Thursday, December 16, 2004

Hey! Cowboy!

My husband and I are amazingly compatible, and we share many characteristics. However, when it comes to sleeping habits we are polar opposites. I'm a night person. I come alive at around 10:00 p.m. and can easily stay up until the early hours of the morning. Even when I force myself to go to bed early, I'm good for nothing before 9:00 a.m. Don't ask me to do anything that requires thought before 8, and don't talk to me at all if it's before 7. If you attempt any contact whatsoever with me before 6, may God have mercy on your soul.

Eric is completely the other way around. He loves the morning and wakes up with a smile, ready to conquer the world. This, of course, makes me want to punch that smile right off of his perky, ambitious face. He gets up at the unearthly hour of 4:00 a.m. - get this - because he wants to. He has complete control over his work schedule and he could go in at 9 or 10 if he wanted to, but he does his best work early in the morning, so he's up and going several hours before the crack of dawn.

At night though, he becomes just as useless as I am in the morning. This used to frustrate me, because I would love to stay up and have deep conversations with him like I used to with my college roommates. I've tried and tried, but have finally come to accept that after 9:30 or so it's not going to happen. And forget lying awake in bed talking; once his head hits the pillow, it's all over. I'm doing my best thinking just as he slips into a coma.

Now that I'm not working (aside from this little project of building a functional human being inside of me) our schedules have drifted even farther apart. I can sleep as late as I want to in the morning, which means I can also stay up as late as I want to. The other day when I woke up around 10:00 a.m. I realized with a shock that I had spent more time sleeping after Eric had gotten up than before. I had been in bed for a mere two hours when he got up to start his day. I would feel guilty about this, except I really do I get a lot done in those late hours. I have twice as much energy than I do during the day and I get at least twice as much accomplished.

While I would prefer to have Eric awake with me at night, I've discovered something almost as fun: listening to him talk in his sleep. He does it pretty much every night. Usually it's about work. He's a network engineer, so I hear him mumbling about a router, a switch, or an IP address. He's currently on contract at the FBI doing top secret stuff, and he worries that he'll reveal something to me that I shouldn't know. Luckily I have no idea what any of it means; even when he's talking coherently about work it goes right over my English major head. So he probably won't have to kill me.

Once in a while though, he'll talk about something else, and the fun ensues. A few times he's spontaneously shouted hilarious and uncharacteristic phrases like "Holy moley!" or "Hot diggity dog!" Often I can ask him questions and he'll respond to me. Sometimes he'll even sit up and open his eyes, so that I think he's awake, but in the morning he doesn't remember a thing. And as of last night, we have a new winner. I was curled up reading when he suddenly yelled in a mocking tone, "Hey! Cowboy! No one should be that country." Wise words from my husband in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I'm baaack!

Since I've been gone from the blogging world for over a month now, I'll give you a quick summary of what I've been up to.

1) Moving. Luckily I've already blocked most memories of this event in an effort to keep my sanity, so you'll be spared the details. The best thing I can say about it is it's OVER.
2) Throwing up. Yep, after eleven and a half weeks of nausea with no puking whatsoever, I graduated into the Nausea With Upchuck phase. Now I'm at 16 weeks and still going strong, despite the assurance of my midwife that once I got past 13 weeks or so I would feel much better. I'm luckier than some of my friends who can't keep anything down, but not nearly as lucky as those who feel healthier and sexier than ever before during the second trimester. To those women, I eloquently say, "Bite me."
3) Growing. Although at my last doctor's appointment I had lost 5 pounds, I am definitely growing in pregnant ways. My little bump is decidedly bigger and there's no way I could zip up my old jeans anymore. I'm living in maternity pants. And my breasts have pretty much taken over, which is a completely foreign experience for me. I miss my old ones. So all of this makes me wonder: where am I losing the weight? (Please be my butt, please be my butt!)
4) Feeling the baby move. This is by far the coolest part of pregnancy I've experienced yet. I can't feel kicks yet, but for about a week or so I've been feeling little flutters when I'm lying on my side.

Believe it or not, that's pretty much it. See, you weren't really missing much after all. It's good to be back.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Eleven Weeks and Moving

Up until just a few days ago I didn't look pregnant. My friends can tell that I've been getting bigger since about eight weeks, but people who don't know I'm expecting probably just think I've been eating too many Pringles. Well, here I am at eleven weeks and I now have a definite bump. I suspected I would show early because I have a short torso; there's not anywhere for my belly to go but out. I was right, and here's the proof.

I'm going to be scarce for the next week or so because we're moving to be closer to Eric's work. It will be a good change, but I'm not looking forward to the packing/loading up/moving process (who does?) Especially since my nausea is getting worse every day. I barely have the energy to do a load of laundry so I have no idea how I'm going to pack all of our belongings. I'll post about it soon, but it might take me a while to do it with humor.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Dorks Unite!

This morning as I was getting dressed, I had a sudden urge to get out some of my old CDs that I hadn't listened to in years. I ended up playing They Might Be Giants albums and smiling happily at all the memories, the oh so dorky memories the songs brought back to me.

In high school I was not what you would call "cool". I wasn't a cheerleader, I wasn't athletic, I didn't drive an expensive car, I didn't get invited to the popular kids' parties. And yet if I could do it over again, I wouldn't change a single thing. I don't know many people who would say that high school was one of the happiest times of their lives, but for me it really was. We had an excellent honors program at my school and I loved learning. I liked being one of the smart kids. I was comfortable with who I was and felt very little pressure to measure up to some vague standard of coolness. I had lots of friends who liked me for me and not for what I wore (this is glaringly obvious when I look at photos from that time - yikes!) And I did what I enjoyed, regardless of what other people thought about it. I was an officer in the History Club, advertising manager of the yearbook, vice president of the French Club, and lead soprano in the school choir. I was busy, tired, and very fulfilled. I hope my kids have such a good time when they're that age.

So back to They Might Be Giants memories. My best friend Andrea and I were big fans and in eighth grade we even made clever music videos of the songs "Dinner Bell" and "Fingertips" from the Apollo 18 album (I sincerely hope that videotape never, ever falls into the wrong hands.) I identified with the quirky weirdness and the tongue-in-cheek intellectualism of their songs. Who wouldn't love a song that goes Blue canary in the outlet by the lightswitch who watches over you Make a little birdhouse in your soul Not to put too fine a point on it Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet Make a little birdhouse in your soul. I mean, come on people, that's just happy stuff! Let the nerds be happy!

I haven't kept up with TMBG since high school, and I recently learned that they released a children's album a few years ago entitled No! I am definitely buying it for my child. With songs called "Robot Parade" and "I'm Not Your Broom" it's got to be good. (I've always thought their songs had a silly quality that would make them appeal to kids, but the lyrics aren't always kid friendly, for example "I Palindrome I": Someday mother will die and I'll get the money / Mom leans down and says "My sentiments exactly, you son of a bitch.") I've seen firsthand how educational TMBG songs can be. They did a cover of a song from the 1950's called "Why Does The Sun Shine?" I remember my little sisters Tori and Tanne (then ages 8 and 3) finding the tape and listening to it over and over again. They both had every word memorized. It's pretty impressive to hear a 3 year old sing, "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees."

So I guess my whole point is, I'm glad I was a dork in high school, I'm glad I haven't lost that dorkiness, and I hope my kids are dorks too, if it makes them as happy as it's made me.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Trying to be Normal

Yesterday I had my first appointment at my OB/Midwives office. It was my first step in transitioning from IVF patient to regular pregnant person, and I was more than a bit disoriented by the whole thing. I realized how accustomed I had become to my RE's posh office with leather furniture, expensive artwork, great magazines, a cappuccino bar, and free samples everywhere. I guess because their patients are all paying thousands of dollars out of pocket they feel like they have to present a luxurious day-spa like environment. Often I would get so comfortable in the waiting room with my feet up in a reclining chair that I would forget I was about to have metal objects stuck in my nether regions, feeling instead that it was about time for my facial and seaweed wrap. So by comparison my new OB's practice looks extremely ghetto. Where were the sugar cookies on the table? Why didn't the receptionists and nurses all know me by name? Did they really expect me to wait on an ugly orange tweed chair that had probably been there since 1968?

Once I met the midwife, Karen, I felt better. She was extremely nice and seemed almost as excited about my pregnancy as I am. The more I learn about this practice the more I like it. There are 5 doctors and 8 certified nurse midwives. It's a collaborative practice so I'll see each doctor and each midwife at some point during this pregnancy. When I go into labor there will be a doctor and a midwife at the hospital. The midwives deliver, or as they say, "catch" 75% of the babies born in the practice; the doctor is there the whole time, but he only assists in the labor if there is a complication. The midwife is there with you the whole time you are in labor, as opposed to nurses popping in and out to check on you every once in a while and a doctor coming in at the very end to deliver. I feel good about having the support of a midwife, but also having the extra comfort of having doctors involved because of my Factor V Leiden (a gene that contributes to excessive blood clotting and miscarriage). The doctors will also be consulting with a perinatologist to make sure I'm being treated correctly during pregnancy, labor and delivery.

At this first appointment they checked all the basic things, urine, cervical cultures, breast exam, and fundal height. I didn't need to have bloodwork done because I had so much done at the RE. The thing that freaks me out is that my next appointment isn't for four weeks. I'm accustomed to going in at least once a week. What am I going to do with all this extra time?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


(Warning: Pregnancy symptom complaints ahead. If you are like me and have no sympathy for whining pregnant people, skip this one.)

I've been a slacker about posting lately, which is fitting because I've become a slacker in pretty much every area of my life. This pregnancy is draining me of every ounce of energy I have. It seems like the most I can do these days is drag myself out of bed, do my shots, watch daytime TV, and occasionally sluggishly do a basket of laundry. I'm having severe nausea that lasts all day and all night. The only time I feel relief is right after I eat, and half an hour later the nausea is back. So I have to spend all day trying to eat when eating is the last thing I want to do. I haven't thrown up at all, despite a few gagging incidents, but man oh man I wish I could. See, I don't really mind throwing up. For me, the worst thing is the feeling right before you throw up, and I already have that all the time. Barfing once or twice would be a relief.

On to more pleasant topics. I had my last RE appointment with Dr. B yesterday. The ultrasounds keep getting more and more amazing each time. The baby was all curled up in this one and wiggling around like crazy. We could see the heartbeat (130 bpm) and body parts are becoming easier to identify. Al made the nurse laugh by exclaiming, "Man, that kid is all noggin!" Dr. B pronounced me officially graduated from fertility treatments, gave me my records to take to my midwife appointment tomorrow, and made me promise to bring the baby in after it's born so she can hold it. So on to the OB/midwives practice. I'm excited to be a normal pregnant patient rather than a "special case", but I'll miss the weekly ultrasounds.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Kitty Discipline

Since I'm not working right now and spend most of my time at home, my cat Walker has become my best buddy. He keeps me company while I'm cooking, cleaning, paying bills, chatting online, watching Dr. Phil, and all the other highly intellectually stimulating activities that comprise the day of a stay-at-home-almost-mom. Although he's not quite as good at conversation as a human companion would be, he does an excellent job of keeping me company. He's normally extremely affectionate and friendly, despite common belief about cats.

Lately, however, he's developing a problem. He's about 4 months old now, and I suspect he's beginning to go through kitty puberty, because he's suddenly become very aggressive. He attacks my hands, scratches them, and bites them so that every surface of my arms is covered in cute little kitten-made puncture wounds. The worst is at around 7:00 a.m. when I'm in that blissful state between sleep and waking and I suddenly feel ten kitten claws digging viciously into my arm.

I'm not very experienced with cats, so I'm mostly clueless about how to train them. I've tried flicking him on the nose, picking him up and dropping him on the floor, yelling "NO!", and even emitting an odd high-pitched scream that makes Eric jump out of his skin. None of these measures does anything to deter the little 4 pound ball of fluff from trying to kill me. In fact, he takes them all as a challenge which he is more than ready to meet. "You like that?" his eyes say. "Well here's some more!"

Yesterday I had a stroke of genius, which experienced cat people will scoff at because they all would have thought of it weeks ago. I keep a spray bottle filled with water near me, and when he attacks I just give him a squirt. It works like a charm. He hates that stream of water with intensity. I'm amazed that he would rather be smacked and yelled at than have a little bit of water hit his fur. And he's definitely learning. Now I don't even have to squirt him; all I have to do is show him the bottle and he's off like a shot. I'm hopeful that soon I'll have my loveable kitten back.

And getting his testicles snipped off will probably help too.

P.S. Thanks so much to everyone for your kind thoughts after my last post. It helps to have your support and to know that my feelings are valid. Love you guys!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Bad News and Good News

Yesterday was a difficult day. Eric came with me to the second ultrasound to see how our little ones were doing, and I'm so glad he was there. As the doctor got started I had a sudden feeling that something was wrong. I hate it when my intuition turns out to be right (I much prefer knowing that all my worries are nothing but extreme paranoia and have nothing to do with reality.) Dr. B could only find one baby. The other sac was still there, but there was no heartbeat and it appeared to be empty. The remaining baby is growing perfectly, right on target for size and we could see the heartbeat going strong, a miraculous sight. But it was overshadowed by knowing that there used to be another one, and now it's gone.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Yesterday's RE visit was a big one: the first ultrasound. I was extremely nervous all morning, planning for the worst. Eric wasn't able to come with me because he had his second CCNP exam and I had totally spaced that when I scheduled the appointment (my brain is pregnant right along with the rest of me.) Dr. Asmar was the weekend doctor. I just love him, he is like the sweet Middle Eastern grandfather I never had. As soon as he got the ultrasound started he asked, "Now how many embryos did we transfer?" The highly irrational thought that popped into my head was, "Oh my gosh, there are six in there!" Then my brain caught up and I reminded him that we had transferred two. "OK," he said with a huge, loveable smile, "because I'm seeing two here." He turned the screen so I could see, and there they were: two little sacs, right next to each other. I got a picture to take home and scheduled another appointment for next Sunday morning.

Eric was still in the middle of his exam when I got home so I decided to surprise him. I went out and bought two little onesie outfits, and I planned to lay them out on our bed with the sonogram picture in the middle. Unfortunately I took too long shopping and he got home before I could set everything up. (Those cutesy things never seem to work out too well for me: I should just give up.) When E walked in the door he said "Well?" All I said was "You were right!" He's been saying all along that there are two in there and I was convinced there was only one. "I knew it!" he said and gave me a big hug and a kiss. Since I'm always planning for the worst, I had to warn him that it's still early in the pregnancy, and it's common for one twin to simply stop growing. Dr. Asmar explained this to me and I am constantly aware that it's a very real possibility. But right now I'm hoping and praying for the best.

Here's the sonogram picture. Aren't they cute?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Symptoms 'R Us

Ever since beginning our stroll down the hellish road that is infertility, I've participated in several different fertility based message boards. I've formed friendships with the women there that have been incredibly helpful, emotionally and otherwise. At first I could chat with pretty much anyone on the boards and feel like I related to what they were going through. After trying for over a year, I had to start being a little more selective. When you and your husband have been through months of painful, invasive testing and have received a bleak diagnosis, it's a bit hard to be supportive of 19 year olds who are worried that they haven't conceived yet after 2 months of well-timed sex. When someone with three kids under the age of 4 tells you they "know just how you feel," it feels like you've just found out you have cancer and they just got a paper cut and therefore think they understand your pain. So I made an effort to surround myself with people who were either going through treatments, or those who could be sympathetic without being condescending. But that doesn't mean I didn't occasionally stumble across something that made me roll my eyes [insert "annoyed" emoticon].

One of the first stages you go through when trying to conceive is becoming obsessed with your body's signals around the time when you expect your period, and a fascination with the early signs of pregnancy. A lot of those posts begin with questions such as, "My boobs are sore: does this mean I'm pg?" and "When I was washing the dishes I had a sudden urge to drink the bottle of Dawn dishsoap - could this mean pregnancy?" I am always extremely skeptical when it comes to those sorts of things, because I've noticed "symptoms" in my own body many, many times when it turned out to just be PMS, or the taco salad I ate for lunch. And in lots of cases, I'm sure I imagined the symptoms altogether - after all, if you wake up every day squeezing your breasts to see if they're sore, aren't they bound to become sensitive after a while?

So imagine my consternation when, now that I really am pregnant, I'm learning that all those symptoms really do exist. And it seems I'm one of the lucky few who experiences nearly all of them. lists eight of the most common early pregnancy symptoms, and guess what? I have them all. Here's the list:

1) Fatigue. For the last week and a half I've been so tired that I could sleep all day and still not feel rested. After walking up the stairs I need a nap. I feel almost exactly like I did when I had mono.

2) Nausea. My stomach is constantly queasy. I feel better right after eating, but an hour later the sick feeling comes back. I'm lucky that I haven't thrown up yet, but I know there's lots of time for that to happen.

3) Food cravings. Along with feeling tired, this is the first symptom that I noticed. I am an extreme chocoholic, and lately the thought of eating anything chocolate makes me nauseous. A few nights ago Al brought home a box of Dove Triple Fudge ice cream bars. I took a single bite of one and had to throw the rest away because it made me feel so sick. Instead, I've been craving chewy, sour candy, something I don't normally like at all.

4) Frequent urination. I'm told this one gets worse and worse as the pregnancy continues because of increasing pressure of the uterus on the bladder. As it is, I'm lucky if I sleep for 3 hours before having to get up again.

5) Breast changes. Suffice it to say I think Al is going to thoroughly enjoy this one, if they ever stop hurting long enough for me to let him touch them.

6) Cramps. These feel just like period cramps, but much milder. I also have some continuing pain in my ovaries from the OHSS - I guess it takes a while for them to shrink back down to their normal size (on the day of embryo transfer they were bigger than my uterus - no wonder my pants are tight!)

7) Bloating. I've had this one ever since starting IVF, so might not be a pregnancy symptom per se. More a symptom of having hormones constantly pumped into my body than anything.

8) Moodiness. Oh my, yes. I can't watch "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" anymore because I remain weepy for hours afterwards.

And here are a few more symptoms that are unique to pregnancy after IVF:

1) Welts all over my butt from the PIO shots. These are becoming increasingly painful as Al is running out of non-sore places to inject.

2) Constantly oozing nether regions from progesterone vaginal suppositories. Very attractive.

3) Sticky, gummy residue on my belly and inner thighs from estrogen patches. I've recently discovered that baby oil helps it comes off. Much less painful than scrubbing at that sensitive skin with a loofah.

4) A line of bruises across my belly from my twice a day heparin shots (not IVF related, for my FVL). I look like someone beat me with a baseball bat, and since I'll be doing these injections the entire time I'm pregnant, I can only imagine it will get worse from here.

5) The feeling that this can't possibly be real. After month after month of not being pregnant, being pregnant is surreal. I have to keep reminding myself.

And the one thing that probably sets all IVFers apart from the naturally fertile: I am constantly grateful for all the things I'm feeling. I am unbelievably thankful to be tired, crampy, emotional and nauseous, because of what all of those things signify. I can't imagine ever complaining about anything relating to pregnancy because I'm so happy just to be experiencing it.

Friday, September 10, 2004

La la la!

It's official: I'm pregnant!

I had my beta test this morning and got a call at 1:30 as I was having lunch out with my sister. It was wonderful to be with her when I got the news. I called Eric right away and he was so excited that he started hyperventilating; I had to ask him if he was OK!

I'm still in shock right now. After trying for so long and going through so much to get to this point, I just can't believe it's real. I feel so, so lucky.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

HPTs Are The Devil

I'm totally messing with my own head, all because of those evil little plastic sticks we all love to pee on. You're not supposed to test at home after an IVF cycle, because the HCG injection you're given before egg retrieval contains the same hormone that HPTs detect, and it can stay in your system for up to two weeks. Plus, REs usually schedule the beta test early enough that an HPT might not be accurate anyway.

Even so, I couldn't resist peeing on one yesterday. And what do you know... negative. That's the only result I've ever seen, so I wasn't shocked, and I knew it was still very early, so I didn't lose hope that I could still be pregnant. I decided not to test any more and exercise a little bit of good old fashioned self control until Friday.

But predictably, I broke down. Today I used a First Response test, which detects very low levels of HCG.

It was positive. Instantly positive.

So now, I'm even more confused than before. Is this test just picking up residual amounts of HCG from my injection 17 days ago that the first test wasn't sensitive enough to detect? Or is it really detecting a pregnancy? And in the name of all that's holy, why do I do this to myself? Why?!?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Ten Reasons Why I Love My Cat

1) He wakes me up every morning at 4:00 by sitting on my neck and purring loudly. I pet him, and he sticks his head between my boobs and falls asleep. It's our little ritual.
2) While I'm cooking he sits at my feet and talks to me - literally. "Walker, how was your day?" "Mrew." "I can't believe it's already September, didn't the summer just fly by?" "Mrew." "Here, do you want a piece of chicken?" "MREOW!"
3) He falls asleep in my arms with his belly up and his head hanging back. Holy cuteness.
4) He's possessive of me and jealous of Al. Once when we were cuddling on the couch Eric turned to me and said, "Chels, look at Walker!" He was crouched in a dark corner, glaring at us with pure malice in his eyes, which on a 3 month old kitten is actually kind of cute.
5) Like most kittens, he has a Jekyl and Hyde personality: one second he'll be tearing across the floor chasing his rubber ball, and the next he'll collapse on a newspaper and instantly be fast asleep. Ten minutes later, he's up and going again.
6) He sleeps on the side of the tub while I'm reading in the bath. Once in a while he climbs behind me and perches on my shoulder and watches the pages turn, like he's reading along with me.
7) He's friendly with everyone, even people and animals he doesn't know. He even likes the vet.
8) He thinks I'm his mom, probably because we got him so young. He trusts me so much that it makes me feel terrible when I inflict baths on him and he gives me that betrayed look: "Why would you do this to me? Why?" Even so, minutes later he's already forgiven me.
9) He purrs every time I pick him up, even if 5 seconds later he's struggling to get down.
10) He's been my little buddy through this whole IVF process. He tolerates my tiredness and my moodiness in a way no human ever could, and having him curled up on my lap takes my mind off of all the stress and pain I've experienced.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Out of the Closet

Well, it's too late to buy tickets and see it, but this looks like it was a fun show: Infertility: The Musical, the only show to bring you songs such as "Infertile Love Song" and "I've Got Sperm in my Pocket and I'm Talkin' to Eileen." It's kind of cool to me that fertility has become such a publicly discussed issue that people are writing musicals about it now. Since I'm way out of the infertility closet (I've told virtually all my friends and family) I can't understand why people have historically been so secretive about it.

Eric is coming home tonight from his business trip to Atlanta. It's only been a couple of days but I've really missed him. I was a little annoyed with him for leaving me right in the middle of all this IVF stuff, but apparently he was the only IT guy in the DC area who could fix this particular problem, and if he didn't go the entire internet would like, blow up or something. You know, I actually am proud of him that he's doing so well at work. I admire the fact that he's so good at what he does and that his hard work is valued. It's just that I get a little jealous of his time every now and then. Going through IVF has turned me into a big squishy emotional ball of neediness, so it's probably my issue, not his.

On the IVF front (nope, I'm really not capable of talking about anything else right now, sorry) yesterday I found out that my progesterone and estrogen levels are too low. So now I'm wearing two estrogen patches on my inner thighs (super sexy), and supplementing my nightly progesterone shots with twice a day vaginal suppositories (again, sexy.) I won't go to the RE's office again until my pregnancy test a week from tomorrow. That sort of freaks me out. It means this is IT. The end. We'll have an answer: yes or no.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

All Alone With a 22 Gauge 1 1/2 Inch Needle

I just intentionally impaled my right hip with this. Go on, look at it. Be impressed.

Eric is out of town for a few days on business so I have to take over progesterone injection duty for a little while. I just about fainted before I stuck myself with the monstrosity (more like an ice pick than a needle) but once I got it in it wasn't so bad. I'm not sure what I'm going to do tomorrow night; I may have to call my sister and ask her to help. I feel weird about this, because I know if someone asked me to do the same thing it would freak me out. But my right hip is really sore and I don't think I can do it with my left hand. I was talking to my brother about my dilemma and he suggested that to amuse myself while Eric is gone, I should come up with a list of people who it would be extremely awkward to ask to inject me. So far I've come up with: my bishop, the FedEx guy who's bringing me a book from Amazon, any of Eric's ex-girlfriends, and the missionaries. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Why I'm Voting For Will Ferrell

If you haven't already seen this, go check it out.

My favorite lines: "There are certain liberal agitators out there who would like you to believe my administration's not doing such a good job. These are people such as Howard Stern, Richard Clark, and the news." And "I'll use this weapon on those devil horses if I have to."

Monday, August 30, 2004

No. Freaking. Way.

You won't believe what happened to me today. I was on my way back from driving a spare key into the city for Eric (he locked his inside his car this morning) and I thought I'd drop by the vegetable market to pick up a few things for dinner. I was sitting there at a red light waiting for it to change when all of a sudden, CRASH! A lady in a Suzuki SUV rear ended me. A few seconds later when I realized what had happened the first words out of my mouth were "You've got to be kidding me." See, this is the third time I've been rear ended since October 2002. That's three times in 22 months. About once every 7 months. Surely that's not normal. The last time (December 2003) our car was totaled and I hurt my neck and upper back. I was in physical therapy for 3 months. We're still working on settling with the insurance company on that one. And now, bam! Another one to throw into the mix. Luckily, this one doesn't seem as bad. I feel whiplashed but not nearly as sore as I was last time. And the only damage to my car is a two inch dent in the bumper. So it could have been much worse, but still, what the eff? What's the deal with everyone running into me? Is my back end that attractive?

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Babies! Get in my belly!

Today was embryo transfer day. We transferred two blastocysts and decided to freeze three others that looked promising. The procedure went perfectly. In fact, the whole experience was one of the most amazing ones I've ever had, which I didn't expect at all.

We arrived at the fertility center at 8:00 a.m. and I was given a bottle of water to drink so my bladder would be nice and full for the sonogram (that helps the uterus lie flat so the doctor can easily insert the catheter loaded with the embryos.) When I was sufficiently hydrated they had me change into a hospital gown and hat and Eric changed into scrubs. We both had to wear a mask so the operating room would remain sterile. Before the procedure, Dr. A took us into the embryology lab and introduced us to the technicians who made our embryos. "Your first baby-sitters," he called them. As soon as we walked into the room I had an intense feeling that we were in a holy place. It was exactly the same feeling I have when I enter the temple. I sensed that something sacred was taking place; so many lives were being created. I had honestly never thought of it that way before so the impression surprised me greatly. The doctor let us look at our embryos through a microscope, which was incredible. He printed a picture of them for us (I'll post it once I have it scanned.)

Soon we were ready to proceed with the transfer. Dr. A had me lie flat on the operating table with my legs strapped in, then he tilted the table so that my head was lower than my feet. He asked us if we had any questions and Eric responded, "Yeah, can you give us the quiet ones?" Dr. A and and the nurses found this hilarious. One of the nurses took a sonogram of my belly so they could find a perfect little landing strip in my uterus. (It took her a few seconds to find it because my ovaries are bigger than my uterus from the OHSS and they were hogging the screen - I know, EW.) When they had located the correct position, Dr. A inserted the catheter through my cervix and up into the very top of my uterus. All I felt was some slight cramping and pressure from the speculum against my full bladder. Not fun, but not terrible by any means. Dr. A turned the sonogram screen so that Eric and I could watch and he even let E hold the transducer for a while so he could be an active participant. They load the catheter with tiny air bubbles next to the embryos so that the doctor can visualize where the embryos will be deposited, so we could see them go in. It was incredible to watch.

Afterward I had to lie flat for 30 minutes, and then I was allowed to change and go home. I'm on bed rest until tomorrow morning, which is difficult because I feel better today than I've felt in over a week. But I want to do everything right, so I'm trying to stay entertained. It's so strange to think that there are two embryos inside me right now. I keep talking to them and telling them to grab on and hold on tight, but since they're created out of my genetic material (not to mention Eric's), I don't expect them to be overly compliant. They're probably fiercely independent little buggers, so all I can do is hope they decide on their own that my womb is a good place to be.

Friday, August 27, 2004


I'm feeling miserable again today. I called Lan yesterday and she said if I didn't feel better by this morning I should come in for a sonogram. I had Eric drive me in because I was in too much pain to drive myself. Dr. Asmar did my sonogram and confirmed that I have OHSS. Luckily, it's mild enough that we should still be able to do the transfer on Sunday, provided it doesn't get worse. I can't imagine what it must be like to be severely hyperstimulated, because I wouldn't classify what I'm feeling as "mild" by any stretch. Last night I was doubled over and crying with the pain. During the ultrasound Dr. A found that my ovaries are about three times their normal size, so that's what's causing the pressure in my poor bloated tummy. (Speaking of the bloating, I damn well better be pregnant after this, because my belly is so distended I already look like I'm about four months along.) Knowing that what I'm feeling is normal and not cause for alarm actually helps a lot. I can get through it if I know it's not going to kill me. Dr. A even offered to call in a prescription for Tylenol with codeine if the pain gets too bad, but I only want to do that if I absolutely have to and so far I've been OK. I feel a bit better today than I did yesterday, so I hope that's a good sign that things will get better rather than worse. Either that or my ovaries will fulfill their threats and spontaneously combust.

On a more positive note, our embryos are growing wonderfully. We have 5 at the 8 cell stage that are Grade A (yep, embryos get graded, just like cuts of meat). And the rest of them are pretty good too. We have to decide if we want to freeze them so that we can use them in a few years when we want to conceive again. My mom remarked to me today how strange it would be to explain to our kids that they were all conceived at the same time, but born years apart. I'm not sure how I would feel knowing I was made in a petri dish. But I'd like to think once we tell them how much money we spent just to get them in my belly, they'll feel pretty darn special.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I'm not a heretic, I swear

Lately I've been experiencing something new to me. I would never bring this up in a church setting for fear of causing shock and disapproval (I need people to like me and think I'm normal) but you all won't judge me, right? Thanks.

So what I've been feeling. I guess you could call it priesthood envy. It's always bothered me that men hold the priesthood and women don't, mostly at an intellectual level, because as a feminist, it just didn't seem fair to me. This is the first time that I've felt it emotionally. It's not that I want to be a bishop or a general authority; what I'd really like is to be able to give blessings, especially to members of my family. When I'm sick or feeling particularly discouraged I'll ask my husband for a blessing. It's always a source of comfort and strength and healing. And sometimes I wish that I could do the same thing for him. The other night he was exhausted after a long day at work and struggling with the changes that are going on in his life and generally just depressed. I did my best to console him, and as I listened to his fears I found myself wishing that I could give him a blessing. In fact, I suggested that he call someone and ask for one, but he didn't want to. We have no idea who our home teachers are and he didn't feel like his need was urgent enough to bother the bishop at home late at night.

My envy is furthered by the fact that I've been reading a wonderful book called Women's Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-day Saints 1830-1900. It's a collection of firsthand accounts of women in the early church. This was a time when the understanding of church organization was still evolving (actually, I guess it still is now) and roles were not so clearly defined when it came to the priesthood. Women often gave blessings, seemingly without questioning whether or not they had the authority.

Patty Bartlett Sessions was a midwife who kept a daily diary during the trek west. Her entries combine details of the mundane with the spiritual. "Thursday Feb 4: My birthday. Fifty two years old in the camp of Isrial Winter Quarters. We had brandy and drank a toast to each other desireing and wishing the blessings of God to be with us all...Eliz Snow came here after me to go to a little party in the evening...Told her it was my birthday and she must bless me...I then went to the party. Had a good time singing praying speaking in toungues." A few days later: "Monday Feb 8: Finished making soap." She also writes of administering to the sick alongside her husband. "Wednesday Feb 17: I visited the sick. Mr. Sessions and I went and laid hands on the widow Holmans step daughter. She was healed."

In a letter to her husband, Bathsheba W. Smith (mother of George Albert Smith and future president of the Relief Society) writes of how she cared for her baby son when he was ill. "George Albert was sick last saterday and sunday. He had quite a feavor. I was vary uneaseey about him. I was afraid he was going to have the feavor. I took him to the fount and had him baptised and sinse then he has not had any feavor...I anointed him with oil a good many times." Baptism was used not only to initiate church membership, but also repeatedly to cleanse of sin and to cure illness.

As an older woman, Lucy Meserve Smith wrote a historical narrative of her life as a polygamous wife in the Salt Lake valley. One entry in particular provides insight into how she viewed the priesthood. "One evening after the rest of the family had retired I knelt down to pray and I was grasped by the wrist very tightly and it seemed as though there was something held over my face so it was very difficult for me to breathe or utter a word. Said i, old felloa you can figure away, but you've got the wrong pig by the ear this time...The Holy Spirit said to me they can do no harm where the name of Jesus is used with authority. I immediately rebuked them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood conferred upon me in common with my companion in the Holy Temple of our God. All that evil sensation left me immediately."

This view that the priesthood was jointly held by married men and women was prevalent in the early church, and couples often gave their children blessings together, with the mother anointing with oil and the father sealing the anointing. In 1910 President Joseph F. Smith said, "If a woman is requested to lay hands on the sick with her husband or with any other officer holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, she may do so with perfect propriety. It is no uncommon thing for a man and wife unitedly to administer to their children, and the husband being mouth, he may properly say out of courtesy, 'By authority of the holy priesthood in us vested'" (Improvement Era 10, February 1907, page 308.)

I know there must be a reason that things are done differently now. I trust the leadership of the church. But a part of me can't help feeling a bit wistful when I read of the experiences these amazing women had. One of the most beautiful traditions for me to contemplate was when women would bless one another during childbirth, anointing various parts of the body with an accompanying prayer to ease the pains of delivery. From pregnancy to watching their children get married, parenting was a team effort by the women in the Mormon community. It's probably my raging IVF hormones, but I wish our society was a bit more like that now. Except I'm really glad we have general anesthesia and epidurals.

My Fourteen Kids

Well, I survived egg retrieval on Tuesday. The whole procedure went perfectly. I was under anesthesia for about 40 minutes and woke up feeling so good that I drunkenly told the anesthesiologist, "Thanks for the great nap!" Dr. A performed the retrieval. He was able to extract 20 eggs, and as of yesterday we had 14 healthy embryos growing like crazy in their little petri dishes. This means that we have great odds of at least a few of them surviving to the blastocyst stage, 5 days after fertilization. We'll go in at 8:30 on Sunday morning for transfer, and then all we can do is wait until I go back for a beta pregnancy test. We're getting closer to the end! (Or the beginning, depending on how you look at it.)

Today, two days after retrieval, I'm feeling positively terrible. My belly is so bloated and tender that it hurts to breathe. Since I was hyperstimulated this is normal, but I have to keep an eye on my weight and make sure my fluid intake is high enough. If I gain more than 5 lbs in one day I have to call the doctor. In the meantime, all I can do is lie around the house and watch the Olympics. Walker, my kitten, has been incredibly sweet and calmer than usual for the last couple days. I think he knows I'm not feeling well. He follows me wherever I go in the apartment and is constantly at my side. Yesterday he took a nap with me, curled up against my tummy, and I woke up to him licking my chin and purring contentedly. He's like my little living heating pad.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Overachieving Ovaries

My life is pretty one-track these days. With all the time and attention it takes to complete an IVF cycle, I don't have much energy left to think about anything else. And here it comes...more IVF drama.

I've been going to my RE's office for blood draws and sonograms every day since Wednesday. It is beginning to feel like a true home away from home. I knew I was a true IVFer the day that I realized that all five of the rotating receptionists know me by name.

The reason I've had to go in every day is that on Wednesday I started showing signs of being hyperstimulated. (See OHSS.) Basically, that means that my ovaries are proving themselves to be little overachievers (in stark contrast to the rest of me, which lately has been stuck in slacker mode.) On Wednesday, Lan decided to reduce my Gonal-F injections from two to one vial a day. On Friday, she reduced it to one half a vial a day. And on Saturday afternoon I got a call that said, "Your estradiol levels are sky high. Stop all stimulation drugs." The idea was to help my ovaries "coast" for a while in hopes of slowing down egg production to a more reasonable level (i.e. one that won't cause them to explode, which is what it feels like they're about to do right now.) During my sonogram this morning the weekend RE didn't even bother to count my follicles because there were so many. I knew it was bad when the first sonogram image came up on the screen and the nurse who was there to record the measurements said, "Oh, lordy. I'm going to have to sit down for this one."

I waited on pins and needles for my afternoon call from the nurse and was relieved to hear that my estradiol levels are back to a safer level. I'll give myself the HCG shot tonight, which tells my body to go ahead and ovulate, and I'll have the egg retrieval on Tuesday (pushed up from Wednesday, yay!) and then with any luck we'll be able to proceed with the embryo transfer three to five days later.

And then, maybe my poor hardworking ovaries will get a break.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Excellent Responder

I had my first monitoring appointment today to see how I'm responding to the stimulation drugs. I'm happy to report that I am an excellent responder! In fact, I'm responding a bit too well. Lan could see 12 follicles on one ovary and 16 on the other. (In theory, each follicle develops one egg, although I'm told that there are normally more eggs than can be seen by ultrasound.) In order to avoid becoming overstimulated, I have to reduce my dosage of Gonal-F to one vial a day instead of two and for the next five days I have to go in every morning for bloodwork and a sonogram. That's right: every day for five days. I'll be spending lots of quality time on the beltway.

Monday, August 16, 2004


On Saturday I had an ultrasound to see if the Lupron has been doing its job. Eric came along with me and saw the whole internal sonogram process for the first time. (He was appropriately squeamish and sympathetic) Because Dr. B had a busy morning, my coordinating nurse Lan did the ultrasound. I love Lan. She's a petite Chinese-American woman with a strong accent who is simultaneously sweet and efficient. And she was much more gentle with the magic wand than Dr. B is, which I greatly appreciated. She turned the screen to show me what she was looking at. "See that? That your uterus. Next time, I wanna see babies in there."

My ovaries are nice and suppressed, just as they should be at this point, so it's on to the next step: stimulation drugs. I'm on a cocktail of Gonal-F and Repronex as well as a reduced dosage of Lupron. Lan showed me how to mix the three medications into just one shot, for which I will bless her name forever. I'm getting used to the injections, but if I can take one instead of three I'm not going to argue!

In other news, E and I have decided we want to move when our lease is up at the end of September. He's tired of spending three or more hours a day commuting, and we're both tired of our ward. During Relief Society yesterday someone asked me if I was new in the ward. Since we've been here for a year now, and are very involved in ward activities, our callings, etc, it's an illustration of how transient this area is. People don't get to know each other. We want to be somewhere where we'd feel a bit more grounded, especially once we have kids. Right now we're thinking about moving to downtown DC. This would be a huge change for us but I think it would be exciting. We'd get to know the city better and E would have an easy time getting to work and more time with me. Since he's been working so hard (lately it's pretty normal for him to work 70+ hours a week) it would make his life much easier to have more time at home. We've always thought we'd like to build a house in the country, have some property, and deal with the commute in order to have peace and quiet and space at home. If we move downtown, we'll be able to see the other side of it and experience what that's like. And I'm always up for new experiences.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Red Tent

Since graduating from college last year, one of the greatest pleasures I have discovered is reading. That may sound odd, considering that I was an English major and did nothing but read (and write about what I read) for a good four years. The difference is, now I can read whatever I want to, and I can do it at my own pace. I've re-read a lot of the books I had read hurriedly for classes and discovered new ideas I missed the first time. I've re-read the entire works of Orson Scott Card and was reminded of why I fell in love with his writing at the age of 13. Yesterday on my way to take a bath (ah, the luxury of my life!) I picked up my copy of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I enjoyed it the first time I read it several years ago, and this time it took hold of me so completely that I didn't even notice the bath water growing cold around me until my cat jumped up onto the side of the tub and peered down at me like I was crazy.

The Red Tent is a fictional retelling of Genesis 34, the story of Dinah the daughter of Jacob. Following the Jewish tradition of midrash, Diamant makes Dinah the narrator of her own story. In a simple but poetic voice, Dinah recounts the history of her family. Some aspects are familiar - the jealousy between Leah and Rachel, Jacob's wrestling with the angel, the sons of Jacob slaughtering the men of Shechem.

The difference is Dinah's voice. She speaks to the reader as if to a friend sitting in the same room. "We have been lost to each other for so long," she says in the prologue. "My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing." The heart of her story is in the traditions of her mothers, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. She tells about the work of their daily life: gardening, tending animals, cooking, spinning wool, carrying water, making beer. At a young age she becomes a midwife and learns how to use herbs, incantations, and birthing bricks to help mothers deliver their babies.

She also describes the religious traditions of the women, which were completely separate from those of the men. Long before the revelation of the ten commandments and the injunction to "have no other gods before me," Diamant speculates that the women likely worshipped a pantheon of goddesses. Some of those mentioned are Gula, goddess of healing, Taweret, goddess of maternity and childbirth, and Innana, the Great Mother and the Queen of Heaven.

The center of the women's spiritual lives is the red tent, the place where they gather together to separate themselves from the men while menstruating or giving birth. Far from being a punishment for impurity, this was a time of rejoicing and celebrating life; as Leah puts it, "In the red tent, the truth is known. In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of the last month's death, preparing the body to receive the new month's life, women give thanks -- for repose and restoration, for the knowledge that life comes from between our legs, and that life costs blood."

The women's lives revolve around fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth. The first time I read the story, I was fascinated by this at an intellectual level. Diamant provides many details about the herbs the women used for contraception, the prayers they uttered to induce labor, and the lengths they went to in order to achieve pregnancy. I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that this time, my interest was much more personal. I cried as I read the story of Rachel, who was infertile for many years before finally conceiving. "Rachel could not smile at her sister while her own body remained fruitless. She was often away from the family's tents, seeking the counsel of Inna, who had a seemingly endless list of concoctions and strategies to open her womb. Rachel tried every remedy, every potion, every rumored cure. She wore only red and yellow -- the colors of life's blood and the talisman for healthy menstruation. She slept with her belly against trees said to be sacred to local goddesses. Whenever she saw running water, she lay down in it, hoping for the life of the river to inspire life within her ... But all these things did nothing for Rachel's womb."

I relate to her feelings of desperation, to her willingness to try anything. That's the same thing I feel as I give myself shots each day and go to seeminlgy endless doctors appointments. And I count myself lucky that I was born in a time when effective treatments are available to me.

But there is something they had then that is missing now. Inside the red tent, the women care for one another and remind each other of the miracle of their bodies. While giving birth, the woman in labor is held up on three sides by her sisters while a midwife catches the baby. After the baby is born, they all care for the newborn and the mother until she is well enough to resume her normal life. The world we live in now is very different. Fertility treatments are not discussed openly, and are often kept a secret. Women give birth in hospitals with a husband and often no other women in the room. When she goes home with a new baby, she does it alone, unless she is lucky enough to have a mother who lives near by who can help. We live our lives largely separate from the support of other women. And at this particular time in my life, I grieve that loss.

Dinah speaks from the past, reminding us of the stories that are missing and urging us to remember them. "And now you come to me -- women with hands and feet soft as a queen's, with more cooking pots than you need, so safe in childbed and so free with your tongues. You come hungry for the story that was lost. You crave words to fill the great silence that swallowed me, my mothers, and my grandmothers before them...It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing." At the end of the book, Dinah leaves us with a promise that if we remember her story we won't be alone. "Blessings on your eyes and on your children. Blessings on the ground beneath you. Wherever you walk, I go with you."

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Don't mind me, it's just the Lupron talking

I've been taking Lupron for seven days now. So far it's gone well. The worst side effect has been the headaches. They start every day at around 2 in the afternoon and grow steadily worse until I go to bed. I'm very lucky that I don't have to deal with stress from work or school. I can lie down whenever I need to, do yoga, cook, and just focus on getting through this cycle.

The part I was most worried about - actually giving myself the injections - in reality has been the easiest. The first time I did it I sat there with the syringe pointed at my belly for 10 minutes before I finally got up the courage to plunge it in. I did it - and all I could think was, "Is that it?" The Lupron needle is so tiny that I barely feel it going in. The medication itself does sting for a while afterwards, but it's nothing terrible and I feel much better now about the prospect of giving myself heparin injections for nine months if I am lucky enough to become pregnant.

Other than the headaches, the only thing I can complain about is the mood swings. And really, Eric should be the one to complain about that. For a while he was puzzled every time I'd have an uncharacteristic outburst, but now he seems to be catching on to the fact that I'm going to be crazy as a loon for the next little while. He's been marvelous about everything so far.

I have a tentative calendar for how this cycle will go. Come on and follow the bouncing fertility ball with me!

Phase One: Ovarian Suppression
August 4-13 Lupron 10 units daily; Dexamethasone .5 mg daily

Phase Two: Ovulation Induction
August 14-24 Gonal-F 2 vials daily, Repronex 1 vial daily; Lupron 5 units daily; Doxycycline 100 mg daily (E will take this as well to prepare his sperm for ICSI); baby aspirin therapy
I'll be closely monitored during ovulation induction with daily visits to the RE for blood draws and ultrasounds.

Phase Three: Egg retrieval
August 25 I'll be under IV sedation (hallelujah!) while the doctor aspirates multiple eggs from my ovaries using a long needle.
Begin progesterone-in-oil injections; begin heparin injections.
E will give a sample of his sperm the same day, and the lab techs will combine a few of the good swimmers with a few of my eggs through ICSI (a procedure that has only existed for a few years in which a single sperm is injected with a needle directly into the egg. It is used in cases of severe male factor.)

Phase Four: Embryo Transfer
August 28-30 Depending on how well they develop, up to 3 embryos will be transferred into my uterus either 3 or 5 days after they are created in the lab.
Continue progesterone-in-oil and heparin injections.

Phase Five: Beta Test
September ? This is where we find out if it worked or not. If it did, I'll continue PIO and heparin shots; if not, we'll decide whether to go straight on to attempt #2 or take a break.

The really scary part is that anywhere along the way the whole thing could fall to pieces. I could be a poor responder and not produce enough eggs. I could produce too many eggs and develop OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) which can be very dangerous and result in a canceled cycle. Our embryos could fail to thrive in the lab. Or they could simply fail to implant after the transfer. As straightforward as the process seems to be, there is so much that could go wrong. Our chances of success are about as good as they possibly can be, but I'm doing my best to prepare myself for disappointment. I'm assuming we'll have to do this several times before succeeding. That way if it happens on the first try, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

And we're go!

Today is the official start of IVF/ICSI cycle number one. Yesterday I had a hysteroscopy to follow up on the D&C I had during my lap in June. They removed several polyps, and before we begin the IVF process we had to make sure those hadn't resurrected themselves. My first hysteroscopy was last October, and it was a breeze. I actually enjoyed it because the nurse turned the TV screen so that I could see the images they captured of inside my uterus. This time...all I can say is holy frijoles! As soon as the hysteroscope was in I had cramping like I've never experienced before (and I have endometriosis!) I think my innards were still sore from the lap/D&C because every time Dr. B moved the instrument it felt like she was stabbing me from the inside. Luckily the whole procedure was over in about 5 minutes.

Today I had my baseline ultrasound (date with the dildocam) to see if the birth control pills have suppressed my ovaries enough. They have, so Dr. B gave me the green light to begin Lupron injections tonight. That is, assuming my meds arrive today. They were supposed to come yesterday but there was a mix-up in shipping at Freedom Drug. The last person I spoke to assured me that I would receive them between 8:00 and 3:00 today, but it's now after 2 and there's no FedEx guy in sight. So we'll see what happens. I'm more than a little nervous about injecting myself; I'm trying to be a grown-up about it and mostly succeeding by forcing myself to think about other things.

The most surreal part of today's appointment was making out the check to the fertility center. We're participating in their shared-risk program, in which they require you to pay the full amount for 6 cycles up front. I won't shock you by mentioning amounts, but let's just say it'll be a long, long time before I write a check that large again.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Back from vacation...and fatter than ever!

Well, I promised to return with great tales of familial dysfunction, and I am as good as my word.

On our way to the Outer Banks we stopped off in Williamsburg to have a short visit with my grandmother. We have a cute nickname for her which all the grandkids use, but after this trip I think I’ll have to come up with a more descriptive name to call her. (Not to her face, of course.) Within minutes of being in her presence, she looked discerningly at Eric and me and said, “Hmm, both of you have put on quite a bit of weight.” Now, after knowing her for 26 years I’ve come to expect her to be downright bitchy most of the time, but somehow it still shocks me when she says things like that. “Thanks for noticing,” was the best response I could come up with. A few minutes later when E and I had left the room my dad (who has been under a great deal of professional stress lately and is literally on the verge of a breakdown) took his mother aside and sternly told her she had been rude and demanded that she apologize to us. She refused, then asked my sister, “Were you raised to disrespect your elders?” A few minutes later we left, and our vacation was off to a joyful start.

The week at the beach was actually rather uneventful this year, which is a good thing. Because of my dad’s emotional state, my parents decided to rent their own house separate from the rest of the extended family. This turned out to be a great move; most of the drama usually involves one of my uncles saying something inflammatory and my dad freaking out about it. This year he could just go over to his own house when he started getting annoyed. Also, because everyone was aware he’s having a hard time, there was much less provocation than there has been in years past. My uncles like to stir the pot, and my dad isn't the best at letting things go once he's been stirred.

I think the best part was hanging out with my cousins. There are 12 of us, and we only see each other once or twice a year. I had a great time sitting in the hot tub late at night talking with Alyssa and Hannah, who are 16 and 17 and both getting ready to apply to college. Every time I see them I’m shocked at how much they’ve grown, and impressed with the wonderful people they’re becoming.

Another fun part was that my aunt Carrie brought her mother Gunga along (that's not her real name, just her grandma name.) It was nice to have a grandmotherly person there, especially since Gunga is the exact opposite of my own grandmother in every way and is one of the sweetest women in the country.

On Thursday night at dinner all of us remarked that the week had gone exceptionally well. The weather was perfect, the water was warm, we ate amazing food every day, and we were all getting along. In retrospect, we really should have seen it coming. On Friday morning my uncle and my dad had a run-in about what to do for dinner that night. I won't get into detail because frankly it's extremely silly and boring. Suffice it to say, words were exchanged. That evening we all went to see The Village (which I loved) and back at the house we all sat in the living room having a nice discussion about the film’s meaning. I wasn’t in the room when it happened, but apparently someone said something that provoked my dad in just the right way and a nasty, nasty argument promptly ensued. It ended with my parents back at their own house and my uncle fuming at ours until late at night when he seemed to calm down a bit after sitting out on the deck by himself and coming back with an oddly grassy smell.

On Saturday morning they apologized and everything was OK again. Just in time for Eric and me to head back home.

So to summarize, we had a good time, and we are now more tired, tan, and fat than we were when we left. Long live the family reunion.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Off We Go

Well, this is it for me for a while. Eric and I are going on a week long vacation with my family. Every year they rent a house or two on the Outer Banks. My grandfather and my aunts, uncles and cousins all come and we spend one insane week together. I promise I will return with a plethora of amusing anecdotes about my dysfunctional family, and about how I look in a bathing suit.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Bad Science on TV

It's been mentioned before, but I just can't stand the way people with infertility are portrayed by the media, especially those who choose to pursue ART (assisted reproductive technology). Unless they are celebrities like Courteney Cox Arquette or Brooke Shields, chances are they will be portrayed as psychopaths with ulterior motives.

For once, Hollywood is lined right up with the religious fanatics who believe IVF is a mortal sin and equate the process to a "sloppy high school science project" in which lives are casually discarded because the parents are too selfish to accept "the will of God" that they were "not meant to have children" (real quotes from Human Life International's website.) In a different situation, these statements would be seen as ludicrous: "Oh, you have cancer? Well, sorry, looks like it's not the will of God for you to live. What? You want treatment? Oh no, that would be selfish! Why don't you go pray for a while and let us know how it works out. If it's God's plan for you to live, you will live." No one in their right mind would actually say this to someone with cancer. But when it comes to infertility there is an astonishing lack of compassion for those unlucky enough to have to deal with it.

You don't have to watch much primetime TV to get a glimpse of some of the outrageous views that are out there. Just the other night I was watching Law and Order: Criminal Intent, an episode entitled "Ill-Bred." (I know, already you can see where this is going.) The episode is set on a horse farm where there have been some mysterious activities going on. The detectives suspect that the female owner of the farm is using the horses to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. from overseas. When the truth comes out, they discover that in fact, the smuggling was orchestrated by Paige, a stable worker. In addition to running her own little drug cartel using equine uteruses as transport (proving right off the bat that she's a sicko), Paige had also manipulated her husband into having an affair with the married stable owner and made sure that a pregnancy would result by slipping fertility drugs into her husband's chewing tobacco and poking pinholes in his condoms. Her plan was to blackmail the rich owner and then buy her own horse farm, leaving her unsuspecting husband in the dust. Her plan works, until the detectives show up.

Now, what frustrates me is that most people won't realize how ridiculous the entire premise of the story is. Most people have no reason to understand how fertility works; it's not something they ever need to think about. As my sister remarked the other day, "You don't care how electricity works until your lights go out." Unfortunately, my lights have gone out and so I've done a lot of research and consequently I know way more about infertility than the average OB/Gyn. (I'm only exaggerating a little.)

There are multiple problems with the story, but here are the most glaring.

1) Paige secretly gives her husband gonadotropins (fertility drugs) in his chewing tobacco.
-Gonadotropins cannot be administered orally; they can only be given by injection. I am going to be taking these drugs soon, and believe me, if there were any way to take it orally I would know about it!

2) The gonadotropins make him produce extraordinarily large amounts of sperm, guaranteeing that he will impregnate Paige's boss.
-Gonadotropins are regularly used in women to stimulate ovulation. They are rarely used in men, and when it is, it is only for existing problems like an extremely low sperm count. They will not produce "super sperm" in men who are already producing sperm normally. And among men who do have sperm problems, gonadotropins only succeed in increasing sperm for about 15% of them.

3) While questioning the husband, Detective D'Onofrio tells him he's been taking fertility drugs. "That's impossible," he says. Detective D slyly asks, "Have you felt an extra 'spring in your step' lately?" "Yeah," the husband counters, "what of it?" Detective D: "Thank you, fertility drugs."
-This one annoys me most of all because it perpetuates the myth that sperm production is related to libido and sexual prowess. In reality there is no connection. You can't tell how many sperm you're producing by how sexually charged you feel. Fertility has little to nothing to do with libido. And fertility drugs are not a more expensive alternative to Viagra. In fact, they often have the opposite effect and cause the patient to lose all interest in sex because of the hormonal roller coaster his or her body is subjected to in the course of treatment.

So, to sum up, real life people who use fertility drugs are not all crazy, manipulative and greedy. And Law and Order's writers need to do better research before writing their scripts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Holy side effects, Batman!

I remember the first time I went on the pill, just before getting married, and how awful and puke-y I felt for the first few weeks. So after two days of ingesting my little pink friends, I was feeling rather proud of myself for feeling absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Until yesterday afternoon. At around 4:00 I felt a slight twinge in my forehead, which gradually developed into a full-blown, jackhammer-through-my-temples headache.

When bedtime came around my head was still pounding, so I decided to do a bit of yoga to get centered and relax it into submission. I was about 10 minutes into my practice doing a forward bend (and I must say, a pretty good one too, with my chest flat against my legs and my head gently stretching towards the floor) when all of a sudden I was wrenched out of my peaceful zen-like state by a spasm in my esophagus. Before I could utter a single "om," I was watching the contents of my dinner plummet towards my sticky mat.

Now, I know it's normal to feel nauseous while practicing yoga. But tossing my cookies in a completely inverted position was a brand new experience for me, and one I hope I don't repeat. After cleaning up I decided I'd had enough yoga for one night and crawled into bed with Eric, who stroked my hair until I fell asleep like the amazing man that he is.

Today the headache is still hanging on. I think tonight I'll skip the yoga and go straight to bed.

Monday, July 19, 2004

My Fairy Godmother

Yesterday was the official start of the IVF process, and what a start it was! I had an 8:30 a.m. appointment for my baseline sonogram and day three bloodwork. Since the clinic is about half an hour away, I set my alarm for 7:15, figuring that would give me plenty of time to get nice and pretty for Dr. B. Eric had volunteered to cover for a coworker and was at the office from 11:00 p.m. on Saturday until 6:00 a.m. I never sleep well when he's gone. It's not that I miss him - although I do - it's just that I am such a creature of habit that when something is different it throws me off. Couple that with the fact that Walker has a cold and kept sneezing directly into my face every 5 minutes or so, and that added up to a long night with no sleep. The last time I looked at the clock it was 4:30.

The next time I looked at it, it was 8:15. What the eff?!? As it turned out, Eric had climbed into bed at 6:30, and when my alarm went off 45 minutes later he reached over and turned it off without even waking up. Knowing that if I didn't make it to my appointment we would have to postpone our IVF by an entire month, I was frantic. I threw on a t-shirt and jeans, stuffed my hair into a ponytail, ran out to my car and sped all the way to the RE's office, half-awake the entire way.

When I got there at 8:50 I dashed into the waiting room and apologized profusely to the receptionist. She gave me a quizzical smile and said, "Well hello Chelsea ... what are you doing here so early? We have you down for 11:45. Didn't the scheduling nurse call you?"

No, in fact, she had not called me. But that's OK, that's OK, the good news is I almost killed myself trying to get to an appointment for which I was three hours early!

I waited for an hour, reading National Geographic through bleary eyes. Finally they called me back to get my vein punctured by a very grumpy phlebotomist. I couldn't blame her for being grumpy; who wants to be at work on a Sunday morning? And knowing that your day is going to consist entirely of sticking bitter, barren women with needles? I couldn't blame her one bit. After taking a nice little vial of my blood she directed me back to the examination room with the oh-so-friendly ultrasound machine and told me to strip.

For those of you not familiar with the fertility sonogram process, it is not at all like the ultrasound you get once you're pregnant, with the little curved transducer and the goopy lube on your belly. That is a much cuter process than this one. When the doctor is checking out your ovaries, she uses an internal wand. Here's a photo to tickle your imagination.

The ultra-friendly ultrasound wand, AKA the "dildo cam". Posted by Hello

Thanks to my insanely bad menstrual cramps, it wasn't such a fun time having that thing probing around inside of me. I mean, I'd take it over an HSG any day, but still. I distracted myself by pretending that Dr. B was my fairy godmother, waving her wand at my ovaries and giving them magic powers.

When the probing was over, she told me everything looked great and we were good to go for IVF #1. She gave me a prescription for birth control pills, which are used to suppress egg production so that when you start the stimulation drugs, it's like "BAM! Take that, you lazy ovaries!" and they respond by churning out dozens of eggs. I'll receive the details of my protocol in the mail sometime later this week. Basically, my treatment will go something like this:

1)Birth control pills for 4 weeks for suppression
2)Lupron injections for 5 days
3)Gonal-F and Repronex injections for 8-12 days, depending on how I respond
4)Trigger shot
5)Egg retrieval
7)Blastocyst transfer
8)Heparin treatment
9)Beta test

So there it is - 9 easy steps to an IVF cycle. The one thing that makes me the most nervous (besides the fear that it won't work) is the fact that I have a slight needle phobia. Of those 9 steps, 7 involve needles. At one point in the cycle, I will be giving myself 6 injections in one day. Yikes. This is going to be interesting.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Je me souviens de toi

Four years ago today, one of my best friends died. He was 23 years old, a victim of depression and alcoholism.
I met him when I was 19, the summer after my freshman year of college. We instantly became friends, and after knowing each other for a few weeks we started dating. He was my first serious boyfriend, and it was with him that I learned all of those things you learn in your first adult relationship. We were decidedly amateurs when it came to communication, trust, and balancing time together and time apart. In a couple of months we went from planning our wedding to absolutely hating each other. I was convinced he was lying to me, and he was convinced I was lying to him. (We were both wrong.) After Christmas, I decided not to return to school for winter semester so I could have some space. On Valentine's Day we broke up.
For over a year we had no contact. The next summer he came home, and because we attended the same church we inevitably ran into each other. After a few tentative and awkward conversations, we talked about what had gone wrong. We talked about our regrets, and we forgave each other for the hurt we had caused. We developed a friendship that was far more understanding and open than our romantic relationship had ever been. He called me for advice about his new girlfriend, we played our guitars together, he taught me how to make pesto. When I decided to go on a mission to France, he was my biggest supporter, and one of the last friends I hugged good-bye.
There's a lot I don't know about what happened in the next several months. I was working hard and going through some enormous challenges on my mission. He and his parents wrote me encouraging letters, and I assumed everything was fine and that he would be around when I got home.
It wasn't. And he wasn't.
In the four years that have passed, I've learned a lot. I've learned to forgive myself for being so caught up in my own life. For being unaware of the absolute hell he must have been living in. For being powerless to help in any way that mattered. I'm grateful for the time we spent together before I left for France and that I got a chance to say the things I said. Not everyone gets that chance.
Most of all, I'm grateful for the peace I have found in my life. I am so blessed with a wonderful husband who is the best friend I could ever ask for, and who makes my life more spectacularly happy than I had ever imagined it would be. I strongly believe that we go on after death, and so I like to think that somehow, my old friend is looking down on me and wishing me well. 

So today, on the anniversary of a terrible event, I remember all that he taught me, and I thank him.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Please Pass the Pills

Eric came home from work today and found me lying on our bed in a fetal position, moaning and cursing the day I was born. Naturally, he thought I was dying. Then he saw the heating pad and the bottle of oxycodone and realized that I was just having period-induced cramps.

Three weeks ago I had a laparoscopy to investigate my innards, specifically the innards that are related to producing babies. My RE (Reproductve Endocrinologist, AKA Really Expensive fertility doctor) found endometriosis on my ovary, bowel, and the back of my uterus - in endometriosis land, what they call the cul-de-sac. Because of the torture I endure every month, I was not surprised with my diagnosis. In a way it helps to know what's causing the pain and to know that I am not a hypochondriac. There's a cause for what I feel. So I'm glad I have some sort of explanation.

Dr. B removed all the endo she could, using a laser (or possibly a light sabre), and also scraped some polyps out of my poor battered uterus. She warned me that my next period would be a doozy. She wasn't lying.

I've never been more grateful for percocet.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Jumpin' on

Well, here it first post. I'm officially jumping on the joyful blogging bandwagon! I think I'll start with an icebreaker, one of those email surveys we all know and love and forward to all our friends. My good friend The Anti-Drama Queen posted a survey on hers, and what better way to begin my own blog than by stealing an idea from someone else's? 
What's the last thing you ate and drank?
A huge hamburger from Foster's Grill and a Diet Coke with Lime. Mmmm.

Have you ever experienced deja vu?
Yes, over and over again.

Favorite ice cream?
Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk or Cherry Garcia. Edy's Grovestand Peach. Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip. I'm pretty much an equal opportunity ice cream lover.

What are you doing this weekend?
Officially starting my first IVF cycle.  And organizing my closet.
What is the most embarrassing item in your record collection?
Backstreet Boys "Millenium". But that's only because I lost my Spice Girls album.
Something you love?
Having my feet rubbed.
Something you hate?
Road rage. Get some perspective people, there are lots of better things to be mad about!

Can you raise one eyebrow at a time?
Only my right one.
What are you wearing?
Yoga pants and a t-shirt.

Do you take a shower every day?
No, I take baths to help me relax at night. I have an insomnia problem.

Do you have any pets?
I have a 7 week old cream and white tabby kitten named Walker.
Bikini or one-piece?
Oh heavens. I shudder at the thought of either one. The beach is going to be interesting this year.

What's your favorite sleeping position?
On my side, with two pillows under my head and one between my legs.
Countdown of facts about me...
10 bands you've seen live - Oasis, U2, Matchbox 20 (twice), Beth Orton (twice), David Gray, Tori Amos, Switchfoot, Sixpence None the Richer, Noah Paley, Toad the Wet Sprocket.
9 things you're looking forward to - Having a baby, going to the Outer Banks next week, spending lots of time with my husband, seeing my family, getting a tan, going to grad school someday, being skinny again someday, buying a house, organizing my closet (seriously, I'm not kidding).
8 things that you wear daily - underwear, jeans (almost every day), makeup, my wedding ring ... and I'm out. 
7 things that annoy you - (ooh, this is going to be easy) Inconsiderate drivers, people who are self-righteous, being awakened in the morning before I need to be, people who get pregnant by accident, people who tell me I'm not pregnant yet because I need to "relax", when that guy I live with leaves cabinets open after getting something out of them, losing things (have I already named 7?)
6 things you touch every day - My husband, the refrigerator door, a book of some sort, Walker, the keyboard, my hair and lots of other things. 
5 things you do every morning - Groan, sleep for "just 5 more minutes", stretch, pray, eat a bowl of cereal.
4 TV shows you enjoy watching - 24, Friends, The Office, The Simpsons.
3 movies you could watch over and over - Sense and Sensibility, The Matrix, Dumb and Dumber
2 of your favorite songs at the moment - Ryan Adams "English Girls Approximately", Tori Amos "Taxi Ride" - who wouldn't love a song that begins with "Lily is dancing on the table"?
1 person you could spend the rest of your life with - the one I married, which is quite fortunate. Still can't believe I tricked him into it.

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