Monday, June 30, 2014

The Summer of the FET

I was not given a large window to wallow in the sorrow of our latest failure. The day after my early negative test and hideous period, I was on the phone discussing this cycle, the next cycle, and getting my whole plan in place. By Saturday I had received my FET plan in the mail, placed the order for my meds, and I knew exactly when my next pregnancy test would be.

A little dizzying, no?

To go from the devastation of what seemed hopeful to the same old negative phone call straight into the hopeful period before another try, a promising new try with new components, so quickly... it made my head spin just a little bit.

I am not so flexible anymore that I can just turn around and put all my energy into the DS FET cycle happening in August. I can't flip a switch (and I think it would be pretty disturbing if I could and maybe a sign that I am less healthy in the mind, not more) and be all hopeful and not sad anymore that our little Bryce embryos didn't make it. I am mopey. The smallest things can make me cry, from commercials to TV shows. COSMOS made me cry, for the love of all that's holy. There was a whole sequence of big hands holding baby hands and the importance of looking forward to our future generations, and it left me feeling sad and empty and future-generation-less.

BUT, lest you think this is a woe-is-me, life-really-sucks post, it's actually not. I have to honor that piece of things, because otherwise you would smell the bullshit and be like, REALLY? You can really let go of that pain and disappointment and loss of another cycle THAT QUICKLY? I am sad, but we have made some plans. WE WILL NOT LET ANOTHER SUMMER BE SWALLOWED UP BY INFERTILITY.

One of the things we did once we had our FET dates was to say, you know what? FETs are relatively easy and the amazingness of this very overwhelming calendar with all, ALL of our dates laid out for us is that we can PLAN A VACATION in July. Let's DO THIS THING. So, we have planned a vacation. We are going to Maine! In July!

Previously, we took a lovely vacation to Maine three summers in a row. We went in late June as soon as school was out and we literally left right after the closing ceremony and drove up to New Hampshire, stayed overnight, then drove the rest of the way to the camp we rented on a pond (looks like a lake to me) near Ellsworth, about a half hour or so from Mt Desert Island and all Acadia has to offer. Our vacation was amazingly relaxing, with decisions revolving around whether we were cooking dinner or going out, staying at the camp and kayaking on the pond or hiking in Acadia National Park, pond or ocean, one bottle of wine or two. It looked like this:
Me, 2011 (so 2 years of IVF in but still smiling), hiking Pigeon Hill
Bryce, 2010, Isle au Haut, the summer of our first IVF but before meds started.
2011, Reading on the camp deck but that citronella is doing
diddly squat because Maine mosquitos are EVIL

2010 Wine Lineup. I think this is the end of the trip, I HOPE this
is the end of the trip because that's 7 bottles and we stayed 7
nights and went out to dinner a few times... :)
Like I said, relaxing. Except the third time we went, in 2011, we had done two IVF cycles and were gearing up for a third one (the one later that summer that would give us the Ectopic Experience) and we were feeling a little sad. We had envisioned bringing a baby here, thought about how that would change our activities but make it even more enjoyable. We ate dinner at a restaurant in Bar Harbor overlooking the harbor and the town park every year on or near our last night, and by this year the sameness and missing pieceness was weighing heavy. Watching families roll around in the grass and chasing fireflies started to feel less like, "Next year that will be us!" and more like "Will that EVER be us?" And then, the next couple of years our IVF calendars were not favorable for going on vacation and the costs of treatment skyrocketed and we just couldn't do it.

BUT NO MORE! No more depressing summers where I scrounge for a photo for the Fall Slideshow From Hell where everyone shares their family vacations and new babies! No more summers that go by and Bryce and I wonder where the time has gone and if all we ever do is infertility treatment and related ilk! No more super expensive treatment thanks to the packages at our new clinic, and so we can reasonably afford a getaway without feeling smooshed! We're back, baby!

With some differences. We are not going to the camp, because it is too last minute. Also, we are not going to Acadia (even though I really wanted to visit again), because apparently that area after July 4th is incredibly crowded and not as enjoyable. Also, the whole "doing the same thing" weighed on Bryce and he convinced me that going somewhere new, somewhere that we hadn't envisioned bringing our own families, somewhere where we wouldn't think about how we could have had a two or three or four year old had things worked out because we have no memories there, just new ones to build. So, we are staying in two different areas. Three nights in Vinalhaven, ME -- an island that's an hour and fifteen minute ferry ride from Rockland. It has a town and lots of parks and two granite swimming quarries, and we are planning on taking a boat out with an ornithologist to see birds on outlying islands (and, ohmygod I hope, PUFFINS). Our room is practically on a pier over running water. Go google earth Vinalhaven--it's pretty awesome. We are bringing books and food and hiking clothes. We are going to enjoy our private deck and drink some wine. I don't have to worry about egg quality for FET, so adios, Egg Boot Camp! Then, after we get back to the mainland, we stay one night in Damariscotta, a really awesome little town on a tidal river with an amazing bookstore. I love Maine for having lots of independent bookstores, because we have virtually NONE here in Rochester. Makes my heart happy to buy books from someone who has decided that they want to create a place to buy and enjoy books that is not owned by a corporation. Here's a link to the bookstore, also worthwhile because they have a camera that shows downtown Damariscotta in all its tiny but picturesque glory: Maine Coast Bookshop. We bookend the trip with a short visit to Bryce's mom and stepfather and Grammie. We were at first sad to miss the amazing ping pong playing that we enjoyed in the basement of the camp in previous years (tipsy/intoxicated ping pong being a favorite sport of ours, you can really see when your hand-eye coordination goes downhill), but lo and behold the inn we're staying at at Damariscotta has PING PONG! In the BOATHOUSE! We are so going to go down there and play.

The other difference is needles. I have sworn up and down that I cannot and will not travel with needles, and while I have done needles at family visits to Maine I really didn't want to bring them on a vacation (and I stand by my NO NEEDLES ON A PLANE rule). I have no choice. I start Lupron midweek, and it's vacation Lupron or no vacation at all, so all our rooms have a refrigerator. Whatever, Lupron has to be less horrific when you're staying on an ISLAND in MAINE, right? It's just an insulin needle so no biggie. More concerning is the vacation we're taking at the end of August to meet up with Bryce's dad and stepmom, in Vermont, where we will have to travel with PIO. UGH.

Because, my lovely friends, I cannot escape the PIO this time. It is firmly part of their FET protocol, and to be honest I wasn't crazy about the Crinone because I received my period so early and so felt like it wasn't enough. Completely against the literature, I know, but there is some comfort in being able to see my progesterone levels in my blood. Because you can be damn sure that I'm asking for and receiving post-transfer monitoring of my progesterone and estrogen levels just to be reassured that my body's not being stupid. Plus, the FET protocol calls for estrace through "stimulation" and then a lower level through early pregnancy should I be so lucky. I am continuing the Ben.adryl before and after transfer and the Levoq.uin before transfer. There are some new and shiny additions that will be made before we get started to look into other things that might help my obviously hideous implantation failure issue.

But, the biggest difference is the embryos with this FET. New component. We are fortunate enough to have FOUR lovely frozen blasts from our sperm donor, and two of those amazing cell clusters are going back into me. We will see if the DS is a magic ingredient. Bryce swears he's good with it, and he thinks that this is the thing. That it's not that my uterus is a ghostly shipyard where nothing casts anchor but instead drifts off into Elsewhere (I'm trying to be kinder to myself and avoid the death metaphors). It's that we haven't had embryos that were capable of staying for the long haul. What a tough double-edged sword this is. How hard it is for each of us not to assign blame to ourselves, yet whole-heartedly try to convince the other that they are at not at fault, there is no fault. How much we have invested in all this, how joyful we will be if this works out and then trepidatious about how to navigate parenting with donor gametes. How terrifying it is to think that the first FET might not work and it might not be a sign that all is lost but just a statistics game, but the fear that would stab deep into our hearts would be considerable. But let's not go there. Let's assume that the FET will work, that we make it, that all this ends in something other than heartbreak and emptiness. I have to be honest, I know a fair number of people who went donor sperm in one way or another and when they did, they got pregnant. So who knows? There is so little out there, I feel, on sperm issues beyond motility and counts. Maybe the mystery will be the answer to our mystery.

The upshot is, although we are spending a large chunk of the summer embroiled in infertility, with my lovely person being under the influence of 10 units of Lupron a day for ALMOST A MONTH (oh, poor Bryce), and a transfer in August with a test that didn't quite make it before school starts (AAAAAAACCCCKKKKK), WE ARE NOT LETTING IT CONSUME US ENTIRELY. We blow a big fat raspberry at infertility and off to the coast of Maine we go. We need to, desperately. We need some change, something joyful, something to look forward to that doesn't involve pictures of embryos that get stuffed in a drawer. Something that even if it rains every single day (which it won't), we will enjoy and have memories of and look back on as a time when trying for our family sucked but man, we made the best of it.


  1. First of all--yay vacation!!! I hate how IF and treatments suck all the fun out of life. It's bad enough that you can't have a baby, but on top of it, your trapped into spending all your time thinking about not having a baby. And your trip to Maine sounds so wonderful--I love the mountains and the sea.

    Second of all--of course you're still mourning the loss of Bryce's embryos, but why can't the human mind simultaneously mourn what we won't have while still moving forward to get what want? I personally would want to get the show on the road. If this time doesn't work out for me, I've been wondering if it would be feasible and/or healthy to pick out the DEs and sign the consents and whatever was needed in the two weeks or so I imagine we'd have to move forward with the FET on the very next cycle.

    I'm sorry about the debate that you're having about who's "fault" it is. Of course it's no one's fault, but it's still hard. But don't think too much about that and have a great, great time on your vacation!!!

    1. Thanks, lady! I definitely want to get the show on the road, but it was amazing to just have a day before that show's pregame got going. I'll be more excited the closer we get, and I'm sure happy we're going on this vacation even with the lupron tagalong, but right now it's like, "let's get me pregnant!" And "CRAP I can't believe we're not pregnant RIGHT NOW." I just want to clarify that we don't think anything is the other person's fault, but both Bryce and I have a hard time not seeing things as being our "fault" somehow even though that's not the way it is. We will try to leave those things behind when we spend time on the ocean! I found out today that we could see PUFFINS! I am so very excited. I am not a big bird fan but have a few favorites, and puffins are definitely on that list. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, I really appreciate it!

  2. Oh--I didn't think that anyone thought it was anyone else's fault. I know hard that thought process is and it sucks to even have to have it.

    My mom is a bird nut and travels all around to see birds, and she went to Maine for the sole purpose of seeing puffins--she also went to the Galapagos Islands to see all the birds there, and to Kansas to see the prairie chickens mating dances, among other place, so I am fully aware of how strong the pull to see an awesome bird can be. Puffins are the funnies little birds, they're so cute.

    1. Sometimes I reread what I've written and worry that it's not expressing what I meant, so I'm glad it didn't come across that way! :) Oh wow, the Galapagos Islands are nuts. Puffins are super cute and I am dying to see them! I hope the weather cooperates... :)

  3. Sounds like it will be a wonderful trip! I like you & Bryce's thoughts on going somewhere new and not letting your summer be entirely consumed by treatment. Enjoy every minute of it and take pictures!!

    1. I am so looking forward to it... you can be sure I will take a TON of pictures! The somewhere new is really important. Any repeat trips we've taken during this time inevitably made us a little sadder the second or third time around. We are creatures of habit though, so I'm proud of us for breaking out of our box! :) Thanks!

  4. Sounds fabulous! enjoy. relax. renew.

    1. Thanks, Mom--it will surely be relaxing and rejuvenating.

  5. Oh this makes my heart sing! Vacation, and islands, and books, and ping-pong?! Enjoy every moment (even the Lupron tinged ones).

    1. Thanks, Lindsey! I sure hope that I can hold on to the joy of each moment and not let the shadow of Lupron make me too weepy/crazy. :) I am so excited! And I want to hear your heart sing, what a lovely phrase.