Sunday, July 13, 2014

The two-week wait

So, we decided to give IVF another shot, and luckily this time we made it all the way to embryo transfer! This in and out itself is something to celebrate, as we didn't have any fertilized eggs during the first round. We ended up with one perfect little 9-10 cell three-day transfer, and now the dreaded two-week wait is almost at an end. 

For many, this is the most challenging part of the IVF process, ironically, because there is so little to actually do. Up until this point, there are numerous shots, pills, ultrasounds, and procedures, and it all seems to move fairly quickly. Every other day you are getting an update about how big your follicles are or how well your embryos developed since yesterday. The doctors and nurses have so much control over the first half of the process, and they are able to give you so much specific information about what is happening both inside and outside of your body, that it feels pretty exhilarating.

And then, you have your embryo transfer. And suddenly, the constant barrage of information comes to a screeching halt. Despite the incredible advances in infertility procedures, once that little embryo goes back in, there isn't much they can do to make sure it sticks. I have been taking estrogen and progesterone to create a cozy little habitat for my growing ball of cells, but we are completely in the dark about what's going on in there.

For the scores of infertile women who've become obsessed with monitoring their follicle number and size, comparing the thickness of their uterine linings, and agonizing over the  grade given to their embryos, this two-week dark period of information is truly unbearable. These women have become pseudo experts in the science of baby making, and understanding the live birth rate of a three-day versus a five-day transfer gives them the illusion of something that's been stripped from them: control.

Because that's really what this is all about. In our minds, having a baby is supposed to be something you are in control of. If you want to have a baby, you get pregnant. End of story. But for the infertile woman, this major life decision is completely out of her hands. Making the decision to do fertility treatments gives her some of that control back, but when that two-week wait rolls around, and there is nothing to do but wait, she feels that control slipping away once more. She becomes obsessed with IVF message boards where women talk about eating pineapple core and warm foods to help implantation. They encourage you to wear socks for two weeks, and not to do any exercise but walking. They convince you that if you follow these specific steps, you will be able to control whether or not your embryo will stick, and when it doesn't, you convince yourself that it was because you lifted that heavy box, because you drank that cup of coffee, because you couldn't stomach eating pineapple core, when the truth is that there is really nothing you can do. Either the embryo will turn into a baby or it won't. And despite all the things that women suffering from infertility have learned, they haven't learned to let go.

Believe me, I am right there with them. This process makes you obsessive. The other day, Mike said, "I think I've given you offer 100 shots." How could you not be obsessed with something that is taking up so much of your physical and emotional time?

But I'm trying to focus on other things, as well. The parts of the process that often go overlooked, like how much other people in my life care about me. The day before my transfer, my best friend took the train in from New York just to watch Ella for one day. A girlfriend who lives in London sent me a message to tell me she's keeping me in her prayers, and a friend's sister who I hadn't seen in at least fifteen years hugged me and shared her own infertility struggles so I wouldn't feel so alone. 

It's easy to focus on the negative with IVF- the needles, the doctor's appointments, the cost, the emotional roller coaster- but for those of us willing to share that burden with others, we find that there are friends who are happy to lighten the load. There is so much out of my control, out of everyone's control, but the relationships we hold dear are something we can foster and nurture and influence.

I don't know how this two week wait will turn out. There will be a lot of joy or a lot of sadness. It's out of my hands. So I'm focusing on the things I can actually reach out and touch, and thankfully, those things are reaching right back. 

Monday, June 9, 2014


I went to yoga for the first time in a while yesterday. I expected a good physical workout, but I didn't imagine the emotional butt kicking I would get. 

It started out like any other class. I was sweating through each pose, glad to be stretching and twisting after a few weeks of trying to take it easy while doing my first IVF cycle. At the end of class, my teacher, Verred, reminded us to have gratitude in our lives and specifically to have "gratitude for our bodies." 

This struck a chord with me. I was sitting with my hands in prayer at my heart, and I had to fight back tears. It wasn't until that very moment that I realized I'd been hating my body rather than appreciating it.

My body and I have a troubled and complicated relationship. I spent most of my childhood and adolescent years significantly overweight. I always felt like my body was holding me back from greatness. I literally felt weighed down by self-loathing, self-doubt, and fear and imagined that if I could just shake my body off like a snake's skin, my true self would emerge.

Even after I lost weight, my body remained a barometer of my self-worth. I fought with my body each day to stay thin, and then it became this hungry bag of bones trying to ruin me with food.

Slowly, I changed my relationship with my body; slowly I came to see my body as valuable and worthy of care and respect.

But it wasn't until I got pregnant that I really began to love my body. Each day I watched my belly grow, and with it my wonder at how miraculous the body is. I was so proud of what my body could do and loved watching it transform over those nine months.

After that, I thought my days of hating my body were over, and, yet, there I was, sitting on my mat, realizing that I am so angry with my body for betraying me once more, for refusing to do the one thing that I am biologically programmed to do, one thing I thought my body was actually good at.

I hadn't realized this, or, at least, I hadn't put it into words until Verred said "gratitude," and as I drove home, I thought about it more and more. There are so many blessings in my life, and it has become a daily ritual to remind myself of them each day, but not once had I placed my body on the list of blessings. This body which has carried me through 33 years without a broken bone or serious illness, this body that birthed a child with no medication, this body that ran two 5Ks this year, this body that I have often mistreated and disrespected, comes back each day like a faithful dog.

And I realized that my body is not trying to hurt me. Each day it pumps with blood, fills with breath, stretches, runs, thinks, cries, and laughs. It does its very best for me every minute of every day, and for that I am grateful.

 I guess I just needed a reminder.

Thanks for that, Verred.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fairy Tales

I don't know why I'm still so incredulous. I was shocked two years ago when I didn't get pregnant the first month we started trying, shocked that another year passed with no luck, and shocked that all three IUIs failed last summer. You'd think the surprise and disbelief at my own infertility would have worn off by now. And yet, there I was, staring at my email message from the embryologist telling me that none of my measly three eggs had fertilized.

What?! None of them? You literally placed a sperm inside each egg and nothing happened? What are they, two seventh graders forced to play seven minutes in Heaven who don't know their asses from their elbows? It seemed to defy the laws of nature that an egg and a sperm placed next to each other wouldn't just do what they were placed on this earth to do. Disbelief is an understatement.

I knew that the IVF process could likely be filled with disappointment. I just didn't expect that disappointment to come so early. I never expected that I would only produce three eggs, and I certainly never expected to cancel my transfer because none of them fertilized.

And yet, I've been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for two years. So, yeah, it makes sense that this wouldn't work. It makes sense that there might actually be something wrong. So why was I still so surprised? I think this is partly the fault of secondary infertility. I have had a child naturally, so everyone (including me) assumes that I will simply be able to have another baby, but what if my instant pregnancy with Ella was just a fluke? Perhaps infertility is my norm, and she was just an incredible miracle.

Who knows? Apparently no one because my doctor, one of the leading fertility specialists in New England, has been just as surprised as me.

I was discussing this incredulity with my girlfriend Christina this afternoon. It was right after our discussion of the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and she said, "Being surprised about your infertility is kind of like being surprised that a main character in Game of Thrones was killed."

I realized that this is a perfect analogy. Right at the beginning of the series they killed Ned Stark, the beloved hero, followed by his son and wife, two of the main characters. In episode after episode, horrible things happen to characters I adore, and still, every time it happens, I am shocked. Sunday night's episode was no exception. We were all rooting for the charismatic Oberyn Martell to avenge his sister's death by killing the monstrously evil Gregor Clegane (better known as The Mountain) and to also win the fight to save the wrongly imprisoned Tyrion from execution.
Before the episode began, my husband reminded me that this isn't an ordinary show. It is very possible that Oberyn will die and that Tyrion will die, and that every single person we love will die because George R. R. Martin is a sociopathic plot writer. And still, there I was watching breathlessly as Oberyn pierced The Mountain through the chest, bringing him to the floor. "He won!" I thought. "He did it!" and then, of course, The Mountain grabbed Oberyn by the leg, pulled him to the ground, and well... I'll spare you the details.

So there I was, shocked and angry once more. How could Oberyn die? This was supposed to be his Inigo Montoya moment! After the difficult news of my failed transfer, I felt as wronged as Oberyn Martell. He'd been waiting years for this moment, and he was so close to victory! I wanted to defeat infertility as much as he wanted to defeat The Mountain. He deserves it! We both do! And that's when I realized what the incredulity is all about. The real reason I continue to be shocked by  Martin's plot lines is because I still believe that just because you deserve something, you will get it. I want the heroes to win, and I guess I am the hero of this story. But your mother has been telling you for years that life isn't always fair. Just because you deserve something doesn't mean you'll get it. Sometimes the good guy loses.

This is a sad story, and it makes me wonder why we continue to place ourselves in the path of disappointment, over and over again. Why don't I simply stop watching Game of Thrones? For the same reason I'm going to the doctor tomorrow to discuss my next round of IVF.

Because no matter how naive it sounds, part of me still believes in fairy tales and that maybe, just maybe, the good guy will win this time.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's 10 PM: Do you know where your embryos are?

Today was the first of two procedures that constitute the IVF process: egg retrieval. After a week or so of nightly injections and daily pills, my follicles (the thingy-ma-jigs that hold your eggs inside the ovary) were ready to be  aspirated.

I was a little nervous for the procedure, only because it requires anesthesia and a long needle being inserted into my nether regions. I've only been under anesthesia twice, once in fourth grade to have my adenoids taken out, and the other in high school with my wisdom teeth removal. Both are not fond memories, but this was easy. As soon as they put me under, I was coming right back out, and after ten minutes of being a little loopy and professing my love to the anesthesiologist (I literally said, "I just want you to know I really like you," in a drunken idiot voice), I was good to go. A little cramping, a little tired, but that's it. I would have even worked out today, but I figured I wasn't supposed to, so I didn't. Honestly, the worst part was that I couldn't eat or drink anything after midnight last night. What?! Not even water! Ask my husband what I'm like when I don't get to eat breakfast or drink coffee. It's not pretty. But once I got a ginger ale and a Nutter Butter, I was happy as a... well, as a fat girl with a Nutter Butter in her mouth.

All in all, the procedure was a total success, except, of course, for the part where they only retrieved three eggs. I know that very few, if any, of my blog readers (ha ha ha- I think I still have blog readers!) know or care about IVF, so I'll spare you the details. The point is that most women end up with 10, 15, 20 or more eggs. Of course, you only need one, but the more you have, the higher your chance of having some really awesome embryos to choose from. More eggs also give you more eggs to freeze, so if the procedure doesn't work, you've already got some good embryos to work with. Three eggs doesn't give us a lot of wiggle room.

This is the first time since the process started that I've really gotten nervous. I'm afraid that none of them will fertilize, or that they won't survive until the transfer, or that there won't be any good ones to choose, or that they won't implant....blah, blah, blah. I can't really focus on anything other than being nervous about it, which is a terrible idea. I wish I knew how to turn off the worry button, but I don't.

It's also weird to know that in a doctor's office 45 minutes away, our potential child is growing- not in my body, but in a little dish. I suppose that knowledge should be freeing. There is nothing I can do physically to help the process or mess it up today. Soon, it will be my responsibility to house this embryo again, but right now, I'm sort of off the hook.

But it doesn't feel that way. It feels like there is a piece of me and Mike out there, and I have no control over whether or not it makes it through one of the toughest couple of days of its life.

So I'm trying not really to stay positive, but to stay neutral. Que Sera Sera and all of that. Whatever will be, will be. My girlfriend Amy likes to remind me to accept that there are thing beyond my control that I have to let go of. So, I will try to spend the next three to five days doing that as best I can.Stay tuned for more of me trying to stay sane/freaking out.

Post Egg Retrieval selfie- the drugs had me feelin' pretty good

I wasn't joking about the Nutter Butter

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Either Way

So, I'm back again to hijack my own blog for a few weeks. Though, let's be honest, can you really hijack an abandoned building? Anyway, a blog called "You and Me and Ella B" might not be the right place for the posts that will follow over the next couple of weeks, but would you want to read a blog titled "Me and My Super Annoying Uterus"? No, I didn't think so, though that would be the perfect title because my super annoying, totally lame uterus is the subject of this new series of posts..... still there? Great. Then let's gets started.

As many of you know, Mike and I have been trying to conceive our second child for almost two years now. We tried on our own for a year and then completed three failed IUI's (Inseminations) last summer. Since then, we've continued trying on our own, hoping for the best, but knowing that IVF (In-vitro fertilization) was the eventual end route.

So, here we are, two years later. It's hard to believe that I thought I'd have a one-year-old by now. It's hard to believe that I have spent two years wishing and hoping and waiting. Mostly, I can't believe how much this has consumed and affected my life for the past two years. I was shocked to not fall pregnant immediately. After all, we got pregnant right away with Ella, and pregnancy was something I completely took for granted. I felt bad for my friends and relatives who struggled to conceive, knowing that would never be me. And here I am, two years of trying, three failed IUI's, countless blood tests, ultrasounds, needles, uterus scraping, hours spent hopeful, and just as many hours spent disappointed.

Infertility is a unique kind of pain. It is not a sharp pain that slowly disappears over time. It is a pain that rises and falls to a regular beat. Each month brings hope, and each month leaves you more disappointed, feeling like that idiot girl who keeps chasing after a boy who doesn't want her. The darkest time was after our third failed IUI. Because I have conceived a child naturally, and because there are no known fertility issues with either of us, the doctor and nurses assured me that the insemination would be successful. To hear the doctor say that he was shocked it didn't work was disconcerting to say the least. Before that, I had been upset that it was taking so long for me to get pregnant, but it wasn't until that moment that I began to fear not simply "when" but "if" I would get pregnant again. The realization that this might not happen for us hit me hard. I could not help feeling that if I didn't get pregnant again that something would be missing from my life. As with many elements of motherhood, this feeling lead only to guilt and shame. What kind of mother and wife am I if I don't feel like my husband and child are enough? What right do I have to be sad when the world has given me so many blessings?

I had to learn to navigate these feelings and find a duality somehow. I had to learn that I can both feel a longing for something out of reach, and joy in what I already have. This has been a struggle, but one that I think I've come close to overcoming.

A few weeks ago Mike and I were working in the yard. Ella was playing by herself (she just learned how to swing without help- thank the lord), and we were both actually getting stuff done, something everyone who has children knows rarely happens. It was a beautiful day, and I was gardening in the sunshine, and I suddenly felt like, "This is good. This is a nice life. Things could be just like this, and it would  be okay." That was the first time in two years that I had felt that way- that I didn't need another child to complete my life. My life is complete. It will get better and worse all the time. That's the nature of life, but there is no missing puzzle piece under the couch that will make everything perfect. Another child certainly won't make my life perfect. Do you know what babies are like?! They definitely don't make life easier. Another child would be a blessing, the beginning of a new, difficult, frustrating, and satisfying puzzle. I hope I receive that puzzle as a gift one day soon, but maybe, just maybe, it's okay if I never get it.

This might, then, seem like a strange time to begin IVF, but I actually think it's the perfect time. I've been so afraid to do it because I know it's the last option. If it doesn't work, then we will probably never get pregnant, and I'm afraid of what that finality will do to me. I've finally gotten to a good place, and part of me is reluctant to enter this emotional roller coaster again. But I'm starting to look at it with fresh eyes, to understand that this journey may lead to a wonderful gift, a gift I will appreciate way more than I could have two years ago, but the worst thing that could possibly happen is that I'll have exactly what I have right now, and that's a lot. 

So, here we go. First night of injections down. Wish us luck. Check back in if you're so inclined, and thanks for listening.

Monday, February 24, 2014

I should know better...

Okay, so let's try a new approach. I seem to have no problem writing witty and darling Facebook posts about Miss B on a regular basis, so why does it seem so hard to do this? My new approach is to write those quick little stories here in the same fashion. Enough ruminating. Here goes:

After picking Ella up from school the other day, we had the following conversation:

Ella: Gabe got in trouble for saying a bad word.
Me: Oh yeah. What did he say?
Ella: He said, "Damn it."
Me: Oh, that is a bad word. We don't say that, right?
Ella: No, but sometimes I can't help it and a bad word comes out.
Me: Yeah, I know what you mean. That happens to me, too.
Ella: Yeah, but you're a grown-up. You should know better.

{What a bitch}


Friday, January 17, 2014

Time's a wasting...

I just finished putting Ella to bed, and as I sat down, exhausted from a long week, I noticed that an old post I'd written for the Fussy Baby site was reposted on Facebook. I noticed a lot of comments about the post, how it had meant something to people. I went back to the site, and I noticed the comments people had written, and questions they'd asked me that I'd never answered. I reread the posts I'd written a few years ago about living with a fussy baby, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, etc. and I remembered how much I loved writing those pieces, and I asked myself, why has it been so long since I did this?

The simple answer is that I am too busy, as we all are, but that is also an excuse. The truth is that this has been a difficult year and a half. We are still in the throws of trying to have a baby, and the desire for another child has often consumed my thoughts. It has pulled me away from other things I love to do, like writing, and I regret that. So many things have happened in the past six months, and I regret that I haven't documented them here. I regret that wanting another child has, at times, distracted me from enjoying the amazing child I have right upstairs.

I'm not the kind of person who thinks, oh no, she's getting bigger, it's all flying by so quickly! But when I think back six months, I can't believe how much she's changed. That big girl upstairs can write her name, and do a headstand, and memorize the lyrics to a song. She can tell a joke (sort of), and earlier she said, "Y.E.L.L.O.W." spells yellow. She is getting bigger, and time is flying by, no matter how cliche is sounds, and I don't want to waste any more of my life on regrets.

We're still trying to have another baby. I still hope each new month will be the magical month that everything will change, but I'm trying to remember that my life is right here, right now, with that girl and that man who are upstairs right now reading stories and snuggling. They are my family.