Friday, June 28, 2013

Why Can't There Be Good News?

I was all set to write about something else, my transfer day rituals and my 2ww rituals and all the ways that I take such careful care of myself during such a fragile time to try to give myself a boost towards good results. I had a paragraph of this post written when my phone rang.

My test was negative.

I am in shock. I am stunned. I thought for certain I was pregnant. I have been pregnant before; I thought I knew what it felt like. I guess my body is really messed up in so many ways, because it convinced me it was pregnant while simultaneously rejecting the two beautiful embryos that were placed in its care.

I knew that if I had a negative after attempting a donor cycle that it would be ugly. I mean, I had one job, right? My job was to keep these embryos safe and sound and encourage them to stay. I had nothing to do with their creation (which was beyond weird) and all I had to do was encourage them to snuggle in and stay. I know that good statistics for success still come with statistics with failure. I know that I ended up on the wrong side of the coin toss, AGAIN. I know that I did EVERYTHING I could do to provide a good home for these beautiful embryos. I went to fertility yoga. I ate organic EVERYTHING. I ate more fruits and veggies and full-fat dairy and fish oil and prenatals (FOUR YEARS OF PRENATALS!!!), I went for walks that were good for me but not too taxing, I napped when my body said it was tired and needed to rest. I have been coffee and alcohol free since starting the lupron. And it did... NOTHING.

I feel like a failure. I feel like this almost surreal, a day that was supposed to be filled with the joy of a new life beginning and yet is more of the same disappointment we've felt for years, now. We changed so much--we had beautiful 27 year old eggs. There were 21 fertilized eggs in this cycle! We were over the moon (the SUPERmoon, by the way, which I took as a really good omen). We have 6 one-day embryos and 2 blasts in the freezer. That's potentially eight more chances. But I really wanted THIS one. I was convinced I was pregnant. Afraid to commit but feeling really positive that finally, we were done with this fertility crap. AND I thought we were pregnant with twins. I have no idea why I always think it's possible that we are pregnant with multiples. Wishful thinking. I have only ever been pregnant twice with one embryo each, one in my freaking tube and one that didn't stay for long. Why would I think suddenly we would be blessed with twins? Your guess is as good as mine. I am an incurable optimist, despite our crappy odds.

Just the other day I was knitting and watching The Hunger Games. I am not a good enough knitter to watch TV at the same time so it had to be something I'd seen before. All I am stuck with is, "May the odds be ever in your favor." I would be so dead so early in The Hunger Games. Reproductively, I'm no Katniss.

But at the same time, yup, I'm freaking Katniss. I DO NOT GIVE UP. I reject the idea of failure. So we didn't make it this time. So it was around 65% success, and we fell in the 35% failure. Someone has to, otherwise those statistics wouldn't make sense. I believe the frozens are going to make it. I believe that I am going to be messy this weekend, maybe for a week or two, and then I will pull my shit together and get my body and soul ready for my FET. I will make this happen. It is still possible. I predicted that if this DE IVF didn't work, that I would be a mess. I mean, we were told that our donor had a live birth for EVERY ONE OF HER PREVIOUS CYCLES. Woo hoo for breaking that streak. I was afraid of that, and here it is. But you know what? FETs are magical. I got pregnant on our last FET. It was short-lived, but it happened. And with better genetics through our lovely donor, it will happen again and stay this time. I refuse to feel like a big fat failure. (For long, anyway.) I refuse to give in to the dark side (for long, at least). I may have had several cocktails before writing this post, but I'm pretty sure I deserve them. I'm pretty sure that no one would judge me for drowning my sorrows in a little Hendrick's and vodka and lime juice and St. Germain. (tasty, by the way).

So there you have it. Not my best day, but not the worst, either. So it didn't work. It will work in the future. I feel good about that. And even though I felt good about our chances at a pregnancy THIS cycle, I feel even better about our chances with our beautiful frozen babylings. This will happen. And in the meantime, I will have some coffee and some cocktails and cry and gnash my teeth and become a total Wild Thing when necessary. And then I will put my energy into our next best chance. Because that's all I've got. Well, not really--I've got an awesome supportive husband. Who is also grieving, by the way. But together we will get through this setback and together we will come out the other side eventually, intact and ready to support our fledgling family. Because that's what we do. We find the silver lining and hate the freaking cloud. So here we go, mourning the pregnancy that could have been and looking forward to the one that still could be. We are not done. We are sad and beaten down and feeling almost hopeless--but not quite. Because there are chances in the freezer. There are new possibilities still out there to be had. So we will live in the dark for a little while so that we can embrace the light. And bring our FutureBaby home, hopefully sooner than later.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Curse of Kate Morton

I read, a lot. I treasure summertime because I have the freedom to read adult books all the time, and I stockpile books to plow through throughout the summer. Now, I don't know if what you read has any impact on what's going on around you, say, during an IVF cycle, but I can tell you that I feel that books by Kate Morton are cursed.

For our first fresh IVF cycle with a new protocol, our third time at bat but first time trying a different, more egg-quality based protocol, I was reading The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. It has fairies on the inside cover, three girls dancing in a circle with flowers. At my transfer we slid the picture of our three 8-celled embryos into the book for safekeeping and joked that maybe this wasn't the best idea since maybe it was encouraging all three of them to stay and bless us with triplet girls. I don't know why we always have the thought that all of our embryos could suddenly implant, but we have this thought every single time even though I've never had more than one implant even with three in the hole. I read that book throughout the three days of rest (probably finished it on Day Two), and when the wait was over we did have a positive pregnancy test. But it was a low positive, a 12. But then the 12 turned into a 24, and then a 74, and then it kept going up at a more irregular rate. So far this sounds ok, right? What's wrong with Kate Morton? I got pregnant! But it was ectopic. It didn't last. And I think I was reading The House at Riverton when I was waiting in the emergency room to go in for my presto-chango surgery that would render me not pregnant anymore, even though it wasn't viable from the start. Yup, The House at Riverton is another Kate Morton book. I can't really blame her for this one, because I already knew the jig was up when I was reading it, but now there was a bit of an association.

I can't honestly remember what I read for our frozen cycle in the following December. It didn't really matter, because it was uneventful. Then, for our next try (and last ever fresh IVF where I was going through the retrieval process), I went with something totally different. I read American Psycho while waiting to be prepped for the surgical procedure and while they were figuring out how to get the IV into me (the last time took three tries including one on the table, so this time the anethesiologist just did it. I have the worst veins EVER.). An odd choice for bringing good juju into the room, and I didn't even really enjoy it all that much, but I think maybe I thought something different would be good. But that didn't result in anything but a BFN, so I guess reading about stock traders by day and psychotic misogynistic serial killers at night isn't exactly a good karma-bringer. (Or, more likely, what your read has ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT ON YOUR CYCLE. That probably makes more sense).

For our next frozen cycle with our last three embryos, one of which looked great and the other two were all schmutzy and fragmented, I read another Kate Morton book. This time, The Distant Hours (probably my favorite, with Forgotten Garden a close second if only because it has an infertility subplot). I gave Ms. Morton another chance. And we did get pregnant with a solid 61 beta! But then we lost that little babyling in a slow motion horror that lasted days and I registered as pregnant for a full two and a half weeks after the bleed where I likely lost the viable part of the pregnancy. Awesome. So it would seem that Kate Morton's twisty novels coincidentally went hand in hand with semi-success.

There is a fourth Kate Morton novel that came out this year, The Secret Keeper. I am not touching this book with a ten foot pole until I have given birth and am (as far as you ever can be) "in the clear." It's not that I truly believe that there is a curse on her delightfully juicy historical gothic romance/mysteries, it's just that I kind of do, just a little bit. I have my stack of books all set for all the waiting time, and although the one I'm enjoying most is probably a bizarre choice for this fun and exciting time of uterine hope (We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, a fabulous novel about a mother's reconstructing of her son from the moment she and her husband talked about conceiving to the moment he killed a slew of people at his high school, trying to figure out if her ambivalence towards motherhood and her instant distrust and suspicion in her disturbed son made it somehow her fault), but I think at this point it doesn't really matter. As long as it isn't a Kate Morton novel.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

In Celebration of Fathers

One of my strongest memories with my Dad when I was little has to do with pancakes. Yup, pancakes. He had a system for making the best pancakes, and taught me all his secrets as I watched, rapt in the magic of perfect-pancake-making. First: Heat the pan with butter, but the dial on the stove must be medium-high. Even more specifically, between the N and the T of FRONT on the front-right burner. Once the butter is melty and bubbly, pour in about 1/4 cup of batter (thinner batter with extra milk, we liked our pancakes crepe-y). DO NOT TOUCH the pancake until the edges are dry and a different texture than the middle, and the bubbles are popping in the center. Then, flip once. Way less time on the second side than the first, just enough to set it, and then remove. If you want to, freeform the pancake into unusual shapes, like a stegasaurus, or Mickey Mouse. This was before you could buy all those fancy pancake molds to have pancakes shaped perfectly like cars. These pancakes were works of art. They were also completely delicious, with a crispy crust around the edges and melty smooth, fluffy middles.

There was nothing super special about the pancakes themselves--they were your run-of-the-mill Bisquick mix, with that extra milk to make them thinner. But the way they were made--carefully, methodically, artistically--that was special and I remember it perfectly, probably 30 years later.

My Dad lived with us until I was about 14, end of 8th grade, and then my parents got a divorce. Even when he lived with us he traveled a lot for work--he was on location for months at a time (once nearly 8) because he is a prosthetic make-up artist. So when he left, he left for L.A. Which is way across the country (Captain Obvious's geography lesson for you...). The time we had when he was at home was special, for the most part--pancake mornings; Sundays of listening to classical music and film scores in the living room, being grilled on who the composer was and what the piece was (between this and attending my Mom's Bachelor of Music classes as a child, it's no wonder I aced Music History in college); watching King Kong, the Wizard of Oz, and The Birds (at 4! Thanks, Dad, for giving me a terrifying fear of flocks of birds...); going on weekend hikes with our whole family spending quality time in the woods; sneaking down the stairs to watch him at work in his basement laboratory (I really did have monsters in my basement...); having backyard barbeques where a hot dog was badly charred and Dad ran inside with it to make a cast because it would make really good skin for some monster or another, a particularly memorable party with other nerdy makeup artists where they all got tipsy and decided to watch Dragonslayer with lighters in hand so they could light farts every time the dragon appeared on the TV set (at least I assume they were tipsy, I can't imagine doing that sober--but then again, special effects makeup artists are an interesting breed of people)... The lists go on and on. It was a typical childhood in some ways, and in others...not. I got to go on set when we visited him. I met Mr. Rogers. Bernadette Peters was in my basement. It wasn't all rosy, but the parts I remember best were. And then, those times were stretched out and condensed all at the same time. My time with my Dad was limited to 2 weeks out of the year--many of the activities remained the same but squeezed into a shorter time. It was hard. It's still hard--I live in Rochester, NY and my Dad still lives in L.A. I haven't seen him in 4 years, and haven't spent a week with him since 2007 when I took Bryce out to meet him. It makes Father's Day hard, because so many of the cards assume day-to-day contact, or a childhood where Dad was an integral part of the picture. He was there for the most part until about 14, and then for those teen years, when a girl really needs her Dad, there's a lot of blank space. Father's Day cards are hard, not because I don't have a good relationship with my father (we talk frequently and get along great), but because there is just so much absence. But, the parts where there was a presence were formative and memorable. My Dad got me. It just sucked that that in-person time was so very limited. That was how the cookie crumbled, and I treasured those snatches of quality time. I still treasure them when the stars align and we can get together as adults.

I am lucky, because in addition to my very eccentric, very supportive and loving father, I have a stepfather, as well. Both my Dad and my Mom remarried in the same year, when I was 16. Because THAT was all very easy to adjust to. My mother married a man named Rob, whose family apparently had bets on how long he would last coming into a household with two teenage girls. That can't have been easy. I was pretty angry about just about everything that had transpired over the past two years in general, and did not want to like him. But how can you not love Rob? He joined our family and quickly became a part of it. Not a replacement Dad, but an excellent friend and father figure. He was funny. He was wacky (we have a lot of pictures of Rob with things in his nose--from crazy straws to lobster picks). He was pretty laid-back. He is still funny, and wacky, and very supportive, and an awesome part of our family. My Mom and Rob have been married for over 20 years now, and they are very happy together. Not something I could have said about my parents' marriage. Rob is an excellent husband. He's an awesome stepfather, and friend. That was quite the minefield he walked into, but he handled it well. And he's still here to tell the tale! (That tale as well as a plethora of hilarious and highly disturbing stories from his early work in animal health; his adventures with his group of friends in high school, the Flying Zucchinis, and his solo cross-country bike trip that he did to raise money for the National Lung Association...)

So Father's Day card shopping is doubly hard, because I have to find a card that fits the relationship I have with my Dad despite the miles that separate us and long periods of time when I don't and haven't seen him, AND find a card for Rob that shows my appreciation for everything he's done for me and our family and captures that relationship, which is not exactly father-daughter but something different, and equally good. And then there's the sad fact that I really want to give them cards with "grandpa" in them, because I think they are both going to make terrific grandfathers. How lucky my FutureBaby is, to have not two but FOUR grandfathers! (Bryce also has a fabulous Dad and a terrific stepfather.) I am sad that I haven't been able to do that yet.

I am sad that I have to breeze over the Father's Day cards for your husband, or the Expectant Father cards. I am sad that this day is a sad day for the Dads out there who are fathers in spirit but not quite there yet in physicality. I am sad that there isn't quite as much sensitivity to the fact that guys might have a hard time on a Father's Day with no baby, just as I have a hard time with Mother's Day. Bryce told me the other day, "Well, it's different. I'm supposed to just get over it. It's not a big deal, it's stupid if I take time for me on Father's Day." Well, I think it IS a big deal. Bryce mourns all of our losses and disappointments right there with me, because they are not MY losses and MY cycles, but OURS. Just because he doesn't physically go through the pain of miscarriage or needles or the guilt of feeling that you've failed in providing a good home for your embryos, doesn't mean that he's not hurting emotionally at not being able to make that experience work, either and watching me go through all the physical pieces. That can't be easy, to watch the woman you love experience all this pain and feel like you have to be strong for her so much so that you push your own pain aside. It's our pain. And now, for a period in our cycle, Bryce is the most important player. He is providing half the genetic material where I cannot. He is the star of the show (until I get those embryos back in the landing pad...I'm such a diva). He always downplays his role in all this, because let's face it--biologically, fathers have one thing that they need to do to make a baby happen. But DADS, Dads stick around and support the pregnant wife/partner and raise those beautiful babies in partnership. Bryce is going to be a kickass Dad. Bryce will have his own rituals with our children, his own love of cheesy B-movies and the woods of Maine and woodworking (maybe not the wine so much at first...) to share with our children. He will create new experiences for our kids and be there for them, because he doesn't have a really cool job with really shitty side effects on family. He will be the giver of hugs, the killer of spiders (sorry, honey, just can't do it), the co-conspirator on wacky science projects. He will introduce our kids to geocaching. He will encourage them in whatever they want to do, secretly crossing his fingers that his genes will dominate and we won't have highly athletic children. Holy moly, we will both have a lot of adjusting to do if our kids aren't nerdy band-camp bookworms like us.

So, Happy Father's Day--to all the Fathers out there. The Dads who wanted to be there but couldn't and made every meager minute count exponentially, the Stepfathers who had to carve a special place in the family for themselves and succeeded in creating relationships of mutual respect and friendship, the husbands who aren't quite fathers yet but desperately long to be and feel muffled and unable to express this deep pain for fear of not being that pillar of strength--the husbands who one day will make the BEST fathers ever, recreating the best memories of the past and forging a new path into a family structure and tradition of their own. Happy Father's Day to you, Bryce--my love, my hopefully-soon-to-be expectant Daddy. You're going be fabulous.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Little Lupine That Could -- Part Two

A few weeks ago I posted about my newfound success growing the lupine plant--a plant that grows wild like Queen Anne's Lace along the roadways of Maine, but always died a horrible death in my gardens. But, a few weeks ago, a pretty, rosy little lupine showed the start of its towering spire in my side garden, after years of toiling. I thought this was a pretty cool little allegory and symbol of our own toiling, and maybe even foreshadowing of our own new growth, hopefully coming this summer to my long-awaiting uterus. One of you requested a picture when it was in its full glory, so here you have it, my decked-out, supertall symbol of hope and renewal where once everything was barren:
Sorry the picture is so ginormous, my computer was doing odd things. I wanted to show how tall it was, but the pictures kept getting squished.
I was, however, a little worried. I mean, I have a history of making too much out of little things. Reading omens into everyday events like a crazy fortune teller. Last summer, before we had our frozen transfer, I kidnapped a very stressed Bryce for the day and took him to Ithaca for a spur-of-the-moment road trip. We went walking, had lunch at the Moosewood Restaurant, and toured the gardens at Cornell. Lovely day. Except as we were driving through Taughannock Falls State Park, I saw a big, beautiful snake sidewinding its way across the road. I am a weirdo and love snakes to death, so I was like, "Ooooh, a snake! Good sign!" Except as I exclaimed that, I misjudged the snake's speed and my speed AND HIT THE DAMN SNAKE. I was inconsolable. I cried and cried, here was my beautiful omen and I KILLED IT (I assume I killed it, it was writhing in the road and I felt just horrible but couldn't go back because it was a one way road, but maybe I just got the tail end and it writhed its way into the woods to heal and live happily ever after). Traumatic, to say the least. Probably more so for the snake, but emotionally this was a DISASTER for me.

So, understandably, I was worried--lupines don't last forever. What if the lupine was done before the cycle began in earnest? What if I couldn't accept that lupines run on a cycle, too, and that if it petered out and went to seed before all the big events in our donor cycle, that wasn't a bad sign but merely more propagating and good signs? I kept this worrying to myself. But, THEN...

Beautiful baby lupine, next to the spent seeding one.
A NEW baby lupine! It sprouted another little miracle! I am, again, trying not to read too much into this, but I am just thrilled. Now I have another beacon of hope right next to the seeding first miracle, and I am not being (quite so) crazy in fretting over the life cycle of my symbol dying out before my life cycle truly begins. So thank you, Mother Nature, for giving me a second lupine to bolster my hope before we really get into all of the exciting parts of our donor cycle. I will try not to read too much into it, but I can't help but take comfort and hope out of this little pink miracle.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Being a "Good Patient" -- An Answer for Em

Em over at Teach Me To Braid wrote a post that really spoke to me. She asked the question, "What makes a good infertility patient?" along with a slew of other questions (How often do you see your RE? What are good resources to know more about the process? Do you get answers to your questions? and more...), and asked for feedback. I'm taking her up on the separate post because I'm pretty sure my comment on this would be way too long to be considered just a comment.

I would consider myself a good patient, but that is a definition that I believe has evolved and changed drastically over the years. And when I say "good patient," I mean good for me and my peace of mind and wellbeing, not necessarily an "easy patient." I ask a lot of questions. I am stubborn and persistent. I have a less-than-reverential sense of humor. But I am also kind, and polite, and I genuinely love my medical team.

In the beginning, I was a total good patient to the extreme. I had a notebook that I carted to every appointment and diligently wrote down all values, all follicle sizes, all endometrial lining thicknesses. I touched the ultrasound machine mouse ball to get the screen back up if it went to the screensaver before I could both get my pants back on and write down all the numbers. I made lists of questions, and made sure to get the consultation appointments to ask these questions. Usually those dreadful "failed IVF" consultations. Caveat: my insurance covers consultation appointments and post-IVF consults were included in the ghastly fee, so it never cost me more than $15 to have these chats. Like Em, I did all the acupuncture and herbs and Mayan massage and supplements, in the beginning. I looked up good luck charms and rituals and fertility deities and all kinds of ways to bring good juju into my household. Red candles were to be burned all the way, and if you had to put it out, it must be snuffed, not blown. My snuffer was a turtle, because turtles are some kind of fertility symbol somewhere. (I'm pretty sure you can find a case for a freaking dish sponge to be a fertility symbol if you look hard enough.) In the very beginning, it was a way for me to gain control. In the beginning.

Then I spiraled madly out of control, clutching my notebook like a lifeline and obsessively doing my own data analysis of my baseline estrogen levels before the Follistim and Menopur kicked in. I started looking for patterns that maybe my doctors were overlooking, because something wasn't right. I made T-charts and line graphs and drove myself nuts. I even came out of anesthesia once, delirious and loopy, demanding that my husband get me my F-ing notebook. I am a sailor coming out of anethesia. (Sadly, Bryce has this all on tape, because I wanted to see what it looked like to come out of anesthesia because he always told me stories of being wildly inappropriate and silly and repeating the same things over and over again, but I wanted to see for myself. And then I couldn't UN-see.) If a candle got blown instead of snuffed I freaked out--what if this messed with our juju? I wore orange underwear but did laundry every 4 days so that there was NO WAY I could run out, because running out would be BAD. I overdid being Fertility Queen and became Fertility Lunatic.

There is a balance between these things. Some of what I did has stuck, because it a) gives me what I now know is a totally false but reassuring sense of control, b) makes me happy, and c) I know if I forget something I will be ok, and whether or not I have smudged my house has very little to do with how pregnant (or not) I may be. Obsessive charting? Not necessary. Being aware of my protocol and resulting numbers? Helpful. I've approached the egg donor cycle totally differently. I have done very little research (at least not obsessive research). I own ONE book on egg donation IVF, whereas I own probably FIFTEEN books about the physicality and emotionality of infertility in general. I haven't even finished it. I have accepted that this is so far out of my control that I need to just let go a bit. Understand the process, but don't micromanage it. I am so much more relaxed.

Here are the things I truly think make a difference in my treatment, as a patient:

- Asking questions. No question is repetitive or silly. Sometimes I just need to hear a voice on the other end of the line who has some authority about this fertility treatment telling me something is ok or answering a question, even if I already know the answer. I need communication. To answer Em's question, I speak with the nursing staff regularly, and will leave messages for my doctor when I need a bigger answer. We have consults before treatment and following a disaster. I still bring questions, but I try to listen more without trying to drive the show more. It helps. Sometimes, too, you don't get a good answer (which means it was too vague or noncommittal or not what you wanted to hear). Check out other resources in that case, and come back to your doc with something more concrete to ask about. Or bounce ideas off of support groups, email groups, therapists, and the internet. I am wary of the internet, but it can really help you find some interesting vetted studies that help guide better questions.

- Advocating for myself. Sometimes those questions are a way to reach out and feel connected to a somewhat removed process. And sometimes I really want to ask about other treatments, fears I have about certain activities/products/foods/etc, research I've found from other blogs or articles. I have a really good relationship with my RE, and have been lucky to have had TWO REs who are both very good listeners and open to feedback and questions and other ideas. A good, non-sterile relationship with your RE is invaluable. Recently I advocated because I keep hearing about endometrial biopsy as a pre-transfer procedure to increase implantation rates, and valium at transfer to help relax uterine muscles (and the mother ship holistically, quite frankly). I asked about both--my doctor isn't for the endometrial biopsy but was totally open to the valium. There! I changed something about my protocol! Maybe it will be that tiny thing that makes the difference, but it wouldn't have happened if I didn't ask and advocate for why I thought it might be helpful. Ultimately I then take my doc's expertise (it's why I pay out those big bucks, I guess!), but I wanted reasoning and some kind of change and I got it.

- Everything in moderation. I am sure that acupuncture has fabulous benefits. I was going multiple times per week, for over an hour each time, and at $70 per session. That adds up fast, and like Em, I had to decide where to put my money. Herbs I never really was 100% behind, but I tried them, and (like everything else) they did not change my results. Mayan massage was lovely, but again expensive and time consuming, and I wasn't sure that it was bringing me closer to my goal. I used to do all of these things religiously, and then I decided...not to. I go for a regular massage every 2 weeks for stress relief, and because it has NOTHING to do with fertility. Acupuncture and Maya massage became less relaxing when I was always focusing on my uterus, my ovaries, my reproductive function that was failing me over and over and over again. Regular massage, at a place that does not associate itself with fertility at all, has proven super relaxing. Which, apparently, is really good for fertility (as much as I want to slug the "just relax" people, stress does not improve your chances). I am also a little crazy about chemicals--I replaced all my plastic tupperware with glass, and try to microwave as infrequently as possible. All my cleaning products are "green." I haven't had a soda in a really, really long time. But, sometimes a girl wants a cheeseburger and french fries. And those french fries are not going to make me more or less pregnant. So, moderation. Same goes with drinking. When I am in a cycle, on medication, I do not drink at all. Before then, especially with my eggs out of the picture, what's some wine or margaritas on the weekends? It goes with stress relief and enjoying something with my husband. We're not guzzlers, we're tasters and enjoyers and pair-ers and appreciators of good wine, and so to cut that out completely would be bad. So, moderation.

- Eat good stuff. I try to eat fresh, eat organic, and eat as little processed food as possible. I do need me some chocolate from time to time, but that falls under moderation. I try to eat lots of fruits and veggies. I try to eat whole grains (tough when you're gluten free and not by choice). I eat nuts and lean protein. My beef is grass fed, my chicken organic. My grocery bill huge. The diet thing is so hard, because you can find studies to support all kinds of things. Eastern medicine often recommends gluten and dairy free. Well, gluten is no problem as it makes me very ill. But dairy? Western medicine says full fat dairy is great for fertility. I have seen as many studies for dairy as I have against it. And guess what? I love my cheese. And my yogurt. So, I keep the dairy. I have had a hard time getting medical answers to perfect fertility foods, but have found answers in blogs, and websites, and books. But when you read between the lines, really eating foods high in folic acid, iron, protein, and fiber and low in sugar and processed stuff is helpful for your body, which is helpful for conceiving. And honestly, by the time you are into all this high-tech ART stuff, is a yogurt going to make or break you? I doubt it. So I try to eat as good a diet as possible and try not to sweat all the conflicting information out there.

- Some supplements I feel are helpful (understanding I am not a medical or nutritional professional in any way). One thing that I swear up and down DID make a measurable difference was wheatgrass. I had the best egg quality and number of embryos that made it to freeze on my last fresh IVF cycle. During stimming in that cycle I had a shot of wheatgrass, freshly squoze, every single day. That was the only big change that I made, and I swear it made for a better retrieval. I am now down to a prenatal (I go natural, expensive but it makes me feel better. Pure Encapsulations is the brand I buy), and fish oil. The lemon-flavored kind because I don't have fish burps and when I do they are lemony. Again, I swear that the fish oil makes a difference in lining thickness and bloodflow. It was one of the acupuncture suggestions that stuck. I believe in fish oil but have no studies to show you to prove it, just my own personal experience.

- Be informed. I know people who have been successful at IVF and went to all their appointments and did all their injections but had no clue what each medication did or how everything worked. That is so not me. I need to know everything about the process. I need to research, I need to be able to explain all this to anyone and not feel like everyone is speaking a language I can't understand around me in the clinic. So I read books and looked up websites and wrote the information down in my little notebook (which isn't as ubiquitous as it once was). I feel with complete confidence that I know my shit about IVF and my personal brand of infertility. I actually put this in action today when explaining how retrieval works to teachers I work with. I drew a little diagram on the blackboard and illustrated how retrieval works. Then, to be ha-ha funny, I erased the right fallopian tube so that it more accurately resembled MY plumbing. Ha. Ha. Ha. I love talking about this. I love explaining this to people who want to know more (and have maybe subjected some to it who weren't all that interested but were held hostage by my enthusiasm for all things fertility treatment). Let's face it, although it's not fun to be the patient, this stuff is COOL. It's amazing all the stuff they can do. They select individual sperm, break their little tails off, and inject them right into eggs and that doesn't guarantee fertilization? What is THAT? But that is ICSI, and it's important, to me, to know this. You may not want to know the ins and outs to keep your sanity. But for me, it helps me keep my sanity to be well-versed in the processes that will make me a mommy. I feel like I can ask better questions because I am informed. I can advocate better for myself because I am informed. I am definitely a bigger pain in the ass because I am informed, but that's ok.

- Make friends with your team. I consider my medical team part of my family. When we go to our clinic, it's like meeting up with friends. Friends who explore your privates with scary ultrasound wands, but friends all the same. They will make our dreams come true. They make the calls that can change your life. They are in your corner. I am lucky to be at a place that reciprocates this feeling for me. I truly feel like the nurses and PAs and doctors are happy to see us. I think that they would be happier to see us move on from their services, but I think it makes a big difference to have such a sense of friendship from the team. It could be easy to to distance yourself or be irritable (and I know I have been irritable at times when information was frustrating) given the circumstances. But considering all of the professionals part of your team for parenting goes a really long way. This is hard if you have a really big clinic, or a really antiseptic clinic, but it to me is invaluable to have a relationship with your clinic where you feel safe and warm and part of the team, not just a patient in the dark until they tell you stuff. Super important.

- Therapy, therapy, therapy. I would be lost without my counselor. She has been there for me through every high and every low, low, low. Even if it's just to have someone to bounce ideas off of and vent to, that outlet is so vital to mental health through this infertility thing. It affects everything, and sometimes an outside person can really give you perspective. And coping skills. Lots of coping skills. I would put therapy up there with wheat grass and PIO. Seriously, that important.

So, I don't know if I answered all the questions, but that is my personal definition of being a good patient. How I try to make my experience bearable and productive. Understanding of course that I have had NO lasting success and so this is hardly my handbook to getting pregnant and having your family completed. That's not what I'm trying to say at all. These are just my way of surviving this process, sanity mostly intact, trying to do everything I can to influence the uncontrollable and make my trip towards parenthood as efficient and productive as possible.

For some great resources, check out my book list on the right--all great resources for learning more about the process. My personal absolute favorite is Surviving Infertility by Elizabeth Swire Falker. That is like my Bible. It is so dog-eared and stained because I reference it all the time, even now. So there you have it, my five cents. I hope that this has been helpful to you, Em, and to anyone else along the way!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How Sweet It Is...

OK, confession...this was mostly written on Wednesday, but then life got in the way. So pretend it's today, even though now it's the weekend and not the day the events below happened... :)
Today was a bizarre day. It is my last week with ninth graders before finals, and I think they really want to make an impression on me. Example: I now know that a Clif Bar (didn't see what kind but it had nuts) can be molded into a wholly realistic sculpture of a bowel movement. I didn't know this before today. I treated myself to a pedicure because it was a day that just needed something sweet at the end. I know pedicures aren't tasty, but they make my feet feel loved and I can enjoy looking at the sparkly orange-red color I picked (yes, because I am a freakshow and can't escape the orange thing going into a is the Creation Color, the color of your reproductive chakra, yadda yadda yadda. Orange-y toes can't hurt...) all day long for some time. What I really wanted was a gluten free ice cream cone from a place called Read's, but I am trying to not be a monster going into this cycle and ice cream is my summer weakness. I've been way too exhausted from the drugs to exercise with any oomph and so I need ice cream to be a sweet treat that's not quite so frequent!

Another sweet moment in my day that took away the woes of high-protein, high performance crap on one of my chairs was a nomination from Lindsey at Operation Baby Gage for the Super Sweet Blogger Award. I met Lindsey through NIAW, and she is a beacon of hope for me--she just completed her first DE IVF and is PREGNANT! She is funny, and truthful, and has such a great attitude towards this whole process. I am so grateful to NIAW for bringing Lindsey into my life! Thank you, pregnant lady, for bestowing this honor upon me. And it is NOT creepy to call me your DE soul sister, because I feel the same! :) Go check out Lindsey's blog, it's awesome.

So, this Super Sweet Blogging Award comes with some requirements! After thanking the fabulous Lindsey, I need to include the Super Sweet blogging image in my blog, answer some questions, and then nominate other bloggers who are also super sweet. I have noticed that this is making the rounds, so I won't nominate people twice!

Super Sweet Questions:

1) Cookies or cake?
Um, CAKE. Hands-down. I am a gluten-free person, not by choice or to aid in my fertility (although it totally does because Celiac sucks and impacts your fertility) but because I have Celiac Disease. And gluten-free cookies, I'm sorry, generally are NOT as good as the original versions. However, gluten-free cake can be completely 100% delicious! There is a bakery here that does a great job of cupcakes, Dolce Cupcakery, and they get my business quite a lot. But I also have an arsenal of great cakes at my disposal thanks to Anne Byrn's The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free. My favorite cake of hers is the Hot Lemon Poke Cake. Sounds dirty, but tastes delicious. It's a spongey moist square cake with a lemon glaze that you pour over it when it's hot and has been skewered so the glaze soaks right into the cake. I bet you could make this cake alcoholic, but I love it straight up. SO GOOD. If interested, I will put the recipe in the comments.

2) Chocolate or Vanilla?
Well, that depends. Candy? Chocolate. Ice cream? Vanilla. Cake? Either, really. I haven't met a cake I didn't like. Chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are the best.

3) Favorite Sweet Treat?
Do I have to pick a favorite? Cupcakes, or ice cream cones, strawberry shortcake in the late spring, sea salt caramel chocolates. Mmmmm, sea salt caramel.

4) When do you crave sweet things the most?
This would be after lunch, and after I get home from school. That is the witching hour, because I eat lunch at the ridiculous time of 10:30 am, and so when I get home I am STARVING but it's not quite dinner time. So I crave a little sweet treat... and try really hard to make it healthy. Like strawberries, or a Larabar, or something like that. Sometimes chocolate with caramel. Or a peppermint patty. Mmmmm, peppermint patty.

5) Sweet Nickname?
Sweetheart. Occasionally Bryce calls me Sweetheart, but otherwise we're Babe. Which is sweet, but not in the name itself.

Blog Roll of Super Sweet Bloggers:
My Journey Through Infertility:
A new friend I met through NIAW who is embarking on the donor egg IVF journey--she is headed towards her retrieval/transfer out of state so wish her luck!
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Infertility :
This lady has raw emotion and insight into infertility, especially multiple miscarriage. She's trying to find answers to her latest devastating loss...send her some love.
Surviving Infertility and More:
Shannon speaks openly and honestly about her journey through infertility and her experience losing twins in the second trimester. She has some cautiously optimistic good news...keep her in your thoughts!
Our Journey to the School Bus:
Suzi has been struggling with where her journey is leading. Reading her blog is like chatting like a girlfriend! Go check her out and send some encouragement.
Que Sera Sera:
Peg's blog is her outlet for dealing with infertility and the discovery of  health issues that have put her journey on temporary hold...but not her refreshingly honest posts about how infertility affects her day-to-day. She's had a rough week (stupid Facebook), but things are looking up health-wise!
A Boy, A Girl, and A Cat :
I met Aimee through NIAW, and she has an inspiring story of infertility and weight loss. Aimee's last post was a poignant remembrance of her embryos from her last transfer--it's a beautiful read. I hope you're moving through the pain, Aimee! Send her some love, please!

There it is, all the sweet requirements met and sharing out of some very sweet ladies with very honest and compelling blogs. Thank you, Lindsey for sharing the love!