know everything about Oregon law, but if you’re gonna only make eye contact with me and then tell me and my wife whose baby we’re having, then know what the eff you’re talking about or shut the eff up) that we will both be legal parents in Oregon—printed right on the birth certificate at the hospital. By the last excuse (the typical gays don’t stay together condescension that no one ever gives to straight couples), K’s eyes were in lock down and her frozen smile in hungry tiger mode. I did what I do best in tense situations and made a funny. I turned to K and said, “Honey, why do you always gotta be cheating on me when I’m having your baby?”

Of course, while all of this uncomfortableness played out, the only thought in my woozy head was, “Seriously?! An enema!” Because all those shots and the “orange” size ovaries and the nausea and pain and uncertainty isn’t enough…I have to do a fuckin’ enema 12 hours before the surgery (i.e., egg retrieval)—you know, to help avoid bowel perforation. ‘Cause that‘s now something I need to worry about!

I wonder why I have to keep reminding myself that no one is making me do this and that I’m purposefully taking it all on (yes, including the risk of ovarian cancer). Why would I feel the urge to scream when I also remind myself of the many many thousands of dollars we’re purposefully paying? I’m saying this now…I will not be doing this twice. If I don’t get pregnant, it’s K’s turn; if I get pregnant and miscarry, find me a pretty padded cell.

World Gone Wild

While it’s easy for me to get so very wrapped up in my own story, I’d like to take a moment to note that the world is going crazy. Egypt, Bahrain, Wisconsin (ooh, did I just put those in the same list?)… Usually, crazy carries a negative connotation, and for sure the violence people are facing (have been facing) in certain Middle Eastern countries is negative to the tenth. But I’m a little prickly from the positive crazy that all the recent action brings too.

I’m in the middle of the down cycle before we start IVF. That means I’m on my own natural hormones, I’m not waking up to an early alarm to take my temperature every morning, and, barring the one kinda painful fibroid check and practice transfer I endured last week, my insides are closed for business. During this downtime, I am reading the news, caring about issues outside of my ovaries, rarely crying, seeing friends, and remembering what it’s like to be me and favor life. I’ve remarked to K on this and the one or two other occasions we’ve had to skip a cycle how very long these months seem. I mean, February’s the shortest month and it’s going on forever! I love it.

But even as I distract myself with passive participation in world events, I maintain a chest tightening that is a constant reminder of the March madness to come. Soon after I get my period, I start taking birth control to suppress ovulation and encourage the follicles to grow at a similar rate to a similar size. Then I get to have a few days of withdrawal bleeding. Then I start with the self-administered twice-daily shots of ovulation stimulation. Through all of this, from what I understand (which changes all the time), I will be going to the clinic for blood tests and inside scopes to follow the progress of the follicles. At the magical time, we’ll go in, I’ll go slightly under (I get an anesthesia and antibiotics!), they’ll stick my ovaries with a needle from the inside and suck out the eggs (hopefully lots of ripe ones). The eggs will be injected with our donor’s sperm and left to do their thing in a petri dish for a few days. The eggs will then take to the catwalk while the fertility technician judges vote on their strut, curves, and talents. The best two will be put back in me, I begin taking my ol’ frenemy progesterone (injections this time), and, once again, fingers (holding much less money) will be crossed. And all with a 10% of success!!!

Wow, impressive list of travails, right? “Try demonstrating for democracy in the face of whip-wielding, horse-riding maniacs!” says the inner voice addicted to Huffington Post.

Up the Wazoo

I hate when it’s been so long since I’ve blogged. There’s too much to report and accidentally forget. But I’ll give it my best. I hope you have a comfortable seat.

The Clomid. I have nothing nice to say about it. The first night I took it, K and I watched the movie Mother and Child with Annette Bening and Naomi Watts. Spoiler alert: when the Watts character dies after childbirth, I lost it completely. I was crying like it was my party. The next day was no better. I felt stoned in a bad way, and then we and some friends watched the movie Inception. During this time, I was reading every minute-to-minute report on the AZ shooting (being from Tucson myself) and thinking that the world is totally effed and no place I want to bring a child. The next few days were not as bad; just one more crying episode on the last night I took a dose. I talked a lot about not doing it ever again and looking into adoption pronto.

It didn’t take long after completing the cycle for the effects to wear off. My mom came to town and I got back on the fertility treatment track. Last Friday we had a look inside and saw two big, beautiful follicles. It was only day 10. K administered a trigger shot on Saturday night (to hasten the ovulation) and we did an IUI at the clinic on Sunday morning. I wanted to be happy about the follicles, but I know that with my decreased ovarian reserve there’s a good chance the eggs from those follicles are duds.

The IUI went well; just the usual sharp pain from the catheter. I shouldn’t complain at all. Our donor had to get up super early to go masturbate before going to work on a Sunday, all while feeling really sick. I cannot even imagine being asked to do something like that. Not even for money. I know guys are different creatures, but c’mon!

He gave us a nice sample that was washed and spun down to just the 24 million sperm. I was given a prescription for progesterone suppositories (for better absorption), and we were on our way.

I had the usual post IUI cramping. But during the days after I started the progesterone, I got some really intense cramping. I have had a coughing cold since Dec. 23 that has definitely affected my stomach muscles, but this pain went groinal (my new word). So, I am now taking the progesterone orally and hoping the cramping subsides quickly. I can’t shake the cough, which is getting so tired. I’ve been to two doctors and acupuncturists, and I’ve taken everything and tried everything to get better. I can’t imagine a less hospitable place for a burgeoning life than my lower abdomen when I have one of my coughing fits.

To top it all off, I got my poor mom sick. Listening to her cough made me so sad. Then I stuck her on a train. Will I have an ungrateful daughter, Karma?

So, this is where things are at. I cough and I ache and I wait. Hopefully we’ll know something by next weekend. I hated the Clomid and can’t imagine one more IUI cycle with it. But the injections I’ll have to take for an IVF won’t necessarily be more pleasant. Messing with hormone levels is not for the faint of mood. Inserting them where the sun don’t shine (Portland?) is not for the faint of vagina.

Leggo My Eggo

I wish people would stop telling me to relax, that women in their 50s have babies, that I’m so young, and that I will get pregnant and have a baby. They have nothing to lose with their optimism. I have it all. So when I’m spewing negativity, I want people to say, “You know, you’re right. Your situation sucks, and you may not be able to get pregnant. If that happens, I’m really sorry.” Is that so hard?

Last weekend we celebrated K’s birthday. I let myself relax and really enjoy being unpregnant. For example, we went to a chocolate tasting, and I consumed a significant amount of caffeine, which I would not have done if I was waiting to find out if I was pregnant. We also went to a hot spring and sat in a hot tub that was way too hot for health. Again, I would’ve missed out on that preplanned excursion. I felt good. I felt like I was doing exactly what I should be to prepare for the next go ’round.

I felt even better this week after talking to a fertility specialist. We formulated a plan of how to proceed. And since I was there and hadn’t had my FSH levels checked in a while, we went ahead and did that too.

This morning I learned that my FSH, which had been tested on a couple of other occasions, is fine. It’s my day 3 estradiol level that is too high. This means I was right: my eggs are old and tired. Beyond my years. I always say I’m old and people poo poo me. Well, according to my blood, my egg quality/number is decreased—especially for someone so young. So, if you’re a friend, please do not take my age for granted when I express my worries in the future. I will probably hit you.

What now? Well, we had E2 bank his stuff this morning so we have “him” here even after he leaves for Europe. (He told meĀ  this morning that he bought his ticket last night; it took everything in me to bop excitedly with him and not start crying.) The expense of every little step in this new world of fertility clinic makes me realize what a gift we had in a local known donor this whole time. I’m going to have a look at my follicles next week. If there’s any big enough, I’ll get a shot that’ll ovulate me early, since it’ll only be day 9. Then we’ll do a quickie home insemination hours before K and I get on a plane to the Midwest. If the ultrasound shows what my estradiol level suggests, few poor eggs, then we’ll wait until January and bring out the big guns.

Isn’t it interesting how you think you’re going to the next level of a process, just sticking your toes in to test the water, and the next thing you know you’re being dangled from the high-jump diving platform over the deep end?

So Close/Far Away

Riddles:
How many times did I hear that many women get pregnant the cycle after having an HSG?
How many people would assume that, if you’re actively trying to get pregnant, inseminate after an HSG, and miss your period, you’re pregnant?

Now, take both of those numbers and subtract them from themselves.
The result? Zero! The number of pregnancies I’ve had!

Let me explain… We were on a break(!) when we discovered our donor is planning to move away soon. Since we’ve tried so many times unsuccessfully, we decided to have a look inside my stuff to see if there were blockages keeping the sperm from getting to the egg. I was hesitant to get the HSG because I heard it could be painful and because I didn’t want to know if I did have blockages. But, in fact, the test wasn’t horrible and my passages are free and clear. So we inseminate. And inseminate. And… no clear ovulation. No temperature rise. No dark, solid line on the ovulation pee stick. We just kept throwing sperm up there (on his last visit, our donor said I had so much sperm in me I could probably score at a gay bar).

On days 19-21, I had spotting and cramping. I dreaded the period that was to follow because the pain has been so hysterically bad in the recent past and I was due to be either on a plane or at my father’s grave site when it hit. But check this out: the period never came. Like, ever. I don’t only not miss my period, I am very regular (in a short-cycle kinda way). The whole time I was in my hometown, I was sneaking pees on pregnancy tests and feeling a little giddy. The tests kept saying NO, but my lower abdomen felt different (psychosomatic says “what?”). Once I was back home, I began to realize this period wasn’t coming. I wanted to know for sure and right away that I was or wasn’t pregnant so I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to inseminate. My doc ordered a blood test (stat), which confirmed, despite the week of feeling really cool—like a girl with a fairy in her pocket—that I am not pregnant.

So, do it. Inseminate! Had I gotten my period when I was supposed to, I’d be just about to ovulate. The catch? No donor. Still out of town on holiday. I peed on sticks regardless. I saw a couple of lines get close to an LH surge and saw a rise in temperature. All too late.

What the heck? How could a little test mess me up so I skip an ovulation and a period? I know people sometimes skip periods. But not me. Ever!!! Am I done ovulating normally now? Did I embody the youngest and quickest menopause in the history of womankind?

The quandary leaves me spinning (happy sixth night, btw). I feel so out of whack. When I do get another period, what do I do? What timetable do I count on? Should I just find the cash and do an IVF and have twins and be done with all this?

Finally, I had a birthday last week. I was sure, so freakin’ sure, that with my dad’s spirit now fully on the other side where he could put in a good word for a daughter, that I would discover—on my birthday—that the missing period meant I was pregnant. I joked with myself that it would be like going to get your hair cut: You say, “whatever you do, do not give me a short hair cut.” The stylist turns your chair around at the end and says “just what you wanted! a short hair cut!” I made myself a deadline of having a baby by 33 and no later than 35. I thought, the universe is so funny I’ll find out I got pregnant just days before my 35th birthday. Alas, my desperate sense of humor is not shared by mama universe.


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

The Family

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