PLEASE NOTE: If you are struggling with infertility or are currently trying to conceive and you DON'T want to read about my pregnancy (which I totally understand), I recommend starting at the beginning of the blog (March 2010) and reading from there. I find out I'm pregnant in June 2011 so there is a lot of trying to conceive posts in between that you might find funny, helpful or relatable. Wishing you all the luck in the world!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Bikini Waxing: The IVF Special

Whenever I’m about to do any fertility related activity such as an insemination or an in vitro, I always make an extensive to do list. This list usually entails doing things around the apartment (changing the sheets, cleaning the bathroom, etc.) that will make bed rest easier or more comfortable. I also make a movie list or get a new book or even schedule some phone calls with fun people who will keep me laughing while I rest on the couch and hope for some embryos to implant. Really – anything that will keep my mind at ease or ways to make whatever process I’m subjecting myself to more comfortable.

As you may remember from my last IVF (http://the2weekwait.blogspot.com/2010/04/bikini-wax-bruises.html), one of the biggest things on my ‘to do’ list is to get a bikini wax. This is always at the top of the list. I’m a firm believer in when you have company, you should clean up. I’m also sensitive to the fact that unlike with inseminations, you’re knocked out for IVF’s. I have this fear that once you’re unconscious, they all discuss your grooming habits. I realize this is totally insane, but here is what I imagine:
The anesthesiologist would say to me, “Ok Jay, count back from ten. That’s good.” He’d then turn to all the other doctors and say, “I think she’s out everyone.”
The Reproductive Endocrinologist would then say to embryologist and nurses, “Let’s get started. Wow! I guess it’s obvious she’s Italian, huh?"

To which a nurse would respond with, “Jeez, does anyone have some hedge clippers???”
I would hope that the doctors in the room have more important things to discuss but let’s face it, when you’re having your eggs retrieved, your vagina has the starring role. Literally – the curtain comes up and a spotlight is shined directly on it. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for IVF 2 – The Sequel! Starring… Jay’s Vagina!

Although the results of bikini waxing are always lovely, the whole ordeal is a cruel joke on women who want to be… well… tidy. They are painful, you never get used to them and they are always embarrassing on one level or another. This reminds me of a story a friend of mine shared with regards to getting waxed. She went into a salon and the sign said ‘BIKINI WAXING… $15 - $25’. My friend asked the lady at the salon why the range and the lady explained that the price reflected how much waxing was necessary. So, they went into the back room and my friend took her pants off and got on the table. The woman looked at her and said, “Oh my god! Definitely $25 at least... and cancel my next appointment!

Today, I’m on treatment day four and I figured I’d better just get this over with and get waxed. I have been dreading this more than I’ve been dreading getting the hormone injections in my stomach but it’s worth it. What I didn’t expect was that my ovaries already feel a bit swollen so having some woman pour hot wax on me and pull the skin tight was a whole new level of suckage. Again though, it’s worth it. I won’t have my p*ssy embarrassing me in the operating room.

Making matters worse, the woman who did the waxing today continued talking on her cell phone while ripping the hair out of my body. Part of me was impressed at her ability to multi-task but part of me couldn't help but be insulted that my hoo-hah wasn’t as riveting as the conversation she was having with her sister-in-law.

To regain her interest, I casually said that I was cleaning up because I’d be having surgery soon. This got her attention long enough to ask her sister-in-law to hold on a minute. She asked, “What kind of surgery?

I explained it was for IVF and a lot of people would be seeing the area. Suddenly, waxing my bush became a commentary on her skill as an artist. She hung up the phone, put her glasses on and studied the area as if she was intending on making the hair into a specific shape.

She threw herself into the task like Edward Scissorhands working on one of his many masterpieces. When she took out the tweezers, I said, “Ummm, listen. It just needs to be cleaned up. No one is going to be studying it with a magnify glass.” Still though, she persisted in her precision. Ten minutes later, she was done and had a proud smile on her face. I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if she even signed her name somewhere on my thigh directly under her work. She quickly picked up her cell phone and for one second, I seriously thought she was going to snap a picture and send it to her sister-in-law with a note, “Check this out!” but luckily, she was just picking up their conversation where it previously had left off.

Clearly, this woman could appreciate my fear of going into an egg retrieval with an unkempt area. Now, whenever the retrieval happens, I can envision this conversation with total confidence:

The anesthesiologist would say to me, “Ok Jay, count back from ten. That’s good.” He’d then turn to all the other doctors and say, “I think she’s out everyone.”

The Reproductive Endocrinologist would then say to embryologist and nurses, “Let’s get started. Wow! Check this out! It reminds me of my Chihuahua! So smooth and clean!

To which a nurse would respond with, “I've never seen something so precise. Bring the interns in here, they need to see this!"
Well, at least this is what I imagine…

Saturday, January 29, 2011

InVitro 2 - Electric Boogaloo

One of the many lessons I didn’t want to learn about having fertility issues is special moments are rarely like you imagine them to be. I pictured how we would conceive (wine, flowers, Sade music playing in the background and no cellulite whatsoever). I imagined telling my husband in a clever, adorable, surprising way that we were expecting and he’d be shocked as we were hardly trying. I envisioned talking to my parents about the impending birth of my child but instead, in reality, I’ve spent the last two years explaining to my mom that frozen embryos don’t need mittens. Nothing has turned out as I’ve expected it… especially not the cellulite part.

So it should have been no surprise that after many weeks of filling out paperwork, getting tests done, attending seminars, talking it over with my husband and therapist, meeting the incredibly specific requirements and keeping to a strict diet to meet the necessary BMI (I had ONE cookie on Christmas people! One!), I found out that I was finally accepted into an IVF Clinical Trial when a nurse happened to speed walk by me. She didn’t even stop. It was like a hit and run acceptance.

I was sitting in the waiting room reading an article on how to get rid of cellulite (I think there’s one in every issue of women’s magazines) when a saw the head nurse like a blur practically run past me. “Looks like you’re in. I need to randomize you and I’ll be back…” And she was gone.

Mind you - I’m not really complaining about this. As long as she was telling me I was accepted, she could have driven past me on a bike and just threw a note that said, “Free IVF. Meet me in lab room!” Still, I couldn’t help but laugh at how anticlimactic it was.

If I haven’t explained it before, and I don’t think I have, the clinical trial entails trying out a different kind of hormone shot similar to Gonal-F and Follistim. The difference is that this new stim wouldn’t be given every day. It would only be given every few days in the hopes that it would help you produce as many eggs as you would if you did the shot on a daily basis. Neither the patients nor the nurses involved in the trial know if you’re getting either the new drug or the old drug so, in effect, it’s like playing a form of Russian roulette… but with hormone shots.

The good news is that no matter which group you’re in, the test group or the boring old drug group, you still produce eggs so it won’t be a wasted cycle. The annoying news is no matter which group you’re in, you still have to do the shot every day. However, those in the test group will be unaware that they are actually shooting themselves with sugar water every other day. It’s a bit odd but what can you do. Even the nurse said to me yesterday, “This is very weird for me as I don’t know what I’m handing you but I’m telling you to inject yourself with it.”

My way of looking at it is like that board game, MYSTERY DATE, from the 1960’s: “Open the door to your mystery drug!” (See actual vintage commercial here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfcBl_Eps_c) Fun, right?

So, this is what the nurse meant when she said she had to "randomize" me. She had to put me in one of the two fun filled exciting groups. I texted my husband the news and in his typically silly style, he texted back, “You’re getting randomized? You’re a fish! No, you’re a dog! Now, you’re a balloon! No, wait! You’re a river!” And this is the man who I’m trusting to give me shots (or sugar water) on a daily basis. Oy.

As crazy as this all may sound, the trial means that you get a free IVF. Maybe you don’t know this about me but I like free. Someone could ask me if I wanted a free prostate exam and I’d say yes. In this case, a free IVF is particularly a HUGE gift. Our insurance company has broken up with us (at least where fertility is concerned) and after two years, three inseminations and one IVF, we’re still not pregnant. So Mr. Clinical Trial -- shoot me with whatever you want… as long as you throw in assisted hatching, an embryo transfer and a quality sperm cleaning with all the trimmings! Heck, I’ll also take some free alcohol wipes and one of those fashionable hospital gowns!

Despite my free giddiness, I know it’s going to be tough. For the next couple of weeks, my body will not be my own. I can’t take anything without talking to them. Not my migraine medication, not vitamin D, nothing. Zip. I also have to get my blood taken and have a sonogram done pretty much every day. I’m not going to be visiting the clinic. I’m going to be dating them.

All in all though, I’m ready. I don’t feel super-duper over the top optimistic nor do I feel even the slightest bit pessimistic. This is an amazing opportunity for a couple who sincerely needs some fertility and financial assistance. I’m looking at it like if it works, it’ll be an incredible, wonderful blessing. If it doesn’t work, but we have some embryos we can freeze, that still is a great outcome and if it totally doesn’t work in any shape or form, at least we tried and it didn’t hurt us too much financially (we have to cover some of the costs but the majority of the expenses will be covered by the trial). Any which way, we’re continuing to put money aside in a savings account just in case we have to do this again. The main thing is we have options and options make all this less scary.

So get ready gang because I’m sure I’m going to be blogging more frequently. I hope no one gets sick of me! I also hope I haven’t used up all my fertility jokes on the other entries... as if that's even possible! Two eggs walk into a bar...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Reason Is: There Isn’t One

One of the many things I’ve learned from writing this blog is that it’s always been better for me to write what I’m feeling. Anytime I’ve ever written what I think people want to read about or what I think people want to hear, it just never works. It’s never as funny, honest, raw or even relatable. It’s when I say exactly what I’m thinking and feeling that readers seem to connect in some way. Even if they disagree, they know it rings more genuine than if I were blowing smoke up their fertility challenged ass.

In short, every TV series needs a "Very Special" episode; one that is not only funny, but that touches on a 'very special' subject in a way that only The Fonz from HAPPY DAYS could touch. This entry is my 'Very Special Episode'.

I mention this because I want to make clear that what I’m about to write about today is true for me and I know it won’t be for everyone. This is MORE than ok. If you disagree with me or anything I say in this entry, I totally respect that as ultimately, when it comes to coping with infertility, I’m all about whatever gets you through the day. Some people turn to therapy, others turn to Ben & Jerry’s. Some believe in God, others believe in snake handling. The point is that if you’ve found something that brings you comfort and it doesn’t hurt others, I support you one hundred percent.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how so many people believe that everything happens for a reason. How many times have we all heard that? ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ The more people say it, especially in response to some devastating tragedies; I can’t help but wonder who’s deciding these reasons and are they right?

I know so many people who have had miscarriages and one person or another have said to them, “It wasn’t meant to be” or “I’m sure there was a good reason this happened”. What’s even worse is some even go a step further and try to surmise the actual reason.

“Maybe you were meant to do something else right now.”

“Maybe this baby would have been a pain in the ass.”

“Maybe it just wasn’t the right time.”

I’m stunned at how people think this is at all helpful. I’m even more stunned that people who have never suffered from infertility or miscarriages could be so bold as to attempt to explain this kind of loss to someone. I know they are trying to be comforting and that they are coming from a good place but I just don’t get it. It would be like me telling someone who lost their legs in an accident, “I’m sure there’s a reason. You may have tried to tap dance at a party and been terrible at it. Losing your legs saved you the embarrassment.” Then I’d smile and skip away.

Even though I’ve never had a miscarriage, I’ve gotten my share of similar comments. The one I’ve heard the most is, “If you haven’t gotten pregnant yet, there must be a reason.” I think some people find this a quick and easy way to either dismiss you or the problem. I feel like they are saying, “There must be a reason, so don’t worry about it and let’s talk about something else that doesn’t make me uncomfortable, shall we?” Again, I know they mean well and I always nod my head and move on with the conversation but for me, trying to figure out this imaginary reason I’m having fertility issues always makes me more upset. Any time I’ve sat down and tried to figure out the possible reason we’ve lost thousands of dollars, why I’ve been somewhat physically tortured for almost two years and why we remain childless despite our very best efforts, I tend to get overly self-critical. I come up with everything and anything I could have possibly done wrong.

Am I bad a tipper at restaurants?

I failed Chemistry in 8th grade. That must be it.

Is it because I think my friend’s baby is ugly?

Would I make a bad mother?

I must be because I was nasty to that guy on my subway.

Perhaps it’s because it rained on my wedding day…

Maybe it’s that I don’t want it enough.

When I get like this, I think of the countless stories we all know of people who shouldn’t have had children; parents who abuse their children, or even kill their babies. Does that mean there was a reason those people should be a parent and I shouldn’t? No. What possible reason could there be for any of that? The only way to make sense of it is to accept that it makes no sense.

What also doesn’t make sense is the stories I’ve heard of fertility efforts gone incredibly wrong. In the past two years, I’ve heard three separate accounts where there was a woman who got pregnant through IVF or IUI after years of trying, spent all that money and went through all the heartache that it entails. One doctor or another thought there was some sort of issue and terminated the pregnancy. In each of these cases, it turned out that the doctors misdiagnosed the situation and the pregnancy was in fact viable but now, due to this unfortunate mistake, it was too late. The pregnancy was over and the woman was left devastated. Under circumstances like that, I can’t imagine telling any of those women, “There’s a reason that happened.” To try to apply any kind of logic is… well… illogical.

For me personally, I find it more comforting to accept that this is not the universes personal attack against me or anyone else. There is no reason to any of this other than life can be difficult and bad things sometimes happen to good people. I’m not saying there is no order to the universe. I barely can figure out how to use my cell phone so I certainly can’t comment with certainty on fate or destiny. However, even if there is some master plan, that doesn’t mean that absolutely everything that happens in this world was meant to happen.

Whenever I freak out or get upset or think “Why did she get pregnant and not me?”, I remind myself that I’ll never know. No one knows for that matter. Not Oprah, not the Dalai Lama, not the best psychic in the world and not even my mother (who genuinely seems to have all the answers). It’s just the way it is. I can’t control what’s happened or what is happening now. I can only control how I choose to deal with it. My method is therapy, watching movies (as well as RuPaul’s Drag Race), talking with friends, spending time with my husband and buying myself something nice on occasion. I’ve just got to keep moving and stop trying to figure things out… well… except for my cell phone. I’ve GOT to figure that one out eventually.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Getting My Big Girl Panties Out of the Dryer

My friend Aimee is one of the most laid back people I know. Although she doesn’t smoke pot, she always seems like she’s on pot, which may not be a bad way to be. I was catching up with her recently and she was telling me about how her car was stolen. What amazed me was she said it as if she was casually telling me about a dentist appointment. She said, “Yeah..." while flipping her hair over her shoulder, "So the car’s gone. It’s a drag but what can you do. Wanna grab lunch?”

Let me just point out that if MY car were stolen, you'd hear about me on the news. I'd be freaking out and telling anyone and everyone who’d listen. I’d lament for hours about how much money it was going to cost me, how I don't even know what kind of car to buy and I’d have a dramatic, emotional monologue memorized about how the universe hates me. The phrase, “It’s a drag but what can you do” would never be included anywhere in this monologue.

That being said, I really do marvel and admire her attitude and I think I need to start using the word “drag” more in my vocabulary. The word “drag” (other than when it’s used in a RuPaul context) seems to imply that it’s a bummer but it’s not the end of the world. There’s also something momentary about the word “drag”. If something is a drag, it seems like it’ll only last for a day and not for an eternity. No one will ever say "Eternity is a drag."

Last Friday, I met with the clinic to discuss participation in the clinical trial. We're still not officially in but we had to go over the details in order to see if we qualify. My husband and I sat in a room that looked like a law library and read long, boring intricate documents about what the trial entails; the rules, requirements and procedures. As my husband and I initialed each page to confirm we not only read it but that we stayed awake while reading it, I started to get depressed. I turned to Sam and said, “This is so sad. Some people just have sex. We have to sit here and go through paperwork about risks, injections and follicles.”

He said, “Just remember – if we weren’t doing this trial, we’d be doing all of this anyway, but it would be costing us thousands of dollars.”. It was a very good point.

The paperwork for the trial read like a fertility-like board game:
  • You must have three decent sized follicles by day eight or you’re out of the trial.
  • You can’t have more than thirty follicles by day eight or you’re out of the trial.
  • You must not take any medication other than what we give you, or you’re out of the trial.
  • If you can’t come to our office 10 – 26 times during the trial, you’re out of the trial.
  • If you show any signs of enjoying the trial, then you’re out of the trial.
Some of these things, I can control but some of it, I can’t. If I had it my way, I’d control pretty much everything in the world but obviously, that’s not going to happen. Not unless I get that magic wand I’ve been wanting since I was five years old. Where do they sell that wand anyway????

Even though the whole paperwork experience was… well… a drag, I did enjoy the woman who went over everything with us. She happens to have the same name as a famous actress but obviously, I don’t want to use her real name here. For the sake of this blog though, we’ll call her Drew Barrymore. Who doesn't love Drew Barrymore?

Drew Barrymore explained what drug we’d be trying (if we get in), how it works, that it’s already legal in Europe (I feel like I’m actually trendy for once in my life) and that whether we’re in the regular group or the test group, any of the injections WILL work... so it won’t be a wasted cycle.

I've lost the two pounds required to be in the trial but being that two pounds still is a little too close for comfort, I’m desperately trying to lose four more pounds. My official weigh in date will be the same day I have to give blood: Cycle Day 2 of my next period. After that, we should get the final word on whether or not we're accepted. It sucks that they are going to weigh me when I’m my most bloated but it is what it is. I am warning everyone in the room though that if I get naked to weigh as little as possible, they should not A) be surprised or B) take any photos.

They did some preliminary blood work on me and we set up an orientation class for the 18th. Sam was also asked to come in to give a sperm analysis. This led to a slightly awkward conversation. Drew Barrymore was holding her clipboard when she said to him, “If you’re coming in for the class on the 18th, you can do the sperm analysis then! That'll work out nicely!

Sam looked at her for a minute. You could tell he was trying to figure out how to phrase what he wanted to say. He cleared his throat and said, “Um, well, actually… it’s my birthday the weekend before and we’re going away and um… well… I want to enjoy myself.”

Drew Barrymore stared blankly like he was an abstract painting.

Sam repeated his statement as if he was talking to someone who was either deaf or who didn't speak English, “You knooooow. ENJOY. MYSELF.”

She suddenly got it. “Ahhhh! I see. Well, then just schedule a time later that week. Have fun!!!

Yesterday, Drew Barrymore called me at work to confirm that the doctor signed off on all of our paperwork. She also added, “And you’re going away this weekend, riiiiiggght? Well, enjoy! And you never know! Maybe you’ll get pregnant!”

I love that thanks to Sam’s comments, Drew Barrymore now immediately associates our weekend away with a total f*ck fest when I honestly think Sam just wanted to at least have the option. Mind you – if this weekend DOES turn into a f*ck fest, I will not necessarily be complaining. I'm just sayin.

In terms of this weekend resulting in a pregnancy however, I’d be downright shocked. I’ve already ovulated this week and in the almost two years I’ve been trying to get pregnant, it’s never happened. I can’t see it finally coming through for us this weekend when I plan to be drunk and in a Jacuzzi as often as possible. No really, I put it on my day planner: January 14th – January 18th: Drunk and in Jacuzzi.

Since I will be missing work here and there, I decided to FINALLY tell my boss what’s going on. My first sentence was, “We’re going to talk about my uterus but just stay strong and we’ll get through this together.” I told him everything very matter of fact. That we’ve been having fertility issues for awhile now and we have an opportunity to be a part of a clinical trial that may entail me missing work here and there. Despite his obvious discomfort (he backed away from me on his rolling chair as if infertility was contagious), he was very understanding and wished me luck.

And so, here we are. It’s 2011. I’ve lost some weight, I’m getting ready for my second IVF through a carefully organized Clinical Trial, my main contact at the clinic was in Charlie’s Angels (sort of) and this weekend will be the last weekend for awhile that my body will be my own. Wow. That’s a very full paragraph, ain’t it?

I can’t lie: I’m scared. I’m scared of what this trial is going to be like. I’m scared I can’t lose more weight. I’m scared that I won’t be able to balance writing, my day job, IVF and my sanity. Mostly, I’m scared that I’m never going to have the experience of pregnancy or of motherhood.

As I looked through the copies of the paperwork that Drew Barrymore sent me, I began to get overwhelmed. I started to cry… and then I thought about the word “drag”. This is a drag but it’s not forever and I need to stay strong. The second I thought that to myself, I stopped crying, put away the paperwork and got on with my day.