Sunday, July 26, 2009

Welcome Home!

Welcome home, my four little friends. We do hope you enjoy your stay. Here in my womb it’s warm and dark, and just the right amount of squishy. There’s only one radio station, but it’s got all the chart-toppers loved by up-and-coming embryos all over the world, including heartbeat and bowel gurgles, livened up with the occasional enthusiastic (if often off-key) singing, screaming at various ball players, and a healthy smattering of “blue” language.

So come on in, pick a corner, unpack your DNA baggage, and settle in for a nice, long visit.

Your room may seem spacious now, but if you all decide to stick around it could get a bit cramped. So while we do appreciate your patronage and wish you all the best, we would appreciate it if at least two of you decide to try your luck in the great outdoors. Go camping, maybe see some sights. Washington, DC is lovely this time of year.

Feel free to decide amongst yourselves who’s going to stay and who’s going to go. (But if you find one of you is more stubborn and cranky than the others, be sure to encourage that one to check out early.)

Oh, and our lawyers tell us we have to advise you of the following:

If you all decide to stay, we may have to ask one or more of you to leave. Politely, of course, but we will insist.

- the Management

* * * * * * * *

So we decided to roll the dice. My RE gave us 15% odds of twins, and about 3-5% odds of trips or more. (By the way, I LOVE a doc who will actually give odds when asked.) She says that they can hook us up with the best reduction specialists around, in the unlikely event that it’s necessary, and that there’s only a 1% chance that reduction would cause miscarriage of the rest of the pregnancy.

She calls it aggressive. I call it desperate. But really, what’s the difference? The truth is, I’m happy with our decision. And I’m not sure I would be happy if we hadn’t gone all in.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Oh God, How Do I Make this Decision?

Five eggs. Four embryos. And my RE wants to put them all back.

And I’m completely freaked out by this.

We put four back last summer, but they were fertilized with J’s sub-par sperm, not with commercial super-sperm. And we ended up with a not-surprising negative beta.

My RE says that she doesn’t think the risk of multiples (beyond twins) is very high. Which, by the way, makes me kind of sad, because it means that maybe we’re not changing things SO much by going to donor sperm—maybe my chances of getting pregnant, even with a donor, aren’t as high as I thought.

I am so unbelievably torn. On the one hand, this cycle was pure hell (still is). And it was Cycle #5. I don’t know how much more of this shit I can take before I crack, or my body gives out completely. I REALLY REALLY REALLY NEED THIS TO WORK. Obviously, putting back four embryos greatly increases the chance of it working.

On top of all that, even assuming all four are capable of becoming bona fide fetuses, how much of that chance do I lose by freezing a couple of them? I know that a fresh cycle is a lot more likely to succeed than an FET. So what if we just transfer two, it doesn’t work, and then the FET on the other two doesn’t work because they didn’t do well with the freeze/thaw process?

And I would like twins. Yes, yes, I’m sure that if I actually have twins a year or two from now I’ll be wondering how it was possible that I ever wanted twins. I know they’d be so hard to care for as babies. But I want more than one child, and twins are my only shot at that. We put back four, there’s a higher likelihood of twins.

BUT, on the other hand:

Triplets? Quads? Reduction? Two and a half years ago, when we did our first IVF, when J and I decided to put back three embryos, we agreed that we would somehow try to survive triplets. Now I just think that’s out-of-the-question insanity. No way am I up to carrying trips, and no way am I up to caring for three babies at once.

So if we got incredibly “lucky,” we’d be looking at reduction. I haven’t Googled this process (too scary), but it sounds REALLY dangerous to the remaining fetuses. I imagine the odds of losing the whole pregnancy, or inducing pregnancy complications, are really high. What a fucking nightmare.

The other option is to put back three and freeze the one. But this sucks, too. Does this mean, if this cycle doesn’t work, that I’d have to go through a whole FET for just one embryo? (So suggests my shared risk contract.) Or could I do another fresh cycle and combine whatever frozen leftovers I have for a later FET? No idea.

This decision sucks. Maybe worse than any decision I’ve had to make. If I don’t put all four back, I’m going to spend the next two weeks freaking out that I’ve made the wrong decision. And if I do put them all back, I’m going to spend the next two weeks freaking out that I’ve made the wrong decision, and then another several weeks (assuming positive beta) wondering how many are brewing in there.

I’m almost hoping that one of them died last night. Which is just so, so wrong.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Less is More?

Unfortunately, the fog that is clouding my brain this week is blocking my ability to write—both in my blog and in my job. My fingers feel clumsy and words slosh around in my brain willy-nilly. Which of course makes me stressed out about not getting good work done while deadlines loom. In short, I’m a mess.

Here’s the skinny: this cycle is all about making high-quality eggs. Which is why my RE put me on the lupron. So I’m making fewer eggs. And I am trying really hard to be positive about this, but it’s scary having a twice-as-hard cycle for half-as-many eggs. It looks like I’m going to end up with between 5 and 7 eggs. Back in my heyday (and I so like the idea of an IVF heyday) I used to produce 11-13 eggs.

Then again (I keep telling myself), none of those 13 eggs turned into a baby, did it? I actually really like and trust my RE, so we’re probably on the right track. But no one can look at a sono and say “Hey, those are some great-quality eggs you’re growing in there!” And when what you hear is “only two on the left ovary,” and “they’re growing, but slowly,” it’s hard to feel like you’re doing a really good job.

My ovaries hurt. My lower back hurts. All I want to do is sleep, but I’m getting even less sleep due to the repeated early-morning trips to the RE for bloodwork and sonos.

Sometimes I think that this definitely is going to work. We’ve come so close so many times, even with J’s lackluster sperm. How could this NOT work with supercharge, high-test, commercial sperm? Right?

But I know that the odds are still 50-50 at best. And when I think of what the next three weeks may bring, all I can feel is tired.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to Blog Through Mood Swings

I meant to be better about blogging this cycle. Really I did. I find just knowing that other women are reading my blog satisfying, and I get a lot of comfort and wisdom from the comments you all leave on my blog, as well as from reading your blogs.

But it’s hard to settle on a post when you’re mood is swinging around like mad. I come up with an idea for a blog, then an hour later I’m in a totally different place, and can’t imagine following through on my original idea. Here are some of my half-baked post ideas from the past few days:

  • How crappy I feel. (And there are so many variations on this theme: bloating sucks because it makes me feel fat and ugly; if I’m so damn tired all the time why can’t I sleep at night; name that abdominal pain; headaches make me feel worthless; hot flashes in mid-summer in DC are redundant, yet still awful; and the list goes on . . . .)
  • How much I just want to crawl under my desk and cry.
  • How I wish my husband would realize how hard this is on me (stressful, full-time job + doctors appointments + hormones + physical strain + insomnia) and offer to do EVERYTHING he can to help me without me having to ask.
  • How I get these strange bursts of energy (from the Lupron, I think) that make me kind of manic—talking really fast, laughing loud, and (when I can harness it) working really efficiently—and how that’s kind of fun.
  • How sometimes I feel so drugged that it feels like I’m pulling my facial muscles through mud just to smile at someone, and it takes a concentrated effort to talk without slurring my words.
  • How sometimes I find myself so full of hope this cycle I catch myself assuming I’m going to be pregnant in a few weeks and won’t have to do this again.
  • How hard I find it to believe that this might work.
  • How frustrating it is to have to plan out August assuming there might be a miscarriage that will pull me out of work for a week or more.
  • How each IVF cycle gets harder, rather than easier, because even though you know better what you’re doing each time, the pressure is also higher each time, and how sometimes the pressure seems so intense I just want to scream.
  • How sometimes I think that at some point my body is just going to give up and stop producing eggs no matter what drugs I take, and I have to approach each cycle as if it were my last.
  • How work is a blessing, because it allows me to focus on something other than getting pregnant, something that I have some measure of control over.
  • How angry I am that our office is announcing more RIFs, because I just can’t cope with that kind of fear on top of everything else I’m dealing with.

    And, my favorite:
  • How much I hate belly pics of pregnant women, because I don’t need a glaring reminder that my normal condition is way fatter than that cute little four-months’-pregnant girl who’s just starting to poke over the top of her low-rise jeans.

But I’m not going to write about any of those. Instead, I’ll just give some updates:

  1. Another sample of our donor became available, and we bought that one too. Which I think is making both of us feel a little better. Nice to know that if we have to go again we don’t have to pick another donor.
  2. Despite my paranoia, I am producing eggs. Unfortunately, Lefty is running behind again. Stupid lazy ovary. Step up and be a man, dammit!
  3. The Harvest is looking to be mid-week next week. My money’s on Thursday, though Wednesday’s running a strong second.

I’ll let y’all know what I find out in my monitoring tomorrow.

Friday, July 10, 2009

That Bitch Lupron

Guess what? Lupron causes insomnia. And headaches.

Fucking bitch.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"Our Guy"

We found our donor!

Last week I was sick as hell. This is the second time in two months that J has brought home a cold, been sick for 2-3 days, then cheerfully moved on with his life while I am sucked into a two-week-long tailspin that (at least last time) ended in a round of antibiotics. I swear, next time that man gets the sniffles he’s sleeping in the car.

And all this while we were mid-donor-search. I had ordered “personal profiles” on five more guys, and had flagged a couple of them for J to look at and order medical records. I told him earlier in the week that I really needed him to go through the medicals—he’s in a lull right now and I just don’t have the time. But I was still pretty sure that I was going to have to go through them at some point. After all, it took some time for me to get him to even look at the donor lists.

So I’m sitting on the couch, drinking my “gypsy cold care” tea and watching the Bachelorette (how can Jilly not see that Wes is such a slimeball?), when J walks in and pauses my program.

“I’m done,” he announces.

“Done?” I repeat, wondering what the hell he’s talking about. I take a stab in the dark, “You mean you found our guy?”

“Found him,” he confirms smugly. “Come on, take a look. I bought his baby picture.”

And on my computer screen is this blonde, bland-ish, adorable, blue-eyed toddler staring out at me. “Wow,” I said. “Is this one of the new guys I flagged for you?”

“Yup. The doctor. His medicals are clean. And check out is profile.” And then he starts running down the highlights: kick-ass SATs, MCATs, grades. Practicing physician. All-star athletics for both high school and college.

“And look at his facial features.” J was practically bouncing on his toes. “The only one that doesn’t match me is that he doesn’t have freckles.” (I still get a little misty-eyed at this—it wasn’t until we were deep into profiles that I realized J really wanted to find someone with features similar to his.)

“Is this the guy with two kids?” I ask.

“Uh-huh,” J responded smugly. “He’s perfect.”

Then we looked to see if he was available. No ICI (which is what our RE recommended), but under IUI it said “call.” Earlier in the week J had called the cryobank to see what that meant, and had been told they list “call” (rather than ordering online) when there were fewer than 20 samples left of that donor.

We looked at each other for a moment, then both started talking at the same time:

“I’m going to e-mail [our RE] and see if IUI is okay,” I said.

“I’m going to call the cryobank,” he said.

So I sent my e-mail and then paced around impatiently while he talked to the cryobank.

“Mmm-hmm. Uh-huh. Okay. Can you do that for us?,” he said, looking across the hall at me as I sat on the bed watching him. Finally, after what seemed like a really long time, he put down the phone.

“Our guy’s pretty popular,” he said, “there was only one sample left.”


“And they’re holding it for us.”

Yesterday J bought the sample. It’s ours. This little piece of our perfect guy is ours.

I’m so happy about how this turned out. Every time I think about it I smile. I thought this was going to be hard. I thought we would get our short list and agonize over what we found. I had envisioned a pro/con list, or a chart where we compared medicals with personality or facial features with physical abilities. I thought I would have to put hours into reviewing medical files.

And I thought that I would have to push J to make the decision.

I really wanted this to be J’s choice—I wanted him to feel like he still was providing the sperm (albeit from a vendor), that it was his contribution to our child. I should have known he’d be up to the task once he put his mind to it. He’s always been a good shopper—he just goes in and gets it done, just like that. (Which is why we don’t shop together. I drive him crazy looking at everything 10 times and he makes me feel rushed so I make bad decisions.)

And the fact that we got the last sample just makes it all that much sweeter. After all, if everyone else wants a piece of this guy we must be onto something, right?

So now I’m thinking the cryobank needs to add a new column to the search feature: the ability to sort donors by “most popular.” After all, if it works for Amazon and Zappos and, why not for sperm donors?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

“Seeking Healthy White Male for Baby-Making Threesome—No Smokers, No Slackers, No Fatties!”

I’ve dealt with a lot of strange, unnatural shit in four years of baby chasing, like fist-sized ovaries, daily embryo-status reports, and keepsake embryo photos from transfer-day. IVF is bizarre; an unholy alienation of nature from conception.

But nothing compares to the strangeness of sitting in front of a computer with your husband, trying to pick a sperm donor.

It must be kind of like putting out an ad for the guest star in a threesome: “Seeking anonymous healthy white male to fulfill lifetime fantasy of loving couple to conceive child. Must be handsome, fit, tall, healthy, smart, but not so sexy as to threaten manliness of husband. Will be compensated accordingly.”

We started out with a pretty short list. J and I decided to go with a local cryobank, one of two favorites identified by both my RE and my Favorite Nurse. We figured that if we’re looking for someone “like us,” then why not pick an East Coast guy? Then other criteria narrowed things further. We decided to pay extra for guys that are either in grad school or have a post-graduate degree.

And we only wanted white guys. We’re not looking for an exact J-match, but we want our kid to have enough physical “cover” that he/she won’t have to explain him/herself to friends, neighbors, etc. We’re not going to lie to the kid, and most of our friends already know, but we figured our kid should at least have a shot at privacy.

And then I got pickier—only guys 5’10” or taller need apply. After all, short is okay if you’re a girl, but why saddle a boy with that if you don’t have to? Sure, I know lots of short guys, but I bet most of them would love to be taller.

And while it wasn’t a dealbreaker, I really wanted to find a guy with blue eyes. Why? Because the physical feature I always hoped my kids would inherit from J was his blue, blue, blue eyes. I’m brown-eyed, but my mom is blue-eyed so there were even odds our kids would inherit this triat. Call me sentimental, but if I can have that 50-50 shot, even though they aren’t J’s blue eyes, I’ll take it.

And how do we decide on body type, anyway? J is pretty heavyset (nay, overweight), and I like the idea of having a kid who isn’t super-skinny. My little bro is thin as a rail and he hates it. But if it’s a girl, wouldn’t it be better to have her be naturally thin? After all, I constantly envy the women I know who don’t have to fight off weight gain all the time.

See how weird this is? Mind you, if a pregnant girl on the street asked me if I wanted to adopt her baby I would JUMP at the chance. I wouldn’t question her about the father’s height or her grandmother’s diabetes or her post-graduate education. But we have to choose someone, so we might as well choose the best. Right?

Shopping online for a donor is a lot like shopping for shoes at Zappos. First you sort by style, then by color, then you narrow things down by selecting only low-heeled shoes. Oh, and they have to be available in wide sizes. All of a sudden you’re down to three pages and you pick from those.

Eye color aside, our must-have criteria left us with about 35 guys to choose from. So on Sunday we started slogging through them, sorting about half of them into our “favorites” (see, just like Zappos!) and adding a few to a short list of superfaves. The free information is pretty sparse—there’s rudimentary medical info, a brief essay, and a couple of paragraphs of “staff impressions.” The essay consists of answers to six or seven questions about childhood memories, family member the guy is closest to, funniest story, where they want to travel, what they want to pass on to a child, and so on.

About halfway through J started to complain: “They’re all starting to blur together,” he said. “If I have to look at one more do-gooder who values integrity, admires his father, and wants to travel to Africa I’m going to shoot myself.”

Some of the essays really stood out. There’s the guy that put his overheating laptop in the freezer, then forgot about it until the following morning (and successfully revived it by putting it in the oven). The guy who’s strongest childhood memory involved selling the family farm, and who wrote a half-page on almost every question. The guy who won a car by living in it with four other people for a week. The guy who loves cats. The guy who grew up in communist Poland. And then there’s the guy who tried too hard to impress us with his knowledge of history/philosophy that we finally wrote him off as too pretentious.

At some point we stopped being able to talk about them, so the guys on our short list got nicknames: “car guy,” “laptop guy,” “hottie doctor guy.”

And then we started spending money. We bought a “complete profile” on three guys—for $70 a pop. J spent several hours yesterday going through the medicals, as well as seeing what’s in the “personal profile” information, and looking at the baby photos.

What’s there, you ask? A LOT of information. I haven’t even looked at the medical, but the personal profile includes favorites: favorite move, favorite band, favorite animal, favorite car. It includes hobbies and academics: SATs, ACTs, LSATs, GREs, as well as GPAs and honors for all of school. It includes a detailed identi-kit type description of every facial feature: size and shape of eyes, eyebrows, nose, cheekbones, lips, teeth, chin. And not-quite-so-detailed descriptions of physical features of parents, children, siblings, aunts and uncles.

Faced with this wealth of information last night I got completely freaked out. I had been so content with our short list, but now I wasn’t sure any were good enough. Three days ago I didn’t really care about looks; we were focused on brains and personality. But one look at the ugly-ass baby picture from my favorite guy and suddenly I wasn’t so into him. I looked back at the staff impressions of him. Did they say anything about his looks? Nope. Great bod, it said, and nice personality.

“Maybe your good looks will prevail,” J said, “but then again, maybe not.”

So last night I found myself going through the favorites again, pulling up guys where the staff had said they were good-looking. I bought five more personal profiles (we decided to go cheaper at $20 each and spend more when we narrowed it down), and found a few guys I was glad to add to our short list.

We also found ourselves leaning toward the guys with “average” features. We just want his face to be a blank slate—nothing too dominant that will overwhelm the features I have to offer. (How are my HS genetics lessons holding up?) And I pulled up a website that listed dominant and recessive gene traits for J to look at as he went through more medicals today.

I’m such a cliché. My favorite guy right now is a doctor, tall, built, blue-eyed, with killer academic credentials. “Good on paper,” as Carrie Bradshaw would say.

Other stuff we found mattered to us more than we would have thought:

1. Personal tastes. The guy who put down “Transformers” as his all-time favorite movies fell right off my list.

2. Religion. Not that we care if they are religious, but I really was happy to find a guy who was agnostic.

3. Children. I found myself much more into the guys who already have kids. I don’t know why, but it seems like they’re more likely to be doing the donor thing for the right reason, or at least with full recognition of the consequences. And I like a guy like that.

The bottom line is this. On the one hand, all of these guys are fine. They’re healthy, smart enough to make it out of undergrad, with kick-ass sperm.

But on the other hand, it seems so random to be making such a huge decision—choosing the biological father of our child—in such an arbitrary way. We’re just shopping in the closest store for what’s available this week. Just like buying new boots at Zappos. It’s surreal.

The thing is, we just couldn’t figure out any other way to do it. How much agonizing can you do? At some point you just have to point and say, “I’ll take that guy.”

Every night I ask J if he’s all right. Every night I ask him to tell me how he’s feeling. (He says he’s fine, blah, blah, blah). I tell him how strange, almost creepy, this is for me. I even told him once that I thought it would be even creepier if we were doing IUI (after all, at least all that will be going inside me are my own embryos, not some stranger’s sperm).

I haven’t told him that sometimes I feel like I’m betraying him. He doesn’t need to think of it that way.