Thoughtful ThursdayInstead of continuing to blog about blogging as we’ve done for the past three Thoughtful Thursdays, we will conclude April by returning to Thoughtful Thursday’s bread and butter: regular old infertility. The kind of issue that Fertiles just don’t tend to deal with, or at least not in the same way.

Hold on, not so fast… Quick detour first. It’s on topic, trust me.

When I bought my Volkswagen (as you may recall, the car I bought in 2001 to prepare for the baby that I was sure would be on the way soon), I received a registration card from VW. In addition to the usual name and address questions, it asked a question I’ve never seen anywhere else — a manifestation of the quirky marketing for which VW has strived for decades.

The registration card said something to the effect of:

Did you give your Volkswagen a name?
___ Of course! The name is _______
___ Huh? Why would I name a car?

To me, the very same question can be asked about all of the eggs and embryos (“theoretical children,” as my husband would call them) that get produced during fertility treatments. 

After IVF #2, Delenn asked me that very question about the two embryos that we transferred.

Looking good!! Did you name ’em? We named ours Attia and Servilla (Attia survived- we assume).

Honestly, naming embryos had never occurred to me before. Yes, I gazed at their photos for hours, wished that they would stay, imagined their futures, loved them. But naming embryos who had not implanted (and in that case, never did implant) was just not on my radar. I did name my Volkswagen, though.

Anyway, I have found many people who thought otherwise in the blogosphere. I have seen names for eggs prior to retrieval or IUI (usually naming the whole group rather than each individual, such as The Magnificent Seven). I have seen lots of names for embryos post-fertilization/pre-transfer, and even more names for embryos post-transfer (some names for the group and some individual names). The naming seems to go up further once people see embryos on ultrasound. When the sex of the fetus is known, it seems rare not to have some kind of nickname (or in some cases, the people start using the real name that they will give the baby). Some names are unique to people’s interests; some reflect something about the embryos/fetuses; some are just fun or silly.

Using some concurrent twin pregnancies as examples:

  • Miss Conception calls her twins Chick and Pea.
  • Katedaphne has called her twins Thing 1 and Thing 2 since seeing their first ultrasounds.
  • Shinejil named her twins Bruiser and Runty upon seeing their disparate sizes on ultrasound; one week later, Runty’s heartbeat could no longer be found, but Bruiser continues to do well.
  • Mrs. M@sk had been calling her twins The Flintstones, then revised it to Wilma and Betty once she learned the sexes, but she continues to call them all sorts of variations on the theme such as Bedrock Babies. By the way, Mrs. M@sk has just been put on bedrest for the remainder of her pregnancy, so go send her your good thoughts that the babies stay put for several more weeks.

My husband and I do have nicknames for our fetuses, but between the two of us we have said them out loud less than half a dozen times. Once, only once, when my husband said goodbye as I left for work, he also said goodbye to the babies using their nicknames. One of them is a name that DH for years has joked about giving our child as an actual name — purely a joke, he’s not batshit insane. The other one we came up with as a counterpart to the first name when we learned that I was carrying twins.

I’m not going to tell you the names, but I will give you a huge hint. If anyone happens to get them both before next week’s Thoughtful Thursday, you will get an enormous jackpot bonanza prize. I’m pretty sure no one will guess — wanna prove me wrong? (If you do guess, please don’t forget to also answer the substantive Thoughtful Thursday questions.)

Your hint(s): The names come from The Transformers. The 80s cartoon and toy empire, not necessarily the recent movie. One of the characters after whom one of our twins is named appeared in the 2007 movie, but the other one did not. I am not telling you whether they are Autobots or Decepticons (or one of each).

Back to this week’s Thoughtful Thursday query:
Have you named eggs/embryos at any point in the treatment process? If so, at what point? Were the names picked out before or after you saw their microscope/ultrasound image?

I’m not talking about when you might assign the real name to a fetus — that’s a topic for a different Thoughtful Thursday. Today, let’s talk about the silly nicknames that some of us give and some of us don’t. You can even tell us the names if you’d like.

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Thoughtful Thursday
It’s a new month, and that means a new crop of Intelligentsia (people who have commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post for the month of February). Returning from her January Intelligentsia appearance is Wiseguy from Woman Anyone?, the only two-time Intelligentsia member. She has some fine company this month:

Ernessa from Fierce and Nerdy
Fattykins from I Can’t Wash My Jeans, My Fat Is In The Way
Heather from Joys In My Life
Leslie Laine from What You’re Not Expecting When You’re Trying to Expect
Mel a.k.a. Lollipop Goldstein from Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters
Shalini from By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Thanks for your diligence, ladies! If you would like the icon for your sidebar and need the code, let me know. Otherwise, enjoy your bling and your accolades. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Onto the main event. This week’s Thoughtful Thursday will focus on socks. Huh? Yes, socks.

SockItToMe
The topic was inspired by Kym’s Great Sock-It-To-Me Exchange (signups end on FridaySunday, but if you hurry you can still join in the fun!). Send a pair, get a pair. Make a couple of new friends. Fend off the winter chill, snuggle up filled with bloggy camaraderie, or bring yourself some good luck for an upcoming cycle (even though many of us have come to realize that we don’t believe in luck).

The Sock-It-To-Me exchange actually won’t be the first time I’ve sent socks to another blogger. You may recall the Mojo Sock giveaway, in which I found redemption following an unfortunate pottery calamity through the simple purchase and gift of some socks. I am so thrilled to say that the donor FET in which Miss Conception wore the Mojo Socks has resulted in a twin pregnancy, about to reach the 14 week mark. I don’t believe in luck, but I just might believe in Mojo.

Oh, and Miss Conception would like to pass along some kindness of her own. If you are in the U.S. or Canada can use any of the following extra meds, please email missyconception at gmail .com:

1 full box of Crinone (18 applicators) worth $400…free to a good home
1 bottle of Prometrium (100mg tablets x 41)
1 Bottle of Estrace (2mg tablets x 17)

Enough thoughtful giving. Now, time for the usual kind of thoughtfulness.

Thoughtful ThursdayOnce “lucky” socks have been worn for a fertility treatment (IUI, embryo transfer, etc.), what happens next?

It’s pretty clear what happens when the cycle works. There are many cases in the blogosphere of socks from a successful cycle being passed along to someone else, in the hopes that the success would also be passed along.

Before her transfer, Miss Conception talked about visualizing herself wearing the Mojo Socks at delivery, waddling down the hallway of the hospital as labor progressed. In addition to the transfer, she has worn them at several ultrasounds, continuing the power of the Mojo.

But what happens to socks from an unsuccessful cycle? Move them into your normal sock rotation? Banish them? Wear them for a future cycle?

I’m not so superstitious as to discard “unlucky” socks, but I can understand the impulse. The socks I wore for IVF #2 retrieval are in my normal rotation now — wool socks are quite useful under winter boots, regardless of the zany stripes. I don’t believe that they’re cursed or anything, but I still wouldn’t wear them for IVF #3, especially now that I’ll have my new Sock-It-To-Me socks.

There’s an added layer of complexity if socks are a gift. If you give someone socks for a cycle that turns out to be unsuccessful, should you feel bad? My happiness for Miss Conception was combined with relief that I didn’t jinx her.

I realize that this doesn’t have the gravitas of some of the other Thoughtful Thursday topics, but it’s something that many of us have to deal with, and something that I’ve never heard discussed elsewhere. You can play along whether you’ve worn “lucky” socks for a treatment, whether you’ve done IF treatments but haven’t worn special socks, or whether you’ve never done IF treatments.

What should you do with socks from an unsuccessful cycle?

For this week’s Show and Tell, I will present some artwork that I recently bought. Then, I will announce the winner of this week’s Dirty Laundry contest and her prize, which is related to the artwork.

During the unpleasantness of the 2WW during IVF #2 earlier this month, I did a lot of web-surfing. One of the sites I came across was Wall Blank. I really like the idea of this website: every day, they post one piece of artwork. It is available for purchase for one week, unless it sells out first. Editions seem to run in the range of 50 to 200 prints — small enough that you won’t see the same print at someone else’s house. If by some chance you do, you will be delighted that you both share the same good taste and belong to such an exclusive club. Maybe you’ll then develop a secret handshake.

Some of the art is photography; some are prints of paintings, drawings, mixed media, etc. Prices are extremely affordable for limited edition artwork. Really, extremely affordable — I have paid more than twice as much for photo prints that were 1/4 the size.

Offering a new piece every day brings a fun sense of anticipation and variety; one of my favorite Google Reader clicks every day is the new Wall Blank print. The one-week deadline creates an interesting sense of urgency. One day between IVF #2 transfer and beta day, I was smitten with a photograph. Each day, I would consider whether to buy it. During moments of optimism: art for the baby’s room! During moments of pessimism: art that will remind me of the failed cycle. During moments of realism: art that will simultaneously connect me to the past and the future. Finally, I decided to make the purchase a couple of days before the one-week window closed. Not knowing the outcome of the 2WW, I didn’t know whether optimism, pessimism, or realism would turn out to be correct. I did know that if I failed to seize the opportunity, I would regret it later.

Here is the photo that I purchased (the image is from the Wall Blank website; the print looks even better in person, but I haven’t framed it yet so I can’t show you what it looks like on my wall). The visuals are striking, but the title and description sealed the deal.
dreaming
Dreaming Makes Life Colourful. Description from Wall Blank:

This photo was taken in Seoul during the Buddha’s birthday celebrations. This was taken at Jogyesa, which is one of the temples in central Seoul.

In the Buddhist religion Buddha’s birthday is the equivalent of Christmas for Christians. At this time of year Buddhists can make a wish in the form of a message attached to a lantern. Those wishes are often peoples’ dreams and can include desires for world peace, good health for a loved one, or success in something they’re doing that year. I feel those who are striving to achieve dreams are living life to the full, and as such lead a life full of colour and joy. Every dream has it’s own colour and uniqueness, so hold onto your dreams.

By Simon Bond. An archival pigment print. Includes a signed & numbered certificate of authenticity.

As someone who is in the midst of trying very hard to achieve a long-time dream, this description spoke to me. The British spelling of colourful was icing on the cake.

The one-week deadline has long since expired, so none of you can buy this particular print (sorry!) unless it makes a surprise reappearance someday, but something new appears each weekday. I’ve seen several other offerings that would make nice metaphors for infertility, and many that were aesthetically wonderful.

This brings us to the Dirty Laundry contest winner. Earlier this week I posted ten items of dirty laundry, anonymous bits of honesty about people in my life. I asked readers to guess how many my husband would correctly identify.

He correctly identified most of them instantly. Amusingly, the one that I said would be pretty easy for him actually required extra thought. The one that stumped him the most was ironic: it’s about one of his relatives, and it’s more his complaint than mine — which says something about his attunement to my emotions as well as his own ability to move quickly past things that bother him (an ability that I don’t share). But, after some thought, he got all ten of them correct.

This means that Anita from Hope.Faith.Patience is the winner, since she was the first to guess 100%. Honorable mention (but no prize) to Danielle and Shinejil, who subsequently guessed 10 out of 10.

Anita’s prize is any artwork of her choice from Wall Blank. She can choose something that’s currently for sale, or she can wait until something catches her fancy.

I was all set to pay for the artwork myself, as I have done with my other contests, but in the course of emailing customer service to ask a logistic question about the gift certificate, Wall Blank’s founder Shawn generously offered to provide the print for the contest. Thanks very much, Shawn!

Anita’s IVF cycle was canceled yesterday. I hope that winning this contest will be a pleasant distraction for her, and that she’ll be able to pick a piece of artwork that helps her look to the future, as mine does for me. Congratulations, Anita; I wish you the best with your surgery and the next cycle.

More optimism, pessimism, and realism at Show and Tell.

Nope

January 14, 2009

It’s confirmed — negative beta.

One benefit of POAS knowledge: the nurse seemed surprised that I took her bad news so well.

One ray of hope: I may have a trick up my sleeve that will allow future IVFs to get covered by insurance — don’t ask yet, since I’m not sure if it’ll work. Sure, it would have been nice if I’d discovered this trick earlier before paying for 2 IVF cycles out of pocket (plus assessment and 2 IUIs earlier in 2008, all of which actually would have been covered by my current health insurance except that I didn’t have this job at the time) but that’s water under the bridge.

Thanks for all of your hope and well wishes.

Now, I’m going to go wash the magic marker PIO targets off my butt.

Edited to add: I’m pasting the timeline here, just so that I have it recorded.
11/20-12/15: BCP
12/19: start stims (Gonal-F)
12/23: blood & U/S
12/23-12/24: Gonal-F plus Repronex — itchy!
12/25-12/28: Gonal-F, Repronex, and Centrotide
12/26: blood & U/S
12/28: blood & U/S
12/29: blood & U/S: follicles are ready; time to trigger!
12/31: egg retrieval, ICSI, start estrogen
1/1: start progesterone in oil
1/2 embryo transfer
1/14: beta: BFN

IVF #2 2WW Blow by Blow

January 13, 2009

By nature, I am a pretty calm person. DH’s über-calm style has influenced me to be even more calm. But some powerful chaos lies dormant inside me — I inherited some pretty nutty genes from multiple family members.

Those chaotic genes have been activated during the second half of this 2WW.

With IVF #1, my patience (and avoidance) was so great that I didn’t POAS until 3 days after the beta would have been scheduled, extending the 2WW into a 2-and-a-half-WW. IVF #2 has been the complete opposite.

During the chicken-with-its-head-cut-off phases of this 2WW, I have scoured the IF blogosphere for posts of people who were at the same point in their 2WW, and I have found their subjective accounts immensely helpful. So, I’m going to give you a blow-by-blow in the hopes that it is helpful to someone else, now or in the future, during the throes of 2WWorry.

The following information comes from my IVF #2 spreadsheet — after abandoning them for a few treatment cycles, I am back to spreadsheets. It’s either indicative of optimism or an inability to distinguish one day on the couch wearing pajamas from the next. Probably both.

transfer day, 1dp2dt: Houseguests still here; some residual cramping from retrieval, but otherwise fine.

2dp2dt, 3dp2dt, 4dp2dt, 5dp2dt: Feeling lazy and sometimes sleepy, but otherwise fine. I stare repeatedly at the photos of my beautiful embryos.

(Here is where the “fun” begins.)

6dp2dt: After many lazy days, I am suddenly full of energy. I get as far as cuing up the video for a Qi Gong workout (which I have never done before, but it is gentler than the power yoga that I usually do) but don’t actually manage to do any exercise. I also have a tiny bit of nausea during the day, but in the evening I am moderately nauseous. That night, I am completely unable to sleep until after 4 a.m., totally anxious and 2WWhacked out. When I finally fall asleep, I have drawn-out dreams about BFNs and BFPs. Full scenarios, such as BFN followed by changing health insurance followed by FET or another IVF.

(My husband likes to make fun of me for my lame dreams, because he dreams about sports and sex but I tend to dream about topics like work and math. I may have topped my own nerdiness by dreaming about insurance.)

7dp2dt: Although I was planning to wait until the weekend, obviously my brain cannot take it anymore and I decide to POAS. My strong nausea must mean I’ll get a BFP, right? Nope. BFN. Granted, it is extremely early to be testing. Later in the day, I am again nauseous at night. I am also constipated, which often makes me cranky but in this case my mood is okay. I also spend most of the day being active or sociable, which probably helps.

8dp2dt: Bleeeeeeh. Constipation has given way to loose stools. I have a tummyache with some nausea most of the day. I am decidedly cranky. Oh, and also still lazy.

9dp2dt: Time to POAS again. BFN. I check Betabase and determine that there is more than a 50-50 chance that even if I were truly pregnant, I would still get a BFN at 9dp2dt. This does little to affect my mood, which becomes miserable. DH offers the wisdom that if I were supposed to test on 7dp2dt or 9dp2dt, they would have scheduled the beta then instead of 12dp2dt. The constipation returns, and I also have a bit of spotting/light pink bleeding. This is the first bleeding since the post-retrieval bleeding stopped. I don’t know what to make of this. DH goes out of town, and when I drop him off at the airport it feels as if I’m saying goodbye for months instead of a week. On the way home I go to the store and come close to bursting into tears more than once. Not much of an emotional eater, the only thing at the market that I can find to bring me any comfort is high-end hot chocolate mix.

10dp2dt: A little more spotting, but not much. Energy is higher, and I actually make it to the office. Still a bit nauseous and a bit constipated — I don’t know what to make of these symptoms. When I get home and check the mail, it contains a letter from the embryologist saying that none of my three extra embryos made it to freeze. I start to freak out, because the two embryos that were transferred were graded the same two of the ones they did not transfer. This means that if this cycle fails, instead of FET it’s right back to IVF. But more importantly, I also feel like it bodes poorly for the embryos that were transferred. Not entirely logical, I know, but my hope was already fragile and now it’s almost non-existent.

11dp2dt: POAS, BFN. Back to the drawing board. I guess there’s a tiny chance that the beta will be positive, especially given that I accidentally used First Response Rapid instead of First Response Early for today’s BFN, but I’ve wasted too much of my energy in the past seven years on glimmers of hope.

(Oh, and since my out-of-town husband is going to get the BFN news by reading this post, sorry. I love you.)

The beta is tomorrow. Tonight’s PIO injection is going to suck.

Conclusion #1:
Early POAS is great if it’s positive, but torture if it’s negative. (Obviously, you don’t know which it will be until you test.) But without POAS, I don’t know if I would have slept in the past five days.

Conclusion #2:
No matter how optimistic an RE is about a cycle, he is not in control of the babymaking gods. I wish I knew who the god-wrangler was — I’d bake him all the uterus cookies in the world.

Show and Tell: Cookie

January 11, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I let you into my post-injection snack ritual. Usually I go for normal foods like cookies and brownies, but occasionally there is a special treat. In honor of IVF #2, while I was making shortbread for the holidays I made one unique cookie. The other cookies were all normal shapes, but this one I hand-crafted to boost the spirits of my own hopeful womb and to amuse my bloggy friends.

Cookie

Can you tell what it is?

When DH saw it on the cooling rack, he asked, “Why did you make a cookie shaped like a penis and balls?”

Close, from an ontogeny point of view, but not quite.

As all of you easily guessed, I’m sure, the cookie depicts a uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

I will admit that it’s not a fully accurate representation. The raw version was slightly better, but ultimately, c’mon, this is a cookie. Still, I think it’s pretty good. Don’t ask me why, but my favorite part was sculpting the cervix.

I saved this cookie for the HCG trigger shot, which also happened to be the first injection that DH ever administered. His technique has improved with each PIO shot, and perhaps coincidentally most nights I don’t feel like having a treat after the shots anymore. Maybe I’m preggers, or maybe it’s just the hormones.

Go see what the rest of the class brought to Show and Tell. And if you haven’t already done so today, vote for Mel.

More Show than Tell:

Two beautiful 4-cell Day 2 embryos transferred yesterday.

The 2WW for IVF #2 begins.
Day 2 Embryos

Go see what everyone else brought to Show and Tell, if you can tear yourself away from Creme de la Creme.