Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Shot of Romance

There's a tremendous amount of poking and prodding in the land of infertility. It's invasive and occasionally scary. I'm told I have delicate veins each time I flinch when my blood is drawn. I don't like needles and I'm a wimp when it comes to pain. I was not looking forward to the IVF shots that were about to begin.

Our IVF drug start date loomed on a calendar circled in a bright red sharpie. I hung it in our kitchen so he would help me remember how real this all was about to become. Our nurse called as a reminder too.

We celebrated the night before with a bottle of red wine and a delicious dinner. They suggest you abstain from alcohol and caffeine when you start the drugs. I'm not a big drinker, but I will miss my wine. I had an upcoming dinner party planned and I knew my friends would question my lack of wine glass in hand. Solution: make sangria (with wine & without). It workslike a charm.

I failed to completely wean myself off coffee but was down to 1/2 caf/ 1/2 decaf in the morning. I figured I'd be pure within a couple weeks. I was starting a hard freelance job and knew I'd need that extra bump for at least one more week. The doctor didn't seem too concerned as long as I started taking Estrace (pills).

The first shot you'll take is Lupron. It's injected in your thigh or arm Your nurse can show you the drill. Or you can simply follow the instruction as we did. Side effects may include bloating, mood swings or 'fuzzy brain' ( I had all three, but nothing too extreme).

My honey is a methodical one-task wonder, so I wasn't too concerned that he'd miss a beat in our nightly ritual. Sure there was the pain issue, but I was concerned that I'd feel awkward or embarrassed by this unsexy route to pregnancy. Wrong! Call me crazy, but there was something romantic about these shots. Big needle or not, he was tender in all the right ways. It's intimitate in that good way. This may not be as fun as baby-making the old fashioned way, but who knows where the night might bring you both. Light a candle. Enjoy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Give Me the Drugs

Once we chose a donor, it took about a month longer than anticipated for our cycles to sync together. She had been a previous (proven!) donor and her meds may have caused her period to be delayed by nearly a month. By the time I was off my BCP (birth control pills = hello water weight) and able to start meds, I was anxious to get this show on the road.

You'll receive a call from the pharmacy asking for your address so they can Fed-Ex your medications. Fed-Ex?! I don't think so! This wasn't some sweater I had ordered from The Gap. Ok, this is just an example, I never order clothes on-line, I'm too tactile and I don't trust that they'll fit.

Besides, you need to sign for your fed ex. so shipping to my home wasn't an option during the work week. Although the return label doesn't say 'FROM THE SUPER-DUPER EXPENSIVE IVF DRUG COMPANY," I still didn't want any of my nosy co-workers wondering what just came in the mail.

The meds are sent by Fed-Ex to your donor, but you have the option to pick up yours if you choose. They won't be sent to your local CVS or Walgreens, they are delivered to a 'speciality pharmacy.' which may or may not be in your neighborhood. I had to drive about 40 minutes for mine. I'm glad I did.

At the fancy pharmacy, you'll be faced with a giant shopping bag (think Gap again) filled with lots of "stuff' and lots of information. I immediately felt overwhelmed with the sheer amount of pills, bottles, syringes (two kinds and gulp, so many), swabs and containers that were laid out on the counter.

There are different instructions for each drug. Some need to be put in the 'door' of your fridge (Lupron). Some do not. Some are taken with food. Some or not. While everything is labeled and spelled out, I took comfort in having an actual person explaining each part. I'm sure I could have figured it out on my own, but I needed that extra bit of comfort and peace of mind. You'll be struck with the weight of 'oh shit, this is really happening' once you see the magic drugs before you.

My insurance (thank you Motion Picture :{ )doesn't cover infertility, but they ran my card through anyways. I saved $150 by picking it up in person. I didn't have to worry that my package was at some Fed-ex station in Texas or Illinois. There's enough to worry about with IVF, this shouldn't be one of them

On my way out the door the pharmacist told me to call anytime. As I gathered up my bag of goodies, she gave me the warmest smile and wished me luck. That was worth the drive alone.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The 24-hour Wallow

The other day I visited an old friend and came home feeling miserable. It was nothing she said or anything she did. It was only a few hours spent with her and her adorable girls. Beautiful toddlers with faces that lit up when I entered the room. Despite a lovely afternoon that included wine and Auntiie Em cupcakes, I could not shake the feeling of sadness when I returned home.

It had been awhile since I had visited and now I remembered why. She had the one thing that had eluded me for so many years. What I felt was envy. Pure and simple. That ugly emotion we are taught to ignore. It was choking me and I couldn't let it go. So I didn't, I decided to wallow. But this time , I did something different. Instead of moping for days, my wallow had a 24-hour limit. My screenwriter neighbor (who deals with rejection on a daily basis) first suggested this uncanny notion. It's like a 24-hour cleanse of all the vile that's in your body. I was intrigued.

What to do in 24 hours.

Go ahead and wallow. Wallow in your misery. Wallow in your pain. Wallow in the injustice. You might not be able to tell someone to 'fuck off' when they tell you 'just relax and it will happen.,' but imagine what that would feel like if you did. It's your 24-hour day, do whatever the hell you want. Stay in bed. Watch bad reality. Write it. Burn it. Eat chocolate. Drink wine. Don't pick up your phone when your mother calls. Infertility sucks and you deserve a good wallow.

And if you need longer, well, you need longer. Whatever gets you through the day, is right for you. For me, I'm trying this new rule out. Is it working? I'm not so sure, but I'm willing to give it a try. The alternative doesn't feel so great.

I've experienced pain and paralyzing bouts of fear that I would never achieve this lifelong dream. It's impossible to deny these feelings, but I decided to not allow these feelings to rule me. Even if the outcome isn't what I imagine, I can, in this moment
choose not to wallow in worry.

Donor eggs. Adoption. Foster Care. When I consider these options I think I'll wallow in hope.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My First Egg Crush

I'm not ashamed to admit my former dalliances in the internet dating world. I'm sure I'm not alone . If you haven't done it personally, you've looked over your cousin/best friend/co-workers shoulder to peak at their dating site with hundreds of hopeful 'this may be the one.'

So it doesn't surprise me at all that my first look at a Donor Egg site feels strangely familiar. These sites have clever names like 'Conceivabilities' and 'Alternative Conceptions.' They list dozens of women with attractive photos and sparkling white teeth. Suddenly it feels like I'm cyber trolling for dates again. There are so many sites. So many choices. It's overwhelming. We laugh through some of it and I break down more than once. It can bring on jealously you didn't know you had inside.

Get ready for it all.

I feel shallow when I pass on the girl with the big nose (my honey has a honker and I fear we might have a girl.) I feel ashamed when I reject the one who didn't go to college or the pre-med who revealed her mother's depression. This is one of the toughest choices you'll ever make.

But that's only the beginning. Wait till you learn what your partner is looking for. Education and intelligence were at the top of his list ( he never would have picked me, my college GPA sucked.) He swore he could detect hapiness and he wanted someone with a sparkle like mine (his sweet quote.) I wanted an artist with dark hair and eyes like my own. I gravitated towards good writers with warm smiles who volunteered and travelled around the world. I suppose I was looking for a little part of me.

We chose not to meet the donors in person. It felt too complicated and uncomfortable for me. Respect those feelings. Donor profiles are fairly detailed and you can learn a great deal about someone's personal and health history in a few pages. Honestly, I was fascinated by the whole process of it all.

And now for the difficult part. The choice. After scouring dozens of sites, I kept coming back to one woman. I was drawn into her deep brown eyes and porcelain skin. She was an artist who worked as a nanny because she loved children. She seemed smart and good natured. I could be friends with her. And then I thought to myself, "I have an egg crush." And then I said it out loud to my man who was buried in his computer. I thought it would make him laugh and it did. But I meant it. Despite my good intentions to stay detached, I was smitten.

Serendipity came into play when the agency we chose turned out to be run by a childhood friend of mine. Only days prior to deciding, we had reconnected via Facebook. I knew we could trust her. She suggested that we pick at least three candidates in case one might not be available. Excellent advise.

I definitely lead the search, but we both had the veto vote. He was far more detached then I pretended to be. We took nearly a month to decide on our choices of egg donors. Looking back, I wish we had made them sooner.

Here's a few lessons we learned the hard way.

Websites are not always accurate. The girl who's 'In Cycle' may actually be available and the girl who is not "In Cycle," might be. We wanted someone local and that wasn't easy to determine on most sites. The ex-beauty queen pre-med student might charge you $12,000 (average is $5500-8500) for her prime-proven eggs. There's lots of reasons why someone may or may not be available. And think about this, if you have an 'egg crush, ' you're probably not the only one. You might have to wait in line for her next cycle. We weren't willing to delay another cycle. We were ready now.

It's human nature to get attached, but you can't alway control the outcome. Trust your gut and jump right in. Turned out another couple felt the same way about my crush as I did, but they acted on it one week sooner. I was disappointed, but moved forward. Picks two and three were in cycle also. Shit, could everyone else really have the same DNA taste as us? This was getting depressing. It felt like dating all over again.

And then I remembered what lead me to find my perfect match (my wonderful him.) Getting out there again even when you're sick and tired of being let down. The search was back on and this time we had more inside information.

We picked another three women more easily this time. I looked closer at the green eyed mother with the beautiful young son. She was 'in cycle' and we hadn't thought to ask the first time around. She was our bonus pick and turned out to be the one we decided to choose after all.

I will forever be grateful for the women who choose to donate. They are goddesses to me. But I am the mother. Or I hope I will be. I think I lost sight of that in the dating pool of youth and fertility. I hope I won't lose sight again.

I'll always remember my first crush, but it was time to let it go. Or was it? That's another blog. Another story. Another night.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The IVF Coordinator - the Wizard behind the OZ.

After we survived the doctor's visit, we were introduced to our IVF coordinator. She is a trained nurse and so much more. She is the liason responsible for the medical, legal and financial information that will rock your world for the next few months.

Don't make the mistake of talking money with your doctor. Ours gave us a number thousands 'less' than we were anticipating. So when our coordinator showed us the contracts with the real numbers, we were concerned. She apologized and said, "He's a brilliant doctor, he truly cares, but he should know better than to discuss money." I'm glad he's not our accountant, but his statistics for births are one of the best in town. He's lucky he has her. She put us at ease. She felt real to us.

She is the Wizard behind the OZ. The one behind the curtain, pulling the strings and making sure we all stay on task. Our Dr. OZ (not his name -- no worries Oprah) is a nice man, but this is not like going to your warm and fuzzy gynecologist. He is a scientist and I hope he's brilliant like Einstein. I'm praying this science experiment works. There are so many emotions riding on this, I find comfort in believing in the procedure.

Sometimes I feel like just another statistic hoping to beat the odds. We've seen our doctor only once for our initial meeting. I'm not sure if this is normal, but we've mostly dealt with the coordinator. Emails and phone calls are returned in a timely manner, so I don't really have any complaints so far.

I recently learned that Michael Jackson's Paris and Prince were conceived via IUI (turkey-baster) at our clinic. I could have lived without that creepy knowledge (I read it on some trashy post-eulogy MJ story) , but I still believe we're in the right place.

I met with one other IVF doctor and he was a pompous ass. His waiting room blasted Jerry Springer on TV and I knew I was in trouble. I left his office in tears. Next time around, I did my homework. We picked the clinic with the best reputation . We were referred by my gyno, my fertility acupuncturist and a friend. We liked the doctor. We liked the nurses. We liked the coordinator.

The coordinator is the keeper of the 'all mighty' calender of meds, shots and eventual retrieval. Get to know this lady or gent. Yours will be your lifeline through all of this. Our coordinator is kind and patient. She tried to warn us about the range of emotions that we might feel in choosing a donor. She gently said, "Choose carefully, but don't get too attached to any one donor."

It's sound advise. It was easy to hear. I wish it had been easier to follow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When to tell or not to tell.

I realize most people write blogs in the present. Blogs resemble the diary in a modern age. For the next few entries, I'm writing in the past and attempting to catch up to the present. I'm not too far away.

In my donor egg education, I found fertility blogs to be insightful and comforting. I loved reading about donors and why they decided to donate. I cried when I learned other woman avoided their pregnant friends and felt guilty like I did. Blogs can be educational. They can be hillarious. They can also be healing.

If we have a child, we've agreed to tell them the story of their birth. We're not quite sure how or when, but we agree it's important to tell. Eventually we'll probably tell our family and close friends. I think woman are incredibly fortunate to have this option. For me, I see no reason to keep it hidden forever. Although I respect anyone's decision not to tell.

Sometimes I wonder why I've chosen to keep my IVF plight secret from my closest friends and family. I haven't even told my closest sister who I can tell my deepest, most disgusting secrets to with no judgment on any level (a mutual pact.)

I'm grateful for amazing friends and family. They love me. They love my man. Most of my inner circle are blessed with healthy, adorable children and they would be over-the-moon happy for us if a child came into our world. But these same friends/family shouldered my not-so-private pain and disappointment when my fertility path lead to a nowhere a few years back.

In spite of their good intentions, I realize I couldn't face 'that' look. That 'look of worry' in their eyes that it might not happen for me again. Believe me I've dealt with that worry. I've faced that real concern and I've decided to go for it again. This time, with better odds, a clear intention and certainly a better partner.

So for now, it's kept private. Between he and I. Well, I guess that's not entirely true. I do have a wonderful counselor (more of a life coach) who I call from time to time. And then there's my acupuncturist who treats me for fertility. She's wise, talented and funny as hell. She lets me ramble for most of my session. She's a great listener, and sometimes that's all I really need.

My best friend keeps telling me she's having dreams that I'm pregnant. I'm dying to tell her. She'd be fascinated by the science and miracle of it all. I know I am. I hope I'll have an amazing story to share with her in just a few more months. I really do. I'm just not ready to share it right now.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Vessel

There would be no link to my Irish heritage. No taste of the Italian. My European genes would not be passed on to the next generation. I had wrestled with the loss of a biological child two years ago when I had decided to adopt.

I knew I could love an adopted child. I figured I'd feel no different about the birth of a donor egg kid. Love is love. He was just beginning to process it all.

It was his idea to jump to the next level of IVF. He has excellent genes. Dreamy blue eyes with a mad talent for math and music. His father just turned 80 and still rides his bike every day. If I was picking sperm, I'd shout, "My that's some smart spunk you got there mister!"

He clearly felt the desire to grow the fruit of his loins. He wanted that biological link and he wanted me. I suppose that made me the vessel. Our vessel of love. Mother. Father. Child. Family. I felt honored. I was thrilled. I was terrified. I was in.

So off we went to the fifth floor of the high-rise clinic north of Rodeo drive. We chose one of the best clinics in the country. We are not rich, but we are fortunate to be able to afford this. It is not cheap (understatement) and there are no guarantees.

It was reminiscent of a biology lecture and he was the new exchange student (the cute one from Belgium.) Charts and illustrations of fallopian tubes, uterus, sperm and eggs. The doctor was surprisingly warm as he explained the scientific mystery of it all. I had heard some of this before. He was attempting to absorb it all.

I was not shocked nor surprised when the doctor suggested donor eggs. Despite my expiring eggs, I have the uterus of a 35-year old (listen up sisters, many of us do! ) and a thick lining when I ovulate. He gave us encouraging odds (70-80%) if we chose donor eggs. This was better news than I had expected.

I turned to him and he looked shaken, like he had lost his best friend. The doctor got up and left us alone.

I grabbed his hand and said "Honey, these are better odds then we had expected." All he said was "But I want you." Tears fell down my face.

I felt sick. I felt old. I felt like I had failed us. I was incredibly sad. Why had it taken so long to find someone who finally felt so right?