So, uh, yea. I’ve been a wee bit busy. And bloated. Here’s the rundown since I last wrote.
Thursday: Clean my bloated little ass off in preparation for my aunt’s visit for the weekend. We’ve been in our new home/new state since last July, and her visit represents the first time any blood member of my family has bothered to come see us. She’s been wanting to visit for a long time, but with leukemia (in remission) and drop foot from a badly butchered hip replacement surgery three years ago (lawsuit pending) her ability to pick up and leave on a 6 hour drive is limited. Which is why my dad was going to come with her to help break up the drive. Until Thursday morning, that is, when my alcoholic and predictably-unpredictable father backed out. It seems the drive is “just too far” for him to manage. I mean, it’s a totally different story when he picks up on a whim and drives 5.5 hours to downtown D.C. to go to an Air Force reunion, but 6 hours on well-paved highways and sprawling country roads to see his daughter? Yea, that’s a bit too much to ask. We’ll leave the “this man could procreate but I can’t?” out of today’s discussion.
Friday: Up before the crack of dawn for yet another monitoring appointment. Hour drive up, probe in, blood out. Another in the long line of unmotivated NPs proclaims things are progressing nicely. She hems and haws for a while and decides she’s not comfortable leaving me unmonitored for the rest of the weekend seeing as my12 follicles have developed quickly in the past two days. I leave with instructions to return the next morning. My aunt arrives that night. We take her to our normal Friday night happy hour where she gets to listen to a ragtag bunch of academics discuss Freud’s views on libidinal energies and sublimation. Watching her face – the face of a woman that never had the opportunity to go to college and was pregnant with her first child by 19 – was quite interesting.
Saturday: Back up to the RE, this time with my aunt in tow. No one can say I don’t know to entertain with the best of them. “Thanks for driving all this way to see us! Want to spend another 2.5 hours in the car and in an over-the-top zenned-out ski chalet waiting room while your niece gets probed by the NP of the day?” On the way up I hit a motherfucking bird with my car. My BRAND NEW car. My aunt weeps for the bird, I weep for my car. I’m compassionate like that. Perhaps this is why I’m barren? Anyway, car is fine (bird definitely isn’t). Back at the RE, this time I got the kind and attentive NP. She counts 11 follicles. I’m given instructions to trigger at midnight and return for egg retrieval on Monday. Shit just got real. I drive home, we wander the farmer’s market, go to a cider mill, have a nice dinner, and watch home movies. All in all a beautiful visit with minimal “Have you tried relaxing?” “What about acupuncture?” “My acupuncturist has this new supplement you should try!” and “Are you sure you really need IVF?” We go to bed early, but my alarm is set for my midnight trigger. I stumble sleepy-eyed into the needle, and go back to bed.
Sunday: Wake and send my aunt off with a homemade breakfast of French toast and sausage from the farmer’s market. Beach myself on the couch for the rest of the day. The HCG is working. Things start to bloat and ache. The mounting discomfort is a nice distraction from the continued failings of my poor Pittsburgh Steelers.
Monday: Retrieval day. Hubs is flustered because he’s had to call out of work at the 11th hour. He goes in for the morning and is home by 10am to, uh, do his part. We leave by 10:30 for my appointment at 11:30. He’s become a pro at packaging his cargo for the trip. Ziplock bag of body temperature water, inside an insulated travel mug, with a sample jar on top. Ideal environment, portable, fits in the car cupholder, and doesn’t scream “I’m carrying a bag of jizz!” when you walk into the clinic. It amuses me how involved he’s become in planning and executing this aspect of the process. When I arrive to the clinic I’m informed that (despite incessant phone tag and pharmacy/clinic wrangling) my Intralipids haven’t arrived yet from the pharmacy. I start to panic. As the OR nurse looks at me I think a light went off in her head. She assisted with my latest D&C and I think she remembered that in that moment. She kindly says, “You’ve had losses before, we’ll make this work.” 10 minutes later I’m hooked up to an IV with someone else’s Intralipids prescription flowing through my veins. She’s arranged to have my bag replace her bag when it arrives. (And, according to FedEx, my dosage arrived to the clinic just as I was being put out for retrieval.) I have a nice nap while the Mr. watches a doc, anesthesiologist, and nurse thread a needle-laden ultrasound probe through my lady bits. The needle aspirates the egg-containing follicles. When I woke I asked him for all the details. “What did they say?” “How many follicles did you see?” “What was it like?” He responds unsatisfyingly but heart-warmingly that he was distracted. Seems I was babbling, making faces, and grabbing at my oxygen throughout the procedure. His eyes were on me, not the ultrasound screen. Messed up priorities with that one, right? As I come to I savor the amazing brilliance that is a cold can of ginger ale after over 12 hours without a drop to drink (or eat). The nurse gets us ready to go but seems to be waiting for something. I know we’re supposed to leave with the final count of how many eggs were retrieved. She tells us it usually doesn’t take this long, and I begin to silently panic again. Finally she calls over to embryology from our OR suite. All I hear her say is, “Over 20?” somewhat amazed. She hangs up and says, “Well, that explains the wait! There’s so many eggs they haven’t finished counting yet! Definitely over 20 for sure!” We are informed that we will definitely be doing a 5-day transfer given that strong number of eggs. Just before I get wheeled out of the room the final tally comes in. 23 eggs retrieved. One shy of 2 dozen eggs. I’m one prize laying hen, goshdarnit! The number swirls around in my brain through the drive home, the obligatory stop for a bagel, and the hours of mindless television. 23 eggs seems surreal seeing as the most that were ever counted on ultrasound were 12. I’m certain most were likely immature, and of those that were mature the quality must be sketchy. I prepare myself for less-than stellar news when we get the fertilization report the following morning.
Tuesday: I wake up and continue the daily ritual of weighing in each morning. One of the first signs of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is rapid weight gain. I wasn’t too concerned previously, but knowing I just laid 2 dozen eggs I’m getting nervous. I’ve gained 12 pounds overnight. I find the biggest pants I can (hooray for holding on to my pre-weight loss clothes!) and scream down to the mister that we’ll be leaving for work early so we can go to the store and get Gatorade. He buys me four bottles, and I drink 3 before lunch. I’m bloated, uncomfortable, and achy, but nothing can assuage the euphoria I feel when the call with our fertilization report comes through. Of 23 eggs retrieved, 19 were mature and injected with the mister’s sperm via ICSI. Of those 19, 16 have fertilized. We have 16 potential children sitting in a petri dish in a lab an hour from home. I’m overjoyed. Given all the positive developments, the nurse explains, I won’t be getting any further updates about our embryos. I’m simply to return on Saturday for a 5-day transfer. I have no idea how I’ll make it until Saturday.
Wednesday (today): I’m anxious, but delighted. My ass hurts from my first PIO shot last night, a new Lovenox bruise is welling up on my stomach, and the bloat (which has thankfully subsided quite a bit) is still forcing me to wear the same fat pants I wore yesterday. I’m taking guesses at how long I can keep on wearing the same pants before my coworkers notice. This post-retrieval, pre-transfer limbo is a new time to me, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. What does one do with oneself when her future children are off cooking in a petri dish? I’m decidedly not pregnant, my ovaries and uterus are empty, but 16 little embryos are hopefully dividing away in a lab up the road. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this hopeful and this anxious before in 4 years of trying. And, that both excites and concerns me. Hope has been absent from this equation for so long now, that I’ve sort of become used to it’s absence. Now that it’s back, it feels wonderful to start thinking in “when’s” and not “if’s” again. At the same time, it’s hard not to feel like we’re setting ourselves up for yet another fall. Of those 16 embryos surely all won’t mature normally. Not all will survive. For 5 days I will sit and dream of my 16 embryos, but the stark reality is that, come Saturday, we may find that 16 started the race, but only 1 or 2 have any chance of crossing the finish line. Five days is a long time to live with one reality only to have it switched out for another. And then, after transfer, we wait even more. My first beta is scheduled for October 14. 12 days until we find out if 16 embryos yielded one potential pregnancy. Terrified.