The End of the Internet

Totally exhausted from three days of travel for work and estrogen overload, I created something a little different for my IVF friends today. Years ago I ran across an “End of the Internet” cartoon and have often thought about it when I go on one of my IVF information binges. These binges are especially common during the two week wait when I scour the Internet to see if I can divine what will happen based on statistics, anecdotes, and real life stories. We have all been there…to the end of our sanity and near the end of the Internet itself.

Enjoy and good luck to you. May you find what you are searching for in life if not on the web.

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Our Division of Labor

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I told a great big public lie and its time to come clean. My transgression ocurred  yesterday when I posted the above photo to Facebook with the following caption:

“Thank You winter storm. After eight years of shoveling we finally broke down and bought a snowblower for Valentines’ Day. I would hate to see it go to waste after shoveling our way through the Worst. Winter. Ever.”

I hit submit and immediately felt like a great big fraud. I don’t shovel. I never have and never will. I limit my shoveling to a an 8 foot path to our hot tub and the top of the hot tub on rare occasions. The only reason I even do this minuscule amount of cold, hard, labor is that I am the only one who likes to use the hot tub which means I am sometimes responsible for its upkeep.

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All of the other shoveling? The driveway, the mailbox, the long path to our house and our neighbor’s house? Bill has toiled away for thousands of hours over the last 8 years shoveling us out from under Northern Michigan’s worst wintery white blankets. Saying “shoveling our way though” in that Facebook post was a gigantic fib from a total phony. A poser.

But as much as I have never earned a callous or blister from the handle of a shovel, we are in this together as we are in all things in life.

That is the way it is in our marriage. He shovels. I balance the check book and pay the bills. He cooks and does the dishes. I do all the laundry and straightening. He hangs pictures and puts things away in the attic. I frame the photos and organize the junk that goes into the attic. He takes care of scheduled maintenance on our vehicles. I take care of the license plates and our taxes. We have a division of labor in our house that works like a well oiled machine. We never discussed or planned it this way, we just fell into it based on our natural talents and needs of our family. The invisible hand of marriage created a near perfect process that satisfies both of us most of the time.

This division of labor started me thinking about how shoveling is for Bill like going through IVF is for me. Even though we are both impacted by this process, the heavy lifting is all on me. I take all the shots, undergo surgeries, experience side effects, schedule and attend appointments, cut all fun and taste out of my diet, organize travel plans, and resolve issues that develop. Bill is involved and concerned, but for the most part he just shows up when and where I tell him and does as I say.

Good husband.

Its not as if Bill doesn’t do anything. He does one BIG thing in that tiny little cup to contribute to the cause. He also cut way back on drinking from August until November to get his swimmers in tip top shape. During that time he remembered to take his supplements most days. Yes, I often laid them out for him and had to remind him but that’s okay. That’s what I do. Our beautiful Christmas cards would never  go out if I left it up to Bill, just like he wouldn’t remember to take supplements on his own. It is what our family unit needs to work.

Bill’s real work begins after the transfer when he morphs into the most caring man on the planet. He takes care of me while I am on bed rest for two whole days. He waits on me hand and foot and scolds me if I break the rules. While we are in our 9 day wait he becomes Spork’s primary caregiver since I am not supposed to lift more than 10 pounds. This means he changes all the dirty diapers, plays with her, feeds her, washes her, dresses her, puts her to bed, and takes her to and from daycare. He becomes a single parent of two for those nine days.

But for the most part, during the long months of preparation, its all on me.

Little problems arise every now and again from this arrangement. I haven’t ingested a smidgeon of alcohol, gluten, or caffeine since the beginning of this cycle. So when Friday night comes after a long week at work and I hear him crack open a beer jealousy envelopes me and begins to fester. When I sit for nearly two hours in the parking lot at work because the FedEx truck didn’t make it there with my Lupron before we closed, I become aggravated that I am there alone. When Bill accidentally wakes me up at 5 AM while he is getting ready for CrossFit, I am ready to wallop him because not only do I want to sleep off the effects of the meds I am taking, I also would love to be able to go to CrossFit.

I know I am not alone. This is a common issue among the fertility challenged that threatens marital bliss. And why wouldn’t it be?

Take any woman. Give her nearly all the responsibility for something of great magnitude that will equally benefit her husband. Make sure her husband needs to do almost nothing to support the process. Just for fun, throw in some hormone induced mood swings. What you have are all the ingredients needed to fuel a marital Battle Royale.

Largely, the responsibility of fixing this imbalance rests with me. I am in this alone because as a classic control freak I don’t ask enough of Bill in the process. I worked to begin to change that with our last cycle. It is not that he doesn’t want the responsibility, its that he needs to know how to help and even when he tries I often don’t let him.

I inject my medications myself and always have , even the difficult and painful intramuscular injections in my hips. We started out with good intentions of Bill doing this part, but I travel often enough for work that I had no choice but to learn to do it myself. Once I was comfortable going it alone I stopped asking him to help. Why should I wake him or distract him from what he is doing?

In our last cycle, he gave me all the shots he could. It was a way for both of us to feel like we were actively doing something. It allowed us to feel more connected to each other in our quest to make a baby. I changed other behaviors as well. When we had the little snafu with the Lupron delivery, Bill called the pharmacy for the tracking number and information to help us work through the issue and find the errant driver. In the past I would have taken care of it myself only to become annoyed with Bill later when he didn’t display enough sympathy during my post-problem rant.

This cycle, I am recognizing that while his efforts in the process are less life altering and painful, they are still there and a necessary part of our success. I am consciously asking for more from him when I have a bad day or don’t feel well. He will continue to be my own personal phlebotomist and problem resolution department.

My goal is to change my perspective and bring a little balance into the process. Perhaps by doing this we will avoid our historical estrogen fueled battle and bring about some good luck that will break our current IVF losing streak. In the end, we are in this together and I couldn’t do it without him, even if I almost could. Almost.

The truth is we needed what was in that little cup back in November to make this happen. But even more essential, I need him to grab his shovel and dig me out when infertility dumps its worst on us. He is always there with his calloused hands and his quiet strength to save us from the heavy, cold, worst of it.

Please watch for the debut of “His Perspective” tomorrow. Bill’s will publish his first blog post, yet another way he supports us in our battle with Infertility.

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Waiting- Part 1

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Image: Denise Curran via Flickr

For many, waiting is a as much a part of trying to conceive as sex. When sex is removed from the equation for the couple trying to conceive through IVF, waiting becomes the single most frequent conception act. Waiting, just like its more provocative cousin, can come in many flavors and is done throughout the IVF odyssey.

The big waits are obvious. The most mammoth is the wait between the time the embryo is transferred and the results of the Beta HCG pregnancy test. In our case, this wait spans nine intolerably long days. Time moves very slowly over the course of what is commonly called the two week wait. I’ve often heard women say it would be just fine to be unconscious during this time and awoken only after the results are received.

March 13th is the date of our transfer which means on March 22nd we will have the eagerly anticipated results. The date is circled on the calendar. The hope and anxiety are already building.

The torture of the two week wait is followed in magnitude only by the wait a couple experiences between the egg retrieval and the final fertilization report. Money, hope, health, and mental well being are all riding on discovering whether the eggs fertilize and grow to a stage and quality acceptable to transfer and make a baby. Being sadistic people by nature, we chose to extend this period at our new clinic by throwing a little genetic testing into the mix. The time it took from retrieval to receiving the call that we had genetically normal embryos to transfer extended over 3 weeks.

Waiting for the genetic results is further broken down into waits that are much smaller. We experienced almost immediate gratification after retrieval and waited only two hours to learn that 22 eggs were retrieved successfully. The clinic then called 24 hours later to tell us that 12 of those eggs were mature and 11 fertilized. These were minuscule intervals in comparison to what came next. For the next six days we patiently but eagerly waited to be told that 5 of those embryos made it to the blastocyst stage and were good enough quality to be genetically tested. Next we waited two and a half weeks to learn we had two genetically normal embryos and two that needed to be retested, therefore requiring yet another two week wait. Our embryos were on my mind every spare moment during this time. Ultimately we ended up with three genetically normal embryos. Our last is the one we will transfer in March.

The longest wait of all was this summer and fall while we waited to work through a long process at our clinic that would culminate in our embryo transfer just last month. We first called in June and were able to meet with our new doctor in July. This was followed by another month long wait to get on the calendar to visit the clinic for our work-up to make sure we had a green light to begin our cycle. By November my ovaries were finally percolating and we flew back to our clinic again for egg retrieval surgery. After retrieval the wait was another two months as we completed testing on the embryos. In the months preceding retrieval we used the time to get our eggs and sperm ready to do their life’s work. We each took different supplements, limited alcohol, exercised moderately and ate healthy. At my peak I was taking 19 different supplements a day and Bill took 11. At least it helped us pass the time.

Tiny little waiting periods pepper the whole IVF process. Since our failed cycle back in January I have waited three days to get my period, three more days to start birth control, another 13 days to start lupron, and five more days to once again stop the pill. Each step takes us a little bit closer to our fate, whatever it may be. Though small in terms of actual time, these steps feel gigantic. When they come early, it can be unequivocally thrilling. And that is what happened today.

If you read a Deeply Disturbing Fascination with Toilet Paper you know a little bit about the waiting for that happens for a woman who is getting ready to start a frozen embryo transfer or other cycle. Since Saturday I have been a devoted student of TP. Today I hit pay dirt and was able to call my clinic to check off a critical step that will take us to transfer. Two days from now I will begin estrogen patches that will prime my uterine lining. I continue administering lupron daily but cut the dosage which should help with the headaches and other symptoms. Sadly the bitchiness caused by lupron will only be replaced by the emotionality of estrogen. The end result for me is about the same. Say a little prayer for Bill who catches the worst of the mood swings.

My call to the clinic today was a full day earlier than we all expected. However, no changes will be made to the transfer date. The lupron I am injecting keeps my reproductive system suppressed and on schedule. The extra day may only serve to give my lining just a tad bit of extra thickness to welcome our embryo home. A nice, thick, cozy lining should help that embryo want to stay for the long haul. With a little luck we will then be waiting for doubling HCG levels, morning sickness to pass, a myriad of ultrasounds, and ultimately a scheduled C-section date.

Even though meeting today’s milestone early will have no impact on when we actually get pregnant, it is a rare event to have something, anything come early.  I’ll take it.