I’m really behind on the updates. I’ve just been so incredibly sleepy. Some time has gone by since then, but I did have my weeping Hannah moment in church. Ironically, though, it had nothing to do with me or anything I could’ve predicted.
Call it a divine revelation or or a alignment of coincidental thoughts — not that I don’t believe either is possible — but given that this site has been up and circulated, I might call it something different. Whatever it was led to an altar call for “a couple struggling to conceive.” I only recently posted positive pregnancy results, but I knew at time that I was and had told the people most proximate to me on a day-to-day basis. But it wasn’t widely known, particularly not by the person led to invite “a couple struggling to conceive” to the altar.
Don’t misunderstand; I fully believe in inspiration of the Holy Spirit to move a person to say or do something in a way that isn’t based on any prior knowledge. In many ways, I try to live my life with that kind of direction. But to have prior knowledge and to suggest it was revealed by God feels kind of like a carnival show gimmick. Already pregnant and fully aware of it, I didn’t go to the altar, but three women did.
At the moment, I realized that my struggle has not been for me nor has the blessing up to this point. It has been to tell the story of prayer for undeserved favor in an impossible situation, the unrelenting downright stupid-looking faith, and a glimpse of the promise (which is where I feel I am now) to somebod(ies) who feel even more hopeless that I have in the midst of all of that. That was my revelation that night.
I was skeptical of the way it went down, but I thought it was cool that the church, a black church in particular, devoted prayer time to infertility. Rather than let the method of how we got there permanently divert my attention, I directed my energy toward praying for them and just worshiping in general.
And I cried and cried some more, praying that God would show himself strong for those ladies as He has for me.
I’d wondered — with the postive pregnancy test and the ultrasound photos — whether I could still be considered part of the infertility struggle. I know how I felt when I’d read that someone had a successful interuterine insemination or in-vitro fertilization cycle: abandoned and even more like a failure. But my Hannah moment reminded me that the struggle to this point binds me to every woman on the same road.
Not to get too churchy on you, but it was one of my pastor’s sermons that kept me holding on to the idea that God would allow us to become parents. I don’t remember the title (and this tired mama is too lazy to go find her journal), but I do remember the scripture and its context — 2 Kings 3:18. After you prepare, which you’re already doing, you pray and you try to be patient, it’s a simple matter in the sight of the LORD. That’s the New King James Version. The Message translation reads: “This is easy for God to do.”
As hard as the infertility road is, rest with that idea in mind.
It wasn’t on purpose, but I’ve been silent for a few days reveling in Thursday’s embryo transfer. It was nothing short of fascinating. It felt sacred and holy, an unexpectedly spiritual few minutes.
And that’s in spite of the intimate experience with an unfamiliar but funny doctor and his clueless intern. Bless her heart, I knew she bordered on inept because of preoccupation with the internal ultrasound probe that wasn’t part of this particular procedure. As instructed, I showed up with a full bladder. That meant an external ultrasound, but she’d missed the memo. (And sadly, she’d worked at the same hospital I had in the exact same position but on a different floor. I knew she should’ve known better.) When the doctor kindly corrected her, she pretended her gooped-up probe didn’t exist. To be nice, so did I. I even took shallow breaths so she wouldn’t lose her place with the external probe on my abdomen. I can’t take full credit for my behavior, though. My super-nice Mr. sat on a stool to my right, and his influence mellows me. Also, I didn’t have the benefit of the privacy sheet normally granted with exposure of the goods, and it’s hard to be critical with your hoo-hah on display. Fortunately, my monkey socks provided a nice diversion until the show started.
Just prior to the procedure, Dr. Funny Man passed the Mr. a good luck greeting card from the entire RE office. “Beautiful,” he said, “a family photo.” It was an image of the two embryos set aside for the transfer. And yeah, they were the most beautiful set of eight- and nine-cell embryos that ever existed. OK, it sounds weird, but the idea that these little babies could turn into real babies was just amazing to me. I think I’ve stared at that photo every day and several times a day since. I made it portable by taking a picture with my phone, and I look at that even more.
That picture might have been all I needed to see, but my excitement — while trying not to breathe too much for the Dr. Bailey intern reject — grew when the doctor pointed out everything on the screen. Amid the plumbing was his needle aimed at the ideal place. “Do you see me? Are you ready? Are you sure?” He yelled something to invisible people through talking through a hole in the wall and told us, “Bombs away. One, two. There they are.”
Two small somethings on the screen came through the needle and just sat tucked away right where they were placed. I cried a little staring at the movement I saw. I couldn’t look at the Mr. because it would’ve become a full-on Oprah ugly cry. And even though I felt it, crying just seemed a bit premature. I was fully aware, though, that whatever life that would come from this process would spring from something greater than a few doctors practicing medicine.
Regardless of the criticism surrounding infertility treatments, what I saw represented the presence of God in all things, including in what has been called “gravely evil.” Science only takes us so far; the rest really is up to God. And there ain’t nothin’ evil about that. Jerks.
So, just like a magwai, I can’t eat after midnight up until after the procedure Monday. It’s amazing how much you want something when someone says you can’t have it. I think the frustration is really just masked anxiety about whether everything will go as planned. I signed the waiver, but I’m still not worried about the more severe risks like excessive fluid buildup, stroke or death. I’m not sure about many things, but I’m most certain that God wouldn’t allow my last “meal” before meeting Him to be pineapple jelly crescent rolls, doxycycline and candied gummy pre-natal vitamins.
Speaking of God, I imagined laying out on the altar Hannah-style in church today after all because I just didn’t have the words to pray for what I want. We sang a song, “God is sovereign, holy and just and on His word we’ve got to trust. For the at the sound of His voice, the Earth became. When God speaks in your life, you won’t be the same.” Between the singing, ministering and worshiping, I felt my heart praying and the tears fell. It wasn’t a shining moment because I haven’t figured out how to cry and sing at the same time. Nevertheless, it was a moment that I felt like God and I were on the same page on this babies thing. It made worship at the next service that much easier. Even then, the tears kept flowing though. I’m sure it’s the estrogen.
According to the Mr., I’ve also been a little more aggressive in a way more characteristic of me PMS’ing. I never take it out on people — or at least not at people who can hear me — but it definitely comes out at the television, traffic, talking heads on TV. The victim on the way home from church was a squirrel pausing in the middle of the street. A squirrel! Yep, it’s got to be the drugs. And it’s expected to get way worse.
After the retrieval … (I should describe that. Using a transvaginal ultrasound to find the follicles, a doctor will guide a needle to where it’s supposed to go and extract fluid that should include an egg. If it does, the egg goes into an incubator. He or she will repeat that process until all the follicles are aspirated. The eggs will then pair with a fresh sample from the Mr., and then we wait.), I’ll start oral estrogen and, uh, non-oral progesterone. That’s supposed to not only make me sleepy but also edgy. Doesn’t that sound like fun for everybody?
I’ll keep taking the antibiotic to ward off any cooties from the procedure and wait again to hear about the number of eggs and the likely transfer date. In the meantime, at least immediately after the procedure, I’ll do nothing but feel the lovely haziness of good hospital drugs. As always, we’ll see what happens.
I got the go-ahead Wednesday to start my plethora of potions in the build-a-baby kit.
You’ll have to pardon my irreverence. In addition to my normal last-minute packing, I also had to prepare and pack all my drugs for the next several days to get me through Thanksgiving weekend. Making sure I had the right amount of needles, vials, ice packs for the refrigerated stuff and necessary alcohol wipes and gauzes added an hour to my ritual. I’m exhausted, but sitting under this hooded hair dryer is the first time I’ve sat still since I left work. And I have to stop my mind from reeling; it’s been on 90 mph since my ultrasound and blood work this morning.
The point was to make sure my reproductive system responded well to the birth control pills by essentially taking a nap. I didn’t know I was worried about the possibility of the cycle being canceled until worry came up during our workplace Bible study. Boo, hiss. I hate when God calls me out like that. I relaxed a bit after that, but my relief was only temporary even after the nurse called to say the meds were a go. It was like I was suddenly eligible to take a test I hadn’t studied for. I really did mean to brush up on the shot and medicine-mixing lessons from the first in-vitro appointment last week. Just like college, there was so much information that I’d resigned myself to figuring it out on my own time. Tick, tock, tick, tock — lo and behold, the test is tomorrow!
Instead of worrying, though, I’ll sing this song until my iPod changes to Thanksgiving songs:
“It’s only a test you’re going through.
It’s gonna be over real soon.
Keep the faith; don’t give up
For it’s only a test!”
The fact that I’m actually doing this in-vitro fertilization thing is really sinking in. I don’t know how I feel about that. Let me think about it — that is try to mediatate on the words that match my feelings, whatever they are … Meanwhile, I know you’ve still got questions. I’ve got answers:
11) How worried are you about the side effects — death, stroke, losing an ovary?
I’ve been well versed in all the risk factors and surprised at the same time. I’m not worried, though. I don’t know why. I’m just not.
12) How much does it cost? Is it expensive?
Expense is relative based on what you value. Eight dollars for a gallon of gas is expensive unless your tank is on “E,” and there’s just one station nearby. Also, not to get religious on you, we tithe at our church, so by God, we tend to have everything we need to keep the lights on and eat well though we likely make less money than you’d think.
13) Will you be another Octomom?
It’s highly unlikely. There’s a reason that the doctor for Nadya Suleman (her NAME, people) lost his license. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends implanting no more than two embryos – fertilized eggs – in women 35 and younger and no more than five for women older than 40. Her doctor implanted 12, and eight survived. As I get deeper into this process, I totally get how the doctor is the most at fault.
In some cases, implanted embryos split and two may become three. It happens, but it’s rare. For me to sprout octuplets, the fertilized eggs that will be returned to sender would have to miraculously split several times over and beyond that. Don’t hold your breath for it to happen. And if it does, like NeNe from the Real Housewives of Atlanta, I’ll be verrrry rich.
Also, on the Octomom thing, jokes about this get old very quickly. Tread carefully.
14) Does infertility run in your family?
I’m one of four, the youngest actually. My maternal grandmother had four children; my paternal grandmother had eight with several losses in between. From that, I’d say no. But then, when I consider that of all my aunts, only two bore their own children, it’s a possibility. Reproductive system issues were rampant, and although my mother was perhaps the most fertile of everybody, she died in 2007 of ovarian cancer.
15) Why you putting all your business out there?
I have several answers for this. You remember when people wouldn’t say “cancer” out loud? It was mysterious, and people thought it was contagious. Now that it’s an everyday word, there are rallies and research and resources for its less affluent sufferers. Do you remember how conversations about AIDS started that way? See where I’m going?
Black people have a tendency to be quiet about the wrong things. Infertility is not a white woman’s condition, and treating it is not a luxury reserved for rich people. We would know that and perhaps encourage women struggling with infertility to reach out for support if it weren’t such a secret. And maybe that support would become universally offered, expected and funded.
That’s the activist in me talking. She can only go on for so long before it gets personal.
I carried this “secret” of struggling to conceive for a long time, especially in the face of well-meaning comments of it being “time to start a family.” I struggled through Mother’s Day and seemingly a million friends showing off 3-D ultrasounds and pictures of new babies. Quite often, I wanted to, like, snap out and just let some folks have it – not quite the Christian approach. I’d told a couple people in an informational kinda way, but really, I was starting to need something more than what even the saint-like Mr. could contain. Honestly, given my own beliefs, I needed some people praying for me.
So, randomly, over breakfast with my beloved fellow singers, I spoke up. Immediately, something lifted. It was clear that all of this is safer for me spoken out loud than trapped in my head. And now I’m writing it because I just can’t talk THAT much.
In the last two months, I’ve taken more license in speaking about why I have yet another doctor’s appointment and why it’s on Sunday morning. Each disapproving look or dumb comment has prepared me for the next one. So, negative ninnies, bring it on.
16) What does your family say about it?
My sister has taken the Malcolm X approach: by any means necessary. I told a brother that we were having trouble, and he said, “The Lord will make it happen when He decides. You can’t do nothing but wait.” Ironically, this is similar to something my estranged father said when my 6-year-old self asked where babies came from. Alas. I haven’t discussed my infertility with any other members of my family.
17) Do you think God is punishing you for something you did?
18) What are your church’s or pastor’s views on all of this?
It hasn’t really come up in church. And as for my pastor, I didn’t think to ask him what he thought. I did, however, slip his wife a note to pray for us and the in-vitro fertilization process.
19) How much does your health insurance cover?
Fortunately, we do have insurance coverage; a lot of women do not or one cycle wipes out their entire benefit. For us, most procedures are covered at 80 percent. The diagnostic hysterosalpingogram, or HSG, was our wakeup call that this process could get pricey. Insurance coverage for that still cost about $500 out of pocket. For the intrauterine inseminations, we paid about $22 out of pocket, but the accompanying drugs carried $75 and $10 copays. Multiply all of that times three, and that’s about the out-of-pocket cost of the drug protocols for one month of in-vitro fertilization. This one cycle will complete my lifetime maximum for my current insurance. Limitations like that fuel the temptation to implant as many embryos as possible, by the way. Decisions on what to do with the remaining embryos raises other issues as well.
20) How do you deal with the dumb things people say when they find out you’re undergoing infertility treatments?
I involuntarily cut my eyes at them before I politely nod and take it as my cue to shut up. Mentally, I acknowledge that it is ignorance and not necessarily malice. I also try to choose people I open up to carefully. I don’t yet have canned responses for the innocent but painful questions about when we’ll have kids. I’ve tried not to take my frustration out on the unsuspecting — even when they deserve it.
(Sigh) If you made it this far down, you’re a trooper. Thanks for sticking around. FWIW, these answers don’t negate my willingness to share other things you may be curious about. Feel free to post a question in the comments section, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you. — MBE