Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We be Stimmin'

I have to confess when I wrote this blog title, Ice Cube's 1998 Hip Hop anthem "We be Clubbin'" was in my head, so, now it's in yours.  You're welcome! 

I haven't been "clubbin" in a LONG time. Not really my scene. Currently I have a 7pm self imposed curfew.  Our evenings go a little something like this:

6:00pm: Arrive home from work. Hug & kiss. Pet the exuberant dog. Start making dinner
7:00pm: It's Lupron belly shot time! Lay down on the bed, pinch my stomach while my man tries not to make me laugh while injecting me.
7:05pm - 8:30pm: Eat dinner, catch up on each other's days, watch TV, try not to cry when watching heartwarming commercials (damn estrogen), wash dishes, feed the dog
8:30pm: Take Estradiol pill, change Estrogen patch
9:30pm: Get to bed to get the required 8+ hours of sleep each night

This is the glamorous life people. Hopefully to only be made more glamorous by the addition of a bundle of joy and the accompanying poo, love, spit up, piles of laundry, cuddles, breast pumps and other accouterments. But I digress. The purpose of this post is to announce that today is our donor's first day of stimulation! Whoo hooo! The egg train is officially leaving the station.  

Our donor will spend the next two weeks following a strict protocol and schedule to stimulate her ovaries to produce what we hope will be a bounty of healthy eggs. She will go to the doctor almost daily for ultrasounds and blood work and we will receive regular progress reports from the nursing staff. 

My job is to get my uterus in tip top shape. I'll be on estrogen and then progesterone to make sure I have a fabulous uterine lining for our embryo to implant. I'm also supposed to get plenty of rest every night, drink a ton of water, have no caffeine or alcohol and be in a general state of zen. Good thing I've always been a rule follower. I'm all over this!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mythbusters: Baby Mama Edition

Let me preface this post by saying that I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. When these two comedic powerhouses teamed up for the 2008 movie, Baby Mama, I was all in. The film was cute and clever, albeit predictable. I've recently been thinking about the myths and misperceptions that surround infertility and the movie came to mind. For those of you who haven't seen it, the basic plot centers on a very ambitious and career-driven woman (Tina Fey) who desperately wants to have a child and has been unable to get pregnant with insemination. She opts to turn to a surrogate (Amy Poehler) and hilarity ensues. After the required plot twists and turns including the loss of her surrogate, the movie gets its beautiful happy ending. SPOILER ALERT: She gets pregnant!

The moral of the story is that the tightly wound, Type-A, baby crazed lady decided mid-film to cut loose and relax with the adorable smoothie shop guy around the corner (Greg Kinnear) and low and behold, miracle of miracles, her previously impregnable womb is with child. I appreciate a happy ending and enjoy when things are wrapped up nice and neat at the end of a movie, but I've been contemplating how these messages continue to propogate one of the biggest myths about infertility. "Relax", "Don't stress so much," "Maybe you should just quit trying so hard," or "Let go and Let God," no matter how you phrase it, the message belittles the fact that infertility is a disease, not a condition that a quick vacation and some Mai Tais can cure. We infertiles are also guilty of buying into this myth. We desperately want to believe that we could be the chosen lucky ones. Many of us delaying treatment hoping that this month could be THE month.

The other "baby mama" myth that's been on my mind lately is the idea that women who turn to donor eggs to build their families are somehow less "mama" than if they were able to use their own eggs. I'll confess that until we made the decision to use donor eggs I had never heard of the term epigenetics, but now I'm completely fascinated. Epigenetics is a field of biology dealing with information held above and beyond the gene. Did you know that 99.9% of your genes are shared with all humans?! Only 0.1% of our genes result in the variations we see in humans.  In studies of epigenetics scientists have found that a baby conceived with a donor egg gets his/her genes from the donor, but gets the "instructions" on the expression of those genes from the woman who carries them. 

There is an amazing example from horse breeding that shows when pony embryos are implanted into horses, the foals that are born are different from other ponies and are bigger and more like horses. Crazy! 

The bottom line is that if we are successful with our treatment, our baby will have 3 biological contributors: our egg donor, Ken, and ME. I will be growing this child, and it will literally be my flesh and blood that will create this child's flesh and blood. The uterus isn't a passive incubator, but an active part of the life creating process, influencing the expression of genes and development of the baby's body. (Can you tell I'm a little geeked out about this?) So, consider this myth BUSTED!  :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pulling the Infertility Card

This week I walked into my bank to ask for the largest cashier's check I have ever requested  in my life. More than when I've purchased a car or closed on our home...it was a BIG check.  The funds had been sitting safely in our savings account waiting to make their way onto a slip of paper made payable to our infertility specialists. I stepped up to the counter and provided my ID and account information and requested my money.

The teller began processing the check and then told me there would be a $10 bank fee to "process" the cashiers check. One would think that once you're pulling five figures from your savings account, what's $10 more? Oh, not so fast my friend! I asked the teller if he could waive the fee because my motto is that it never hurts to ask. :) He kindly informed me that unfortunately he could not and continued the $10 worth of processing he was doing. He had to call the bank manager over to approve and sign the check since it was above the amount he could authorize and I was struck by inspiration. 

I leaned across the counter and said to the manager, "Excuse me, but to you have the authority to waive this $10 administrative fee?" He took a look at the computer screen, and back at me and asked if I was making a down payment on a house to which I replied, "No, but I'm making a down payment on my family with IVF. Can you help me out with this fee?"

I walked out of the bank with my hefty check, an extra $10 left in my bank account, and a spring in my step. Sometimes the little victories count.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Join the Movement - Opening the Closet Door

Our home was built in the early 1970s. It is cozy with three small bedrooms and charming with its rose tile back splash in the kitchen. We love the big backyard with tall trees and the tulips and daffodils that pop up every spring like clockwork. One thing I don't love about our house are the closets. No Carrie Bradshaw dream walk-in closets for us. Ken and I amicably share the "master" closet and try to each stay to our respective sides of the middle. Our closet is small and dark and I spend as little time as possible extracting clothing from it each day. It's interesting that I should hate my actual closet so much, having spent so many years hiding inside my very own infertility shame closet.

Coming out of the closet is described as a psychological process or journey; a rite of passage; liberation or emancipation from oppression; an ordeal; a means toward feeling pride instead of shame and social stigma.(Thanks wikipedia!) In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I want to share my infertility coming out story.

I won't spend time explaining our diagnosis and infertility journey, but for those of you new to Operation Baby Gage, you may want to catch up on the cliffs notes here. When we first realized that there was a problem I didn't want to tell anyone about what we were going through. Part of it was denial and the belief that this would all work itself out quickly and there was no need to burden anyone. The other part was good old-fashioned, paralyzing shame. I was embarrassed that my body was unable to do what it was supposed to. Conception woes also seemed like a taboo topic. Eventually I was comfortable enough to confide in two of my best friends, one who was already mommy and the other a mommy-to-be. It was my foray into speaking out about what was going on with us and our desire to become parents. I cracked the closet door open and was quietly whispering. 

As time went on my parents began to start inquiring as to when we were going to get around to making them grandparents. These questions are innocuous enough, but they cut me deep. I couldn't blame them for asking a simple hopeful question when they didn't know the details of what we were struggling with. I would like to say that I called my parents and calmly explained that Ken and I were seeking treatment for infertility and we hoped that we would give them the joy of becoming grandparents, but that's not what happened. What actually occurred was a hormone filled crying rant directed at my sweet mother. (I'm sorry Mom!) While this wasn't the way I intended to share my story, it's how it happened and ultimately it was a good thing. I mean, if you're going to have an emotional outburst all over someone, it may as well be your mother. :)  I found that my mom is a wonderful and non-judgmental sounding board. She let's me rant about needles and stirrups and mood-swings. She tells me she loves me and is praying for us, and she is an endless source of positive thoughts, which for anyone in the midst of infertility knows you need in spades.

Even though I now had a handful of people in my support circle, I was still keeping things under wraps. I find it fitting that the team at RESOLVE are encouraging people touched by infertility to take to social media to join the movement and speak out during NIAW 2013. Social media is where we sound off about our lives, share insight into our families, homes and friendships, but so few of us are actually transparent (I am pointing a finger at myself here) about our private struggles. I have been publicly living a charmed life over the past 6 years. A look at my Facebook timeline shows photos from trips I've taken with my husband, visits to Colorado microbreweries, and fun, sometimes witty status updates. If you only knew me via Facebook you would assume that we are among the many 30 somethings who are choosing to live a very full, but childless life. You wouldn't see any signs of someone who is longing for a child. Someone who has smiled and congratulated friend after friend when they conceived and then gone home to cry about it later. You would see my life's highlight reel, but not the REAL, nitty-gritty, this sucks, life stuff.

One of the friends I mentioned previously tenderly called me out on this recently.  She pointed out that there are people in my life who want to support me, but don't know that I need it. She told me that there are likely people in my circle who are also struggling with infertility that I could share my story with and support who are silently suffering. As Oprah would say, it was an "Aha" moment. I thought I was being a brave, strong soldier, but in reality, my silence was a result of fear and wasn't helping anyone. Over the next week, Operation Baby Gage was born. This blog has become a wonderful outlet and an opportunity to share with friends and family as we are going through the donor egg IVF process. For the first time I have publicly shared my grief, hope, and excitement. My friend was right. I have received more support, kind words and prayers through simply sharing our story than I could have imagined. Multiple friends have private messaged me on Facebook to thank me for my story and share that they too have been through infertility treatments, or are currently going through treatment. Bottom line, it feels good! I know that my story matters and that infertility isn't something to be ashamed of. This disease touches 1 in 8 people that's 7.3 million in the US alone. 

People joke about going "Facebook official" with your relationship status, so this week, I went Facebook official with my infertility status thanks to Kieko Zoll at The Infertility Voice.  You can too! She has created multiple Facebook Timeline covers for everyone to show their support of infertility awareness this week.

I am proud to lend my voice to the infertility movement and hope that in doing so I can help incite change in how infertility is viewed in the public (no I don't just need to relax), how it is addressed by insurance companies (this is a disease and an expensive one to treat), and how we connect with one another and our legislators. I've outed myself and am glad to be out of the shame closet. 

If you would like more information and a basic understanding of the disease of infertility, visit RESOLVE.

To learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week, click here

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The "What if" Blues

Throughout this process I've been striving to stay positive and have been fairly successful at keeping dark dreary thoughts at bay. I even used the private feature on Pinterest to create my very own Baby Gage vision board. I have had so much fun pinning nursery designs, pregnancy announcement ideas and adorable photo poses for newborns, but this weekend I had a serious case of the "what if" blues. All the niggling doubts in the back of my head came roaring to the forefront and I found myself sliding into a sad spiral. This is how the "what if" blues start:

  • I wonder what happens if our egg donor doesn't respond well to her medication?
  • What if she does respond, but doesn't produce good eggs?
  • What if she does respond, produces good eggs, but we don't get healthy embryos?
  • What if she does respond, produces good eggs, we get healthy embryos, but we don't get pregnant?
  • OMG what if she responds, produces good eggs, we get healthy embryos, we get pregnant, but I miscarry?
In case you didn't piece it together, the main culprit behind the "what if" blues is me feeling a lack of control, which, let's face it, is 100% the case. I think the most frustrating thing about infertility isn't the fact that you can't get pregnant, it's that you can't control your own body and in many ways, you feel like you can't control your future/destiny/hopes. I'd like to go ahead and apologize if I become a tyrant over the things I can control in my life, the laundry will get done, the mail will get sorted, I will mark the items off my to-do list at work,  and I will do all of these things with EXTREME PREJUDICE! 

The only thing I can control in this process is following the directions of our doctor and nurses to the letter and hope for the best. Speaking of which, if you're curious as to what IVF looks like, look no further. This is what I got in the mail today:

4 bottles of pills, 6 boxes of estrogen patches, 3 types of injections, 4 jumbo packs of needles (and a partridge in a pear tree) :) One month and counting...let's do this!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A thankful heart

We received our final instructions for our IVF procedure today and I am filled with a mixture of excitement and nervous energy, but mostly excitement. We are taking the next steps towards creating our family and it seems so REAL now. I'm also filled with a profound sense of appreciation for the people who are helping us make this happen. I cannot say enough about the phenomenal nursing staff at Conceptions Reproductive Associates. These women are rockstars! They have answered my plethora of questions, returned my emails late in the evening, early in the morning and on weekends. The amount of coordination involved for each of their patients is mind boggling. Everything in the IVF process is incredibly time sensitive...take this dose of this pill on this day followed by this dose of this injection on this day, then take this patch and apply to your abdomen, then have this blood work drawn, but it has to be within 2 hours of this shot on this day...you get the picture. The nurses manage these details with ease and map out each step of the process so it is palatable and doable for their patients. It must be some sort of Jedi mind trick. Bottom line, they are awesome, kind, warm women and my heart is thankful.

I'm perhaps most thankful to the woman who I will likely never meet, but will see reflected in the  child we will hopefully welcome soon. I have some insight into the person she is through her profile. I know how tall she is, her personal and family medical history, her hobbies and talents, what she studied in college, how many siblings she has and a handful of precious photos of her as a baby, toddler and child. She is impressive on paper, but moreover I'm impressed with her commitment to helping us. Yes, she is receiving financial compensation for her gift, but this is not an easy process. She will be taking some serious drugs, rescheduling her life for doctors appointments, blood draws, ultrasounds and an egg retrieval all to help make our dream of becoming parents a reality and I heart her. :)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The loss of an idea. My grief story

I often find that when I am speaking to friends and family about us using a donor egg, I do so in a lighthearted manner and may even throw in some funny quips about how thankful I am that our child will not have my hips and thighs. The truth is, I'm actually very comfortable with our decision to use an egg donor. I'm even more grateful to the anonymous woman who is choosing to go through a strenuous medical process to help us. The problem is that in my effort to show how "together" I am and by inserting humor to hopefully make other people comfortable, I gloss over the fact that getting to this place has been difficult. It would be disingenuous of me not to share that part of the story.

I have previously referenced how Ken and I took a break from trying a little over two years ago. While this is true and I didn't count my cycle days, take ovulation tests or stand on my head after sex, my secret fantasy the whole time was that we would get pregnant anyway. When people hear that you are trying to get pregnant and it's not happening you ALWAYS hear one or all of these stories:

My friend/sister/cousin/hairdresser's ex-sister-in-law couldn't get pregnant either so she and her husband...
  1. Adopted and then got pregnant!
  2. Stopped worrying and trying and then got pregnant!
  3. Tried IVF and had sextuplets and then got pregnant! (I shudder at the thought)
Even though I had a medical professional sit me down to explain my condition and in no uncertain terms tell me it just wasn't going to happen the old fashioned way for me, I still REALLY hoped that scenario #2 would happen. At least a half dozen times over that 2 year "break" I would go a little crazy. I would convince myself that my period was late (even though it is notoriously irregular) and would sneak to Walgreens and buy a pregnancy test.  I wouldn't tell my husband because deep down I knew this was half-baked stuff. I would wait until he was gone for work in the morning and pee on the stick. During the 3 minute waiting window I would hope that it would be positive. I would imagine how once I saw the test was positive, I would call in sick to work and drive to Boulder to Ken's office and text him to come outside and I would run to him and tell him that I was joyfully with child.  He would sweep me in an embrace, I would summon a pretty cry that Meryl Streep would be proud of and it would all be underscored musically in my head by Marvin Hamlisch. (Note: I never said my fantasies weren't dramatic and Oscar worthy.)

Reality would be that after my 3 minute rom-com daydream, the test would be negative. I would wrap the test in tissue paper and shove it to the bottom of the trashcan and go about my day convincing myself it was a stupid thing to do anyway. I would curse myself on my drive to work  that I had quite literally just pissed away $8. I share this story to say that I believe that most of us are hard wired to want to create life and to see a reflection of ourselves in the future. Even though the odds were stacked against me, I still wanted to think that we might get lucky and that I would get to see my crazy curly hair that my dad gave me on the top off a toddler's head. That maybe my mom's smile and amazing skin would make their way to a little girl. This is the hardest part about not having good eggs. You realize that those little details that make you YOU will not be present in your child and you have to grieve the loss of something you never had. You have to grieve the loss of an idea.

Over time, the pain of this loss lessened and I realized that I wouldn't love a child one iota less just because they didn't have my genes. We all love people who we have no genetic ties to.  For those of us who don't live close to our families, we build new communities and relationships close to home. Our family is what we make it. I look at my friend's children and how much I love them and I'm not their aunt, I'm their "Sinsey".  We are not related and I know without a doubt that I L-O-V-E everything about them. I'm head over heels for my husband and barring some crazy East Texas connection we don't know about, there's no blood relation there. The human heart was meant to love with abandon.

When our family is complete, whether through successful donor egg IVF, a future adoption, or the miraculous hand of the almighty, I'm going to love that child.  Curly hair or straight, thick hips or thin and God-willing we love and nurture that child into funny, crazy, hopefully well-balanced Gage.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Don't give me no lines and keep your hands to yourself

I love my husband. He is supportive and caring. He keeps me laughing and is one hell of an injection-ninja. His only downfall is in not being able to keep his hands to himself. Ken loves to give me playful love pats on my rear. It's something he does without realizing it. Once, when we were visiting a church, he did it in front of the pastor as we were leaving. Bottom line (pun intended) this man loves me and my posterior.

While making dinner tonight I mentioned that I was a little sore from the shots this week. In true Ken fashion he empathized and told me he loved me and asked if there was anything he could do for me. Then he proceeded to pat my bottom, not once, not twice, but three times over the course of the next 10 minutes! Seriously?! He felt terrible, but I eventually had to banish him to the couch where he could inflict no more loving damage. :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fear: The other four letter "F" word

Saturday night I went to bed secure in my belief that I could handle whatever is thrown at me during our infertility treatment. I looked over the dresser with its array of medicine, needles and alcohol swabs and said to myself, "No sweat. You got this." Somewhere around 3am, I realized I was wrong. I tossed and turned the rest of the night thinking about my first shot the next morning. I wondered if it would hurt as bad as I thought, was anxious to know if my dear husband was up to the task at hand and when I did fitfully sleep, I dreamt about the horrors of having progesterone shot into my derrière. 

When Ken first stirred at 7am I rolled over and said, "Get up, we have to do this now. I can't think about it anymore." He was caught off guard because my confidence (actually bluff and bravado) the night before let him sleep soundly knowing his highly hormonal honey was good to go. We went into my office where I had all the medication laid out and the dam broke. I started to cry and confess that I was, in fact, REALLY scared about what we were about to do. Once the tears were dry and I blew my nose, I dropped trou and assumed the position. 

What followed can only be described as very anti-climactic. I barely felt a thing. It literally hurts worse to pluck my eyebrows than to get this shot. I walked around the rest of the day on a cloud of elation and sank into a glorious peaceful nap that afternoon. It was then that I realized just how tightly coiled my fear had made me over the previous few weeks since I first received my box of medication and syringes. 

Fear is a funny thing, you can think you have it whipped and it sidles up beside you without you knowing. I hope that confessing it both out loud through another ugly cry to my husband and electronically to all of you will help me recognize and shut down the other four letter f-word in the future. :)