Tag Archives: infertility

Countdown …

One innocent victim of my hormone-induced emotional outburst hours before the egg retrieval

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.

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“Write this down and repeat it back to me.”

Monday is egg retrieval day, but hold the sparkling cider. I've had too many BFNs to get excited just yet.

“What? Huh? Wait. OK. Um, hold on. OK, I’m ready now. Go.”

That was the beginning of my conversation with the nurse today confirming that Monday will be my retrieval day, also known as the great Christmas Egg Hunt. I worried about the shots, and now I’m the subcutaneous injection queen. I worried about the drugs having no effect, and now I have 12 measurable follicles (right — 19, 17, 16, 14, 12, 12; left — 17, 15, 14, 13, 13 and 11). FYI, follicles grow 2 mm per day and are mature, meaning more likely to have mature eggs, around 18. The number of follicles does not necessarily correlate to viable eggs, and not all eggs retrieved will necessarily be fertilized. My awareness of the fact that there’s no guarantee that they’ll find enough quality eggs for fertilization basically gives me another reason to keep the sparkling cider on ice for now.

It’s not that I’m trying to be Debbie Downer; it’s just that at this point of trying to have children, I know all too well how it feels to get my hopes up and then let down with a BFN (big fat negative). After peeing on stick or two every month, you learn to take everything as it comes. I used to search for pregnancy T-shirts with funny sayings in anticipation of a positive test amid imaginary symptoms. I’d always feel dumb afterward for thinking too far ahead. Although by God, I’ve managed to accomplish many things and overcome situations that haunt people for life, my inability to get pregnant up to this point has always made me feel like something of a failure and occasionally like God wasn’t listening on this one. I kept praying but then encouraged other people to pray; though, I didn’t tell them about the struggle.

As for being a childless failure, cognitively, I know otherwise. Emotionally, though, it takes some convincing. Being happily married and struggling to have children feels like being the smart girl who isn’t considered pretty. You do a good job pretending it doesn’t matter, but then something happens as a reminder that you do. Some of my Facebook friends are fertile Myrtles; they’ve had two kids in the time I’ve been trying to have one. Stuff like that can get to you if you let it. I’ve tried not to let it, but I’m human. And maybe that was behind my annoyance with having to endure the entire in-vitro fertilization process to have the children I’ve been psychologically preparing for since 2005.

Now, here I am at the critical point — less than 36 hours from the egg retrieval but beyond the hard part — and I’m only thinking as far ahead as drug No. 6, a pre-emptive antibiotic that I’ll take orally starting in the morning.

Mindless update

I’d been concentrating so hard on that joyous news of follicles and a continued cycle that I nearly ignored the most profound display of unprofessionalism seen in my entire working career, and it was directed at me. There’s a lesson in everything, and perhaps mine was that life goes on despite all the interruptions of my infertility battles. So, in the midst of the ultrasound-blood work revolving door and phone gazing in hopes of a nurse’s call, I’m pretty sure I have to actually deal with a petty workplace problem before it becomes something else. I don’t have the patience for this, though, I’m not sure whether that’s a real reaction or whether it’s the drugs. They’re supposed to make me crazy at some point; I’m sure they’re already making me sleepy at odd times.

I’m currently on three medications, all administered via injection — Gonal F, Menopur and that evil Ganirelix acetate. The first two essentially create an ovarian Superman, and the latter is like the Kryptonite to keep the hero from winning and thereby ending the tale too soon. The idea is to develop follicles but to keep them, keep me from ovulating before doctors can go in and get the eggs. It’s for this reason that the Mr. and I have to keep our hands off of one another. Apparently, sex naturally triggers ovulation. How that for another counterintuitive fertility measure? Remember, this cycle started with me on birth control pills. So far, though, everything is working.

My estrogen level doubled from Tuesday to 1424. I do know that’s a positive sign, particularly now that, per a nurse’s message, I’m walking around with 10 measurable follicles. With Clomid, a drug given orally that I took for all three intrauterine inseminations, I only produced two follicles. Each time, they came from my right ovary. My left has been on vacation until recently. It’s now holding five at 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 mm. The right has the remainder at 11, 12, 13, 16 and 16.

At this rate, the retrieval could happen in a few days. I’ll find out more — including how I feel about everything — at my next appointment in a few hours.

P.S. It was actually almost an hour and a half ago. This just didn’t post when it should have. I’m still pondering everything while trying to focus on work. Here we go …

Ganirelix is the Devil

This Ganirelix acetate shot might as well be a small taste of hell in injection form.

Not that anyone’s grading me, but in my on mind at least, I passed an inital hurdle in the in-vitro fertilization race. Based on results from Tuesday’s ultrasound, I have seven measurable follicles at decent sizes (three at 12 mm, two at 11, two at 10 and a lot of small ones) to keep the cycle going. It’s been my biggest fear that the $350 in prescription drugs and the past five days of shots to the gut would suddenly end in a canceled cycle. But today is cycle day seven, and we’re still on.

About those follicles: Everyone who ovulates does so because of an egg that matures inside a follicle before popping out in anticipation of a sperm hookup. My injectable medications have given me super-powered ovaries that have produced more than the typical one or two follicles that would ordinarily lead to one or two eggs. Mature follicles tend to measure about 18 mm. When I did the intrauterine inseminations, 18 mm meant it was time for a “trigger shot” of Ovidrel, an injection that encourages ovulation. I’ll still get the Ovidrel with in-vitro fertilization; it’ll just be exactly 36 hours before the retrieval.

That would be shot No. 4. But that one, I can handle. It’s that doggone Ganirelix that is most certainly from the devil. It burned after the Mr. injected me and left a bruise that is painful to the touch. I walked around work with my pants down, covered by my jacket. So far, it’s the worst thing that has happened in the process, and it’ll happen again — every morning until … Crap, I don’t know when it’ll stop.

All I can do is follow the advice of a diabetic friend with 15 years of needle experience and consider the pain an offering commemorating Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. It sounded trite when she first said it, but given the hell of this Ganirelix shot, it’s gon’ take Jesus, the 12 disciples and Rufus to take this devil down.

Next ultrasound and blood draw: Thursday.

What if … ? (Ode to @IVFandme)

The ominous BFN, or big fat negative. What if after all of the insemination and in-vitro fertilization attempts, this is all I see? God forbid.

Visiting friends in New York allowed my mind to veer away from that hovering in-vitro fertilization cloud — with the exception of the nightly shots. (Speaking of, it’s almost that time again.)

When we all lived in the same city, we often played the “What if …” game just as we did this weekend. What if I came home and the Mr. had a pet monkey? What if Mrs. Friend told her husband that her name was Ursula when they first met? What if one of us caught another of us cheating on the other of us? It gets deep and sometimes wild and crazy as driven by a double dose of vivid imagination. The possibilities stray so far out of anyone’s mind that it takes a while to decide on the most honest and likely answer. For example, I never thought about what food I’d eat if I could only eat that one thing the rest of my life with no consequences until I had to answer the question.

The same day we hung out, I aimlessly scrolled Twitter to find the following tweet: “No more treatments for me. Moving to childfree, kicking & screaming with a side of crying. #MovingOn” and then “For the twithearts that don’t know my story: 3IUIs, 3IVFs, 1DEIVF, 2FET: all BFN. I truly gave it my all. #MovingOn #Infertility.”

For those who don’t know the lingo, the woman I follow with the Twitter handle @IVFandme has endured:

  • three intrauterine inseminations,
  • three in-vitro fertilization attempts,
  • one in-vitro fertilization attempt using donated eggs and
  • two frozen embryo transfers

… all leading to a BFN, infamously known in infertility circles as a big fat negative pregnancy test result. That’s a whole pharmacy of drugs, a lot of little tubes going you know where and God knows how many, ahem, “private viewings” to go through without a baby to show for it. I wanted to kick something on her behalf, and I couldn’t help thinking: What if that were me?

I don’t think people understand that when you get to the point of fertility treatments, you’ve already tried everything you know to do and that everything else really is a crapshoot. It’s not a sure thing. So, although I look fine with the frequent transvaginal ultrasounds, multiple drugs, blood draws and injections that not only expose my belly fat to the Mr. but turn it red so he can see it better, know that I’m anxious, I’m nervous, I’m occasionally pessimistic and sometimes downright depressed. Fortunately, the worst of it never lingers. But like the darkside, it’s always there. When I explain that I’m “undergoing fertility treatments,” congratulations are not in order. This (group of attempts that may go on for years until I’m tired or bankrupt) feels like my last ditch effort, and I don’t want to jinx it by celebrating what could be a lost cause and maybe a waste of money. “We’ll see what happens” is about all I can politely muster with that weight behind every fertility-related move.

Sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Friend, I’m breaking the rules and sticking by my non-answer: I don’t know what I’d do if it were me.

As for @IVFandme, my thoughts are with you. With a remote understanding of your individual suckage, I know at least part of the road you traveled to this point and send virtual hugs your way. It ain’t much, but tonight’s shots are dedicated to you. Ouch and sugar honey iced tea.

It’s Only a Test …

Bag lady, you gon' miss your bus dragging all dem drugs like that. That's just for the holiday weekend.

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!”

Let’s play 20 questions (Part 1)

They arrived. That’s a month of in-vitro fertilization drugs.

It occurred to me once I decided to go public with my infertility struggles that people would have a lot of questions. I’ve found that when I open up in a quest for comfort, I instead do more educating than emoting. To remedy that and to avoid repeating myself, I present the most common questions I encounter and answers as they stand right now. That’s my disclaimer for if or when my answers change.

1) Why can’t you have kids?

I don’t actually know that I can’t. I just know that I haven’t. I have a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve, meaning I don’t have as many eggs as expected for my age. (I’m in my early to mid-thirties.) Therein lies the challenge and why we – the Mr. and I – are trying everything available to make it happen.

2) What’s that like?

Well, in short, it sucks. It’s annoying. It feels unfair. And I wish it wasn’t so. I get down about it sometimes, and maybe I wanna complain. It just doesn’t make me feel any better. So, I refocus. I write. I pray. I take my prenatal vitamins as an act of faith.

3) Did you pray about it?

Yes, for Christ’s sake, AND in His name with fasting. Intercessors welcome.

I get very tempted on Sundays to throw myself on the altar at church Hannah-style, but I’m pretty sure security would take me down and carry me out before I can say, “Amen.”

4) Are you having enough sex to get pregnant?

(People do ask.) Yep.

5) How long have you been trying?

I’d say not long enough for infertility street cred. Things have moved really quickly, but when I count back, the path to this point feels like a long road. I ditched the Nuvaring the last week of January 2010. I can’t believe it’s almost 2012.

6) What’s the effect on your marriage?

There’s been no negative effect. It was already the two of us against the world. Now, it’s the two of us against infertility. Beyond that, my husband amazes me every day just by being his funny, supportive and thoughtful self.

7) How many kids do you want?

For most of my life, I wanted five. Before we got married, we decided on three. There’s a song from my hometown that’s now my song: “Any way you bless me, Lord, I’ll be satisfied.”

8 ) Why not just adopt?

Oh, why not get a bike instead buying a car? It’s transportation, right? Sorry, that darn humanity. Um, adoption could be considered a “fix” for childlessness perhaps, but not infertility.

9) So you’ll be doing that artificial insemination stuff?

Kinda. Nobody calls it that anymore. For one, there’s not much artificial about it – sperm and eggs are still required. What used to be called “artificial insemination” is modernly known as intrauterine insemination, or IUI. Sperm cells, which usually “walk” to meet a single egg, instead get a bath before taking an express train via a thin catheter guided in most cases by a nurse. The actual procedure takes about a half hour, including time just laying there. I’ve done that three times. No dice. That’s why I’m at the in-vitro fertilization stage. The fur is similar, but it’s an entirely different animal. We’ll be experiencing it together.

10) What do they have to do?

Essentially, with drugs, they’ll suppress my reproductive system, jump-start it with more drugs to make my body produce multiple follicles, which house eggs. Doctors will then go get the eggs, pair them with sperm from the Mr. in a lab, offer them wine and hope they hit it off. Once matches are made in heaven, the doctor will let me hold one or two of them for safe keeping, and I’ll eventually look like I ate a watermelon seed. I’m oversimplifying to explain the procedure without the gory details that – again – I’ll experience when it all happens with you along for the ride.

Eggs of a different color

 So these aren’t really mine, but you get the idea.

Here’s a little introductory trivia question, an icebreaker, considering I don’t know you and you don’t know me:

What’s the difference between brown eggs and white eggs? Not much.

The difference lies in the color of the hen that laid the eggs. Brown eggs tend to come from red-feathered chickens, and white eggs come from white-frocked birds. Nutritionally, they’re pretty much the same — just like the chickens. It just doesn’t come up in your everyday conversation.

Neither does infertility among black women. The same problems that white women have with conception and problematic ovaries and wayward eggs are same that black women have. As a group, we just don’t talk about it. Discussing it every day might be overkill, but the silence of it all and resulting isolation is enough to kill the spirit of every woman of color who carries the universal desire to bear her own children.

Wow. That sounded really profound, well beyond what I was going for.

I’m just a brown girl who inherited the genetic reproductive misfortune from the Brown family and finds herself staring in-vitro fertilization in the face. Journalism saved my life once; I figured the foundation of it — writing — might ease the stress of bringing about new life in the form of a round-faced baby or two. Or three. Or eight.

I’m also giving myself and the universe permission to say “black woman” and “infertility” in the same sentence. Part of that will include sharing what I learn about cycles, procedures and shots (oh, my!). There will be flashbacks, observations and blatant use of anonymity to protect the ignorant. You can trust that every raw tale will be true and reflect my most authentic thoughts and feelings about unscrambling my Brown eggs to finally get pregnant.

It’s what all the inquiring mouths are waiting for, after all. So, this is also to shut them up.

On all fronts, wish me luck. — MBE