Bionic Mamas

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


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I AM HOGWARTS

Transfer notes coming, but first, a TWW Deep Thought:

If my uterus is a “potential space” (as Dr. Google has assured me, re: “am I going to cough this embryo out?”), meaning that it contains volume only when and to the extent that volume exists for it to contain, does that mean my body has its own Room of Requirement?

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Post-Ovulatory Items

Sshhh, internets, the Bean is sleeping. Finally. I should be in the other room, using this time to finish my semester grading, but the Bean is also sick, and if I move, nap over. So how’s about some items, since I’m here for the foreseeable?

Item: for those following along at home, I was finally deemed worthy of triggering on Saturday. Transfer day is Friday. Cross your fingers, if you don’t mind, for an easy transfer and a conclusive beta to follow. Of course, I’d prefer a conclusively high beta, but what I’m most focused on at the moment is numbers that mean I get to go on our planned summer trip of friends and family and beautiful, quiet places in the north woods of Michigan. When I ran this idea past Dr. BF, he said it was all fine as long as they were satisfied nothing ectopic was happening. No one wants to risk a rupture that far from a hospital, not even me.

Item: There will be Valium at the transfer, and don’t think I haven’t made mention of that to every warm body I can find at the Baby Factory. (I know some clinics always use Valium — and I find their logic of reducing uterine contractions convincing — but mine doesn’t.) Look, I know things have changed in the down-there department, post-Bean, and it’s wholly reasonable to suspect at least one of those pesky cervices is a little easier to navigate now that six pounds of baby has gone through it, but I don’t care to test that theory for no good reason. A tiny part of me is holding out hope that Valium plus baby plus lack of septum (and therefore more space for the hand that rocks the speculum) might mean no tenaculum, even. A girl can dream.

Item: I mentioned this to the nurse who took my blood on Tuesday (progesterone check), and she asked if my inseminations had always been difficult. They were, I said, but less bad with the Valium. I think the first one, with no Valium, was traumatic for everyone, not just me, and for me it was downright ghastly. (To say nothing of the pressure I felt to think warm, welcoming thoughts for a baby, while I was getting stabbed and prodded to the point of tears.) Yes, she said, I think I was there.

And you know what, I feel downright comforted to know that she remembers. The Baby Factory is a big place, with a lot of patients, and this was some time ago. I just looked back at the post I wrote at the time, which in no way captures the horror — no doubt I was imagining some future baby reading about his beginnings and didn’t want to scare the mite (guess who hasn’t filled in the birth story page of her son’s baby book?). We don’t need to go back over such old wounds as that, but suffice it to say that directed coughing in no way distracts from the pain of having yet another cervix stabbed with pointed tongs yet another time, and that seeing the doctor break a sweat isn’t very calming. No one said anything much about it at the time — and what could they have said that would have done anything but worry me? — but I am relieved to know that my impression of the day wasn’t crazy.

Item: That the transfer is on Friday means a doctor I haven’t met before (I think. Unless she was at the aforementioned IUI of nightmares.) will be on duty. And thank heavens for that. Had it been Thursday, we could have had the same guy who did the Bean’s ET, which has a cute aspect to it and all, but also has the less winning quality of requiring me to spend more time pants-less with a paternalistic asshole.

Seriously, I don’t know what this guy’s deal is, but it certainly could use a slightly more robust idea of his patients’ bodily autonomy. I found myself in stirrups with him again last week. He looked at my chart and said, in a disbelieving tone, “natural FET cycle? Why would you do that?”

You know that thing when some guy asks you some supposedly neutral question, like what your name is or why you look a certain way (usually: not thrilled just to be near him), and you just know that no matter what you say, you’re about to get hit on/told you are misbehaving/both? (And okay, I’m sure there are instances of women doing this, but stick with me here.) And you seem, in that moment, to have a choice about how to respond — to take the question at face value or to address its obvious subtext by ignoring him/ rolling your eyes/ telling him off — but really, there is no choice, because either you are going to walk right into the condescension (by being nice), in which case you aren’t allowed to complain about it, or you are going to socially overreact, which means you get called a bitch? Anyway, Dr. Paternalistic (who shares a name with a city in California, if you are local and curious) is like that. There’s no right answer. Except instead of his being a stranger on the street, he is the only one in the room wearing pants, and he’s holding an ultrasonic baton.

Gamely, I said, “why not?” And really, why not? My actual doctor thinks my odds of success are the same this way as in a more medicated cycle. But he didn’t like that answer, because this kind of cycle means I have to come into the office a lot, which, by the way, I haven’t indicated any impatience with, because I don’t actually mind. So I said that I liked that this cycle meant I could avoid the progesterone shots (since my body will make its own, meaning the suppositories are sufficient insurance). This isn’t an insignificant reason, to my mind — a few extra office visits versus stabbing myself in the increasingly lumpy ass for three months? No contest — but he looked unconvinced. “Also,” I said, bracing myself, “I liked the idea of letting my body do its own thing, since there’s no indication of any problem with my hormones.”

“I GUESS,” he replied, with all the self-effacing deference I’d expect from a fourteen year old. And then he stuck a dildocam in my vagina. Because that’s how this game goes. At least there’s no septum for him to make me feel bad about anymore.

Item: I cried on the bus ride to school after that. I’m sure it’s frustrating, as a doctor, when patients don’t make the same decisions you would — hell, I’m frustrated by other people’s decisions all the time — but maybe make a distinction between decisions that actually have anything to do with health outcomes and those that don’t. And then maybe try not to be a jackass, also.

Item: On the other hand, the nurse who gave me my trigger shots (two, because they are subcutaneous now and therefore weaker) on Saturday is in my good books. She, too, noticed and commented on the NATURAL scrawled on my chart. They don’t do many cycles this way, and that note has a lot of highlighter on it. “Good for you! Making your own follicle!” And then she stabbed me in the stomach (because that’s how this game works) and we talked about people eating their placentas. Not our thing, we agreed, but no reason others can’t do it. Imagine that.

Item: For the medical record, the progesterone is different this time. Last time, it was little waxy bullets from a compounding pharmacy, but this time I was given a choice between Crinone twice a day or prometrium thrice. My decisions was entirely based on math: 2<3. So far, the crinone is fine, except for making me crampy and leaving an absolutely revolting substance behind for removal during shower-time spelunking. Still, I will take gross over painful any day of the week.

Item: For the further medical record, following an awful morning of intense nausea, I decided to be pushy and ask if I really needed the doxycycline I'm on, given that I've had no invasive egg retrieval this time, no one thought I needed prophylactic antibiotics for an IUI (which is not essentially different from an embryo transfer), and my stomach is still all ducks and drakes from this sinus adventure. Message relayed via nurse is that I can indeed stop it, and I think I shall. I shall carry on with the methylprednisolone (how much extra do you think my insurance paid for the pre-metabolized version of a cheap, old drug?), as I can see the medical point of that one.

Message goes on to say that I must also stop taking Prilosec and Pepcid post-transfer, which is less good news. (Sinus doctor wants me to stay on both for another month while things heal; they a not presently back to normal.). I remember from last go-round that Dr. BF didn't even want me taking lysine for cold sores while under his wing, so this is hardly surprising. Lysine is an amino acid, for crying out loud; it's in FOOD. Similarly, I was directed to take both Pepcid and Prilosec while pregnant with the Bean, though admittedly later in the process. I guess every drug is suspect except the fertility drugs, which we all know wouldn't hurt a fly. I am at heart a Good Girl, though, so I will try for a bit and cry to my new OB if things get hairy.

Item: I can't believe the Bean is still asleep, but I woke him up prematurely yesterday (following his passing out on the floor in the late afternoon, following heroic meltdown, following utter refusal to nap earlier) and he still didn't go to sleep in a timely manner last night.

Item: Acid reflux and moral purity be damned, Sugar and I are going out for what I hope is a last-gasp cocktail tonight. Which means the Bean will have a babysitter, and sleep, well, that's her problem.


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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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CD 2…Or IS It?

Or: The Plot Thickens and The Lining Does Not Thin

What’s going on with my uterus? Who even knows anymore?

After a crabby day of light, intermittent flow on Saturday and a night of worsening cramps, I decided enough was enough and headed into the Baby Factory just barely in time for morning monitoring hours today. Dutifully rolled up my sleeves and pulled down my trousers, only to be told by this week’s Dr. Sunday (whom long-time readers may remember as Dr. “Why Hasn’t Someone Removed Your Septum” — wish granted, buddy; you may thank my son) that my ovaries are nicely quiet but my lining is still so intact that he’s not convinced this really counts as my period yet. It wouldn’t count for a lupron cycle, for instance. For the purposes of a “natural” FET (pause to snort again at the use of the word natural to describe reproduction in any context involving so many machines and embryologists), it may do; we’ll see what the estrogen numbers are. Could things be topsy-turvy from all these sinus drugs, I asked. Could be indeed.

So. Either back next week or presumably sooner, I guess. [ETA: Estrogen is wicked high, so back Tuesday to see if my for real period is rolling by then. Bodies! Whatcha gonna do?]

Meanwhile, is this the worst possible magazine pairing for a fertility clinic waiting room? Nice to see the virgin/whore dichotomy is keeping on keeping on.

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I spotted the “whore” one and commented on it to the woman in the next chair, who pointed out that The Fecund Princess had been next to it before she picked that one up herself.

Seeing as how the ice was broken and I seem to be experiencing the manic side of prednisone this morning, I said that in case she had not been pregnant before, just for the record, my son had not ruined my life. I also mentioned that he had come from this factory, and she smiled, evidently cheered. She does not have children yet, she said. I know people have different feelings about the appropriateness of bringing children to even the waiting room of REs’ offices, I said, but I remember a woman who had her toddler with her during the IVF cycle that got me pregnant. She made sure to tell us all he had come from that clinic, which I found encouraging.

There’s a baby here today, she said, and at first I felt sad about that, but then I thought, Wait a minute. They’re from here.

(Sidebar: it was a really cute baby, a 24-pound 9-month old named Lucas who doesn’t sleep well. Like I said: I am CHATTY today.)

And that, with a side of soapbox ranting about reproductive freedoms belonging to everyone, not just those who can prove they “deserve” to have children by virtue of their ability to afford babysitting all the time, is why I am pro-baby in the waiting room. In a world that so often seems determined to tell us our children or putative children will somehow be inferior to those “natural” ones made in nicely middle-class bedrooms by rank amateurs, it’s nice to be reminded what hogwash that is. Or so say I, conceived, I have been told far too many times, in a campground near Yorktown, Virginia, with the help of quite a bit of Clomid.


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Okay, So It Was A Long Eve

Why, you may fairly be wondering, have there been no updates from our fearless hooha correspondent? Shouldn’t she be providing some high-octane angst right about now, to say nothing of those bottom jokes we were promised?

Well, darlings, I’d love to, if my €*<<@#^ period would stop messing around and get here for real already, but all that's happened so far is cramping, more spotting, and more sinus sadness. About which:

1. WTF, SPOTTING? Listen, that hysteroscopic adventure was really not that much fun. This spotting is minor stuff, but I rather understood it would be no more. Hrmph.

2. WTF, SINUSES?? Get your ever-loving acts together. For those playing at home, I am now finishing round three of antibiotics and also round three of prednisone. I was in the depths of despair about still feeling bad (though in new, exciting ways), but yesterday Dr. Nose looked with favor on a ct scan of the ol' braincase, stuck a scope up my nose and then, quel horreur, down to peer at my vocal chords, and declared the lasting symptoms not, as I feared, undead bacteria, but rather acid reflux sloshing around up there. Probably in part because of all these frickin' pills. This strikes me as a convincing explanation for the burning sensations, which I had sensibly attributed to bone-dissolving bacteria. It also means I am now forbidden to eat anything delicious. The AVOID list includes fat, alcohol, tea, coffee, carbonated beverages including plain seltzer, chocolate, onions, tomatoes, and joy. The universe is conspiring to make me do that self-denying pre-ttc living I had decided could go jump in a lake this time around, on the grounds that crackheads and heroin addicts etc., etc.

As an aside here, I should note that I may accidentally have dared Dr. Nose to thread the pharynx. Years ago, when I was first out of college, I got a fish bone caught in my throat. It was still there the next morning, and my mother put the fear of infection in me to the extent that I went to an emergency room at a teaching hospital in July, which is basically begging to experience an unnecessary procedure at the hands of an amateur. They don't keep much in the way of good drugs in ERs anymore, and I can confirm that whatever professional-grade chloraseptic they kept spraying me with wears off pretty dang fast and is in no way sufficient to mask the sensations, physical and emotional, of having some resident in a Hawaiian shirt try to show off for a pretty, blonde intern by passing a scope the size but sadly not the texture of a fat earthworm, which I imagine would not scrape nearly so much, up nose and down throat, only to run bang into some cartilaginous reef or other, whack it a few times for good measure while the anesthetic wears off, reel everything painfully back in, and start all over. Eventually, the patient decided death at home was preferable and removed herself from the very fun game. (Spoiler: I did not die.)

I asked Dr. Nose, while he had the ct scan images handy, if he saw anything unusual that would cause such a problem. "I've never had any difficulty doing that on any patient," he replied, having already snorted at the "July" part of the story, "you just got a neophyte. Sit up straight for a minute." And the next thing I know, there's a fiber optic cable in my voice box.

So. That's where we are: limbo (not my larynx). More and more convincing spotting today, so perhaps the show and the road will meet this weekend. In which case, you will be the first to know, after, of course, Sugar and her visiting mother. I'll save the best bottom jokes for y'all, though, I promise.


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CD 1 Eve

Hi, internets. You awake? I am, and I’m blaming my new, thrilling PMS symptom of intractable insomnia on the day prior to my period’s arrival. I could be wrong: I’ve been thinking my period imminent for several days, what with cramping and spotting and weeping on the floor at the end of our final (I promise, Starrhillgirl) attempt at toddler yoga, about which more another time. (WTF, spotting? Granted, the volume in question is probably <1% of the pre-hysteroscopy volume, but I thought I was supposed to be done with this, Oh, uterus, you old tease.) This could be just the prednisone, I suppose.

Yes, prednisone again. I returned to the ENT this Thursday, having finished a fourteen-day course of augmentin (which began with six days of prednisone), feeling very, very much improved, expecting to be declared well and sent on my way. 'twas not to be, alas. One aerosolized cocktail of novocaine and decongestant and a scope up the nose later, the doctor declared himself pleased but not pleased enough. So. Ten more days of augmentin, four more of prednisone, come back in a week. I'm beginning to feel I'm getting to know that office too well, rather as one does with the baby factory. And I definitely prefer a dildocam to a nostrilscope.

Still, I am much, much better — practically human now! Thank you for your sympathy on my last post.

The prednisone means no drinking or NSAIDs, still. Clean living! You can imagine, I'm sure, how pleased I was to hear that, given the cyclical date and all. Part of why I am hoping tomorrow is indeed CD 1 is that it's the weekend, which means Sugar can watch the Bean if I need to take Percocet in the daytime as well as at night.

CD 1, those of you following along at home may remember, also means Return to Dildocam Island, aka Baby Factory: The Musical: The Sequel. About this I feel…strangely cold-blooded. Every new stage of TTC the first time around, from deciding to begin, to making appointments with new doctors, even upping the treatment ante, felt exciting (among other things). Just starting the process, let alone having the actual baby, felt like the realization of close to a lifetime's worth of dreaming about having a baby, dreaming that, what with the endometriosis and the relative poverty and the lesbianism, often felt very unlikely to come true. Trying again just doesn't feel like that.

For one thing, those lifelong dreams always included at least one child, but the number was sometimes only one. I spent an enormous amount of time imagining what it would feel like to hold a child of mine on my chest (and feeling the terrible lightness of that child's absence), but I don't have a similarly visceral sense of what holding two children of mine might feel like.

More to the point, I think, is the fact that I am straight-up terrified of going through infancy again. I am just so very much better at this toddler gig, and I don't think it's only a case of being a more experienced mother now, in which case the second iteration of the larval need-bag stage could be reasonably expected to go better than the last. I think it's more to do with coping very poorly with serious sleep deprivation, not being particularly well-treated by breastfeeding hormones (Do I have a mild case of Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex? Maybe.), and, well, being the kind of person who would even think of calling a gurgling bundle of sour-milk-scented joy a larva.

You, of course, know the other thing I’m afraid of: birth, and that whole nightmare roller coaster again. See: everything tagged Dr. Russian. It is entirely possible that much of my feeling distant about the whole TTC business is just protecting myself from thinking seriously about the prospect of facing all that beyond the safe confines of this space. That I started weeping while looking at positive reviews from women who had delivered with my new doctor suggests there could be something to that notion. Throw in a soupçon’s fear of TTC not working, and you have a fine recipe for an aloof Bionic.

It isn’t, I am almost certain, that I don’t want to have another child. I keep asking myself if that’s it, of course, because we are still at a stage where backing out is possible. But no, it’s not that. I do want a sibling for the Bean — and another one of these critters for my own, selfish reasons. I wish I could capture in writing the wry smile the Bean had tonight when Sugar asked if he’d like a fish stick and, champion re-director that he is, he laced his fingers together, leaned across the table like a talkshow host, and said, “ooooor, maybe chocolate?” And did I tell you about the “turtle” he “drew” this week? What’s the turtle’s name, I asked. The Bean uses a kind of movie-Italian speech pattern sometimes now. “It’s-a called Penis,” he said, “It’s a big one.” I think Penis is a weird name for a turtle (maybe it was a skinny baby?), but the point is, this is a pretty great gig.

Last time around, every move we made to get to the Bean was driven by passion, and it’s just different this time. It’s less like I need to have a baby NOW, and more like, I know what I’d like our lives to look like in several years, and this is the time it makes sense to start building that future. I gather more rational people have experiences like this a lot, you know, and plan their lives in an orderly fashion and so on. But it’s a disorienting sensation for an impulsive creature like me. So. Off I go to the clinic, faking it ’til I make it.


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Not Dead, Mostly

One of the hardest things for me to learn in college, which was my first extended period away from a household headed by two doctors, was that when people say, I’d rather not talk about that at the dinner table, they may actually mean it. It took a few years (sorry, everyone), but eventually I learned, more by rote than by true understanding, that many people not raised by wolves scientists actually do feel physically bothered by descriptions of vomit, mucus, and thick, green eyeball-pus.

With that in mind, I’m at something of a loss to describe the past several weeks of life at Casa Biónica. I profoundly hope we are getting better. It remains to be seen.

By we, I mostly mean me. Sugar and the Bean are fine, following their own revolting but brief illnesses. I am on round two of antibiotics and now oral steroids for this sinus infection, which I just don’t know how to talk about without sounding like I am being over-dramatic even by my own standards. It’s just…I’ve been really, really sick, y’all. Like, sick enough that I am 95% sure my teaching evaluations will be bad this semester, because I can’t think and half the time I can breathe or consistently talk, either. Sick enough that Sugar has been sleeping with the Bean, and you know how she feels about cosleeping. Sick enough that I don’t even want to eat ice cream.

I have had a number of go-rounds with my ordinarily great internist, in which I tried to explain that things were Not Right and she worked to convince me that I was having allergies and asthma and would clear out the sinus stuff with just some steroid nasal spray and patience. I have also learned that it is possible to vomit just from nasal spray, if you are pushed hard enough. Also that sinus infections can come out of your tear ducts and give you proper conjunctivitis, and by the way, eye drops can make you puke, too.

Finally, she suggested I see an ENT, who took a horrified look (and some very unpleasant pokes) around the wreck of my head, started using words like “really dangerous” and “worried about you,” and gave me his cell phone number with repeated instructions to call him this weekend if I felt even a little worse despite prednisone and new antibiotics (augmentin…what to get for the woman who has everything, says a chemist friend). I am seeing him again on Tuesday, at which point I gather he may have some results on the cultures he skewered out of me and will adjust the meds if necessary.

Because of the prednisone, he gave me strict instructions to stop taking NSAIDs, which is bad news given the expectant-Zeus style headaches I’ve been having, and not to drink any alcohol, which has not done much for my mood. Also because of the prednisone, I am having the most horrific depression, alternating with fiery rages and the kind of anxiety that feels like your blood has been carbonated. I am tapering now and more hopeful that I will get through this without a homicide conviction, but I’d still recommend keeping your distance, especially if you are one of the people I’ve run into who seem to think all I need is to give up dairy and pour salt water up my nose. (For the record: the infection is now lodged in, among other places, my frontal sinuses, well beyond the reach of snot-potting, and plenty of bacteria are the kind of paleo enthusiasts that don’t miss milk one bit, given a nice, warm chalet snuggled up against a tender brain.)

I’m finally improving enough to write this, though, and I just thought I should let you know that the hysteroscopy didn’t kill me or anything. It was not great and not horrible — a bigger deal than i had imagined, but the whole alien-civilization-in-my-head business has dulled much of the memory of it. (Which would be handy if it hadn’t also wiped clean my short and long term memories, in general.) I have a follow-up with Dr. BF on Wednesday, which I hope will include being cleared for take-off for a May FET. Assuming, that is, I can rid myself of this scourge and the crippling existential angst that apparently accompanies infections for me (ah, my youthful dalliance with giardia!), waking me at five in the morning in a dead panic that I can’t possible handle being pregnant/giving birth/having another baby. Happy spring!