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).

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When your exes resurface and your past impregnates the future.

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Today is the first day. July 31, 2017.
I’m at a loss for words. I woke up and went to the clinic. While waiting, our credit card was declined (to pay for $500 worth of IUI procedure), which wasn’t what I was hoping for. Turns out that our past payment didn’t get processed yet, and our current balance, which includes the $2300 for sperm, and extra grand or so for ‘seeing the files on donors,’ shipping, Ubers to the appointments, storage fees ($50) and some other incidentals, exceeded our limit when added to our current spending.

We used debit instead.

All of this impersonal shit. Then we are waiting (for the sperm to thaw?) and there are cute babies in the waiting room. And another lesbian couple comes in, very pregnant, with donuts for the staff and big smiles. It isn’t like on T.V. I get called in. I wait for Allia. I feel nervous, which makes no sense, since nothing I do, or don’t do, right now will make any difference.

I lie down. The doctor introduces herself.

Last night we went to The Burdock, for a comedy show; my friend was performing. Unexpectedly, in walks an ex, one who doesn’t speak to me. She acts like the things I did in the end of our relationship are somehow different to the things she cheerfully admitted to doing to countless other girls before me. It wasn’t a good time for me, just months out of a long-term relationship, still very shaky and unsure… it wasn’t hard to tell that I was in no shape to be starting anything. She should have known. Arguably, she did know, and pretended not to see it.

Last time I saw her, over a year after our split, she gave me the silent treatment, until I pulled her aside, at a bonfire, and apologized wholeheartedly – I treated her with as much empathy and kindness back then as a broken person could muster. I did the best I could. She is not guiltless, but I definitely owned my mistakes. I paid for them before they were made.

How many times can you apologize?

Last night, coming into the bar with our friend, she said nothing. That’s how this will play out. Thirty-five and this is still the m.o.? I am too old for this. My wife looked at me and said, “It’s not about you anymore. You’ve said everything you can say… look at your life now. We are happy. This is what our life looks like. You can’t worry about the past.”

And she is right. She knows I hate feeling like I can’t fix the broken things. I crave understanding. But I love poetry and those moments of kismet are the things that give shape and nuance to the life we are breathing and building… which takes us back to this morning.

The doctor introduced herself: she has the exact same name as that ex. As she showed me a vial of sperm, she asked me to see that it matches. It did. Perfectly. Where closure is absent, maybe another kind of closure is possible.

This is the second time in two weeks that this has happened; a week ago I ran into the previous-previous exe; it was gut-wrenching. I cried in the car, after we parted, letting go of all the anger that 6 years of replaying hands around my throat has allowed to build up inside me.

I had been dreading that encounter, had given it so much mental energy, wondering when I would look into the face of a person who remains a source of anxiety and trauma – not so often now, but still sometimes, which is often enough… not wanting to be caught off guard. But… I was fine. Bothered (that this person still felt familiar enough to call me by a nickname), relieved (that face-to-face I held myself together, for all intents and purposes: fine). The moment passed and I could finally let go of all the memories and the power they used to have over me. That is not my life now.

U-turn. I am in the exam room. And now, writing this, I feel like it’s sacrilege to blend the sacred with the profane, but are they ever really absent from one another?

Death facilitates new life. Slate, wiped clean, with traces of blood, tears, … and semen (apparently). It was so easy, compared to our journey together up to this point. Anti-climactic.

It wasn’t at all like the L-Word (one of my only frames of media-reference), but on the table, as Allia held my hand, my leg muscles felt a little shaky. This is a beginning. Even if it’s not THE beginning. I feel peaceful, letting go of any control. All I can do is what is in my capacity to do… I can eat well, drink water, sleep, love, be happy.  Take my vitamins.

I am ready for this, if you can ever truly be ready for anything. And we will call this possibility ‘Cortez,’ like a Spanish explorer, a ship, a sailor; there may be a Cortez I, Cortez II, Cortez III, but we will be hoping for a new world – obviously one without colonization, and the ills of imperial domination and enslavement, but since those already exist historically, maybe our maiden voyage can be a promise to trust life’s compass and our own guts to guide us, to let go of the enslaved memory of the past, of grudges, of control itself… and think positively.

Swim little guys. Swim.

 

Looking Back: Baby Bump Face-Time

Found some sweet pictures on my phone: screen shots from our Face-Time conversation. Allia was away in NYC, interviewing Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver (of course), and after giving me a tour of her hotel room, she filled me in on her day.

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For the film Chappie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6bmTNadhJE Sigourney answered her question, “If you could have a robot programmed to do anything for you, what would you want it to do?”

“I think I’d want a robot companion. Like in olden times when women had a companion to sew with, and to sit with…” and then she teased, self-deprecatingly, that she was giving away too much about herself.

After her glamorous day, all we wanted to do was talk. So we talked, and before our conversation ended, we’d both talked to the baby (bump). And made some really attractive faces, laughing our way to the ‘Goodnight.’

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face time GetAttachment (1)That’s why we miss each other when she travels for work. Cause she is always so pretty.