Life is Stinking Hilarious

Back in January, in one of my very first posts, I wrote about being a Rebel in a Bathtub,  describing all the taboo ways I exercise my freedom after a failed cycle. Shortly after writing that post I began to feel old and desperate, overwhelmed by the sound of a ticking clock in my brain, and I decided it would be wise to start following the rules again, which I have pretty much stuck to the last few months. I haven’t exactly been a t-totaller, but I have limited my alcohol, eaten healthy, moderated exercise, and popped hundreds of supplements. I had only three glasses of wine when I learned of Blob’s demise and only 9 total over the course of two months preparing for our last failed cycle.

All that effort at purity and perfection came to a halt last night when I accidentally had way to much to drink which also led to other choices that are not too great for my upcoming cycle like eating gluten. Actually, I didn’t just eat gluten, that would be understating it. Rather, I had gluten with a side of gluten and a little gluten sprinkled on top for good measure. There is more that I did and shouldn’t have, but not that I can put in writing for the fear of losing my low insurance rates.

Today I awoke in a haze and when the memories came rushing back I instantly began hating myself and my youngest sister for the influence that inspired my bad choices. I belly ached to my husband, sharing my self loathing, and also posted to my favorite fertility board about my transgressions. My IVF pals and husband all said the same thing, one night of bad choices is not going to lead to a failed cycle and it might even be good for me. I am human after all and loads of women get pregnant every day in much worse condition.

They are probably right. At least that is what I am choosing to believe. Besides, I can’t change it and its not as if stressing about whether I have destroyed good eggs is going to help me get pregnant. Better to move on and use my guilt for something good, like a run.

While I was punishing myself and trying to eliminate toxins on that run this morning, it occurred to me how ironic life is. There was a time many years ago that bad choices while under the influence might have led to, gasp, a pregnancy that we didn’t plan and didn’t want yet. Fast forward a decade and here I am hoping that the bad choices, which really weren’t all that bad, will keep me from getting pregnant.

Very funny life. Very funny.

And here is another really funny thing about life. It has a way of moving at the speed of light when you want to savor it, but gets stuck in molasses when you are looking forward to something. Tomorrow we meet with our new fertility doctor over Skype and it seems like time has come to a stand-still as I anxiously await his counsel. This is the first time I have ever experienced anxiety about a meeting because we have reached the point with my age and history that being turned down by a clinic is a real possibility. Bill thinks I am crazy, and that just like Celebrity Miracle clinic they will gladly take our money especially given the fact that we still produce so many eggs and conjured up three genetically normal embryos in our cycle late last year. Still after five fresh IVFs and 9 transfers they may advise us to move on to donor eggs. We will find out tomorrow, if tomorrow ever comes.

Image by rubyblossom via Flickr

Image by rubyblossom via Flickr

Meanwhile, my daughter is far too rapidly making the transition from toddler to little girl. Today when I put her down for a nap she did not want to say “good night” to the owls painted on her bedroom door, our routine since she was born. She also did not want to give me “one more kiss and one more hug” like she always asks after I rub her back and sing her one song. She has become a master procrastinator and manipulator at nap time which only further demonstrates how un-baby-like she is. We couldn’t possibly be having any more fun but the arms on the clock measuring our time with her are whizzing around and around leaving memories of my baby in a beautiful but painful blur.

Very funny life. Very funny.

 

*I finally picked back up on reading the book “Writing Tools” and posting samples of my work on the Writing Tools page. Hence the extraordinarily long second sentence in this post. It has proven very difficult to keep up my work on writing skills while in the midst of IVF but now that we have entered a waiting period I hope to be able to work on it and add posts on most weekends.

 

Dear Sarah

Dear Sarah,

I am writing you this letter because through many years and hundreds of conversations I still haven’t found a way to say to you what I need to say and think you need to hear. I don’t know why this is so hard for me, you would think that after all I have been through it would be easy for me to tell you not to wait, not to do what I did and let precious fertile years slip away. After hundreds of shots, tests, ultrasounds, and buckets of tears I should be screaming at you “Don’t wait! You can’t wait. The most fulfilling and beautiful experience a woman can have is slowly creeping out of your reach and you have to do something about it NOW.”

But I don’t do that. Somehow I can’t ever find the words, not matter how hard I try.

I have danced around the topic many times and I know you share my discomfort when I do. You tell me you will be okay either way. You can imagine a life with kids and can also see a life without and that either can be great. Like me, you went to school, experienced life, began a career that you loved, and haven’t felt like the time was right to have children. And of course you want to find that person, the one who makes you long to carry a child. I understand, life just hasn’t come together in the right way to make you a mother yet, or even to allow you to give it too much thought. It seems so distant, so impossible and foreign, even if you feel that natural drive pushing you toward doing what you were made to do.

I remember the feeling well. There was a time in my life I wasn’t even sure that I wanted children. And then at 34 I had a moment that changed that, a moment that many women have and that you too may have someday. The moment is different for us all and doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does happen for many women like us.

After that moment, all I wanted was to be pregnant and to give birth. So we started trying. I had no idea that I was about to wrestle with demons that, up until that time, I didn’t even know or care existed.

And how would I know those demons were waiting in the dark shadows of infertility when celebrities all around me were popping out babies in their mid-forties? I didn’t know then and chances are you don’t know now that there is a damn good chance that those babies carry the DNA of much younger women and are born of expensive, invasive, and emotionally difficult procedures.

Chances are you don’t know that fertility takes a nose dive at 32 and not at 35 like you have always heard. You heard that because long ago we only measured in 5 year increments but today we know more, a lot more, and we know that we are losing valuable time. Sadly, for most bright, ambitious, and driven women like you, your early thirties arrive before you are even the “you” that you want to be before you are ready to become two or especially three.

I am lucky and thankful every day that we started when we did. After multiple heart wrenching, physically taxing, financially draining, and emotionally painful procedures we had our little girl and I have never been the same. I am sure you are right, life without her could indeed be very good, but I have no doubt hat it is better with her. She is love, pain, joy, fear, purpose, and every human emotion in technicolor. I couldn’t breathe without her and I don’t even remember what mattered to me before her. I am smitten, turned upside down and inside out, and its wonderful.

I want that for you if you want it. And I want you to understand what you may need to do to get it, because if I don’t tell you I don’t know who will.

I am thankful every day that we started when we did, right at the peak of the steep slope of declining fertility. Four years later in our quest for a sibling, the fight is even harder and we are unsure if we will win it this time. Looking back, I wish I had created more young embryos and stored them before transferring the one that gave us our daughter. Or I wish we had made embryos right after we were married and put them on ice for awhile until we were ready to try for the first time.

Better yet, I wish I could talk to my 25 year old self and tell her to go through the slightly expensive but highly effective process of preserving her fertility through egg freezing.

Twenty-five year old me would have thought I was completely insane, because she had time and wasn’t even sure she wanted a baby. I know she would never have done it. Why spend all that time and energy on something she might not even need during a time in her life when she felt like she had way more time than money?

That’s the reaction I expect from you too and its the reason I haven’t said all this to you before. After all, I don’t like it when people tell me to “just relax” or give me other unsolicited advice about my fertility. Who am I to presume that you want or need to know this? Who am I to tell you that even if you aren’t ready you should talk to a specialist, get a few tests done, and consider your options for preserving your fertility even if you may never decide you want a child?

You may not need any of this. Fertility is different for everyone and some women can and do get pregnant in their late 30s and early forties, Its just  not nearly as common as popular culture makes it seem. I want you to know that. I want you to make an educated decision about one of the most important and amazing choices we make as a woman.

I want you to know because I wish someone had been brave enough to tell me.

So who am I to say such things to you, Sarah?

I am a woman, mother, friend, and an advocate. But above all else I am someone who loves you.

All My Best and Love,

Alisa

 

*Image by William Arthur Fine Stationary via Flickr

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. A day that brings mixed feelings for Mom’s who worked a little harder to build our family than most. Its a day of celebration for those of us who longed to receive a flower at church or breakfast in bed courtesy of a proud, flour covered child. We are finally part of it, rather than being on the outside looking in.

But it is also impossible to forget the pain and loneliness we felt in the days when this day was just another reminder of that title we had yet to earn. For the infertile woman whose heart is aching to be a Mother, this day and all its sappy commercials in the weeks leading up to it can’t come and go fast enough.

For me, Mother’s Day is even more conflicting because of what it means to us. You see, Spork was transferred to me as one of three microscopic embryos on Mother’s Day three years ago. She had been waiting in cryofreeze for over a year for me to finally bring her home. 12 days later I learned I was pregnant for the first time. For that reason, Mother’s Day will always be magical for me. It’s the day I was literally reunited with my first and only child after years of infertility and three previous embryo transfers.

Image

But I have not forgotten what this day meant to me before I became a Mom. I can’t forget my friends who still desperately want to become a Mom. And of course I cannot forget those who lost a pregnancy, infant, or child of any age.

Today I am praying for all women, not just Mother’s. I am praying that those who have never known the pain of infertility and loss never do. I pray that the wait ends soon for those that are still waiting. I pray for peace and healing for those who are reliving a loss today. I pray for all mothers who gave their child and adoptive family the greatest give you can give. And I pray in great thanks for what I have and for the people and processes that made it possible, because I do know what I have. I do.

Peace and love to you all. May the world be kind to you today and may our Mother’s Day story bring those that need it hope instead of pain.

Confessions of a Sister and Fellow Infertile

Image by Alison young via Flickr

Image by Alison young via Flickr

I always thought I was different than many of the women I know when it comes to infertility and jealousy. I never struggle in the same way others sometimes do when I learn of someone’s pregnancy or happen to walk by a glowing Mom-to-be on the street.

Like anyone trying to conceive, my awareness of pregnant women and babies is elevated when I am actively cycling. I am human after all. Because I am in the middle of the two week wait, I currently feel trapped in a fictional and terribly done B movie that plays in my head called “Invasion of the Baby Makers.” Pregnant women and infants are everywhere I turn, and of course I feel that tiny pang in the center of my chest when I see them, especially when I am unprepared to bump into… well… a bump.

But that’s it. The good fortune of strangers as evidenced by their tight round bellies rarely elicits more than that little stab of feeling that sinks rapidly and deeply into my heart but fades as quickly as it came. You may recognize the feeling, it lasts only a moment. And that feeling is about the extent of it. I do not have break downs, cry, or break out the Ben and Jerry’s when I find out someone is pregnant or receive an invite to a baby shower from a lucky friend or acquaintance. I never have.

I always remind myself that I don’t want their baby, I want our baby. Besides, I tell myself, I don’t know what version of hell they may have faced or demons they had to slay to achieve their blissful full-bellied state. For all I know the path they tread could have been as long and hard as my own, so I generally just let it go.

Generally.  There are two notable exceptions. Family and fellow infertile women.

I will talk about my illogical envy for other infertile women in my next post, Follicle Envy, but my issues with family members who get knocked up is really quite strange and deserves a post all its own.

Of course the baby blessings of my family members genuinely make me happy, but a few years back when I learned of my sister-in-law’s unexpected pregnancy only a few days after a failed cycle, I sobbed in Bill’s arms until I ran out of tears. I did this despite the fact she was 37 years old and I had been mortally terrified up until then that she would never have the kids I knew she desired. To this day I still do not know why it upset me so much, but it did. It was probably as simple as timing, as well as the fact that it came so easily to her when we tried so hard for so long.

Then there was my middle sister’s first pregnancy. She literally got pregnant as soon as she started trying and announced it to me and the rest of the immediate family in a pretty dramatic an unexpected way while we were in the two week wait of our very first IVF cycle. I am sure its not a choice she would make today knowing what we all know about infertility and IVF. Back then we were all so naive so certain IVF would work and work quickly.

Once again, I was happy for her but I ached at the thought that I was the much older sister and should have been first. I also envied the confidence she had which allowed her to announce her pregnancy with such utter excitement at only 5 weeks. I already knew then that any pregnancy I had would always have a small cloud of fear over it that would prevent my joy from emanating so purely.

In the back of my mind, I also wondered if she was deliberately trying to beat me to the punch since she knew we had just completed our first cycle. I know now that wasn’t the case, she was just expressing unbridled bliss of the greatest news any hopeful mother-to-be can receive, but try to tell that to a hormone crazed woman in the two week wait. It was painful. The experience was almost as painful as being invited to her shower for her second child while I was going through my first and hopefully only miscarriage.

I already had my daughter then, but it still stung and made me want to crawl under the covers and sleep through the nightmare of her pregnancy that was timed so inconveniently with my loss.

These three pregnancies are the only ones ever to cause me real pain or tears. I am sure there is some psychological reason why only those I am closest to make me to feel the jealousy and despair my other infertile friends seem to reserve for catty women at work that they didn’t like that much in the first place.

Maybe it is as simple as proximity, knowing I would be reminded of what they have and I couldn’t every time I connected with them or anyone in the family. I don’t know. But it ached. Thankfully I think its done for awhile. I am happy for that. But I am even happier to have my beautiful nieces and amazing nephew.

While it was hard at the time I would never consider having it any other way.

 

Calgon, Take Me Away…

Many of you trying to conceive are probably too young to know the old Calgon commercials but I remember them well. After all, I am an old lady trying to get pregnant so there are many things I recall from the late 70s and early 80s. Some things, like Calgon, I remember fondly. Others I would much rather forget, like nearly all the clothing and hairstyles.

The Calgon commercials stuck with me to adulthood and just like the lady in the commercial, I view a good hot bath as the epitome of luxury and the perfect way to escape from absolute chaos.

Man, I could use a good bath right now.

Too bad its not allowed.

Ironically, my doctor told me yesterday after transfer to think of today as a “Spa Day.”  The clinic has relaxed their bed rest policy which formerly required two full days of remaining reclined. Now only one day of bed rest is required and the day after transfer is supposed to be light activity, no lifting, no work.

No problem. Except that I am borderline OCD and also have a toddler.

I did a pretty good job of relaxing at first. I even took a nap this afternoon.

The only problem is that my husband can’t keep up with everything on his own, and I can’t relax when there are suitcases filled with dirty laundry in our entryway and toys scattered all over the floor. Even if Bill could stay on top of everything, he has a different definition of clean than I do. The man is actually capable of weaving his way through an obstacle course of dolls, coloring books, and tea cups. Walking right by a pile of laundry doesn’t even phase him.

So this evening, the Spa day came to a screeching halt.  I cleaned. I did laundry. I couldn’t help myself.

And it wasn’t just the Spa Day that was an epic fail.  I also failed at keeping Spork from climbing all over me with her bony knees and elbows that have a funny way of finding my uterus over, and over, and over again.

Oh well. Normal people get pregnant under much worse conditions.

But I will say this, while I hope this is the last transfer we will need, if there is a next time I am getting on a plane to Mexico the day after transfer.  Alone. And with nothing but a swimsuit, a pair of yoga pants, and a t-shirt.

Done.

Image by Dawn Nakaya via Flickr

Image by Dawn Nakaya via Flickr

Speaking of a potential “next time”… when we were discussing the quality of our embryos yesterday I told the RE that I thought I had one more try left in me if this didn’t pan out. His response was “we can talk about that.”

Huh??? What exactly does that mean?

I think that means he’s going to start talking donor eggs if this doesn’t work. Bill, the eternal optimist, thinks it means he will try to convince us that it may take a few more tries.

Ahhhh… my messy, sweet, and positive husband. I love him so. He actually told me today that he thought the transfer must have worked because I had a “glow” about me.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I have all the pregnancy hormones giving me that glow whether those embryos actually implant or not. No reason to crush his dreams unnecessarily.

Besides, bony knees and laundry aside I don’t see any reason why we can’t be pregnant this time.

We will worry about later, well… later.

 

 

 

Ultrasound Number 3- Day 9 of Stimulation

 IMG_7367

Over many years and cycles I have developed a series of informal rules for IVF in order to protect me from me. These are simply things that I do or do not do in order to remain emotionally sound and balanced as I navigate this challenging process. Last night I not only broke one of my rules, I completely anhialated it. And it was one of the most sacred rules I attempt to follow.

I cruised into Grand Rapids early enough to find a delicious organic and gluten-free friendly restaurant and had an amazing meal. After my sweet potato and quinoa burger I was anxious to get back to the hotel and take advantage of some “Mommy time.” I had big plans to blog my little heart out.

But I didn’t write a word. Not one single word.

Why?

As soon as  I opened my Macbook I lost all self control and proceeded to spend the entire evening with my old friend Dr. Google. I was frantically seeking reassurance the cramping and bleeding from Thursday night wasn’t going to delay our transfer.

As is always the case, all I found was more reason to worry.  Since it was late Friday night and I was all alone, I had no doctor to calm my fears. There was no husband to tell me to shut the computer, calm down, and go to bed. I was up past midnight, which is kind of tough for an old lady with a 6:30 AM injection and a 7:30 AM ultrasound.

And to think when I checked into the hotel I was worried the busloads of teenage girls in town for a big volleyball tournament would keep me up late.

I bet I outlasted them all.

No matter what the situation, spending too much time with Dr. Google is never a good thing. I am the first underscore the importance of educating yourself and being your own advocate in all things fertility related. It is critical to research and question your clinic’s plans, but only within reason. There is a distinct difference in learning about a process and relentlessly searching the internet in an attempt to find answers.

What I found last night was unsettling. There was a dearth of information of using cytotec prior to embryo transfer, but the data available about cervical dilation prior to embryo transfer made it very clear that the procedure should occur a month to three months in advance of the procedure. Pregnancy outcomes when a cervix is dilated too close to transfer drop to almost nil. One study had a 0% pregnancy rate for cervical dilation at embryo retrieval. Another study had a 2.5% pregnancy rate for cervical dilation two days prior to transfer.

Our transfer should happen sometime next week, a measly 5 to 7 days from taking the cytotec.

Cue major freak out and sleepless night.

Needless to say I was anxious to see the doctor today. In fact I practically accosted him when he entered the exam room. I don’t think I even said hello prior to telling him about the bleeding and hysterically citing all the studies that stole my shut eye.

Turns out, the doctor knew all about the studies. In fact he knew a lot about them that I didn’t know, like the essential fact that the cervical dilation referenced in the studies is a stretching of the cervix that happens under anesthesia and creates trauma that needs to heal prior to a successful transfer.  The cytotec that we used has a very short half life and did not actually dilate my cervix, it only softened it.

Most importantly, the ultrasound showed a uterus with the correct triple pattern measuring at 10mm. This is absolutely perfect for this stage of IVF. We could even see on the ultrasound that the bleeding I experienced had come from the cervix and that we could expect a little more over the next few days as it clears up.

Everything was perfectly normal and exactly as it should be.

I was worrying over nothing, as I seem to do when my estrogen begins to approach 2000. I always get a little bit crazy at this stage of stimulation. While being so close to retrieval is exciting, its a lot to manage when your body is processing all the hormones as well as physical distortion and discomfort from enlarged ovaries full of follicles.

Speaking of follicles, would you believe they are the exact same size as two days ago? The meds are still working, its just that my clinic measures differently than the local hospital that monitors me closer to home. According to the doctor its not uncommon to have a 2mm difference with a different machine and user which is why they have me travel the three plus hours for monitoring as we get close to time for retrieval. My largest follicle is still 17.5mm which means we have a little more time than I thought.

I have another ultrasound at the clinic Monday morning to confirm, but it looks like we are back to the original plan of triggering Monday night, retrieving the eggs on Wednesday, and transferring on Friday.

So today was another inspiring distress eliminating appointment, especially since the left ovary seems to be producing a few more follicles large enough to give us eggs.  I am not sure how many good follicles we have though, because in all the excitement and desire to resolve my cervical dilation fears I completely forgot to ask about the number of follicles and my estradiol level.

But its okay.  I don’t need to know all the details. Really, I don’t. Last night was a reminder that sometimes its good to put a little faith in your doctor and take a break from questions and data.  Besides, after tonight I am only one lonely night in a hotel room away from getting a final pre-retrieval count Monday morning.

Between now and then, I am saying farewell to Dr. Google.

 

 

Theme Song for Day One of Stimulation Meds

 

Lady Gaga R Kelly

Do What You Want- Lady Gaga and R Kelly

This is my fifth IVF cycle and I am on higher dosages of more medications than ever before.  At the peak of my cycle I will be taking 4 shots a day plus a few oral medications.  Today I injected three different medications. But I am not complaining, I was super geeked to start today. I feel awesome, full of energy, and physically well. As usual, I have a really good feeling about this time.

This has to be it.

Its impressive how resilient the human mind can be, how we can hope without abandon no matter what we have been through. Its a miracle really.

I was listening to a TED talk this week and the speaker discussed that the average human being has an emotional status quo that he returns to after highs and lows. Even after tragedy, people generally find their emotional “normal” after three months.  Three months!

Too bad for those of us trying to conceive that the average menstrual cycle is only one month. Alas, we never get to fully heal before the next month rolls around and we are back in the game.

While we may never get back to normal, at least we can hope that before that three months is up we will be pregnant and our pain will become a distant memory. And it is that hope that has me full of joy and dreaming about what could be tonight.

Three shots? No problem.

You can do what you want with my body… as long as there is a chance I might have a baby in 9 months.

(Within reason, there is very little that I would allow nasty R. Kelly to do with my body).