Thursday, July 24, 2008


I started infertility treatments eight months ago. In the time that has passed since, I have: taken pills that didn't help me ovulate but did help me become a raving lunatic bitch; injected myself every night for weeks at a time; snuck out of a dinner on a Saturday night to give myself an HCG shot in my car like a desperate drug addict; nearly passed out twice at the shock of getting my period early; experienced the return of teenager-worthy acne thanks to PCOS; gotten intimate with the ultrasound wand too many times to count; had even more blood draws, several of which took many tries thanks to my thin veins and at least one inept medical assistant; nearly had my cycle canceled unnecessarily; found a new doctor (see previous item); and cried too many tears for one person.

The sum total of this? I. Need. A. Vacation. Seriously.

So, I'm taking one. On Sunday, my husband and I are headed for the first weeklong summer vacation we've had in forever. And it couldn't come at a better time. I hope I come back all rested up and ready for more of the above. Because the saga continues in a couple of weeks.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Girl Power

Sometimes I wonder what infertility would feel like if I weren't the "broken" one. Would it be somehow easier without the burden of knowing that my body is the problem? Without having the success of a cycle hinge on my PCOS ovaries' ability to produce just enough -- but not too many -- eggs? Would I feel less pressure if I didn't have this vague feeling of inadequacy at my inability to fulfill this "womanly" role every single time I saw someone else's child?

The irony, of course, is that even with male factor infertility, the woman is often the one to go through treatment. And frankly, although there are days when I would gladly hand the burden over to my husband -- or, really, anyone else -- I think this is for the best. With all due respect to men, their tendency to whimper at the first sign of a cold and avoid the doctor's office at all costs doesn't do much to convince me that they'd be terribly good at handling this stuff. Women are tough, and perhaps no one is tougher -- by necessity -- than a woman going through infertility. We bite the bullet and take the injection. We talk through tears. We subject ourselves to relentless poking and prodding. We chew on our lip when we want to yelp in pain. We keep going and ignore the voice inside that says I can't do it anymore. And sometimes we even manage to look cute doing it. I don't know about you, but some days the only thing that helps me leave the house is a pair of fabulous shoes.

All told, I am amazed at what we all are able to endure. I am reminded of the scene in Sex and the City after Charlotte's miscarriage. She's been sitting by herself, catatonic, for days, when she flips on the E! True Hollywood Story on Elizabeth Taylor, in which Taylor says, "Now is the time for guts and guile." The phrase brings her back to life; soon she is walking into Brady's child-centric birthday party looking flawless and ready to take on the world. How many times has each of us done the same -- returned from that desperate place of grief to brush ourselves off and walk on?

I know we would all do anything to cancel our memberships in this club. But since I'm an official, card-carrying member right now, it's such a relief to know that I'm not alone. You're all out there, surviving, showing me what it means to have guts and guile.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chemistry 101

If you've ever sat down for a consult with a new RE, you know that in many ways it's like dating. You're searching for someone who shares your outlook, someone with whom you have that chemistry, that je ne sais quoi, that (as Carrie Bradshaw called it) za za zu. In this case, of course, I'm looking for someone to fix my broken girl parts. To get in there with speculums and ultrasound wands and medicines and washed sperm and get me knocked up, already. (Sadly, though this kind of dating ends with someone getting in my pants, I'm not even getting a free dinner out of it.) This week, I met with two and I have to say, I'm smitten. With the wrong one.

My search for a new doctor is a long time coming. Since starting treatment in November, I really haven't felt comfortable with my current doc, or confident that he was invested in my case. When he (incorrectly) nearly canceled my last cycle halfway through, the nurses gently suggested that I meet with another doctor in the practice (let's call her Dr. A) if I didn't get pregnant. I eagerly agreed, but secretly thought that this crossroads offered the perfect opportunity to make a fresh start with a different practice. So I also made a second consult appointment at another clinic, and saw the meeting with Dr. A as doing my due diligence, to get another opinion but seal my suspicion that I needed to move on. To stay, I thought, Dr. A was going to have to be fabulous. And, in keeping with the rest of this infertility journey which seems to be full of surprises, she was.

She immediately took charge. She told us she believes in patient education, and proceeded to explain, from the beginning and in detail (with drawings), what was wrong with me, what is happening with my cycles. She said my last cycle was actually ideal, though she would have kept it going until my one follicle was a big larger. She prepared me for "low and slow" injectible cycles (perhaps up to 30 days) if she were to treat me. She said things like, "After you get pregnant we'll put you on the pill until you try for #2." She told me it's likely a question of when, not if. Mostly, she made me feel that if I went with her, she'd want success as much as I did. She was caring, but all business. A girl after my own heart.

Prospect #2 -- Dr. B. -- was a nice, nice man. He had caring eyes and a soft manner. He listened carefully and thought about his answers. But I found myself wanting to get a rise out of him. He put several options on the table without expressing a strong opinion on any one. I realized that I want to go to my friends to chew on things and get tender words and looks of sympathy. From my doctor, I want the bottom line and a strong opinion on how to achieve success. Want someone who plays to win.

I really didn't want to stay in my current clinic. But you have to mesh with your doctor, and you can't force chemistry. When it comes to the journey to my baby -- just as I did in the journey to my husband -- I'm learning to follow my heart. And my heart tells me Dr. A is the perfect match.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Make a Wish, Baby

Years ago, my parents had a few super 8 movies made into VHS tapes (which now need to be DVDs...when will it end?). In one, I am a tiny infant in the arms of my dad, who is impossibly young looking, on the brink of becoming the sure-footed dad I know, but for that moment still just a guy in his 20s whose wife just had a baby. The footage is set to "Sunshine of My Life" by Stevie Wonder, which as a result sticks in my head (yes, I know it's schmaltzy) whenever I try to imagine what it must have been like for my parents when I was born, 32 years ago today.

The tape is hard for me to think about right now. My young dad with a baby in his arms, the beginning of a new family, the hopefulness and anxieties of all new parents, since the beginning of time, suspended in the air of those first moments. Me, so vulnerable and unmarred by anything that lay ahead. I want to tell that girl some things. Want to give her fair warning and see if I can remove some of the shock and sting. I want to tell her that it -- life -- sometimes isn't anywhere near what you thought it would be. You will wake up on your 32nd birthday and notice that the kids you'd imagined are missing and your fridge is stocked with injectible FSH.

But sometimes, the gap between what you thought and what turns out is okay. Sometimes there is this unanticipated joy in the discovery of what actually happens. My birthday is tied with Christmas as my favorite day of the year. I am absolutely obnoxious in my excitement over it. When my husband told me he wouldn't be here, I felt this deep disappointment. I immediately pictured myself alone, in tears, still grieving over my negative pregnancy test. Here's what happened instead: My friend, the kind of friend who is family without the baggage, took me out on the town. We shopped. We stuffed ourselves with cheeseburgers and laughed out loud. I couldn't have felt less alone.

And I even had a little birthday party earlier in the day at work. All told I had two desserts today (low carb diet be damned), two candles to blow out. I'll give you two guesses what I wished for.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Independence Days

Could they please stop making holidays that make me feel more barren? I thought once Christmas -- with the tiny tots and their eyes all aglow -- was behind us I would be safe, at least until next year (but by then, surely I'd be pregnant). I was wrong. There was Easter, with the adorable little ones in their ruffly dresses and miniature suits chasing pastel eggs around lawns across the nation. And then Friday we had Independence Day, the latest holiday that apparently requires kids to celebrate fully. There are parades (which stop being fun and start seeming weird around the age of 13). Fireworks. Family picnics. Cookouts which, since most of our friends now have kids, are now more keep-the-kids-occupied than pour-me-another-drink.

And yet, this weekend my husband and I celebrated our own independence before he took off for his trip. We had a long, leisurely lunch while watching the Red Sox game. Went out to a late dinner. Had multiple glasses of perfectly crispy Chardonnay on a whim. Slept late, got up and played tennis then made a late breakfast. It felt like old, pre-fertility treatment times. We couldn't go to the family-oriented Fourth of July events. On the other hand, we didn't have to go to the family-oriented Fourth of July events. We were free to go wherever we wanted, whenever. No one being overtired, cranky or whiny forced us to change our plans.

Someday -- and I pray it's someday soon -- I hope that all changes. I hope to have a little person dictating what we do all weekend. I'll gladly give up every ounce of independence for that. But until then, instead of pining for the family we don't have, we can -- and will -- keep celebrating the one we do.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Comfortably Numb (for now)

When you're 100% sure you're not pregnant and you're offered your pregnancy test -- the end of the dreaded two week wait -- a day early, you jump on it. So that's what I did this morning. And I made it easy for the nurse. "I know I'm not pregnant," I told her. "So don't worry about disappointing me when you call." Sure enough, later this morning she called and told me I was right. She still sounded sad for me, and I felt like I needed to do the cheering up. "It's okay," I said. "I really knew." I really did.

I don't know if I got it all out on Sunday after the home test. Don't know if I've just grown accustomed to the disappointment and sadness. Or if I've grown a thicker skin. But for now all I feel is numb. And so, if the numbness is just the calm before the storm, if my breakdown is imminent, before it comes I thought I'd make a list of ten reasons I can feel good today:

1. No more progesterone suppositories. I'm sure the PIO shots are no Fourth of July picnic either, but may I just say that it's more than a little awkward to stand up at work and try to keep carrying on a civilized conversation with colleagues as you sense the tidal wave of progesterone crashing between your legs.
2. On the other hand, the progesterone worked. No period, which means that if there had been something to implant, it had a full two weeks to dig in this time (versus a too-short nine days last time). Hurrah for synthetic hormones!
3. I can now consume (and plan to, in large quantities, in the coming weeks) any of the following: Double lattes, champagne cocktails, Diet Coke, a delicious array of soft, dangerously unpasteurized cheeses, spicy tuna rolls, mojitos, deli sandwiches, Sweet & Low, shellfish (Legal's chowder - yum), steak tartare, to my heart's content.
4. I have two consults with fabulous new doctors scheduled for the week my husband comes home from business trip. Clean slate. New ideas.
5. I am taking a month off to recharge, which will put me back in that fightin' mood when the time comes to get started again (with one of two said new doctors).
6. No shots, "wands," poking or prodding during this month off. No one will utter the word "follicle." (Please.)
7. Next time, I might have a shot at twins (this time I only had one egg...not to push my luck, but yes, I do want twins. Strangely enough, despite all the knee-slapping fun I'm having with this process, I really think I'll pass on another round if and when I finally get pregnant.)
8. I can spend quality time thinking of creative, passive-aggressive responses to the 200 "When are you having kids?" questions I'll get at my husband's family reunion.
9. I'm one step closer to a baby. Since this can't go on forever, somehow that will prove to be true.
10. I'm functioning. I'm getting up in the morning, going to work. Maybe not running at 100%, but doing my thing. And that's something I wouldn't have thought possible in the face of another disappointment a few months back.

Fair warning: the numbness may thaw any minute. I can't predict how ugly it will be.