The Rest

Around this time last year, my RE successfully transferred two embryos into my uterus, and those two embryos grew, over 34 weeks, into my delightful Isaac and Carrie. That IVF cycle resulted in more embryos than I’d ever had before, more than I’d ever had last as long as they all lasted–nine of them lasted until day 5, when Isaac and Carrie were transferred, and seven are still frozen, waiting for whatever comes next.

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Or, well. They are now. I’m finding myself having to decide about them a lot sooner than I’d wanted to decide.

Kyle and I had been operating under the impression that our seven remaining embryos would be kept frozen by the fertility clinic for two years, covered by our insurance. After those two years, we could decide if we wanted to keep them frozen, paying $85 a month for their storage; if we wanted to donate them to either science or another couple (I’d prefer an LGBT couple if we go that route); or if we wanted the facility to dispose of them (not likely). The $85 isn’t manageable now, since we’re barely making it from paycheck to paycheck while still buying groceries, but in two years, with Sam in school and the twins on cow’s milk? It totally would be.

But. The bill came early.

It came in the mail the other day, a bill for $170 for last month’s storage and this month’s storage, and I was baffled, because I’d thought things would be covered. I only opened the bill in the evening (opening mail when you have a little shadow in the shape of your four-year-old son is very difficult), so I couldn’t call to clear things up that night, and so I immediately guessed that our insurance must have changed policies on embryo storage. Maybe they only covered for one year instead of two now, which left us in an absolutely wretched spot: having to decide immediately to either get me knocked up again (no, or at least not right now) or where to donate our remaining seven embryos.

Kyle, fortunately, cleared things up in the morning: we just have to get authorization from our RE and send that to the insurance company ourselves, and once we do that, they’ll cover an additional two years of storage, giving us more time to decide what we want to do with our seven remaining embryos.

Seven potential lives, at least in theory. We don’t know the health of any of the embryos, since PGS was financially out of reach for us last year (and probably will be for a while yet, since it’s in the neighborhood of $3500). None or all of them could have aneuploidies incompatible with life, as with so many of our other losses. Some looked textbook good; but then, we’ve had perfect embryos before, and those resulted in miscarriages. The only two we know for sure are healthy are currently asleep in their bassinets, one probably flopped on his stomach and the other squashed into her favorite corner.

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Whether now or in three years, Kyle and I do have to decide what to do with these seven embryos, which is a weighty task. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I do not want seven more children. I have friends with nine and ten kids, and they are fantastic people and superhuman (how can you not be, when you have that many kids?), but it is not a path I want for myself or my family. I don’t know what number is our path (four is looking likely, one way or another, and I’ll get to that in a minute), but that number is absolutely not 10.

A less ethical fertility clinic might have popped all nine in me at once, and I could’ve attained international fame like Octomom–except doing that is unethical for a reason. The pregnancy would’ve put enormous strain on my body, and the likelihood of even half the babies surviving would be slim. Worse, the ones that didn’t survive could take the others with them, and then we’d have been back to square one again. So no, I’m glad that my clinic is good at risk management, and I’m glad that I’m not suddenly a mom to nonuplets, even if it means I don’t get my very own TLC show.

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(that’s probably for the best, honestly)

But that still leaves 7 embryos that we have to figure out what to do with, 7 embryos that we need to decide where they go. Logically, I know that even if we decide to try for one more pregnancy out of this batch (and it would be one more, not more than that, and no more twins), that’s six embryos that still need a place, and it’s just so… weird to decide.

I mean, look. I’m pro-choice as they come. I believe strongly in bodily autonomy and that, whenever life begins, personhood cannot begin at conception because everything that makes a person a person exists in one’s brain, and that doesn’t show up for at least six weeks, probably more (it’s been a while since I watched a baby development video, I’ve been kind of busy). My ethical qualms aren’t so much that I’m thinking of this in the same way as I’d be thinking of giving up my living, born children, but more in the sense that I’m trying to… I guess wrestle with the potential.

Most likely, even if we decide to have one more child from this batch (which wouldn’t be for a while… like, at least three or four years), we’d donate the embryos to other couples struggling with infertility. I’d prefer, as I said before, to donate to LGBT couples, but ultimately, I want to make sure they go somewhere they’d be loved. But then I wrestle with it because it’s like… how do you discuss that with an eventual child? Embryo adoption can be open, as can traditional adoption, but at the same time, just… it’s such a weird thing to try and explain.

“Well, Liam Neeson Smith Jones III, it’s not that we didn’t want you, but it was luck of the draw, and we ended up carrying Isaac and Carrie instead. And we wanted you to be with someone who loved you, and we chose them special for you.” And then silently you think about how it’s hard to look at them and see their father’s eyes and your mother’s smile and hear the same laugh that runs in your dad’s side of the family.

I think it would be an awesome chance, and I’d love to do it, but it’s something I’m wrestling with emotionally. Giving up a child for adoption is hard. Giving up an embryo is slightly less hard, but still weird. Weird is a good word for it.

Scientific donation is on the docket as well, and if we’re able to do PGS on the embryos before sending them anywhere, it’s what we’d both want to do with any embryos not compatible with life. Just the same, if we don’t meet requirements for adoption, it’d be the second best choice, but it seems… wasteful. Not because I feel like it’d be murder for science, but because my god, I put so much WORK into those, and maybe they’ll help scientific advances or just be testing ground for a new resident, but it feels like they should at least become people first?

(I wonder if this is how an oak tree feels if its acorns fall on asphalt, and it’s just like “Motherf– DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WORK THOSE THINGS WERE???”)

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(oak tree when an acorn hits the pavement, played by Kristen Wiig)

That’s also why I’m not keen on the “eh, just trash ‘em” option. Those embryos are a culmination of two years of very hard work and physical and financial sacrifice. They are not going in anyone’s biohazard bag if I can help it.

I guess the hardest decision is whether or not we should reserve one for ourselves before donating the rest. If I were to get pregnant again, I wouldn’t want it to be until the twins are much older, and while your fertility doesn’t immediately bottom out once you hit 35, I’m already in a wonky spot where that’s  concerned. If Kyle and I want another biological child, these embryos are our best chance, and I’m having a hard time letting go of that overall.

We also know and have agreed that we want to adopt once our biological kids are older (read: 5+), preferably through the state foster system. So then the question becomes if we want five kids? I don’t think we do, and we both agree that we want to adopt, but

But.

But it’s just very difficult to let that go. The past six years of my life, up until March, I was so focused on getting and staying pregnant, and it just seems… weird and difficult to let it go.

Well. At the very least, I’m getting authorization for insurance to cover the cost of keeping the embryos stored for the next two years (Kyle said it’s my job to do that), because if nothing else, it’ll buy time to let go, to accept and embrace all of this, and to adjust.

Magic in a Jar of Dirt

So there’s a scene in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies where Jack Sparrow is trying to avoid Davy Jones. Tia Dalma, a voodoo priestess and otherwise witchy character, gives him a jar of dirt, as Davy Jones can’t set foot on land.

“Is the… jar of dirt going to help?” Jack asks, utterly skeptical.

Tia Dalma stares him down. “If you don’t want it, give it back.”

Jack clutches the jar to his chest protectively. “No.”

At that, Tia Dalma smiles and steps back. “Then it helps.”

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There’s a weird sort of power in that kind of talisman, in a real life kind of talisman. I don’t necessarily mean an actual power, but that comforting power… the idea that maybe this will help, that maybe it will make things go right. It’s come into play both in my infertility journey and in my parenting.

I had a lot of talismans for my infertility journey; the most important were green fingernails, for fertility, and my Princess Leia socks, for strength. I started wearing them this year, after last year’s IVF treatments kept falling flat on their faces. I don’t think they really necessarily did anything, but then again, I could be wrong. I wore them to my two embryo transfers in the first half of the year, but both of those failed. But then again, I also wore them to my egg retrieval and transfer for this actual pregnancy, so who knows? The point is that they made me feel better, good luck charms, if you will. They made me feel like I had some control over a situation that has long been completely out of my hands.

In truth, the success of this IVF cycle was a combination of things: Kyle’s semenalysis had much better results this go-around, we used the right medication cocktail, I took it easy and carefully throughout the earliest days. Did the socks and the fingernails have anything to do with it? Probably not; but you bet your ass that if something happened and I had to go through this again for any reason, I’d be wearing those Princess Leia socks and painting my nails green.

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(which is to say, next time, I’m totally going for beetle wing green)

Talismans, rituals, magic, all of that is pretty important when you have a little kid, too. They need things to comfort them, because they don’t always understand the world around them. It’s big. It’s weird. It’s sometimes scary. And they’re small and often powerless, so giving them something to hold onto that makes them feel more powerful, even if it’s not really magical or powerful… it helps.

When I was really young, I was terrified of thunder. Absolutely bananas terrified. My parents gave me magic to help with it: they called it a thunder stick. It was really just a paper towel tube, sometimes even a toilet paper tube. It was my weapon against the thunder, though. I could shake it at the sky, and I could yell, “Stop that thunder!” and eventually, the thunder would stop. I was powerless, really, against the weather (sadly, I was not a pint sized shaman), but believing that I had that power made me feel less afraid.

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(I was not this vulgar as a three-year-old, but if I needed a thunder stick nowadays, I would be)

Sam has his talismans, three that we see regularly and a fourth that we consider breaking out the big guns. The three regulars are his lovies: Puppy, the ubiquitous stuffed husky that Kat got him for his first birthday; Pillow, which is literally just a Star Wars pillow; and Blanket, one of the Aden and Anais receiving blankets we were given when we were expecting him. They obviously haven’t got any real magic or power to them. They’re tools of comfort, things that make him feel safe. And he won’t go to bed without them.

The big guns talisman is his Darth Vader bear. That one, though, I actually believe has magic in it.

Eleven years ago, when Kyle and I first started dating, a lot of people in our community cheered us on. We were pretty well known in the small, tight-knit group of RPers, and it seemed like everyone was thrilled to see us together. None, however, were more thrilled than our guild leaders, Veri and Ged. They lived thousands of miles from both of us, but we may as well have been down the street. They cheered us on more than anyone; I swear, when we announced our engagement, we could hear Veri’s squeal of delight from across the country.

And that’s to say nothing of when we told them we were expecting Sam. Veri greeted us whenever we talked by asking, “Are there going to be any baby bears?” (Kyle’s nickname among the group was Kody-bear… it’s a long story) When we told her that yes, a baby bear was imminent, I’m amazed that the joysplosion didn’t take out half the country.

A couple of weeks later, a package arrived at our doorstep, our very first gift for Sam. It was a box from Build-A-Bear, and inside was a black bear dressed in Darth Vader’s robes. The bear was, of course, from Veri and Ged, and came with warmest wishes for a healthy pregnancy and greetings for our new baby. As soon as Sam was born, I started to introduce him to the bear; in recent months, it’s his greatest comfort when all else fails.

Like tonight, when the wind and rain were making him nervous. I rocked him in my arms for a while and let him talk out his anxieties. He wanted some of the stuffed animals that he knew he’d tossed out in the hallway, so we walked over to inspect them, and then he asked me to bring them into his room while he got into bed. He didn’t even ask for Darth Vader bear, but when Darth Vader bear came into his line of vision, it was all he cared about. He touched the mask, the hands, the feet, gently and almost reverently. He asked me to tuck him in (moments before he’d been asking to go downstairs), and his eyes closed as I slipped out of the room.

So Darth Vader bear is special, even more special because Veri passed away last year. She was this beautiful light of a person who could make even the most stubborn of skeptics believe that magic was real, and there’s an ache whenever I remember she isn’t here anymore.

Darth Vader bear may be just a jar of dirt. It may be special because it’s a gift from someone who loved us, who’s gone now. Sam may feel comforted by it because it’s a plush Darth Vader, the only one he has at the moment. He may feel comforted because it’s been part of his life since before he was born.

But for my own sake, I like to believe in a little bit of magic. I like to believe that the most magical person I ever knew put love and blessings into this sweet keepsake, and that maybe, when Sam hugs Darth Vader bear at night, a little bit of that love and magic is hugging him back.

 

A Bottle of Whine

Even when you get pregnant through IVF and ages of effort and trying and stress, you still have to qualify any pregnancy complaints you have with the caveat that “I’m really happy to be pregnant! No, I really am! I’m thrilled, honestly! I can cope with the suffering as long as it means a healthy baby at the end!”

And it’s all true. This has been a long journey, and I’m happy to be where I am, but I’m also 100% miserably physically, and I’m going to whine about it for a bit.

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(sadly, not this kind of wine until May)

Two of my pregnancy complaints are normal and familiar: fatigue and nausea. The fatigue hits like a truck around 2-3 p.m. daily, without fail, which is fine on weekends–that’s Sam’s naptime, after all–and miserable on weekdays, when I’m using tape and prayer to keep my eyes open at work. Supposedly up to 200 mg of caffeine every day is alright during pregnancy, but most people think of that as coming from coffee, and I hate coffee. It tastes like licking the bottom of a muddy boot, and I can only stomach it if I drown it in enough cream, sugar, and chocolate to pretend that it’s not coffee at all but rather some sort of fancy chocolate drink with an Italian name that I can’t pronounce.

At best, I drink a Dr. Pepper at lunch, which is hilariously unhealthy (PURE SUGAR WATER HERE WE GO!), but it at least gives me a jolt that can keep me from completely disintegrating before the homeward commute… and then it wears off at 10 p.m. and I give up on my nightly activities of maybe doing some dailies in WoW (yeah, I’m still there, so sue me) or just puttering around aimlessly on YouTube watching British documentaries about reborn dolls and the women who love them.

(if someone held a gun to my head and told me that I had to invest in a reborn doll, I would buy one that looked entirely normal EXCEPT it would have glowing red eyes, so it would not only be the uncanny valley visit of “oh that’s not a real baby” but also “AAA IT’S A DEMON” and that’s hilarious to me)

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(or maybe this Voldemort one; take a moment to finish screaming, it’s alright)

Nausea complicates everything. I’ve had it since right after my retrieval, and it hasn’t really gotten better. I have my methods for coping (namely: peppermint candies until I die), but as a general rule, it just makes me miserable if I eat anything before 2:00 p.m., which is ridiculous because breakfast and lunch are things.

But nausea doesn’t care about that. Nausea doesn’t ask silly questions. Nausea just makes you incapable of functioning during the peak hours of the day.

And I do mean incapable. Twice this weekend, I had to turn around my plans for the day because I was so exhausted and nauseated that I couldn’t see straight. I never threw up, thank GOD, but I did go straight home and bury myself in blankets until I didn’t feel like complete crap, which took about 3 hours each time. I had so many plans–I had to exchange some maternity jeans that were too small for me, to swing by Target and Michael’s and various stores that may or may not have Halloween stuff out for me to ogle, to hit Barnes & Noble and pick up books about being a big brother so that Sam can get used to the idea–and they all fell apart because nausea.

Nausea and fatigue are both good, mind. They mean that your body is working as intended. Worse nausea is associated with lower risks of miscarriage and healthier pregnancies overall, which is comforting in a sort of “here are some positive facts about mosquitos!” kind of way. Like hey, it’s really cool that they provide a main diet staple for these neat birds, but maybe they can stop biting me now?

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(my opinion on this happening is not improved by the knowledge that a bird will soon be like “ooh lunch!”)

Abnormally speaking, I’m in pain.

Fortunately, the pain is also a good sign, even if it’s not a normal or typical sign. Unfortunately, that means that I basically have to grin and bear it with extra strength Tylenol and a lot of whining.

The pain is coming from two sources, as far as I can figure. First, it’s coming from my ovaries, those beasties. They’re still enormous from being overstimulated, still the size of fruit. When I’m lying down, if I gently press on my abdomen, I can feel them (and yes, it is very trippy to do so). They’re pressing against all of my internal organs and also are just IN THE WAY OF EVERYTHING, so if I sit upright like a normal person, they feel like they’re being crushed and I say “ow ow ow ow!” and then shift into a slouch or else go out to rest with my feet up because at least that doesn’t cause me endless pain.

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(do you know how difficult it is to get work done like this?)

My ovaries are also oversized because I’ve managed to acquire a large number of corpus luteum cysts, which would make sense for a normal pregnancy but not so much for an IVF pregnancy.

Basically, in a normal pregnancy, a corpus luteum cyst forms on the ovary after you ovulate. This cyst remains in place and produces progesterone until the placenta is mature enough to start doing that itself. It can cause some minor cramping or twinging in early pregnancy, but for the most part, it’s harmless and even a very beneficial sign.

The corpus luteum cyst is not supposed to form with an IVF pregnancy, or so they told me. That’s why I was on supplementary progesterone, or so they told me. And then when I went in to get my HCG checked, they saw that my progesterone levels were ridiculously high (on average, your progesterone is supposed to hover between 9-47 ngL for the first several weeks of pregnancy; mine was at 60) and stopped my supplementary everything because holy shit, what is happening here.

(this explains the high levels of nausea and fatigue and sore boobness I’ve been dealing with because guess what hormone causes those things? It’s progesterone :D)

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(YAYYYYY)

The second pain source seems to be a cyst in my uterus that may or may not be the other blastocyst not getting the hint that if it’s not going to grow, it should get outta dodge. I’ve felt that as a pressure in my pelvis that reminds me ever-so-keenly of when Sam was just days away from being born and decided to RAM his head into my pelvis as if by doing so, he could defy all laws of biology and physics and enter the world on his own terms. It hurts like the dickens, especially when I walk; the pain is only really eased if I bow my legs out and waddle about like a cowboy from an old timey cartoon (which I only do at home; I will cope with the pain to avoid being seen like that in public).

On Monday, we’re checking to make sure that the cyst is just a cyst and not the other embryo trying to be a pregnancy (it’s in the wrong spot and would pose a lot of health risks, which means I’d have to terminate, which HOLY HELL do I not want to do–I am as pro-choice as they come, but to get this far, to try this long, and then be told, “Whoopsies, it’s in the wrong spot! And if it stays you and the other baby might die!” is kind of a dick move, universe). If it is a cyst, I have no idea what the next steps are. Uterine cysts just don’t happen. Every time I’ve googled them, Google has come back at me like, “do you mean ‘uterine fibroids’” like it’s being smart. And no, Google, I do not mean uterine fibroids, but thanks for not helping!

Ugh. But the good news is that I’m still pregnant, I’m still pushing forward, and as far as I know, we’re still expecting to see good things on the ultrasound on Monday. We’re looking for an increased heartbeat and an embryo that’s gone through another week of growth, and if we see that, I may even get to graduate to a regular OB/GYN after this! Until then…

 

A Legume

In February of 2016, Kyle and I went to what we hoped would be our last ultrasound at an IVF facility. I was about 8 weeks along with our first pregnancy from an IVF cycle, and we expected to see a bouncy little bean growing healthily and to be dismissed from the IVF facility and picked up by our usual OB/GYN. Sure, some people struggled through years of IVF to get pregnant, but not us. We’d gotten pregnant right away and would have a beautiful baby in October of 2016. October 17 was the due date.

That… didn’t happen.

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(you start to ask yourself this a lot when you’re dealing with infertility)

Instead of an 8-week-old fetus, we saw something measuring about 6 weeks, if that, shaped like a flying saucer and not bouncing at all. We saw a heartbeat, but it was slow and weak, 65 bpm, very appropriate for a healthy adult, not at all for an 8-week-old fetus.

We had the cool ultrasound tech, the one we’ve had for nearly every ultrasound since then that’s brought us either good or bad news. She’s got a great sense of humor and was trying to keep us optimistic. “I’ve seen it go either way!” she said, but the doctor we spoke to afterwards was less than pleased.

“It rarely ends well when this is the case, but we’ll want you back next week to make sure. If the baby grows between now and then, we’ll take it as a good sign and just adjust your due date accordingly. If it doesn’t…”

So one week later, we came back, not expecting anything good, and sure enough, we got nothing good. The gestational sac was still there, but the weird little flying saucer fetus was gone. No heartbeat, no movement, nothing at all. We talked to the doctor again, who offered that I could wait it out, take a medication, or have a D&C. I chose the latter, not wanting to go through the pain of labor just to give birth to essentially nothing, not even remnants of fetal tissue.

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(it sucked)

In February of 2017, our first ultrasound for another pregnancy got bumped up a week because I’d started bleeding. A lot. I sat down on the toilet and it was like a murder scene. A clot the size of a lemon came out of me after I laid down and tried to slow things a little bit. The doctor wanted to see if there was anything left, if the bleeding had been the result of a subchorionic hemorrhage (a condition in which blood gets between the gestational sac and uterine wall and causes Problems).

I wasn’t surprised when nothing showed up on the screen. A clot the size of a lemon isn’t something that usually comes along with a healthy pregnancy.

Understandably, I’m a little nervous about these first ultrasounds. They’ve brought nothing but bad news so far, slow heartbeats, missing fetuses, nothing there. This morning, I’ve been shaky and tense since I woke up. I could barely eat breakfast, and only partly because of morning sickness. I couldn’t pay attention at work, and ended up pausing a lot of my tasks to just sit and breathe and try to calm down.

I got to the ultrasound place pretty early, but Kyle was running pretty late (like 15 minutes or so). Nothing distracted me or helped. None of the magazines in the waiting room held any appeal, Facebook and Tumblr seemed to just make me more tense, and I couldn’t even think of anything but “what if this is another miscarriage or failure? What if something’s wrong?”

Kyle finally arrived and we went back into a small room with dim lights. I changed and lay down on the warmed table, resting a hand behind my head and trying to stop shaking. I counted the tiles on the ceiling. The ultrasound tech–our favorite tech again–squirted warm jelly on the probe and told me, “alright, here we go.”

I saw it immediately, what I thought was a gestational sac. The trouble was, it didn’t have anything in it–no yolk sac, no fetus, nothing. That… wasn’t a good sign. At this point, we should’ve seen at least a yolk sac, maybe something more, but we saw nothing, just a dark circle surrounded by the grey of uterine tissue.

“Well, it’s something,” the tech said. “Let’s keep going.” She moved the probe around a bit, and suddenly, I gasped. There, right there on the screen, was a definite gestational sac with everything in place–the yolk sac, which provides nutrients for the baby until the placenta is fully developed, and the fetal pole, the beginnings of the baby itself. And flickering right there, in the middle of the fetal pole, was a heartbeat. Constant. Steady. And faster than we’d seen since Sam.

“98 beats per minute, which is excellent at this stage!” the tech announced. Faster than it had ever been with our first miscarriage last year. Steady. Strong.

We looked around a little more–I have some free fluid in my lower abdomen, likely thanks to my still-swollen ovaries, which are both still enormous (61 mm and 71 mm, respectively–that’s a peach and a pear in fruit sizes). The “gestational sac” we saw earlier looks like it’s actually a uterine cyst, which isn’t a bad thing but will have to be monitored as this pregnancy progresses. They want me back in a week to measure everything–to make sure the actual baby is growing and to make sure that the cyst is not (if it is, that might indicate that it’s an ectopic pregnancy, which presents its own set of Very Big problems).

But so far, it looks like finally, FINALLY, things are starting to go right, and I’ll finally have a baby legume come late April, 2018.

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(the legume in question, measuring exactly six weeks, one day)

Numbers

Everything about IVF is a numbers game, which is a fine joke on me because I’ve always hated math.

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Your numbers when testing are important: what are your hormone levels–progesterone, estrogen, glucose, TSH, FSH, androgens? What is your partner’s sperm count? What does your blood look like? What does your partner’s blood look like? Is it worth trying IUI first or should you just skip ahead to IVF?

Then during the IVF cycle, it’s nothing but numbers. You have the numbers of your dosages, of Gonal-F and Menopur and HCG trigger. You have the numbers during your follicle counts and blood draws. You watch those numbers steadily climb, sometimes to astronomical levels. And after you wake up from your retrieval, you have the number of eggs successfully retrieved.

That number goes down a lot. We had 54 eggs retrieved. 38 were mature. 31 fertilized. By day 5, only 7 remained to freeze, besides the two we transferred. What a plummet, but I suppose it’s fair–with that many eggs, things are bound to be imperfect.

When you have your transfer, you worry about other numbers, mostly the number of blastocysts they put in you and their grading.

And then comes that two week wait, the time where you wait and wait and wait until your beta blood draw, where you can hopefully see a good HCG number. HCG is the pregnancy hormone, and you want yours to be moderately high and to keep climbing.

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(what you don’t want on The Price is Right but do want when you’re getting betas back)

Last Thursday, my HCG was at 223, which is a definite positive. I tested again today, and though my HCG has increased, it’s not by as much as they’d hoped–I should be at around 900 today, but instead I’m around 700.

In early pregnancy, they look for your HCG to double every 48-72 hours, but ideally every 48. I’m doubling roughly every 59, so it’s not great, but it’s not the worst, either. I’m still in that normal range, but I’ve got the doctor nervous enough, with my history of loss, that she’s ordered an early ultrasound. Usually, they don’t do the first ultrasound until around 7-8 weeks, but she wants to make sure everything is progressing, so our first ultrasound will be at 6 weeks, and likely we’ll have another at the 7-8 week mark before I’m released to regular obstetric care.

The good news, despite that worrying news, is that my hormone levels are fantastic. I could’ve told you that–between the nausea, fatigue, and sore boobs, I feel like I’m closer to 8 weeks pregnant, not 5. All of those early pregnancy symptoms are caused by the excess progesterone in my system, and I apparently have a LOT of that, so I get to stop with my supplements, hallelujah. The supplements had nasty OTHER side effects that were just exhausting.

I’m still not counting any chickens; we’ve got to get through the six week ultrasound and then the 8 week; then maybe I’ll breathe easy. Until then…

Distractions

Probably the best thing to happen during early pregnancy, especially if you’ve got a history of loss, is to be buried under ten billion distractions.

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(see also: me when I’m pooping and Sam is outside the bathroom going “Mommy? Mommy? Momma? Mommy? Momma? Mom?”)

Some distractions are fun. For example, everyone is talking about the solar eclipse, and even though I’m nowhere near the path of totality (and won’t be heading there because work), it’s still pretty cool and exciting. I’ll probably have a live feed running on my work computer for a little bit, at least until totality, and then I’ll probably not care much. Eclipses take forever. I remember one in the early 90s–not a total eclipse, but enough of one that everyone got excited. My mom taped it, but it was just a little video in the corner of the screen alongside her soap operas (I think she was watching One Life to Live at the time? Maybe? There was a guy with a black, curly mullet, that’s all I know).

Fun distractions come in the form of media. Lucasfilms just announced an upcoming stand alone film about Obi Wan Kenobi, which has me VERY excited… though that excitement will 100% evaporate if Ewan McGregor does not come back to play Obi Wan (he’s the absolute best part of the dumpster fire that we call the prequels; he and John Williams were the only ones who came to work). And then, of course, I get excited reading about new developments at Disney World: Star Wars land opening in another couple of years, plans for the 50th anniversary in 2021, and look. If I can’t afford to go to Disney World all the time, I can at least live vicariously through people who do, right?

It all eventually winds back, though. Someone on a birth board I follow wondered if the solar eclipse might have a negative impact on pregnancies. I scoffed, of course, because that is literally impossible, but it all wound back. Star Wars and Disney World just remind me that I hope, I hope, I hope that the next time we go, Sam won’t be the only child. I wonder and daydream about logistics and I wonder if this pregnancy will continue and we’ll be able to go in late April/early May and have two birthday trips for the price of one.

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(birthday at Disney World is on my bucket list and also the bucket list of every child)

This has been a weekend, too, of bad distractions. Of literal Nazis, a president who refuses to condemn them, and me wondering what the hell I’m doing bringing more children into this world when there’s this much hatred from the top down.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the first things I learned about the United States when I was Sam’s age, maybe a little older. At that age, my favorite TV show was Reading Rainbow, because Reading Rainbow is an awesome show… and because I love books and stories, and Reading Rainbow was about books and stories.

Something about the show that didn’t even hit me until I was older was how determinedly diverse it was. Of course, that shouldn’t be surprising, considering its host Levar Burton, but it wasn’t the kind of forced diversity that a lot of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s were so familiar with. You know what I mean, when you had a team of kids and there was the Token Girl and the Token Black Kid and the Token Kid in a Wheelchair, and that was the entire sum of their personalities?

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(THE KID WITH THE WHEELCHAIR IS LITERALLY NAMED WHEELS)

Reading Rainbow did not have token anythings; when kids were featured on the show (a daily occurrence), they were just naturally diverse–from different backgrounds and ethnicities, all talking about how books and stories had impacted their lives. The episodes, too, celebrated diversity. There were episodes about West African culture, Chinese culture, Japanese culture, slavery, immigration, the works.

The immigration episode has been in the back of my mind a lot lately, along with that old Schoolhouse Rock song, “The Great American Melting Pot.” That was the first thing I learned about the United States, that it was a special country because it wasn’t homogenous, because we all came from different places, had different backgrounds, skin colors, religions, all of these things, and that was all okay because that’s what made the United States special. It wasn’t our military might, our history, or exceptionalism for exceptionalism’s sake. It was that everyone was welcome, no matter who they were.

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(ignore the quality of this gif making it look like everyone is white and an extra in a Charlie Brown special)

Of course, adulthood and further study have made me realize that’s not the case, but I think it’s the ideal that we should be aspiring to, where what makes us great isn’t that we have the most nukes or the most money or that we can posture and brag about how great we are, but rather where what makes us great is that we embrace our differences and realize how essential they are to the fabric of the nation (in the most optimistic view, of course).

And that’s a pretty simplistic discussion of it and doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of things (and I’m not going to get into that here because this isn’t a political blog; it’s a blog about making and raising kids), but it’s what’s been on my mind, distracting me from the worries I’d usually have at this point.

I had my HCG beta test on Thursday morning, one vial of blood drawn and sent off to a lab for testing. It came back with HCG levels around 223 (the average for a pregnancy at this point is 187), which is Very Positive. Something stuck, and I’m not sure if it’s both embryos or just one (or, as Sam posited because he likes scaring me, triplets), but for now at least, I’m pregnant.

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I have another blood draw on Monday to make sure that things are progressing. None of this necessarily means anything–last February, when I did my last FET cycle, my bloodwork came back high and great. I started to feel confident, and then I lost the pregnancy at six weeks exactly. I called out of work and spent several days curled up in bed, less sad and more just frustrated and crampy.

This time around is weirder. I can tell that the HCG is increasing because my ovaries are back to hurting. A lot. They’re not pressing up against my diaphragm anymore (at least not yet), but I’m extraordinarily uncomfortable, and if I don’t pee often enough, I’m in a lot of pain.

The nurse told me basically that the pain is normal for how many eggs I had retrieved and that it’s a good sign that the pregnancy is continuing. She said that it should taper off in a few weeks, but I’m still sitting here wishing it was gone today, because it hurts, damnit. It hurts, and I’m tired, and I’m glad to be pregnant (for now), but I really would also like to go back to bed and maybe spend the entire first trimester under general anesthesia.

Oh well. Point is: something stuck, and I’m waiting to see on Monday how long that’ll last. Until then…

Tips for Taking a Pregnancy Test When You’re Infertile

The most sensitive home pregnancy tests can detect HCG, the pregnancy hormone, at levels of 6.5 mlU. To be considered pregnant by medical professionals, you need to have a reading of at least 5 mlU.

The absolute best and most sensitive home pregnancy tests are made by First Response. They have pink dye, and really, you’ll do well with just about any test that uses pink dye over blue if you’re testing early (and if you are trying very hard to get pregnant, you’re probably testing early). They’re the most sensitive by far.

You’ll want to test first thing in the morning, not less than 9 days after you ovulate, or more than 5-6 days before you expect your period. If you test too far out, you may get a false negative. You’ll want to test first thing in the morning because the HCG levels in your urine will be more concentrated, so you’ll get a more accurate result.

Try to aim your pee well, and only pee on the test strip part of the test for five seconds. Anything more and you’ll risk getting a dye run. Anything less and you might cause the test to fail.

I always put some toilet paper or paper towels down on the counter, because no matter how much care you take, these tests get messy. If you don’t like getting pee all over your vanity, it’s a good step to take.

Set the test down and wait. You shouldn’t have to wait long. If you’re pregnant, a second line will show up pretty quickly, and even if it’s faint, you’re pregnant. I think there’s some confusion, that people think you’re not necessarily pregnant if you see a second line but it’s really faint, but you’re pregnant.

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If you’re going through a cycle where you used an HCG trigger, your rules are slightly different. The HCG you used to trigger ovulation will stay in your system about one day per thousand units. If you used a 10,000 unit trigger, that trigger will stay in your system for ten days, so any pregnancy test you take before you reach the 10 day mark will be inaccurate.

A lot of people deal with this by “testing out the trigger.” This basically means buying a bunch of cheap home pregnancy tests (NOT First Response, they’re not cheap at all) and using them every day to observe the second line getting fainter and vanishing completely. Any positive test after that point indicates pregnancy.

Or you can just wait.

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You’re supposed to wait. You’re supposed to wait until you get your beta results back, because a home pregnancy test can’t tell you how much HCG is really in your blood, so you can’t obsess over numbers. And, really, a home pregnancy test is just a step. After half a dozen miscarriages within the first six to nine weeks, after chemical pregnancies and false hopes, it seems like a very pointless step indeed.

But sometimes, it’s just nice to know that, for now at least, you’re pregnant.

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Betas are on Thursday the 17th, which is 10 days past a 5 day transfer. The magic number is 100; if we can get there, betas part two will be 48 hours later, at which point, the magic number will be 200. And then 400. And then I hold my breath and pray something stays in place and wait until the ultrasound, where I hold my breath and pray for a strong heartbeat.

The Harvest

I think egg retrieval is my favorite part of the IVF process. It means a full day off from work (and granted, you feel crappy during that time, not great, but it’s still a day off), and it means sleeping, and it means seeing the fruit of your annoying-ass two weeks of injections.

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(mostly it means sleeping)

I had my retrieval on Wednesday, as I’d mentioned before. They set it for pretty late in the day, which is unusual–my last several retrievals have been pretty early in the morning, so we’ve had to fight rush hour traffic to get in on time. This time, though, the road was clear, and we made it in with a good 20 minutes to spare, which was a great change of pace. I sat in the waiting room with a whole bunch of people who were theoretically just like me (you could tell the ones coming in for procedures–they had on comfortable clothes and warm socks. Conversely, the ones who were in for just consults or the like were wearing nice work clothes and heels), and Kyle went back to what I’m calling the spank bank wank tank to make his contribution to the furthering of the species.

(he took a video of it that he showed me when I woke up from the procedure. There was a chair covered in sterile paper, a counter with a cup and Roku remote control on it, and a 36” flatscreen TV mounted to the wall)

And then I got called back and had to strip down and don a johnny, bathrobe, and slipper socks. I spent pretty much the entire morning pantsless as multiple people came into my waiting cubicle to ask me Important Questions like “do you ever die during anesthesia?” or “which vein is best for an IV?”

(the nurse didn’t listen to me at first and tried to go in my left arm, but when I pointed out my Best Vein on my right arm, she went there, and things were good)

The big thing I always do before procedures is tell everyone I can, “I will puke unless you give me an antiemetic in my IV. I will wake up from anesthesia, and I will puke on you and everything you love, unless I have an antiemetic.” I think I repeated this about five times before the procedure, hoping that it would mean the anesthesiologist would give me that antiemetic so that I wouldn’t throw up, and so that Kyle could take my woozy self to Friendly’s for lunch.

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(I’m just saying that I totally deserved some fried food and ice cream)

(spoilers: I did not get Friendly’s for lunch)

But once I made sure that everyone knew that I would definitely throw up if not given an antiemetic, a nurse came to give me a little blue beret and escort me back to the procedure room.

Egg retrievals are really weird compared to other surgical procedures, in that you need to make sure your legs are securely way up in the stars before they give you the good night juice. I spent a lot of time positioning myself on a surgical table that seemed to be designed for only people weighing 100 lbs or less and then trying to assist the nurses as they hoisted my feet up into slings that would keep my legs way up high for the duration of the procedure. I was strapped down, and some blessed individual placed an oxygen mask over my face.

(retrospectively, it smelled a little sweet to be oxygen, so it was probably some nitrous oxide, which is GOOD STUFF)

They placed electrodes on my chest to monitor my heart, and then the anesthesiologist said, “Okay, you’re going to start feeling really sleepy, really fast, alright? See you on the other side.”

“Okay,” I answered, closing my eyes for a glorious nap. “Good night.”

The next thing I knew, I was back in one of the waiting cubicles. A nurse was talking to me, and I don’t remember what she was saying, but I do know that my knees were bent. I remembered that the waiting cubicles had reclining chairs in them and asked her, “Do you think you could help me put the footrest up?”

“Oh, sweetie, you’re in a bed,” she explained, and I opened my eyes to see that yes, I was in a bed.

“How many eggs did they get?” I asked, because this is the most important thing when you wake up from an egg retrieval.

“I don’t have the exact number yet, but I know it was at least 40.”

Forty eggs! Holy crap! When I’d gone in for my last monitoring ultrasound, I’d only had 37 follicles; another three must have popped up overnight. I eagerly awaited Kyle’s arrival and, when he sank into the chair next to my bed, told him the good news.

“We got forty eggs!” I exulted. He called me a spider mom.

The nurse was quick to correct me, though: we’d gotten at least 40 eggs. They were still counting. A few minutes later, she came back and told us that they’d retrieved a total of 54 eggs.

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Kyle and I said, in unison, “Holy shit!” We said this very loudly, and we were probably not appreciated by anyone else in the little recovery area.

The nurse went on to tell us that this was the second largest retrieval they’d ever done; the largest was a woman who’d had 83 eggs removed (bless her, she must have been feeling even more arachnid than I do). She told me that they’d get back to me the next day and let me know how many of those 54 eggs successfully fertilized.

I was concerned about this. I asked Kyle if he’d gotten 54 sperm when he did his do in the room with the paper chair. He told me that yes, he’d gotten at least 54 sperm, though he hadn’t counted.

Unfortunately, it was around then that I started feeling nauseous. The nurse had given me some Tylenol for the cramping in my abdomen (because you don’t produce 54 eggs without some cramping), and my stomach was unsure what to do with this new addition. “Did the anesthesiologist give me an antiemetic?” I asked when the nurse returned. She told me that no, he hadn’t, but he’d given me fentanyl in my anesthesia, which made me more than a little nervous: fentanyl is one of the drugs I’m supposed to avoid when on my antidepressants.

But I was more nervous about my stomach’s newfound enthusiasm for puking. “Can I have an antiemetic now?” I asked. The nurse rushed away and came right back with a syringe full of Zofran, which she injected into my IV. “That’ll take a little while to work, but you should be alright afterwards.”

Even so. The nausea did not go away as quickly as everyone hoped, and I shuffled back to the car carrying a plastic bag for “just in case” purposes. Kyle instinctively took a back road from the clinic to the highway, and the twists and turns and bumps did me no favors. “Maybe next time we can take a main road?” I whimpered as Kyle winced and apologized with every bump.

But I got home safely and slept the day away to the peaceful rumbles of a line of thunderstorms. That night, I got my Friendly’s, and even Kat–who hates Friendly’s–came along for the ride. I sent an email to my office as a reminder that I’d be in late the next day, since I couldn’t drive or shower or literally do anything for 24 hours after having anesthesia, and then I went back to bed.

While I was sleeping the next day, the clinic called me back with fertilization results. Of the 54 eggs they’d retrieved, 38 had been mature, and of those 38, 31 had successfully fertilized. Suffice it to say that I will not be doing another stim cycle again for a lonnnnnng time, even as those numbers continue to drop.

It’s been two days, and I’m feeling… meh. Not my best. If I had my druthers, I’d ruther be at home, still in bed and only getting up to replenish my supply of purple Gatorade and pee, but work calls. I’m tired, and my stomach hurts, but I’m mostly functional and can distract myself from both of those facts. I’m probably going to have a pizza for lunch because health? What’s that?

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(besides, pizza)

Assuming I don’t get worse over the next couple of days (today and tomorrow are supposed to be the worst days), we’ve got a transfer scheduled for Monday, two blastocysts. With any luck, my IVF journey will end there; here’s hoping. Until then…

Triggered

I’m finally triggered.

(cue seven billion assholes making a million jokes about trigger warnings and being generally awful)

In IVF terms, triggering is giving yourself a shot of a medication that prompts your body to mature the eggs you’ve been growing in preparation for retrieval after 36-38 hours. The medication I took this time around was called human chorionic gonadotropin, which is the same hormone produced by the body when a pregnancy actually takes place; 38 hours from now, I’ll drift off to peaceful anesthesia land and wake up with fewer eggs in my body, thank GOD.

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I feel kind of gross, but not as bad as I did when I had OHSS. That cycle, I couldn’t breathe because my organs were pushing up against my diaphragm, and let me tell you, that was not a fun experience. I can breathe now, but I’m horribly bloated–I look six months pregnant, easily. I’ve switched to my maternity jeans exclusively because my other jeans don’t button right now. I also haven’t had much appetite the last couple of days, but I’ve been forcing myself to eat protein-rich foods to try and keep my body’s fluids in my blood where they belong.

I have 37 follicles right now, and the largest follicle is the size of a grape. To understand the discomfort this causes, understand that usually, my entire ovary is the size of a grape. My ovaries are currently the size of 23 and 14 grapes, respectively. I am Spider-Mom.

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(less this, more a human wolf spider)

The trigger shot itself was an adventure. Usually, the HCG trigger is a subcutaneous shot that I can just give myself in the abdomen. Subcutaneous shots involve tiny needles and basically no pain (unless you aim wrong, which I do often). They have “cute” in the name for crying out loud! They’re baby needles.

This time around, for some reason, my doctor gave me an intramuscular needle. Intramuscular needles are three inches long, at least, and are BIG. These are not baby needles. These are NEEDLES. And they need to be injected either in the thigh or in the butt.

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I couldn’t bring myself to do a thigh stab, so I chose the butt and chose Kyle to do the honors.

The needle is honestly terrifying. I mean, you look at a 3” needle and you’re like “I do not want that going in me at all.” It just looks painful, and even when you’ve been through four cycles of IVF and have had countless blood draws and IVs and what-have-you, the idea of having that 3” needle in any part of is just terrible. Naturally, I was freaking out. Wailing and whining like a two-year-old. “I don’t want it!” I told Kyle and Kat, who’d come to watch the show, as I stood there with my butt cheek hanging out.

“You gotta,” Kat told me.

“I’m going to count down and do it,” Kyle said. “Stop moving. You don’t have a choice. Three… two… one…”

I winced, anticipating a stab that never came. Instead, Kyle stepped back and set the empty syringe down. “And done,” he said.

Somehow, this gargantuan needle, the likes of which made us all shudder in horror, didn’t cause me any pain.

I’m 99% sure this is because my butt is super fatty. Callipygean. I wouldn’t say we’re quite at steatopygian levels yet, but I have a lot of butt. I have a lot of boob, too, but I only ever get catcalled by butt guys (like one time, I was trying to order lunch, and the guy behind the counter would not. shut. up. about my butt. He just kept going on about how it was big and it was so awesome and why didn’t more women in Massachusetts have huge butts, and I was just like, dude, please just give me my sandwich so my butt can stay huge). Until now, it’s mostly served the purpose of making shopping really hard and making me a menace if I ever have to get up and pee during a movie.

But as it turns out, a fat butt is good for more than just wiggling. It also keeps you from feeling the pain of being stabbed by a three-inch needle.

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Retrieval is in two days; fingers crossed it goes well!

Mornings with Sam + Follicle Count

It’s 6:45 a.m. I’m in the middle of a dream that’s complicated, emotional, and fantastic: after tearily dropping Sam off for his first day of kindergarten, I’ve encountered a teleportation beam, out of which my husband, Thor, emerges. “Where have you been?” I demand as the schoolchildren and staff begin to crowd around us. “Asgard,” Thor tells me. “And Hel is coming here to destroy earth.” Sure enough, Cate Blanchett is outside, in all of her made-up glory. My Husband Thor looks concerned and manly, but I squeal in delight: that’s Cate Blanchett, guys. That’s Cate Blanchett. She’s like. The embodiment of awesome, even if she is trying to destroy the world. I’m going to go give her a hug.

And then a pair of alarms go off simultaneously. My alarm plays “Wait for It” from Hamilton, kind of my theme song for the last two years of infertile misery. I groan and fumble for my phone; I should’ve known it was just a dream because my brain somehow thought that Thor was played by Chris Pratt, not Chris Hemsworth. Stupid brain, confusing the Chrises.

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(get with the program, brain. Hemsworth is Thor and is “dusty roadtrip in the desert” hot. Pratt is Peter Quill and is “Star Wars and Chinese food” hot)

Across the hall, Sam’s alarm goes off, too. The alarm was supposed to tell him when he was allowed to get out of bed, as he’s had this tendency to get up and demand attention at 5 a.m. Yesterday, when he tried to do that and Kyle told him to go back to bed until 6, Sam fell silent and then woke up again at 7, very put out with Kyle. “I fell back asleep!” he scolded.

This morning, though, Sam’s sleeping in, and I don’t blame him. It’s a gorgeously rainy day. The weather is cool and damp, and it’s the perfect day to stay in bed until at least noon, listening to the patter of rain against the roof and the windows, snuggled up in far too many blankets. Kyle rolls out of bed and goes to open Sam’s gate, a safety measure against our rambunctious three-year-old who doesn’t quite understand why falling down the stairs would be a bad thing. A beat later, I hear a shuffling of tiny feet, and then Sam hefts himself up onto the bed. He’s not quite awake yet; his eyes are wide open, but his face is still flushed and his expression is still serious.

He curls up on Kyle’s pillows next to me. “Hi,” I say. “Hi,” he says, and then asks me to pull the blankets over him. Why? “My legs are covered in Han Solo ice cubes,” he explains. He’s cold.

“Did you have a good sleep?” I ask. He nods. “What did you dream about?”

“The Death Star,” he answers. He always dreams about the Death Star. It’s his favorite thing.

“I dreamed about you,” I tell him.

He finally smiles drowsily. “Mommy, can we check the weather?” he asks. This has started to be a thing for him, checking the weather every day. He doesn’t know what most of it means–temperatures and radars and barometric pressure and stalled fronts–but he likes to see the pictures of clouds and sun and rain and thunder. I pull up my AccuWeather app, which I use almost exclusively since the Weather Channel app decided it wanted to forget where I was geographically.

“It’s going to be rainy today,” I tell Sam, pointing to a tiny picture of a raincloud, “and it’s going to be chilly out. There may be a thunderstorm this afternoon.”

He lights up. “I love thunderstorms!” And he does. He got his father’s genes in that area: Kyle, who grew up in Dallas, sleeps best when there’s a rumble of thunder outside. I grew up in Massachusetts and can’t sleep through even the gentlest of thunderstorms. Go figure.

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Speaking of Kyle, he gives Sam’s hand a tug. “Let’s go downstairs, buddy. I’ll get you some breakfast.”

Sam jerks his hand away and wraps it around my arm. “No! I want to stay with Mommy today!”

Kyle and I exchange looks and then shrug. “Alright,” I tell Sam, “but I have to get ready to go to the doctor and then to work, so I can’t play with you, okay?”

Sam nods and follows me dutifully as I shuffle through my morning routine. I have to leave early today, so I rush through the process, wasting too much time on uncooperative hair and trying to find my favorite socks. Sam asks all manner of questions: why are you wearing that? Did you put your boobs on? Can I have a hair tie? What does “chilly” mean? What day is it?

I answer the last one as we gather ourselves to go downstairs. “It’s Monday,” I answer.

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“Monday? Is that a Mommy and Daddy day?” Sam asks. He’s being a little too eager on the stairs, and I resist the urge to take his hand and steady him. He’s not falling, I remind myself, he’s just hurrying.

“No, Monday is a school day. We have to get you ready for school.” Once I say this, his face falls. He wants to stay home with us he argues, and loudly. I imagine that Kat is in her room, covering her head with a thousand pillows to drown out the cacophony that follows.

“I! DON’T! WAN! NA! GO! TO! SCHOOL!” Sam howls as Kyle tries unsuccessfully to change him into a pair of jeans. He eventually gives up and goes to the kitchen to work on Sam’s lunch, and I try to cajole Sam into the jeans.

“It’s a fun week at school!” I tell him. “Look, you’re going to do Halloween things, even though it’s July! You’re going to make trick-or-treat bags, and you’ll get candy and wear masks…”

“I! DON’T! WAN! NA!” he continues, though now he’s sniffling and calming down, sitting on my lap. Another minute or so, and he’s back to his usual self, though now victoriously pants-less and mildly concerned that we ran out of Mickey Mouse waffles. Five minutes later, he’s playing “pewer nap,” a game that involves him lying on the ground with his pillow, blankie, and favorite lovey (“Puppy”), and also the laser gun that Kat got him for Christmas.

“Is Auntie awake?” he asks of Kat, and when I say no, he says, “Okay, I will just pretend to pew. Tell me where to pew.” I point at the corner, and he aims his laser gun and says, “Pew! Pew! Pew!” shooting down imaginary enemies all over the place.

I have to rush now; the pants incident has eaten up a lot of time, and I’m running late for my doctor’s appointment. IVF monitoring today, and though it’s early in the cycle, I’ve had early ultrasounds take half an hour before, between counting follicles and finding follicles to count. I gulp down some breakfast (Pop-Tarts and cranberry juice, I’m so healthy) and my medication (antidepressant and prenatal vitamin, I’m unironically healthy), and then it’s kisses all around before I sweep out the door…

…and sweep back in because it’s pouring rain, and I forgot my umbrella. “I love you guys!” I call over my shoulder. “Have a good day!”

“I love you!” they both answer. “See you tonight!”

And that’s my morning with Sam and Kyle. It’s a trade-off: I have to leave earlier to get to work earlier, whereas Kyle has more flexibility. On the other hand, he doesn’t get home until almost 7 most nights, and I get home early enough to have a nice evening with Sam. Still, I miss the mornings. When I was at home, Sam and I would cuddle together after Kyle left. We’d play games and watch all the network TV available to us–he particularly liked The Price is Right and Ellen. Sam has always been a delightful morning baby, and I miss those precious early hours with him.

The precious early hours this morning belonged to the IVF clinic: a blood draw and ultrasound to check my follicle count. Currently, I’m sitting at around 20 tiny follicles, but those don’t count as much as the larger ones will in the days to come. I’m waiting for a phone call from the nurse, and she’ll tell me how many there were, how my progesterone and estrogen are looking, and what my new medication instructions are. With any luck, I’ll have a nice quick cycle, a smooth retrieval, and good news. Until then…