January 25, 2009
ER update: Angela Bassett’s character had her egg retrieval! Spoiler alert: didn’t go well. Several aspects of the depiction were nothing like I’ve ever experienced (ultrasound to count the number of follicles the day of retrieval, husband in the operating room, private room for post-op recovery) but I suppose since the doctor on the show is an OB/GYN instead of an RE, anything goes. On the upside, the extensive talk about follicles and high-grade embryos was a triumph for infertility awareness. It also served to debunk the myth that IVF is a guarantee for older women (or anyone).
And now, Show and Tell. Years ago, I wasn’t yet a potter. Instead, I was a knitter. I was a very slow knitter, but I made a few lovely pieces — mostly scarves gifted to family members. I particularly enjoyed working with complex stitch patterns. Because I was so slow, I quickly figured out that I should only use very high-quality yarn — it was impossible to rack up a high yarn bill when it took me two months to make one scarf, and it’s much more pleasant to work with cashmere, silk, and merino wool than acrylic.
The last piece that I was working on before a computer-based repetitive stress injury ended my knitting career was a baby blanket — for the baby I was expecting to have in the near future. Periwinkle, because it’s gender-neutral. Cotton, because at the time we lived in a warm climate.
I actually learned to crochet just so that I could make the border of this blanket. I was almost finished with the border when I realized that the last ball of yarn I’d used for the main body was from a different dye lot than the rest. This means that there’s a few inches at the end that are a slightly different color. The border is a different color on purpose for contrast, but the different color within the body just looks strange. A perfectionist by nature, I realized that I would need to rip out the border and then unravel the section of the blanket with the wrong yarn. Around the time of that realization, I also realized that my repetitive stress injury was being aggravated by knitting… and then I had my first miscarriage, and I didn’t have the heart to keep working on the blanket.
And so, for five years this blanket has sat in a plastic bin in the closet, with a half-finished border and a discolored strip. I’ve figured that whenever I do finally
get stay pregnant, I would fix the mismatch problem once and for all. Hasn’t happened yet, but whenever it does, I’ll bring it back out of the closet and finish what I started so long ago.
What caused me to bring the blanket out of the closet after all of these years?
In a blog comment on one of Cara’s blogs, I made an offhand remark about knitting. She responded by emailing me to ask me if I still knitted, and if so, would I be willing to make a few buntings in which to bury babies. I sadly told her that I no longer knit, but I kept thinking about the tiny babies and their grieving parents, and the knitting that I used to do.
Last week I invited people to cost me some money by commenting ($1) or delurking ($2 for first-time commenters), which I would then donate to charity. My secret idea was that I could make up for my lack of knitting by subsidizing others’ knitting. For the four posts since I announced that plan, you’ve cost me $97: 26 new commenters, and 45 returning commenters.
I am donating the money to Share Southern Vermont. Some will be earmarked to cover the cost of yarn for some knitters in Cara’s area who are donating their knitting skills to make buntings, and the rest will be used for the general startup fund. If you’d like to help bring Share Southern Vermont closer to their goal, head to Building Heavenly Bridges or Share Southern Vermont to make a donation (and enter the scrapbook raffle). And if you happen to knit, I’m sure Cara would welcome a bunting. Unfortunately, the demand never stops.
Join Miss Lollipop and the rest of the class at Show and Tell.
January 19, 2009
Working on the trick up my sleeve to try to get the next IVF covered, we had to consult our attorney. One of our attorneys, actually. I don’t know where other people find professionals, but DH finds real estate agents at the poker table and dentists at the golf course.
This pattern holds true for our attorneys. We have three attorneys that we consult for different purposes (all DH’s business purposes; I have never before needed an attorney for anything).
- Former roommate of a buddy that goes to Vegas with DH sometimes (contract stuff)
- Guy that went to high school with this other guy we know (corporate stuff)
- Dude that used to play basketball with DH (tax stuff)
I asked DH to contact Basketball/Tax Dude to get clarification about some Trick Up My Sleeve issues. DH received some answers via email, then forwarded the email to me. It only contained partial answers, and I knew that DH would have to go back to Basketball/Tax Dude and get further clarification. As I scrolled to the bottom of the email, I saw a query from Basketball/Tax Dude.
So when are all the little DHs and Cassandras going to start popping out?
Generally that kind of question pisses me off, but this time it amused me. The irony — embedded in an email in which we are consulting him about the Trick Up My Sleeve that may pay for the next IVF(s)!
So then, DH calls Basketball/Tax Dude to get the clarification we need. After some back and forth about business details that I won’t bore you with, Basketball/Tax Dude says, “The only reason you’d need to do that would be if you were doing In Vitro Fertilization or something.”
DH: Yeah, well, actually, that’s exactly it.
Basketball/Tax Dude: Oh. Okay. Then that is the right course of action.
DH: Great, thanks. And, um, we’re not telling people about IVF or anything, so I’d appreciate it if you don’t say anything to anyone.
Basketball/Tax Dude: Dude, attorney-client privilege!
It’s official. I am not going to make any new friends unless they are attorneys, physicians, therapists, or priests.
Know what? Weebles Wobblog also keeps some tricks up her sleeve, along with a bunch of Perfect Moments.
September 5, 2008
In my last post I listed 16 things that were wrong. In the spirit of positive thinking and the pursuit of happiness, and to tip the scales in the other direction, I will now list more than 16 things that are right, in no particular order.
- I am married to the sweetest, gentlest, smartest, most whimsical man in the world.
- He will be an incredible father one of these days.
- I am about to leave for my 5th trip abroad in the past year, where I will visit two (or possibly three) fabulous countries that I have never seen before (the 12th, 13th, and maybe 14th new countries to be added to my list in the past 12 months, not counting exquisite repeats like Italy).
- Most of those trips have been work-related, and therefore subsidized or at least tax-deductible.
- I have countless freedoms, rights, privileges, and choices.
- Many people are working very hard to secure those freedoms, rights, privileges, and choices for all of us.
- I have numerous people whom I love and who genuinely care about my well-being, some of whom know about my infertility and support me through that on top of everything else.
- I have a blog which several people are kind enough to read (hello to you!).
- On that blog, I can post my deepest fears and most honest feelings about others because no one in my real life except my husband knows of its existence.
- Infertility and IVF side-effects and random minor ailments notwithstanding, I am healthy.
- We have enough disposable income that we’ve been able to pay for IF treatments out of pocket. Not that they don’t hurt, but we are getting by, and it has given us options that many people don’t have.
- When I am in the pottery studio, I am free of IF worries.
- My cat will probably be extra-comforting after the next egg retrieval.
- I have an education that enables me to make choices in my career, including the present choice to do something that I love less than what I usually do for a while so that I can obtain health insurance.
- My old job, and to some extent my new job, have flexible-enough hours that I can attend RE appointments with little disruption.
- Whenever that baby decides to finally show up, DH and I both have enough job flexibility that we can fit our daily schedules to our needs as parents.
- The new job that I accepted for the health insurance will ultimately benefit my career and will also help to replenish the void in my bank account from weekly acupuncture, IUIs, and IVF #1, a void which continues to expand with IVF #2 starting soon.
- IVF #2 is starting soon.
September 4, 2008
…in order of proximity.
- I feel empty and frantic inside.
- Continuous headache and neck pain for the past 4 days.
- Huge amount of work in front of me, brain not functional enough to get it done.
- Even if I can muster mental strength, repetitive stress injury to wrist makes work difficult.
- Boss just interrupted my brain-intensive work with an incredibly piddly detail that he finds very important, and I have to stop everything I am doing to work on that because no one else is competent enough to trust with this very basic clerical task.
- Construction down the hall, drilling, drilling into my brain.
- Out of town visiting family have drained my time and my energy, both already in short supply.
- Huge amount of work not directly in front of me but deadlines loom large.
- IVF cycle being postponed for a month to deal with health insurance.
- Scared about upcoming hysteroscopy.
- Generally freaked out about infertility, getting left behind while everyone else I know has lots of babies.
- Added TTC time pressure due to sister-in-law’s wedding and child-rearing plans.
- Miserable state of health insurance in this country.
- Civil liberties of journalists and protesters being trampled at RNC.
- Many more civil liberties to be trampled in the future if the GOP has its way, including but not limited to reproductive freedoms, which have become ever more salient since I started engaging in medical interventions that some people find objectionable.
- Despite all of the truly good things in my life, I feel like I am being fucked over by the fates.
August 29, 2008
Post-procrastination, and also post-RE visit report.
Today’s theme: If you think you know what will come next, you are forgetting the nature of infertility.
As I mentioned in my last post, I was a bit anxious about this RE visit, but still I thought that I knew what would likely happen. He would tell me what we learned with IVF #1, and what we’d be tweaking for IVF #2 to make our odds even better.
That is called hubris.
Do you know what the universe does with people who exhibit hubris? Smacks them in the face.
There were three key things that occurred at the visit, which I did not expect.
- He insisted that I try to figure out if I can get any insurance coverage for IVF. Now, I can barely get insurance coverage at all (or at least, insurance that will cover maternity if I can ever get pregnant), which is why I am about to start a new job with good benefits. I have looked exhaustively into every possible plan that is available to individuals in my state, and I know for a fact that not only is there no IF coverage for me, there is barely any coverage at all without getting a job that will include insurance, which I have now done. But Dr. Full Steam Ahead insisted that it’s easy to get fertility coverage. Basically he said that he was happy to take my money if I still wanted to pay out of pocket, but that since it might require a couple more tries at IVF, I should try to get coverage. He detailed the many ways in which coverage is so extensively available, and what a dullard I must be to have missed them for so long. Well, DH and I just spent several hours checking and calling every insurance company, and he is totally wrong and I was totally right. Unfortunately. I would love it if insurance would cover my IVF cycles, but it won’t. I have never been so annoyed to be right.
- He wants to add ICSI to the next IVF cycle. We have never had any male factor problems, and it didn’t seem that we had any fertilization problems with IVF #1, so ICSI never entered my mind. We had 50% of the mature eggs fertilize last time, but Dr. Full Steam Ahead wants to get that number higher. Did I mention that his name is Dr. Full Steam Ahead?
- He wants to do a hysteroscopy before the next cycle or during the birth control pill phase. In case there is any endometriosis from M/C #2, and just to really “get in there and look” at my uterus.
The insurance part was totally stressful. You’d think that it wouldn’t be stressful to potentially get tens of thousands of dollars covered, but just raising the possibility meant all sorts of phone calls and research when I knew it would turn up nothing. There are few things in life I hate more than figuring out health insurance, in large part because the situation is so bleak.
ICSI was a shock but actually no big deal once I thought about it. It costs more money ($2000), sure, but it requires no extra work/pain for me or DH. If it will increase the number of embryos, so that we have better embryos to transfer and/or some to freeze, it may save money in the long run, and save us one or more additional IVF cycles. I’m on board.
The hysteroscopy really freaks me out though. I am pretty okay with pain, and I have learned to accept all of the different painful aspects of the IVF cycle. But the idea of an additional invasive surgery, an additional couple of days out of commission, and the possibility it raises that he might find something wrong, all scares me shitless. By nature I am pretty calm and very matter-of-fact (even if some of my blog posts don’t give that impression — this blog is my place to be an emotional wreck, so that I can pull it together in real life), but this one is getting to me.
Oh, and remember when I said that it looked like I might have no Procrastination Tax for putting off my RE consultation? Yeah, well now because I need to wait for my new health insurance to kick in (since it should cover the hysteroscopy and maybe some parts of the IVF cycle like meds — fingers crossed) I may need to postpone the cycle a month. I had just updated my About Me page to say that IVF #2 would start in September. By adding that one line of text, I must have jinxed it.
As I have mentioned before: Man plans, G-d laughs.
To reiterate today’s lesson: If you think you know what will come next, you are forgetting the nature of infertility.
August 26, 2008
Most of DH’s immediate family is about to arrive at our house for almost a week.
Aside from the planning in terms of my work schedule and figuring out ways to entertain them, there is a serious matter at hand: I need to get rid of all of the TTC/IF evidence.
Normally I don’t go to great lengths when guests come over. Some friends know about our IF history, so I don’t care what they see. Most other guests don’t know, but are too polite to go snooping around.
But it’s different with family. Between parents and several younger siblings, our house will be overflowing. That means there will be prying eyes in every room. One of the younger sibs is a notorious snoop with no concept of privacy or personal responsibility. She may be a sociopath, or she may just be a kid. My husband strongly suspects the former.
Everything must go.
Fertility and pregnancy books, hidden in a file cabinet.
Prenatal vitamins, removed from the kitchen cabinet and put into my nightstand. DH’s regular vitamins and my omega-3 pills can stay.
Basal body thermometer, already in nightstand. I haven’t used it in so long, I wonder if it still works.
Ovulation predictor watch, already in nightstand. I wonder if all the times it told me I was ovulating, it was accurate, or it was just trying to make me feel better?
Astroglide, already in nightstand. (Okay, so that’s not actually for TTC, but it is something that we don’t want the kids stumbling onto.)
Syringes and sharps boxes… I guess I’ll put them in a file cabinet. Maybe the one that is labeled Taxes. No kid wants to look in there.
Paperwork from RE. Ugh, there is so much of it. Do I have enough file cabinets for all of this stuff? It took over half an hour to track it all down. Between RE instructions, hospital discharge instructions, billing statements, health insurance statements, health insurance denials, pamphlets… there are literally thousands of pieces of paper.
Computer caches cleared. Incriminating files protected.
And now for the conundrum:
Refrigerated meds. The huge bundle in my crisper includes an unopened Gonal-F pen and over 100 progesterone suppositories in two different doses.
As I have detailed before, after IVF #1, I was staying with family and had to keep my refrigerated suppositories in a cooler bag with ice packs for a week, changing out the ice a couple of times a day. This was fine for suppositories, which don’t really need to be at a specific temperature, as long as they’re not so warm that they start to melt. But the instructions, and the nurses, say that the Gonal-F should be refrigerated. I’m not sure if that’s 100% mandatory, but I don’t want to risk ruining $700 worth of meds, or even worse since I wouldn’t realize that they’re ruined, a $10k IVF cycle. So I need to keep them refrigerated, but I can’t keep them in my refrigerator. What to do?
Here is my crazy solution. I will keep the suppositories in my fridge until just before the family arrives, and then I will do the ice pack thing.
As for the Gonal-F, there aren’t many people around here who know about my TTC, so my options are limited. I certainly can’t keep them in the fridge at work!
And so, I have asked someone else to keep the Gonal-F for me for the week in her fridge. The woman that I mentioned wanting to get to know better last week.
My only regret is that I don’t have the prescription for birth control pills for IVF #2 yet. It would be delicious to leave those lying around for the family to find.
August 23, 2008
Are you ready?
When Gilbert is in India, the poet/plumber from New Zealand gives her some Instructions for Freedom and sends her to the top of a minaret to watch the sunset and think. Her ex-husband’s soul comes to the rooftop and talks to her soul, and they forgive each other (bear with me, even if the soul part is getting outlandish).
Much later I opened my eyes, and I knew it was over. Not just my marriage and not just my divorce, but all the unfinished bleak hollow sadness of it… it was over. I could feel that I was free. Let me be clear — it’s not that I would never again think about my ex-husband, or never again have any emotions attached to the memory of him. It’s just that this ritual on the rooftop had finally given me a place where I could house those thoughts and feelings whenever they would arise in the future — and they will always arise. But when they do show up again, I can just send them back here, back to this rooftop of memory, back to the care of those two cool blue souls who already and always understand everything.
When I read this, I realized that I, too, could have a place to send my troublesome thoughts and feelings. Now I will tell you about that place, and then I will show it to you.
A couple of months ago, I did IVF #1. And I was pregnant! And then I wasn’t. I got the call from the doctor informing me of my declining betas just a few hours before I was about to get on a plane to Europe. I was so busy with preparations and then with being on the trip itself that I didn’t experience any negative reactions to the loss of that pregnancy. With my first M/C four years ago, I put my whole heart into the pregnancy, and I was devastated when I lost it, devastated enough to stop TTC for over a year. This time around, I was guarded. I didn’t trust my BFP until I had two betas that were doubling appropriately, and even then I didn’t plan to really trust it until I saw a heartbeat, and even then I might not trust it until a baby showed up. “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you… fool me… can’t get fooled again.”
So anyway, I never trusted the pregnancy, and then my lack of trust was confirmed when I lost it. But because I hadn’t trusted it, I didn’t experience negative emotions about the loss.
Until the last day of the trip.
All of our travels were done, and all of my work obligations were over. As I walked out of my last work obligation, literally as I stepped away from the building, it all sank in. It was nighttime, and we were next to one of the big bridges of the city (not the most beautiful bridge in the world, but a very nice bridge in a remarkable city), and it looked like there was a street fair on the bridge, so of course the logical thing was to walk along the bridge through the fair. Except that with each step I got more and more sad, more and more angry. I started grumbling under my breath about the crowd, the buskers, the small children out with their parents late at night, the friends drinking and laughing, the locals and tourists all enjoying the vibrant city life. This whole scene normally would have been a delight, but as the dark cloud enveloped me, all of the pleasures eluded me. I took pictures of the things that I knew I should enjoy, but only because that’s what I was supposed to do.
By the time we got to the end of the bridge, I actually uttered the following sentence to DH:
Let’s just take the fucking picture of the bridge at night so I can get the hell out of here.
Not the kind of traveler I normally am, not at all. I am a fantastic traveler, full of adventure and spunk along with my due diligence. Not on that night. I was the worst kind of travel companion, the worst kind of wife. And I knew it, but even realizing what I was doing, I couldn’t hold back the poison.
Eventually, we made our way back to the hotel, and as we walked the anger gave way to sadness. Then I occupied my mind by having a conversation with DH in another language, one that he speaks better than I do. My fluency in that language is such that I can carry on a conversation, but it takes a lot of work. A pretty effective distraction, actually.
After that, my emotions recovered. By the time I got home the next day, my emotions had moved on.
But I seriously ruined that walk along the bridge.
And so, when I found that passage in Eat, Pray, Love, I realized that the bridge could be my ashram minaret.
Now, whenever I have negative thoughts about infertility or miscarriage, I can first acknowledge them, and then send them along to the Me who is still standing next to that bridge. She has plenty of negative thoughts already, so one more won’t hurt. But quite possibly, she will sort out the thoughts and file them away into her little knapsack and make them all not-so-bad. And her eyes will follow the curve of the illuminated bridge, onto the grand old buildings on both sides of the river, as far as the eye can see. And then maybe she will walk back onto the bridge to the street fair, and she will have a fantastic time.
Okay, you have waited long enough. Now it is time for the Show part of Show and Tell. If you can identify the bridge and the city (no Googling), you get a prize!
Edited: Not only did someone guess the location correctly and win a prize, but she had her own fabulous photo of the bridge to share, with an accompanying IVF story. You’d never guess by comparing the two photos that they are the same bridge, but a little perspective and some daylight can make all the difference in the world.
The next time I go back to that city will be with my child(ren). And I will take them to that spot where my trampled spirit and my foul mouth got the better of me, and I will say:
“The last time I was here, all I could do was think about you.”
August 20, 2008
Murgdan from Conceive This! recently posted about TTC as a game of dice. She quoted her GYN, who told her:
Remember that each cycle, even if you have perfect timing, perfect mucous, a perfect egg, you still only have a 20% chance of getting pregnant. It’s kind of like dice. One person may roll a dice and get a 6 on the first try. The next person may roll the same dice 12 times and never get a 6.
I have been thinking about my current efforts to conceive as a coin flip rather than a roll of the dice. Regular TTC odds are closer to the 1 out of 6 you get with dice, but my current odds with each IVF cycle are 50/50, just like a coin.
After IVF #1 resulted in BFP followed by BFN, DH was understandably disappointed. I told him how I was thinking about the situation, with some help from my old friend binomial probability.
With a single coin flip the odds are 50/50. But it’s possible that you can flip several times and still not get Tails. Sometimes you get Tails the first try. Usually you will get it the first few tries. But sometimes it takes a bunch of flips before you finally get Tails. Some doctors stop doing IVF after 3 or so tries because your odds are low if you’ve failed three tries, but based on probability, there’s a 1 in 8 chance that all 3 IVFs would fail. Those odds aren’t bad — those odds aren’t far off from the odds of conceiving that we had during the IUI cycles. If the odds of each IVF cycle really are 50/50, it’s likely that you’ll have success if you keep flipping a few more times. By the time you get to 7 tries, it’s less than 1% that you’ll have all 7 fail. You just have to keep flipping the coin.
It seemed to really help DH. Hooray for me, for using math to solve non-math problems. Hooray!
Not so fast. I did leave a couple of things out.
First, it’s $10,000 every time. That’s no chump change.
Second, this all assumes that the true probability is 50/50. My RE says that it is 50/50 for me, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the true probability. If a coin is loaded, the probability can change drastically. If you have a two-headed coin (yes yes, I know, like Two-Face in Batman — I can be more than one kind of geek in the same post!) you can flip a thousand times (or whatever the number of cycles would be if you did IVF every cycle for the rest of your life) and you will never ever hit Tails.
Here’s the thing. It takes a lot of flips before you start to realize that the coin may be two-headed. Harvey Dent flipped his coin many times before anyone ever figured out that it would always turn out heads, that he “made his own luck.” It took me an awful lot of unassisted cycles to finally say, this isn’t working. And then, after my first M/C and the hiatus and then subsequently letting nature take its course, it again took an awful lot of cycles before I finally said, this isn’t ever going to work without some major intervention. I’m slow to catch on sometimes, because I get so wrapped up in each coin flip (or roll of the die, or roll of the D&D 20-sided die — that’s three forms of geekiness in one post, if you’re keeping track) that I fail to see the whole picture.
For now, I’ll keep flipping the coin, assuming that it’s a fair coin. Though, if infertility has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t count on anything to be fair. But, if I keep trying, the odds are in my favor. Is Lady Luck?
August 4, 2008
Mel wrote a great article on BlogHer this week about the big
news rumors that Angelina Jolie’s twins were conceived through IVF. Mel is more bothered than I am by the sensationalism of the exclamation marks in the headline. I’m actually happy whenever I learn that any celebrity used (or may have used) assisted reproductive methods, as if my own experiences are a little more legitimized with each new reveal.
Although I’m more pleased than troubled by Angelina’s alleged IVF, I do have a lot of problems with the media’s treatment of the Jolie-Pitt family. The biggest problem is that until now, Shiloh has been treated as their “real” child and the other 3 adopted children as second-class. There has also been some odd pitting of Shiloh against her siblings — Brad loves Shiloh more than he loves the other kids, Angelina called Shiloh a blob and loves her less than she loves the other kids, etc. It is clear that Shiloh (and now Knox and Vivienne) have won the genetic jackpot when it comes to attractiveness, but I have seen no credible evidence to indicate that either parent favors their biological children over their adopted children.
Unfortunately I think that twins like these portray an unrealistically rosy picture of life with twins. I can’t think of any celebrity whose twins experienced significant prematurity or neonatal problems. The majority of twins that I have known in real life experienced one or both. Similarly, I think that the Brangelina media treatment gives an unrealistic picture of adoption. To be fair, it seems that Angelina’s adoption experiences have been easier than most others’.
Anyway, back to the twins. Because of their possible IVF beginnings, I was more excited than I would otherwise have been to see the first pictures of Vivienne and Knox. Take your pick between the People cover or the Hello! cover.
The pictures are beautiful, and I think any parent would love to have early photos of themselves with their newborn(s), gazing lovingly and looking fantastic (even if we can’t all look like Brad or Angelina). But there are strange subliminal messages to both covers. Maybe I’m imagining them; I hope I am. I hear the covers whispering:
White children are better than non-White children. Gorgeous children are better than normal-looking children. Biological children are better than adopted children. Twins are more special than singletons. These babies deserve more love than their siblings.
I wish that all of these statements were just my cynical imagination, but I have heard some of them stated outright about other families, and I have heard undertones of all of them many times.
Welcome to the world, Vivienne and Knox. I hope that being incredibly rich, and famous (without doing anything but being born), and good-looking, and having paparazzi stalk you every waking moment, and having the hopes of the western world pinned on you, doesn’t screw you up too badly.