Friday, July 28, 2006

Just desserts? Part 1.

If you were to ask me if I am superstitious, I would say no. I would say no because I think that superstitious people are also likely to be living in Dickensian boardinghouses in rooms filled with cats, manifestoes detailing the occupants' conspiracy theories, and the pungent smell of urine. But I would be lying to say that I'm not superstitious at all. For example, whenever I get on a plane, I have a discreet little ritual that I perform in order to keep all of us from crashing. I shall never reveal what it is, but should you and I be on a plane together, I hope you will feel safer. I also have a hard time not making a wish whenever the clock hits 11:11. And I can't help feeling a bit doomed when a black cat crosses my path or a mirror cracks upon the wall.

Similarly, if you were to ask me if I am religious, I would say no. Although I went to religious schools from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and can still, on demand, spill forth all the books of the Bible in order and spelled correctly, I do not go to church (unless there's a wedding at one, which happens less and less frequently these days as most of my friends are older when they get married and thus are less prone to the traditional hometown nuptials and more prone to the destination wedding). Now, I am more religious than my husband, or at least I have more of a positive feeling about religion than he does. At our own wedding, I desperately wanted the officiant to boom: "Those whom God has joined, let no man put asunder!" I love that shit. And I got it, despite my husband's initial demand that the word God would not appear in our ceremony (which was going to be a tricky proposition in any event, since our officiant was a minister). Still, though, my point is that I would not call myself religious.

But my denial of any religiosity is kind of a lie, too. Throughout the course of my life, I have certainly prayed in times of fear - everything from air turbulence to driving over what I consider to be attractive-terrorist-target bridges to situations much more personal than that. And here's where the title of the post comes in. Over the course of the past, ahem, let's say many years, there were times when circumstances were such that my anxiety-prone brain worried What if I'm pregnant? I'm not married! Woe is I! Bleat! So in moments like these, which in retrospect obviously shouldn't have caused me a moment's irritation, I would pray to God that I was not pregnant. And I never turned out to be pregnant. (Maybe this should have served as a clue to me to start TTC a bit earlier, but it didn't.)

So here's where my superstitious tendencies and bad-weather religiosity combine somewhere in the recesses of my shrill brain. [An aside: I just looked at my watch, and it's 11:11.] Here's what my brain surmises: maybe I entered into some kind of contract with the powers that be, whether that's a supreme being or something more like karma, and not until the number of heartbreaking BFNs surpasses the number of oh-thank-God BFNs will I ever succeed in getting an embryo to stick around. No, I can't remember how many of the latter there were. But it seems like there were many, even though I really shouldn't have been so worried, for a long list of reasons that I won't go into now but that anyone who's read TCOYF will understand.

Yes, I'm crazy. I should be a real treat when my naturally insane personality is combined with Alzheimer's in about 40 years.

But that's not all...stay tuned for Part 2 of our continuing series.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Let's get this part out of the way

Obviously, I just started blogging after two failed IVF cycles, so those particular (highly relaxing) experiences are not being relayed in a riveting fashion in real time. I considered blogging before the first one, and then again during the second one, but I was afraid that they might actually work, and then how embarrassing would that be to be an infertility blogger who immediately got knocked up? Oh, it all seems hilarious to me now. Sort of like when I used to be worried about transferring more than one embryo. Those days, like my buttocks, are behind me.

But if you're an infertile yourself, you want the details. And I, service-oriented to my dying breath, shall provide them. The stirring, bullet-pointed narratives commence now:

IVF w/ ICSI #1 (March/April 2006):
Standard long leuprolide protocol - BCPs, leuprolide, F-stim, R-nex, HCG, Medr., Tetr., PIO.
9 days of stims.
24 follicles, 12 mature eggs, 8 fertilized; all looked great at day 3, so we went for a day 5. All went to hell by day 5. Transferred one "fair" blast in a very tortuous and torturous ET (due to retroflexed uterus). 0 frozen. BFN.

IVF w/ ICSI #2 (June/July 2006):
Standard long leuprolide protocol - BCPs, leuprolide, F-stim, R-nex, HCG, Medr., Tetr., PIO.
10 days of stims, better response throughout cycle; dosages slightly lower at end.
29 follicles, 21 mature eggs, 19 fertilized; 12 frozen at PN stage and 7 cultured; all looked great on day 3. Transferred two (one 8-cell, one 9-cell) on day 3 in a slightly better but still tortuous and torturous ET. Continued culturing the others; 1 good blast frozen. BFN.

Both times, I did acupuncture. (On the second cycle, I even ritualistically visualized my embryos with the help of my AnjiOnline CD - really, I'll try anything.) Both times, I ate fruits and vegetables - and took folic acid - and exercised leading up to the cycle. Both times, I felt heartened and optimistic about my response to the drugs. And both times, I ended up weeping in my bed like a spurned and lovelorn teen when it didn't work, which is understandable but inadvisable given that whenever I cry I look as though I've been crying for approximately six weeks afterwards. I should at least make a point to weep from a sitting position. [An aside: I went to summer camp from when I was nine until I was twelve (at which point the camp directors got a divorce and sold the place), and I remembered recently that at the beginning of every session the counselors would deliver a spiel about how, if you felt homesick, you shouldn't cry in the communal bunk area of your cabin but rather should cry while you were in the shower. Presumably, this was to prevent a contagion of homesickness from sweeping the cabin, but it's kind of hilariously old-school and repressive, isn't it?]

As I mentioned below, the REs don't know why it isn't working. For this, they are paid more than $300,000 a year, which is real money where I live. Obviously, though, I do have endometriosis. If I were half as determined as my endometriosis is, I would be both rich and famous by now, and I might have solved the issue of climate change.

[Another aside: I'm considering asking for a urinary catheter during/after my next ET. That's right - I've had such bad experiences with the full bladder and the long, painful transfer that a catheter sounds preferable. For some reason, I cannot use a bedpan - I just can't get the pee to come out. Yes, it is a failure of character. And, yes, I've had a catheter inserted sans anesthesia before. I do recall at the time thinking that I hoped never to have that happen again. Have any of you had a catheter during ET?]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is 4:15 too early to start drinking?

I think not. After all, I was awake at 3:30, despite the Ambien I took. I never take Ambien, and so I was really hoping for eight hours of dreamless oblivion after peeing on another stick and confirming that even the most active, desperate imagination could not conjure up a second line. I have never seen that second line. To me, it is a jackalope. In any case, I took an Ambien after drinking two XL glasses of wine, which had me good and silly after several weeks off. And it still didn't work. Story of my life these days. I tried everything is my current refrain.

Today, I dragged my puffy eyes into the RE clinic, where I managed to maintain a stoic facade, never mind that it was betrayed by said puffy, puffy lids (which each contributed an additional five pounds of bloat to my body) as well as my bloodshot irises. Well, as I always tell myself whenever I'm spreading my legs for yet another person to have a look around, they've seen worse. Also, they're the ones who signed up for this job. Should I ever make it into a delivery room, I will not be the least bit perturbed when I shit all over the place. Make a note.

Anyway, today I saw the mustachioed RE and his trusty sidekick, the brand-new RE Fellow, who at this point mainly just sits there and nods emphatically from time to time. Their assessment of the cycle? They don't know why it didn't work. That's their consistent refrain. I wish I could pull that shit at my job. So, Motel Manager, why didn't project XYZ get done? Oh, there's really no way of knowing; we could try again, or maybe do a different project instead.

I inquired about immune issues, which they don't really put any stock in. I inquired about whether I might have secretly bad eggs - eggs that look appealing but are really deeply flawed in the manner of a tragic hero who will be his own undoing - and they said maybe yes, or maybe it's the sperm, or maybe both, or maybe neither.

The good news is that I am permitted to move ahead with an FET. I was afraid they'd make me wait, and I am in the zone and don't want to wait. I have one frozen good blast, and 12 embryos at the pronuclear stage. But the fact that I have a very poor record of moving good-looking day-3 embryos to the blast stage concerns all of us. The question of how many to thaw was raised. I asked if they'd thaw them all. They laughed oh, ho ho, no, but frankly my current hit rate probably isn't even 1 in 12, so maybe we should go for it? They'll raise the issue of how many to thaw at the team meeting on Tuesday. And then I shall receive a Letter. With a Recommendation.

The nurse then tried to tell me that I couldn't start right away because the lab is down in mid-August, but I sent her back to the mustachioed RE with the edict to find a solution. It was a George-Bush-style managerial moment, and I am not proud. But unlike our president, I produced good results. Tonight I start taking birth control pills to delay my period (which, if it's like the last time, will resemble the crime scene of a mass killing) for a week, which will in turn allow me to do an FET in late August, when the lab is back up. I'll start Estrace around 8/1. Something different! The thrill!

For now, it is time to drink. After all, it's 4:30. Bon soir, my nonexistent readers.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The mother of invention

It occurs to me that I may be able to offer a fantastic business opportunity to the public. As our president (god, how it pains me to say that) has pointed out, there sure are a lot of them embryo babies in storage. 400,000, by some counts.

Obviously, and understandably, people with frozen embryos face a dilemma, especially since they can't donate the embryos for federally funded research. But even if they could donate them to research, a not-insignificant number of people would still confront this dilemma. Do you discard your embryos? That might not feel right. But do you want to donate them for someone else to bear your biological child? Eh, that doesn't feel so great, either.

So here's what I'm offering. Send your embryos to me, and I will, for a fee, have them transferred into my uterus. And it seems to me that there is zero chance that they will survive in such a hostile environment. You can wash your hands of guilt, since you gave them a shot at developing. It's sort of like releasing your dog into the Yukon Territory - technically, he's got a chance.

Demented? Check. Morbid? Check. Offensive? Check. I figure that at the rate of one FET every month, I can serve a minimum of 12 clients per year, possibly more. After all, I'm in no danger of multiples.

Open all night

It has become apparent to me that I'm operating an embryo motel, which can be imagined two ways, neither of them likely to result in happiness or fulfillment, though they are both effective at producing drunkenness.

First, my motel could be thought of like the Roach Motel, where roaches check in, but they don't check out. Alternatively, my motel could merely connote any sort of short-term type of lodging, where guests might be there for a night or two, maybe three, but really under no circumstances would they ever consider staying there for a week. My motel, you see, must be the kind of dilapidated joint on a grimy frontage road near the airport that you would only stay in under the worst of circumstances (e.g., hurricane evacuation, plague, apocalypse), and no one in their right mind, or any mind, would settle in. (Or, really, it occurs to me that there's a third way, too - my motel is like the Bates Motel, and Norman Bates resides within.)

The short version: two IVFs, two BFNs. The slightly longer version: good response, good quality, still BFN. (More later.) My uterus appears to be an embryo-eating black hole, and I hope that it is soon recognized for its accomplishments with some sort of plaque. In any case, welcome.