Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dipping My Toe

What I want to do is fast forward to the part where I get my happy ending. Where it's just me and him and our baby, living our normal life, and the scars of all of this failure and disappointment have faded to the lightest marks that you have to really squint at to see. Because right now, from where I'm sitting, I have nagging doubts about whether I'm cut out to get through what's in between.

Our meeting with Dr. A on Thursday confirmed what I felt after our first meeting: That she is the doctor that was meant to treat me at this time for this condition. Everything she says feels like it's part of the script for the movie, "What to Tell Good Egg to Calm Her Down and Give Her Hope." She told us that this past cycle was exactly what she was looking for (except for the not getting pregnant part). That she could certainly let us continue with injectible/IUI cycles to try to win the numbers game. But that, from a medical perspective, knowing the physical and mental toll this process takes, she would probably advise moving on. Bringing in the big guns. Going to the big show. IVF.

We knew going in that that was probably going to be her advice. And until I was sitting across from her I wasn't sure what my response would be. But as she said it, the failure of this last cycle still stinging, I knew she was right. Sure, we could keep trying the other way, and at some point we might actually get the result we want. But we could also trade in our cell phones for rotary. Sell our cars and get a couple of horses. Throw our iPods out the window and break out some 8-tracks. When there's better technology available to you, you use it. Because it's, well, better. Why should our quest for a baby be any different? I am ready to upgrade.

Still, I am, to put it mildly, apprehensive (some might say freaking out). Several things are overwhelming me at this moment. The first is the long list of instructions and new drugs that will be introduced to my babymaking regimen via this upgrade to IVF. I'd really gotten the injectible routine down, and there seem to be far too many opportunities amid this far more complex protocol for user error to come in to play.

There's also this feeling that I can't believe I'm here. Call me naive, in denial, whatever, but I really never expected to need this kind of intervention. Part of the blame goes to the OB/GYN I had when we first got married, who told me that the fix for my suspected PCOS would be, whenever I was ready, an easy course of "fertility lite" (Clomid) and voila: Pregnancy. Why wouldn't I believe him? Why would I imagine that years later we'd be knocking on the door of our last hope for biological conception? Despite the fact that it's been a long time since I lost that "infertility virginity," I guess part of me still mourns the fact that our baby will be created not on a fun evening with just the two of us and a bottle of wine, but with doctors and chemicals and stirrups. Needing IVF has brought that into sharp focus.

And of course, there's the thing I'd rather not mention but is the elephant in the room, the squeaky wheel in my head. My fear -- my phobia -- of anesthesia. Nothing like being pinned down on an operating table at the age of nine by insensitive doctors armed with a gas mask without having been prepared for said experience to really make a girl want to run screaming from the room whenever the words "surgical procedure" are uttered. Yes, I know they don't use the same general anesthesia they use for major surgery. And that I'm no longer nine years old. And that I'll only be out for 15-20 minutes. Doesn't help.

Still, I've dipped my toe in the IVF pond. And even with these doubts in my head begging me not to, I'm about to jump in.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Postcard from the Bell Jar

Greetings from the saddest place I've been. It pretty much sucks and I don't wish you were here -- wouldn't wish this on anyone -- but I have discovered a few perks:

-I can indulge in nonstop emotional eating and still somehow lose weight. Is it nerves? Calories burned by nonstop crying? Who cares?
-My getting ready time in the morning has been cut significantly by my general lack of giving a damn what I look like.
-Similarly, I'm perfecting the whole Mary Kate Olsen vagabond look.
-I am acquiring a newfound understanding of the range of mind-numbing and often disgusting programming options (note to self: avoid the Discovery Channel at all costs) available on cable television.
-In a moment of economic crisis in our country, I am singlehandedly boosting the stock prices of companies that make Kleenex, Aleve, those stick-on headache patch thingys, wine, chocolate and refined (so not PCOS-approved) carb products.

So I guess every cloud really does have a silver lining. Which is good, because I've been here a few days and I don't yet see a way out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Lesson in Heartbreak

I recently heard that when a female giraffe gives birth for the first time, she does so standing up -- and fifty percent of newborn giraffes will not survive the five-foot plummet to earth. So when she feels labor coming on for #2, she does what any concerned mother recalling the horror of losing her first baby would do: She lies down.

In the pursuit of a healthy baby, we all keep trying and looking for lessons and working to get it right. So tell me: What am I supposed to learn from my negative home pregnancy test this morning? Just tell me what it is I'm doing wrong, and I'll fix it. If someone could please just tell me how I can work harder, want it more, prove that I'm worthy, I'll do it. I. Will. Do. Anything.

I've been here before. I've seen this puffy face before, these raw, seared eyes. Felt simultaneously like eating everything in the house and never eating again. Had the odd sensation of being totally disconnected from the world, from life, and yet acutely aware of life's force -- pain, drama, feeling. Wanted to crawl out of this skin, out of this pain, away from this reality which can't be mine. Each time, the shocking sting has worn away. The brightness of each morning has seemed less offensive. Somehow, I have found my way back to hope. To the essential belief that one day I will look back and not only feel that this pain has been worth it, but need to struggle harder and harder to remember what it felt like at all.

This has happened to me every other time I've been here. But how many times do you have in you? What is to say that you can find your way back time and time and time again? How much is too much to bear? And how do you know when it's coming? When you're in it? Because right now, it feels like too much to bear. I am too far gone.

What am I supposed to learn from this?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Welcome to My World

Ooh, was that a twitch in my uterus? I think I just felt my right boob tingle, too. Let me go read what has to say about it. Let's see...okay, so it sounds like if you have any of the following you might be pregnant: afternoon fatigue, morning sluggishness. Pain or cramping anywhere down there. An intense crying jag upon watching a sad movie. A canker sore. Dizziness. Irritability. Hunger. Anything weird happening to your boobs. A stuffy nose. A runny nose. A general feeling of restlessness. Having to pee a lot/badly. A good vibe. A bad vibe. A headache. Anything at all that you happen to notice about your body or the way it functions.

Hmmmm. That was helpful.

The feeling is gone anyway. There's no way I'm pregnant. I am a miserable failure at all things reproduction. I am going to become one of those old ladies who collects cats/old newspaper clippings/knit doilies because she has no children or grandchildren to keep her busy. What a sad, sad existence. I can't believe this is happening to me.

Wait a minute, was that a wave of nausea? I know it's early for that, but let me go see how many people felt it at 6dpIUI.

How, my friends, am I going to survive another 10 days of this?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Spin Me Right Round, Baby

After all of the shots, the trips to the clinic, the ultrasounds and blood draws and phone calls from nurses, it seems incongruous that the final act of an IUI cycle is a five-minute procedure which feels like nothing more than a pap smear, a 15-minute wait on the table and a hurry-on-your-way. Talk about anti-climactic. It's like training for a marathon, running it and then coming home not to a congratulations party with all your friends but to a night of sitting your couch watching PBS while eating dry toast. You think, was that it?

The silence that follows the initial flurry of activity is deafening. Because no matter how stressful it is to anticipate how many follicles will show up on the screen in the morning and what the nurse might say when she calls you in the afternoon, at least you are taking action, doing something. It feels like progress. You can have hope, because your chance is still ahead of you, unmarred by the doubts in your head and the symptoms -- or lack thereof-- in your body. And the idea that in the moments, the hours and the days that follow there is not some definitive sign, some message from the heavens, some clear and unmistakable symptom that tells you whether you are or are not in fact pregnant as a result -- it seems impossibly cruel.

This is what brings you down from the high of finally reaching the end of a cycle, successfully, with two eggs to fertilize, to the angst-filled low of the two-week wait. It's the emotional tail-chasing that really gets to you. In no time at all, I go from a mantra of "I am going to be a mother. This could really work," to waving the white flag, ready to accept the defeat of another failed cycle. The disbelieving voice in my head says that I would feel it in my bones if it had worked. That the IUI was poorly timed, that I should have done two. That the sperm count was too low. That I've been too tense. Too pessimistic. Thought too much about it. Thinking that, I try to push myself back to optimistic -- or at least neutral -- ground. Around and around it goes.

Despite my best efforts, my prayers, my good luck charms, I can't seem to settle into this two-week wait. I know that some women are able to look at the wait as two weeks of assuming, against all odds, that they are pregnant. Seems like an unattainable ideal rife with so much potential disappointment. But maybe if I can find a way to stop my head from spinning I can at least inch a little bit closer to the possibility.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Secret Life of an Egg

What do you suppose eggs do between trigger and release? Do you think they put on their finest suits and dresses to get ready for the big show (I think mine go for Armani -- classic, sophisticated, not too trendy)? Do they have one last champagne fete to celebrate their imminent release? Break out maps and compasses and plot their journey from ovary to fallopian tube? Read advice books on the best way to attract a sperm?

I hope mine are doing all of the above. I hope they are type A, overachieving eggs -- the kind that go to class early and always do the extra credit question. I hope that, whatever they are doing right now, they are the kind that get me a baby.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Trigger Happy

After almost a year of fumbling toward pregnancy, the number of times I actually have had a statistically significant shot at it is disproportionately low at just three. It's par for the course when the diagnosis is ovulation-related, I know, but it's a troubling fact when so much effort and angst is poured into every cycle. So when I reach the finish line, when I actually have a chance, when pregnancy feels like more than a pipe dream, it is an important victory.

This cycle turned out to be exactly what my new doctor promised: slow. Only over the past few days did anything finally develop, and my expectation that that would be the case didn't prevent me from feeling discouraged and, yes, bitter (see "Happy Not in Labor Day" for evidence) at times. Still, as compared to previous cycles I was able to maintain a relative sense of calm which, under the circumstances, is a miracle I can only attribute to finally having a doctor I fully trust, who I know is totally familiar with my case and focused on my cycle. It truly has made this cycle feel more "real shot at pregnancy" than "total and complete drunken shot in the dark."

I'm taking that shot -- literally -- tonight when I trigger my two mature follicles (three if you count the 12 mm which may or may not contain an egg), with my IUI scheduled for Sunday morning. Having slowly crossed the finish line on this cycle, I'm just going to sit here a minute and soak in the victory.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Happy Not in Labor Day!

Is it just me, or is the unfortunate moniker of this holiday a kick in the ovaries to the infertile among us? Although I certainly appreciate any day off -- regardless of what they call it -- in my world, right now, it would be more aptly called "Not going into labor now or anytime in the foreseeable future" day. Particularly given what's going on with my ovaries. They are really holding out. Playing hard to get.

In keeping with my fine, fine tradition of dates with the ultrasound wand on all major holidays, I was back at the clinic at 8:15 this morning. You see, when I imagine a whole day off, stretched out in front of me in all its leisurely glory, no activity seems more fitting to get it started than a blood draw and a little spelunking around in my girl parts with a lubed-up probe. And the craptastic news that my lead follicle only grew one -- yes, one -- millimeter (to a grand total of 11 mm) since my last check on Saturday really put me in a holiday spirit. Now I can spend the rest of my day off -- at least until the call from the clinic -- worrying about why, after almost two weeks of stims, I have one follicle that is barely measurable. Good times. This must be what they call a helliday.

Oh, note to my ultrasound tech this weekend? Your vag cam school called: They want you to come back and take the course you missed called "Bedside Manner 101." I hear the prerequisites for the course are sensitivity, common sense and discretion. Required reading includes, "Don't shake your head at the screen and keep repeating, aggressively with a touch of glee, 'They really haven't changed at all since Saturday. Nope, not at all!'" and "Why you shouldn't come out to a crowded waiting room and self-righteously belt out to a patient that the tech from the other day was wrong and no, she did not have a 12 mm follicle -- just a 10!" Oh, and they wanted me to remind you that an ultrasound tech is not, in fact, a doctor. You can call them back at 800-GET-A-CLUE.

Would you, too, like a little bitter in your Labor Day barbeque?