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 …
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