Bionic Mamas

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


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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.

Xoxo


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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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Pregnancy Test Day

Yesterday was Pregnancy Test Day. Which we also spent getting lost in Queens, driving all around Long Island and, for me, photographing the inside of an old couple’s house.

We went to the clinic in our borrowed car and Baby got her blood drawn for the test. Then we proceeded to try to go to the beach at Robert Moses State Park, but first ended up shooting across the Queensboro bridge and not finding 495 at all. We eventually did get on the expressway and found the beach, but then we only had an hour before I had to go to my photo shoot.

The nurse had told Baby, “we’ll call you in the afternoon, or maybe earlier.” Turns out it was earlier because when we were once again on the road – I was actually navigating the roundabout when Baby noticed her missed calls – we had a message from the clinic.

“Should I check this?” she asked me.

“Yes!” I said. (Thinking: WTF, why would you wait even one second, like even to ask me that question?)

So she did, and then went through a whole series of facial expressions, from happiness to actual weeping, in about 7 seconds.

“Is it bad?” I asked.

“No! It’s good!”

So, OMG BABY IS PREGNANT. For now. We realize that this is not the time to start telling the world (except for the internets, of course) but OMG! She has to go in for more tests next week, and in three weeks, an ultrasound to check for heart beat. HEART BEAT.

This does not feel completely real right now. But I’m sure it will soon.


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Feeling Blue

When I woke up this morning, my boobs were no longer big and painful (nor as awesome-looking, I should add).

I don’t understand how that can be the case, when I’m sticking 200mg of progesterone up my hoo-has three times a day, but as it is exactly what happens three days before my period every month, I’m not exactly brimming over with happiness.

Beta is Saturday. Not planning to POAS before then, as the thought of having to go in for the test when I know it’s negative seems exquisite torture.

Yes, I know I have quite a few embryos in the freezer, but if I can’t get pregnant with that embryo, the one that looked like it belonged on a fertility factory website (and it did; the picture I put up here was fuzzy, but I saw it onscreen), and with my “beautiful” lining, then it’s hard to feel terribly hopeful.


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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.


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Lying Down All Over Town

Today we did the embryo transfer!

I took the day off work to be able to go with Baby to all her various appointments – acupuncture, transfer, acupuncture, home – and in order to do so I told my office that she was having ‘surgery.’ Now they are all worried about her, and probably think she has cancer, since I was so unspecific. On Saturday she actually had surgery (egg retrieval) and I was all worried about her, but didn’t manage to talk to anyone about that, since it was Saturday. Between Sunday and this morning she has been quite sick – in pain, vomiting, the works. But now this evening she seems a lot better, thank goodness.

So here was our day:

6 a.m.
vomiting (Baby)

8:30 We take the train to midtown and go to Baby’s acupuncturist’s office there. Baby goes to lie down. I wander around in search of breakfast, saltines, and a seasickness bracelet for Baby. It is ridiculously hot outside.

10:30 We take a cab to the Kips Bay Baby Factory, where everyone is surprised that we are early. The nurse clearly thinks Baby has already had some Valium at home because she is moving so slowly and acting spacey, but we convince her that no, it’s just the puking and the lack of sleep. The nurse gives Baby some Valium.

10:45 We are seated in front of this sign. I had not previously realized that the doctors here think of themselves as ganstas.

gansta-doc

yo yo YO!

10:50 Dr. Thursday comes to talk to us. He is disorientingly jovial. Also he has tiny feet, which I find myself staring at. However, all the news he gives us is great. 26 of Baby’s eggs fertilized, and 20 of those are still growing. There is a good looking blastocyst to transfer and there will be some to freeze, somewhere between 4 and 10. We won’t find out how many they actually froze until tomorrow afternoon.

11:00 Baby and Dr. Thursday go into a Laurel and Hardy routine about left and right cervices. Dr. Thursday says Dr. Baby Factory told him to go in through the right cervix, but Baby says he must have meant Dr. Thursday’s right, i.e. Baby’s left, etc., etc. After a while Dr. Thursday agrees to poke around and not jab anything too hard until he figures it out.

11:35 Dr. Thursday breezes by me in the waiting room and says I can go back to the recovery room. He waves his arm around saying ‘it’s to the left.’ I try the door he came out of, which is locked. I sneak through a different door and stick my head past the gansta sign into a completely empty hallway and shout. Eventually a nurse wanders by and directs me through two totally other doors to where Baby is lying down. She seems calm and happy and has this picture printed out and lying on her chest.

blastocyst001

our first blastocyst

12:30 IT IS SO HOT OUTSIDE, WHY IS IT SO HOT?

1:00 We sweatily arrive at another office near the Baby Factory where Baby’s acupuncturist also works. Baby goes to lie down and have needles stuck in her again. I read a trashy vampire novel.

2:00 Back on the train to Brooklyn.

3:00 Baby lies down in our blessedly air-conditioned apartment. Because there is no food in the house, I prepare for the trek through the blazing heat to the Food Coop.

4:00 (presumably Baby is still lying down) I search for popsicle molds (no dice) and stuff to make miso soup, which Baby has requested.

6:00 I make miso soup.

7:00 Baby and I eat the soup. Nobody vomits. Score!