Life Imitating Art

My consumption of chick lit has been conspicuously low these past few months.  This is due in part to the sneaking increase in single-gal-to-hot-mama transformation themed books.  Even my beloved Shopaholic had to go and get herself (accidentally) knocked up.  It’s a serious bummer when the one genre you turn to for a little escapism throws your biggest failure right back in your face, with a Gucci diaper bag to boot.  Et tu, chick lit?

oldonlinerEveryonce in a while, though, I find one that isn’t too objectionably baby-centric.  The most recent entry was Swapping Lives by Jane Green which I finished as I was waiting for the show to get on the road at my egg retrieval.  It was brain candy of the Twinkie variety – well-preserved, sugary but not too sweet and still pretty satisfying.  The main theme was single gal swaps life with suburban mom who each desperately wants to get away from their lives and both come away appreciating what they had. 

It started slow. Single gal whines about lack of hubby and “perfect” home life in country with large farm house, children, dogs and gorgeous kitchen appliances.  Married mom and suburbanite feels as if her life is a shallow cesspool of charity functions and bratty children. Each is certain that life will be better on the other side.  For each of them, all I could think was “cry me a river, both of you.” But, I guess that’s the point of fiction which is to play into the most pernicious stereotypes, particularly in this genre.

But, I started to get an uncomfortable feeling. A feeling as if I lived in a glass house and yet I was throwing stones. I scoffed at the single gal’s notion getting married would solve all of her problems and yet more than once, I’ve convinced myself that my life would be get a whole heckuva lot better if I was just able to fulfill my wish to have a child.   My depression, sadness and heart-stabbing feelings would disappear overnight and poof!, I would be cured of this infertility thing. I could go back to the normal world of voluntary pursuits and once again reign supreme over my desires and wants.

(In other words, I could go back to being a clueless fertile – although, in my defense, I was never clueless and fertile at the same time. When I was clueless and hopeful, I was infertile as my tubes were as stuffed up as the nose of a hay fever sufferer. And then, when I was fertile, I was no longer clueless.)

jpdefillippo138I realized that I suffered from the same disease as Single Gal: absolutely no realistic understanding of what the endeavour actually requires. She had no experience with marriage or long term relationships.  I have no experience with children or parenting (only child, no cousins nearby = no clue). So, in the void of experience, we fill our expectations with what we see of others, which frankly, is rarely the whole picture and usually only the really glossy happy highlights. And, no amount of stories from the trenches of those who have trodded down those paths will erase those visions of similing cooing babies in little carriers on happy dads or the vista of the perfect family out for a walk in the park, because we know what it is supposed to be like. We’ve seen it on TV.  Therefore, it must be true.

We, Single Gal and I, certainly set ourselves up for a viciously rude awakening.  Of course, she got to do it in a consequence-free environment that allowed her to give the kids and husband back after three weeks.  And, of course, she learned the lesson that her married friends had been trying to explain all of this time: marriage is wonderful, but it’s hard and it is by no means the magic bullet for what ails you.

I, on the other hand, short of adopting a friend’s child for a few weeks, am going to have to wait it out until we get one of our own.  In the mean time, though, the fantasies continue unabated in my head of the perfect tow-headed children we will have who will be well-behaved, delightfuly droll and intelligent. Perhaps, it is having these fantasies that keeps me going, that allows me to get through whatever next hurdle there is to expanding our family.  Because, if I really knew what it was all about, I may not have even started down this path.

image: top left – OldOnliner; bottom right – jpdefillippo138

Every Little Decision You Make

I am debating whether to paint my toenails.  They are quite fetching with the fire engine red OPI polish that I use.  They look fabulous in peep toe black heels or when my leg is hanging over the white porcelain side of the tub.

What stops me is a mutli-syllabic word – phthalates -which is used to spark fear in the hearts of women of reproductive age everywhere with stories of terrible toxicity and tales of awful reproductive problems in lab animals.  How can I knowingly put something on my body that might have terrible reproductive consequences, especially since I’m doing everything I can to reproduce? 

So my toes remain untouched, unpolished and rather boring until I can find a new bottle from OPI of their newly-phthalate free elixir of love. 


Mr. X and I are discussing what to do for vacation this year.  We’ve had a Big Vacation every year, starting with our 2002 visit to Australia and Tasmania. Last year we did Paris.  This year we can’t decide, mostly because we have no idea what the summer will bring, reproductively speaking. Will we do another IVF? I don’t want to spend my 2ww on vacation. No thank you. I also don’t want to be newly pregnant and on vacation. I did that in 2007 and got a D&C for my trouble. 

So, our vacation remains unplanned, with just some vague mumblings about maybe going to New England in the late summer. Woo.


I had a constant headache yesterday. It was just relentless.  I took some acetometaphin in the morning, but it didn’t get better.  I have lots of drugs in the house that would have knocked it out pretty quickly – ranging from Ibuprofen to aspirin to the hardcore stuff left over from the various procedures of the last few years (expiration date? pah!).  I didn’t take any of them, though.  Regardless of how many times I have been advised that I can take just about anything I want when I’m not pregnant, I never feel comfortable doing it. I can only take acetometaphin because I know that it is safe no matter what.

So, despite the four acetometaphin I threw at it over a 12 hour period, my headache didn’t go away all day.


I got an email from a sort-of-friend in the neighborhood this week about the new couple who are moving in to the house on the corner one street over.  She was soliciting information on contractors, etc, that she could put together in a kind of welcome to the neighborhood kit.  I didn’t respond and have no intention of going to meet these new people because the couple is really a family mom, dad, a toddler and another baking in the oven.  She’s pregnant, which I guessed by the beach-ball stuffed under her sweatshirt, but was confirmed by the sort-of-friend (and seriously nosy neighbor).

So, I won’t be making their acquaintance. I’ve already met my deliriously happy preggo-lady quota this month.


Deep down, I know I can turn this boat around anytime. I can head back to land and claim my life back.  But, right now, that seems like giving up the fight. 

images: toes – teresia, Old State House Boston – cgommel, headache – RW Photobug, moving day – ibm4381

My Dog Ate the Hot Dog

I knew that almost four years down the rabbit hole of trying to reproduce would do some weird shit to my head.  I expected that. What I didn’t expect is that it would make me weep over the fact that my dog ate the hot dog.

thebusybrainAllow me to explain.

Remember in my list of 33 things to do in this, my 33rd year, I wanted to train with G (the hot dog eating dog) to do service in hospitals? Well, for the past seven weeks on Thursday nights (including the day after my ER and the night before beta!) he and I have trudged out to a local church to learn the ways of the master (who I refer to as The Hun. Her people skills leave much to be desired.)  It has been a real test of humility for me. Not so much for him. It’s been a treat fest for him. 

Last night was the final class before the final exam next week.  It was the night that we went over what we had learned and discussed what would be in the evaluation.  G and I have been working on just about everything that we did this evening, including the Recall. 

The Recall involves the dog starting at your left side, putting him in a sit, making him stay while you walk away some twenty steps or so, making the dog continue to stay even after you turn around and then calling the dog to come to you.  The whole point is that he is essentially not attached to a person for about 20 seconds and you have to be able to control when he gets up and where he goes – by making him come to you.  When we started this, he would get up almost immediately and we’d have to go back and get him to sit again. 

I enlisted Mr. X’s help in practicing with G.  Mr. X would stand just off to the side in case G made a move to get up or would start to come to me before he was called.  G has gotten so good at it, though, that I was able to continue to practice with him this week even though Mr. X was traveling.  I was pretty confident that G would do just fine with this particular item when we practiced it in class.

But last night, of all nights, The Hun had to throw in a hot dog. 

tonylanciabetaShe was attempting to do two things at once: practice the recall and practice getting the dog to leave the hot dog.  She told us that only one dog before in the history of this particular exercise has eaten the hot dog.  There were six dogs in the class this evening, including G.  Would the hot dog survive?

The first couple of dogs go.  The Greyhound makes a few half-hearted attempts, but is easily swayed by his owner to leave it.  The Doberman, same thing. The Lab, not even a sniff.  The little Schnauzer – what hot dog? And then it was G’s turn. I knew even before we got there that he was going to make an attempt on that hot dog. 

I got him into his sit, put my hand in front of his nose which is our sign for stay.  I began to walk away and The Hun quietly said, “oops” which is the notice that your dog is no longer sitting. Sure enough, out of the corner of my eye, I see the flash of Golden fur in the direction of the unprotected hot dog. I lunged and tried to knock it out of his way, but he was too quick. In one gulp, the hot dog was gone.

And I felt an overwhelming sense of failure. Once again, it seemed as if I was the only one who was different, and not in a good way.  Not even the freaking Bull Mastiff who was eyeing that hot dog like it was a mailman went for it. 

I was not able to control my dog to get him to leave the hot dog. I failed. Again.  And, what would normally have been a little frustration and a sign that we need to work on his leave it skills with a little levity thrown in when he belched heartily after his tasty treat, to me was a weeping-inducing event – at home, not in class. I held it together! 

What I realized is that IF has perverted my notion of what it is to fail so much that the fact that my dog ate the hot dog is now on par with a failed IVF cycle. It was just another epic failure in the long line of epic failures. Natural conception: FAIL.  Pregnancy: FAIL, twice.  IVF: FAIL.  I have racked up so many epic failures in the one arena that is supposed to be easy and simple that even 14 year-olds can do it, that even when I try anything else and still fail, I cannot see it as a learning experience. I cannot get past the failure. 

images: top left (TheBusyBrain), bottom right (tonylanciabeta)

“How I Spent My BFN Weekend” By Mrs. X

I gave it a lot of thought. What I would do to get the maximum benefit out of the two day respite I had from the real world to deal with the Big Ass Disappointment that was a BFN after IVF.  I pondered all of the suggestions that you lovely ladies provided. I planned. I plotted.  In the end, though, I just gave in to inertia and did whatever the hell I felt like, which is not to say I didn’t have a good weekend.  Here’s a short recap, all brought to you by the letter S.

duncanFirst, I Slept. I slept like it was going out of style.  I Stole the covers. Repeatedly. I got up to feed the animals and then went back to bed.  I think I kicked Mr. X out of the bed at some point so that I could have full reign over the bed.  I grunted at him when he came to see if I was still (!) in bed. 

I Shed some tears. Ok, a lot of tears. Some on Mr. X, most into tissues that gave up their brief lives in my service.  Par for the course in this business, I’m afraid. 

I Squired G around the neighborhood on our twice daily walks.  We Slalomed around the street as part of training since he needs to work on his weaving in and around objects. 

I Saw that Big Red is tentatively deciding to make an appearing which is a relief as it puts this cycle most definitively to bed.

I Slurped a delicious margarita (frozen, no salt with a dash of OJ) and got nice and Sloppy at dinner with friends who were my own age and none of whom a) have children or b) are apparently in the planning stages to reproduce.  We talked about travel, work and animals. It was just what I needed.

I Snuggled into a big comfy chair with a Golden foot warmer on the ottoman and read a good book, the title of which I do NOT recommend googling as the first hit is a swinger’s club. Yea, that kind of swinger. 

I Slayed weeds that had the temerity to pop up in the middle of the lovely bed Mr. X and I planted about a month ago.

maq3737I Slathered myself in herbed brie and let Mr. X have his way with me.
(Ha! Just kidding. Making sure you’re still paying attention.) I did have some herbed brie, though, and it was quite good.

I Soothed myself listening to the old school R&B stations on iTunes.  There is nothing like Maze and Frankie Beverly to cure what ails you.

I Spent an afternoon cleaning the house and it felt darned good.  I can control at least one aspect of my life!

I Searched for information on what I have decided will be my Consolation Prize for coming up empty-wombed from this latest go-round: a super, heavy-duty, most awesome digital camera. 

I Studied our bank statements from last year to see how much we actually spent on IF treatments to see if we can deduct it from our taxes.  It was cathartic in a weird way.

I Spanked (metaphorically) Mr. X in Scrabble. 

I Soaked in Super hot water while reading and Swigging a glass of wine. 

And, last but not least, I Said goodbye to Mr. X early this morning. The Powers that Be have sent him off again on travel. Sniff.

The ‘S’ pictures were brought to you by: duncan (top left), maq3737 (bottom right)

Second Verse, Same as the First

“I’m scratching my head at this one.”

This is what Dr. Salsa said when he called this afternoon to confirm the BFN.  We make beautiful embryos, including one that made it to freeze – which for this clinic is apparently a big deal.  I’m still (relatively) young.  I responded well to the stims. Mr. X’s swimmers, while not particularly abundant, are good.  So, he’s scratching his head at why it didn’t work and why I am – yet again – on the bad side of the statistics.  I didn’t find his head-scratching particularly comforting either.  It makes me feel all the more broken, especially when he mentioned that of those of us who had negative cycles, most were not a surprise (women in their 40s, etc).  Me? I’m apparently a genuine medical mystery.  Even with a 60% chance of getting knocked up, I still can’t seal the deal. 

Personally, I would say that it was my old friend Luck. Or lack thereof.  Shit happens.  This was particularly expensive shit, but I know that I did everything I was supposed to do to make this work. So, while I am very, very disappointed and not a little sad, I have no guilt.  For whatever reason those two little buggers decided not to stick around in the posh accommodations that I so thoughtfully (and at great expense) provided.  Ungrateful brats. 

i-can-haz-boozeOn a slightly lighter note, thanks to everyone for your suggestions on what to do this weekend. I was particularly impressed that no one caved and used the dreaded ‘s’ word.  I even warned Dr. Salsa not to use it and he obliged. It was the nicest ‘negative’ call I ever received.  Once I’m ready, I am to follow up with him and the embryologist for the Failure Meeting.  I think I need to do some boozing before then, though. Thank God I got Mr. X that margarita machine for Christmas! 

I’m sure I will be pondering quite a lot over the next few days, but there is one question that is playing like a broken record right now:

Will it ever be our turn?

Sneak Preview?

Despite having been pregnant twice, I can honestly say that I have never had a positive home pregnancy test.  In fact, I think I’ve peed on a stick all of maybe six times in my life and each time the absence of the second line mocked me. 

tony-newellMy streak continues. 

As of 9dp5dt, Brand X HPT refused to show that second line. 

I’m doing surprisingly ok with this information as it confirms the lack of symptoms that I’ve had (boobs have been annoyingly calm and uninflated or sore) and likely spares me the chance of a D&C in April.  It also resolves the angst which has been building since Monday.  And, I have to admit that I’m a little bit relieved (although not like last time), which means that I was probably almost ready to really be pregnant again, but not quite. 

I’m sure the anger and frustration will come eventually, but it hasn’t hit yet.  Forewarned is forearmed.

Beta is on Friday (the 13th!), still leaving me the opportunity to suck down some booze this weekend whilst eating herbed brie and chugging a Diet Coke with lime.  

I will ask one favor, though – please do not drop the S word (‘sorry’ or any version of ‘sympathy’). Instead, feel free to use other ‘s’  words (shit, suck, shitty shitty bang bang) and tell me what your favorite thing to do is after a failed IVF cycle.  I’ve got a whole weekend coming up that will likely be filled with that three letter BFN combination, so I need some ideas!

image: tony newell

Everything Zen

I could tell you that I have been and am on pins and needles waiting for The Answer. I could tell you that I have been debating with myself about whether or not to pee on the dreaded stick. I could tell you that I’ve been lurking on sites about symptoms at 6dp5dt. 

Unfortunately, I would be lying.  And I suck at lying.  I could never play poker successfully because I suck so much at lying.

zeneraNo, I’ve been surprisingly zen.  I know that I have done everything I can and it is really no longer up to me – well, other than the big no-no’s like shooting up heroin, and rollercoasters.  Luckily, I’ve never acquired a taste for either of these.  Mr. X and I have also discussed how we want to proceed in the event it doesn’t work this time and once again, I am greatly relieved to realize that we are on the exact same page.  We’ve also been discussing other options for our lives regardless of whether we end up parenting.  Building or renovating our dream house has been batted around quite a lot.  In other words, we’ve got plans that extend beyond and do not depend upon what may come to pass.  And that is a great comfort.

I think I’m also still so grateful to be released from the mindsuck of bedrest.  I knew daytime television was a wasteland, but geez.  Even HBO didn’t do much to help stem the tide of mediocrity.  So, to be able to go back to work and get up when I wanted to (!), stay standing for more than 5 minutes (!) and ponder questions headier than how long has it been since I got up last? has been a wonderful gift.  G and I have also been training for pet therapy which is as much about him training as it me, so that has been a great distraction as well. 

And so, what have I been doing with myself if I haven’t been obsessing over the fact that I am in the two week wait?  Lots of stuff.  I’ve been working, cooking (I baked a cherry pie!), reading, visiting with friends, watching BSG with Mr. X (Xena, how could you?!) and enjoying  our first full week of gorgeous warm weather. I also have been guilty of major animal snorgling. It is an excellent way to spend any time, let alone the dreaded 2WW. 

Other than the morning butt shot, no caffeine and no booze, you wouldn’t think that I am where I am. And that’s just the way I like it.  

image: zenera

A Thousand Points of Light

One of the more important differences between Dr. Salsa’s methods and those of Dr. Uterus is that Dr. Salsa places a great deal of emphasis on the holistic and mind/body connection aspects of infertility treatment. He was the one who really recommended that I try acupuncture.  He asks how you are doing emotionally as well as physically.  He gets it and that’s been a welcome change.

flickrolfThere was a time, not that long ago, though, that I didn’t put a whole lot of stock in alternative medicines and theories.  It was a big step for me to start acupuncture.  Still, even after this long road, there are still some aspects of alternative and holistic medicine that I have trouble accepting.  I had one of those moments as I was being impregnated with my two embyros on Monday and Dr. Salsa instructed me to begin talking to them as they were heading down the catheter.  I cheerily agreed because the man had delicate implements in delicate places, but my inner cynic said no way.

It’s not that I didn’t want to do the absolute most to ensure that this works.  It’s that I didn’t want to start thinking about those two little blastocysts as people. Not yet. Because, if neither of them decides to stick (ha) around, then I will mourn them that much harder.  This is precisely why I didn’t want blastshots of the embryos from my previous cycles.  I knew that I would begin to project all manner of human characteristics on them so that should things go awry – and let’s face it, with me that always seems to be the case – it wouldn’t be as hard.

Luckily, I had an alternative that while recognizing the life potentially taking hold of me, didn’t elevate it to the status of personhood that would have required me to have a non-stop conversation with my uterus. 

jesse-gardnerDuring my pre-transfer acupuncture session, the acupuncturist gave me a pep talk of sorts to get through the two week wait.  She warned against the effects of worrying and offered alternatives to allowing myself to get mired in it.  One alternative involved a visualization technique but with a twist.  Should I feel that worry coming on, welling up inside, I should imagine those two little blasts as points of light that grow stronger and stronger with every deep breath and feeling of relaxation.  Kind of like little headlights in my uterus that instead of dimming, get stronger each time the engine turns over. 

So far, I haven’t had much worrying, other than if it is possible for my ass to begin to blend into the couch. But, I have been visualizing those two little points of light and mentally sending them invitations to stick around for a while.  For now, though, I’ll leave that talking thing to the professionals.

images: flickrolf (top right); Jesse Gardner (bottom left)

Transferring, Please Hold (It)

I vividly remember the last time I had to pee so badly that it physically hurt. It was in 1997 or 1998, when I was a junior in college.  We were walking home to the dorm after a particularly marathon-esque night of imbibing.  mark-kempeNow that I think about it, there were probably at least five buildings on campus between the (off-campus but right next to the edge) bar and our dorm that would have been unlocked in which I could have made a mad dash to a fluorescent-lighted throne with my name on it.  For some reason, though, I had to wait until we got to the dorm and it was Torture.

My friend tried to distract me by having me tell him a story, and I played along, walking fast but gingerly. But, in reality, I was still just as cognizant of the fact that the dam was going to burst, sooner rather than later and I really didn’t want it to burst in front of my friends.  In the end, we made it to the dorm with nary a drop spilled and I was able to give my eternal thanks to the builders of that 10-story cinderblock menace from hell for having the wherewithal to install a bathroom on the first floor. 

Fast forward, eleven or so years, and once again I had to pee so badly it hurt.  Only this time, there was no booze to be blamed. No seal had been broken and drinking had continued.  All that had happened was that I was swigging water like I was on a desert island in a desperate attempt to actually completely fill my bladder. 


turtlesEver since I had known that we would probably have embyros to transfer, I began to think about what special thing I wanted to have with me at the transfer, especially since my most special thing, Mr. X, wasn’t going to be there. The powers that be sent him to the northeast yesterday and he won’t return until tomorrow.  My mind kept coming back to one item that just made me smile: a pair of turtle socks that Mr. X game me for Christmas a few years ago.  It’s rare for him to pick out clothes for me and so these were extra special because he had chosen them. And, they are just so darn cute.  I knew what I needed to wear so that I could feel him with me even if he was far, far away.  And they really helped.  Thanks, little turtles.


Once I had gotten dressed, walked the G and dispensed with the feedings of the various animals, I began to swill the fluids that usually run right through me: tea (decaf, of course) and water. I also had some grapes (so juicy!) for breakfast.  About an hour later, still not getting that ‘gotta go’ feeling, I headed out the door with my glass of water in hand and made my way to Dr. Salsa’s office for my acupuncture treatment before the transfer.  I was swigging at stoplights and taking a slurp on boring stretches of road.  I still didn’t feel much need to go when I got there and I began to worry that maybe I wasn’t drinking enough, after all I had peed when I got out of bed.

I needn’t have worried. By the time she came back to take out the needles, it was getting uncomfortable.  By the time I was ushered back into the procedure area, it was really uncomfortable.  And, adding insult to injury, I had to change into my gown in a bathroom.  There was the toilet, pristine and white and untouchable.  I grabbed my iPod and walked as best as I could to the bed before getting in and trying not to think about how I was now sweating because I had to pee so badly.

I listened to a podcast of Car Talk because I needed distraction from the agony going on down below.  By the time I was in the room with the ultrasound, I was almost writhing in pain. My legs were shaking and I was spewing four-letter words.  I was on the verge of tears when Dr. Salsa appeared and I had a glimpse of hope that relief was going to be coming soon.  And it did, in the form of a catheter that he inserted and placed in a bed pan and I can easily tell you that I have never felt so good as when I was literally peeing in the face of my RE. 

After this relieving interlude, my bladder was still full enough that they could do the ultrasound visualization on my belly, but I was blissfully comfortable.  I was so comfortable, in fact, that I didn’t even feel the catheter for the transfer. It was the smoothest transfer I have ever had – even of my 6 IUIs. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

So, how many embryos were sent down the fun chute? Two beauties. As of this morning, these two were the real over (ova?) achievers of the group and were apparently raising their little hands going, “ooh, oh pick me!” to the embryologist. The other three are still doing well, but were not as enthusiastic. We’ll know tomorrow if they developed enough to be frozen.  I’m going to fight the urge to pass judgments on the success of this cycle if the other three do not in fact make it to the deep freeze of the nitrogen tank.

As for whether this will work, I’m not thinking much past tomorrow.  There’s a stack of books that are waiting to be read, beautiful weather to be enjoyed and animals to be scratched and loved on.  If there was anytime to just be, it would be now. 

image top left: Mark Kempe