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Back on the Chain Gang…

30 May

Its been so long since I’ve blogged, I don’t even know where to begin.  I suppose I’ll start at the beginning.

In early April I went to see a movie with my BFF Mandy.  We ate lunch and saw the Hunger Games.  Throughout the movie, I had to get up to use the bathroom–three times.  I thought this odd since Mandy and I both had the same amount to drink.  I finally jokingly said to her, “Either I’m pregnant, or I have a urinary tract infection.”

I thought back in my mind and realized that, while incredibly far-fetched, this WAS possible.  I went home and thought on it.  I tried to sit and just ‘feel.’  Did I feel anything weird?  No sore boobs, no bloated tummy, not tired, no weird cravings. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  And, I wasn’t late.  I had a period.  Or what I thought was a period?

I went upstairs and found an old test stick in my bathroom from the trying-to-conceive-Bea days.

“Holy shit.”  That was my response.  Two pink lines.  D’oh. I was 5 1/2 weeks pregnant.

Fast forward another week, and the symptoms were in full force.  I was pretty sick with Bea.  It was wintertime, so that probably made it more pronounced, but I do remember feeling like I had the worst case of the flu ever, and couldn’t wrap my head around what possible evolutionary, biological or other celestial reason why pregnancy had to start out so awfully.  Why would God (or your deity of choice) put someone through this?  You would think through natural selection our species may have figured out how to iron this little wrinkle out (irony understood: Here I am pregnant again).

Well, this kid really did a number on me.  I was/ am way sicker this time around.  With Bea, I had nausea but no vomiting, but #2 is still making me throw up, as I sit here at 12 1/2 weeks, taking anti-nausea meds.  I’ve lost 8 pounds.  I think the worst of it is behind me, as I feel good enough to at least write about it.

I stopped going to work around 6 1/2 weeks.  I was useless. Poor Bob did everything. Got Bea up in the morning, fed her, took her to school, picked her up, bathed her, and put her to bed.  My mom kindly cooked for us, so we didn’t starve, and by “we” I mean Bob and Bea, because I mostly just grazed.  I did nothing but sleep, eat a few potato chips and some yogurt, and sleep.

Then, last week, I was ready to go back to work.  Not as much ready to go back to work as I was ready to get out of the house.  Lo and behold, on my first day back I was told that they had figured out how to do my job without me there, and would be letting me go.  I was almost relieved, but still disappointed because I do like working, and don’t want to take Bea out of daycare.   I liked my job and it fit my lifestyle as a working mother.   But, as I puked in the locker room before I left, I thought “I guess this is for the best.”  (Sidenote, I wasn’t being replaced, so, no I can’t sue them…but to lay off a pregnant person is pretty ballsy, eh?)

Oh, and the best part of all of this is that we had to take my house of the market for 4 weeks because I was too sick to deal with showings.  So, now the house is finally back on the market.  And it is SLOOOOW.   We need a new house more than ever.

I thought about whether or not to write about the early parts of pregnancy, because, for me, they have been nothing short of miserable, especially the second time around.  And for those around me, I’m sure its been no picnic either (Bob was out of town for a whole week and Bea and I had to stay with my mother).  And all the while I go through this, BFF is battling cancer.  How can I complain about anything when my poor friend is on her 3rd month of chemotherapy?  Where is my positive spin? Where is my humorous take?  Is there nothing funny about pooping your pants at work?  Well, I guess in hindsight that will be funny.

No, nothing funny about any of this for me.  Don’t judge, I wasn’t super jazzed with Bea, either, until I had my 20 week sonogram.  I guess I’m just a seeing is believing kind of gal.  I remember getting odd reactions when I displayed anything short of undying, Jessica Simpson-like joy over being pregnant, but maybe everyone feels that way and they are just better actors than I am.  I think this makes me a super duper happy pregnant person in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, as a sharp juxtaposition.   I am happy, I will be happy, this is meant to be, as all things in life are.   Just have to get over this hump.

So, as you can see, I did end up writing about this.  While I’m not in nesting mode just yet, this entry in a blog about parenting, fertility, life and family does give hope.  I don’t like complaining about how sick I feel, knowing that there are so many others out there who would give anything to feel the way I feel (well… maybe not QUITE exactly how I feel). But, this part of my journey shouldn’t take anything away from my fertility journey with Bea.  If nothing else, it adds to it. Because after two years of trying to get pregnant with Beatrice, and having to ultimately resort to IVF, this pregnancy came as an almost impossible surprise.  So, maybe reading about how nauseous I am won’t give hope to many, but the fact that I am pregnant should.

If someone who tried for so long and had so many difficulties can have a ooops lovely surprise, anyone can.   And I have friends, who, at this very moment are struggling right now.  And I think of them often.  No, its not fair that someone who wasn’t trying can get there before you.  I’ve been there, I know.   But hope is not lost.   There are a thousand stories like mine.  And I hope those that are still chasing stars can add their names to the list of tales very soon.

In the meantime, I need a nap.

Baby Making Rooms

13 Mar

I haven’t blogged in a while about my fertility journey.  I was recently recalling some of the things I encountered while going through it, and while a lot of it was painful (and a pain in the ass), some of it was humorous.

One of the funny things about infertility is just how, for lack of a better term, OUT THERE all of your business becomes! Literally and figuratively! Things that normally would not be spoken about under any circumstances suddenly become coffee talk.

“Oh, so did you have sex on the 14th day of your cycle this month? Any luck?”
“So, why can’t you get pregnant? Is something wrong with your plumbing or your husband’s?”
“Wow, how much does that COST?”

Yeah. Seriously.

The other side of the fertility coin is the one experienced by the man. Once you get past the less invasive treatments (namely drugs), you must enter the world of petri dishes, washing of sperm and questions like “will they fall out if I sit up too fast?”

At our clinic, there was a separate door (a back door wouldn’t you know) to the room where the man makes his ‘deposit.’ The Baby Making Room. Bob described it as the most unsexy room you can ever imagine, with porn of every type (Black, White, Asian, chubby…? They got em all).  And, of course, there was a VHS machine.  What other ways could they make this room feel skeevy?  Linoleum of course.  Well, I guess carpet is out of the question.

So, rather than parade these poor guys past the waiting room (I mean, really, what OTHER possible reason would they be going into a fertility clinic by themselves?)  they get to arrive and leave mostly anonymously.

I was back in an exam room one time with Bob when we heard “Ding Dong.”  Sorry, did you read that right?  That was the sound of a doorbell, not a penis joke.   Bob looked up and said “Ooh, someone’s going into the ‘room,'” I started cracking up. “You mean, the baby making room?”   Bob confirmed that this was indeed the room in question.

The doorbell sound was nothing that could be heard from inside the waiting room, or even in one of the phlebotomy cubes.  I had never heard it before in all of my time going to the clinic.  And now I felt sorry for the poor guy on the other side of the door  for some reason.  I couldn’t see him obviously, but what an unsubtle way to announce one’s presence, eh?

The other funny thing I remember is the Social Security patrons.  My clinic was right next door to a Social Security office in Towson.  So, once in a while an older person would walk in (having missed the large sign on the door), and whoever was at the front desk didn’t even need to pause to let them get their question out.  Again… KIND of obvious they don’t belong here, right?  “Social Security office is around the corner to the right, ma’am.”

I need to write about my next leg in the journey,   The IVF.  But if you were in my house this evening you would have witnessed a toddler possessed by the devil and an extremely exhausted Carrie.  So that will have to wait until another day!

Oh…. so THAT’S how it happened!

13 Jan

So when I wrote my last post about the uterine biopsy, I was getting the timeline a little messed up.  I tried to think back, but after the tests a lot of it was blurry.  So I went back and searched my Gmail to see if I had emailed anyone about the procedures.  I found a chat string from July 5,2009 between myself and the lovely Martha Hotness.

Martha: how late did everyone stay

12:00 PM me: most everyone left right after fireworks

julie & brian stayed till about noon

Martha: noon? did they sleep the night?

me: lmao

i meant midnight

Martha: haha gotchya

12:01 PM me: how is work?

Martha: sucky. no motivation

me: i know i’m supposed to be ‘reading’

and i’m playing uno on facebook

12:02 PM Martha: that’s why i’m not on facebook, i have enough distractions in my life [sidebar: the lovely MH is now on Facebook]

me: hahaha

12:03 PM so i meant to try to get you alone for a bit to tell you about my ‘procedures’

i had my biopsy on friday–oh my god

i yelled the whole time lol

Martha: eeek, i bet it was painful

when do you get the results back?

me: i don’t know honestly

i have to call when i get my period

12:04 PM Martha: then what?

me: then they give me clomid

and we schedule a sonogram for day 12

ohh i forgot to tell you

that both docs said I have a ‘tight cervix’

lmao

http://www.fertilitycentermd.com/index.cfm?page=content&id=26#treatments

It has started to come back to me.  I had to take Clomid on Day 12 of the next cycle, which would likely be late July.   Then, on day 14 or 15, I would go in for a sonogram to see how many eggs were developing.  If they looked good, I’d get a shot, and Bob was scheduled the next day to make his, er, deposit.  2 hours later, I’d come in for the, ehhh, receiving of the sacrament, so to speak.

So based on my super sleuthing (I’ve been reading the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, can you tell?) I deduced that my first IUI treatment was sometime in early August.

I know this much:  None of the three treatments we did produced any results.  And in October I went back to talk to my doctor about next steps.   There were several more aggressive approaches of IUI we could do.  Some involved injectables, versus the Clomid, which increased my chances to about 15% (up from 10%).  Side note: Did you know that after the age of 30, if you have been trying to get pregnant for a year or more, the chances of you getting pregnant naturally are only about 3-4% each month? This news is not meant to depress or deter you in any way, but if intervention is in your future, there ya go.

Coincidentally, something else was going on at this very same time.   Open Enrollment for Healthcare was happening simultaneously;  a few weeks before this visit as a matter of fact.  Bob and I had gotten notice that our healthcare was changing.  Nothing major was changing in our coverage.  We were still very lucky to have fertility coverage for 90% of the costs.  BUT I did notice that my lifetime benefit was reducing by $10,000.  That basically meant I would be losing out on $9,000 worth of treatments (assuming we had to pay for the other 10%) in about 2 1/2 months.   So…  how do you spend $9,000 at a Fertility Clinic in two months’ time?  Its spelled I-V-F.

The Story of Sarah and Abraham

23 Nov

I got a note this week that another blogger is following my blog.  I don’t know how they found me, but I’m truly honored.    This is the first (I think?) person that I don’t know personally that has signed on to follow me.   So this could mean that I’m actually entertaining and–gasp–poignant? (Insert flashback to that scene in “Julie and Julia” where Amy Adams innocently begins her blog journey by asking if anyone was there, and then flipping out when she got her first follower… could a book deal be in my future???)

Here is the link to THEIR blog…

http://stillcountingstars.wordpress.com/

The cutest things come out of petri dishes!

It looks like maybe they just started their blog, and are in the beginning stages of their fertility journey (and that I could REALLY use some blog design tips from them).   I wish them luck.  Everyone wants to hear that they will get pregnant, and that treatments will work.  But the reality is that not all of them do.   So, what do you tell someone, around the holidays (which, my good friend Dr. Jen D will tell you is actually a very depressing time of year, clinically speaking) surrounded by friends and family, hoping they’d have good news to share, but are faced with yet another negative test? Wishing, wishing, wishing for a child?

One of the best, most profound pieces of advice that I got during this process (and yes, I’m fast forwarding a bit in the story, a la “How I Met Your Mother”), was something that I clung tightly to, and got me through the very difficult first couple of months of pregnancy.  I have since re-told it countless times to others, furthering my reputation as a wise, yet youthful looking, modern sage.   So, I’m outing myself by revealing that this is not my own material.

That advice–no–that TRUTH is this:  Your child will choose their own path to you.  My husband (yes, of “Bobism” fame), was adopted, and so were his sisters.  My daughter was created in a petri dish.   My uncle was a pleasant ‘surprise’ to my 44 year old Grandmother. When all is said and done, no matter how you end up with your child or children in your life, you will look back and know that they are exactly who were meant to be yours.   And, yes, of course there are childless couples, and I can’t even begin to justify why or how that happens.  I’m wise and sage, not omnipotent.

So if you happen to read Sarah and Abraham’s story, tell them I said hello and to have a Happy Thanksgiving.  Their baby is finding his way as we speak.

Unbearability

10 Nov

Like the pun?  I’m picking up where I left off in the tale of how we became parents to the lovely miss Bea.   Between Bobisms, Jury Duty and Halloween, I haven’t had much time to sit down and recount my tale, so thus I begin again.

When last we left, your heroine was recuperating on the couch after a procedure called a hysterosalpingogram. What’s next for your protagonist, you ask? Yep, more torture.  New battle scars, allies and enemies.

Cautionary warnings and disclaimers in effect: if you don’t want to read about a ‘lady procedure’ or if you just don’t want to know me that intimately, stop here.  If you are about to go through fertility, or are going through it right now, don’t let these stories scare you. I tell them with humor so others like me will know they are not alone (and, again, the whole guilt thing when Bea is older, remember? Maybe she’ll hire the nice nurse for me and Bob when we’re old and decrepit, not the cheapest one that insurance covers. Right? You remember).  If you know anyone going through this, after hearing my stories, maybe you’ll be able to empathize or offer support, knowing what is involved.  Most people don’t talk about this stuff as openly as I do. 😉  And, of course, if you’re having a bad day, just picture me all laid up in various states of undress, in the most unflattering of poses and I guarantee your day will lighten up just a bit.

Back to the story. Ok, so no blockages were found during the Hysterosalpingogram.  This was in Spring 2009.  The next ‘test’ (and this is meant to be read while you picture me saying it with my most sarcastic air quotes) was a uterine biopsy, scheduled for July 2009.  This one, I believe, was to test me for endometriosis and to make sure my uterine wall was in good shape.

SO.  When I asked my Doctor about this procedure and what kind of, ehem, candy she could prescribe to me, I was told I’d only need to take a few Advil.   “Take 4 before you leave the house,” she said.

Hmm.  Ok.  4 Advil.  Can’t be that bad if narcotics aren’t involved, right?

WRONG.   Again, without getting too “familiar,” with you, a uterine biopsy is exactly what it sounds like.  They cut a piece of your uterine wall out to test it.  Every time I’d heard the word ‘biopsy,’ it was usually associated with cancer, so, right off the bat we had a bad connotation, me and Mr. Biopsy.  Most biopsies are done either local or general anesthesia.  Not this one.  So, how do they get to one’s uterus for said test?  Exactly how you think.

At my doctor’s practice, there are 3 doctors.  You don’t always get your particular doctor.  See, a fertility clinic has to be open 7 days a week.  The timing is too precise to miss a day. As a matter of fact, I think they only closed for a week around Christmas, and even then, they had stop all IVF procedures at the end of November to ensure no one would be missing necessary tests or treatments while they were closed.  So, in order to get days off, there has to be more than one doctor in the practice. This was my first time meeting Dr. Bell.  She was so super nice.  She made a joke about meeting under these circumstances.  I lay on the table, and she says “Carrie, I need you to lay very very still.  I have a sharp object in my hands, and if you move, I may cut you or not get enough tissue and have to do it again.”  Oh yeah, y’all.  There was a pair of  long-handled, glorified surgical scissors you-know-where.

So I take a deep breath.  Now, I’m not sure what I expected this to feel like, but I trusted that if this was going to be anywhere north of 6 on the pain scale, that I would have been amply prepared with pain killers.  Or perhaps a good swabbing of lidocaine or something?  When I say that I was having my insides cut out, that is exactly what it felt like.  I felt pain like I’ve never felt in a place I never knew existed (sounds familiar, right?)  Tugging, then cutting, more tugging.  Like the inner-most core of my gut was being pulled out.

Holy shit.  I started to holler and grab the sides of the table.  The nurse ran over so I could squeeze her hand.  While the last procedure felt like it lasted forever, the biopsy was only about 5 seconds.  But if you cut my finger off in half a second, I wager that would still hurt like hell.  The pain of this was much worse than the HSG.

“Ohh, Carrie I’m so sorry, I didn’t get enough tissue,” she says.  “I have to do it again.”

Ok, so now I’m legitimately crying.  “No, please…”  Like a damn child!  This time I know what’s coming.  Tears streaming. Yelling, lots of “Oh God”s.  It was over again before it started, and she told me I did well.  I said “Do you tell everyone that?”  She assured me there were much worse.  That made me feel a little better.

As I would hear MANY more times throughout this journey, “a little bleeding might occur.”  Turns out, everything with this test was normal too.  This was good news, but also troubling because it ruled out two major, very fixable problems.  What to do next?

Oh, and I almost forgot the best part!  When you go for fertility treatments, you pay UP FRONT. They already know what your insurance covers, and you have to pay the rest when you get there, or pay whatever balance you have.  So, I had to go into the billing room to chat with the ladies about payment.  (Sidenote:  One of the girls happened to be an ex classmate of mine named: Beatriz!)   Still mortified from my outburst (the exam room I was in shared a common wall with the billing department), I sat down.

We made small talk and she looked at my paperwork.  “Ahhh, so you had a uterine biopsy today?”

“Uhh, yeah, I’m shocked you couldn’t hear me yelling from in here.”

“Oh that was YOU?!”  Nice.

The Journey Begins Here…

13 Sep
You’d be scared, too, Mouth if you knew what was coming!

Remember that part in Goonies when Mikey whispers “It all starts here..” in the basement of the Fratelli’s hideout? That adequately sets the tone I think. I’ll start by saying that this post is a bit, uh, descriptive.  You’ve been warned.

I got married much later than the rest of my friends (ironically enough, Bob was one of the first of his friends to get married). So, that meant that of course we’d have children later too. I went off the pill shortly after we got married. I kept feeling as though I was behind in life. I am a very competitive person, and I felt like I was finishing last place in the race. I know it sounds silly, but after a while I started to feel more and more alienated by the things I didn’t have in common with everyone else. So, it became my mission to get pregnant. Unfortunately, nature didn’t really cooperate with us. It took almost 2 years. My best friend’s son was 5 before we got pregnant. That sort of made me sad because I wanted them all to be able to play together and 5 years seemed like a big difference.

If you haven’t been through fertility treatments, this isn’t meant to be something that I want sympathy for.  It was part of my journey, and if you know me, maybe picturing me going through all this will give you a laugh, even if at the time it wasn’t all that funny.  Maybe you know someone going through the same thing and this can give you some perspective.  If you are going through fertility treatments, you may enjoy knowing you are not alone. If you’re thinking about or going to have fertility treatments, don’t let any of it scare you. It’s a badge of honor, we wear it proudly.

After about a year of trying to get preggers, I went to my doctor and got a prescription for Clomid. That’s usually the first step for anyone who’s been trying for about 12 months. You take a pill for five days, and are then instructed to, uh, perform on certain days (usually 13, 15 and 17). Ahh, the romance! I should have known I was not cut out for it when it got annoying after the second month! Well, needless to say, after 3 months of it, we had bupkus.

It was April 2009 when I made the appointment with a fertility clinic. My OB recommended them. When we first met with my doctor, she sat with us for a long time and went on and on about different reasons for infertility, various tests they perform, various types of treatment, etc. I have to tell you, after about 10 minutes it was mind numbing and she lost me. After that point, I decided it was best not to try to fry my brain keeping up with it all, and to just take it one step at a time, and do exactly what the doctor says. I think I can understand how and why some women get obsessed over their treatments, and what’s going on with them, what the next step is, blah blah blah. It really is quite an interesting journey. We’ll get to the grocery bag of medication in another post. Anyhoo…

I made a pact with myself early on that I would not become one of those women who could only talk about fertility and getting pregnant. I had known women who were slightly obsessed, and sometimes it was annoying to listen to them go on ad nauseam. Besides, I didn’t see what there was to talk about. If I was pregnant, I was pregnant. If I wasn’t, I wasn’t. Other than a couple of interesting stories (the baby making room and hyperstimulated ovaries we’ll get to), I didn’t feel there was much to tell. Now, mind you, I wasn’t private about what we were going through. I did tell most of my close friends, but we did not tell hardly any family. When there was something to tell, we’d tell. So, beware: if you tell people that you are doing fertility treatments, be prepared for the floodgates to open up. Everyone means well, and is excited for you, as you will be at first. But you will soon become frustrated as the months go on (and your treatments aren’t working) and the questions become more frequent. And sadly, half the questions don’t have answers. Many women don’t know why they have trouble getting pregnant. And if you’re like me, you may not understand half of what’s going on, you just want to have a baby, so you go with it. Yeah, I’m not sure what that blood test was for, I just know I had to have it done, and it came back normal. Normal is always good.

Beyond just the general annoyances, there are a few PHYSICAL pains that are part of going through fertility treatments. They generally occur right at the beginning. For me, it was in the form of 2 painful tests. And of course, all of this is based on very precise timing determined only by Mother Nature herself. If it were up to me (and the doctors too, I’m sure), we would have gotten it all done within a few days.

So, the first bit of torture, er, I mean, testing that my doctor wanted me to do was called a Hysterosalpingogram or HSG. Basically, they shoot some dye into your fallopian tubes to see if there are any blockages. It has to be done in a hospital because it requires an x-ray machine and technician. Sounds innocent enough, right? HA! Dr. Smith told me that “Some women feel some discomfort with this procedure, so if you like I can prescribe you—“

“Yes, please.” I never turn down a doctor’s offer to give me pain killers. Never, ever. I am a wuss when it comes to pain. So, she prescribed me some Percocet and told me to take 1-2 before the procedure.

I think we went in May to have it done. Bob had to drive me because of the painkillers. So I took one at home, and then one in the waiting room. That may have been a mistake. They called me back into the changing room where I changed out of my clothes into a gown. Another woman was waiting there too, to be called back into the x-ray room. I would learn that this was common: procedures were scheduled together for efficiency. So I came across many poor souls going through exactly what I was going through.

So there we sat, in two hard plastic chairs in the changing room. Not very comfortable. Had they called me back first I think I would have been ok, but the waiting was killing me. I started to get nervous, and then feel wacky from the drugs. I started to sweat profusely. My stomach was in knots. I went into the bathroom, praying the woman waiting with me would not need to use it. I was queasy and dizzy. I managed to pull myself together and splash cold water on my face. I think I made a little small talk with Woman #2. I really wanted to just curl up in a ball and cry on her shoulder and tell her how scared I was, but I kept my cool, I think. Soon, they called her back.

So there I sat, alone, shaking, sweating, dizzy, trying to just close my eyes and block it all out. I don’t know what the hell was taking them so long. Then about 10 minutes later it was my turn. I walked back into the x-ray room and wondered if it was obvious how high I was. Dr. Smith was there, and I was relieved to see a familiar face. There was also a really nice tech lady there.
So ladies, picture an exam on an x-ray table. Weird. I lay on the x-ray table with my knees bent (no stirrups) and my doctor proceeded to do her thing. The x-ray machine was not over me, at this point. She had to insert a catheter, but was having some problems. Want to know what it felt like? It felt like someone was trying to pull my insides out. Just like that. The queasiness was coming back. I could tell she was struggling. She said she couldn’t get the catheter in. Oh great. She signaled to the tech to go get some sort of medieval sounding instrument, when POP! “Ah it’s in!”

“Oooh, I felt that!” I said. I thought the worst was over.

“Ok please get the radiologist,” Dr. Smith signaled to the tech. They then pulled the machine over me. It had sort of a little skirt on the outside of it so the radiologist wouldn’t be greeted with the sight of my hoo-ha sticking out. The radiologist came in, and I could see my innards on the screen. “Ok Carrie, I’m going to start inserting the dye.”

I’m not sure what I expected it to feel like, but a little liquid swishing around my insides did not sound like anything to be afraid of. Boy was I wrong. She had a little balloon at the bottom of the catheter that she squeezed to insert the dye—sort of like a pump. I can’t describe the pain, except to say it was a pain I’d never felt before in a place I never knew existed. Sort of like being punched in the gut, only from the inside out. I started screaming and crying, and the technician quickly came around to hold my hand. I squeezed it so hard. I think all I could say was “ouch” and “oh my God.”

It was over in about a minute, and the radiologist left as quickly as he came in. Dr. Smith showed me my fallopian tubes on the screen, which appeared to be clear and free of blockages. It was kind of cool to see my insides like that. And I was so glad it was all over. They told me I’d have some cramping for a few hours, and to wear a pad because some of the dye would leak out. Lovely.
Fortunately, it looked like everything went well with the test and I got to spend a day on the couch with ginger ale and Spaghettios (my childhood get well meal). But, I had another fun test ahead of me (cue dramatic music). It’s called a uterine biopsy and its almost as fun as the HSG.

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