Katrina and Her Waves

Five years ago this weekend found Mr. X and I stuck in a little CR-V with two cats, a litter box and our most precious worldly possessions stuck in traffic in Houston on a very hot day.

Six hours earlier we had left our home in New Orleans, bound for Mr. X’s parents’ house west of Houston, not knowing what the future would bring.   As we were leaving town, we listened to C-Ray being interviewed on WWL -I distinctly remember his talking about how Katrina was like a storm on steroids due to the warm waters in the Gulf.  I probably snorted at the obviousness of this statement and the total lack of awareness by C-Ray at the obviousness of the statement.  By the time contraflow had kicked in and most people were getting themselves out of harm’s way, we were ensconced in a Mexican restaurant in BFE nowheres-ville Texas downing margaritas.  They were not celebratory.

The rest of our Katrina story is actually pretty boring – although, Mr. X did get to play commando loading handguns going back in nine days after the storm via the Causeway with my boss to check on our house and my firm’s office.  Our house was undamaged, if only by the grace of the levee on the other side of the canal being a little weaker.  We had no looting or other problems. We even managed to save our fridge, which was a very big deal since after the storm, new fridges were taking four months to come in.  Four MONTHS.

Still, Katrina changed our lives dramatically.  We moved out of New Orleans for good two months after the storm.  We had been thinking about moving before Katrina, but the storm turned our vague discussions into action plans.  I was tired of living in fear six months out of the year and the city, even our relatively undamaged portion, was going to take a very long time to recover.

You would think that ours was a Katrina success story, and in many ways it was.  Mr. X quickly found a new job in a new city and we determined that I could continue working at my jobin our new city.  We were able to sell our house not three months after the storm, which was virtually unheard of at the time.  We were able to get a moving company to come in from Dallas and move us.  We were able to extricate ourselves with the least amount of effort imaginable.  Yet, Katrina marked the beginning of a tough five years for us.  It was as if the storm was the opening salvo in a barrage of bad luck and adversity that we have only just now been able to emerge from.  I speak, of course, of our infertility journey and subsequent multiple miscarriages.   We had started our conception journey three months before the storm and of course, nothing had happened.  By January 2006, I knew that something was right and, in our new city, began the first of many infertility workups that would lead to our diagnoses (blocked tubes for me, low count for him) and treatment (IUIs, IVFs, FETs, you name it, we did it!).   All of this effort and heartbreak culminated in Rex, who arrived four years, ten months and about 11 days after we first decided that it was time to become parents.

Like New Orleans, we have come a long way since Katrina.  We are different, stronger and more resilient in some ways, more cautious and untrusting in others.  We had no way of knowing that bright, gorgeous Saturday morning in August when we left the city that had been our home for ten years that we never be able to fully return just like we didn’t know then how much it would take for us to realize our dream of being parents.   But, five years later, we are parents to the most beautiful gift ever conceived and our city has and continues to reinvent itself.  Perhaps, someday Rex will return to New Orleans and continue to help with the rebuilding of the city that his parents so love.

image: omnibus

What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

The other day, I spent about an hour counseling a friend who has just passed the bar and is looking to break into the legal job market.  Of the hour I spent talking to her, only 15 minutes was spent discussing her resume with some ‘move this here’ and ‘change that around’.  The rest was spent trying to get her to stop apologizing for her lack of everything – legal experience, good class rank, etc.  She would never get a job that way.

I thought about this as I was reading the over much-hyped article about infertility in Self magazineResolve has taken up the article as a rallying cry against infertility being ignored. I think this is missing the point.  Being ignored is not the issue here.  Not being able to sell our disease to the public as a crisis and a travesty that needs public support and funding is the issue.

After all, infertility is nothing but fault based, a sort of you-break-it-you-buy-it scenario.   It is our fault that we can’t get pregnant: we waited too long to have children, we were promiscuous in our youths, we drink too much caffeine or alcohol, we were foolish enough not to request a semen analysis before the wedding and married men who shoot blanks, we can’t control our lady parts that have the nerve to grow outside of the uterus, we don’t have a uterus but can’t seem to grow one either, we just happen to be gay and have two of the same parts, our hormones are wonky because, hello, we’re just crazy bitches that way! As if this weren’t enough, infertility isn’t even fatal.

No wonder your average non-infertile person is going to look at infertile people and shake their head in disbelief that we want sympathy and money for treatment.  Or, they offer up one of those famous lines that we should just adopt because there are so many kids out there that need good homes or that we’re being selfish for spending so much money (ours and other people’s) to do something that is supposed to be natural and free.

The thing is for infertility to be taken seriously as a disease that needs to be treated like other diseases with the funding and treatment, we need to change public opinion about infertility.  I think one of the most crucial steps is that we need to stop apologizing for wanting the same experiences as our more fertile brethren.

I will say this again since it bears repeated. We need to stop apologizing.

People who don’t have difficulty conceiving don’t apologize for not having difficulty conceiving (although, frankly, some of them should).  And, on the other end of the spectrum, people with cancer don’t apologize for getting chemo.  So, why do we feel the need to apologize for wanting to have our own kids?  We need to stand up and say, “we have just as much a right to conceive our own children as those who do not have difficulty conceiving .”  We have to answer those who tell us to adopt.  We have to respond when we are accused of being selfish.

Being infertile means never having to say you’re sorry.

You Gotta Pay to Play

merrick-monroeBack in August, on the immediate heels of my spectacularly failed and drama-infused FET, I gave about a milisecond’s thought to doing another IVF in the fall and immediately shivered the full-body shiver of revulsion.  I knew that while my body might be ready, the rest of me certainly was not.  The thought of walking away from Dr. Uterus had already started to germinate, I had fresh memories of a particularly horrific and prolonged go round with the progesterone shots, including one 30 minute hyperventilation session in the bathroom before I was able to do the deed, and I just wanted to be normal again.  I didn’t want to count follicles or fret over sperm counts.  And, I certainly did not want to to go through beta watch and OB scans of doom, because to be perfectly honest, that was exactly what I thought was going to happen. Again.

And, I secretly wanted to test the theory that Mr. X and I could actually get this thing done on our own and achieve the Holy Grail of Infertility: a spontaneous, honest-to-God two-people-only-involved pregnancy.  A baby for free!  No beta watch crap, I could go in for an OB scan when I was ready and even if things didn’t work out, I would know that it would be possible for us to get the job done on our own.  Naive, I know. Just like all of my other notions of this getting and staying pregnant business.

ian-muttooThen my cycle started getting really whacked out, a fact which I attribute to Dr. Uterus’s parting gift of two months of Estrace and progesterone during the mock and real FET cycles (which, while making me lose 5 lbs and dropping a dress size was awesome, was so not worth the rest of it).  The Clomid of November too whacked up my system despite producing some beauties of follicles and it’s just now getting itself worked out.

So, rather than being the fall of procreation, it’s been the fall of “what the f*&% is up with your uterus?” And, I’ve come to the realization, that we will likely have to do another IVF to have a solid chance of being able to utter those magic words: “I’m (so not even in an altnerate universe) pregnant.”

We still have until February before things gear up again and I start taking the birth control pills.  But, given my new whacked-out-ness, who the hell knows if we’ll even have a glimmer of a shot without the high tech solution.  And, I’m back at where I started: the girl with no current discernable problems other than two back-to-back monosomy miscarriages which may or may not be the result of spectacularly bad luck who apparently cannot get pregnant on her own but has no idea what to do differently this time to make it work. 

images: merrick_monroe, ian muttoo

Welcome to the Comfort Uterus Inn!

Thank you for choosing the Comfort Uterus Inn!  We here at the CUI are determined to make your stay as pleasant and as long as possible.  I see that we were expecting to welcome four of you, but in the end it is just two.  No problem! CUI can accommodate both of you with out any problems.  You will find that we have prepared everything with meticulous care for your burrowing pleasure and will continue to keep things at optimal levels so that you have no excuse whatsoever to want to leave. 

Please note that check out time is in nine months, give or take a few days. And, there is a penalty for early withdrawal.

So, get comfy – but not in the hallways! – and gestate away!

image: givepeasachance


As you can see, everything went fine this morning.  I was loving the Valium, which I took on a mostly empty stomach since I was so nervous up until then that it went straight to the top of my head and I was not the least bit fazed by the process.  There was still some cramping, but it wasn’t as bad as last time. Mr. X was also there with me in the Smurf suit they made him wear last time and I just held his hand and pretended we were snuggling in bed rather than sitting in a procedure room with the goods on display.   Dr. Uterus pronounced it a super smooth transfer.

Of the six totscicles that we had on ice, only two made it out of the thaw, but those two were apparently “beautiful” according to Dr. Uterus.  I’ll take two beauties over four crap embryos any day.

I’m now on couch potato duty (twist my arm) until next week. 

As for the dreaded beta, I’m keeping my options open.  See, I never did the POAS thing after any of my 6 IUIs or my IVF.  This was mostly because each time I used an HCG trigger and a false positive would be worse than a false.  So, I just didn’t do it and waited for the blood results.  The problem with that plan, though, is I have come to DREAD the phone call.  I have tried any different number of ways to make it more pleasant – have Nurse to a T leave a message and I get it when I’m ready, answer the phone directly so I can know that moment, etc.  None of it has really worked. 

This time, I’m flirting with the idea of POAS the day before my scheduled beta so that a) I can grieve/celebrate before anything is official and b) I can decide if I want to do the blood test at all.  We’ll see how I feel closer to beta time. 

Until then, I am sending telepathic messages to the two totscicles bouncing around in my uterus to burrow in for a nine month hibernation.

Luck Be an 8

We are on track for our FET tomorrow and the 8’s are just piling up around here.  Of course, tomorrow is 08/08/08 and we have our transfer.  I also realized that we are on our 8th porcedure to get pregnant and the Man and I have been together for 8 years (and some change).  Of course, none of this means squat really – what will be will be and the fact that it happens to land on the most auspicious day in the calendar is neither here nor there.  I think that the effect is more psychological.  It’s exciting that we are at a confluence of the luckiest number.

As for the sordid details, I swung by the IVF lab today to fill out the paperwork and we once again had to read all of the dire predictions and agree that we absolve them of any possible scenario in which our embryos do not make it into my uterus, I don’t get pregnant or – and this is my personal favorite – I get pregnant and deliver and then claim that the IVF lab should raise them.  And, just for good measure they start off with this lovely sentence:

Due to circumstances of the impossibility of achieving conception through ordinary means, we Mr. and Mrs. X hereby authorize Dr. Uterus and Dr. Freakout to thaw, culture and transfer our embryos to Mrs. X in an attempt to treat our infertility.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am infertile and just in case there was any confusion, the intake paperwork listed diagnosis for admittance as INFERTILITY. Yes, it was in all caps.  And, then, I was told cheerfully that the lady there was new because her predecessor was on maternity leave.  I found this highly amusing. Silly IVF nurse, don’t you know what not to say to infertile ladies – at the IVF Lab!? 

I also got my one Valium – yes, Dr. Uterus only gave me a prescription for one.  I don’t know if this will have the desired effect – I had a Valium for my Lasik eye surgery four years ago and it didn’t do jack shitsky to get me relaxed.  Of course, that could have been because I was super nervous about having a giant laser poked in my eye.  But, Dr. Uterus is afraid that anything more would turn me into this:

Not pretty.

And, now, it is my last evening before I am With Embryos.  I celebrated with a wonderful glass of red wine, and walked the pooch, tried to train said pooch in the “leave it” command only to find that he is one sneaky little hungry hippo and this is going to take some time, and watched Nanny 911 to see how not to parent the children that may or may not be produced from this cycle (lesson number 1: letting children eat off of the floor is not a good idea).

I am not particularly nervous or excited – tomorrow is just another day.  I’ll probably be feeling a little differently once we get there (and we are assuming that our little totscicles will thaw and be good quality.  Depending upon my Valium haze, I’ll try to post tomorrow with the final report.

images: holeymoon and lejoe

A Lot of What IFs

Forgive me for being dense lo these many years, but it was just this morning – yes, this morning – that I realized that the abbreviation for infertility IF is also the word ‘if’.  Not much gets past me! 

I’ve had a bad case of the IFs this week.  What IF this works? What IF it doesn’t? What IF I have a third straight miscarriage? All of these questions have arisen out of my mental thrashing this past week about whether I am *ready* in that euphamistic way to really have a legitimate shot at getting knocked up again.  I mentioned it to Dr. Uterus when I saw him on Monday, and he immediately offered that we could postpone things.  But, my answer was ‘no’ and that I was more excited about the prospect of getting pregnant than I was fearful at the prospect.  I’m not excited about the 2ww, the beta agony or the any of that – but the idea that I have a real shot at the big P again? Yea, that’s still exciting. 

In retrospect, this is still an extraordinary thing – it’s like saying that the last two times I put the gun to my temple, pulled the trigger, and I was shot, but I’m still hopeful that this last chamber will be empty. 

Hope is a drug, I firmly believe.  And, I’m still addicted. 

But, it is what allows me to continue this journey, continue to traverse this rocky road with the dream of making it out on the other side, with my sanity intact carrying my child. 

I still hope more than I fear.  And, that is the only way to go forward. 

image: Poagao

As Easy As S-H-G

What a difference a weekend makes. 

When I learned that I had to have a repeat SHGfor this upcoming FET, I was understandably annoyed as my last go round with the saline catheter AND dildocam all shoved up in the hoo-ha at the same time did not go so well.  So, when given the choice by Nurse to a T as to when to have the SHG – Friday or today – I did some important calculus taking into account the following variables:

1) Friday morning is the time when ALL of the big bellies are in the office for monitoring with the high risk OB with whom Dr. Uterus shares office space and

2) The office closes at 12 on Friday, so there is usually a really large rush to get everybody in and out, and

3) I was crazy busy at work and Friday was not going to be any different, but

4) If I had it done on Friday, I could enjoy my weekend without the Spectre of the SHG hanging over my head, OR

5) I could do it on Monday morning, thus prolonging when I would have to show up for work, and

6) There was less chance of a big belly dance.

All of this dizzying calculation was done in a split second – even though it took a lot longer to type it out – and I chose Monday AM.

It turned out to be a good choice.  I was relaxed from my weekend, after having decided not to think about or worry about the SHG procedure, rather just enjoy my weekend, and I had a leisurely morning before my appointment.  By the time I got to Dr. Uterus’s office, I was pretty calm, and – bonus! – only one bulging belly was in the waiting room.  I had a good book and my iPod just in case, but in the end just enjoyed my book.

The procedure itself was still uncomfortable, with a few ‘ows’ on my part, but nothing like last time where I went home in tears (more out of frustration than anything).  The best news: my ute is cute! Well, there are no abnormalities and everything looks great.

I also had a lovely sit-down meeting with Dr. Uterus to discuss the details of the FET.  He has approved my request for Valium which apparently is not done routinely for transfers (I certainly didn’t have it for my ET with my IVF), so that was very nice.  We will start with a thaw of three embryos and depending upon the number that survive and the quality after thaw, we may then go thaw the other three.  We sent five As and one B+ into thaw, so hopefully, they will reemerge with still good quality.  Ideally, he wants to put back 4 which I am ok with.  All of this is still dependent upon the results of the biopsy, but assuming is ok, we’re on track. 

We have a tentative transfer date of 8/8/8.  An auspicious date if ever there was one as my favorite number is 8.  I have been popping my Estrace pills since last Wednesday and will start the butt injections on Aug. 5.  Never a dull moment.

And, just for a little infertility humor, I shared with Dr. Uterus that glorious news of the expansion of our family through adoption.  I merely told him that we had adopted – his eyes got very wide and surprised, but he recovered quickly to tell me congratulations.  I began to describe our newest addition: 6 years old, gold hair, brown eyes… four legs.  He had been had and he knew it. 

Final score: Dr. Uterus: 0, Me: 1.

I am so wicked, it hurts.

Ready or Not?

I think Big Red is beginning to trickle in and so marks the beginning of our For Real FET cycle – as opposed to the mock cycle that we just finished with the Fabulous Parting Gift of an endometrial biopsy.  I was at lunch with Mr. X. this afternoon discussing the upcoming events (SHG, FET, oh my!) and I once again thought: can I handle this if it actually works? Am I ready to begin the rollercoaster of beta numbers and OB scans? Right now, I don’t know.  I really don’t know.

All of this may be academic since there is by no means a certainty that this will work at all, but I wanted to know for myself now if I was ready to handle everything that goes with a month where you have more than a slim chance of getting pregnant.  Am I prepared if this actually works?

When we first started down the IUI road, I was so fixated on getting that phone call that the test was positive.  That was the hardest part, right?  I was blissfully unaware that that was just the beginning of a very, very long windy road.  We took the Wrong Turn of Miscarriage on my 11-week appointment and our ride was over.  It was over even faster this last time.

As I posted before, I can no longer visualize myself getting past the 12-week mark.  It is literally inconceivable to me.  So, there is the temptation to see this as the beginning of yet another sad chapter.  The challenge is not so much getting pregnant now, as it is staying pregnant.  Of course, it was getting to the point where I thought I would never get pregnant and I did.  Now, it is where I don’t think I will have a live baby.

Who knows? Maybe it’s a matter of setting the bar a little farther.

image: windy_sydney