I'm looking forward to seeing my uterus tomorrow morning! It's one of the funny little perks of doing IVF--I always know what the inside of my uterus is up to. It's been over six months since we last had visual contact, and I'm long overdue for a meeting with my uterus.
I was very excited to have my IVF medications arrive via UPS today. Mostly because it means that this is all really happening again... but also because the pharmacy sends along a little bag of Hershey Kisses with each order. Yum! For the record, I do not share my IVF Hershey Kisses. Those are mine. I earn them.
Tomorrow, I'll wake up at the crack of dawn for morning monitoring--bloodwork and an ultrasound to make sure everything is in working order. It'll be Cycle Day 3, and as long as everything looks good, I'll be injecting myself with the first dose of follicle-stimulating hormone, a.k.a, Follistim, tomorrow afternoon.
Tomorrow's shot is the least painful part of the whole process. It's the shot that kicks off a new cycle filled with promise; the pain masked by sheer enthusiasm for the journey we're about to embark upon (and the 5 minutes of icing the injection site beforehand helps, too). There's no swelling or discomfort (yet). There's no pesky side effects (yet). Just an ear-to-ear grin, an onlooking/wincing husband, a deep sigh, and a "Cheers!"
Tomorrow's shot is my favorite of them all.
So, tomorrow is a pretty big day. It's Cycle Day One--also known as CD1 on my calendar full of cryptic notes and abbreviations, all related in some way to trying to conceive (TTC). It's a day I've been waiting for since last spring when our one remaining frozen embryo didn't stick.
At that point, we decided we were finished with IVF. It was an expensive and emotionally draining road for us to travel, and we had been tapped out of both... no money... no emotion. We had nothing left to give to the process.
We destroyed our vials of frozen sperm, filed away our cycle flow sheets and insurance paperwork, brought our leftover medications to the township's "Medical Waste Disposal Day," and moved all of our bags of baby clothes and gear to the attic until we were strong enough to throw them away.
But somewhere, in the very back of my biological-clock-driven brain, I knew we weren't finished. I knew that we would somehow find the financial and spiritual means to make it to another CD1. And here we are.
This year was filled with challenges.
We accomplished everything on our list, and we feel good about the position we're in right now. It's going to be another challenging adventure, no doubt, but at least this time, we know that we did everything we could to make this happen. The rest is out of our control.
- Challenge 1: Lose weight.
- Challenge 2: Lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Challenge 3: Get thyroid function to a healthy and stable range.
- Challenge 4: Cut artificial sweeteners completely.
- Challenge 5: Make peace with God and his plan for us.
- Challenge 6: Save up $20,000 (or find a place to borrow it from).
- Challenge 7: Restock our sperm bank.
- Challenge 8: Ignore the nay-sayers.
I'm celebrating Cycle Day One tomorrow by drawing a big, fat CD1 on my calendar in hot pink Sharpie marker... because this one is permanent... this one is gonna stick.
There's one thing I believe every woman who has ever gone through IVF has had to endure: completely inappropriate comments or suggestions masquerading as advice.
I remember when my husband and I first decided to start IVF, I sat my parents down and told them the situation. The conversation is worthy of screen play format:SCENE
: Parents' kitchen table. Dad is watching NASCAR on mute. Mom is nervously pouring another glass of wine.ME
: We've decided to go ahead with IVF in order to have a baby. It's really the only option given my inability to ovulate and TR's almost complete lack of sperm.MOM
: I don't understand why you would rush into something like this. Why not give it some time to see if it happens naturally? That's what's wrong with you kids. Always in a rush.ME
: It's not about rushing, Mom. The andrologist was only able to find one single sperm in TR's last specimen... one.MOM
: Well it only takes one, honey. Give God a chance.ME
: Correction, Mom. It only takes "one" egg. It takes about 600 million sperm. We're 599,999,999 sperm short. MOM
: I still don't understand why you won't try on your own for a while first. Give this whole IVF thing a rest. Your father used to just walk up the stairs behind me and I'd end up pregnant. We're very fertile.ME
: Okay, I'm done with this conversation. That was totally gross.
I share this story because it's so common. The more women I talk to about it, the more stories I hear about unsympathetic parents or relatives who just can't seem to accept the scientific aspect to infertility.
It makes sense though, really. Our mothers and grandmothers didn't know all that much about infertility, and they certainly didn't have many options to address it.
My grandmother had PCOS, like me, and was able to get pregnant after a D&C. She had 3 children, one right after the next, but as a farmer's wife, she was expected to have many more. She said she always wished she was able to have more children, but it just wasn't in the cards for her.
My great uncle was injured during World War II and, after his wounds healed, found that he was sterile. He and my great aunt never had any children because of it.
To this day, my great aunt is probably my biggest supporter. She understands the heartbreak of infertility and, despite her deeply religious convictions, prays constantly that each IVF cycle will be a success. She didn't have the option of IVF, but she never once suggested that I give it a rest. She knows what it means to want to succeed at any cost, and I find a lot of my strength in her encouragement.
I tap into that strength when I hear things like the following (list is not exhaustive
... and the list goes on.
- Don't you worry that when you get to the pearly gates, St. Peter will be standing there with all of the embryos that died during your cycles?
- Maybe this miscarriage was God's way of saying you should put this whole IVF thing to rest.
- (As the RE is wheeling me in for my egg retrieval) I don't know where she gets this! Infertility does NOT run in my side of the family!
- I think IVF is selfish. You're doing it because you can't accept that God made you infertile.
- You know all these fertility drugs are giving you cancer, right?
- IVF? What, is your husband shooting blanks?
So, despite the incredibly insensitive comments we may hear, and the cutting retorts we swallow in order to keep the peace, we carry on... plowing ahead, doing what's best for our families, finding
solace in the fact that only the infertile can understand the plight of the infertile. We turn to our great aunts and grandmothers who silently cheer us on with an understanding hug or a nightly prayer and ask for the strength to persist through the "advice" that nags at us every so often.
Delicate red mini roses surrounded by tufts of baby's breath, rich dark chocolates filled with raspberry creme, sexy innuendo-filled dinners by fluttering candlelight--be damned. It's cycle time. And nothing else matters when it's cycle time.
It's amazing how much will fall completely from your radar when you're preparing to cycle. Sometimes it's because you only have so many brain cells to process everything that IVF demands of you.
How can I think about making dinner reservations when I'm still waiting for a callback from the andrology lab to schedule my husband's next "specimen drop off?" I'm trying to mentally keep track of my estrogen, progesterone, TSH, and FSH levels; I can't even consider listing 101 reasons why I love you.
Other times, it's because you're physically unable to enjoy the things you used to. Thank you, Metformin, for making it impossible for me to enjoy chocolate. Thank you, birth control pill, for that little nagging headache I carry around with me all day. And while I'm at it--thank you, CoQ10, Vitamin D, Synthroid, and prenatal vitamin for keeping me from traveling on an aircraft any time soon. All these pills? I can explain.
And sometimes, as is the case for me right now, you completely lose interest in everything else because you're storing up your emotional energy for whatever this IVF cycle delivers. You may need vast stores of joy and exhilaration if your beta comes back positive. Or, God forbid it, you may need to tap into reserves of tears and drain every last ounce of strength from your heart just to keep going. So, you pause; waiting with wide eyes and a chewed lower lip to figure out what you're going to need to feel next. It's just part of the emotional cost of doing business when it comes to infertility.
So, while everyone is enjoying a very romantic Valentine's Day, we'll be here--at home--discussing sperm counts, follicle stimulating hormones, and how the hell we're going to pay for all of this.
Telegenetic counseling. That's the fancy way to describe a Skype session to get your genetic test results back. I think it's creative, and it's inspiring me to use all kinds of fancy talk around here. (I don't just cook dinner in a Crockpot; I create our meal through a process of prolonged-warmth exposure.)
The good news is that both the hubby and I are chromosomally normal and at a significantly decreased risk of passing any genetic disorders on to our embryos. We're not in the clear, but we've been tested for over 100 different possibilities, and our odds of one of these genetic disorders affecting our offspring is about 1 in a million. Great news for us! But we still have no answer to why so many of our beautiful embryos expire.
I suppose, now, we revert back to the generic "bad egg" diagnosis; and we hope that a 20-pound weight loss is enough to improve my rotten eggs. It's about all we can do as we wait for... Cycle Day One.