Grapes In My Belly

My final pre-retrieval ultrasound went well. My lining has been glorious. My ovaries have been working hard. My blood work is on target. I now know all of the nurses at the clinic … and there are many. I’ve also seen my acupuncturist four times this week. I now have his cell phone number. It’s funny how IVF will bring strangers into your family as they all hope, we all hope, that our efforts will result in a baby.

So here are the gritty details: the doctor is hoping for eight eggs. There’s a chance it could be ten, but eight would be fabulous. Last time around I had four follicles and one was empty, so that gave us three eggs. Not good. This time we have way more follicles. It’s just that only 8-10 will be ready. There are some stragglers who won’t make it. (Did you know a ready-to-go follicle is the size of a grape?) I know that we have done everything we can to make this successful. My body is rested, a little heavier (ugh), a little more hormonally balanced. I have been at ease with everything in the process and am ready for what comes next. But, right now I am currently waffling back and forth between feeling great about how much better this cycle has been and feeling awful as we move out of the honeymoon phase and into the waiting phase of this process. I even bagged out of a BBQ today so I could stay home and watch RomComs all afternoon. I know I’m also remembering the last IVF and what happened after retrieval. I don’t want to focus on that, but it’s hard to forget such an intense emotional experience. So my goal for the next few days is to use that experience to drive me forward. To help me keep things in perspective. To remind me that life is good, and will be good.

I have my dorky meditation CD ready to go. I’ve got great books on my Kindle. Tickets to a ballgame tomorrow. Some dinner with friends. Plenty of small things to keep me busy.

Trigger comes at 8 P.M. It’s go time.

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Being Tested

I am a teacher and I am well aware of what a test means. It’s meant to assess my skills, my knowledge, my ability to move forward with what I’ve learned. Of course, with all tests come anxiety and uneasiness. No matter the student. No matter the preparation. Everyone dreads tests. I still remember the bio test I failed junior year of high school. And the motorcycle test I failed while trying to get a new license. But as a teacher, I do believe we have lots to learn from tests. If we are open-minded and willing to embrace where we went wrong, research shows we can move forward not only more quickly but also with great success. So it is with this mindset that I am moving through this IVF. I am on a different protocol. I am going to acupuncture like it’s my job. I am just more at ease with it all. But … there’s always a but …

Sometimes I feel like I am just being tested. Not for my ability to follow directions or shoot medication into my stomach or relax. I am being tested as a human. As a woman. Does anyone else feel like this?

When my mother first had her stroke when I was 23, life as I knew it (within my family) changed. The mother I had up until that point died and I was gifted another similar yet very different mother. Don’t get me wrong, we still had adventures and lots of good fun together, but physically and mentally my mom wasn’t the same. Her left side was paralyzed. She couldn’t work. She required near round the clock care. At the ripe old age of 23, I felt like I was handed a shit deal for I didn’t want a new mom. I liked my old one. But my mother always said, it happens for a reason. I learned to be a good caretaker. I learned patience. I learned to keep things in perspective. I learned that saying I love you at every opportunity is the only way to operate.

When my mother died 3 1/2 years ago, I felt like I was being tested again, but her death tested me in new and different ways. I was 32, married, settled into a job, just thinking about starting my own family. Her death tested my resolve. My ability to move forward in the face of tragedy. I realized that little matters outside of your loved ones. And I realized that nothing short of the death of a dear loved one hurts as bad as losing your mom.

Rightfully so, I feel I have been tested enough. There are times when I think that my mom died before I went through IVF so I would always think … it’s not as bad as when my mom died. But then I also think that going through IVF without your mom just sucks. It’s a whole other kind of test because I am striving to be the one thing I no longer have.

So what’s the come of all this testing? A fellow IVF survivor said it will make me a better mother. It will teach me patience. It will teach me to see the larger picture. And while I agree with her in terms of motherhood, I really think it comes down to one simple thing: I can do anything. Now, I don’t mean to say I’ll be in the Olympics in a few weeks or running for president in the fall, but throw me a challenge, ask me to rise to an occasion, test my ability to persevere, and I will. With a strong body, mind and spirit, I will.

Ultrasound #2 showed eleven follicles growing. There is a leader and two stragglers, but I am responding better than the last time. Phew. I head back on Friday for ultrasound #3, and the doc thinks retrieval will be on Sunday. I will be on stims some two days longer than last time, so let’s hope that helps my wee little eggs ripen up.

**A small, additional note: I re-read my older posts and realized that in my first IVF cycle I only had FOUR follicles in the works. Holy shitballs! I’ve got more than double. I would shout out loud right now, but Hubs is napping on the couch.

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The danger zone

Do any of you remember that song from Top Gun? It was a brilliant Kenny Loggins song called Danger Zone. Check it out and you'll know what I'm talking about. Anyway, I'm in the zone. Not in a bad way, but whenever you have a container like the one above (that's my lovely sharps container with a little photo editing for effect) you have to ask yourself, what the hell is going on? I have a container full of biohazardous material in my house. Men in white suits are going to tent my house and take crazy readings a la E.T. I should be wearing gloves and a mask, for sure. But no. This is just the life of a needle addicted infertile trying to jack up her system and get pregnant.

My baseline ultrasound went swimmingly. Nice! I've been on daily Lupron and Follistim for two days now. I can hear my ovaries working overtime. And they are. I am no Follistim lightweight. I need shitloads of the stuff to make my vintage ovaries produce. And produce they will. They must. My acupuncturist reminded me: it is not the quantity rather the quality. Of course, but more than four eggs would be nice. Really nice. The best part of this entire cycle has been the lack of ass shots. Last cycle everything went into my high haunch/hip area. Not this time. All shots are in my new layer of stomach fat thanks to my lack of running or any real cardio in six months. At least that weight is good for something, right. But sub-cutaneous shots are a dream. My hubby feels a little left out, so I let him draw up the meds and help me push the Follistim trigger. It's too cute.

Other than these exciting and hazardous events, life is peachy. It's summer. My dog is adorable. My hubby is a champ. And I'm going to get pregnant.

Next doctor's visit is on Sunday. Will check on my hardworking ovaries and adjust meds as needed. Fun times.

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My last supper

This was it. Except mine was reheated leftovers from the night before. I had visions of my last pre-IVF meal being a hot dog with pop chips. It came to me in yoga class. The salt, the deliciousness of a good all-beef hot dog. The guiltless pleasure of pop chips. But when I got home and realized we had leftovers, I decided to dive into those instead. I hate throwing away food. And to go with my tasty reheats: two glorious classes of wine. I had previously promised myself that after a dinner party last Saturday night I would cease drinking alcohol. But then we had an amazing meal on Tuesday, and a crisp white wine was in order. So with the hubby away at guys night chomping on steak and kicking it with some high class bottles of wine, I decided to partake a bit myself. Not the best combination, reheated chinese and merlot, but it was delicious.

I lied in my previous post. Sorry. I actually inject the cetrotide today. Then I have to wait for CD1 at which time I call the doc and head in for my baseline ultrasound. Then the big meds begin. I feel both at ease and emotional about this second try. I now know that there are two outcomes: pregnancy and no-pregnancy. The first time around I expected only one. I know the routine of the meds, the sting of the needle in my ass cheek, the acne that will burst forth onto my face with the strength of ten hormonal adolescents, the weird satisfaction I get from injecting a tiny needle into my belly because it reminds me that I am stronger than I think I am. But then there are the emotions, the unknowns, the moments of grey and waiting and hoping and forward thinking. Those are the things that will drive me into the ground. But at least I know that’s coming.

So, after a fabulous last supper and an amazing last pre-IVF day (which included a 3-run walk-off home run at the baseball game I went to), I’ve decided I’m going to swing away. For you non-basebal lovers, this means I am going to step up to the plate and not worry about where I’m going to hit the ball. I’m not going to bunt. I’m not going to question. I’m going to drive the ball as far as I can and with everything I have. I have taken six months off of running, I have thrown myself into yoga and meditation, I have been drinking my mud martini twice a day (chinese herbs), going to acupuncture, visualizing myself giving birth, seeing Hubby as a father, thinking all the right things. And now, I’m going to make it happen. I’m going to swing away and come up pregnant. There, I said it.

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Something to celebrate!

OK, so I’ve been pretty down lately. My acupuncturist says I’m just blue. I hear that. I agree. I cried walking my dog last weekend. And why? I have no idea! Friends have been telling me it’s normal. My dad is telling me my body is readjusting to life post-IVF and medication. I’m telling myself I’m losing hope what with the gaggle of girls in my life recently pregnant. Alas, last night as I sat on the couch transfixed with what I was watching, I screamed with joy when I found out Trudy was pregnant. Yes! Finally!

I’m not sure of my readers’ familiarity with Mad Men’s Trudy Campbell (and her asshole husband Pete), but she’s been wanting to get pregnant for a long, long time. And what with her living in the early 60s, what’s a girl to do after getting married if she can’t have a baby. So Trudy went to the doctor, and so did Pete. It wasn’t him (he came home cheering the fact that his sperm was a-ok!). So that left the struggles to her. Poor gal. Did I mentioned that her husband is an asshole? Anyway, it finally happened. Trudy got her pregnancy and all is right with the world. I can honestly say that this is the first pregnant woman I’m 100% thrilled for. Does this clearly make me insane because this excitement is for a fictional person? Yes. Yes it does. But you’re also reading a blog post from a gal who has plowed through the first four seasons of Mad Men in less than a month. If you know of a Mad Men Anonymous meeting nearby, let me know.

Yours in pointy bras, va-va-voom skirts, and whiskey on the rocks before noon,

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The Singing Bowl

Like most obedient infertile women, I go to an acupuncturist. I’ve been seeing her for close to two years and I’ve come to realize acupuncture is some of the best medicine I’ve ever received. So when I headed in for my visit on Thursday, my first post-failed IVF visit, I was greeted with a warm hug and lots of love from my practitioner. Not only is she awesome, but she’s also an IVF survivor. Yes, she went through all of the hoops and now has a ten month old. So I appreciate not only her professionally but also personally because she’s been where I am right now. And she gets it all.

She said she had been thinking about my treatment all day and thought that doing something different, doing something more focused on grief than fertility, would actually help me more as I moved through our failed IVF. Not one to turn down a knowledgeable person, I hopped on the table, assumed a new position (face-down) and let the fun begin. It was crazy.

First she put in a ton of needles, then she used some white angelica oil, then she struck the singing bowl, and that’s when the magic happened: my mother made an appearance. She’s dead. I know I have taken a lot of medication lately, but even my acupuncturist saw her. Wild! I was asked to focus on white light on my left side and to send my grief away to my left as the vibrations rang through the needles. My arm tingled, my heart pumped, my mother was there to catch it all. Seriously. Then I was asked to focus on gold light and the tingling faded along with everything else, including my mom. Funny thing is, the tightness in my neck was gone, too, as were my feelings of sorrow and self-pity. It’s like my mother just came and took them from me. My dad always tells me to talk to her, to ask her for help. So while she wasn’t as helpful as I would have liked during IVF, she clearly stepped it up for afterwards. Much appreciated.

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All signs point to summer

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. — Albert Camus

I have had this quote over my desk since my mother died three years ago. A friend sent it to me in an email and it helped me realize that at some point my sadness would fade, my winter would disappear, and the beauty of life would return. The return to summer and the struggle I faced was hard, probably the hardest sadness I’ve endured in my life, but with time I have healed and learned to manage not without her but without her alive. This process of trying to get pregnant or wanting to become a mother myself has, at times, made me miss her more than I ever thought I would. I miss her guidance, her humor, her stories.

So it was perfectly timed that I had this amazing moment during acupuncture today when I could see my mother. I could feel her with me and felt her warmth in my chest and hands. I don’t know if it was some extra strong visualization on my part or just the joy I’ve been feeling this afternoon, but it was a gift.

Doctor’s visit went really well. My estrogen and estradiol levels are fabulous! I have four gorgeous eggs ready for take-off, and if my doctor has her way, I’ll have a fifth ready to go in two days. We’re pumped for four as it’s my hubby’s lucky number. It was also my mom’s. Crazy. I head back tomorrow for another ultrasound and round of blood tests. Looks like retrieval will be Saturday and the transfer most likely on Monday. As my BFF said — MLK Day is a solid day for the transfer. Wasn’t it King who said, “I have a dream …”

Meds taken: Repronex, Follistim, Cetrotide
Laughs: more than ten
Best laugh: When hubby made a hat out of part of my paper ultrasound gown
Doctor’s response: “Are you bored or are we seeing each other too often?”

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