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…

Days of the Month

I bought a calendar for my office today. Here it is:

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It’s a necessity, really. Without going into too much detail, my work is deadline-based, and if I’ve got too many deadlines approaching at once, it ends very badly for myself and the people I’m working with. As the saying goes, you can have it good, fast, or cheap–pick two. So I fill out the calendar with due dates for various projects, and I color code them: pink for proposals, green for qualifications, teal for presentations, mauve for meetings, blue for holidays, purple for appointments, and orange for personal things (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.). I really like colors.

As I flipped through the calendar, I started vaguely thinking ahead, first about the immediate future and then about later days (because that’s how we look at time, in order, unless we’re writing science fiction, in which case, everything is made up and the points don’t matter).

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The immediate future is all medication, monitoring, retrievals, and (hopefully) transfers. I started my medications last night, and man, what an adventure. My computer wouldn’t turn on, and the site with injection instructions wouldn’t load on my phone, so I had to sit at Kyle’s computer with a bunch of syringes and needles and vials of medication while he messed around with my computer and made sure that Sam was sleeping comfortably. Last year, I didn’t have this problem, because I did so many IVF cycles in such a short window that I never unlearned the process of mixing medication, drawing it up, injecting it, and disposing of the waste.

This year, though, it’s been almost a year since the last time I did this, so I was sort of all thumbs. I got diluent all over the place by accidentally drawing too much air into a syringe, and then I don’t think I mixed one medication correctly. I dropped stuff all over the place, and by the time it was over, I just wanted a nap. That desire doubled about two hours later when the first hormone headache came on–not quite as bad as a migraine, but unpleasant nonetheless.

I’ve got a least another 10-12 days of this (leaning more towards 12; my doctor really likes to push me as far as she can when it comes to stims), if not another 18 (she talked about “coasting” me for a while to give eggs a better chance to develop without me developing OHSS again). At some point in there, I’ll take a trigger shot to tell my body to mature the eggs for retrieval, and 38 hours later, I’ll take a blissful nap and wake up to hopefully hear that they got a spider’s worth of mature eggs.

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(I refuse to put a picture of a bunch of baby spiders on here. You’re welcome)

Assuming I don’t develop OHSS again, and assuming that those eggs are mature and good, we’ll do a transfer five days later. We’re going to transfer two embryos this time because so far, we could’ve transferred every single embryo we’ve created at once and had exactly zero children. There’s a risk of twins, which I’m not thinking about right now (dear everyone who’s like “aw, I’d love to have twins”: ARE YOU CRAZY? I’d be fine if we had twins, but I’m definitely not actively desiring that), but I don’t think that risk is very big for us. Really, we’re just hedging our bets to try and get one.

So that takes us through the middle of August. In that time, I’ve got things to keep me occupied–date nights, wedding receptions, work meetings, the usual–but it’s not too busy. I don’t feel really stressed right now, which is a big difference between this cycle and the previous several. I hope it helps.

If this cycle works, my due date would be somewhere between April 24 and April 30. I thought about that and realized that if we went as late as we did with Sam, and my due date was April 30, the baby would be born on May 4, which is auspicious.

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(I’m not naming twins born on May 4 Luke and Leia, but I wish I could)

(and anyway, twins are always born early, so that wouldn’t happen)

(but can you imagine? They’d save the entire galaxy. I’d probably name them Mark and Carrie)

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(like as long as I’m not giving birth in an ice cream cone, I think things will go well)

So with that in mind, I kept flipping through the calendar, doing the mom thing of jotting down birthdays, vacations, anniversaries, and appointments. All the while, I was keeping track in my mind of potentially important dates.

Assuming a retrieval date on August 4, I’d have a transfer date of August 9.

They’d do a blood pregnancy test around August 19. I’d know that day if I was pregnant or not. I’ll probably know earlier because I’m impatient and will buy a bunch of pregnancy tests, maybe at the Dollar Store, and watch my HCG levels go down from the trigger and hopefully rebound.

They’d do an ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy, tell us if there’s one or two, somewhere around the first week of September. That will be the worst week, even if the pregnancy test is positive, because that’s when I’ll be afraid that we’ll see a repeat of what happened with Finley–a slow beating heart that eventually stops and disappears into nothing.

But maybe it won’t. They’ll transfer me to Dr. Solano then, and maybe I’ll have another ultrasound, and maybe I’ll see another little chicken hawk or two bouncing around inside of me like I’m the home of Cirque du Soleil now. That’d be the beginning of October, probably. I’d have a nuchal translucency scan around then, too, and I’ll want to do one of those blood tests to make sure everyone’s chromosomally okay. Maybe we’ll find out the gender(s) then. If we have two boys, I will feel a sense of panic because that’s three boys.

(also because we have plenty of girl names in mind but zero boy names)

Late October, when we go on vacation to Texas, I’ll be at the beginning of the second trimester and feeling great. We’ll get back, and I’ll count down until the end of November, when we’ll have the anatomy scan. If we don’t do the chromosome test, that’s when we’ll find out the gender(s). Hopefully, everything will measure alright and we’ll keep trucking along.

In February, I’ll have a maternity photo shoot. February is a good time to do a maternity photo shoot at a science museum, I think. I imagine standing underneath a giant T-Rex and feeling less than planetary compared to such a gargantuan lady.

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(needs more feathers, though)

The last month of pregnancy will be the worst, I’ll bet, because that’s how it was with Sam. I’ll be miserably rolling from place to place, tired and sore and cranky and ready for it to be over. And then it will be, and our family will grow again, and that will be awesome. I’ll be more prepared this time–every baby is different, but certain things are the same: the lack of sleep, the difficulty of the first couple of months, the gradual development of a routine, the way things eventually find an orbit and stay there for a while.

These dates might mean nothing, but they might mean something. We’ll see. In the meantime, it’s 200 units of Gonal F and 75 units of Menopur tonight and every night until my next monitoring on Monday.

I’m being suppressed!

Your average IVF cycle starts with a month of hormone suppression, typically by way of hormonal birth control. Well. Actually, it’s not quite a month, it’s more like two and a half weeks, and you only know if you’re properly suppressed after a suppression check around the two and a half week mark.

Today was my suppression check. I’ve been on oral birth control for about three weeks, maybe a little less, and it’s made me into a beast. I don’t mean that in a positive way; I mean I’ve been as volatile and sensitive as I was when I was a delicate teenager, known for days of emotional pique that left my family sighing and saying, “She’ll grow out of it.”

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(side note: Heathers is a very wonderful movie)

Which is mostly true. I’m far less volatile, by and large, than I was when I was going through puberty. Except when I’m on hormonal birth control.

Even then, I don’t quite reach the same heights I did when I was thirteen and sobbing because I don’t know why except nobody understood me except you, Michael W. Smith, and the toy horses that I couldn’t tell my boyfriend I still played with. I did at one point, when I was on clomid, the cycle before I got pregnant with Sam. Kat was visiting us from California, in preparation to move out and live with us, and on day two of clomid, I had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moment, in which I completely lost my fool mind sobbing because Kat and Kyle were bonding over their shared love of Pokemon, something that I do not and never will understand.

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(this is me when Pokemon is the topic of conversation)

I felt left out, and my poor, hormone-addled brain turned this mild feeling of “well, it sucks that I can’t relate to that” into a disaster. They were now best friends because Pokemon, and I was no longer a friend, and I would die miserable and alone while they played Pokemon as best friends forever. I told them to leave me behind and go get lunch while I buried myself under blankets and sobbed.

Obviously, none of my fears came true, but man, was I a wreck over them. And thankfully, Kyle and Kat are super understanding and brought me back my favorite meal from Chili’s and then we all three went on a trip to Salem for no reason other than that it was there and had neat stores.

Hormonal birth control is sort of a gentler version of that. I’ve yet to have that level of meltdown while on hormonal birth control (come close, but usually over my work in a call center because that’s just… it’s a terrible place to work, y’all. Also, if you’re the type of person to take out your frustration with a situation on a call center worker, I don’t like you), but I’ve noticed that I become more prickly and more apt to overreact to things.

In some cases, I figure it’s just that my tolerance for bullshit goes way down; and it’s already pretty low. Traffic on the Mass Pike goes from minor annoyance to, “Are you kidding me?! You’re doing 40 MPH in the passing lane, and there’s nobody in front of you and your car appears to be in good working order?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING.” Telemarketers go from “what you’re doing is probably illegal, and I’m just not going to answer the phone because I don’t recognize that number” to “I will find you where you live and personally force you to walk barefoot on wet food.” I avoid all discussion of politics and religion; if you ever find me recusing myself from such discussions, it’s less that I don’t care and more that I like you and don’t want to lose my temper either at you or where you can see.

In other cases, I overreact to perfectly reasonable situations. About a week ago, for example, Kat asked when I got home from work if we could run out to the store. This is a perfectly reasonable request, but my hors were moning, and I managed to turn it into a Thing. It was a very fraught grocery store trip, not much helped by Sam’s quintessential three-year-old behavior or the traffic I’d endured to get there; the primary good that came out of the whole thing is that I now text Kat on my way home every day to see if she needs a store run, or even for me to pick up some food for her.

My biggest fear with these hormone issues is that I’ll end up scaring or hurting Sam–not physically, but with angry words and, worse, angry tone of voice. Growing up, I always had a tremendous fear of my dad’s yelling. He didn’t yell terribly often, but when he did, we knew that shit had hit the fan, and it was not good times. I don’t want Sam to ever fear me or my voice for any reason. I want him to respect me. I want him to know that when I tell him to do something, it’s for his own good. But I don’t want him to fear me.

Sunday, we went up to Target as a family. Sam had been in a State all day–he’s going through a growth spurt, and he’s three, which combine to form a Perfect Storm of rage. We never quite know what will set him off–will it be that he’s wearing the wrong shoes? Will it be that he doesn’t want to be buckled in his car seat? Will it be that there are caterpillar remains on the car? Who knows? And when he’s in a State, anything can set him off, even more than usual.

So he was in a State on Sunday. He was hungry, so Kyle took him to the Pizza Hut in Target to have something to eat while Kat and I did a quick shopping run. I met up with Kyle and Sam as the run ended, Sam cheerfully clutching a bottle of fruit punch and Kyle less cheerfully carrying a bag of popcorn. “Can he stay with you?” Kyle asked. “I need to grab a few things.”

Sam latched onto my cart, cheerfully munching popcorn as we slowly walked down the aisles featuring arts and crafts and party supplies. I tread carefully, knowing that any misstep could cause a meltdown, and meltdowns aren’t my favorite thing, especially in my emotionally volatile and hormonal state. We almost made it, too. Kyle grabbed whatever it was he needed, and we found a line. As we were waiting, Sam let go of the cart and started poring over the candy, finally deciding that he wanted a Kit Kat for dessert.

Understand: candy is a treat. It’s a sometimes food. Sometimes, he gets candy as a dessert if he finishes his entire dinner. Sometimes he doesn’t. But he wasn’t hearing that on Saturday, and when I took the Kit Kat bar away and placed it back on the shelf, meltdown mode activated. He dropped to the floor, as if he suddenly weighed a thousand pounds, and sobbed. “But I doooooo!” he protested, trying to grab the Kit Kat again (“but I dooooo” here means “but I do want the candy bar”). “I don’t care,” I told him and looked at Kyle, who’d gotten that world weary look on his features.

“Should I take him to the car?” I asked.

“NOOOOOOOO!” howled Sam from the floor.

“Yes,” said Kyle, rapidly trying to get our merchandise on the conveyor belt.

I’ve not become an expert in many things over the last three years, but one thing I’m adept at is sweeping up a reluctant child in one arm and carrying him out to the car. Sam’s body is a great deal bigger than it was three years ago, but I’m still able to football carry him across the parking lot without dropping him or anything else I’m holding, even when he’s kicking and screaming.

And I do mean that literally. He stopped kicking once I shifted him to my hip–I think that might be some instinct like when you pick up a kitten by the scruff of their neck and they just go limp–but he screamed as mightily as before, especially when I told him that I was going to put him in his car seat.

“I DON’T WANNA BE BUCKLED!” he screamed in my ear, which started ringing like I’d survived a movie explosion and Chris Pine was trying to tell me he loved me.

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(I love this movie and had a dream about him last night)

Sam continued to scream once we got to the car; I put him in his seat, and he began to writhe and twist like Luke Skywalker being attacked by the Emperor, with comparable screaming to accompany. “I DON’T WANNA BE BUCKLED!” he continued to yell, sobbing at the same time. I gently but firmly guided his arms through the straps on his car seat, and he kept pulling them out and hitting me. It was hot and humid. I didn’t once consider hitting him, but I wished that I could consider it, if that makes sense.

Instead I yelled, and I don’t remember what I said. Nothing nasty. I didn’t call him a little shit (he was very much acting like one) or berate him or insult him. I think I told him to sit down. The problem I felt wasn’t in the words I used, but in the tone, the same tone my father used to use when he yelled at me as a child, the one that terrified me.

It didn’t affect Sam at all, of course. He’s the kind of kid where, if we did spank him, he’d probably say something like “is that the best you can do?” The only thing that really works on him is a logical and immediate consequence for his actions–you hit Mommy, you go to your room to calm down. You throw a toy, the toy gets taken away. You refuse to clean up your mess (which happens so rarely lately–it’s a miracle how well telling your three-year-old that it’s a race works in getting him to clean up after himself), the toys get put away for a while. Yelling, especially when he’s already screaming and sobbing with a tantrum, is about as effective as spitting in the ocean.

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(this is the first image that comes up for “spitting in the ocean” and I’m not sorry)

I’m not worried about him, but I did scare myself, not from my words but from the tone. Kat, who was in the car towards the end of this (and was eventually instrumental in calming Sam down–she’s amazing at that, gets him distracted by pointing out things like hey, look, a ladybug, and then he sniffles and quiets and then asks questions about ladybugs), said she’d never heard me that angry before.

And it’s been a really long time since I’ve expressed anger that way. I think the last time was long before I even met Kyle, during a hot and exhausting wait for a bus at Disney World, when my sister and I were screaming in each other’s faces for no good reason (well. It was hot and exhausting). It used to happen more often. It was normal where I grew up. Yelling was how you took out your frustration and anger. We all yelled at each other at some point. We all had screaming fights that left our throats sore and our heads pounding and were ultimately completely pointless.

My home now isn’t like that. We never yell; we holler across the house, “Hey, do you want any of this pork?” or “Could you grab me some toilet paper?” or occasionally “I’m leaving now, whether we’re ready or not!” Anger isn’t a rare thing, but we handle it differently, depending on who’s angry at each other. Kat and I snipe at each other, more sarcastic than anything, but then cool down and talk things through. Kyle and I don’t even snipe at each other; we both just take deep breaths, express our frustration, work through it, and move on.

So yelling like that was… I didn’t like it. I don’t like it. I wasn’t ever afraid that I’d hurt Sam or lose control, but I didn’t like the tone that came out of me, something that scared me when I was younger and something I didn’t want to scare Sam.

I feel like I’m probably overreacting to it. Kyle pointed out later that night that Sam loves me, that we got home from Target and Sam immediately cuddled up on my lap with his head on my shoulder as if nothing had happened. Sam didn’t even flinch in the moment; his tantrum continued uninterrupted, as if I wasn’t even there trying to do anything about it. I really did scare myself more than I scared him, which isn’t good, but it’s better than if I’d actually scared him.

I don’t know. I do know several things, however.

First, I’m relieved to be off birth control. That shit is a menace. I’d have requested that they switch me to a different hormonal birth control (NuvaRing and Ortho Evra tend to be my favorites), but it didn’t seem worth it for two and a half weeks. I know I’m not as beastly when I’m just on stims, for some reason; they just mostly make me tired and bloated.

Second, I’m glad to be on antidepressants, because they really do help with mood regulation. Sometimes, when I feel really tired or really bummed out about something, I wonder if they’re even working… but then I remember how many years and countless nights I couldn’t fall asleep because of anxiety about any number of things; I remember the panic attacks that I had after Sam was born, and before, and how they’ve stopped almost completely; I remember how I couldn’t feel anything except that everything was meaningless. I’m pretty sure that, without them, I’d be even worse on any hormone medication than I already am.

And third, if this is the worst I ever am to my kid, I’m a damn good mom.

Hormone injections start Thursday, first monitoring is Monday. Until then…

Grotesquely Optimistic

Up until Moana stole a lot of my heart (because it really is a fantastic movie), Tangled was my absolute favorite of the new Disney Renaissance. I could go on for roughly a decade about everything I love about this movie (and the issue I take with the way it ended, which, while I understand the writers’ reasoning, still took a great deal away from the message of the movie–as has the latest animated series, though I assume that’s the point of the animated series BUT I DIGRESS), but that would be its own blog entry and would have exactly zero to do with this blog.

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(though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the TV series and its preponderance of they’ll never confirm it but we know it’s true lesbians)

What I’m thinking about today is quite possibly one of the best scenes in modern media, the “I’ve Got a Dream” scene. In this scene, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider enter a very seedy tavern filled with ruffians and thugs. These questionable fellows (one has blood in his mustache) at first seem very threatening and, in fact, are fully prepared to beat the tar out of Flynn… until Rapunzel thwacks the one with Brad Garrett’s voice (“Hookhand”) and begs them all to empathize with her position–she’s trying to fulfill her dream, and she can’t do so if the ruffians and thugs beat the tar out of Flynn, who’s serving as her guide.

To Flynn’s surprise, the ruffians and thugs not only listen but break into song about their own dreams (being a concert pianist, falling in love, becoming a florist, interior designer, mime, cupcake baker, etc.). And at the end of the song, the ruffians and thugs, having found common ground with our heroes in their “grotesque optimism,” help them evade capture and continue in pursuit of their dream.

And it’s hilarious.

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(no gif can adequately sum up how hilarious this scene is)

In line with that, I was watching Disney World’s new fireworks show, “Happily Ever After,” earlier today.

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(they animate the castle and it’s trippy and wonderful and makes me cry like a baby)

It’s probably one of the best shows they’ve ever done, easily replacing IllumiNations as my favorite (IllumiNations is awesome, but it’s also extremely dated–here’s hoping they update it for Disney World’s 50th in the next four years). The general message of the show is that you should reach out and grab and fight for your “happily ever after,” no matter what it is–breaking with stereotypical Disney, all sorts of happy endings are shown, not just romances (which have like… two minutes of screentime). Mulan is a hero to all of China. Woody and Buzz become the best of friends. Hercules finds his identity. Nick and Judy become cops together and make the world a better place. Vanelope gets her trophy.

It brought back why Disney makes me so happy and why I constantly go back to Disney everything, even when I’m aware of (and not fond of) certain aspects of the company (again, another blog entry for another blog). Disney’s overall message is one of aggressive optimism, not just that you’ll find your one true love or love’s first kiss or anything like that, but that things will turn out okay, that you will find a way to be happy, that your dreams can come true.

And man is that refreshing among today’s media. The world is kind of crap lately. North Korea’s throwing missiles around like confetti, weather is getting so extreme that it’s making the 90s jealous, and people are furiously politically divided. That’s reality. When that’s reality, I’d rather my escapism be less DARK and GRITTY and REAL and more very fucking optimistic. I want to come out of the theater–or emerge from my movie coma–with a sense of “hey, the world isn’t that bad after all.” Heroes can exist. Your dreams can come true. You will be happy.

So. What does all of this have to do with the price of kumquats in Tibet?

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Yesterday, we met with our RE to iron out our plan for the next cycle, for which I’m already on hormonal birth control. As I’d mentioned before, we can’t afford to do PGS anymore, so this is another cycle where we’re just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best. I also had a lot of questions about medication because my medications got bungled and messed up last time, and I got pretty sick.

But we did manage to iron out a plan that should work for us. I’m starting at a lower dose of Gonal-F than I did last time (last time I started at 275 and bumped up to 300, and my ovaries responded by throwing a lot of eggs at me).

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(and I was roughly the size of a barge)

I’m also doing a combination trigger shot with mostly Lupron and a little bit of HCG that should be enough to make me ovulate without causing me to develop OHSS. And we’ll do a fresh transfer of two embryos because I’m hedging my bets.

All of this gives me a theoretical due date in late April, which is… sort of stressful, but not really. May and June are my crazy months (May has Mother’s Day, Sam’s birthday, and Kyle and my anniversary; June has Father’s Day and Kyle’s birthday), so starting that insanity in late April isn’t such a wild idea. It’s kind of like the holidays at the end of the year–two months of WILD AND CRAZY TIMES and then basically nothing for six months. That’s awesome.

We also got our test results back, and everything is looking even better than it was before. My bloodwork came back perfect–hormones are fine, my thyroid is fine, my glucose is fine. Everything is exactly where it should be. Kyle’s results were even better. He had a repeat semenalysis because it’s been more than a year. Last time, we learned that he had low motility and morphology, which meant that his guys weren’t going anywhere and they were weird looking. This time, we found out that both issues have cleared up completely–everything is swimming as it should, and everything looks as it should. The bottom threshold for motility is 40% and his motility is at 58%, which is awesome.

The depressed and cynical part of me doesn’t want to, but I’m choosing to be grotesquely optimistic about this cycle and to have some flavor of hope, because if I don’t, what’s even the point of doing it at all? I’m having that dream and imagining a sweet spring baby, another little Taurus in our house (and the first one is usually so darling). Hopefully this will be the happy ending to this journey.

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I belong to quite a few miscarriage support groups–groups where people share their experiences, comfort each other, give advice, etc. For the most part, I post there to try and give advice on the medical side of things, as after nearly half a dozen miscarriages under my belt over the course of a year, I feel like I have a bit of experience in that area. I’m no expert, but I feel like sometimes, you don’t an expert so much as you need someone who’s been in your shoes before, like when you want to know how to distinguish contractions from gas or whatever. If you’re afraid of going in for a D&C, it helps to read about someone’s experience rather than just the pamphlet they give you beforehand. It’s all well and good to know that your cervix will be dilated by a series of rods called laminaria and that the remaining fetal tissue will be removed with a curette, along with the uterine lining and remains of the placenta; but it’s even better to hear, “It was like I blinked and it was over. There was far more blood than I expected afterwards, but it stopped by the next day. I didn’t have much cramping, and the cramps I felt were minor. Everyone was really nice and understanding on every level.”

So I like to post about those things. And I occasionally like to post about some emotional stuff, but not a lot, which I’ll get to shortly. Namely, I like trying to help people to understand that in 99% of situations, your miscarriage was not your fault. You’ll have the miscarriages that you know were caused by something external, but they’re comparatively rare. Nearly two-thirds are chromosomal abnormalities, and another sizable chunk are other biological issues–physical issues with the uterus or cervix, immunological issues, myriad other things that can’t be helped.

And the other thing I like to help with is telling people that it’s okay to feel what you feel. That it’s okay to cry, that it’s okay to be furious, that it’s okay to question everything, that it’s okay to grieve.

But that’s the flip side of things for me, because I feel weird on these groups. I feel like there’s something wrong with me.

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Nearly every post about a newly recognized miscarriage talks about devastation, heartbreak, being broken overall, just all this pain that makes it difficult to even get up in the morning, let alone live the day after and the day after that. And I get that. I objectively and intellectually understand this level of pain, because it seems like the correct reaction to a miscarriage, even a really early one. You’ve pinned your hopes on this life growing inside of you, and then it’s not there, and that’s logically devastating, heartbreaking, and painful.

But that’s not what I feel.

I don’t know why I don’t feel that. I don’t know why I never felt that.

My first miscarriage was very early, just a week after I found out I was pregnant. It was a chemical pregnancy, when an egg fertilizes but doesn’t implant for whatever reason. If you test early, you’ll get a positive, but the line will get lighter and lighter and eventually, it will just be gone. In that case, I didn’t feel sad. I just felt embarrassed; after all, we’d told so many people and now had to go and tell them, “just kidding, not pregnant after all!”

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I chalked the lack of emotion about that one up to it being so early on; I hadn’t been able to let the enormity of pregnancy sink in yet, so of course I wasn’t going to be miserable at the loss. Logical.

I didn’t experience any more losses until last February-Marchish. I was pregnant after my first IVF cycle and only found out that I was losing that baby at the 8 week ultrasound, which showed a tiny disc, like a flying saucer with a slowly flickering heartbeat. When we’d seen Sam at that point, his heartbeat was so fast we could barely see it at all, 179 beats per minute, perfectly perfect for that age. With this one, the heart beat about once per second, which is expected for a six week fetus, and that’s what this fetus looked like–a six week fetus.

The trouble was, of course, that we knew for a fact when we’d conceived. We’d been in that very clinic, me in a gown that didn’t cover my ass and slipper socks and a funny hat. We knew when the baby had been conceived, and it was eight weeks ago, not six.

And another ultrasound showed nothing there whatsoever. Not even a hint of a heartbeat, no more little disc, barely enough tissue left to scrape away and take to the genetics lab for a karyotype analysis. I had my D&C. I found out that the baby was a girl. I called her Finley.

The trouble was that I never felt devastated. Sad, sure. Disappointed, you bet. Angry, absolutely. But I didn’t reach those depths of emotion that people seem to feel over their miscarriages, despite that I probably should have. Finley was the girl we desperately wanted. She was our hope; we were sure that she’d be born. If she had been born, her name wouldn’t have been Finley. It would’ve been something like Evangeline or Arielle or one of my other girl names that I keep stored for such an occasion. There are so many reasons I should’ve been devastated and heartbroken and all those things.

But I wasn’t. I kept waiting for it to come, but it didn’t. I cried when I got home from the D&C, before I fell back asleep. That was it. I felt a little remorse when I found out that she was a girl, but it didn’t send me into any sort of spiral whatsoever; maybe it should have. I don’t know. I felt more like an adult celebrating my first grown-up birthday–no, you’re not really expecting anything, but you’re still a little bummed that nobody bought you a cake or flowers or anything.

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(my birthday is November 5, by the way)

The next miscarriage was an even shorter window. I wasn’t supposed to know that I was pregnant yet by the time I miscarried; I tested on my own, and by the time I went in for the blood test, I’d already started bleeding. That one was a disappointment on a different level–I’d made some good friends in my hopeful birth month birth club on BabyCenter and didn’t want to leave them behind.

(thankfully, I didn’t; we’re still in touch on Facebook and regularly update each other on our lives and ask for advice and are basically awesome with each other ♥)

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(I love you ladies ♥♥♥)

And then the third miscarriage, earlier this year. I didn’t feel really sad over that one, either. I felt fascinated at seeing what was probably the gestational sac come out of me. I felt frustrated that this had happened to my “perfect” blastocyst. I felt even more frustrated that I’d been at the whole IVF thing for more than a year with no results.

But sad? Devastated? Heartbroken? Agonized? No.

Instead, I find myself wondering what’s wrong with me that I don’t feel these things. Am I just so used to disappointment because of infertility that it’s basically the expectation now? Did I lose my ability to feel heartbroken over a miscarriage a long time ago? Am I just a heartless human being?

I get up every morning just fine. The miscarriages aren’t even on my mind. Sometimes, I’ll pass by the baby clothes section in Target and get angry–I should be buying those for one of the miscarried kids right now–but usually, I scoot on past to grab another Target thing.

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(I feel personally attacked by this gif)

I go through my day just fine. Sometimes, I have to explain to Sam that I’m not pregnant (he doesn’t have a very good sense of time; I was pregnant at one point in my entire life, so to him, I’m always pregnant), and that’s annoying, but it’s a dull annoying, more like an unidentified bug buzzing around at the barbecue.

I sleep just fine. Work fills my dreams because it’s stressful. My last thoughts as I drift off to sleep are of stories I’m writing or what the next day will bring, not of what I’ve lost. Day-to-day, I usually forget that I’ve had this many miscarriages. I’m focused on work or on the next steps in the IVF process or in my frustration with those steps or Sam or writing or gaming or any number of things.

I read about people who can’t stop thinking about it, and the promises that the pain will go away or change or something. And I wonder: what does it say about me that I never felt an unbearable pain at these losses? Am I heartless because I felt nothing but a dull ache?

Or am I just so used to loss by this point that I can’t feel it anymore, like a frog boiled alive in a pot of water?

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(anyway, pandas are cute)

Getting There

Last night, I told Kyle that I really wished we could have a normal week for once, because our weeks lately have been anything but normal.

Take this week.

Things started out somewhat normal. Sunday was filled with trips to the park and the store and experimental recipes (specifically, strawberry Jell-O popsicles in Star Wars molds, which were super easy to make but have a kind of weird texture? We’ll have to work on that) and then the week started out normal. Sort of. I went to work and Sam went to school and Kyle went to work.

My Monday was probably the most Mondayest of Mondays, but that’s something I won’t get into. When I got home on Monday, I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone but Sam, and I did, and we had a delightful evening just cuddling and watching videos together. I went to bed thinking of one of my favorite poems, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30, in which the narrator talks about how they can be having the worst and saddest day of all time, “but if the while, I think on thee, dear friend, all losses are restored and sorrows end.” That’s honestly a Sammy thing. He brings me a lot of joy.

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(after bathtime the other day)

And Tuesday was better, not by a HUGE margin, but better. And then Wednesday.

Tinkerbell, as I’d written a couple of weeks ago, was recently diagnosed with hypercalcemia. She’d been doing better by a mile, but on Wednesday morning, Kat heard her straining to use the litterbox, straining so hard that she made herself vomit. Tinkerbell wasn’t herself at all, so we sucked it up and brought her back to the ER, which meant high bills again. It turned out that the hypercalcemia caused something called “megacolon,” which is basically like EXTREME CONSTIPATION for cats. We saw X-rays of it. It wasn’t pretty.

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(aside: I have so many questions about the Poop Emoji and also this movie, most of which are probably better left unanswered)

$1500, some fluids and enemas later, and Tinkerbell is pretty much back to herself, now with doctors’ orders to eat only wet food and take Miralax to keep her regular. Like any old lady, her guts have lost motility, and since we can’t really put her on an old lady diet of prunes, prune juice, and a side of bran, Miralax it is. If that doesn’t work, we’re looking at prescription meds.

The $1500 is the sticking point. Once again, we had it, but it was what we had left over after the last time, when we recouped about $600 and Kat managed to do a great whip-round and raise $700 to offset the overall costs of the situation. I’d pulled $1500 out of our account just a couple of days ago because I didn’t want it to end up being spent in a flurry of bill paying and birthday money spending. And it wasn’t spent on those things. It was spent on the cat’s constipation issues.

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(my actual life lately. The furnace is a cat’s anus)

There really wasn’t any way around it. We weren’t about to just let her die in agony of constipation, and putting her down would’ve been both (a) silly because it’s constipation and (b) pointless because it would’ve been the same cost either way. The overall cost for the treatments she got is pretty standard, so even if we’d waited and taken her to a cheaper vet, we probably would’ve had a similar bill. It was a lose-lose situation, financially (though thankfully, since we have a plan going forward, this shouldn’t happen again any time soon).

And just like that, PGS is off the table for the time being.

We could do it, I suppose, if we waited until next spring or something. Waited until the next tax return, waited until the next windfall, whenever that is. Kyle’s company gives him a sizeable bonus every year, and combining that with a theoretical tax return would probably be enough. In theory.

I’m hoping to do another cycle without PGS in the next month or so; I start birth control probably Saturday or Sunday. After that, we’d have two cycles left of IVF with ICSI before we’d have reached our lifetime maximum on the insurance, and I don’t know what would happen after that. It’s a while from now. I’m afraid to think that far ahead because things keep changing and becoming undone.

But then there’s hope, too.

This week, some friends of ours finalized the adoption of their foster daughter after what seems like an eternity of having her. I watched it on Facebook Live (sidenote: I always have to laugh at people who are grumpy about technology, because holy crap, how awesome is it to be able to watch your friends adopt their daughter live while it’s happening 2000 miles away?), and I cried buckets. And then I cried more buckets at a picture of their daughter signing her new initials at dance class. I don’t know if there’s a word for “something so awesome that it makes all other awesome things look boring” but if there is, that’s the word I’d use here.

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(if such a word exists, it’s probably German)

Watching my various friends who are going through the process of adopting through foster care has been heartbreaking but also enlightening. I used to think that it wasn’t something I could do, especially after the pain of dealing with infertility… it’s bad enough to get your hopes up every month for a child that doesn’t even exist yet, but to fall in love with a child that does exist only to have that child taken away or constantly worry about that child being taken away? Terrifying.

But I’m feeling differently lately, not in an immediate sense, but in a sense that someday, when we’re done with this IVF process (whether it’s because we’ve had a child or because we couldn’t), I’d like to foster-to-adopt. We’ve always talked about adopting, and we’ve always wanted to, and I think we could eventually manage going down that road. Eventually. Not as a consolation prize or as a “well, we couldn’t get pregnant, so we might as well adopt,” but because we have love to give and we want to give it to someone who needs it.

Eventually. I think, though, that right now, life is a bit too turmoil-y for it. But someday.

In the meantime, I go in for bloodwork tomorrow, and we have another appointment with the RE on July 6 to square things away for this next cycle. Something somewhere along the line will work out. It’s just a question of getting there, that’s all.

If it’s not one thing…

I love cats, always have. When I was about Sam’s age, my parents got us a cat that we called Chim-Chim because he looked like he’d come down the Chim-Chimney (a la Mary Poppins), all dark and sooty. He didn’t last terribly long, after breaking a window in our basement and escaping before we could get him neutered. Our next cat, Flower, gave me cat scratch fever, which sounds like a big band number (a la Zoot Suit Riot), but was really a serious medical condition. She was far too violent to have in a house with small children (I was about five and my brother was an infant), so we had to rehome her. Two years later, we adopted sisters, Tigger and Silky, from some friends of ours in New York state whose barn cat had just given birth to a litter. They stuck with us until I was probably nine or ten, and then we had to rehome them because my sister had developed severe allergies.

After Tigger and Silky were rehomed (which thoroughly broke my heart), I decided that I’d adopt a cat of my own the second I moved out of my parents’ house. Thankfully, though, I didn’t have to wait that long. On my seventeenth birthday, my mom drove all of us to the grocery store after school, ostensibly to get some supplies for my birthday party the following night. Instead of getting party supplies, though, she picked up a box of kitten chow, a litter box, and a bag of litter. While I was still processing this, we drove to the animal shelter the next town over so that I could choose a kitten to bring home.

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The shelter had about half a dozen kittens at the time, which was somewhat remarkable for early November. One litter was four weeks old and had just been brought in. They were all long-haired with Siamese-type markings, and none of them knew what was going on. They were matted to high heaven and none of them had gotten their shots yet because they were so brand new.

The other litter was just a brother and sister, both grey tabbies, about six weeks old and ready to go at any time. I washed my hands from the four week olds and met the sister, a tiny puff of fur who fit in the palm of my hand. She wasn’t content to sit there, though, and dug her needle-like claws into my peacoat until she reached my shoulder, where she perched and purred contentedly. I was sold, 100%, and on the drive home, I decided to call her Tinkerbell.

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(Tinkerbell the Christmas after I got her–she would’ve been about three months old)

I wish I could say that she’s been at my side ever since, but it’s vacillated. A little less than a year after I brought her home, I moved away to college (side note: why do movies always depict people moving away to college as them moving out forever? Like literally, just because you’re going away to college doesn’t mean we’re going to turn your room into a hot tub time machine or something. Calm down, movie parents), and I really only saw her on weekends. Sometimes, not even then, like when I spent a semester overseas, studying at Oxford.

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(the September after Oxford, during her “I am a triangle” phase)

When I moved to Texas, I couldn’t bring her with me because my life was too unsettled. I hopped from home to home and place to place, and even once Kyle and I found the apartment we’d live in for about the first year of our marriage, everything was too up in the air to commit to bringing her down with us. Tink and I didn’t properly reunite until Kyle and I moved to Massachusetts, about five years ago, but she’s been by my side there ever since.

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(Christmas 2013)

For the most part, she’s been a healthy cat. She pukes with unerring regularity, as a method of either demanding attention or communicating displeasure. Once upon a time, I wondered if this was cause for concern, but since she’s been otherwise healthy, it hasn’t worried me too much. She used to be obese, so fat that she was shaped like a triangle, but as she’s aged and calmed down (read: as she’s ceased sharing her home with other cats), she’s slowly lost weight… nothing concerning, just age. She hasn’t changed, behaviorally, since she was about six months old: she’s absurdly lazy, talkative and demanding, cuddly but only on her terms (read: you must be lying down, not sitting, and there must be room for her not just on top of you). She loves cheese, her stuffed turtle, and her catnip mouse.

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(some point recently, lounging on Kat’s bed)

And she hasn’t eaten in 24 hours. Maybe more.

Kat texted me yesterday to tell me this, and after some frantic shuffling, I came home to bring her to the nearest veterinary ER (which is one of the best in the state–it’s at the Tufts Veterinary School, so you know they’re going to be good). They ran tests on her but couldn’t find anything wrong, so they wanted to keep her overnight because she was dehydrated and they wanted to run some more tests–bloodwork, urine samples, X-rays, ultrasounds, the works. Despite not eating, she was 100% herself: she yelled at me and Kat the entire drive to the vet, yelled at everyone who came in to look at her, made mournful noises when we dared to pick her up and cuddle her, tried to jump off a table that was way too high for her.

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(bundled up at the vet yesterday and very angry about that fact)

I’m waiting to get the call back and hear what they’ve found, if she’s eaten anything, if she’s gotten better or worse. I’m dreading it for many reasons. What if they’ve found something that’s unfixable? What if it’s something that’s fixable but that will cost a lot of money to fix? What if it’s just going to be ridiculous bills either way?

They had us put down a deposit last night, $1875, to cover her overnight stay, testing, and any treatment they might do overnight. That’s almost $2000. Thankfully, we had that… because we had set aside $2000 for PGS. I didn’t even think about it before swiping my card (that’s not true; I did think about it, but I thought about it in terms of, “well this sucks”). She’s my baby, you know? I can’t not try to fix whatever’s wrong, if I have the money for it.

But what if we don’t have the money? What if they call today and say, “we can fix it, but it’s going to cost you $5000”? What do I do then?

When we first got Tigger and Silky, back when I was a wee child of seven, Silky stopped eating and started throwing up. My parents brought her to the vet, and the vet found that she’d eaten a piece of floss and gotten it tangled around the back of her tongue and all through her intestines. Without hesitating, they performed emergency surgery and removed it, and Silky was healthy afterwards–healthy, active, and as happy as a cat owned by a family with small children could be.

The surgery, though, cost $600–more than–and they didn’t talk to my parents beforehand. When I was a kid, the fact that it was even a question infuriated me. It was her life! How could you even pause and think about it? You save her life and find a way, that’s what you do!

But now I’m an adult, in the same position, and I don’t want to make that decision. If they call me back and quote some ridiculous number to save her life, I don’t know what I’ll do. She’s old; at best, she’s probably got another three, maybe four years in her. That’s aeons in cat years, but what will her quality of life be? If they fix this, will she decline more quickly afterwards? Will she stop chasing leaves and playing with her catnip mouse? Will she sleep far more, start missing the litterbox, lose use of her legs? If she was younger, if she was even five years younger, this wouldn’t even be a question, but now…

I don’t know. The last 24 hours have made me feel so hopeless in so many ways. Literally the only thing that’s made me feel better is looking at pictures of kittens on various shelter sites. Otherwise, I feel like I’ve lost way too much in just a couple of hours–my hopes for a healthy baby and my beloved and cantankerous old lady furbaby.

Sigh.

Tests

Infertility and testing go together like peanut butter and jelly (or peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, depending on where you’re from). The tests start roughly around the one year mark, when you bring up to your doctor that, hey, we’ve been trying to fulfill our biological imperative and propagate the species for about a year now, but no dice. What gives?

These tests fall into one of two basic categories: giving someone else your bodily fluids or having things shoved delicately inside of you to take a peek around. The latter is usually the less pleasant option, if only because it takes a lot longer, but the former can be an adventure, too.

In terms of giving someone else your bodily fluids, the ovary-haver usually only needs to offer two types of fluid: blood and urine, like this is some sort of terrible German porno. The blood work has to happen about once a year, and it’s a LOT of blood–my most recent testing required a grand total of ten vials, and six of them were for fasting bloodwork (in other words, I was going in there with no food or drink in my body). The urine–I’m not really sure what they test when you pee in a cup, to be honest, but once you’re pregnant, the cup peeing becomes a monthly and then weekly and then daily thing, so if nothing else, I figure it’s just to get you used to it and help you develop your technique.

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(tip: aim better than this)

The sperm donor has to contribute blood as well, but he also needs to have his semen analyzed. This particular facet of testing is ripe for comedy because there is no way to make wanking for the spank bank not funny. In the best of times, a fellow can make his contribution in a pleasantly lit room at the infertility clinic. This room is, inexplicably, soundproof. The best clinics have rooms with sterile furniture; the worst clinics have wicker, of all things. They all have magazines with the covers torn off and DVDs of questionable content.

I won’t go into detail about the worst of times.

When we first started testing, way back four years ago, the clinic actually refused to give us the results of Kyle’s test because he didn’t yet have a primary care physician in Massachusetts (long story short, we had very bad insurance back then). He had to go through the whole process a second time (this clinic did not have a room, so he had to bring his donation with him, tucked under his arm to keep it at body temperature), and we still didn’t know the results until we reached this IVF adventure.

(his results: A+ quantity, but very poor motility and morphology–a.k.a., the guys are drunken mutants, the wrong shape to fertilize a single egg, if they could even find it)

But fortunately, that’s where the testing ends for the sperm donor. For the ovary-haver, the testing has just begun; because, you see, sperm donors don’t need to have anything delicately shoved up their danger clam. Ovary-havers? We do.

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There are three basic “things inside you” tests (in order from least horrible to “WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?”): the sonohysterogram, the hysteroscopy, and the hysterosalpingogram.

The sonohysterogram is entry level invasive junk testing. In this test, a tech fills your uterus with a saline solution in order to check your uterine lining for abnormalities that wouldn’t otherwise be seen on an ultrasound. The test takes a grand total of five minutes and is less unpleasant than it is just very wet. At my last one, the tech told me to think of it as a spa treatment, maybe like yoni steaming or something like that. I’ve never desired to try yoni steaming, and the combination of that metaphor with the weird “seashore” sound effects she played during the procedure just made me uncomfortable.

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(if you’ve never heard of yoni steaming, it’s basically perching with your lady bits over boiling hot water for like. Gwyneth Paltrow reasons or something)

But as the tests go, the sonohysterogram is easy as pie. You get in, you get splashed, you get out. Boom, boom, boom.

The hysteroscopy is a little more involved, because it requires a camera. With a hysteroscopy, your doctor inserts a light and camera to have a look around the inside of your uterus. This is never not weird. It’s a relatively painless procedure; maybe there’s some cramping because there’s a camera in your uterus, but all in all, it’s not bad. At my last hysteroscopy, my doctor even let me watch the monitor that showed the inside of my uterus (I told her, I wanted to look my uterus in the eye after all it had put me through). Truth be told, it was less red than I expected. It looked more like a pale piece of undercooked chicken, which is apparently normal. And I suppose that makes sense, but after twenty-something years of periods, I expected more carnage.

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(more Carrie, less Food Network, really)

But the hysteroscopy and the sonohysterogram pale in comparison to the worst of them all: the hysterosalpingogram.

On paper, it sounds simple. They squirt dye into your cervix and uterus, it travels up your fallopian tubes, and then they take an X-ray of the whole system to make sure nothing is blocked or broken. The dye then leaks into the rest of your abdomen, where it presumably makes your internal organs look really funky. Easy, right?

No, no, no. This procedure is terrible. It starts the morning of, when you take a huge antibiotic pill–one of those ones that kills e v e r y t h i n g–and that makes you sick to your stomach. Shortly before the procedure, they give you hospital grade Tylenol to dull the pain, but this does exactly nothing except make you mildly loopy (if you’re me, at least, and get loopy at the suggestion of medication).

You go into a weird sort of OR for this, and I say weird because it’s a radiology lab, so it’s very different from the pleasant OB/GYN offices you’ve been visiting all along. Everything seems normal, though: you put on a johnny and lie down on a cold metal table. You put your legs in stirrups, and someone explains what’s going to happen. The doctor tells you, “Whatever happens, don’t move,” and that sounds easy enough.

Then comes the speculum and the iodine to clean your cervix, and so far, everything seems normal. Even the dye tube seems normal at first, but then they squirt the dye in, and I will tell you that this ranks third in worst pains of my life (first was gallstones, second was when my epidural didn’t work when I was giving birth to Sam). It would have ranked higher, except it doesn’t last very long. It’s a fiery, cramping sensation, not entirely unlike menstrual cramps, but much more sudden and much more severe (and for those who’ve never experienced this level of menstrual cramping, imagine the cramps you feel when you’ve got severe diarrhea, and then multiply by about ten).

And you’re not supposed to move. Every instinct in your body tells you to curl up and fight this pain, but you cannot move. At all. They take an X-ray of your abdomen, and then it’s over, but the pain lingers in the back of your mind, to the point where you can’t help but say, “I’m so sorry,” if anyone ever mentions a hysterosalpingogram in your presence.

That’s one of the silver linings of IVF, too: it doesn’t matter if your fallopian tubes are blocked. You don’t need to have a hysterosalpingogram. You can just go on with the sonohysterograms and the hysteroscopies and be happy about your life because your life does not involve hysterosalpingograms anymore.

Anyway. Today is a testing day. Kyle did his testing this morning, and I’m heading in for a hysteroscopy after lunch. Fingers crossed it’ll show that we’re free and clear to keep moving forward.