First Blood

I’m not really bothered by needles. Except, it seems, when sticking them into myself.

After the negative on Friday’s pregnancy result (a week ago), the nurse said to expect my period around Monday. It arrived Saturday, like everything – seemingly sped up by all these hormones. So, back to the clinic on Tuesday for bloodwork and ultrasound. I have had wicked cramps. Thank god I can have epsom salt baths right now.

After the ultrasound and trans-vaginal ultrasound. We are officially starting our first round of IVF. We have been on the wait list almost 10 months. Allia and I are back to back on the list, but opted to stagger the dates when we come up as eligible. That’s one perk of being queer. We may not have a sperm or penis, but we sure can sign up twice for government subsidized IVF.

After the tests, Nurse N. sat us down to explain the barrage of medication that I’ll be on.

1) Gonal F. 200 is the dose. While they want to avoid hyperstimulation, they want to maximize egg production. When Allia was on this two years ago she had such awful symptoms on just 75 that we had to take her to the hospital. So far, spoiler, I’ve been on it at that dose for 4 days and have no symptoms except bloating (and being grossed out by sticking sharp objects into my stomach). We were told initially that we would come back on Friday at 7 am to maybe drop the dose, and again on the 23 to check in.

How do you do this pre-loaded injection? You click the numbers to the dose (for me, 200). You pull off the cap, after swabbing the area with an alcohol wipe. Pull up a nice bit of belly. Inject. Watch the box for the 200 to drop to 0. This was pretty straight forward. Except that on the first attempt I froze after the first part, sticking it in and had to ask Al to push the plunger. I just held the needle. Advice was: Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready for your first dose. Inject at same time each night.

2) Luveris. 75 IU was the second drug. The combination is supposed to keep both parts of the hormones in balance that will cause my ovaries to overproduce eggs and follicles to get all excited.  It came with more parts than a Playmobil pirate ship. The alcohol wipes. The big syringe tip with angled tip (DO NOT PUT THAT IN YOUR BODY). Small syringe tip. The syringe itself. Two small vials: one with saline, one with powder. Process: We messed this up the first time, taking off and on various parts of the tips at the wrong times and struggling to suck up all the liquid. I was feeling nervous, literally with the thought – maybe this baby stuff is just a really bad idea – running through my head (none of which I said out loud).  So, first: open all your stuff. Swab the area. Take the big tip and attach it to the syringe. Open your vial caps. Use the big needle to draw out the saline. With that same tip inject the saline into the powder and let it mix. Advice was: Do not shake it. You don’t want air bubbles.

Next: DON’T take that big tip off (we did and then freaked ourselves out trying to swap exposed needles off of the syringe). Use the same big needle to draw the mixed liquid up into the syringe. We are thinking, now that we are way more comfortable with this, that we should make a video. Honestly, seeing someone do it would have been SO much easier than remembering details from the nurse and comparing them to the notes I took on my phone and following written instructions.

With the big needle on the syringe and liquid in there (tip the vial upside down and withdraw the needle as you are pulling the plunger so that you can get to the very bottom) keep a good grip on the plunger so it doesn’t squirt back out. Recap the big needle (ours has a sideways guard that swings up over the tip).

Now swap to the smaller needle, the one that looks like it won’t hurt like a _____ when you put it into your stomach (stomach is recommended as the legs have nerves you can accidentally hit). With the small tip, put the syringe tip up and let the air come out; let a few little drops come out the top of the needle to check. Prep your area, holding it in your thumb and finger. Inject and slowly squirt it out. We were told it might sting or burn. (again: Don’t use the big needle!!) Hold it there for a moment. Slowly pull the needle out and I liked to put an alcohol swap back on the area and press it; this was following the first time when blood started oozing back out of me. This, I’ve heard, isn’t uncommon.

Night 1: 9:30 pm first dual injection of Gonal F is closest to belly button. Then we spilled part of Luveris in extraction from the vial. My belly bled from shot 2 the first time. But now, aside from a few bruises we are doing way better. Note: these are pyjamas, not a rockin’ satin matchy-matchy outfit that I wear outside the house. 

So: for now, two injections. I inject same time each night, alternating sides (first day right side, next left. I was told I might get a third shot by the end of the week, Cetrotide, to hold off release of the eggs. The goal is to stimulate for a week. Harvest end of next week. I’ll do my retrieval in Burlington. Ideally, then they will tell us how eggs were harvested. We are hoping: many. Then we will get daily updates after they are ‘in-vitro’d’ telling us how many are surviving. What we want is the count of viable day 5 embryo.The projected time for harvest is the day of retrieval plus five. Apparently for the procedure I will be sedated. Allia there to be my voice; she will be able to tell, better than a doctor who doesn’t know me, how I’m doing.

All in all, it has been smooth sailing. On Friday we went back in to talk about the third injection; they still haven’t told me if I will need it.

But I have three boxes of it; same injection format as the second drug – all evil scientist style. At least we are getting accustomed to it. Next step, is to go in on Sunday to check my estrogen levels to see if I need to take Cetrotide and keep stimming until late next week. Other good news: I have 8 follicles all going strong and equally so. This is great; while 3 was a hazard in the IUI world (see past entries), they are looking for good numbers and high counts here (as long as it doesn’t get too high) because that means potentially higher successful eggs to harvest. Having them all progress equally means that they won’t risk having to leave some good, but slower, candidates behind if other follicles are ready faster.

Sunday I will know what to do next: email the nurse with the count of follicles and wait to hear the estrogen level so we know when to take Cetrotide. (And maybe none of this is useful to anyone but me, but I really wish that I’d known how long, what, where, how and wtf was going on, so if it helps anyone, and keeps me on track with the things we are supposed to do, then… yay).

Advertisements

IVF, Here We Come

My time on the waitlist is over. I’m starting IVF prep today. I literally feel like I just had my period. I used to have 45 day cycles, now, with a negative pregnancy test on Friday, my period came so promptly on Saturday, and today, Monday, I’m back in the game.

I am not psyched about the takeout container sized plastic bag of needles and bottles and vials that I had to bring home. But, we are heading into this with a positive attitude.

Wish us luck. I’ll try to document as much as I can stomach of the syringes into the stomach, and attending hormones, etc. Allia had a very adverse reaction to Gonal F, so we are a bit wary.

Any words of advice?

Friday the 13th

“Very superstitious. Writing’s on the wall.”

It occurred to me when they told me to come back for my blood test on Friday the 13th that it might be a problematic date. That’s silly, was my next thought.

I’m not superstitious, but I get hunches, feelings. I didn’t feel pregnant, but who knows if I would have?

I went in to the clinic yesterday morning, dressed to go straight to work for a fieldtrip: a day at the theatre, on a bus with 45 students. I was ready for whatever needed to happen, to have a smile plastered on my face all day, while I watched Dracula in the afternoon, and Dancing at Lughnasa, in the evening. Or, conversely, to pull it together if the news was bad.

My weapon of choice was a bold patterned dress, my costume, in case the world went awry. I thought it was ready for anything, but documented the moment with fingers crossed.

For luck and hope.

There’s a part of me, it seems, that wants to bear witness to each step of this, wants a photo to say ‘that was the moment when.’ While so many others get to have stories of vacation-made babies, New Year’s kisses that turn into conception, nights of popped-corks that lead to plans for a future arrival; I want to document, in writing and images, maybe so that on the other side, no matter what happens, I will have a step-by-step guide of how to get through it all.

I was sitting on that bus, in a metal echo chamber full of 45 teenage bodies in various states of caffeination and hormonal giddiness, when I got the call from the nurse. She didn’t mince words, or keep me in suspense, but, calmly told me “you’re not pregnant.”

Okay. I’m okay. It’s not like you can’t be when you’re chaperoning this bunch.

She went on to explain that IVF is the next step for us, our number on the wait list is up, and that I should call on the first day of my next period.

I’ve been told that this is good news, even as my mind races towards worry at the huge, unpredictable price tag, unfixed because it could be ‘just’ a few thousand, or it could be 15 – $20,000. Still, I think to myself: “maybe this is good timing. The chances are so much higher of getting pregnant with IVF.” (but not guaranteed part of my brain chirps)

My mind is telling me, don’t be discouraged, so many people go through this, it’s only, technically, your second try with IUI. But it feels like this is the thousandth. We’ve been trying, together, for 3 1/2 years. And watching your partner go through it isn’t the same, it’s different, but it feels a bit like watching the trailer for a horror movie. Or a period Drama.. . Pun intended.

What does any of it mean? Is there meaning in it at all? When you look? I could hardly sleep last night. When I got the blood taken that morning, I felt anxious, but excited. I was tripping over my own tongue. Choosing a mild mania over stoic skepticism. But in my hopefulness I had trouble doing normal things, like choosing the right door to push as I exited the building, pressing instead for a moment on the door which, though unlabelled, hasn’t been the one that opens for all the months I’ve been coming to this clinic.

I also forgot to push down on my vein, to stem the bleeding after the blood was drawn. But I only noticed – when I felt my inner elbow, the fabric of my dress wet with blood – that I hadn’t remembered that part. That this can all be so messy. Was that my warning sign? Or is none of it a ‘sign’ at all? It feels worse if it’s all just random.

Peeling my sleeve away, there was a still-bleeding hole. 

Does any of that mean anything? I think I need it to mean something because if it doesn’t mean anything, what the fuck?

I could’ve just written one sentence today that said: not pregnant. But maybe I need to pour these feelings out, believe them onto the paper, bleed them. Catharsis. So that I know they actually happened. To examine them, so I might actually learn something. Because if there isn’t a purpose to these feelings, then what’s the point when it feels this bad?

And it’s worse because I’m alone. Home so late last night to an empty house for the next three days while my wife stays at her sister’s, taking care of our nieces. She is surrounded by children and I’m feeling both relieved to just be by myself, and sorry for myself all the same.

If Dracula can be a metaphor for me in this moment – it explains the sense of hyperawareness, a need to make meaning from death, or the absence of life, and to see its potential for beauty. Last night, I was surrounded by people, but isolated in my own secret – watching the vitality and pulse of youth – a current that, unaware of itself, sustains me. Not parasitically, but in the sense that being surrounded by the energy of young people keeps me from feeling sluggish. I feel like I’m twenty, but also like I’m 80; eons away from the urgency of teenage tears and laughter and drama. Teaching them reminds me constantly of what it was like to be their age and, by extension, how far I’ve come, all the things I’ve gone through and learned from. I was a Smart-Alek then; and I’m wise beyond my years now. I get to watch that learning curve happen in front of my eyes, over and over again, with each new year.

Honestly, I get through my days by living on the incredible gift of working with young people who are vital, and funny, silly, hilarious, sometimes infuriating and oblivious, living in the moment; these kids who can be the sweetest humans, especially in the times when they are caring and effusive – so that somehow, at a quarter to midnight, after seeing the second show of the day, when you are on a school bus full of tired bodies and they ask you questions, when instead they could be talking to their peers, no longer in a classroom, not beholden to ‘pay attention,’ but wanting to talk un-self-consciously, it’s impossible not to feel hopeful. They make me feel like a celebrity, or motivational speaker. Or a parent. They aren’t mine. Except for a little while.

Fragility and strength in the same crush of life; isolation that can be felt when the truth of yourself is felt deeply by you, while others only see the face you put on. I’m happy, because I know I must be grateful. But I’m sad, unrelentingly. A slow, dull ache.

Dracula. Dancing. Living. The Stage. Reality. Long days and nights.

Repressing the feelings that are there can be deadly; expressing them can be deadly too, apparently, but I embrace feeling if the alternative is feeling nothing.

Wonder

I've had some questions for the doctor, mostly about what supplements I can use and products that are natural, but might have contraindications during pregnancy (or hopeful pregnancy). I asked about borage oil, taken orally for healthy skin and that, says the doctor is a NO. It is used to promote cervical ripening, so it isn't safe at this point. Good to know!

I've been using castor oil for skin and eyelashes for years and ran that one by the doctor, too. I already knew that, if taken orally, for digestion the safety of castor oil is questionable-because it's also used to bring on labor. If used topically, there isn't a clear answer about whether it can seep into the skin and be absorbed by the body in a way that might impact pregnancy. Guess I'll be skipping this on my lashes for the foreseeable future. Glad I asked!

Are there any other products, supplements, or habits that you've heard of or had to stop using that you were surprised might have an effect on conception or pregnancy?

On a side note, for you queer cinema fans, my wife and I went to see a pre-release screening of PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN. I definitely recommend it if you enjoy beautifully shot, tender scenes, juxtaposed with steamy intimacy, powerful, clever female characters and themes that explore a fight against censorship and forbidden love.

Allia with the Executive Director of the Inside Out Festival.

Symptom, No Symptom

I keep searching the details, looking for confirmation or a negative hunch, based on a collection of random feelings and observations – some of them are signs of pregnancy, some of them signs of regular life.

I don't feel pregnant. Then again, I've been tired for days. Really tired. But it could also be that I've been eating leftover turkey since Saturday.

Am I alone?

I had a dream I was pregnant. Anyone else have this happening?

I just keep busy. Went to Fall For Dance North, a showcase festival with dance work from all over the world, with a Canadian spin. I took the year off from dance – to focus on you know what – and it’s that hard, constant question: how are you? What’s new? How are things going?

How honest do you want me to be? What is a safe amount of sharing?

The day

I didn't post this on the day of, but … it happened like this:

We went in today for a procedure, the second one. And I feel, not in a morbid way, the same way I remember everything that happened on the day that Princess Diana died; I remember everything from today. I got up at 6:40. I couldn't sleep because I was excited. I went downstairs and looked for old TV shows to start watching, like The X-Files and Grey's Anatomy. I ate brown sugar frosted mini wheats, had some decaf coffee, and waited for Allia to wake up. I got dressed, had a shower, got all prepped for the doctor. Felt relieved that I don't have to go to work today and can just focus on this procedure.

At the clinic, even though we ran into some traffic and roadwork on the way, things were smooth; the doctor told us that there was a high number of swimmers, even after the wash, they were looking at 22 million which is pretty amazing. And the motility was good. Our own doctor was here, to do the procedure, and we laughed and talked throughout. I giggled, as Allia told me that I look pretty while I was like on the table getting inseminated, and then in the 10 minutes after, when you are allowed to just lie there, Allia put on a little dance show for me to some Fleetwood Mac.

If it's not happening via hot sex and wine, an impromptu dance party and a huge smile on my face is how it should go down. We're going to spend the rest of the day together, and put in some face time at the science center, with our adorable nieces to keep the baby vibes going strong.

I feel good about this.