Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Art of Optimism

In middle school I was part of the Forensics team. No, not studying crime scenes. I wish. It was basically a public speaking team. Yours truly was never much of an athlete but boy can I enunciate! That's right, we competed on how well we could recite or read speeches, stories, etc.

One of the speeches I memorized and then recited (all 1,000+ words of it) was entitled "The Art of Optimism". At the age of 12, I probably chose that speech from the pile of options because it was the shortest, certainly not because it was interesting. It wasn't. Ironically, despite committing it to memory, presenting it and winning a trophy at an early age none of it stuck. I've grown up to be a pessimist.

I prepare for doomsday. I live in a world of "just in case". At home I stockpile food in the event of an earthquake; at work I always explore the worst case scenario and how someone might find a way to sue us; I bring an umbrella with me on every trip, just in case; on the plane, I carry several meals--what if the plane is delayed and I miss dinner!

I like to be prepared. I hate surprises.

Sometimes this over-preparedness is a positive quality--and maternal, in my mind. However, most of the time it prevents me from living in the moment. I am always worried about the what-ifs and therefore spontaneity is hard to come by. It also means that I'm always thinking about negative things--those worst case scenarios. Wow, don't I sound fun!

This personality trait has certainly reared it's stubborn head during my struggles with infertility. Each month I fear the end of the two week wait (2WW). Most women can hardly wait to pee on that little stick. Not me. I dread it. I know what the stick is going to say. It's always said the same thing. I prepare myself emotionally and get the sadness out of the way a few days before I'm due to test. It doesn't mean I'm not devasted when I do finally pee on the stick and see the answer. It means it's not really a surprise. It means I fully expected it to be negative. The only surprise would be if it were positive. For someone who hates surprises, that's the best surprise I could ever get. Other than when Max proposed in Paris years ago...that was by far the best surprise of my life.

This 2WW is especially excrutiating because it's my first IVF cycle. I have no symptoms that indicate the remote chance of a good surprise next week. This cycle was it! We brought in the big guns. It's high stakes.

I know I need to try to stay positive for Thing 1 and Thing 2 so they will be happy in my belly and unstressed. However, I also need to get ready for next week's bad news. If I lead myself to think there's a good chance I'll be pregnant, I'll be even more crushed. Somehow spacing it out over time makes it seem less painful.

One way of coping is by having the next thing lined up. When a vacation is about to end, thinking about the next one that is planned months away keeps me positive so I can enjoy those last days. Similarly, before each cycle ends I need to know what our plan is for the next one. Knowing there's a plan, knowing we're prepared is comforting because it means we can avoid wasting time. I'm learning that fertility doctors like all doctors (Max included) like their patients to think about things one day at a time. Let's not rush to conclusions. Let's not jump to Plan B until we know it's necessary.

For me, it's a coping strategy. I'm already looking at the calendar to see when I may be able to start my next IVF cycle (October?), if there is to be one.

Let me give something new a try:

I will be pregnant on Tuesday when I have my beta. I am pregnant now. And, when this little baby is born I will be forced to live in the moment. Despite my efforts, I won't be able to plan everything. I will be late to appointments due to unexpected events like an over-sleeping baby; I will sometimes forget to pack goldfish when we go to the park; I will forget a change of clothes and baby will have to wear a dirty shirt. And, everything will be perfect.

Fingers crossed that this pessimist will be reformed once and for all...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall...

...which is the fairest embryo of them all?

How fitting that as my embryologist was judging my embryos post retrieval, Miss Universe was being crowned this weekend.

There were a few standouts in the beauty category and some of my embryos did better in the talent competition than others. A few divided to eight cells by day three but, most did not.

On Tuesday two of my prettiest and most talented were crowned with the ultimate honor of embryo transfer. I affectionately refer to them as Thing 1 & Thing 2.

Here's hoping that just like Miss Mexico, Thing 1 & Thing 2 fulfill their duties as beauty queens. Miss Mexico will proudly wear her sash as she "helps people" and my embryos will implant nicely in my womb.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

If You Build It, They Will Come

My field of dreams is my backyard. Last summer we bought a pretty little house a few minutes away from Stanford University. The perfect first house--a short bike ride commute for Max, a beautiful yard for children to play in, a grove of Redwoods to shade us from the warm California summer, and most importantly potential to expand as our family would. We knew (hoped) we'd outgrow it quickly so we decided to expand our three bedroom house by building a guest house in the backyard. A casita for my parents when they visit from New York, an office for Max to escape to when the kids and I won't let him do his work, or maybe even a house for a future Spanish speaking au pair.

Construction started the same week that my stimulating hormones began. How appropriate! Remember how I love signs? Building a house, building a baby...makes sense to me.

Our house currently has plenty of room for a baby (or two) but maybe this is what we needed for "them" to come. I am praying that "they" do come this cycle--maybe one, maybe two of the little embryos that we implanted this morning.

P.S. I bet Max will be very impressed by my "baseball movie" reference.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Superstitious? Me?

Yes. Very. I won't fly on Friday the 13th. I refuse to walk under scaffolding due to it's resemblance to a ladder. I blame my unexplained infertilty on having chosen children's names years ago. I spend my days reading signs, over-analyzing possible meanings and how to prevent doom.

So, you can only imagine my disappointment upon hearing today's news report about a major egg recall. What??? Bad eggs?? Please tell me this is a joke.

My 11 beautiful (we hope) eggs are warming and growing under lights as we speak. Please don't let this be a sign.

No worries, the news report didn't rattle me completely. After the initial disbelief, I went back to feeling optimistic and light as a feather.

Literally, light as a feather. Relatively speaking. After months of feeling bloated and puffy, I had a skinny day. That alone is reason to celebrate.

Here's praying my eggs don't get recalled tomorrow morning during my fertilty report.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dozen Minus One

Yesterday's egg retrieval went much better than I imagined. When I woke up I feared the day would never end.

Keeping our sense of humor even in the most stressful of situations we joked that it was a good thing we were the only retrieval of the day so there wouldn't be opportunity for a mix up.

As expected the worst part for me was the IV. No, I still haven't gotten used to being picked and prodded. After some whimpering I let the nurse do her job. I was ready for the meds!

My husband, Max, was with me until it was time to do the procedure. He knows (and most importantly, likes) the anesthesiologist that was assigned. That comforted me greatly. It was probably a bit awkward for Max since he operates with him often and Max (like me) has kept this journey a secret at work. For the first time I felt the benefit of switching to an RE department at his own hospital. I suddenly became calmer...or was that the drugs?

The last thing I remember before going under was the burning in my arms from the propofol. The first thing I said when I woke up was "Did I snore?" I repeated that several times. For some reason I was really concerned that maybe I had. Interestingly enough, I'm not a snorer--just s sleeptalker.

A dozen eggs were retrieved. A dozen!!! Eight wasn't enough--my ovaries decided to sprout a few more. We did a 50/50 split ICSI and natural.

Early this morning we were awakened by a nurse calling with our preliminary fertilization report. Eleven eggs were fertilized! One of the ICSI eggs didn't make it. We were very happy with that yield. Hopefully they will survive the next few days.

I know the journey is far from over but I got good news today. That good news had me giddy all day. For the first time in two years of being labeled infertile for unknown reasons, I feel like I got answers, or the beginnings of answers. I do have eggs! Now the next question that will be answered once and for all.....ARE THEY ROTTEN??? The quest continues....

Thursday, August 19, 2010

All Systems Go...

Transfer is scheduled for Saturday! I dreaded the transfer from the day I heard what it entails.

Strangely enough, just getting the opportunity to have an egg retrieval feels like a success. It's been two weeks of ups and downs--fewer follicles than expected, low levels of estradiol, slow growing follicles, finding an additional two little follicles, having good lining. The possibility of haivng the cycle canceled was devastating after so much waiting, after so many injections.

After 6 ultra-sounds, 13 days of stimulating hormones, 41 injections, 3 blood tests...I'm ready!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Can You Keep a Secret?

Apparently I can and have been for two years.

When I started this infertilty journey I learned that I could keep my mouth shut and come up with very convincing excuses for just about anything.

In general, I don't like secrets. I don't want to know that so and so is proposing next week or that someone is getting a divorce. I rather be in the dark--not because I don't want to share in the joys or be supportive during the sorrows. Sometimes it's too much responsibility to be in the know. Will I accidentally leak something? Will I not act surprised enough when the news is public?

For the first time I have a big secret. I haven't been able to get pregnant in two years of trying. I have a bloated belly covered in injection marks and bruises from the meds. I am not always as happy as I appear. I'm jealous of the girl at work having twins. There, I said it!

Hopefully, I'll have a happy secret to share very soon.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No good very bad day

It started out okay...I was excited for my first u/s after having started my injections to see the progress. The eight follies are still there but not responding as we'd hoped. Sounds like they haven't grown much at all since last Thursday. My doctor wasn't available today so I had one of the others from the clinic doing my u/s. I felt super rushed and she didn't do much explaining--just said I need to get blood work to determine next steps and someone would call me this afternoon.

I went down to the lab and the day just got worse. The lab technician was the worst ever! I warned her that I'm very squeamish because I've been known to faint or turn green. She pricked me a bunch of times, said the vein was collapsing, threatened to have to do a second draw and left a huge bruise on my arm.

I'm hoping we don't have to cancel this cycle. Next u/s is Friday morning.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Eight Is Enough?

Yesterday I had my first u/s of this cycle and learned that I have 8 follicles--4 on each side. This number sounded low to me given what I've heard from other people that have done IVF. My doctor was also surprised based on my age. At 32 she would have expected closer to double that number. In general, eight of anything sounds like a lot to me--my husband is one of eight kids which sounds like a ton of work for his dear mother, eight day vacation seems long enough, eight cups of water in a day is a lot to consume for me, etc. But, yesterday eight sounded really measly. I had it in my head that she'd find twenty plus follicles since I've responded well to medicine in the past and my FSH levels are good. She said that eight is not a poor number but is on the lower side. There's a small chance that there are itty bitty follicles hiding from the u/s wand but I'm not holding my breath.

Yes, it does only take one but given the odds are stacked against me I need as many rolls of the dice as I can get. Plus, I'd really like to freeze some little follies for future use to avoid having to do more than one retrieval.

Eight will have to be enough. My body has decided that's all it wants to give me this cycle. Maybe they will all be all-stars. For now since there's not much I can do I will try to stay positive and pray they all do well over the next 10 days of stimulation and through the fertilization process.

I start the dreaded three injections tonight. I'm learning that I am much stronger than I thought I was but I still wail like a baby each time. I'm sure my neighbors are wondering what is going on every night at 10pm...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Do I Get A Lollipop If I Behave?

I hear some doctors reward their pint-sized patients with sweets. I don't remember getting lollipops or treats when visiting my doctor as a child--maybe just a toothbrush from the dentist. I certainly don't get now.

These days I get instructional videos on administering injections, sperm collection containers and the occasional consent form to sign. Interestingly enough, I look forward to my RE appointments despite the crappy giveaways. For some odd reason seeing what is going on inside my uterus is comforting and exciting. Maybe it's because it gives me a sense of control in what is a seemingly out of control situation.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Facebook, I Love/Hate You.

I admit, I'm a Facebook addict. I change my status only a few times a week but am on Facebook several times a day reading what other people are doing/thinking, seeing vacation photos and keeping in touch with long lost childhood friends. It keeps me entertained and connected.

While in Spain a few weeks ago we found a wallet in the street belonging to Molly, an 18 year old girl from South Carolina. Within minutes I was contacting her and her parents via Facebook letting them know we had her wallet and she could come pick it up at our hotel. I had never met this girl before but I knew her name and knew that she probably had a Facebook profile. Luckily, her parents are hip enough to have profiles too and I was able to reach out to them too. Facebook told me where her dad works and I left him a voicemail at his office. All within literally minutes. Molly had her wallet back within an hour or so.

Privacy concerns aside, the immediate sharing of information and ability to reconnect with old friends is awesome. However, at times Facebook makes infertility that much more difficult. It feels like every week, one friend or another is announcing pregnancy news. New belly photos are posted weekly. Updates on doctors visits are given. Baby name ideas are shared. And then the baby comes...baby's first day home, first trip outside, the list goes on. For the average person these bits of news are sweet and joyous. For someone that can't get pregnant despite many tries, this news is bittersweet--excitement for my friend, hope that I may be next, jealousy that it's not me...yet.

Unlike my pregnant friends, I can't really share news from my doctor appointments as a status update on Facebook. Well I suppose I could, but: "I had three good size follicles on the left side but my uterine lining looks a bit thin" doesn't have the same ring to it as: "I'm having a baby boy!". Plus, who wants to read depressing things on people's status updates? I'm sad to hear when someone's loved one is sick or dies and am eager to reach out to comfort them. But, infertility still seems "silent". It's not something I share with my 300+ "friends" on Facebook. Only a handful of my close friends know about our struggles. My willingness to share early on led friends to open up and I soon found that several of my friends were having trouble conceiving too. I wasn't the only one. It has been helpful to find support among friends. We keep each other positive and encouraged. Still of those friends, only one knows I'm trying IVF. I haven't even shared the details of our attempts with my parents or sister. They know we are trying and that's enough for now. There are times that I want to share more with my friends and family but I'm not ready yet. Unfortunately, you can't tell someone something and then hope they forget it when you decide you want it to be a secret again.

I applaud those that can share openly about their experiences with their loved ones and the world. It reminds me I'm not broken and that this condition is much more common than we all think. I religiously watched Giuliana & Bill (the reality show) each week because I could relate to their struggles. I even convinced my husband to watch with me. I remember watching Giuliana getting her HSG and thinking, "Hey, that's what I had last week!" Her openness to discuss her hardships in conceiving propelled her to the top of my favorite celebrities list. She has helped make this journey less scary for me. I don't know if she's conceived yet but I wish her all the best. Maybe she'll be the pregnant celebrity that I share a due date with!

If I had a reality show (and my husband and I often joke about it because we think our lives are hilarious) maybe I would use it to help infertilty become less taboo. But, until Hollywood calls I'll keep writing this blog and sharing anonymously. Maybe one day I'll go as far as sending this link to family and friends. I'm not ready just yet.

I doubt I'll ever open up about infertility on Facebook for the world to see. But hopefully I'll have a happy status update sometime soon that goes beyond what delicious meal my husband made for me or what awesome pants I bought at Lululemon!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Why this beef with eggs?

They've been a sworn enemy all my life. I refused to eat them as a child. I refuse to eat them still today. The consistency, the smell, the science...it all turns me off.

I remember the stink of eggs for months in my dad's car after it got egged on Halloween when I was five years old; refusing to eat my mother's Spanish omlette or cheese souffle because of the oozy egginess; and of course waiting until I was in my late twenties to crack an egg for the first time because I found no value to adding it to a recipe. I must have been desperate to make a cake...

My hatred of eggs continues. Only this time, it's my own eggs that I fear are rotten. Is that why we haven't been able to have a baby during our two years of trying? We've ruled out other possibilities and other than a luteal defect, we're both in good reproductive shape. We'll learn more as we go through our first cycle of IVF in the next few weeks.

I decided to start this blog because keeping my feelings and perpectives in a journal seemed drab. Yet, I feel the need to express myself during this very difficult time. I have found other people's blogs about infertility to be very helpful--especially when it comes to realizing that I'm not alone. I was warned about reading too much on the internet regarding the topic but I can't help myself. I'm in front of a computer all day at work and it's too tempting. Plus, what I've learned has helped me feel more in control of this situation where science is in the driver seat, not me.

As much as I hate eggs I'm learning I hate needles even more. I've always been afraid of them and panicked everytime I had a simple blood test or shot as a child. My fear has grown with age and in this case, practice hasn't made perfect. Each night my husband administers all of my injections. He's not only a very patient man when it comes to dealing with my nervous squeels, he's very talented and quick. He's a surgeon and has clearly had much practice. Good thing we're not both squeamish, I'd be doomed.

I've been on Lupron for a week and will start Menapur and Follistim on Friday. The idea of three daily injections is enough for me to want to vomit but I'm trying to take it a day at a time. I learned a technique during my last round of injectibles (with IUI). If I scream during and shortly after the injection I can tolerate the pain better. Again, good thing I have a supportive husband.

I know that this is all for a good cause...I'm trying to stay hopeful that this will be the time it works!