And then there were 3

From 13 to 3.

Unless I hear otherwise, I’m going in tomorrow for a day 3 transfer. According to the nurse, I have 3 embryos that look like they are in good shape.

Wait… What? 3? I did all that for 3 little turds?! (Yes, I did just potentially call my future child a turd. But…. RAGE.)

I recognize that this sounds like extreme complaining, but as previous explored, I don’t always have the most realistic set of expectations.

I will now publicly admit that I had “a plan.” Anyone who has experienced infertility will recognize this as an exercise in futility. And yet… I couldn’t help myself.

After I abandoned the “plan” of having babies like a normal person, I fast-forwarded to IVF. For some reason, I just didn’t think other methods were going to work. So I underwent the Great Clomid Experiment with little faith in the outcomes. Yes, yes… I did try in earnest, but I didn’t see that as the solution. So getting to IVF seemed like I was finally in the Reproductive Technology Big Leagues– and right where I belonged.

Much like my irrational fixation on getting 30 follicles, I really wanted 5 embryos. 1 to implant, 4 to freeze. You know… a “rainy day” stash. This is who I am. I make responsible decisions! I plan out my meals for the entire week! I have savings and a 401K, goddamnit! How could I not have some freaking embryos left over, just in case?!

BAH! ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!

Now that my righteous indignation has passed, I can see this for what it is. It’s the Four Horsemen of the IF Apocalypse. And will come as no surprise to any of you, I am sure.

  1. Disappointment. I had set my hopes on 5. 3 is not 5, no matter how you cut it.
  2. Sadness. I worked hard for those 13 damn oocytes. I’m a little sad to see them go.
  3. Fear. Shit. What if this cycle doesn’t work?
  4. Shame. And what meltdown would be complete without a dash of shame? My best efforts have not yielded my best results.

I just don’t want to do this again. The injections, the egg retrieval, the general shittiness I feel since I started on the hormones… I haven’t felt well enough to run in over a week, which makes me a miserable human. (And likely compounding all the aforementioned.)

I don’t want to be on this emotional fucking roller coaster anymore.

So please, can we just get a baby out of this one and call it a day?

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Another CD1 = Another tussle with Incompetence

I keep hoping that I’ll be able to avoid IVF and the accompanying headache of dealing with my insurance by, you know… getting pregnant. I seriously hate this company. Just over the weekend, I got a bill from an appointment I had well over a year ago. They claim that they sent the check to me, and not the doctor’s office. Which is horseshit. And another story.

If these winners screw up perfectly run of the mill visits, imagine the wonderland of stupidity that awaits me now!

When Dr. Petrel suggested we go straight to IVF, I was cautiously optimistic. When I spoke with someone at the Infertility Hotline, they said that they required 6 cycles of something before they would approve IVF. Since I took Clomid for 6 cycles, I should be all set.

[But before I go on, I would like to pause for a moment to share some interesting information shared with me by Dr. Petrel. In the state where I live, most insurance companies (all the biggies) have moved away from a set requirement before IVF. Why? Because they crunched the numbers and found that most patients ended up at IVF anyway. Pragmatically speaking, it didn’t make financial sense to pay for treatments that have a lower probability of working BEFORE approving the one that has a higher probability of working. Logical, yes? Alas, my employer contracts with an insurance company out of TEXAS. And Texas may be many things, but rational about women’s health issues is not one of them.]

Anyway, as I was saying before I interrupted myself… I thought it would be a good idea to call and make sure I understood exactly what Incompetence meant by 6 attempted cycles with Clomid. Does it have to be done with IUI? Does it have to be done with accompanied monitoring? What kind of monitoring? Was I required to jump up and down three times before every cycle began? Rub my abdomen with juniper berries on every full moon?

So I called last week. I was on the phone for 45 minutes before someone told me that a specialist would call me back in 4 business days. This is the exact same crap I heard last time. 3-5 business days? How is this a HOTLINE, if I can’t talk to anyone for 3-5 business days? And did I REALLY have to wait on the phone for 45 minutes, only to learn I have to wait another 4 days? REALLY?!

Because the universe likes to kick me in the metaphorical balls, I get my call back from the Infertility Hotline the same day as I get by period. Let’s add frustration and elevated blood pressure to my pile of weepiness, desperation, and disappointment, shall we?

The good news is yes, my cycles with Clomid do count. This makes me feel a little bit better about the Great Clomid Experiment. In its own way, it has served its purpose. I just need to get something from my GYN saying that he did prescribe it. And provide some kind of “proof” that I took the medication and monitored it (OPKs count.)

Erm… proof? I started to panic, thinking I needed to have saved all my spent OPKs. I’m a pack rat, sure. But I have to draw the line at hoarding discarded OPKs. I mean, I PEED on those things.

In a delightful move back to civility, my word for it is proof enough. So I pull up my apps, report the dates of positive OPKs and scheduled sexy time. For the last 6 months. As I’m sure you can imagine, this took some time– 30 minutes to be exact.

The woman I spoke with was actually nice. Granted I waited 4 days to speak with her, so I sure hope she’d be nice. After we went through all the dates, she said she would start processing it so that I could be approved for IVF (pending some FSH test, I think? I dunno, whatever I’m getting done this week.) I hung up from that conversation not actively annoyed.

But just when you’d think that this could end on a happy note, I’m now embroiled in another bit of drama with my insurance company. Some of you may recall that I’ve been seeing a counselor to help me cope with “My Life”, aka the never-ending cyclone of very bad things I’ve experienced in the last year. Dr. Macaw has been so helpful. But because of a clerical error at Incompetence, they’ve rejected her claims so I’ve had to stop seeing her. I cannot fix said clerical error, Dr. Macaw has to. And they are not returning her calls, or sending her the forms she needs. Why?

Because they are assholes.

I’ve been okay with not seeing Macaw for now, but this shit is going to get cray once IVF becomes more real. I’ve already had one solid freakout after a Google session. (Sorry, but Egg Retrieval does not sound like a good time.) As one lovely friend pointed out, this might have to do with my total aversion to hospitals and medical procedures, thanks to my mom’s health situation. I NEED to talk about this with a licensed professional, but I can’t do it if my insurance company keeps denying claims because their records are out of date (and they seem to refuse to update them.)

Suggestions on how to strong arm your insurance company into delivering the services that you pay for are welcome.

Stress Much?

My blood tests are back.  And they are GOOOOD!

All my various levels are within the realm of acceptable… With the exception of my monocyte levels.

What the hell are monocyte levels, you ask? According to Dr. Google, monocytes are a type of white blood cell that support our immune systems. If it is high, my body is fighting some shit, yes? Only I don’t have an infection or cold or anything. (That I am aware of. The Human Body is a great mystery, aka Lesson #1 of IF.)

Some of you may recall that my sister was recently diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases. Only, I had an ANA screen done a few weeks ago, and everything came back fine.  Still, what if my body is actually fighting itself?

Cue the freak-out death spiral.

I emailed my sister to ask if there were any additional tests I should ask for. It took a while for her doctors to reach her diagnosis, so I wanted to know if there was anything that I should just skip to now.

Lovely girl that she is, my sister told me to slow my roll. Did I mention that she is a psychiatrist? Not only does she have general medical knowledge, she can spot a brewing anxiety fest when she sees one. Every one should have one of these in the family.

Unless my monocyte levels are high for a prolonged period of time, this isn’t a big deal. But more specifically, she posited that I may be suffering from a depressed immune system because of stress. Turns out this is a real thing.

Harken back to the Great Clomid Experiment when I asked if Clomid can suppress your immune system, because I had had two colds over the course of two months. In the middle of summer. Totally weird for me.

Also, I’ve noticed that I have a harder time healing in general. I get exhausted so easily. It just seems like my body isn’t bouncing back as well.

But as my sister pointed out, I’m dealing with all the fallout from my mom’s medical issues, my dad being a complete wreck, and then my own infertility… That’s one big stress extravaganza!

Is it weird to say that I’m surprised? I honestly thought I was handling all this pretty well. I mean, I manage to be a functioning member of society. I still go to work every day. I exercise. I eat balanced meals. I organize my recycling into paper, plastic, and glass.

At this point, I’m not sure what else I can do to limit my stress. (OOooOO, I know, I know! Get pregnant! Only I’m not so foolish as to believe that won’t result in a whole other level of stress.)

Do I actually need to become a Tibetan monk? They seems so chill.

Moving on… With my test results back, we’re just waiting on Mr. O’s genetic tests. That’ll take longer to get, I suppose.

Patience is a Virtue, aka Lesson #2 of IF.

My Date with an RE

So I just got back from my first appointment with my RE. And I love her. LOVE.

Dr. Petrel* is exactly what I was hoping she would be. She answered almost every question before I could ask it. The few I did outright ask, she answered truthfully– if even to say that she wouldn’t know until more tests were done. Dr. Petrel also kind of reminds me of my mom. If my mom were a straight-talking reproductive endocrinologist. I feel soooo much better.

Here’s what we covered:

1) Dr. Petrel isn’t recommending that we re-do tests, but she does want to do a few more. Because of Mr. O’s Eastern European and French-Canadian heritage, she wants to do some genetic testing on him. She also wants to do a Sonohysterogram and some additional blood work on me. But that’s it.

2) She is recommending that we go directly to IVF. Do not try IUI, do not collect $200. Basically, Dr. Petrel thinks we’ve done enough with Clomid. IUI isn’t likely to yield better results. The frugal side of me wants to be spending the most of our insurance max on the most expensive treatments, so I feel good about this. But it is sorta like jumping into the deep end. I will freakout about this more at a later date.

When I spoke with my insurance, they require 6 rounds of something before they’ll approve IVF. I really hope the Great Clomid Experiment counts. My friend at the Infertility Hotline said it would, but I want to double check. Because, you know… my insurance company sucks.

3) As long as all the additional tests come back in good shape, we’ll likely get down to business in October. I’m actually totally down with this. I’d like to do one more cycle without any medication- start off with a clean slate. I also have a half marathon in October, so I can train for it without worrying what that’s doing to my chances.

At the end of the appointment, Mr. O and I went to get our blood drawn for the tests. He had to get back to work, so he went in first. I went in afterwards. Without knowing we were together, they sat us right across from each other. And we started laughing. It was kind of nice, in a weird way. I mean, I guess it’s nice that we can still find things funny.

Afterwards, I hopped in the car and started to drive home. Keep in mind, I just had a good visit with the doctor (or at least not a miserable one.) But I was also coming down off that high and settling deep into “I can’t believe this is my life.” I’m trying to take this in stride, but let’s face it… that is a doctor’s appointment I never thought I’d need.

As I’m driving down the highway, I signal to merge into the next lane. I see a car in my rear view, but he is far enough away to see me coming. In the 10 seconds from when I saw the car to when I merged, this asshole is up on my tail and honking like he is on fire. Then, he speeds up along side my car and makes an obscene gesture. Next, he cuts me off.

For real, buddy… Nothing you’re doing is that important. If it were, you’d have a siren on top of your vehicle.  At first I was all “You ass hat, did you just come from an infertility clinic because you’ve been trying for over 2 YEARS to have a baby? No? I didn’t think so!” Then I realized I have no idea what he is going through. Maybe he just learned that his mansion burned down. Or his yacht sunk to the bottom of the ocean. (Yes, he was driving an expensive car. And yes, I’m making some terrible generalizations about older white men who drive nice cars.)

Basically, it was a good reminder that we have no idea what other people are going through. So if I need to extend a little compassion to another person today, I can do that.

*Not her real name. You know the drill…

What Will I Be?

Earlier this week, I picked up my last round of Clomid. While walking down the street, I saw a pregnant woman who was just so adorable I wanted to die.

Instinctively, I thought “I hate you.”

Which is, admittedly, a terrible thing to think about anyone, let alone some innocent woman strolling down the street on a hot summer evening. Sadly, this has become a bit of a reflex in the last few months. See pregnant woman, harbor irrational hatred.

Almost immediately, I thought “If I’m lucky, other people may hate me the same way someday.”

I had not really considered this before. Even if I do come out of all this with a child, I’ve now seen things I can’t unsee. I’ve witnessed fertility through the eyes of someone who is infertile. I know what it is like to see pregnancy, parents, and small children, and literally ache. No matter what happens, this will always be written into my story.

A few weeks ago, fellow IF blogger Haisla asked “Who will I be when (if) the much expected finally happens?” I’ve been thinking about that so much since she posed the question. I’ve never thought of myself as fixed in time, but there are events that fundamentally change who we are.

We can’t change them or stop them from happening. We can only change how we react to them. I am trying so hard to derive something positive from this experience, while also honoring how deeply sad this chapter of my life is. Holding both. It’s really hard.

Regardless of what happens, I need this to serve a purpose. I’m not sure I’m cynical enough to believe that this is just crappy. Even if I have to make up my own damn meaning, I need this to have value.

I’ve struggled with what this experience is teaching me.

 

Patience?

Compassion?

Courage?

Resilience?

 

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 Incredible Hulk of Hormones

(Warning: There is a little over-sharing here about bodily functions. Enter at your own risk.)

So far, my body has failed to host a fertilized egg.

There is, however, a pimple on my forehead that I am sure is well into its first trimester.

This is just one of the many thrilling and disgusting turns my body has taken over the last few months. Hormone fluctuations are a bitch.

I honestly don’t remember my cycles being such a rollercoaster of ick before. Yes, I was on the pill for 10+ years, but even before then… it was never this bad. Ever.

My skin was the first thing to go on this baby-making adventure. My forehead turns into an oil slick about a week before my period. I will get zits in my hair. I also have bacne now. WTF?! I thought I left all this crap behind when I got my braces off.

I’m also experience extreme exhaustion. This is how I know I’ve ovulated. Cramps, cramps, followed by an irresistible urge to nap. I have literally put my head down on my desk in the middle of a conversation at work. This has also started up while I’m on my period. I’m completely wiped out the first two days. Last week, I came home on Thursday (CD1) and slept on the couch for an hour in my work clothes.

Then there is the irrational rage. Oh yes… let us not forget about that. It doesn’t happen every month, but there are definitely times when I feel myself getting down right irate about something really minor. Like an email in my inbox. Not the contents of the email, mind you. Just the fact that there was an email in my inbox. I was ENRAGED, but I could rationally see I was acting ridiculous. But still… ENRAGED.

Oooo! Did I mention the bloating? Yet another symptom of my impending menstruation. I get so bloated around the middle that I cannot wear pants. No, really. My pants do not fit me, so I have to wear amorphous dresses or anything with an elastic waist band.

My OG PCP (who sucked, but that’s another story) kept telling me that this is “good.” It means that my body is doing what it is supposed to do, prepping for fertilization + implantation. That might be true, but holy bejeezus… It’s hard enough to feel human through all of this, without the added complication of turning into the Incredible Hulk of Hormones. (You don’t want to see me ANGRY!)

Now here’s a real question for ladies in the crowd who’ve done the Clomid… I’ve had fairly few symptoms (Woohoo!) But since I’ve increased dosage last month, I’ve gotten sick on the 3rd day of taking the medication. Nothing serious… just a sore throat, stuffy nose, and general malaise.

I could also have really bad luck– this would not surprise me in the slightest. Just curious if anyone has heard anything about weakening your immune system while on these drugs.