Bionic Mamas

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


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Meanwhile, Back At Prostaglandin Ranch

…having my period while barred from NSAIDs and taking care of a toddler (which precludes a Percocet haze) is going just about as fucking well as you might fucking imagine.

I would happily gnaw my way through most of a bottle of ibuprofen, naproxen, or gin right now. Or an electrical cord.

Since, however, the reason to avoid the NSAIDs is because the prednisone is dicey for the GI tract and since following treatment based on the theory that my stomach is contributing to my sinus woes seems to be helping, I will just carry on with my present course of weeping at what must seem to the Bean like complete random.

…maybe just the barest nibble of percocet?

ETA: I took half of one. Still feels like there’s a raccoon in my innards, but at least it’s more lethargic now.

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Addled All Over

Sometimes (read: most of the time) I think I am making things up about my body. That my ailments are manifestations of my addled brain alone, that I imagine or make myself ill as a means of proving to the world that I am special or deserve attention or something.

Is this related to a childhood with a chronically ill mother, one in which I was constantly reminded by the world (though not by her, I hasten to assure you) that she was Sick, that I must never think of my own body, because hers mattered most? Is it related to my fear that I will become sick like her? To, perhaps, an illogical resentment of her being sick? To an even more irrational (but very American) belief that being sick is a matter of morality, health a question of will power? Maybe.

An example: at the Baby Factory the other day, I was divested of several vials of blood, then sent to talk to billing. I leaned against the cubicle wall while the nice woman there showed me paperwork. I was dizzy and had trouble following her points, finding the words I needed to ask questions. But it wasn’t that much blood, after all, not nearly the vats they’d taken before our original, surreal IVF orientation, which I spent convulsively shuddering under a large, wool shawl. Probably I was using the knowledge that blood had been taken as an excuse to indulge myself. Just in case, I ate part of the pastry in my bag while we waited to meet with the scheduler, Maribelle. See? There’s the I indulgence, right there.

Maribelle came to lead us back to her office, and I made sure to walk very close to Sugar, to consciously notice when she slowed her pace. We have to stop so Maribelle can unlock the door, I told myself, carefully, the way you remind yourself to be careful when drunk. (Our acting teachers always said that it was a mistake to play drunk characters as out of control, that what typifies drunkenness is excessive attention to control, where a sober person can relax and still move her body correctly.) I sat down careful at the desk, thought methodically and hard about whether the dark marks on the roof across the street meant it was raining. I planned my route to get a coke after the meeting. I fought the urge to put my head against the glass and close my eyes, and I pretended that I understood what Maribelle was saying, because of course I could understand it if I’d just stop indulging myself.

Sugar watched how firmly I was blinking, how I was graciously apologizing for needing dates repeated, for misunderstanding the protocol and forgetting about the polyp-check. She told Maribelle I’d had blood drawn, and the next thing you know, Maribelle had produced a can of apple juice and a cup, apologizing that the juice wasn’t cold.

And what do you know? After I drank the juice, I didn’t feel dizzy anymore, I could find at least some of my words, and the calendar wasn’t so hard to interpret, either. I don’t much care for apple juice, especially warm, so maybe that it worked means I wasn’t just indulging myself, after all. Maybe I wasn’t well.

Similarly, I found myself wondering last night, when I was finally done with a long, crampy day of first taking care of the Bean, then teaching a night class, then traveling on late-night trains and subways (none of which combines well with serious narcotics), finally able to take first one half and then, still achy, another half of the Percocet tab I’d been thinking of all day, whether I’m just exaggerating the pain of my periods. Sure, they used to be excruciating, but what if I only think I need strong drugs now because I’m afraid of feeling pain, not because the pain I feel now really is all that bad?

Please just take the medicine, Sugar says. You’re not addicted to it, and there is no downside to treating your pain. So I did, a little convinced I just have her fooled, too.

But you know, I don’t think it’s my fear of pain that woke me up, two hours later, gripping my stomach and belly, feeling those familiar knives and stones. I think, maybe, I’m not as healthy as I would will myself to be, if only my will had anything to do with it.


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News From the Front

The bottom of the front, specifically. The front bottom, if you will.

The appointment went well. Dr. Baby Factory did not, after all, yell at me, you will be relieved to hear, though as always, he had that sad look that Sugar reminds me is mostly just how his eyebrows are shaped. His hair’s gotten a bit shaggy, as if the four years since we’ve met (is that all?) have taken him from being the 11-year-old star of the piano recital (as I always thought of him after seeing the picture in his office of him sitting ramrod straight up on one of the Today Show’s couches) to a 15-year-old with a garage band and a penchant for eschaton.

Dr. BF is who first suggested I go to Dr. Russian’s practice for OB, although in fairness he specifically recommended Dr. Robot, who left the practice in my first trimester.  Nevertheless, I decided I would tell him to rethink recommending them, if not for Dr. Russian’s appalling manner (which I know you all believe me about, but which could sound like the whining of a delicate flower) then for the way Dr. Skinny, the head of the practice, dismissed out of hand my was-that-an-abruption bleeding in the days before labor.  It is with deep pleasure that I report to you that he already has a call into Dr. Skinny, because he keeps having her patients come to him, get pregnant, and then refuse to return to her practice.  (Smart women!) So I guess it’s not just me.

While we’re on the subject of Dr. BF, can I just say what an absolute artist that man is at a pelvic exam? Seriously, he is the only person ever whose haven’t hurt; even his double pap smears don’t hurt. (Yes, I am a special snowflake and regularly cry over medical messing about in my lady business(es).  My cervices are on the inside for a reason.) I have to say that here because, 1) it is worthy of praise, and 2) there is no non-creepy way to express this sentiment in the moment.

So, the various bottom lines:

  • I will be making a lot more “bottom” jokes around here in the coming months.  Enjoy.
  • My CD 2 numbers are, I think without digging for my old notebook of data, the best they have ever been.  (FSH 5.6, E2 a shockingly low-for-me 39.)
  • My famous endometriomas (aka, “chocolate cycts,” if you are into ruining your ability to enjoy chocolate forever, which I am not) have apparently disappeared (?) (!).  Is this even possible?  I have noticed less back pain in the past few months, but I certainly felt plenty in cycles since being pregnant.  I am befuddled.  I’ll work on being glad, but right now I’m too confused.  At any rate, the dildo-camming didn’t give me the usual sensation that a smoldering rat is trying to scramble out of my lower back, which was a nice change.
  • We have lots of embryos, and Dr. BF seems optimistic about our chances, or as optimistic as his eyebrows will allow.

Scheduling is a bit of a annoyance, more so than I had anticipated.  I have the good insurance for six months, March-August.  I naively assumed this meant time for several cycles, but I had forgotten that the Baby Factory closes for IVF and like matters three months of the year, and two of those months are April and August.  When the scheduler explained that an April cycle, which was what I had begun to imagine, wasn’t going to happen, I felt bathed in adrenaline.  March?  March?!?  That’s so soon! But waiting doesn’t make a lot of sense, under the circumstances, so March it is.  Then I drank the warm apple juice she’d brought when I got woozy missing the half-gallon of blood they’d siphoned off for still more tests.  When a few molecules of sugar reached my brain, I remembered that I can’t do March, because Dr. BF wants me to come back early next cycle to see if a polyp is what’s making me spot so much before my period or if it’s just my good buddy endometriosis.

So May it is.  I am not entirely sorry to wait, though I had gotten myself slightly excited about Just Doing It.  I am worried that between the possible polyp and the closures, my six months of insurance just became three (and that’s assuming there’s no polyp or that it can come out quick-like in April).  However, billing had a surprise for us: the less-good insurance (under whose begrudging, code-careful auspices we had this consult) actually covers quite a bit more than we had thought.  Doing a cycle with them would still be more expensive than with the good insurance, but it sounds at the moment like it wouldn’t be impossible, especially if we planned ahead and got the drugs while I’m still on the good plan.

May gives me time for a few more visits to the favorite cocktail bar I am just now falling back in love with.  It also gives me some time to get worked up about various parts of this whole gig I wasn’t expecting.

For instance: more shots.  When I was first contemplating IVF, I decided I could deal with the little needles for stims but not the big ones for progesterone-in-oil, and Dr. BF agreed that I could use coochie bullets — excuse me, vaginal suppositories; excuse me, non-American readers, pessaries — instead.  They were messy and sort of annoying, but I was never sorry to be missing the intra-muscular missile to the butt I’d read about on other blogs, still less the bruises and lumps and lingering scar tissue.  But I guess now I get to learn for myself what all the fuss is about, because Dr. BF says (and, I regret to say, that the study I found on the topic agrees) that the delivery method really does make a difference in FET cycles.  Dr. BF says that during my IVF cycle, I was making some progesterone on my own, but that during a medicated FET, I won’t, which means that small differences in efficacy can mean big differences in results.

So one thing I guess I could use about now is some PIO pep-talking, should you have any on hand.  I’m not upset by needles per se, but I am no great fan of personal pain, especially deliberately inflicted, in my own home, every day for three months.  Call me crazy.  However, I also realize that a miscarriage I would always fear I could have prevented is worse.  Great choices, these are.

Okay, I know there are worse choices, I KNOW.  I know that, as subfertile lesbians go, I am sitting very pretty, what with the good clinic and the good insurance and the bewildering array of embryos.  It’s just…I had forgotten what this part, when fear and uncertainty loom so very large, feels like.  Frankly, I thought I got to skip it this time.

Mel asked the other day, after my first return to the Baby Factory for CD 2 blood work, whether I found that some of being back was much easier and some was ten times harder.  Yes.  That is exactly how I found it.  At first, I was giddy, almost, being back in such a powerful place without the dread and exhaustion I remember from the last time around.  This is a cinch, I thought, walking right up to the check-in computer to type my name.  The first time I came in, I stood awkwardly in front of the receptionist’s desk for some time before a woman in a pompadour, whom I did not yet know was nosy as the day is long and none too quick on the uptake, informed me in one of those New York lady klaxon voices that still startle me that I was doing everything wrong, as though it weren’t understandable that a person might imagine their office worked like every other office on Earth.  This time, the receptionists were new and muscle memory guided my hands through the menus as surely as if they were ticket machines at Grand Central.  Bam! I thought, jabbing the CD2 bloodwork button, my doctor’s name, my insurance carrier.  I got this.  I even made a self-deprecating joke about sperm to the guy ahead of me in line.  (Sorry, sir.  I should probably not be allowed in public alone, at least not while giddy.)

As I waited for my name to be called, a strange nausea crept over me.  I hadn’t, I realized, been comparing my present-day self with the me who had first come to the Baby Factory at all; I’d been comparing myself to my memory of that person, a memory colored by knowing that my first visit was only the beginning, that there were miles to go, disappointments and fears and more than a few crying jags.  In fact, that very first me, the one the receptionist startled, was a lot like this me: happy, excited, hopeful.  I had mainly wanted to go to an RE because of my mysterious lady-part arrangement and because my insurance covered it and the Gyn I’d gone to was a dick, so why not?  I imagined we’d leave with a plan, buy some sperm for home use, and have a baby in less than a year. Although our story ended happily, that original me sure had another think coming.

The PIO surprise was like a bucket of cold water to the face in part because I thought this time was going to be so easy.  Aren’t FETs supposed to be so simple compared to a fresh cycle?  I suppose it is simpler, in that I don’t have to come to the office much and won’t get OHSS this time, but I had forgotten that simpler isn’t the same as easy.  I know what to expect from an IVF cycle, but an FET is nevertheless new to me, bringing with it all the anxiety that attends medical novelty.  That I know how to get to the clinic and where to buy a coke after they exsanguinate me for science does not mean I know anything about what’s going to happen, and worse, it doesn’t mean I have any control over the results. I know I’m a lucky subfertile lesbian, but dammit, why can’t I just be a fertile one?  I thought skipping the rounds of IUI this time would make me feel fertile, but that fantasy is crumbling now that I remember that this “fertility” still involves doctors and needles and tenacula and fear.  I never really believed this when we were trying to conceive the first time, but it turns out this secondary infertility jazz is, to paraphrase Smarshy’s memorable image, just a different bag of ass.


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Back In The Saddle

…or the stirrups, anyway.

No, no, not in the TTC sort of way, not yet anyway. I won’t spring that on you without some high-octane angst first, promise.

But I did go to the OB/Gyn, for the first time since my postpartum appointment, which some of you may recall ended with me wandering the avenues of Midtown, weeping so hard people were forced to break the NYC taboo on talking to crying people and the one on stopping strangers in the street. (In case you’re wondering, it does take some doing, especially in the blocks around Grand Central.) I was, erm, a little nervous. Related: what is it about filling out those medical history forms that makes me afraid I’ve forgotten my own name, let alone whether I have kidney disease?

You will not be surprised to hear that I did not return to Dr. Russian, as punching her in the face would open me up to more court and jail time than fits my schedule. I stacked the deck a bit by going to Sugar’s doctor, whom I have met before. (In fact, I tried to go to her practice when I got knocked up, but they weren’t taking new OB patients.) Nevertheless, I was feeling pretty shaky as I sat there on the table waiting, gripping my notebook of questions. I fetched my journal out of my purse, for the sense of enhanced safety only another book can provide.

And…she was wonderful. She listened to my slightly quavery explanation of why I was switching practices and said it all sounded pretty traumatic. She said that lots of women push for four hours with a first baby and that it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying, and that they give nifedipine if they even suspect Reynaud’s in the nipples of a breastfeeding mother, because Reynaud’s is so awful and nifedipine is so safe. (See here and here for contrast.)

I haven’t written about this, but one part of labor that I have felt increasingly upset about in recent months is the part where I was bleeding heavily for days at home and Dr. Skinny said it was nothing and then was such a bitch about my calling back when it hadn’t stopped, twelve hours or more after my first call. I’ve talked to many, many women since then about their experiences of labor, and I have yet to hear anything that reassures me it was normal. I suppose it’s possible that it really was just a particularly determined (and large — this was a lot of blood) broken vessel in my cervix, but it’s also possible it was a placental abruption, and there is no way Dr. Skinny could have known it wasn’t via phone. I didn’t think it seemed normal at the time, and I shouldn’t have let her intimidate me out of that. Things turned out okay for me and the Bean, of course, but it’s not a comfortable feeling, thinking that I could have let my baby die — oh, and potentially died myself — because I was too chicken to argue with a doctor. I told the new doctor that, and she looked very serious. That does not sound normal, she said, and no one at this practice would have let you stay at home if you called bleeding that much. That will not happen to you here.

Ultimately, she said that while she couldn’t ethically say things about Dr. Russian to a patient, she was — I think the word was “horrified” — by what I had told her. Then she said so again.

So. Maybe it wasn’t just me.

If this doctor has a fault I am aware of, it is that I find her a little happy to cut, as surgeons tend to be. On the other hand, as much as I don’t want to have surgery for the endometriosis I’ve thus far fail to cure with denial or pregnancy, I’m not sure she’s wrong that I should have it. Things are getting worse, and most months I now spend three out of ever four or five weeks in some amount of pain. In particular, pain in the week before my period is getting out of hand, such that I’ve been dipping into my hoarded Percocet stash to sleep. Nothing else does a thing. The question in my mind is whether surgery is worth the pain of recovery, given that it doesn’t always help with endo. Somehow I didn’t get that question in, but I am being sent back to Dr. Demure, the man who did a transvaginal ultrasound without so much as seeing my legs, to see how my garden of ovarian cysts grows. Well, I imagine, from the way my back feels half the month. I’m also to see a rehab specialist about the way my hip joints fall to pieces and leave me so weak once a month, though she seems unconvinced that isn’t somehow also endo.

If I am going to try to get pregnant again in the spring or summer, I’m not keen to have surgery first. I’m hard-pressed to come up with a rational excuse for that — besides that I have no idea what I would do with the Bean for two weeks if my recovery were anything like Sugar’s — but she said it did not sound crazy. Should have asked her why not. In the meantime, I have a legitimate prescription for Percocet now, though she said several times that we couldn’t just carry on like this until menopause. Other than pain medication and surgery that might not help, there is no treatment. Birth control pills help some people, but are a bad idea for people like me, who get migraine with aura and don’t like the idea of having a stroke.

The pelvic exam itself was not much fun, though I think she was as gentle as possible while hunting around for cervix number two. Righty seems to have done the job at delivery, for those who were wondering. The worst part, though, was the groping around for uterus and ovaries and such like. I was doubled-over after and am still in a fair bit of pain, though some sangria left over from our party on Sunday did take the edge off last night. She may have a point about this situation not being tenable.

So! On balance, a win yesterday, I think. Let us hope for another one tomorrow, when I have a job interview at a college in Staten Island. I am hoping that my scanty publication record’s including a book about a forgotten corner of our most ignored borough will give me an edge.


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What Was That All About?

Hey, y’all.  Thank you again and a hundred more times for your comment on my sad post the other day.  One of my blog goals is to start replying to more comments [sidebar: I’ve finally learned that if I reply using WP’s email system, I can also cc the email you used when you left the comment, which means you might actually see my reply, assuming you left a working email]; I’m not sure I’ll manage replies to these ones, only because I feel them very deeply and am having trouble finding words, even after looking under the couch cushions.  But truly, deeply, thank you all.

I’ve been doing some thinking about what made me fall apart so very much just then.  Certainly, the things I mentioned in the post itself — sick, sad Bean; lack of sun and exercise; insomnia (WTF?); cetera — are part of the answer, but a few other things have come to mind, to whit:

  • That pesky anniversary thing.  Several of you have mentioned bad stuff coming up around a year after birth.  For that matter, many of you (too many) have talked about renewed sadness and upset around the anniversaries of losses.  How that part of my mind knows what time of year it is, I don’t know, but I think maybe this is part of what’s going on.  Here’s hoping the outburst at 11 months is somehow protective and that the Bean’s birthday will be only joy.
  • PMS — Okay, I did mention this one, but it makes the list anyway because I’m curious to know whether any of you who have had babies think your PMS has changed.  I think mine has, and I’m hoping it’s partly because of the nursing-related hormone roller coaster and will therefore GTFH eventually.  I’ve always…felt intensely about PMS.  Feeling fat and moaning about same was, given the uncertainties of my cycle, pretty much how I knew it was time to buy pads; some light crying on the last day inevitable; weeping not wholly out of the question.  But it did not used to ravage me so thoroughly.  Crying, yes; sobbing, not so much until now.  (And just in time to try not to scare another creature with unpredictable behavior!)  These days…damn.  Anyone else?
  • Another thing that’s new is the kind and character of my period pain.  It’s been creeping back.  Every month I nurse a little less and I bleed a lot more and things hurt.  I didn’t expect being pregnant to cure my endometriosis any more than it cured my mother’s or than adulthood cured the asthma of anyone in my family, but I can’t help having hoped a little.  At least so far there have been no visitations of the dreaded GI/endo horrors which I positively cannot take care of a child during.  (I remember thinking on the infamous cab ride to the hospital that, while what was happening was very painful, I had been in worse pain many times and survived.  It’s like that.)  I’m not surprised that the pain is coming back, but what I am surprised about is how it has changed.  I’ve always been in pretty bad shape from the sternum down during my period, with belly, hips, back, and legs all hurting in one way or another, but the hip pain in particular has shifted from being something that I mostly noticed when trying to sleep on my side to being constant, beginning even before my period.  It also feels different, like someone is standing behind me, digging curled fingers around the front of my hip bones and then pulling out and back.  My hips and legs also get strangely tired and loose-feeling walking long distances during my period, the way they did at the end of pregnancy and especially after birth. It and the back pain are all-too reminiscent of giving birth, which I think makes me a little panicky and upset even before it’s strong enough that I’m thinking about it consciously.  I’m curious to know whether any of you who’ve given birth and/or been pregnant have noticed anything similar.  (I’m trying not to exclude anyone who’d like to answer but also trying not to be all trigger-y; please forgive inability to find a better way to ask.)  And, you know, whether it ever went away.  Also, pain med suggestions happily accepted.  I was so happy, post the cervix-puncturing HSG, that my pain had gone down so much that I could use Advil instead of Aleve, as Advil takes a week to really tear up my stomach while Aleve only needs two days, but this month I found myself taking half a percocet one night, and taking the other half an hour later.

The other, happier realization I’ve had about all this mess is that it is not strictly true that, as I had been thinking, I’m stuck on this.  It seems that way, but I think what’s really going on is that I’m slow, not stuck.  I wish I were done turning this over in my head, that I had successfully turned the whole story into an empowering narrative of personal triumph and joy and unicorn poop

[pause for unicorn poop cookies.  These Exist.]

…but the fact that I haven’t been able to do that yet, it has finally occurred to me, doesn’t mean I’ve been doing nothing.

It took me six weeks to even begin to accept that I was upset at all; that’s what the hysterical crying that began after Dr. Russian told me off in my post partum visit and continued for another day and a half was all about.  (And that there was some Crying, let me tell you.  People in midtown Manhattan do not stop crying people walking down the street to tell them it will be okay; it is just not done.  But they did me. And then this weird subway con-artist regular manhandled my baby on the 42nd Street shuttle.  Great day.)  Until then, I was fumbling around, wondering why I felt ashamed of myself, assuming who suggested that I had Encountered Assholes was just misunderstanding the situation.  I think that’s called denial.

Since then, I’ve gone through some valleys of despair, it’s true, but I’m starting to look around and think that maybe it’s not all the same valley.  They tend to look the same — being so shadowy and all — but maybe I’m not going in circles but just on a very long walk, one that ends somewhere with unicorn poop cookies.

(Okay, probably not.  But the disco dust part of those cookies isn’t really for eating, and I’d be much happier with a nice red wine and chocolate.)


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what the hell is going on in there?

Up until about three weeks ago, I thought of myself as a basically healthy person. I felt lucky for being so healthy, and thought often about how unfair it was for Baby to have to deal with chronic asthma, migraines, and the frequent pain of severe endometriosis.

Then I had an ultrasound, the intent of which was to see if I still had a small polyp in my uterus, that turned up the fact that I had an 8 centimeter endometrioma on one ovary and a 4 centimeter one on the other (!). Faced with how huge 8 centimeters sounds and with the prospect of a more invasive surgery if I waited too long to have them out, I went in for a lap on Tuesday.

When the surgeon looked inside, she discovered some unexpected things. First, both my ovaries are sitting underneath my uterus. Second, the left ovary had become so enlarged that it was as big as the uterus. Third, there are adhesions from endometriosis everywhere in there. And finally, one of my tubes is blocked.

Wow. Ok. I don’t feel good about this at all.

First, somehow I feel like I should have known there was something wrong in there. Maybe I could have done something earlier, if I hadn’t been in denial, except I wasn’t really in denial, since nothing really hurt. But still, how could I not know?

And proceeding from this somewhat irrational reaction, I feel like I’ve been running my life wrong. Or something. Should I have been more invested in being the one to get pregnant? Baby really wanted to be pregnant, and I didn’t really feel strongly that I did want to, so it seemed totally right to have her go first, (or just to be the one to do it, if we only have one). But now it’s looking like I won’t have an easy time if I do want to get pregnant. Plus I’m older that Baby. But I was just going right along assuming I could get pregnant if someone put some sperm up there, like an idiot, so I had all the time in the world (or at least 6 or 7 years).

Not helping is the fact that my really nice and cheerful surgeon keeps asking me about when I want to get pregnant. I know she is happy she was able to preserve both of my ovaries and concerned that my sudden endometriosis seems severe, but, hello, we are expecting a baby in March. I’m not going to try to get pregnant right now, because that would be a nutty thing to do. I was lying in bed, addled from pain medicine, the day after the surgery, when my surgeon called to check on me. After ascertaining that I was recovering normally, she launched into a discussion of how I would probably have to do IVF. Ack! At least wait until I’m off the meds!

Baby has been a great a help through all this. The poor thing is exhausted from being pregnant and has also been doing everything for me for the past three days as I lie here and moan about how percocet gives me a raging headache and the urge to weep. I will be happy to be on my feet again, which right now feels like it won’t be until the distant future, but will really probably be something like three more days. I’ve been a bit surprised at how this recovery is sucking, but I’m not sure why I didn’t put together the fact that getting abdominal surgery = getting stabbed in the stomach. As Nick Swardson says – “no thank you to getting stabbed. I don’t want any part of that process”

Now with working link to the funny! — Ed.


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Egg Retrieval Story

Hey there, folks. How are you? I’m much better than I was, happy to say. I have been all blown up like a water balloon from a touch of OHSS, which wasn’t particularly painful but was kind of tiring, but on Sunday night I peed like I have never peed before — I think someone told my kidneys there was a talent scout in the house — and suddenly I can wear pants again. If I do end up pregnant, I know this will be only the eye of the storm, but I am enjoying it nonetheless.

As far as other ailments, I know Sugar told you I‘ve been rather sick, but I want to make clear that pain and vomiting did at least happen on different days. The pain was very bad the day after retrieval — probably because of all the endometriosis — and then not. The nausea was bad around transfer (5 days post-ER), and I am convinced was a side effect of the progesterone. Now that my body’s used to it, I’m fine. (The doctor tried to sell me on nausea as being because of the bloating, but I haven’t felt sick when at my most bloated; when I felt nauseated was between the post-ER bloat and the real OHSS ballooning.)

I said before that your ER stories were all of so much help to me at my own retrieval, so I figured I’d better tell mine before it fades in the haze of the percocet-filled days that followed it. It’s looooonnnggggg. I hope it will help someone later.

On the morning of retrieval, I was hungry and scared. My clinic says no food or drink at all after midnight the night before, and my procedure wasn’t until midmorning. I have a touch of hypoglycemia, and that long without food leaves me a hot mess: shaky, frightened, easily confused, possessing the emotional self-control of a nap-less toddler. On the other hand, my ovaries felt so big and my back was so sore that if someone had handed me a grapefruit spoon, I might well have dug the eggs out myself. I was, shall we say, ready as I’d ever be.

We took a cab to the clinic, which was very empty because it was Saturday. After filling out payment contact forms for the anesthesiology department, we went up the the second floor of the clinic, where they have operating rooms. I really liked that I didn’t have to go to a separate hospital. Not only was it less nerve-wracking to be in a familiar place — a VERY familiar place, given how much monitoring I’d been having — but it was also calm and uncrowded. Most of the nurses I saw that day I had met in the blood draw room at one point or other, which was comforting.

When we got to the second waiting room, there was one man by himself and one male/female couple. After a few minutes, the woman was called back. About ten minutes later, the nurse called her (presumed) husband back through a different door.

Wow, I thought, if he’s already going to meet her in recovery, this really IS a quick procedure.

Very soon, a brusque nurse I hadn’t met before called me back. “Okay, she’ll come find you after she’s done,” she said to Sugar, prompting a freakout from me. The materials we’d been given all said that “depending on time and patient flow,” she could meet me in recovery. Not anymore, the nurse said, new policy. I felt angry and even more scared. I would have been okay if I’d been expecting it, but I was in no state for surprises. I began to suspect that the nurse thought Sugar and I were just friends, that we weren’t being treated like the het couple that had gone before us.

“What about that guy? How come he got to go, then?” I demanded. The nurse claimed no knowledge. I was rattled and pissed.

After that, I went to the locker room, where I exchanged my clothes for two nice, cloth gowns (one tied in back, one in front), little socks with rubber treads, and a shower cap that was extremely awkward for my long, heavy braid. The key was on a springy loop that I put on my left wrist. I then met the nurse in a tiny room with a table, where she took my pulse and BP (high for me — “maybe you’re a little nervous?” she said, rather kindly) and had me fill out more consent forms and so on. When we were done and the OR still wasn’t ready, she totally redeemed herself in my eyes by fetching Sugar and letting us sit there together until it was time for me to go.

When they were ready, I walked with the nurse to the OR. The way there was through recovery, and I suddenly understood why Sugar couldn’t meet me there — there were just too many patients. The recovery area at the clinic is a series of curtained nooks (like you see in ERs sometimes) arranged around a nurses’ station. Because some of the patients weren’t conscious yet, all of the curtains were open. No partners were there, and I did understand that the nurse was right when she said that having partners come in had been a problem, since everyone was talking and people who were just coming to got confused. The atmosphere was very quiet and calm, even if it was still pretty weird to walk by the woman from the waiting room, out cold with her mouth wide open. She looked like a child or a rag doll.

The OR itself looked, well, like an OR. There was a table with white sheets and “stirrups” that were really just long things to put your calves in. I was standing in the big, open part of the room on the right hand side of the bed. To the left was lots of equipment. There were what seemed like a ton of people but was probably only 4 or so doctors and nurses bustling around. Everything was moving really fast. I got scared again.

“Hop up,” they said, after having me take off one gown and “loosen” the other. (It turned out that by “loosen” they meant “completely untie.” It would have saved some time and frustration on my part if they’d just said that. I felt like I was already supposed to know all this stuff, like in a weird dream.)

Hop up HOW? I thought. The bed was too high for me to get onto easily. They pressed something and it lowered down, I got on it, and everything started happening really fast. A man in green scrubs grabbed my left hand and pulled it out to the side, where there was a little table at a right angle to the bed. He started telling me to make a fist and so on, so he could start the IV. At the same time, a nurse I knew from the blood draw room was telling me to scoot down the table farther, so that my butt was at the edge of a hole in the bed that I could see because it was covered with a pad. Then she told me to put my legs up, then scoot more. Also at the same time, the anesthesiologist was asking me lots of questions about my history with IV anesthesia, my drug allergies, and so on. Only the anesthesiologist, on whom I have developed a bit of a crush, introduced himself.

At this point, I came a bit untethered. The man in scrubs — who I recognized at some point as the surgeon, Dr. Saturday (and wouldn’t it have been nice if he’d introduced himself?) — put the IV in. It hurt like hell. In fact, it never stopped hurting for the rest of the day and I still have something of a bruise there, because it wasn’t in right. I wish I had known that it wasn’t supposed to be like that and that I should have asked him to do it again. (On the bright side, many people reported that the first stuff in the IV stings, and I barely felt that….) Everyone kept telling me to do things all at once. Someone put a BP cuff on my right arm, which inflated itself every minute or two. I started to cry, just a little.

“Oh, no! Don’t cry!” said the sweet anesthesiologist, an Italian man of roughly my father’s age. “Whenever I see a pretty lady cry, I start to cry too.” I pulled myself together and explained that I was worried about the IV sedation, because when I had that for my wisdom teeth, I woke up in the middle and threw up for several days afterwards. He listened to that and to my saying I was going to need real pain medicine after, because tylenol doesn’t do jack for me, and assured me that he would make sure everything was ok.

It was then that I really appreciated tbean’s story, which scared the hell out of me when I first read it, such that I required much buoying from friends who’d done IVF themselves. As upset as I was at the time, my experience wasn’t anything truly traumatic, but it helped during the worst part to remember what tbean had said about how this is surgery, no matter how much they act like it’s just a “procedure.” I looked up at the ceiling and told myself that everything that was happening was normal and how it was supposed to go, that these people were doing their jobs and that my job was to look at the ceiling, try not to think about how much my hand hurt, and trust that Dr. Italian would take care of me. The nurse tucked a white blanket around me so that my right hand was against my chest (nice touch), and the next thing I knew, I was in recovery.

My bed was facing the window, so I could see the green vacant lot next door and the bridge beyond. It was a sunny day, the view was pretty. I don’t remember feeling anything but awake — no groggy period or confusion. I knew where I was, why, and everything else. A nurse noticed I was awake and came over to check on me. She took care of me for the whole recovery period and was great in every way. She asked if I was in pain, and except for the &^$%ing IV, I mostly wasn’t.

After a few minutes, I started to be. My belly was sore in the gas/endometriosis kind of way it had been that morning, my back was a little bit achey, as it had been for a week or more. My vaginal pain was very slight and never got bad, ever. Less pain than I have after a pap smear. I told the nurse and she said she would have the anesthesiologist see me as soon as he was out of the OR. That took 10-15 minutes, by which point my belly had started to be more of a problem.

Dr. Italian came out and gave the nurse something to put in my IV, and I started to feel better right away. He later gave her a syringe of the same something to give as an IM injection, which would last for the ride home.

I was my typically chatty self under the influence of drugs. I asked Dr. Italian to repeat his name a few more times. I ended up remembering it almost right. I told him, somewhat in awe, “I didn’t wake up!”

“That’s my job,” he said.

The nurse brought me some apple juice and graham crackers, which were awesome. At some point, the nurse asked if anyone had told me how many eggs they got. She brought me a paper and pointed at the number 32. My eyes bugged out of my head.

I reminded her that I really needed a scrip for something that wasn’t tylenol, and she had the fellow write for what turned out to be very necessary percocet. “Tylenol doesn’t do anything,” I said, “I might as well take water; it tastes better.”

“That’s my kind of lady!” said Dr. Italian, passing by.

A while later, she said it was time for me to try going to the bathroom, and helped me very slowly get up, carried my IV bag to the hook in the bathroom, and left me sitting there, with firm instructions not to try to stand if I felt weird.

So I sat there.
For a long time.
Nothing.

I had had two bags of IV fluid by that point, but nothing was happening. The nurse called to me that I should come out if it wasn’t working. I was desperate not to stay longer than I had to, so I asked for an extra minute, turned on the sink, tried every mental trick I know, and peeds maybe 3 drops. When I wiped, I was shocked by how bloody the toilet paper was.

The nurse declared that even three drops counted, and I graduated to a recliner with the leg cushion out. Eventually I was allowed to sit up normally. Dr. Italian dropped by again and said “Good work, young lady,” which I loved. (Seeing a theme? Why can’t this man just be constantly passing through my life, praising me?) A while after that, she detached my IV from the cord (leaving it in my hand), and sent me to go put my real clothes back on. (I stopped to get a dreaded hospital pad from the bathroom, as I’d cleverly left the one I brought from home with Sugar.) Once in the locker room, I realized my fatal error: my key was attached to the wrist of my IV hand, which still hurt like hell. I had to gingerly stretch it over everything, which sucked. Nicole: put the dang thing on your right hand.

I returned to the chair, carrying my bra, because hell, no, it was not going back on. The nurse took out my IV, gave me my scrip, and sent me home with Sugar. As we left the 6th floor, I explained to Sugar my understanding why she couldn’t be in recovery, but said I was still confused about where that first husband had gone.

“Dude. He went to give a sperm sample.”

Oh. That’s probably why the nurse didn’t explain, huh? I hope the other waiting husband at least thought my outrage was funny.

We took a cab home, I retired to bed with my percocet, and everything was basically fine. I ate and drank normally. I peed. At some point, I stopped bleeding. The pain got bad the following day, probably as a combination of some OHSS and a lot of endo, but I don’t think that’s typical. In short (TOO LATE!), I was scared but nothing terrible happened. If I have to do this again, I don’t think I’ll be that upset.