All By Myself

Yesterday, I went in for ultrasounds and blood tests for day 4 of stims. On one hand, I’m extremely grateful that Dr. Petrel’s office has early morning appointments. On the other hand (the hand attached to this non-morning person,) I’m thoroughly displeased I had to be anywhere at 8:15 in the morning.

The appointment went smoothly. I got in, got my blood drawn, was unceremoniously probed. Just a typical Thursday morning of the IF crowd.

The ultrasound tech told me that I have 7 ripening follicles in one ovary, none in the other. I will admit now that I was slightly disappointed. I really wanted a bumper crop of those suckers. Specifically 30. I came upon this number through a very thorough process of picking it out of thin air.  Totally at random. I have no idea why, but my weirdo pea brain was fixated on the number 30.

Of course, I have no idea what is “normal” or “good.” Even if I did, I know better than to compare my body to any sort of standard. It does whatever the hell it wants. So I spent the morning reminding myself that ultimately, I just need one. Just one that works and sticks.

Regardless of my lingering disappointment, Dr. Petrel is pleased with my ovarian progress. The stimming cocktail continues, now with the addition of Menopur at night and Ganirelix in the morning.

I have been stimming now for 5 days. Outside of a persistent, low-grade headache, I’ve felt fine. No other side effects to report. The injections themselves are no fun. Not terrible, but not something I’ll be signing up for again under any circumstances. (There goes my long-held dream of becoming a heroin addict. Shucks.)

Gonal-f is a non-event. I hardly notice it.

Menopur stings a bit going in- kinda like a flu shot.

Ganirelix didn’t hurt going in, but the inject spot was sore and a little red for about 45 minutes afterwards.

I’m making Mr. Ostrich do the shots. Between you and me, I’m okay giving myself the shots, but I really want him to be involved. Up until now, I’ve been muscling through the appointments and infuriating phone calls with my insurance on my own. It isn’t because he won’t help– I’ve just never asked him. Which is why I think he is a bit removed from the whole process.

For example, Mr. O came with me to the baseline ultrasound and blood test. He sat in the room with the Tech while the ultrasound was performed. This wasn’t such a big deal to me– I’ve been poked in every way imaginable at this point. But Mr. O was completely floored. He just didn’t realize what all this meant until he saw me go through it first hand.

That’s when I decided to ask him to administer the injections. This isn’t because I want recognition for what I’m going through- I really want him to feel invested in this in a concrete way. It seems harder for men to grasp what IVF means because… they aren’t physically experiencing it? They are biologically programed to not notice? I have no idea.

I wonder if the same is true regardless of gender- If you’re part of a lady-lady duo, does the partner who isn’t undergoing treatment “get it?” Or is this just something you have to physically go through to understand?

To be clear, I don’t intend to downplay the role of anyone’s partner plays in this process. Even if they aren’t getting probed by ultrasound wands or pumped with hormones, they offer so much love and support. They are obviously just as invested in the outcome. I imagine it’s difficult to be in the role of witness too. For Mr. O at least, he has said several times that he wishes he could do some of this for me. But you know… pesky biology gets in the way.

Mr. O and I share so much. We’re disgustingly egalitarian in our relationship. It feels odd that he isn’t experiencing this in tandem, the way we do so many things. For the first time since we started this journey, I feel strangely separate.

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Skirmish with Incompetence Insurance

I hate insurance companies. I really hate mine.

I just had to fight with an Incompetence Insurance rep to get estimates. At first, I got this weird run around.

ME: I’m trying to budget for my anticipated procedures. Can you help me get an estimate on IUI and IVF from my doctor?

REP: No, unfortunately I can’t do that without getting the procedure codes. Sorry!

ME: And where can I look up those codes?

REP: You would have to talk to your doctor.

ME: So you’re telling me that you can’t help me until I call the doctor’s office, get a list of all the associated codes, then call YOU back? Really?

REP: Yes, ma’am. That would be the only way I could give you an accurate estimate.

ME: I’m not looking for an accurate estimate, I’d be fine with a ball park…

REP: Unfortunately, I can’t look that up without the procedure codes.

And then I unleashed my fury. I asked to file an official complaint with the company because my doctor is in-network, and they should have records of what similar procedures have cost in the past. In fact, Incompetence Insurance’s stupid website even claims to offer this as a service.

The threat of filing an official complaint worked. After some huffing and puffing and 10 minutes on hold, the rep came back with two codes– one for IUI and one for IVF– and estimated fees from my doctor’s office. I seriously wonder if she just didn’t want to spend the time looking them up

What’s doubly hysterical about this is that I called my company’s “Concierge Services” line. That’s right- Incompetence Insurance wants my company’s business so bad, they have a special line for us. And I still manage to get terrible treatment. #lame

What I genuinely hate about all this shit with insurance companies is that they are pushing so much of the day to day management on to its customers. Fine, I can respect that this is my benefit which I pay for, so I need to take an active interest. Fine. But in this case, I wanted to hurl feces at someone. Here I am trying to make responsible decisions with my health and my finances, and I’m getting an INANE run around.

Yes, I did eventually get the information that I wanted. But I didn’t need to spend 25 minutes arguing with someone, elevating my stress levels, and acting like a dick. Contrary to what some might say, I don’t actually enjoy being that person who threatens to file complaints. Don’t make me be an asshole. Just fricking help me out.

I’m almost done with all my “homework” for my first RE visit in two weeks. Mr. Ostrich had to fill out a questionnaire yesterday, which was hilarious. My favorite moments:

“Are you sure you’re not supposed to fill this out?”

Um… it says MALE fertility questionnaire at the top.

“Why do they need to know when I started shaving?! Who remembers that crap?”

He tried to insist he started shaving at 12, which is just not possible. After some rational discussion, we discovered it was more like 15.

Gotta find something to laugh about throughout all this, amiright?

I just need to fax over the last of my release forms, and we’re good to go. August 7th, FTW!

You Don’t Get to Decide

Depending on who you ask, I married young. Mr. Ostrich and I got married when I was 25 and he was 27.

I was not really into it.

Let me explain. I wasn’t really into other people’s ideas of marriage. Weddings? I am still not into weddings. They are lumped in there with bachelorette parties, baby showers, wedding showers, and all those other weird rites of passage that say more about society than they do the actual person or persons involved.

I survive them by pretending to be Jane Goodall.

Anyway, back to my point…. I had a lot of reservations about getting married. I was turned off by the idea of being anyone’s “wife.” I didn’t like the idea that I would have to take anyone else’s name but my own. I didn’t like the idea of sacrificing one inch of my hard-earned independence. I was only 25, damn it! Weren’t there worlds to conquer and shit?

At some point I was talking about all of this with a friend who was a little older than me. She had been divorced, then remarried 5 years later. When her first marriage fell apart, she swore she’d never marry again. “But then I realized you don’t decided when the good things in your life happen to you.”

And so I married. Even after 10 years, I still feel the same way I did then. I don’t think of myself as anyone’s wife- I think of Mr. Ostrich as the most beautiful best friend any girl could ask for. I never took his last name, and he never asked me to. Yes, I did sacrifice a little bit of independence, but I’ve received so much in return. And now, I have someone to conquer worlds with me, instead of going it alone.

Mr. Ostrich is such a good thing in my life. I didn’t pick when I met him, or when we’d start our life together. When he asked me to marry him, I knew I had to say yes. Because good things don’t come around everyday.

You don’t decide when the good things in your life will happen. I’ve so often used this phrase to convince myself not to be scared of anything new, like a job, project, or any opportunity. You have to take that moment for what it is, and run with it. You have to say yes.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the inverse is also sorta true. You don’t get to decide when the bad things in your life will happen either. Infertility is no doubt a bad thing. My mother’s freak medical accident is also a very bad thing. I didn’t get to decide when or how these would happen. But I also have to take this moment for what it is. I have to say yes to it, embrace it even. I want to punch it in the face too, but I have to own this.

Oh, my dear sweet readers… I would be lost without this blog as an outlet. Thank you, as always, for listening.

Planning, Schmanning

Ah, July 4th. A weekend to celebrate our grand nation with hot dogs, fireworks, and beer.

Or in my case, with failed OPK and awkward sex in a cousin’s cabin.

God Bless, ‘Murica.

Months ago, Mr. Ostrich’s cousins invited us to spend the 4th weekend in their cabin on the lake. It is just down the street from his uncle’s cabin, so it was a mini-family reunion. Never ones to pass up on a free trip out of the city, we said yes. Then checked the calendar, only to realize all this was happening at the very tail end of my fertile week.

NBD, right? On Clomid, I ovulate like clockwork on Thursday and we’re leaving Thursday afternoon, so I can stop obsessively testing and just relax.

Not quite, friends. Since I’ve upped my dosage on Clomid, my ovulation is delayed a day. So I peed on a stick Thursday morning, only to be greeted by an empty smilie face. “Okay. No problem. I’ll just bring all my gear with me to a cabin in the woods, and we’ll take care of business.”

Not quite, friends. I wake up that first morning, pee on a stick, only to have an OPK error. No idea why, just lots of blinky error symbols. As you all know, you have to hold your pee for 4 hours until the next test. And according to that day’s schedule, that would put us squarely at Uncle’s house which was filled to capacity with aunts, other uncles, cousins, and skads of small children.

Not exactly OPK friendly, eh?

So I decided “Fuck it.” You see, I’m just about fed up with all the monitoring and planning. So this month, we’re sorta winging it. I was having weird cramping any way, so I probably did ovulate that Friday.

Later that evening, we had sex in the basement of the cabin (where our room was.) It was the weirdest experience. On a futon, behind I KID YOU NOT a beaded bamboo curtain. Hellooooo, College! If only there was a doorknob to hang a sock on…

A few things to note from this cycle (mostly for myself, not you kids):

1) Since doubling my Clomid dosage, I’m ovulating a day later. My ovulation cramps are also very different. Before (even on the lower dosage) I could tell almost to the hour when I had ovulated. I would feel cramping in one ovary or the other, then a whole lotta OUCH. Said ovary would be sore for a few days afterwards, and that would be that. Now, my ovulation cramping is more like a generalized, primal aching. It lasts for hours leading up to and afterwards. Before my body practically screamed that it was ovulating. Now, it’s sort of a low, guttural moan.

2) My ovulation-related nausea is baaaaack! Also like clockwork, I’d get really nauseous the day before, during and a little bit after ovulation. I’m not entirely pleased with by its return, but maybe that means the Synthroid is working because my hormones are leveling out. That is wild and crazy speculation, mind you.

In unrelated news, I’m back on a plane next week to visit the family. My mother’s condition isn’t improving, though thankfully it is not declining either. I’m a little less apprehensive about this trip than in the past. No idea why. There are no real indications that my family with be any less insane than usual.

To be honest, I think I’m tapped on being sad. I just can’t seem to muster the energy to be upset about anything. I can’t even talk to my dad anymore because I can’t be sad with him. Like I literally cannot get myself to feel that particular emotion anymore.

I don’t know that this is a good thing. It’s just a thing. Maybe I’ve maxed out on grief with all that’s been going on. If you are exposed to it enough, can you build up an immunity to sadness?

The Pace of Nature

As I may have mentioned, Mr. Ostrich and I recently went on vacation to San Francisco.  Why? Because.

It all started because I wanted to see redwood trees. I originally had this huge plan to go to Yosemite, camp, hike, etc. There was a snag in this plan- Mr. Ostrich doesn’t like camping. Something about bugs and not being able to shower regularly. I even tried rebranding it “glamping” (as in glamor + camping,) but he would not be fooled.

So I had to move the focal point of the vacation to a place more urbane, but with the option for staggering outdoorsiness. San Francisco has a nice little redwood grove about 45 minutes outside the city. I get my trees, Mr. Ostrich get running water. Everybody wins.

The vacation was really wonderful. San Francisco spoiled the hell out of me. The weather was beautiful, the food was terrific, and the coffee was mind blowing. I even had toast from the OG Toast Master, Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club.

Toward the end of our week, we rented a car for the day and headed out of town. The end of any vacation is always bitter sweet. I’ve finally gotten into the groove of vacation, but I’m also aware that it will also soon be over. Then again, I’m almost too relaxed to care.

First, we headed over the Golden Gate bridge to the Marin Headlands. It was about 9:00 in the morning. The sun was bright, the air was cool off the water. The headlands were beautiful– each turn offered views of the iconic bridge better than the last.

Afterwards we went to Muir Woods, home to some of the oldest living things on the planet. I’ve become kind of obsessed with redwoods lately. I marvel at how they just keep growing. Some of those trees are over a thousand years old. They are not bothered by war, famine, political unrest… certainly not by my own problems. They just hang out, minding their own business.

Muir Woods is one of the last old-growth redwood groves on the planet. I walked around with neck cricked up and my mouth open. There aren’t words for it. I walked up to one stand of trees and just cried. Walking among them is like entering a church. It is quiet. It is sacred. These trees are patient with themselves, teaching us to be patient with our own lives as well.

Mr. Ostrich and I hiked up through the canyon and along the ridge. The hike up was understandably the hardest part. It took time. At first, Mr. Ostrich and I talked a lot. But as the hike became more strenuous, you could only hear our breathing and the sound of the wilderness. I had never seen a part of the world so luscious and green. Every once in a while, one of us stopped to point out something spectacular. We treasured that thing in that moment, and kept going.

The ridge was more sparse. The ground wasn’t soft and mossy, but dry and dusty. The sun exposed everything, and I could see where we were more clearly. In the distance, you could make out the ocean. The valley below showed how far we’d come.

The way down was faster, harder in a different way. The sheer velocity that propelled us down the canyon made it hard to stop and soak it all in. On the edge of one trail, a tree had fallen over. I pointed ahead and said “Look at the roots of that tree, all exposed! And look how even now it keeps growing.” Though it had been almost completely uprooted, this tree was sprouting new growth. Sure, what was once up was now sideways. But it adapted and found a new way to live.

For the last year, I have had a quote from Emerson tacked up at my desk:

“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”

Sooner or later, Nature wins because she is patient. She never gives up.

When we last left our heroine

Yes, it has been a while. I’ve been preoccupied with stuff. Nothing terribly exciting, just stuff.

Lies- I did go on vacation which was exciting. But first things first…

My visit with my family was good. I’m still a bit surprised, if I am to be honest. You may recall that my dad was not on his best behavior. So I laid down an ultimatum: if he couldn’t commit to not being an emotional steamroller, I would stay in a hotel. He said okay, then proceeded to actually keep his word. I know- I had my doubts too. But he was in pretty good form.

This was in large part because my mom was doing EXCELLENTLY. While I was there, she got off of the respirator, and they removed her trach. She could talk. And she can still talk. In fact, she has done nothing but improve since, which is very welcome news. After about 6 months, she really need some good. We all did.

Now the next step is for a small surgery to repair two holes in her intestines, and mend the hole in her abdomen. Then she’ll finally go to rehab.

This is all good news. Which has allowed me to stop worrying about this and focus more exclusively on myself. Yay.

Last week in therapy, I completely broke down. Now that I have stopped feeling so acutely upset about my mom’s condition, the full wave of what’s happening to me on the non-baby front hit me like an emotional tsunami of tears, snot, and chest-heaving. To be honest, it felt amazing. I let out so much.

Last summer, Mr. Ostrich and I were at one of our favorite spots along the harbor. We’ve been going to this spot for years to watch the boats or the sunset. At this point, I was convinced that something was “wrong” but my doctor wouldn’t send me to a specialist because we “hadn’t been trying long enough.” So Mr. Ostrich and I started talking about the scary what if’s. What if something was in fact wrong? What if we couldn’t have kids?

“Then you would be enough for me. My life with you is enough.”

It was the most beautiful thing Mr. Ostrich ever said to me. And it sorta made me hate myself.

Because I’m not sure that I can say the same thing. Please don’t misunderstand me. I adore him with my whole heart. I do not want to go through this shitfest called my life with anyone else. But if we can’t have kids, I will always be sad. Always.

Up until last week, I had never told this to anyone. Let’s be honest- I do not come out well in this little story. It shows that a) my husband loves me in a deep, profound way, b) I am a tool bag because I genuinely can’t meet him there, and c) I don’t like myself for it.

When I told Dr. Macaw about this, I cried like crazy and it felt so good. Sometimes just naming something, saying it out loud makes it easier to bear.

And now I cry all the time. Like when I stood in front of a Redwood grove last week. Or now in a coffee shop. Why? Because I don’t really feel like holding my shit together any more.  (Though I do like the implication that I was doing a good job of it before- Ha!) I will now emotionally puke on EVERYONE!

There is more to tell, like this vacation I went on. Maybe there is something to taking a break, but I was struck by many a profound moment. It made me realize that I am on my own path. This is my craptastic journey, and I can’t change that by insisting that things should be fairer.

But more on that later…

WTF, UNIVERSE?!

I have entered the Two Week Wait after round two of Clomid. Much as was the case with Clomid Round One, I am convinced that this is hopeless. Past performance being a indicative of future results, and all that jazz. Of course, it isn’t like I think there is anything else that will work better… Mostly, its something I feel compelled to do so that at least I know I tried. [She says as she collapses on the couch Sarah-Bernhardt style.]

Which sorta brings me to the point of this post. I am a HUGE Debbie Downer these days. Holy bejeezus, I can’t even handle myself at times. It isn’t just this whole infertility thing. Objectively speaking, I’m in a Polar Vortex of Sad Face right now. I shall roughly list them, in no particular order.

1) My mom is still in the hospital, and will likely be there through the end of the year. She is FINALLY being moved from the ICU and can now be spoon fed applesauce. This is an improvement, no doubt. But it also highlights how very deeply she was affected by her medical injuries.

2) This entire sitch in turn lead some of my family members to say and do hurtful things. I don’t trust them right now with my own feelings, because they are not respectful of them. Which sucks, because normally I like my family a lot.

3) My sister, who is perhaps the only person who isn’t annoying the shitballs out of me right now, was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

4) There has been a significant amount of death around me lately. Mothers of two of my good friends died in the last 8 months. An old friend committed suicide last month.

If there was ever reason for a hearty round of “WTF, UNIVERSE?!” , I think I’ve found them all.

But where am I going with all this? I’m trying to give myself the space to feel genuinely crappy. Not wallowing, but honoring that this stuff stinks and it is okay for it to make me sad. Real sad. Watching-What-Not-To-Wear-Reruns-While-Eating-Nutella-From-A-Jar Sad.

But I’m also trying to make room for things I am grateful for. So, in the interest of equilibrium, I shall now list the things in my sad puddle of a life that bring me joy.

1) My heart, my lungs, and my awesome quads. I run 3-4 times a week, and every morning when I’m running through my neighborhood, I’m so happy and proud that my body is strong.

2) Food. I love eating. This weekend, I had an amazing hamburger. Yesterday, we celebrated my husband’s birthday with cake (which is really just a vehicle for frosting. Everyone knows it.)

3) Middlemarch. When picking what to read next, I intentionally looked for something 600 pages and over because I wanted to get lost for a while. It’s like the thinking woman’s romance novel- no heaving bosoms, just long, furtive glances and ennui.

4) Mr. Ostrich. I like him an awful lot. This weekend, we cuddled on the couch watching Mr. Selfridge. I think I’ll keep him.