Friday, May 30, 2008

It's All Over (Again)

Beta at 29. Not a viable pregnancy.

For some reason, my nurse has decided that I should stay on my meds (and not drink or take xanax or anything like that) until I get new beta results on MONDAY. I'm really pissed about this. I mean, there is no fucking chance that this is viable.

So I've asked my doc (via e-mail) for a second opinion. Hopefully she'll write back by tomorrow and tell me to do whatever makes me feel good.

Thanks for all the support. Sorry for the letdown. Again. and Again. Here comes miscarriage number FOUR.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And So We Wait

Beta came in at 36. Not small enough to be considered a "negative," but not high enough to give me any measure of relief. My nurse says that women certainly start out with this kind of number and then it goes up and they have babies, but . . . .

And that's just it. She knows as well as I do that my track record isn't good here. Maybe this is a living pregnancy, maybe it's doomed. No way to know.

And so we wait until Friday. If it does't double, especially given my history, it's pretty much over.

This is just awful. You know that moment you wait for, the moment when you learn you're pregnant, and you get that warm rush, that giddy feeling, when you feel like you could shout the words "I'm pregnant!" from the rooftops? Yet another thing I've been robbed of.

Thanks for all the nice comments. If anyone has some good stories about low betas, feel free to share. Or just make them up. Anything to get me through the next two days.

Totally Freaking Out

Today is the fourth day that I have POAS. I was trying not to be too worried that the tests weren't getting any darker. But today it was even lighter--a very very very faint line. It was my last test, and I was panicked.

It was 6 a.m. when I took the test. My last test, because I figured that once I had my beta I could stop obsessively peeing on expensive sticks every day. But I was so freaked out by the results that I dragged some clothes off and ran out to the grocery store (which luckily opens at 6) to buy another test.

I think I'm actually going insane. I can't believe I did that. And it's not like the second test was any better.

I know a pee-stick test is just an IF-you're-pregnant test, not a HOW-pregnant-are-you test. But I can't help but think this is very bad. If multiple tests are showing less HCG than the ones from two days ago, isn't that a sign that my beta is not doubling?

I asked my nurse this morning when she took my blood, and she said it doesn't mean anything. But I'm not sure I believe her.

I'm losing my mind.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


“LFP” stands for “Little Faint Positive.” In the wee hours of the morning, unable to sleep, I gave in to temptation and peed on a stick. And holy fucking crap, there was an incredibly faint pink line. Dipped a second test in the pee (I always pee in a cup so I can take two tests if I get a positive, because I’m just that anal), and got the same, almost fainter, second line.

I know that half of you are going to want to start yelling and screaming (figuratively), jumping up and down (again, figuratively), and passing out cigars. I imagine that the other half of you are going to want to throw your computers against the wall, because that bitch acted like she was one of US; but she’s just a fertile fraud and now I will never read her blog again.

Let’s put these reactions on hold for a few weeks. Please, understand, that this is not a BIG FUCKING POSITIVE. It is a very tiny, very delicate, itty-bitty positive. Believe me, I would love to start designing the nursery, calculate my due date, and get all dreamy-eyed about whether it’s a boy or a girl or twins.

But I’ve been here before. Several times. In fact, right about now is our real danger zone. J’s sperm aren’t great, and our embryos don’t tend to last. Maybe things are turning around on that front—this is the first time we had blasts left over to freeze, which is a good sign—but I’m not counting my fetuses before they attach, if you will allow me such a cheesy turn of phrase.

The biggest concern right now is that this will turn out to be a chemical pregnancy. So allow me, if you will, to bitch about the phrase “chemical pregnancy.”

The Babychaser’s Rant About the Phrase “Chemical Pregnancy”

A “chemical pregnancy” appears to be any pregnancy that ends at or around the same time your period was going to start anyway. A year ago (almost to the day), I experienced a chemical pregnancy. IVF #1 was almost over. My beta was in two days, and I had yet to learn I could POAS to find out early. I started bleeding and cramping. Assuming the cycle had failed, I went in for my beta steeled for the worst. Imagine my shock and surprise when the nurse called in the afternoon and told me I was pregnant! I actually laughed at her. Mind you, she did say it didn’t sound likely I would stay pregnant. And given how hard I was bleeding, I couldn’t help but agree. But there was a chance.

So for two days I bled and cramped and cried. I had a bad cold, was in horrible pain from the cramps, and was completely overwrought. In my house I had cold medicine, percocet, and xanax—drugs that could magically heal all these ills, but I couldn’t take any of them because I might still hang onto my baby.

The second beta was just going to be a relief, a go-ahead-and-take-your-drugs-it’s-all-over phone call. But my beta had doubled; my pregnancy was still viable. So two more days of misery while I waited and cried out to the universe to please save my baby. It wasn’t until four days after the first test, a week after I started bleeding, that I was sure the pregnancy was lost.

The phrase “chemical pregnancy” implies a fake pregnancy, a phantom, something not real that has trigged your hormones into throwing off false positives. This is not true. As far as I know, there is no such thing as a “chemical pregnancy” without an embryo at least partially implanting, creating a rise in HCG. You cannot have a “chemical pregnancy” without losing that embryo. In other words, you cannot have a “chemical pregnancy” without being pregnant.

I think they call it a “chemical pregnancy” because, before we invented the “chemicals” in an early pregnancy test (either by pee-stick or blood), women who had “chemical pregnancies” didn’t know they were pregnant, because they never missed a period. The literature out there says women just thought they had had a late, and a “heavy” period.

Having gone through this, let me tell you: a chemical pregnancy miscarriage does not feel like a “heavy” period—it feels like a miscarriage. In fact, last year, before my beta results came in and when I had no idea the test would come out positive, the cramps were so bad, so burning, that I could picture some beast clawing at the inside of my uterus. My friend was in my office after a particularly bad moment, and I said to her, “I haven’t felt this kind of cramps since my miscarriage.” That's right, I said this when I thought I was just having a period. I could tell the difference.

And there was nothing phantom-like about the resulting hormone crash. My period, once it finally gets a day or two in, can be a kind of release, where my hormones get back to normal after the PMS buildup. But a week after my “chemical pregnancy,” when my beta numbers finally started to drop, I crashed hard—the kind of hormone crash that comes only after a miscarriage.

Now I know that the further into a pregnancy, the worse the miscarriage. My chemical pregnancy was by far the easiest of my miscarriages, both physically and emotionally. But it was real. Not fake, not false, not phantom, not a fluke. I was pregnant, however briefly, and I lost that pregnancy, and it was painful and horrible.

I’m pretty sure the phrase “chemical pregnancy” was invented by a man.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Shout Out (and a Pink Rose) to Io


Just when you think infertility has dumped all of the world’s unfairness right in your lap, life comes at you and kicks you in the balls.

I’m referring my dear friend Io, who has had the shit kicked out of her by the Real World (not the fake Real World on TV, the real Real World on Planet Earth) this month. It’s easy, when wallowing in the mud pit of infertility, to forget that there are other bad things that can happen to you, that there are other ways you can get hurt, that there are other forces out there that can smash your dreams into smithereens.

Io’s been through a lot. A few months ago, she and her fabulous husband, A, plunked down the bulk of their savings for sperm-extracting surgery, step one on their two-step plan to have a baby. Step two was to save every spare penny for IVF. This step might take as long as a year or more, time while she was resigned to watch the rest of us gorge on insurance-covered IVF, shared-risk plans, or other “affordable” options. Granted, participation in an IVF or FET cycle is no treat. But imagine being the pillar of support for everyone else that’s going through it, while you wait and save and hope that someday you too can join the miserable party.

This is what Io’s been doing. And she’s been a real trooper about it.

So imagine our dismay when she found out earlier this month that A didn’t pass the bar. No biggie, right? That’s what we all told her (I’m feeling particularly guilty about this). People fail the bar the first time all the time. They don’t lose their jobs, nothing bad really happens. They just take it again, right?

But A did lose his job. Only days later. And now he’s devastated and brokenhearted. I can’t imagine how awful he feels, and how hard it must be for her to watch him hurting like that. And what’s she supposed to say to make him feel better? That it isn’t a problem? That this isn’t a setback? All that saving, that scrimping and hoping and saving, now that money going to pay the bills while A looks for a new job. And Io might have to leave a job she loves, just so she can support them for awhile.

And the think about this that sucks the worst, that just seems so wrong to me, is that it has nothing to do with infertility. It’s just life. Raw, rotten, sucky, brutal life. And as much as I seem to have come to terms with how unfair infertility itself is, I am having trouble wrapping my head around this flavor of unfairness. The kind that snatches away your hopes and dreams, the kind that has no relationship to science or nature.

Io, you’ve meant so much to me. You were one of my first friends out here, and you’ve been strong for all of us even when you couldn’t play along. And now you have to be strong for A, to show him how much he’s worth, even when he feels like he’s nothing. And you have to be strong for you, to hold yourself together when it’s all falling apart. I know you can handle this. I know you will see it through, and that you and A will find the right track again. But I’m cursing the universe for you, my friend. Because it isn’t fair that one person should have to be so strong for so long, with no reward.

So I’m passing on my pink rose to you, honey. I wish I could pass on luck, or money, or a job for A, or even peace of mind. But I’m all out of those. So I just pass on my thoughts, and perhaps give a place for others who are worried about you to comment as well.

The rules are as follows (but feel free to ignore this if you want to):

1. On your blog, copy and paste the award, these rules, a link back to the person who selected you, and a link to this post: You will find the story behind the Pink Rose Award and other graphics to choose from there.

2. Select as many award recipients as you would like, link to their blogs (if they have one), and explain why you have chosen them.

3. Let them know that you have selected them for an award by commenting on one of their posts.

4. If you are selected, pass it on by giving the Pink Rose Award to others.

5. If you find that someone you want to nominate has already been selected by someone else, you can still honor them by posting a comment on their award post stating your reasons for wishing to grant them the award.

6. You do not have to wait until someone nominates you to nominate someone else.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


People I hate:

The dental assistant who fitted me for the wrong kind of mouth guard yesterday, who had to call me today and tell me to take another hour and a half out of my life to come get fitted again. (Though she kindly told me they “wouldn’t charge me” for the second office visit. She’s very lucky she got my voice mail—I don’t think she would have liked my response.)

The guy on the Metro this evening who made me practically crawl around him to get to the only open spot, then stood there leaning against the only pole within reach. And when I did grab on, wedging my fingers in between the pole and his back, he didn’t budge. I did my best to twist my knuckles into him, shifting them occasionally for maximum effect. When he looked back at me, I gave him one of those “you wanna try me?” looks. You know the one: slightly raised eyebrows, bland expression. The worst part was, this asshole was a Metro employee, neon orange vest and all. I was incensed. I even thought about writing Metro to complain.

The lady that got onto the escalator on the left side, in front of me, but didn’t walk up. (We DC commuters can get a bit militant about these things.)

Whoever it was that peed in the Metro station under my office two weeks ago, making it smell so pungent I want to hurl every time I go down there. (DC Metro is cleaner than most city subways, so I’m not used to this. Ugh.)

The guy in front of me at the metal detector this morning, who didn’t seem to realize that “metal detector” means that all METAL needs to come out of his pockets. It took him three tries to get it right. Where do these people come from? I go through two to three metal detectors a day. How is it this guy has never experienced even one?

The guy in the office next to mine who freaks out every time I call the building manager to complain that it’s so cold that I’m getting frostbite. It’s 80 degrees outside, and I need gloves in my office. (And when it’s hot, this guy always comes in and asks to borrow my second fan. Even when I have explicitly told him that I did not want to lend it to him any more, because then when it gets hotter in the afternoon and I want two fans––which is my god-given right because they are both MINE––I feel bad about taking it back, and that I would not lend it to him anymore, and that he really needs to buy his own fan. Seriously, this guy borrowed my fan again last week, after a winter of fighting with me over it. Who the fuck does he think he is? Any normal person would be embarrassed to even think about it, let alone try it again. Sheesh, the government is full of freaks.) I spent the day huddled under two sweaters with my space heater mucking up the air, cursing his name. Asshole.

My husband, for not being here to make me less crazy. (And who, when he’s here, I sometimes want to kill because I am so crazy.)

Those too-rabid Red Sox fans who bought all the tickets (translation: all the tickets under $45) to the Red Sox / Orioles game at Camden Yards on the day I had planned to go see my beloved Sox. Creeps.

My across-the-street neighbor, who has a perfect lawn, while I seem capable of growing only clover, dandelions, and some prickly abomination that literally spits seeds up in the air if you so much as breathe on it (that fucking weed is too clever by half—how am I supposed to fight that?).

The writers of Grey’s Anatomy, who have ruined an incredibly soothing soapy-but-my-husband-will-still-watch-it show in the course of just one season.

My mother-in-law, who, when I went to visit on Mother’s Day, promptly asked me for my sister’s e-mail address so she could send her a Mother’s Day e-card.

The guy who invented estrogen (in pill form, I know a GUY didn’t invent the actual hormone), and then progesterone, and then thought it would be fun to put the two together and stick them in a 36-year-old, just to see what would happen.

Oh, and pregnant women. Every one of them.

So? Anyone else out there grooving on their own hormone-cocktail? Who do YOU hate?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Can You Focus Too Much on Plan B?

Obviously you don’t have to be in the moment to conceive a child, but does it help? The power-of-positive-thinking people out there (who, in my opinion, tend to be those who have not been burned by its failure to come through in a pinch) would say “of course” your state of mind matters! Those of us who have had our hopes dashed one too many times would say that it doesn’t matter, that conception all about microscopic science, and that our losses are more a matter of dumb luck than anything else.

But I ponder this question today, in the wake of another total breakdown, this time at my acupuncturist’s office last night. She asked me how I was doing “in here,” tapping at her heart, and I shrugged noncommittally. I started telling her about how the hormones are making me bitchy (at J, and only J, because I can control it well enough around everyone else), which makes me not like myself very much. Then, as she started putting pins in various places, I started telling her about how much this cycle was costing us, and about the shared risk and about our plans to go right into it if this cycle doesn’t work, and about how much that was going to cost.

“You’re talking like you’ve already given up on the cycle you’re doing right now,” she said, seeming appalled.

“I know,” I responded, thinking to myself, I have. “But I need to get the next one set up, or we’ll miss our deadline for it and it will be August before I can fit another cycle in.”

“You’re thinking like a lawyer,” she said, to which I responded, a little hotly, “Well, I am a lawyer.”

“But can’t you just be in the now, just take this one step at a time? It would be such a shame if you were sitting there next Thursday (transfer day) and you weren’t even a part of what was happening.”

Of course, that got me crying, and kind of mad. Because what she described is exactly what I am trying to accomplish this cycle. I am trying to pretend it isn’t happening, to just go through the motions but keep focusing on the next cycle, to be so ready for the negative beta that it’ll barely sting. (I’m actually kind of worried about the timing. My BFF from Boston is coming to visit me at the end of the month; by my calculations she is going to arrive one or two days after my beta. It’s okay if I fall apart in front of her, but I don’t want to ruin her whole trip by being depressed.)

My acupuncturist thinks that crying is a really good thing, that there are tears stuck inside my head that need to come out. After three years of IF, I’m of the belief that I have a limitless supply of tears. Once I start crying, I usually can’t stop unless I take a xanax. And if I cry for more than a few minutes, I get a really bad headache. You would think that with this combination I wouldn’t let myself cry much, but the truth is that I cry a lot. So while my acupuncturist is telling me it’s good for me to let it all out, I’m trying to tell her that I’ve let it all out many many times, but it’s never, well, out. Instead of having a fixed amount of grief in me, it’s like I have this bottomless well of it, and letting it out does nothing to decrease the amount that’s still in there.

But after she left the room, as I lay there trying to slow the tears slipping sideways along my cheeks into my ears, I started wondering if she was just a little bit right. Not necessarily about the crying, because, seriously, how much can a girl cry before it’s just enough? But about my entire approach to this cycle, and probably the next and the one after that. I started to wonder if maybe I could jeopardize my cycle by refusing to acknowledge it. If I could be doing myself a disservice by refusing to acknowledge how devastated I’m going to be if this fails. (Have I mentioned that I think this is likely to fail?)

She certainly was right about one thing—I am deliberately distancing myself from what is happening to me. I am thinking like a lawyer. And let’s face it, that’s how I deal with life. While I like to think of myself as a hippie, flower-child type, the truth is that I’m not. I’m not spontaneous. Nope. I’m all about Plan B. I have been for a long time. I like to know my driving directions four steps ahead of where I am. I make long lists (and enjoy doing it) before I go on vacation. I constantly rehearse conversations in my head: what I’m going to say to opposing counsel about settlement; how I’m going to handle the receptionist at the RE’s office if she presents me with a bill tomorrow morning; what is the best way to e-mail my mom that will keep her from calling me; even how I’m going to talk to J about delicate issues. I like to have a backup plan for every life event, and a backup if the backup fails. So is it any wonder that, in the no-guarantees world of trying to get a baby, I’m all about Plan B, and C, and even D? (Note: if you think I’m using these terms randomly, Plan B is shared risk IVF, Plan C is IUI with donor sperm, and Plan D is adoption.) And something I realized last night? I break down my backup plans to myself when I’m tense, or scared, or completely freaked out. Case-in-point: all I’ve been able to think about or talk about in the past two weeks is “the plan,” particularly getting into the shared risk program. Not about how I’m feeling. Not about whether this is going to work. Just, over and over again, the details of the plan.

But is my acupuncturist right about this being a bad thing? I’m starting to think maybe she is. The most obvious point is that “the plan” is constantly on my mind, but I’m not at all sure it is bringing me comfort or peace. As she rightly pointed out, it isn’t going to take much of my time and attention to set up the shared risk program. But I can’t stop thinking about it. And maybe being all OCD about it isn’t all that healthy.

The other part, which I’m less sure about, was what really got me crying––her concern about my state of mind when we do the transfer (and presumably during the 2ww). I’m not a big believer in wishing-makes-it-so, but as I was lying there in the dark (at this point desperately wishing I could get up and blow my nose and take some Tylenol), a horrible though occurred to me: what if, by repeating to myself—mantra style––that this cycle won’t work, and by distancing myself from the transfer, my poor little embryos don’t feel welcome in my uterus? What if they feel rejected and sad? What if I really can sabotage my own pregnancy? What if they really do sense my feelings towards them?

Because let’s face it, I have been openly resentful of these little frosties. They probably aren’t as good as the three that failed last cycle, and there are only two of them, so I have been dismissive of their chances. And, because they exist, we have spent almost $7,000 on the freezing and FET. I was all set to lay out the money for shared risk––money that we get back if we fail––and be into the relative freedom of a flat rate for 6 cycles. But then these two little guys survived, and they put a wrench in those plans. Because you can’t lay out $22K when you could get pregnant just by spending another $5K. I’ve even told a few friends that I kind of wish we hadn’t bothered paying for the freezing in the first place.

See? I’m obsessing about the money again.

The bottom line is this: I’m not coping with this cycle. That negative beta hit me hard. I thought a miscarriage was the worst thing that could happen to me. But the miscarriages, while awful, gave me hope. This failed cycle really shook my confidence, and J’s confidence, and for the first time since I decided to have the surgery and keep trying, it occurred to me that that might not work at all, that we could end up with nothing.

I’m scared about my reaction to the negative beta waiting for me at the end of this ride. And I’m scared about J’s reaction, too. We both got burned badly last month. A repeat would be devastating. So I distance myself from it all.

I don’t know where this is going (and obviously I don’t know how to end this post). But I think about all the people who haven’t been through this, who think they know what’s hard about IVF––the needles, the early doctor appointments, the hormones, the fist-sized ovaries. They’re so wrong. That stuff sucks, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. It’s that negative beta at the end of the rainbow. That’s the killer.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Just Call Me McNeedy

Lately we’ve been calling McNulty, our kitten, “McNeedy” (he's going through a clingy phase). I think that’s a pretty accurate name for me as well. I just can’t seem to climb out of this funk I’ve been in. I’m starting to think that a lot of it is hormonal.

It’s been a long time since I posted. I’ve been feeling very low, very depressed, and pretty damn antisocial. J’s been home a lot the last week, which has been great, but also has gotten in the way of my blogging.

So I was all set to post today, because I feel like it’s rude to just lay out a post like my last one and not follow up. But then last night I sliced my index finger open, because I forgot that knives are not only sharp when you’re chopping, but also when you’re cleaning them. I’m still hoping it’s going to heal without stitches.

What that means is that this is going to be brief, because typing hurts. Here’s what’s up:

1. Fucking crap-ass insurance company is hosing me. After telling me on the phone that of course an FET would be covered, I learn that it is not. The same day, I learn that my $3,500 FET is actually $5,000, because my blasts need assisted hatching. So now, counting the freezing, we’re at $7,000 for this cycle. The cycle I really don’t think will work. And I learn all this the hard way, after the incompetent ho-bitch who handles insurance at my RE’s office fails to tell me that the insurance has given her a final answer, and fails to tell me the full amount, before I go in for a mid-cycle sono. So there I am standing in the hallway about to go into the sono room and she’s yelling down the hallway that I can’t have my sono because I don’t have authorization. And I'm yelling at her that she can't stop my progress mid-cycle, and perhaps she should have told me that I would have to lay out five grand that morning. And she doesn’t believe that I’m already into my cycle, and that she said that was okay. And she thinks she DID tell me that I had to pay that day. Luckily, our shouting match was in front of my RE, who was appalled. She gave us the name of the office manager to contact about all the problems we’ve had with this person. But the bottom line is that I had to lay out another $5,000 today.

2. Estrogen is not my friend. I thought this FET cycle would be a breeze, because I’d been on these drugs before. But the quantity makes a difference I guess. Three estrogen pills a day now, and they are fucking me up big time. Every time I had to increase the amount I would get horrible headaches. And even now that those have passed, I’m dealing with awful mood swings, depression, fatigue, and overall bitchiness. God, I hate the bitchiness. Isn’t all this bad enough without me having to hate myself on top of it?

3. J and I seem distant. We’ve been spending a lot more time together, but I’m still feeling like we’re on two different tracks. Both heading in the same direction, but not on the journey together. He agrees, but doesn’t know what to do to fix it. He says it’s something we just need to ride out to the end. I told him that I don’t think we can do that—what if this takes a year or more? I suspect the problem is that he’s depressed, and it’s making him withdrawn. But I don’t think he’s ever been depressed, the real kind of depression, in his life. I’m not convinced he knows how to handle it.

I meant to be in a better mood when I wrote. Every day I try to pull out of this pit, to start feeling better. Not only is this depression and overall anger not good for me, I think it could actually reduce my chances of having this FET work. I just have to mellow out, cheer up, at the very least find some contentment and peace in life. So far, though, I’m failing miserably at that.