My mind is forcing me to be super focused and I keep noticing that I’m on autopilot. I am in the moment, then I am not. I am, I think, constantly aware, at least once every half hour, that I’m waiting for a phone call; the clinic will call today to tell me if my bloodtest results mean that I’m pregnant.
My wandering brain keeps bumping into the ‘if I’m not pregnant’ scenarios. I am couching my disappointment in conditions and rewards. I am trying not to get my hopes up. Who would do that?
So much has gone wrong.
So much has gone right.
But not quite right, yet.
The yet is the hard part.
I don’t want to hang my hopes on one moment. I can’t invest like that. I just keep being positive, outwardly, and telling myself inwardly that it’s not likely.
But why not? It could be.
I’m thinking of you” my phone lights up.
I’m thinking of me, too.
I think it’s on both of our minds.
How could it not be?
So, I distract myself. Write it out. I’m really struggling for the next however many hours of not-knowing.
At 1 pm I called and got no answer. At 1:17 pm my phone rang. I was so ready for a negative … I almost held my breath.
‘You are pregnant.’
‘Whaaaaat?!?’ I almost whispered.
I called my wife, outside in the school parking lot. She was about to head into a meeting. My drama students are rehearsing Nightmare Tableaux and I cannot believe that I have this huge secret.
I sent Allia a picture… and it might be how we decide to tell my parents when we go out for dinner with my sister-in-law and my brother, all of our family together, tomorrow night. I know it’s early. But telling people won’t change the outcome. I am bursting. I am so excited and this is the first time I’ve really, honestly felt hopeful.
Sometimes when you have a shit day, and you just need to get it all out, it’s helpful to know just whom to call. For me… often it’s my wife. For certain, delicate circumstances … it’s my Dad. Prone to hyperbole in the best way, my wonderful father is always on my side (except when we’ve locked horns) and doesn’t hold back offering opinions that make you feel totally ‘not crazy’ when other people’s behaviour has got you down.
Case in point: today was made infinitely more complicated and exhausting by a colleague who flat out refused a simple favour, because he felt he shouldn’t have to help anyone out, right on the heels of having emailed our entire staff to ask that we all do him a ‘small favour’ – phrased as an instruction, not a request. He literally challenged the requirement to give professional courtesy. Then he protested all day about how this sets a precedent (yup, sure does… a precedent of us making each other’s lives easier if it LITERALLY has no measurable impact on us) that we would all then just… be flexible. Obviously, as a professional courtesy, I’m not going to describe in detail any of his ridiculous, ironically icky behaviour.
My dad though… perfect response. After letting me tell him all about it, he simply says: “He should be staked out in the hot sun.”
Team player words to live by.
And, thanks Dad. Sometimes you just want someone to be like, “yeah, that dude is total dick.”
IVF retrieval. Done! I'm on the other side of it and very glad that I listened to both the gruesome stories from people who had bad experiences and the 'it's not as bad as you think' stories. I was somewhere midway between.
I was up at 5:15. At the clinic by 6:30am. Took my Ativan in the morning, and then did my intake. Got a bracelet with my name on it, changed into the double hospital gown. Socks on.
I sat in a big recliner as the nurse looked for a good vein for the IV. First the hand, then settling on my inner arm. The drip gave me a nice drug cocktail.
I wrote the next part after the surgery in the car, directly following:
Allia is laughing at me. I have the hiccups. Got 21 eggs retrieved, don’t know if that was one from every follicle but that’s the number they told us. I want a cinnamon bun. Need to call the Mississauga clinic and they will set up an ultrasound check up to follow up and sign consents for the frozen embryo transfers. Allia was my rock. She was my everything. And she’s going to get me a cinnamon bun. And she made me a playlist with Fleetwood Mac and the Pretenders.
Here is what I remember. I started to feel really relaxed. As that happened, they continuously checked my heart rate/blood pressure with an arm band and finger monitor. Then, once I was nice and woozy, they got me up with my IV and told me to empty my bladder. Super fun walking all-drunk-feeling with a needle in your arm. I felt like the slowest, most careful person in the world.
They took me into the room (I don't know what to call it; not a lab, not an 'OR') and got me onto the table, IV beside me, Allia sitting by my head, stroking my hair and talking to me. Calves up in stirrups so your knees are at 90 degrees and the doctor sits between your legs. Then… they open the saloon-style half-door/window into the lab where a team of people can see into the room (and by room I mean 'my vagina'), but they are important; they count the eggs that are retrieved by the doctor. They can stay.
The meds to were put into the IV, cold-feeling. Apparently this takes some of the pain away. I felt pretty calm and breathed my way through the most uncomfortable parts. Because I had so many follicles, they spent a lot of time in there. The speculum is inserted, then a needle that goes through the vaginal wall into the ovary. Then, one by one, they drain the follicles. This was sometimes just 'pressure and mild discomfort'. Sometimes though it was a LOT of pressure, very deep breaths and lots of 'you're doing great. We're almost done.' I have a very high pain threshold. So, I imagine for me the reality was somewhere in the middle of terrible and okay, but mostly because I was ready for it to be brutal (just in case). It took a really long time to get everything, but you sort of just keep in mind that the longer it takes, the more eggs they are potentially collecting. And that's what all of this has been for – all the meds, the driving, the discomfort, the money.
In the end, they got 21 eggs.
I'm not going to go torturing myself with looking up how many is 'normal' or 'average.' I feel really happy with that number, not really knowing comparatively what should be 'a good number.' It feels good to me because that's what we've got to work with.
I spent the rest of the day, as promised by Allia, helping her carve a pumpkin, while doing as little bending and/or lifting as possible. And eating the banana muffins I asked her to bake, and the scones/chelsea buns I made her get us (which was the next best thing to cinnamon buns).
I was sleepy by 2 pm and fell asleep for a few hours, then went back to bed at 8 pm, deciding that I'd see how I felt about going to work at 6am the next morning when I woke up.
Oct. 31 – I felt so much better than I anticipated, so I rallied, determined not to miss out on my kickass Hallowe'en costume. I had a day of trivia, anti-oppression lessons and candy for my students, plus a really good wig. I could definitely have stayed home, because I was certainly uncomfortable. But being distracted really worked for me. And the kiddos are really lovely and kind, and funny!, so it was nice to be there with them.
I almost forgot that you get a daily update. Until the phone rang.
Update 1: 21 eggs harvested. Of the total number collected, 17 were mature. 11 fertilized. This sounds good!! They are doing a freeze all, so my body can calm down (to avoid the OHSS). So, after a nice day of sugar and hormones, I got into a onesie with cat ears as soon I got home from work and we handed out candy on the porch.
So how bad was it, all in all? I’m a trooper/pride myself on being tough physically, and this much can be said: my procedure was uncomplicated enough that I was able to rally and put on an awesome costume the very next day. Could I have stayed home? For sure. But… I’m used to being uncomfortable. I’ve been a dancer my whole life and prone to injury, sprains and two decades of brutal period cramps. I think my day went much more smoothly than some people’s, but I also had no adverse reactions to the medications.
I am used to dealing with the regular discomfort that comes from dancing six hours a week and working on my feet full time. I definitely think this made it easier for me. Plus I slept lots before and after, and hydrated. The worst part was just before the procedure (both physically and mentally, dealing with the anxiety around how it would go) and then the actual extraction. I was supremely relieved afterward and was really only as uncomfortable the day after retrieval as I was before the procedure.
-———— By night time I was feeling even better than yesterday, but at the end of the evening I was sore and puffy-bellied.
Nov. 1 – feeling lots better today. Almost normal.
Update 2: Down to 9 embryos from 11. The nurse actually provided a reason: the other two didn’t divide evenly. The genetic material didn’t split as they would want (I didn't expect to get details, so that was nice). Even though I'm framing this in the language of loss (down to 9), there is some really positive news: they grade the eggs on a scale from 1-4 (One is lowest, four is highest). All the other 9 embryos received a level 4 on the scale. Day three (tomorrow) will be the critical day to see how we are doing with survival rates.
My colleague, who has gone through 5 years of fertility and is now expecting, asked me:
Isn't it weird to think that your future baby is growing in a dish RIGHT NOW?
Ps. I'm glad we still celebrated Halloween. And I channeled badass Charlize in Atomic Blonde. If you are queer and haven't seen this movie yet, what the hell are you waiting for?!
I’ve been playing phone tag with the Clinic. Come in today, come in tomorrow, no come in Sunday, OK come in both.
Here is a recap of the past few days.
Thursday: Went into the clinic today. The follicles are developing really wonderfully; I have 10 that look really good. Nurse called and said that I need to go into the Burlington clinic on Saturday, and Dr. C looked at my chart and wants me to drop the Gonal F to 100. She is predicting it’s going to be a freeze-all cycle, because they’re worried about hyperstimulation. So, I might have to do a natural cycle after this one, so wait out November and try for December. Either way, I will come back in and sign consents for frozen transfers. They are going to drop the dose of Gonal, then I’ll go in on Saturday to keep monitoring. (So, started Gonal at 200, dropped to 150, then to 100 last minute on Friday).
Because with a freeze all we will have to skip November, we run into potential scheduling problems. They are closed Dec. 22 to Jan. 5 in Mississauga, while Burlington will be closed Dec. 25 and 26. A natural cycle is unpredictable, so we might miss December altogether.
Transfer Options – Natural or On Medication: If I do end up doing a natural cycle there will be an option to come into the clinic a few times for monitoring, but then we wait for me to ovulate. The risk is that the meds this month might make my cycle unpredictable and it will be hit or miss with the timing of my ovulation (harder to plan and harder to catch). However, if I do a medicated cycle I will have to keep taking the medication for 13 weeks, if I use it during the pregnancy. And bonus deet: the meds make your vagina bright blue. Smurf style.
Friday: In to the clinic again. Last night the dose of Gonal F dropped to 100. Luveris still at 75. Took Cetrotide this morning. Three needles a day makes Alison a dull girl. Good thing it’s just me and not the needles. I need to remember to get a needle disposal unit!! We returned a full one and forgot to get another. We have an ever-growing brown paper bag of medical biohazard waste on the table.
Meds: We have 150 left of Gonal F and 1 Luveris at home. The tally for meds costs is on the agenda for this weekend. It’s in the thousands of $$$.
It was a Long appointment today, because there is a lot to look at.
26 follicles, 16 over 14 mm. My lining is 18.2. They are almost sure that we will do a freeze-all. This makes me nervous, but I keep telling myself it’s for my own good.
I need to come back Sunday to give my body a chance to let the smaller ones catch up. I’m booked at Burlington on Saturday, but need to change it to Sunday.
What happens next? The trigger shot will happen, then we skip one day. What are we looking forward to? Right now: best results would be 18 (at most) frozen eggs, but often after losses in the post-fertilization stage, it drops off – so maybe 3-7.
Either way, more meds!!!
Then I got the update: called during Period 5 class, to reschedule. I have to come in Saturday and Sunday. Take Cetrotide, but stop everything else after Friday night.
The doctor looked at my chart and wants to bring me in sooner. My estrogen is at 10,500 and it’s pushing the safe zone if all these follicles keep growing.
This thought was from a while ago, but I figured maybe a break from stats would be nice.
My colleague asked me today if it was weird that there was some stranger’s junk inside me and I said, yeah, but I said the weirdest part was actually that it's the first time in 3 1/2 decades that there's been ever sperm inside me, because I was always so careful when I was with men. I've never had unprotected sex so just even the concept of there being sperm in there was like …you know, like some of jerking off in the Vatican.
Okay it’s not a perfect metaphor. But it felt like profaning a queer, very tidy, sacred place.
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.
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.
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.