Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Beautiful Gift

View from Camp deck.
Every year for three years now, Bryce and I have taken a trip to Maine from the last day of school in June through the July 4th weekend. Bryce has a family friend who has a camp on a lake near Ellsworth, which is maybe 30 minutes away from Bar Harbor. It's wonderful. We have a blast every time we go and really and truly get to relax. Which is great, because usually the reason why we go this particular week is because it is right as soon as school ends and then right before summer school starts. I have had to cram a lot of relaxation into that one week.

This year, I am not rushing back to dive right into summer school. Of course, this is the year that summer school doesn't start until June 11th, so even if I was teaching over the summer I would still have one more week to wind down from the year. But this year, I am not teaching over the summer. This is the summer of Operation Stork Capture. We're going to lasso that damn bird and force it to grace us with its elusive (to us, anyway) gift(s). The thing that kind of sucked was that I was slated to start Lupron during the week we were in Maine. I have a packing list all set and I had to write in "sharps container, alcohol swabs, syringes" which hurt me a little on the inside. But, no matter--if I'm going to be put into a sort of chemical menopause for a while there is no more beautiful place to have hot flashes than Acadia National Park. It meant that we had to plan any strenuous hikes for no later than Monday, since I wasn't sure what Lupron would do for my stamina. It meant that we were going to do "Acadia Lite." It meant that infertility was encroaching on our sacred downtime, our precious hike-and-kayak-and-kick-back-with-a-bottle-on-the-deck vacation. It was worth it to get started early on the cycle. But it still sucked.

But then...we were given a tremendous gift! We had our follow-up consultation with our wonderful fertility doctor this week. And I am flabbergasted and amazed. I am being put on a completely different protocol than the last two times. There is very little that is the same about this IVF cycle--and that is so encouraging. But the BEST part, the part that actually put a tear in my eye, is that I don't have to take Lupron at all this time. They are doing an antagonist protocol, where my only suppression is the pill and then I will start taking Ganarelix to keep me from ovulating about day 6 of stims through egg retrieval. Holy wow, that is the best news I've gotten in a LONG time! This means that I do not have to deal with the side effects of Lupron at all. Ganarelix doesn't have any of those nasty side effects (hot flashes, headaches, insomnia, extreme irritability, and the awesome Lupwon Bwain effect that makes me feel like I've had a stroke and have lost all my words). And, best of all, I don't have to take needles with me to Maine. We can have a (relatively) infertility-free vacation! I don't know who is more excited about this, me or Bryce. I am not a pleasant person on Lupron. And to now be completely and totally free of that nasty drug for the entirety of this next feels almost too good to be true! I am beyond thrilled.
See ya, infertility--you aren't wanted here!

So now, instead of only doing carriage road trails, we can hike the way we like to. We have a real, true vacation to kick off our cycle, not a sort-of vacation that still includes that insidious red plastic box with the biohazard symbol on it. We are free!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's All in the Timing

It's amazing how where you are in your cycle affects your state of mind. It affects how you react to things, and how much you can handle on a given day. I would like to think that because I have been at this for a while now (jeez louise, coming up on two years of medicated cycles), that I am more mellow,  more experienced with the ups and downs, and more able to better handle things in general. But I don't actually think that's the case. I think it totally depends on where I am in the fertility calendar.

The Best Of Times
I am feeling my best and my most well-balanced when I am heading into an IVF cycle. Like this past month and a half or so, I've been feeling really well-adjusted. I went to visit my best friend (the one with three children 4 and under) this past weekend and I didn't have a single moment where I thought I might burst into tears. This is a house that has every last drop of the joyful chaos that I desperately want--a baby to soothe, toddlers vying for attention and giving heartfelt "I love you, Mommy" whispers. Even when it is crazy I want it. Because my house is dead quiet in comparison. When I first indicated that I wanted to come visit, my friend was cautious--she wanted to make sure I was sure it would be ok. I have been a hot mess in months past, so it was reasonable that she would worry that I would be torturing myself. However, I was going into a cycle. I had given it a lot of thought before even bringing it up (I would never offer it up if I couldn't handle it in the first place). I was in a place of hope and positivity. And the visit was great--I didn't have to use my "out" that I set up (going to Starbucks for some quiet time if it was too much). I didn't cry once. And my friend's husband gave the ultimate gift of taking all three kids out to visit grandparents for the day on Saturday so that we could have grown up time just the two of us. It was lovely. I held a 3-month (fresh) baby, changed her, fed her, burped her, and was projectile vomited on by her. It made me feel good, not horribly sad that I didn't have it. Because my mindset now is, Soon this will be mine, too. I live in a place of hope during this pre-cycle gearing-up phase.

The Worst of Times
By far, the time when I can handle nothing is right after a failed cycle. This was evidenced spectacularly by my second failed IVF. I seriously did not want to leave the house and I couldn't stop crying. Babies crying in restaurants reduced me to a puddle over my guacamole. I couldn't talk to my same friend (whose babies I bathed and fed and read stories to over this past weekend) unless her children were not around. I couldn't stand to hear that joyful chaos in the background and be reminded again that my house is filled with animal sounds, not small-child sounds. Watching TV was difficult because any number of storylines (or advertisements) could send me into self-pitying hysterics. Going on Facebook was tough because inevitably there was a birth or a pregnancy announcement and I'd have to offer congratulations to what felt like everyone but me. This is a deep, dark hole. But it is a relatively short-lived hole. After each failed IVF the hole gets a little deeper and a little wider, because my ability to remain hopeful and think this is actually possible for us suffers. But it's still temporary. Once I have a plan, once dates are in place, and especially once I can say "I start Lupron THIS month," my outlook improves vastly. Somehow I can find a way to climb out of the hole, get hopeful and enthusiastic again, and pretend that there's not another potential pit waiting to swallow me up.

The Crapshoot Times
During a cycle is my trickiest time. This is when anything goes. I could be hopeful and buying Maine onesies one moment and sobbing into my American Baby magazine (that, incidentally, I ordered for myself on a hopeful upswing) the next. I might need to get out and not think about anything baby.  Or, because going out makes it impossible not to see a million pregnant women and babies in strollers or slings, stay in and not think about anything baby. I am so hopped up on hormones that I don't even know which end is up. I can be excited and terrified at the same time. I am entering this time, because the closer we get to getting started the more excited and equally apprehensive I can be. I will say, for those who may misinterpret my words, that I am more saddened by the plethora of bellies and babies I don't know than those of my friends. At all times of my cycle calendar I am able to be happy for my friends when they hit the jackpot. I might be a little more sad for me at the same time depending on where I am, but I am always genuinely happy for the lucky ones.

The upshot of all this is that I am in the best place in the time leading up to an IVF cycle. I can believe in this time that I am "next," and that I will be buying maternity clothes soon. I am in the worst place right after a crappy cycle, where it seems that I will never be "next" and the stork just likes to take a shit on my house, not deliver a prize package. I am a tricky mix in the in-between times, the medicated times, the scary in-the-moment of "this might be the time I actually win the lottery and get pregnant." I have spoken with ladies in my support groups, and it seems to be pretty universal--where you are in a cycle governs what you can and cannot handle. But, as a rule of thumb, things that (while in this process) I cannot handle regardless include: Baby Showers, Mother's Day, Small Child Birthday Parties, Post-Birth Hospital Visits. Those things fall in the No-Matter-Where-I-Am-It-Hurts-Too-Much category. Hopefully this gives some insight into how a infertility-plagued state of mind (or at least, mine) shifts depending on where you are headed and where you've been.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Infiltrated Again? Really?

A while back I wrote a post called "Stop Sneaking Up On Me!" about infertility weaseling its way into my favorite modes of escape. Books, movies, but mostly books. One book that caught me by complete surprise was The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs--a hilarious and informative memoir about his quest (and success) reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittannica. You read a blurb for a book like that and don't think "There is an infertility story hiding in there!" But there was. A.J. and his wife, Julie, were trying to have a baby and it wasn't going well. It was the entire second theme of the book. (SPOILER) They did get pregnant by the end through some unspecified infertility treatment that wasn't IVF, but they did find out via a phone call from a nurse. Slices of my own personal reality that I am really not looking to see reflected in my pleasure reading.

I don't know why I thought it would be a good idea, but I picked up The Year of Living Biblically, also by A.J. Jacobs. This time, instead of delving deep into the world of the encyclopedia, he immerses himself into taking the bible as literally as possible for a year. It looked funny. It looked informative. I checked it out of the FHS library at work.

Except I should have checked the copyright dates. I thought that it was earlier than The Know-It-All, but I have no idea why. I think maybe I forgot that there was an infertility subplot to that one. But, no. The book comes after, when his son is 2 years old. And about a half inch into the book the freaking infertility theme comes roaring back into play--they have been trying naturally again (why you would try naturally after having to use assistance the first time is a mystery to me) for a year. No dice. But then they decide to do IVF. Yay, IVF in my frivolous escape book! Just what I was hoping for! It wasn't quite as prevalent as in the other book, but still. Tales of needles, training for intramuscular injections. Magic Marker circles drawn on hindquarters. Julie saying "I hope this works because I don't think I can do this again." A sentiment I can totally understand, but coming from the side of having done a couple of these jobbies I am a little jaded. Why should it work on the first try? This was not the book I was looking for.

But, I have been sticking it out. Except now I am having a really hard time continuing. Because they had their egg retrieval, and their transfer (a nice 5-day transfer of two blastocyst embryos, must be nice to get to that point). The big decision day came. (SPOILER). Julie gets the call and it is... positive. But wait! She doesn't look happy anymore! Why? Because her numbers are super high, indicating that both embryos likely took (or, less likely, she has one hulk embryo). Not happy anymore. UPSET. So much so that there is the quote, "'Two-for-one deal,' she says flatly. 'Double the fun.'" I just about lost my shit and threw the book across the room.

I realize that I may be being a bit harsh on A.J. and Julie. Really, just Julie, because while A.J. is stunned he does sum up his feeling with "Be thankful, just be thankful." Twins are an incredible expense and increase the complications of pregnancy and delivery. But, I'm sorry--if you are doing IVF and you transferred two embryos, you have to have at least prepared yourself a little that there's a chance you might have twins. Frankly, I would be THRILLED to be in those shoes--first IVF, and positive with twins! (Granted, I'm starting from zero and they have a two-year-old, so going from one to three is a little different than going from zero to two.)

It makes me angry, because I would love to have twins result from my IVF. I would not say "Two for one deal" FLATLY. I would be jumping up and down (gently as not to accidentally dislodge said twin nuggets) and popping the non-alcoholic bubbly. But no... I am now reading a book where people are not thrilled that they are finally pregnant and managed to do it on the first round, not the third. If there is complaining about this twin pregnancy I think I will definitely put it up.

The problem is, I like the rest of this book. I like learning the lesser known stories of the bible, tawdry stories and odd laws and rules that I've never heard of. I like stories of A.J. riding the subway wearing all white non-mixed cloth garments, playing a 10 string harp and sporting his giant untrimmed beard. But I do not like reading about infertility when I don't mean to be reading about infertility. And I certainly don't like reading about people who achieve success on the first try of IVF and are upset because they got twins. There's elective single embryo transfer if you truly don't want twins (although the embryo could still split to identical twins, since the processes for IVF make the embryos more likely to cleave in that way). So I hope this subplot shuts the hell up so that I can enjoy the main thrust of the book.

It's only halfway through, so it's possible that there will be unfortunate outcomes (in which case I'll feel guilty for badmouthing this couple who were newly pregnant with twins from their first IVF in 2006ish). Or it's possible that, like everything else, it will all turn out just hunky-dory for them. They might complain the whole way through their pregnancy. And then I will have to save reading the rest of The Year of Living Biblically for another time, when I am ok with reading a book that is really partially about infertility. And when I am slightly less bitter about the whole thing.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

I am not proud of myself, but I have lied recently. Purely for my own benefit. But I didn't feel too bad about it. You see, there's this magazine that I see every week at the public library where I go to observe a student working. The magazine is American Baby, and it looks like an awesome publication. Lots of articles and tips on pregnancy, birth, all the crap you need (and don't need), and your baby's first year or two. It's a division of Parent magazine. And it's free. I have seen this magazine month after month for the past year and flipped through it (especially when hopeful that a current or upcoming cycle will work/has worked). It's awesome. I thought that I should sign up for it, because I need this information too even though I'm not yet pregnant. I am ready to get this information delivered to my home even though I'm not glowing, not yet at least. I struggled with it (because once you sign up for something like that, it inevitably changes the types of catalogs and offers and coupons that are mailed to your home), but I finally signed up a couple of months ago, when I did my last injectible IUI.

The lying part comes in when I filled out the online form. Not surprisingly, they asked for either a due date or a child's birthday. I don't have that kind of information, although I've had a slew of almost-due-dates. Thanks to the marvels of the internet, you can put your retrieval date into a calculator and get your due date for any given cycle. It works for inseminations, too. So I put November 16th, which could have feasibly been the day my miracle baby from the IUI was born. It was a little early so it was possible that I had just peed on a stick and found out the happy news. Just the thought process that took me to get to the place of typing in a fake due date was a little psycho, not to mention my mindset when I committed to the fraud and pressed enter. I think my punishment for this little act of deceit was that my first issue came the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend. Excellent timing.

But, I have to say that I believe I deserve to sign up for this magazine just the same as any other expectant mother, despite the fact that I don't have a baby or a nugget yet. I need to make my Baby Binder full of page-protected articles on pregnancy, babies, development, and parenting advice. I need images for my still-evolving Vision Board (it's finally up on the wall, it's just not totally filled yet which is quite all right with us because our vision is a little fluid when it comes to our new, slightly fictional family). So why shouldn't I get to have a pre-parenting magazine? I know, there is a magazine for people who are trying to conceive (and not succeeding so much), Conceive magazine. This one is ok, but it has a lot of Infertility 101 type articles in it and I feel a little beyond that. It was great in the first year of the journey, but now I read the articles online that are relevant (on I want to focus on the end prize, not what tests I need to determine if I am infertile (I know we are).

Which brings me to a moment where my crazy-lady eyes came out in Barnes & Noble last weekend. At checkout, the cashier asked if I bought a lot of children's books. I do, for my friends' children and for school (and occasionally for my slightly fictional future small children). He then asked if I wanted to sign up for the new Kid's Club, an extension of the regular membership that I already have and pay for. It's free and I get $5 for every $100 spent. Sounded great, so I started the paperwork. And I was feeling great until I got to the bottom, where it said "Please enter your child's name and birthdate. YOU MUST ENTER AT LEAST ONE." Out came the insane bug eyes. "Excuse me," I said, "Do I have to have an actual CHILD to be in this club? I don't HAVE an ACTUAL child. I have FRIENDS' children. Can I not sign up unless I have an actual CHILD?" The cashier looked a little frightened. Bryce looked a little embarrassed but not surprised. "No, no, you can put one of your friends' children down. You don't need to have children." I said, "Oh." I put down my best friend's oldest son and still felt angry that I had to put someone else's kid down, that I couldn't just check a box that said "Currently childless but buy a crapload of books for everyone else so I am totally eligible." It sucked.

Then, this morning I called to update my information in the alumni directory that I always update and never ever buy. The man I spoke to was very friendly, very personable and had a really great radio voice. I was feeling very accomplished when he congratulated me on my two degrees and my teaching career. I felt less accomplished when the email address I had on file was my previous married name ("Ok, I am confused here. Now you are Tennant and your maiden name is Haney so what's this Perez?" I said, "I think you can figure this one out on your own." Not too hard, since I'm not a con artist on the lam from the FBI.). That was a little embarrassing. However, the hard part came when he asked if he could list any children in addition to my spouse. Nope, no children. There was a silence and then he said, "I guess your students are enough for you, right? Am I right?" I laughed a hard, terse laugh and didn't say a word. I wanted to say "NO, actually, that's kind of crazypants to suggest that. And actually I've been trying to become a mom for going on two years now with an intensity that is exhausting in every possible way and I just haven't quite gotten there yet." But that doesn't fit neatly in the alumni directory.

I survived all of these experiences without tears, which I hope means that I'm growing and getting more resilient. Or maybe I'm just growing numb. Or, maybe I've realized that I can't let stuff like this bother me every single time because it will happen, over and over and over and I just can't stop it. Maybe it's just because when these things happened I was much more balanced emotionally having had 6 months since my last truly disappointing devastating cycle. It's probably a combination. I just have to find more ways to laugh at my shenanigans to get free baby stuff to prepare for my long-awaited pregnancy, my capacity to terrify a teenage cashier at B&N, and celebrate my ability to smooth over a question that would have thrown me for a total loop just 6 months ago.