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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