Thursday, February 26, 2009

BFN

Beta was zero. The saga continues...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Walking on water or skating on thin ice


I awoke in the middle of the night, tears streaming down my cheeks, from a dream that seemed so real. It was the kind of dream that jolts you awake and you think, "Thank God that was just a dream." It was the kind of dream that has all sorts of obvious implications of fear. Not surprising since my beta is 5 days away. 

There was a cartoon I saw online that really captured how I felt waking up from that dream. It has two warning signs with one figure on water and the other showing a crack in the ice. The caption reads,"Walking on water is not the same as skating on thin ice." It's exactly the line I battle with when walking down the road to beta. Do I believe in miracles? Do I believe I am walking on water right now or do I heed all the warnings that I am skating on thin ice? I am not sure if the cartoon is poking fun at faith or in fact re-enforcing the idea that it's all how you look at things. 

I think we all have a little bit of "walking on water" in us or else I am not sure we could put ourselves through IVF on a continual basis. If it all came down to good numbers and perfect outcomes I think it would be pretty clear to all of us who was going to succeed and who wasn't. Why bother? Yet there is still an element of a crap shoot that is always there when the perfect blasts don't make a baby or the donor egg round still doesn't work or the beta doubles fine but you still miscarry. Or the opposite spectrum when crappy embryos make healthy babies, low betas still manage to climb, heartbeats unexpectedly appear on your next ultrasound. So what ensures that we are walking on water and not skating on thin ice? Nothing really. Nothing can clearly set that course and so it comes down to fear and belief once again. Two things I struggle with on a constant basis in my life. 

There are a million reasons I am skating on thin ice right now. I am not young. My embryo quality was not good. I've had 4 pregnancy losses, why would this one be any different? I live and breath in the small percentage range. I've witnessed my worst fears come true. I have been quite unlucky. So naturally I had this awful dream last night. My brain is preparing for the pain. My body is now an outsider to pregnancy and so all I have left is my mind. 

I am not saying I am doomed. I think skating on thin ice means you are at risk, you are in danger. It's natural to feel scared. By the same token, I don't think walking on water always means a guarantee of success. Miracles can take other forms that are different than what you want things to be. I think that's where faith gets confusing for me sometimes. If I have faith in something, it doesn't mean a magic pill. It means I believe things will work out the way it should. It means that I have faith in my own endurance and my own ability to survive. It means I am not alone. 

So walking on water this week could be seen as foolish, delusional, unbelievable, or impossible. But what choice do I have? I can't keep skating on thin ice bracing myself for everything to collapse beneath me. I think my mind might just implode. Plus, I've fallen through the ice many times before. Yes, it sucks and it hurts like hell. So I know it may not be my time for the miracle of a baby. But I believe it's a miracle I am still standing. It's a miracle I still have hope. The ice has broken many times before and I haven't frozen to death or drown. So even though skating right now seems tempting, maybe it's time for me to take my shoes off and try walking on water. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's an honor to be nominated?

First off, thank you all for pulling for my 3 embryos. We transferred 3 on Valentine's Day which in itself I should be thankful for. But the quality was along that mediocre line that could be too crappy to make it or could be not crappy enough to ruin all chances. So limbo once again. My darker side says that these numbers are no good and that my egg quality has clearly gone down over the years of IVF - perhaps because of age, perhaps the endo, perhaps bad luck. The lighter side of me searches online as always for those stories of hope where ugly lame 4 cell or 5 cell embryos rise to the occasion and create these beautiful bouncing babies. I want to believe this. I really do. 

But the one thing I can say without a doubt was that transferring to A. was an emotional and wonderful experience. We were all led into the procedure room. A man pulled both me and my husband into a doorway.  Lo and behold we were in the embryology lab. We saw all the monitors and the petri dishes! He quickly showed us around to orient us. Then we returned to where  A. was lying down, calmly and relaxed. We watched on the monitor as the catheter tried to suck up our 3 embryos. One in particular, we think the 6 cell, was already showing stubbornness (probably channelled from all my ancestors) and refused to get sucked up into the catheter. So they spit out the two 5 cell and got another catheter to suck them all up. We all laughed with relief, but then they spit them out again. We all kind of let out a gasp. They explained they used a bigger catheter to get them close together and then they needed to get them back into the skinnier catheter for transfer. So once again, the catheter suck them in, this time all 3, in one fell swoop. 

If my kid has brain damage I think I might know why. But what a wild ride. A. was just amazingly composed, ready to welcome my embryos with open arms. All I could do was start tearing up. Not sure if it was relief, happiness, shock, sadness, or anxiety - probably all of them. After practically a year of contemplating, organizing, stressing, paying money, getting on airplanes, and accepting loss of so many things, that 10 minute procedure was done. 

As we wait now, we wait like the underdogs hoping for a chance at that Oscar. Though those big hollywood blockbusters might seem like a sure thing, sometimes the low budget unknowns that don't have the best quality lighting, special effects, or beautiful actors give the performance of their lives. Regardless of whether we win, I feel like I should recognized that in my team - my agency that found my wonderful surrogate, my parents who gave us love and financial help, my RE who held my hand as I fell asleep from anesthesia and hugged me after transfer, the nurse who called to say "hang in there," my husband for eternal optimism and love, my ultrasound tech that cracked jokes all through the transfer to lighten things up, the random man who pulled us into the embryology lab to show us how it all works, L. the husband of A. who stands by and supports her being a surrogate as well as sacrificed his Valentine's Day to us, to A.'s mother who came with her to transfer and gave us her warmth and her time to stay with A. during bed rest, and to A. most of all for giving us the greatest gift imaginable - no words to describe it. So now that I've already said my thank you speech, I have to wait out these two weeks really believing it was an honor to be nominated. 

Beta February 27, 2009 - A.'s birthday

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is three the magic number?

I just have to believe good things come in threes. Though we retrieved 10 eggs, only 5 were mature and now just 3 embryos are growing. We won't know until Saturday how many will make it into A. I know it just takes one. I know there isn't anything I can do. I know I just have to wait. I just have to continue with tiny baby steps to get to my baby. I ask for all your prayers for my three embryos to fight their way to Valentine's Day. Deep breath. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Another universe

Between Adam Goldberg's Bat Mitzvah, a reenactment festival, and preparing to use another woman's uterus, I may have entered another universe. Am I in a Fellini film or just a suburban Chicago hotel?

So back up 4 days ago to Thursday. My first follicle check had turned out to be a less than stellar report with only four follicles showing. On top of that, the nurse expressed that repressed concern you often hear in their voices that my estrogen was high and I was showing a dominant follicle. She kindly suggested that perhaps I should postpone my flight until later because she'd hate for me to come all the way to Chicago for no reason. "What??!!" I screamed in my head, but remained composed enough to say I would discuss with my husband and decide. But I knew our plane tickets were bought and there was no turning back. "Let's wait for tomorrow's results," she hesitantly said. 

Easier said than done. I am prone to panic. I spiraled downward, ready to call a donor egg agency and start mapping out plans with A. and a donor egg, maybe start freezing some of my own embryos over the next couple months for a second child, and perhaps put in paper work for adoption. It had very quickly turned into worst case scenario pandemonium.

Some of the logistical balancing acts with using a surrogate is that I monitor in New York, but my instructions come from Chicago. So New York may say one thing but I have to wait for Chicago to call me later to confirm instructions. It can put you in a bit of a muddle feeling like each clinic is a parent but you're not sure who to listen to. New York being like my mother, very optimistic with an "everything will be okay" attitude while Chicago being like my father, very cautious and preparing for all outcomes. Friday arrived. This time New York told me things looked good. But would Chicago comply? Is this a good cop-bad cop scenario? Were they waiting for me to break? Our airport car was suppose to come at 5pm and it was 4pm with no word from Chicago.

What else could I do put beg. Yes, down on my knees begging God, the universe, and all forces around me to give me a chance. I chanted over and over again, "Please don't cancel me, give me a chance! Please don't cancel me, GIVE ME A CHANCE!" The Chicago phone call finally came and the nurse said that I now have about 8 follicles and things are looking much better. It's amazing how much power these nurses can wield over your emotions. Did she have any idea how my mind had already traveled down all emergency roads to a point of hysteria?

Fast forward to the weekend. It's evening and we're spending our first night at last in Illinois not panicked that we are going to be cancelled. I get into the elevator of our hotel and I join a Colonial American woman in a large hoop dress from the 1600s, a Civil War general, and a Roman gladiator. The elevator spills us out into the large grand lobby and I am in the middle of a 13 year old's bat mitzvah party. Cameras are flashing. Young teenagers in party dresses and suits are swirling around me in honor of Adam Goldberg's entry into manhood. The small skinny adolescent boy with glasses grins widely, arm in arm with several other kids looking rather prom-like, as his parents take a group photo. I pass through down a hallway where more women in large colonial dresses are plopped down like big biscuits on a plate, soldiers are pitching battlefield tents, renaissance men are looking jolly with goblets of wine while Indiana Jones passes by with a pirate. Where the hell am I?

It's hard enough to grasp using a total stranger's uterus to carry my baby, but how fitting it was to have everything around me seem so nonsensical. I've entered into a universe of no time. Our hotel is hosting the "reenactment festival" where people from all over the area gather to reenact any era they want. Yes, so I've stepped into my own little time warp here where I can span medieval times, colonial times, or a modern day bat mitzvah. So who's to say it's so weird that I am about to make eggs, fertilized them, and stick them in another woman? 

Reenactment is all around me. Living history. Be someone else. Be yourself but at a different time period. Be something completely fictional. Be who you fantasize to be. Or maybe you've never felt more yourself than as a Roman soldier? Whatever it is you want to be, this is the place to be. In a way, how am I so far off from this? What am I reenacting? For starters, the repeat of many actions before me- stims, ultrasounds, blood tests, trigger shots, retrievals, fertilizations. I'm living history of a woman who feels like she's been trying to have a baby since the beginning of time itself. I've been reliving battles of my own history. I've been dressing the part. I've been putting on a show of normalcy to the outside world for what seems like centuries. Even though role playing by definition means you aren't yourself, I think there is something about entering a new world, living and breathing in it, that ultimately brings you back to yourself. In the end, all the fears of whether infertility has stolen my legitimacy as being a "real," "natural" mother are seeming groundless. Will I just be role playing "mother" when someone else will carry and give birth to my child? It doesn't matter. I really doesn't matter. 

So as I prepare to trigger tonight and retrieve what eggs my 37 year old body can eek out at this point, I am in a calm stupor. We made it this far and I am about to see if we'll make it any further. In this sweet blessed moment where I've been given a chance, I'm laughing at where I am - in a random hotel room on the edge of the universe. It's the travel over time and space, in this most absurd environment, that love takes center stage again. The kind of love that circumvents all the senselessness, lunacy, and humbuggery I've slugged through - the love between me and my husband. The desire to love a child. The love of friends and family who are all holding their breath right now. The love of strangers - online, offline, and right here by my side even as my surrogate. If all this means anything, then it's more than fitting that the transfer of my embryo(s) to A. is scheduled for Valentine's Day. It's cliché, but I'll take it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Little Refrigerator that Could

video
This is a story about how a wee little thing can have as much power as a giant. We all face this battle everyday through IVF. We feel tiny in the face of the mountain of unknowns. We are constantly the David against the Goliaith of infertility.

So once upon a time, an IVF cycle began. But what would an IVF cycle be without a little panic and some snafus? Though all began well, I have already survived two minor earthquakes in my efforts to make this cycle run smoothly. Firstly, I jumped the gun and ended up starting lupron a day early as I woke up believing it was a Friday but it was actually a Thursday. In my many seasoned years of IVF, I have never once taken a drug off schedule. I must be really out of my head, but thankfully no collateral damage. Secondly, after a big arm wrestle with my insurance company, I finally get my drugs mailed to me. The day they arrive my behemoth size sub zero refrigerator (that most New Yorkers drool over when they come to my apartment) went kaputz! After 10 years of never having a problem, the temperature slowly but surely was going down. Repair man after repair man came and went and it kept on breaking. It got to a point where food we could do without, but not my IVF drugs! Gonal F, Microdose Lupron, and Ovridel were also going to go kaputz if I didn't think fast! Thankfully, a little refrigerator my husband gave me years ago while were dating came to save the day.

There are many morals to this little tale my video tells:

*I never admired those second refrigerators that people who live in houses often have in their basements or garages, until now.

* Love travels all through time and the universe. Love made my husband (then boyfriend) 8 years ago buy me a little refrigerator for my office as a little "romantic" present. At the time it was just a funny gift from my gadget-freak boyfriend who wanted me to always have cold soda ready for me in my office. Who knew that some day it might save our future child.

* "Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." -Vincent Van Gogh (I started my stims, now just a million more small things to go!)

* "Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out." - Art Linkletter

* We all remember the mantra from this classic children's story. So please, everyone who is doing IVF and battling infertility, hold virtual hands and repeat after me, "I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN ,I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN,I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN!