Go, Spot. Really–GO.

So, we have a presently unknown number of little embryos growing in a lab right now. I would love more than anything in the world to just snatch them up and magic them into my uterus, but for various reasons no one else seems to be on board with that idea. As a result, I found myself (once again) in the stirrups this morning spending some quality time with the dildocam.

The result?

There is definitely something in my uterus. Something small—soooo small—but as my doctor put it, it’s sitting in the exact spot where she wants to place our embryos as if it’s a target.

The plan is to move forward with a hysteroscopy once I start my next cycle and scrape that little fucker out. Pardon my language, but I am not in a place where I really give a damn if I sound like a sailor at the moment.

After Spot is removed (I’ve decided to call him Spot), it’s back to my FAVORITE thing ever…

MORE FUCKING BIRTH CONTROL PILLS.

Yay!

Then, we’ll start an FET cycle.

The kicker… and this is a really good one… is that ALL OF THIS CAN BE OURS FOR THE BARGAIN PRICE OF ONLY SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS!

I was holding it all together remarkably well up until that point, but it turns out that being handed paperwork informing you that you cannot have YOUR embryos—that are sitting RIGHT OVER THERE (somewhere)—put into YOUR uterus until/unless you come up with six thousand more dollars on top of the $25,000 you have already spent—well, it turns out that that’s just my breaking point.

And break, I did. Right in the middle of the courtyard outside the doctor’s office as people sat on the patio of the café sipping their iced tea and wondering whether they should call the police.

We are going to figure it out. We always figure it out somehow. It honestly could have been worse, except that the amazingly wonderful woman in the financial office spent thirty minutes making phone calls to the powers that be to get the surgery discounted from $4,000 to $2,500. She was so sweet—repeatedly asking me if I’m okay and just being so genuine and nice.

That’s the trouble right now. I want so much to BLAME someone for this setback. I want to point a finger and say THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT and then walk out and slam a door so hard that it bounces back open and I get to slam it again. There’s just no one to blame.

My doctor was amazing today. If you’re in need of an RE in the LA area, I will gladly share her information because she is wonderful. I am so sensitive when it comes to doctors, and she is the perfect mix of analytical and compassionate. She hugged me as she left the room today. I’ve never been hugged by a doctor before, and it absolutely shocked me how welcome that hug was. It made me feel like she’s in this just as much as we are. She also made it perfectly clear that it’s killing her not to be able to do a fresh transfer because in her words, I have been the model patient. I didn’t hyperstimulate, my lining is absolutely perfect, and other than Spot, everything is JUST RIGHT. She reiterated that Spot is so tiny that most doctors would probably go right ahead and take a chance on the transfer, but she just has a gut feeling that we need to deal with this. I trust her gut.

Lest you think that I am not grateful for what we DO have right now, I assure you that we know how blessed we are. Up until this ($6,000) speed bump, everything has worked. My ovaries worked hard but not too hard. The egg retrieval was successful, and two days later, I feel pretty damn good. We have 9 fertilized eggs in a lab mustering all their strength to multiply their little cells. We are both healthy, and our marriage is stronger than it has ever been.

This is not the end of the world. The door is not locked, it’s just closed for a few months.

And the best part? WINE. I am going home tonight, putting all of the hormones and needles back into the hormone and needle cupboard, and pouring myself a GIANT glass of guilt-free wine.

Happy weekend, everyone. I will drink a glass of wine in your honor. Red or white? Let me know.

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Egg/Embryo Watch 2014

First, I want to thank all of you for your comments yesterday. I haven’t gone back and responded to all of you, but Catch and I both read every single one and you really did make us feel better about our fresh transfer being cancelled. I’m trying hard not to let myself get hung up on that lingering disappointment, and your perspective is helping a lot. To be perfectly honest, the prospect of having a couple of glasses of wine this weekend isn’t hurting, either.

From the very beginning, I told myself that IVF would be a roller coaster. I thought I was prepared to handle its upside down turns, but I was less prepared than I imagined. This is really pretty brutal.

Now, the numbers we’ve all been waiting for:

The clinic called this morning. Of our 16 eggs, only 10 were mature. They were all given the royal ICSI treatment with our frozen donor sperm, and 9 fertilized. All we can do now is wait and hope that we don’t lose too many of them over the coming days.

Aside from feeling like I have a hormonal wrecking ball crashing through me, I’m doing okay post-retrieval. There was some pretty significant pain yesterday that would come and go. It helped to curl up with a heating pad. Tylenol with codeine helped, too. So did the “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon.

Today, I am feeling a little bit better. Not great—there’s definitely still pain—but better. I can function. I’m at work, although I don’t know how long I’ll last. As long as I can stay kind of hunched over at my desk and not move around too much, it’s not too bad.

I’ll see my doctor tomorrow and find out what we’re going to do about the polyp. I know absolutely nothing about what removal will involve, and I’m so worried about that expense, plus the addition of an FET cycle. My insurance changed from a PPO to an HMO on August 1st, so I have absolutely no coverage for something like this with my RE. I would have to go to Kaiser, find a new doctor and convince them that it’s medically necessary to have this thing removed if I want it to be covered. All of that could really delay things (in typical HMO style). PLUS, I’d be taking a chance with a doctor that I have no history with in a system that essentially killed my grandmother (long story). Do I REALLY want to let them touch my uterus right now? Not particularly. When I’m done with my uterus, perhaps—but not while I actually need the damn thing.

So that’s the latest from IVF land. Forgive me if I’m a bit quiet with my comments on your blogs for the next few days. I am really struggling to keep my emotions in check, and so far 85% of your posts have made me cry for one reason or another. If you’re happy, I cry. If you’re sad, I cry. If you make me feel happy or sad, I cry. I think I need to stick with the Simpsons. Although damned if the episode where Moe saves Maggie didn’t make me cry last night.

I’m telling you—hormonal wrecking ball.

When will I learn?

Nothing fertility related EVER goes according to plan. At least not for me. I should know this by now. I really should.

Egg retrieval went well. We have 16 eggs. We’ll find out the status of maturity & fertilization tomorrow.

The unexpected curveball is that my “absolutely perfect” lining has developed a polyp. It’s a small one, but it’s in the exact spot where the RE wants to place our embryos.

It is most likely at this point that a fresh transfer is out for us. We’ll find out Friday for sure. Some of the decision will be based on the performance and ultimate quantity of the embryos.

I feel pretty devastated right now. Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I’m being a drama queen. I’m just sitting here sore from the procedure, a bit foggy from the anesthesia, and all I want to do is cry. There were so, so many what ifs going into today, but this particular scenario never once crossed my mind.

Lesson learned. Again.

The (First) Final Countdown

I feel like if I drink enough water, all of these needle marks are going to turn me into a sprinkler. Does your lawn need water? I’m happy to pop by.

Fortunately, there will be no needles today. Tonight, I will not have to jump up at 8 pm to mix vials. It’s mostly nice, but I’d be lying if I said that no part of me would like to rewind a couple of days and just stay there. There was so much less intense than here. I am physically and emotionally exhausted.

The Circle + Bloom meditations were working great for the first days of my cycle, but it’s become harder and harder to focus as the days go on. She mentions my ovaries, and it sets off a chain of what ifs in my mind. She asks me to think about parts of my body that need some extra help, and I am instantly lost trying to decide which part of my body should get the assistance of my deep breathing first. By the time I’ve made a decision, she’s moved on.

Perhaps meditation is not my thing. Perhaps sleeping pills, chocolate and wine are more my style. (Oh, and they are!) Unfortunately, with sleeping pills and wine both off of the table for a (long) while, I am left battling with my brain while trying to focus on energy fields and deep breaths.

It seems like each step of IVF grows increasingly more intense from here on out.

Will they get enough mature eggs at retrieval tomorrow?

Will they fertilize? How many?

Will they make it to Day 3? Will they make it to Day 5?

Will there be any left to freeze?

Will this work?

I am so fortunate to have the support of my wife and my mom throughout this process. Catch, in particular, has been amazing. This hasn’t been easy for her, but she has been there holding my hand and stabbing me with needles every step of the way. Last night as we crawled into bed, she took my hand and told me how excited she is. There’s something so comforting in knowing that she’s excited. It’s exactly the reassurance I needed.

My mom is excited, too. She told me she has a really good feeling about this one. She probably doesn’t realize that she’s said that about every attempt to date, but I’m not going to hold it against her.

I got to have lunch with an old friend today, which was such a welcome distraction… and also vaguely depressing because it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. Somehow, her daughter has grown from the chubby little monkey I used to toss around in the swimming pool and bake cookies with into a tween who just got her period and started shaving under her arms. WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?

If the next 18 hours could fly by as quickly as the last 7 years seem to have, I’d really appreciate it.

We check in for egg retrieval at 8 am tomorrow.

Please let this work.

Must. Stop. Worrying.

All systems are go for egg retrieval on Wednesday morning. Tonight, I take my last dose of Ganirelix at 8 pm, and then trigger at 10 pm. Tuesday, I start taking Medrol and Doxycycline, and then the egg retrieval will be at 9 am on Wednesday.

That means that our transfer will be either Saturday or Monday. Monday is Labor Day here in the states, so I find that a bit amusing. I am really hoping for a Labor Day transfer. Catch thinks it’s hilarious that we’re looking at a transfer for Labor Day and a due date around Memorial Day.

Side note: Why are there no 4 day transfers? Why is it only 3 or 5 days? I could look this up online, I’m sure, but I’ve banned myself from googling ANYTHING IVF. I will not google. It’s my mantra.

I started feeling more noticeably crampy and bloated last night, and that has intensified today. It’s not intolerable, but it’s uncomfortable. I am bloated enough at this point that I feel like I should be leaking air from all of my needle punctures.

On Saturday, I ended up back at urgent care for this damn UTI. 3 days of antibiotics was apparently not enough for it, and by Saturday I was miserable again. As I sat there with the doctor listing the medications I’m currently taking, he shocked me by saying, “I actually know a few things about IVF. My wife and I have done it three times.” Their first try failed (not what I wanted to hear) but they have a 7 year old son and 4 year old (identical) twins from rounds 2 & 3. He repeatedly told me how hard but worth it the experience was for them. It was the first time I’ve encountered anyone who has been through this before (in person), so it was kind of a nice surprise.

Now that egg retrieval is scheduled, I’ve moved on from freaking out about follicle sizes and am now freaking out about early ovulation. I always feel like I ovulate less than 24 hours post-trigger. What if I don’t make it 35 hours? It’s been keeping me up at night. I feel like my brain just spun a wheel and decided that of all the things to worry about THIS was going to be The Thing.

My doctor didn’t make me feel much better about it. I was looking for reassurance that it’s so rare or it almost never happens, but instead I was told, “It’s a balancing act. We have a lot of things to consider, and we do our best but it does happen on occasion.”

Sigh.

The only thing that makes me feel a bit better is the extra dose of Ganirelix tonight. That should buy me 24 hours, and then I only have to worry about the final 12 before retrieval. I really wish I could just put my head down right now and sleep until 9 am Wednesday. I am really struggling to keep anxiety at bay, and it’s only going to get worse as the hours tick by.

Follicle Scan #2

Today’s scan went well. My lining is apparently “perfect”–something about 3 lines. I don’t know what it means, but the doctor was quite pleased.

I’m 5 days into the stims. At the moment, we have 7 contenders on the left and 5 on the right. The largest on both sides are just a smidge under 16 mm, and the smallest are about 11.

According to the doctor, we’re looking at retrieval on Wednesday, which is two days earlier than the calendar suggested. I’ll have a follow up on Monday morning, and they’ll decide for sure then.

They were all so happy and kept telling me how great everything looks. I’m starting to get excited, but I’m afraid to get too excited. I’m really looking forward to Monday’s scan with my regular doctor. I think I’ll feel better once I talk to her.

So, we continue with the reduced dosage of the drugs through the weekend, and I will try to stop worrying about everything that can go wrong from here out. It would be great if there was a switch I could flip on my brain for a few days. In lieu of that, I’ve banned myself from Google and message boards.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Behind the Curtain

It seems to me that most of the exam rooms in fertility clinics are alike. Table with stirrups, “guest” chair, ultrasound machine, tiny sink/counter area, and a curtain that can be pulled closed so that everyone in the hallway doesn’t have to see you half naked when the doctor opens the door.

Am I right?

My issue today is with the position of that guest chair and the curtain.

Catch is with me at 98% of my appointments. She very rarely misses an opportunity to see me with my pants off. The dildo cam is like an added bonus for her. I think she derives great pleasure from seeing it sitting there with its little swirl of lube atop an elongated condom.

The two of us walk into the room together. She sits in the chair. The nurse closes the curtain. I strip and position myself on the table. This is the drill.

When the doctor comes in, she can’t see around the curtain. She knows I’m there because a) she can usually see my feet and b) she has been told that her patient is waiting for her. By the time she clears the curtain, she has generally announced her presence and greeted me. Seeing Catch in the chair ALWAYS throws her off. Every time. The three of us joke about Catch tucked away in the corner at almost every appointment. “I’m never sure if you’re going to be there!” my doctor exclaims.

Yesterday takes the cake, though.

I saw a different doctor for the first time. He walked in and started introducing himself while looking down at my chart. He acknowledged me, and then—still looking down—he turned toward Catch and said, “And who’s this young man? Woman? Woman! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!”

We laughed. We all did. It was… funny?

It seemed funny in the moment, anyway. It even seemed funny when we were waiting in the conference room later on and he came in and greeted us with an exaggerated, “Hello again, LADIES.” He really was a nice guy.

I feel bad for Catch, though. As honest and innocent as the whole, “Oh, I didn’t see you there!” thing is, she is always an afterthought in that room. She gets really happy on the rare occasion that my RE will direct a comment or question to her instead of to me. She wants involvement beyond tucking my underwear inside my folded clothing.

I do understand. I am the patient. Catch is the holder of my hand. I just wish there was some way to give her more of a presence inside that tiny little room. Some way for her to be more than just the girl(?) who may or may not be hiding behind the curtain holding my pants.

I am the one being poked and prodded, but there is no way I could do this without her. She is as important to this process as every growing follicle and every frozen sperm. She is my rock. She is my world. I hope she knows that.

Follicle Scan

This afternoon, I had my first follicle scan since starting the IVF cocktail. It went well enough, I suppose.

I’ve had 3 nights of stims so far and my largest follicle is already 13mm. There are about 4 more also in the double digits and another 4 or 5 in the 9s. Apparently this morning’s blood work revealed that my levels are also on the high side at the moment. There is some concern that I am over responding to the drugs.

The doctor I saw today wanted to decrease my dosage of Follistim but increase my dose of Menopur so that the smaller follicles will continue to mature. My nurse ended up texting my doctor (on vacation) to get her input. In the end, my doctor decided to decrease my Follistim to 75 iu and keep the Menopur the same (1 vial). Tomorrow, I will add the Ganirelix to keep me from ovulating.

It feels a little bit like this is IVF on fast forward. Of course, my doctor said from the beginning that she expected me to respond well to the drugs.

I’ll be back for another scan on Friday afternoon with the same doctor I saw today. It makes me a little uneasy that I have two doctors disagreeing on meds, but I’m going to put my faith in my own doctor. She’s been seeing me since January–she’s got a little bit more insight than the guy I saw today.

So that’s that. I feel a little weird about it all, but I can’t really say exactly why. I think I expected to see more follicles, I guess, but it’s also early on in the stims. It just seems like the big guys are getting big fast and maybe the little guys won’t have time to catch up. Catch keeps telling me that all we need is one, but I don’t agree. For what we’re spending on all of this, I’m really hoping to be able to put some of these puppies on ice.

I don’t know. What do you guys think?

Perspective

On Friday night we went out for dinner with a good friend. She knows what we’ve been going through as we navigate trying to get pregnant. We talked about IVF and what it will involve. She was there on Cinco de Mayo as we cried over negative test results. She is the one who gave me a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for Lesbians.

Having said all of that, you can imagine my shock/horror when she pulled out her phone to show us the adorable pictures of her 19 year old niece’s (accidental) pregnancy announcement and subsequent gender reveal photos. Oh look! Pink handprints on a black shirt covering a perfectly round belly! How clever!

There was absolutely nothing I needed less in that moment—less than 2 hours after picking up and paying for our IVF meds—than to be reminded that there are teenagers out there who can barely support themselves getting knocked up for free every damn day.

I wanted to roll my eyes and make gagging gestures, but Catch was keeping me focused on making vague pleasantries by digging her fingers into my thigh. I’m not sure if it was a sign of solidarity or if she was silently indicating that I’d better keep my shit together because this is not the time or the place. Perhaps both? We’ll never know.

I don’t expect everyone to understand what’s going on inside my head. I really don’t. I am much better at sharing facts than I am at sharing feelings. While I try to be open with my friends, often I don’t give them much beyond, “X didn’t work, so we’re trying Y now.” It’s just so much easier than trying to explain the cocktail of anxiety, hope, fear, excitement and sadness that are a part of every cycle. And honestly? Even on the rare occasion when I do try to explain that feeling, it’s pretty clear that you really can’t understand it unless you’ve been there. I don’t get much relief from sharing the feelings. If anything, it actually becomes more isolating. No woman is an island until that woman has a few failed IUI cycles and an RE on speed dial.

My dear friend had no idea that showing me those photos was like twisting a knife. She is excited for her niece. She is looking forward to a new baby in their family. I really can’t hold that against her. All she was doing was sharing her life with us. I know that. I do.

I hope that over the next four weeks, I can find a way to balance what I need from my friends against what they need from me. I hope I can remember that I do not want to be an island. I hope I can remember that these people care about me, and that any visual assault via baby bump is totally innocent. Above all else, I hope I can remember to be kind—because goodness knows that these people we’ve surrounded ourselves with do not intend to be anything but.

PS—I can’t remember who it was who said that Menopur burns and to try icing the area before the injection, but that person is absolutely right. I iced it the first night and the discomfort was very minimal. Then last night I was lazy and didn’t bother with the ice. It really does burn! I will use the ice from now on.