Friday, December 28, 2007

Chinese Water Torture

I was on my short happy hiatus from blogging to gear up for a whole new year, but I have to post a little rant today. Please explain to me why this HCG hormone so wants to stay in my body as long as it possibly can and yet a pregnancy wants to vanish from me before I can even blink? My beta today was around 70. Five weeks after my miscarriage I am still not at zero. Even after bleeding out my eye balls I am still waiting for this miscarriage cycle to be over. Yes, I was warned by the nurses and doctors that it could take 4 to 6 weeks to resolve, but I had convinced myself that Christmas would bring zero to me. Let me also add a little context here. I'll save the full war story of my ectopic for a later post, but it's good to mention that it took 15 weeks, yes 15 weeks, for my beta to get to zero after that whole affair. I was sure I would be spared this time around. So I am not being impatient and whiny, well yes I sort of am, but it must be known that I've been a victim of this Jekyll and Hyde HCG before. Drip, drip, drip. Every beta week I am reminded of the Chinese water torture method that slowly makes the prisoner go insane. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Just Arrived!

This year my husband and I decided to give each other the miracle of plasma for Christmas. We're exhausted and we can't stop watching it. We're just so happy with our newest addition. For now we'll have our hands full with our new arrival. So Merry Christmas to you all and thanks for coming along this holiday journey with me. Peace out till the new year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

A question of faith

I want to make this card optional out of concern to not offend on this Christmas eve. If you would rather not see a religious image used in this context, you can choose to skip this card.

So far in my life, there has been nothing that has tested my faith more than going through IVF. I've struggle with my own pessimism and anger enough to know that blind trust does not come easy for me. I've seen the power of prayer and faith in my own family and yet I've never had to see where they fit in my own life until now.

I felt that on this very important eve, it is relevant to talk about faith and hope and what it means in the context of IVF for me. From the outside it is very easy to look at IVF as purely a scientific life experiment. I am sure some people might even disapprove of science invading the territory of baby-making, but I think any of us doing IVF know that it would be very foolish and naive to think that the doctors have a God-like panacea for our infertility. If that were the case, we would all be pregnant right now. Clearly no matter how hard the doctors try to figure out why we can't get pregnant, there is a vast expanse of question marks that we know are unanswerable. You can have the most perfect embryos and they won't implant, or you'll have insanely complicated problems and you'll somehow get pregnant. There is no rhyme or reason to it. 

So after my many many tantrums over this past year about how unfair it is that I've been chosen to suffer in this way, I've worn myself out to a point of submission. What I mean is that I've submitted to the fact that I don't have control over this. This year I've had a love-hate relationship with faith. I've felt faithful that I would have a successful pregnancy and then been devastatingly disappointed. But then when darkness seeps in and you've reached the basement of being, what brings light back in is that very same faith. 

This kind of spiritual strength is unique to every individual, but whatever you believe in you can try to build a foundation to survive this. If your house is blown away by a hurricane and you begin to rebuild, the first thing you address is infrastructure. So right now for me my infrastructure is being rebuilt on hope and faith that someday this journey will end. It's a constant evolving process for me but I think these sorts of issues have to brew to the surface for you to grow and to gain perspective. 

So as much as this card can be seen as irreverent, it is equally a testament to how complicated this whole thing is. It's riddled with questions and evokes so many emotions about our existence that I needed to express it in this format. I can't say that I now know exactly what to believe in, but I can say the time has finally come to make friends with faith. This day marks the eve of a birth and I take that to mean so many things as I move forward to 2008.  Most importantly it means the coming of a rebirth for myself, just as much as it means the hope and faith of the birth of my future child.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Drink Up

It's a delicate thing - this balancing act of not over or under stimulating our poor bodies. Will this amount of drugs make my ovaries explode or will I end up with no eggs? It's a question we leave to our doctors and yet we are the ones who actually have to walk that tight rope. 

My first IVF we were on the lowest dosage and I got 9 eggs, 5 fertilized and three were transferred. My second IVF they increase the dose a bit and I got 10 eggs, but only 3 fertilized, and in the end only one embryo could be transferred. The results were so different that if you read my data on paper I could be two different women. So the real question now is what will they do for IVF#3? They want to get more eggs but what's going to do the trick? That drug cocktail has yet to be announced to me so I will save that news for the new year. In the mean time, my left over vials sit in my bathroom waiting, just like me, in great anticipation of what they will be used for next. I guess I shouldn't be so amazed at how fragile and unpredictable the doses are, I mean, we are venturing upon the greatest experiment there is - life. 

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Helping Hands

It's often hard to ask for help when you have all these mixed feelings about your infertility. Having to face the fact that you need help getting pregnant is a hard and bitter pill to swallow. To the outside world you do not want to seem like you are handicapped in some way both physically and emotionally. So you sometimes have to put on a strong face because no one likes to feel weak. Fortunately, the one area I have no problem asking for help is these injections. I am a total wimp when it comes to giving myself shots so my husband does all the injecting. I truly need to thank him for this or else we would never get through an IVF cycle. This relationship of poker and pokee has just become part of our many natural partnerships like when I overcook cookies, he eats all the burnt parts, or on long trips he does all the driving, or when we play our favorite board game he always sets up the board. 

Other kinds of help have been less natural. A part of me for a long while had a hard time accepting that I had to be one of these women who can't do something naturally. I've had to force myself to understand when I need help during an IVF so I don't completely lose myself in the madness. So now after two rounds of IVF under my belt, I don't hold back on help. I get help from my husband, I get help from my family, I get help from my clinic, I get help from my friends, I get help from the internet, I get help from acupuncture, I get help from vitamins, I get help from fertility yoga, I get help from chocolate cakes, I get help from spas, I get help from blogging. I think you owe it to yourself to get help from anything that will make you feel better. 

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Gift of the Magi

I was ready to calculate the amount of blood I have given this year in the name of baby making and report a staggering, jaw-dropping high number. But after further investigation with my clinic, they apparently take about 3ml of blood for each draw, which leaves me to say that I've given about a cup of coffee's worth of my blood to the cause. Okay, so it doesn't have the shock value I wanted, but it speaks to how much blood it FEELS like I've given, which would be truck loads. Not only have I given blood for the usual IVF checks but because I've suffered two pregnancy losses this year I've been subjected to the continued and dreaded weekly beta checks. Today's beta check was 279, which means I am still technically pregnant with the HCG hormone. If I pee-ed on a stick right now it would come out positive. 

So I am reminded of the old christmas tale The Gift of the Magi. A loving couple wants to exchange gifts but are too poor to buy what they want to give each other. The husband sells his watch to buy his wife the beautiful comb and the wife sells her hair to buy her husband the watch chain. We all know the main message of the story is that the greatest gift is love. The couple has given up precious possessions to give something to the other. So when my husband had to masturbate into a cup and I had to get painful shots and surgery, of course the same message of love holds true. We came away with no baby, but yes, we know we gave each other tremendous love. We're often told, "Well, at least you got pregnant," which I don't deny is a positive sign. 

But after a miscarriage you just want closure as fast as possible. So these beta checking days are still a struggle, just like in what my imagined postscript might be for The Gift of the Magi. What did the wife do with the comb afterwards? I am sure she would have admired its symbolic beauty, but at some point looking at her pixie haircut and how cluttered her bathroom is getting, and how long it's going to take to grow her hair out, she would have said, "What the hell am I going to do with this comb?" This is how I feel about my lingering HCG hormone that serves no purpose. How do I get my head around still having this pregnancy hormone when I am not even pregnant? So like the comb, it would have been nice to have a real reason for it, but its very existence feels completely pointless right now. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Misfit Uterus Finds a Home

My misfit uterus has settled down on the ultimate island of misfits -- Manhattan. Just like these toys, we New Yorkers are not standard-issue. We may not work exactly as the instructions say but instead of returning us to the manufacturers, we can find refuge on an island that accepts us for who we are. I am very lucky that you can find ample amounts of women here who marry later in life, who have kids later in life, or choose never to marry or have children. Everyone here seems to be a Rudolf. Everyone has a red honker guiding their own sleigh to where we want to be. It's not to say that this completely takes away the IVF isolation and dramatic moments of "Why me and nobody else!!" But at the very least, New York City is a lover of misfit-hood. It's not a surprise I live here and it's not a surprise that as a child I always felt a great kinship to the elf who wanted to be a dentist. I never understood why no one could play with a polka dot elephant or what was suppose to be wrong with that damn doll?

So if you are feeling like you got a dud uterus and all the other kids got the latest and trendiest ones, just remember misfit-ness is all in the eye of the beholder. We have misfit power. Own it, work it, and believe in yourself and you'll see that you are a toy that a little kid wants to play with, and that little kid will someday be your child. I've found a home for my misfit uterus. Sometimes it's this wonderful city. Sometimes it's moments with my husband, friends and family who know my IVF struggles. Sometimes it's my online buddy groups. Sometimes it's just a good cry. It’s a place that reminds me of who I am – a 36 year old New Yorker who took all the conventional and non-conventional roads she needed to take, long and short, and who can even proudly say that because my father is an OBGYN, I was a little girl who happily played with a foam uterus as one of my toys. Find your island of misfits and make it your home. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Oh Progesterone, oh Progesterone...

Click audio below and sing along (to the music of Oh Christmas Tree):

Oh Progesterone, oh Progesterone, of all the drugs most oily
Oh Menopur, oh Menopur, of all the shots most sting-ee

Each IVF you bring delight, with thoughts of baby near in sight
Oh Lupr-on, oh Lupr-on, of all the needles tiny

Oh retrieval, oh retrieval, pray all my eggs aren’t sucky
Oh transfer, oh transfer, doctor please keep steady

My lining’s thick, on ultrasound, so please don’t fail to implant now
Oh pee stick, oh pee stick, please come out positive

Each IVF you bring delight, with thoughts of baby near in sight
Oh HCG, oh HCG, of all hormones most lovely.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Great Balls of Fire

Today I was very excited to continue posting my cards but a little bit of a party poop happened. I posted my opinion and my blog link on a thread discussing whether these kid christmas cards were insensitive or not. The first PM arrived in my inbox saying my card made her literally laugh out loud and I was thrilled to hear it. That's the point. The next PM that came was from the administrators of the board saying I was reported as being "promotional"! It's funny how you try to share something you think might help others and some people take it as purely selfish. But in the end I really don't care because I know it was not promotional. It doesn't stop my cause to create a new card everyday to express my own sort of holiday cheer. It's just a shame that the very people I feel could truly enjoy these cards I am not allow to tell them they exist. 

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Have Yourself a Very IVF Christmas

We all get them. Those holiday photo post cards with the beaming children and newborns, riding on a sleigh or in their favorite PJs. 

To anyone else these holiday cards are just a message of holiday cheer from friends and family. But for those of us doing IVF or struggling with infertility, these postcards stab you in the heart every time you open one, reminding us of what we face on a regular basis, the unending question—what if I can never have children? Maybe I will never take a photo of my toddler taking a bath and crop it with a cheesy Christmas border. Not that I've ever wanted to do this before, but you know how it goes, once it's forbidden, you want it more. So what's an IVF girl supposed to do?

My answer became my own kind of birth child with starting this visual diary about IVF. For me, there is particular significance to this holiday season as I am now recovering from a miscarriage from my last IVF. Christmas day would have marked the end of my first trimester—the promised land.

So if I were to imagine my own merry IVF holiday world where snow gently falls outside, the sound of glasses are clinking and the murmur of laughter softly heard, and rose-cheeked women are baking pies and eating gumdrops and sticking needles in their asses, what would our Christmas cards look like then? Here begins my series of holiday cards that I have created for the IVF world. I will post a new card everyday until Christmas as a message of hope and understanding on how hard it is to deal with this quintessential family moment in American culture. This is not a hostile protest against the lovely children that get sent to me in the mail. I am not anti-child Christmas card. What I see as the reason this whole phenomenon exists—putting a photo of your kid on your holiday card—is because it represents how a family is doing, where they are in life, and how happy they are. So my cards take on the same representational purpose. My hope is not to offend, of course, but to give a little laugh in the midst of this twisted reality.

This inaugural first card is dedicated to my online buddy group who went through IVF treatments this fall—every single one of us either had a pregnancy loss or a BFN (big fat negative).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Art of Being Infertile

This is my commitment to document and channel the huge range of experiences, questions, and emotions that arise when dealing with infertility and IVF treatments. However it comes out, either visually or in writing, my hope with this is to primarily release from myself any and all anguish that comes from this truly absurd journey. Second, I hope that by visually capturing my experiences that I bring another way for my fellow IVFers to not feel alone. Thirdly, if by chance someone who isn't going through infertility or IVF reads this, I would like them to think, besides "Thank God this isn't me," that us barren folk are not to be pitied but to be admired for the courage it takes to enter this world and stay in it till the end. 

I have come to see that even though there is clearly an art to getting pregnant - scientifically, philosophically, and divinely - there is the other side of the coin. After my multiple IVFs and pregnancy losses, after countless wrestling matches with anger and despair, after blowing a kiss good-bye to my notions of fairness and yet still showing up for my doctor appointments, after somehow retaining some sense of dignity after countless indignities, I have never more strongly believed that there is truly an art to being infertile.