Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Reports of my ovarian demise have been (somewhat) exaggerated

After the ovarian death sentence delivered by Dr. Crappy on Sunday, J and I met with our actual doctor this morning and he painted a picture that was not quite so dire -- not great, mind you, but not dire. Seeing as I had convinced myself I would never have children using my own eggs, "not great" seems like a step up.

Today is day 10 and the follicle count is up to 6 (a 50% improvement chirped the ever optimistic J!). Six is still disappointing, but it's enough that we could reasonably continue with the IVF cycle. We'll decide tomorrow after we go in for another ultrasound and more bloodwork. For those of you keeping score, that's 4 sessions with the wand and 5 donations to the clinic vampires in the span of 8 days.

My other distraction

Time for some non-fertility related news. As of today we are the proud owners of this little diamond in the rough:

It's difficult, but try to look past the putrid mustard-on-mustard color scheme. It's going to be a really cute house someday.

Monday, February 27, 2006

You'll never be normal

That's what Dr. CrappyBedsideManner (not my normal doctor) told me yesterday at my day 8 ultrasound. I'm pretty sure he was referring to my ovarian reserve, but as someone who already feels like a card-carry member of the Land of Misfit Toys, it was hard not to take his comment personally. And so I did. There's nothing more humiliating than sitting on the exam table, your lower half covered only by a thin paper sheet, sobbing your eyes out. Not one of my finer moments.

But I had reason to be upset -- I just wish it hadn't been in front of crotchety Dr. Crappy. After 8 days of high-dose stims, I have a measly 4 follicles. The follicles themselves are not measly -- they're of decent size -- the fact that I only have 4 is the problem. It officially makes me a "poor responder." (Another descriptor that's hard not to take personally. What is it with those?)

We go back on Tuesday to see if there's any improvement. At that point we'll likely have to decide whether to continue with IVF or convert to IUI. But what depresses me even more than having to make that decision is the implication being a poor responder has on my chances of success with IVF at all, this cycle or future cycles. Dr. Crappy wasn't too optimistic (as evidenced by the "you're not normal" comment). This all has an air of finality to it that I really don't like.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The cycle continues ... for now

I'm still in the game. My estradiol numbers as of today (Day 5) are still woefully low, but they decided to let me continue on to Day 8. They increased my stim dose to the absolute maximum and I go back on Sunday for another ultrasound.

My ovaries have some serious work to do if this cycle is going to continue much past Day 8. For someone who's always been an over-achiever, my slacker ovaries are proving a major embarrassment. The sonographer today called them pokey. Pokey. That's just great.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sugar, spice and everythig nice

In general I don't have a particularly foul mouth. I like a well-placed swear word as much as the next guy, but I've always believed in using them sparingly for greater effect. Not of late. Of late I sound like a sailor. I blame it on the infertility. My womb may be barren, but my vocabulary is anything but. Not exactly fair compensation, but it's something.

And I find it doesn't take much provocation to elicit an f-bomb or some such cursedness these days. I swear just to swear. For the pure visceral release. I think it bothers J somewhat, but not because he's particularly sensitive. I think he thinks we need to practice being good in preparation for having kids. But after nearly 4 years of trying, I'm so over that.

So we've agreed that for the course of this IVF cycle (which, the way things are going, might not be much longer), I'm allowed to swear as much as I like. No sooner had we made that proclamation than we watched I Heart Huckabees. The opening scene is a Jason Schwartzman voice-over of the main character's thoughts. It's comprised almost entirely of swear words, and I loved it. My favorite string o' swears was, "Fucking shit fuck!"

I repeat it as often as possible.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This isn't the way it was supposed to go

I didn't have a lot of expectations going into this IVF cycle. I made few predictions about how things would go. I purposefully tried not to think about how it might play out. I certainly never expected -- although I do admit to hoping -- that I'd walk out of this with a baby. I tend to be defensive by nature, and my approach to infertility is no exception. But for all I didn't expect, I did expect at least to make it to the egg retrieval. I should have known better.

Today's blood work revealed that my estradiol (i.e., estrogen) levels are low. Way low -- like a third of what they should be. That means I'm not responding well to the stims, and they can't increase my dose since I'm already pretty much at the max. The low estradiol level combined with my low antral follicle count from last Friday means they may cancel my cycle. Cancel. As in, it's over, you're done, better luck next time. I have an ultrasound on Thursday. Unless my body decides to kick it up a notch in the next two days, IVF #1 will end before it even got off the ground.

I've thought long and hard about how I'd deal with the pain if this IVF attempt was unsuccessful. I didn't consider how I'd deal with the disappointment of having the cycle canceled. The answer? Not well.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

All systems go

Turns out that pesky cyst is just that -- pesky, but not causing any real trouble -- so we've been given the green light to start stims tonight. That means 3 (sometimes 4) shots a day from now until retrieval. And the needles are bigger than the one I've been using up until now. Much bigger.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Sir! Suppression check, sir!

The first half of an IVF cycle is all about suppression. The drugs you take are designed to break your body of its natural rhythm. To beat it into submission. And then once your reproductive organs are cowering in a corner begging for mercy, you slowly start building them up again. Stimulating them to perform better than they ever have before. It's kind of like I imagine boot camp to be.

Unfortunately, my ovaries are proving to be unruly and obstinate recruits. Today was my suppression check, where they perform an ultrasound to confirm that all activity is suitably quelled. Come to find out my left ovary is staging a revolt in the form of a big ol' cyst. It was somewhat deflated and may be going away, but the sonographer wasn't sure. They took blood to measure my estradiol levels. That will tell us just how feisty this sucker is. We'll get the results tomorrow.

[An aside: Why won't we get the results today, you rightly ask? Because the clinic was closing early so the entire office could go curling. Yes, curling. It so happens that J is a curler, and when the nurses found out, they pounced on him right there in the middle of the exam room. There I am naked from the waist down, my feet in the stirrups, dildo-cam in place, and all the nurse and sonographer want to do is ask J for curling tips. Hello, people! Can we put the focus back on my ovaries, please?]

So anyway, if my estradiol levels are low, we start the stimulation meds on Sunday as planned. If not, we continue the Lupron shots and go back for another suppression check in a week. As much as I can't believe I'm saying this, I actually hope we have to delay. It's not that I'm looking forward to an extra week of shots -- I'm not -- it's just that if we're going to do this, I'd like conditions to be perfect. Is that so much to ask?

Sir! No, sir!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The insurance vending machine

I'm writing a big fat check for homeowner's insurance on our new place, and it reminds me how much I dislike insurance companies. Particularly medical insurance companies.

I really shouldn't complain. I have good insurance that actually covers IVF and related treatments. Even my drugs were covered. (I know!) But my clinic is out-of-network so I have to pay the clinic up front and then submit claims to the insurance company for reimbursement. Now, I thought my policy was pretty straight-forward. I thought I understood how it worked. But, apparently, I don't have the foggiest of clues.

When I send in a claim, it's like inserting a dollar bill into a vending machine. The machine might take the bill, or it might spit it back out at you. And just because you punched in the code for the package of Juicy Fruit gum, doesn't mean you'll get the Juicy Fruit gum. You could get anything. A bag of Doritos. A Mars bar. An apple, for pete's sake. It's completely unpredictable.

So I've stopped trying to predict it. Sometimes I get a check in the mail, sometimes the charges are put toward my deductible, sometimes (but thankfully not often) the claim is denied. There's no rhyme or reason to it that I can tell. But on average it seems to come out okay. And so, when the insurance vending machine spits out peanut butter and cheese crackers when what I really wanted was a Ding Dong, I think, eh. Close enough.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

We continue with the injections. I've decided I like it better when J administers them. That way I don't have to look. Besides, it freaks him out to do it, and part of me delights in that. Call it sharing the discomfort.

I'm not sure what the side effects of Lupron are, but a craving for anything and everything sweet must be one of them. I'm not normally a sweets-loving girl. Give me french fries over chocolate any day. But lately, all I want is sugar. Might explain why a bowl of ice cream has become my reward for a shot well done.

Ah, the indulgence. At least at this rate, I won't have to worry about running out of space on my belly for all these shots.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Get out of jail free card

I know I promised comedy. I've actually delayed this post by several days while I tried to come up with some laugh-out-loud nugget from my injection adventure. But, alas, there's nothing. Fact is, it was a complete non-event. I loaded the syringe, held it three inches away from a roll of belly fat for about 30 seconds while I worked up the nerve, and then in it went. It was as simple as that. Until I started crying.

Not from the pain, there was no pain to speak of. I cried because somehow that first shot made this whole IVF thing real. From the moment the doctor told us we needed to do IVF, in the irrational reaches of my mind, I thought somehow we'd get out of it. Somehow, something would happen that would mean we didn't have to do IVF. We'd be given a get out of jail free card.

But of course, that didn't happen. Instead, that first shot marked the beginning of a road I never wanted to travel. And standing here at the beginning of that road, syringe in hand, I only wish I knew where it ended.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Babies are slippery when wet

That was the warning my mother issued upon hearing I was babysitting a friend's new baby and that the babysitting gig included a bath. Now, I'm 35 years old and have never bathed an infant, so the advice was warranted, I suppose. Even if the subtext was "So don't drop her on her head, dumbass."

Monday, February 06, 2006

I'm a writer by profession. Not a real writer, mind you, a technical writer. I write about software. Really cool software that lets people do some amazingly creative stuff, but software just the same. This week I'm at a software conference. Nothing like a room full of computer geeks to sap the creativity right out of you.

That's not actually true. There are some really great and creative ideas being bandied about, but none that would be of interest to anyone reading this blog, so I'll refrain. Suffice it to say, my mind is elsewhere this week, so forgive me if the posts are a bit light.

Thursday I start injections. A comedy-rich post is sure to follow. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The weeping wall

Here comes the sun, do do do do ... Oh, no, wait. It's just more rain. Lots and lots of rain. Buckets of rain. For weeks on end now. You're not surprised? I live in Seattle, after all, you say? Oh, silly reader. The truth is Seattle's weather is typically quite mild. Sure it's gray from November through June, but when it rains it's usually just a drizzle. A misting, really. But not this year. This year we've had downpours of biblical proportion. We've had more than twice the rain we normally see in the month of January. And all this wetness has not been good for our walls.

The plaster below this window in our dining room was so soft, we could have scooped it out with a spoon. The paint bubbled to a Shrek-sized boil. Drips rolled down the wall like tears. Oh, wait. Maybe those were my tears thinking about how much this will cost us to fix.

[Update: The window guy was here. Turns out when the previous owners installed the windows, they framed the exterior in such a way as to block the weep holes. Now, I'm no Bob Villa, but even I know a window needs weep holes. Seesh.]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

There's nothing like a room full of infertile women to cheer you up. Really. I know that sounds like sarcasm, but I mean it in all sincerity. Once a month I meet with a group of women who are traveling the same crappy road I am, and it's fabulous. Infertility is an isolating experience. It's not something that gets discussed in polite company, and when you look around, it's easy to come to the conclusion that everyone -- I mean everyone -- has kids except for you. And so you feel like a freak.

I remember the first time I went to the fertility clinic. As I sneaked peeks around the waiting room, what struck me more than anything else was how normal everyone looked. I mean, the men and women sitting there looked like people we could be friends with. It was startling. I'm not sure what I expected. Weepy women with mascara streaks down their faces. Oddities of nature that probably shouldn't procreate anyway. Republicans. Who knows. The point is, they all looked just like us.

So this group of women I meet with, they're all beautiful, intelligent women who deserve to be mothers. We sit around and drink wine (at least those of us who aren't in the middle of a cycle drink wine), eat, tell our stories, and most of all, commiserate. And as we talk, the experience of infertility is normalized, if only for a few hours.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Knowledge is power

If you're a Seattle resident looking for home design books in the Seattle Public Library, don't bother. I have them all. All of them. At least, all the good ones. It's a bit absurd, actually. I don't know what made me think I'd have time to read them all. But when faced with uncertainty, this is how I respond. I research, I read, I take notes and (in this case) draw pictures. Crappy pictures, but pictures still.