Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


Interim Items

Gosh, internets, thank you for all the love and enthusiasm. Warms the cockles, I tell you what.

I keep thinking I’ll pull together the mental wherewithal to organize a proper post, but I’ve been spending all my wherewithal talking to insurance companies and billing offices. Herewith, the Insurance Items:

Background Item: Since the Bean was born, I have been on Sugar’s health insurance (Aetna, lifetime health cover loading), first because I wasn’t working and then because I wasn’t working in the right place to have my own. However, that insurance doesn’t have the kind of gold-plated fertility coverage I require, so this spring I accepted two night classes with a wretched commute in order to return to my old insurance (Empire Plan) long enough for an FET or two. This coverage ends in late August, at which point I will be back on Sugar’s plan.

Item: I screwed my courage but good and called the office of the nice OB — you know, the one who said four hours of pushing didn’t mean I wasn’t trying and used the word “horrified” more than once as I quivered on her exam table, trying to explain why coming in for a Pap smear had me so anxious. I like her a good deal and trust her about as much as I’m currently able to trust any member of her profession (midwives included, I’m afraid), and even so, I was quite dizzy with nerves as I waited on hold. (This bodes well for the coming months, eh?) I finally made it out of the holding tank and then through the nine million questions necessary to schedule early pregnancy appointments (knock wood, practice belief, knock wood), at which I point I casually mentioned that my insurance had changed since my last visit.

Guess who doesn’t take my current insurance, only six or so plans with remarkably similar names?

Cue panic attack.

After a lot of phone calls and mental math, I decided that the cost of seeing the good practice for a couple of out-of-network visits before returning to their accepted Aetna plan (three, I’m guessing) is lower than the cost of patching my mental health back together if I have to find a new practice, even just for a couple of months. I have a few hundred dollars of deductible to cover, after which my insurance will pay 80% of “reasonable and customary” charges; someone from billing is supposed to call me back this week, but she sounded like she thought they would likely work with me to charge amounts my insurance finds acceptable. This will still end up costing us quite a bit more than seeing someone in network, but therapy ain’t free, either. Especially at a time when I can’t avail myself of the kind sold in fifths of a gallon.

And anyway, that deductible has nearly take care of itself already, because…

Item: I am suddenly outside the bounds of my coverage at the Baby Factory, despite not being released as a patient yet.

My insurance considers the Baby Factory in-network for fertility care only, not for pregnancy care. This seems like no big deal, since the Baby Factory doesn’t do OB, but it did cause me some stress three years ago, when I started bleeding after they had released me but before I’d found an OB. At that point, Empire Plan considered a heartbeat on ultrasound as the boundary between fertility and obstetrics; I had a first beta, a second one week later, saw a heartbeat two weeks after that, and was sent on my way. It all seemed perfectly reasonable. We know too well that a positive first beta does not mean a Real Live Baby, but the rate of miscarriage drops significantly after a heartbeat.

Imagine my surprise, then, when having been relieved of yet another vial of blood this Sunday, I was handed a bill for the second beta (and progesterone and estradiol just for fun, I guess), to the tune of $300 and change. We can send it out to a lab your insurance pays for, said the lady in billing, but you won’t get results quickly. My cheapness fought my anxiety; cheapness is strong, but anxiety has throwing stars. So even though I had a sinking suspicion I wasn’t pregnant anymore, I decided to bet on good fortune and pay the bill, hoping that money would count against the deductible I’d spend at the OB’s anyway, assuming I got there.

So far, so good. Which brings us to…

Item: Ultrasound.

My father’s family has been going to this particular place on the shore of Lake Superior for a bit more than hundred years; there’s a gathering of cousins there planned for the end of June. We go there rarely, and I so want the Bean to see it. It is so beautiful, I won’t even pretend to do it justice in a rushed blog post except to say that it is what I picture when I think about heaven. And I’m not really a cold weather girl. It is also quite remote. The only telephone is several miles from where the cabins are; the nearest hospital certainly over an hour. It is sublime, but it would be a hell of a place to have an ectopic rupture.

I asked Dr. BF back in March what he thought of our going the on the heels of a May cycle. As long as your betas are unambiguous, he said. If they look potentially ectopic, I might have to tell you to stay home. Fair enough, I agreed. Just because this place is like heaven doesn’t mean I want to die there.

All this time, I’ve been refusing to quite believe that this trip will happen as planned, but the plan is to leave on Friday. (We are going to a wedding in DC, then to Sugar’s parents’ in lower Michigan, then to the UP, then home (Sugar) and Arkansas (the Bean and me, to see my mother). It’s quite the odyssey, even by our standards.) So after the first beta, I called Dr. BF to remind him of our deal, and that this means we will not be in town for their preferred viability ultrasound at something like 10 days past the second beta.

“You’re leaving Friday? Just come in Thursday morning for a scan. We won’t be able to see much, but as long as we can see something in your uterus, you can go.”

The first problem with this plan is the “Thursday” part. Thursday is Dr. Paternalistic’s shift. I do not want to get bad news from his mouth. I’m not even sure he’s capable of giving me good news without being an ass. But all my scheming about whether I could convince a babysitter to wait in a playground with the Bean (and our luggage?) so that I could go on Friday instead, on our way to the train (pause to appreciate the crazy scheme), was displaced on Sunday by fretting over the cost of the ultrasound without insurance. (Both, of course, a form of distraction from the more obvious anxieties attending such a scan.)

Happily, many phone calls later, it transpires that the prices of everything except the progesterone test are within the bounds of “reasonable and customary.” I confess shock that the blood tests are, frankly, and suspect this has less to do with chemistry than lab monopolies, but whatever, not my (immediate, individual) problem.

Item: The plan. Scan Thursday, very early so that Sugar can come before work. Probably too early to see a heartbeat, so we’ll try not to think about that part. I will see if I can sweet talk a nurse into jiggering the schedule so that we get the fellow I like instead of Dr. Paternalistic. If not, I guess I’ll live. On the other hand, this might be my last chance to kick him from the stirrups….

Item: this post is absurdly long. Sorry.

Item: I think that today I entered the part of pregnancy when I can’t have coffee anymore without feeling really sick. This lasted for the duration last time, and boy, is caffeine a more important part of my life with an early-rising toddler than it was pre-Bean.

Item: This morning also marked the first convincing nausea of this process (doxycycline excepted). Not so bad, as these things go, but still not my favorite.

Item: I’m not sure if this quite rises to the level of a craving yet, but holy Moses, is beef all I want to eat in the whole world. I could have wept for joy at the sight of hamburgers grilling at Sunday’s pool party.

Item: this post is absurdly unstructured. Sorry.

Item: I will leave you with some Bean cultural anthropology, inspired by his asking after the whereabouts of our local ice cream truck at six or seven on Saturday morning:

ME: Many people do not consider ice cream a breakfast food.

BEAN (thoughtful, serious): Maybe some do.

(And then, in the spirit of self-fulfilling prophecy, he fell backwards off a picnic bench while we were out to brunch with a friend, smacked his head on the concrete patio, acquiring in the process a magnificent goose egg and a free gelato from a sympathetic waiter. How is it so many people survive being toddlers?)


Still Pregnant!

I was so sure I wasn’t. But here is the rare occasion when I am happy to be wrong.

HCG 6194.

Doubling time of 34.94 hours.

Hard to argue with that, even for me.

Sugar, the Bean,  and I are on our way to a birthday party in the suburbs (baby’s first pool party!) so the myriad ways my insurance is giving me grey hairs and the Bean’s latest sleep shenanigans will have to wait for a future post. But I did not want to leave you hanging, my loyal friends.



Just In Case

Just in case, you know, I’m not pregnant anymore tomorrow, when I return to the baby factory for a repeat beta, I thought I’d better post these.

One is from Sunday a week ago. Yes, after I’d already gotten the call, because I couldn’t adequately gather my courage to do so before the phone rang. There were two in the box, so it seemed perfectly reasonable to pee on the other one on in the middle of the week, when I was feeling particularly un-pregnant. And promptly fret that its line looked lighter, even though I know (I know!) that isn’t how these things work and anyway, it’s not as if I’d controlled for hydration and so on. Anyway, now that one looks darker, so who the hell knows.


Well, That Went Well

I was going to write you a whole story, including the inauspicious movie ad by the clinic (“This Is The End”) and the auspicious way the hotdog stands smelled AMAZING, how I bought hpt’s so that I could pee on a stick after the blood draw but before the phone call (and in so doing learned that the 42nd street CVS sells honest to god vibrators), only then I sat there, next to the open box, crippled with indecision about whether or not to test, given that Sugar was off working a shift in my stead at the food coop and so on, and then the phone rang…but like me when the nurse on the phone asked how I was feeling, you would probably prefer that I dispense with the pleasantries.

Yes. Yes, I am.

221, for those of you who like numbers.

Prime factors of 13 and 17, which I like.

Starrhillgirl points out that, rendered as all caps, 221 is a very enthusiastic pair of breasts:

That seem auspicious, even I must admit.


Optimism, Ahoy!

Hi, internets. Thank you for your many kindnesses in response to my last post. Progesterone and blogging really don’t mix.

I am feeling more optimistic today, and felt I should tell you that, so you at least see that these are mood swings, not just an endless sea of despair. I’m nervous to even post this, because, as some of you have pointed out, insisting I am not pregnant is partly a protective measure: if I admit I might be, I’m just opening myself up to be crushed when [grits teeth] IF I’m not.

Reasons for optimism:

  • am endulging myself in rereading Patrick O’Brian books, in celebration of summer’s arrival. (Hence the maritime metaphors all over the place.) This has nothing to do with pregnancy, but it’s cheering, all the same. I read most of the series during the Bean’s earliest days, and they saw me through some tough times. Stars in the heavenly crown of the intrepid librarian who snuck out an emergency exit and climbed in the window of a room closed for construction to get me my fix.
  • My nipples have been feeling funny, and maybe looking a little funny, too. I have not been pinching them. Very possibly this is just because progesterone has me so…figurehead-esque that my bra is hard-pressed to contain its inhabitants, but hell, at least my rack looks great.
  • My uterus feels funny. Okay, the progesterone gave me cramps all along, but there’s a steadiness to the aching that is maybe different? It just feels increasingly…full. I don’t think it’s constipation….
  • I’m drinking milk. I drank a lot of milk when pregnant with the Bean. In general, I drink more milk in the second half of cycle, and I might just be casting about for beverages to replace wine, but still.
  • Today, I can see (at least sort of) that this cycle’s not working is not the end of the world. It’s possible we could manage our travel to allow a July cycle (though if that means not getting to see my mom — the last leg of our upcoming trip — I’m not sure it’s worth it). It would cost a bit more to do a cycle after that, because my insurance will change, but not, as far as I can tell, an insurmountable pile of money. And it’s always been my theory that September is a terrific time to get pregnant, because then you never have to be pregnant in the summer. Or something.
  • Stay tuned! I will doubtless change my mind about all of this tomorrow! Beta Sunday*, after which point, I may be happier or sadder, but I will almost definitely be more sane.

    *I don’t plan to test early, because if it’s negative, I can’t stand the thought of going in for the beta. I tested early only the first cycle or two we tried, because even without a beta to attend, the “is it just too early?????” Is more mindfuck than I can handle.


    In Case You Were Wondering

    I am depressed, resentful of the progesterone’s making me feel this way since I’m convinced I am not pregnant, the Bean refuses to nap and is about as independent as a tapeworm lately, I accidentally made the kind of lunch that was exclusively made up of foods I’m to avoid because of the whole acid reflux in my sinuses business, my acid reflux is behaving as you’d imagine, and the lunch didn’t even taste good.

    I am going to drag myself and the child to the community garden now, to dump the compost and perhaps literally go eat worms.


    Things That Are Not “Symptoms,” A List

    Two days past a 5-day transfer, an attempt to record various bodily occurrences now, while even I have to admit they have nothing to do with who is or isn’t taking up residence in the Ute of Requirement:

  • Cleavage
  • Yes, my boobs are sore and Parton-esque. But they were like this before transfer, too. Progesterone.

  • Nausea, Intermittent
  • Progesterone. Acid reflux.

  • Nausea, Extreme
  • Last time around, I blamed the progesterone, but this time it was clearly the doxycycline. Vanished as soon as I stopped taking it.

  • Cramping
  • Progesterone again, plus a side of people fussing with my cervix.

  • Spotting, Evening of Trasnfer
  • Remember how much that speculum hurt? Use your head, child.

  • Spotting, Future (Hypothetical)
  • You spotted last month, too.

  • Exhaustion, Pathological
  • Progesterone again. It’s nice sleeping through the night, though, isn’t it?

  • Vague Uterine Sensations, Various
  • Gas, child. No sesame seed ever kicked like that.

  • Mood Swings, Rapid, Violent
  • Progesterone is a hell of a drug, ain’t it?


    Embryo Aweigh

    Hi, internets. Sorry for the wait. Valium remains my favorite drug, which is why I didn’t write yesterday.

    So. The transfer was fine. After striking out with our usual sitters, thanks to the holiday weekend, I found a former student to stay with the Bean. I was beginning to think I would have to go to the clinic alone, which was a sad thought. Of course all my monitoring appointments have been just me, but a transfer feels more momentous (or at least potentially momentous), and a person likes to feel she isn’t acting unilaterally, you know? It was unexpectedly cold, so Sugar and I had a chilly walk to the clinic from the subway. It rained a little.

    At the Baby Factory, we were directed upstairs, to the floor with the ORs. Dr. BFs office, the exam rooms, and the blood draw room are on the lower floor. The last time I was upstairs was the day of the Bean’s transfer, but I always think of the first time I climbed these stairs, when we paid our $450 gay tax in the form of that stupid “counseling” session. Luckily, Starrhillgirl distracted me with a picture of the blue mountain view where she was waiting, and I reciprocated with a picture of the lot beside the Baby Factory, which, despite what I can only imagine must be an astronomical value, has been vacant for at least four years. To give you an idea of the kind of money we’re talking, that tall building in the background is the UN.

    Waiting room view

    Soon enough, a very solicitous nurse with an English accent led me back to the changing room, buckled me into my hospital bracelet, and gave me that Valium I’d been pestering everyone about. I changed into a Baby Factory gown, but unexpectedly I got to keep my own socks and sweater. I might have chosen more special socks, had I realized, but I was very pleased that I’d worn my softest, most comforting sweater. And the socks were red and striped, so it could have been worse.

    I sat in a backwater of the recovery room for a while, waiting to be reunited with Sugar and meet the doctor. A man in Hassidic dress — long, black, silk coat, white stockings, round, flat, black hat — hurried back to meet his wife behind a curtain. A tall, Russian nurse strode in and out in scrubs. I am almost certain her shoes, with blue, gauzy surgical covers wrapped and tucked around them, were either flip-flops or the cheap, mule-ish houseshoes people here wear in the summers. She had lovely ankles, but all that bare flesh still seems odd in an environment with so many sharps containers. Then again, I was walking around in socks.

    Bunny slippers

    Because of the shoe covers, I can’t say for certain that these are the ones she was wearing, but neither can I guarantee they aren’t.

    By the time someone took me to the antechamber by the OR, the Valium was kicking in a little. A nurse took some blood from my left arm; I’m still letting the right recuperate following its refusal to yield anything last week. Sugar met me there, and Dr. Friday, an unknown quantity, arrived to talk about our embryo. It turns out I like Dr. Friday, though I admit that her almost cartoonish voice — it’s possible my mental fog exaggerated the pitch and speed — baffled me for a moment. Pre-transfer googling (what?) leads me to believe she, unlike most (all?) of the other Baby Factory doctors, also still does some OB/gyn work, and she certainly seemed more gyn-ish than the others, in that she seemed interested in hearing about how my septum had behaved in delivery (and, following some clipped statements from me to the effect that I had not been pleased with my medical care, who my OB had been). I know what you’re thinking, but her practice is in Connecticut.

    She gave us some papers to sign and said some complimentary things about the embryo in question. The embryology lab, we are told, is put in a very good mood by embryos like this. Later, when I was looking at the creature itself on a screen in the OR, she said “it doesn’t even look like it’s been frozen!”

    I’m glad she said all those things, because in truth, it doesn’t look to me quite as textbook-perfect as the Bean’s. I expect it isn’t, but I’m hoping that doesn’t matter, and I certainly know that less than perfect looking embryos have turned into actual people. (Who knows? Perhaps even my own embryonic beginnings were not so glorious.) It’s a 4BB, from what I saw on the chart — only maybe one of those Bs was lowercase — and something about it was “95%”. I don’t have much of a sense of what that means in the scheme of things. Regardless, it’s the one that’s inside me now, so alea iacta est, you know?

    Off Dr. Friday and I went to the OR. Nurse Flip-Flop helped me into the most spread-eagled stirrups ever. The embryologists put the embryo up on the TV screen. It was fascinating to watch it change radically as they shifted the focus of the microscope; I wouldn’t have guessed it had enough height to make depth of field an issue, but it did. (Must be the donor; I am quite short.)

    Dr. Friday cranked the speculum open to 11, and I must say, it was excruciating. The pain burned from two lines, top and bottom, running the length of my vagina; I suspect this is where my septum was. I have had occasion on my own to notice that what I assume are those areas do not stretch as well as the surrounding tissue. Indeed, Dr. Friday said she could see the septum’s remains, which was almost interesting enough to make up for the pain.

    The transfer itself was perfectly smooth, like the way other people often describe IUIs. No wonder people don’t think this is a big deal! (I’ll still ask for Valium if there is a next time, though, if only for the sake of my nerves.) Unlike Dr. Paternalistic, who always hogs the ultrasound screen, she left it tilted enough that I could see it. She and the nurses pointed out the image of the catheter entering my uterus and then, after it retreated, the glowing, white ball of fluid enveloping the embryo it left behind.

    Blast 2