Friday, August 25, 2006

IUI, Day 2

Today was our second IUI. As expected, our total count was a lot lower after two days of providing samples. We ended up with 700,000. The motility did go up to 18%. I wish that had happened yesterday! When I received the test tube, I thought for a split second that it said 7 million, but it was really .7 million.

Both the nurse and the RE told us to stay positive, which was nice but a lot easier said than done. I did have another ultrasound to make sure I ovulated, and I did. I asked what I should do next month - schedule another ultrasound on CD11-12 and start with the OPK's. Honestly, I feel like there's nothing but a series of appointments to get through before we will be allowed to proceed to IVF. Yes, I know there's a chance. (Thanks, Sis.) And I know it only takes one. (Thanks, Mom.) I realize why they want to try two cycles of IUI before moving on. I know there are people out there who have had luck with an even lower count. And I really am trying to stay positive. But here, on my little anonymous piece of cyberspace, I can say how much this hurts. The look on my husband's face when he saw the count broke my heart. He's the most amazing person and all I could ever want in a partner. When I see his face cloud over because of something he can't control, I feel like someone is wrenching my insides. And I really think it's a tribute to his inner strength and love for me that he comes home each night and tries to cheer me up.

Several people had their children with them in the waiting room. I never really thought I had an opinion on whether children should be "allowed" in an RE's office. I mean, these kids might well be success stories from the clinic. And sometimes you can't find a sitter. But there's something so painful about seeing these beautiful children laughing and playing in a room full of quiet women. It's the physical precense of what I want and haven't been able to have.I didn't see any bracelets today, but I did pay more attention to the people present. They were all so quiet, introspective, sad. The husbands dotting the room also looked grave. The doctors, nurses, and staff remain upbeat and smiling. They radiate optimism. It's such a contrast.

So, now we wait. My luteal phase averages 12 days so we'll know in less than two weeks. I've decided to keep temping, so I should have an idea around 10-11 days when my temp starts to drop. And I'm holding on to a tiny kernel of hope. I have this beautiful soft sage green yarn...I started making a baby hat last night. It might not happen this month, but it will happen. Do you hear that, infertility? Don't make yourself too comfortable. You're not going to win much longer.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

IUI, Day 1

I went in this morning for my IUI. I don't know how it is at other clinics, but at mine you have to pick up the washed sample at the andrology lab across the hall and bring it with you to the nurse. You have to show ID and sign for the sample, and they also triple check that all of the identifying numbers match. They want to make sure that you get the correct sample!

So this gave me the chance to look at the vial before the nurse came in. My heart sank when I saw our post wash count was 4 million, and sank even further when I saw the motility was only 6%. I thought our motility would go up from the 22% on the last SA. It turns out I didn't need to sneak a peek...when my doctor came in to do the insemination, he was very honest. He said that we should do IUI at least one more time, but if our numbers remain this low, we have to move on to IVF.

I appreciate his honesty, but I felt so bad for my husband. After the procedure (which wasn't much worse than a pap smear and took only a minute) they wanted me to stay on the table for ten minutes. We talked about what the doctor said and he expressed his sadness that "he can't have normal numbers and do this like a normal man." He told me how worried he'd be if I went through IVF. And even though this wasn't the most pleasant conversation we've ever had, I'm so glad that he is talking to me about this. When he got the results of his first SA, he couldn't talk to me for several hours. He has this "silent man" mode he retreats to when he's very upset. I'm glad that he felt like opening up without my needing to encourage him.

After the procedure, the doctor checked my follicle with the ultrasound machine and said it hasn't dropped yet. We're going back tomorrow for another IUI. I'm trying so hard to stay positive throughout all of this, but I feel like I've been kicked in my stomach. I just want to curl up and cry. I was so hopeful that our numbers would have gone up, that our SA was just a fluke. I guess we'll see what the numbers are tomorrow. My husband is going to tell the people at work what's going on because he keeps saying he's going with his wife to the doctor and they're getting worried. And if we have to go through IVF, he'll need to go with me even more. I used to be so concerned about keeping our infertility private, but now I don't care who knows. My bracelet seems too subtle - maybe I need a flashing neon sign? Speaking of bracelets, I didn't spot any today at the RE's office.

I've been a fan of Ani DiFranco ( since college. Today one of her songs popped into my mind. These are some of the lyrics from her song "Swandive":

i've got a lack of inhibition
i've got a loss of perspective
i've had a little bit to drinkand it's making me think
that i can jump ship and swim
that the ocean will hold me
that there's got to be more
than this boat i'm in
'cuz they can call me crazy if i fail
all the chance that i need
is one-in-a-million
and they can call me brilliant
if i succeed
gravity is nothing to me, moving at the speed of sound
i'm just going to get my feet wet
until i drown
That's what I'm holding onto today. The what feels like a one-in-a-million chance we've been given.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Looks like it'll be tomorrow!

I really don't like OPK's. The instructions say it's positive when the test line is as dark as the control line. I always feel like it's almost exactly as dark, but not quite. I was thrilled to find digital tests at the drugstore. I've been using other (cheaper) tests and today I had a test line that was nice and dark. It looked 99.9% as dark as the control line. So I used the digital and it agreed!

It looks like tomorrow will be our first IUI. DH will drop off his sample on the way to work and we'll go to the RE's office later in the morning for the procedure. Fingers and toes and everything else are crossed!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ultrasound Results

Today I went in for my first ultrasound for this IUI cycle. My RE performed the procedure and went out of his way to explain everything he was measuring and what I was seeing on the screen. I really appreciated that. So many doctors just breeze through a procedure without explaining anything. So I got to see my uterus, which has a lining of appropriate thickness. I saw a big follicle on my right ovary and nothing on my left. The RE thinks the follicle will be ready in a few days. I get to do two OPK tests a day until I get a positive and then we go in for the IUI. Have I mentioned how much I hate OPK's? I feel like I never know for sure if they're positive or almost positive. I was surprised to see that they now have digital tests. It's been months since I've bothered with them. I bought one box of the digital and one box of the regular.

Oh, I looked at the wrists of all the people waiting for their appointment. It's a big and busy center. I didn't see anyone with the pomegranate string.

As with most things relating to infertility, this ultrasound generated conflicting emotions. I feel happiness because we're doing something this cycle. That's a lot better than just going through the motions of another month. It's only been a few months since we learned we are dealing with MFI and have very little chance of a successful natural cycle. I also feel a lot of doubt. I know the stats on success rates using IUI with MFI. They aren't pretty. Larger than we have on our own, but so much smaller than the tantalizing success rates offered with IVF. And finally, I feel fear. I could get pregnant this cycle, right? For the last 16+ months, I've poured everything into TTC. Pregnancy feels like an elusive dream world that I know about but can't visit. Let's assume that this cycle fails and we do one more before moving on to IVF. My sister called to tell me, "You could be pregnant by the end of the year!" That's amazingly difficult for me to think about. On one level, I know that pregnancy is the destination of this journey. It's just that this journey has been long enough to make me forget about the destination...I've been so devoted to surviving the journey that I've overlooked the fact that there is a destination out there.

On a funny note, while I was waiting for the ultrasound, I saw a magazine on the wall that said something about "Fresh, frozen, or canned?" You know you know too much about TTC with ART when you think, "I didn't know they had canned embryos now!" I'm so used to seeing people talk about fresh and frozen IVF cycles that I just didn't think they were talking about something as simple as fruits and veggies!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Some Positive Thoughts

I realize that the name of this blog, "Bitter Ground" isn't the most uplifting title. I am very bitter and hurt. I created this blog to get rid of some of my negative thoughts and connect with others who know how I feel. Plus, I'm a struggling coffee addict and this title reflects my relationship with the sacred brown liquid. :)

Today, I want to focus on some of the good things in my life. These are random and not in order of importance.

1. My husband. He's my best friend and the person I completely rely on for support during this battle with IF. He makes me laugh almost every day and reminds me how lucky I am to have so much love in my life.

2. My MIL. Yes, I have a fantastic relationship with her! My Mom and Dad give me a lot of support, but it's hard because we live in New York and they're in California. My MIL is truly my second mother. She does sweet things like offer to go with me to my RE appointments when DH can't make it - just to give me support. She sends me emails to let me know how positive she feels about everything. I feel so lucky to not have the stereotypical relationship with her!

3. Salads from my favorite little place around here. Walnuts, gorgonzola, and I need to say more?Oh, they know my order before I get to the counter and also have delicious iced tea!

4. My sister and SIL. My sister managed to use grace and tact to share her pregnancy with me. She let me ask her how she was doing, and that helped. And she calls and emails me often to offer support. As for my SIL, she knows what we're going through but we don't really talk about it. We were at a party together and someone brought up how easy it is to get pregnant. She simply said, "We should think about the people who have problems getting pregnant" and managed to switch the direction of the conversation. I can't tell you how much I appreciated that.

I think that's good for now. I feel much better.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pomegranate Warrior

I bought my beautiful #814 embroidery thread on Friday night. I had a moment of panic when I saw the empty space on the display, but then found some hiding under the other colors. Then...we had to go to Buy Buy Baby. My husband's best friend's wife just gave birth to their third child and we had to attend the bris the next morning. My husband, to his credit, suggested I stay home from the store. I felt touched that he would consider how going could be hard for me, but since I felt buoyed by finding #814, I agreed to go.

Big mistake. At first I felt okay. But when I saw all of the cute little baby clothes, my resolve started to crack. It hurt to see my husband exclaiming over various toys because it made me think for the zillionth time what a good dad he'll be. And I felt like, at any moment, they were going to announce, "Infertiles in aisle three! Infertiles in aisle three!" I know I'm super-sensitive right now, but it seemed like so many people looked at us, observed our lack of children, and then looked at my stomach before looking away. I felt the attraction of all the baby stuff and the feeling that I was some kind of mutant all at the same time.

The next day was the bris. We were told in advance that they wanted DH to be the sandek, the "Jewish Godfather" of the little one. When I saw him participating in this sacred ritual, it just made my heart ache. When will we get the chance to be parents? Thankfully, no one asked us directly why we don't have kids yet. There were some people who hinted by asking, "How long have you been married?" while looking at the baby. But we got through it.

After all the baby stuff this weekend, I felt deflated. All of the optimism I felt regarding our upcoming IUI vanished. So what did I do? I thought about how many "rock bottoms" I'd reached on this journey with infertility and reflected on how I'd always managed to go on. I started to think about all of the good things in my life right now. I looked at the thread on my wrist and thought about how it binds me to others who are feeling the exact same things.

And then I went out and bought a bottle of pomegranate juice. I wanted the fresh fruit, but they aren't available right now. I'm trying to lose a little more weight right now, so I couldn't drink a lot. But I poured myself a shot of the beautiful red juice and toasted all of the people out there who know what I'm going through and are struggling through it, too. And I'm going to keep toasting. It's my new healing ritual.

When I was in college, my suitemates told me about "praying mantis warriors". They said that a female praying mantis often bites the head off the male when they're done mating. She's got what she needs, so off with his head! The term praying mantis warrior referred to a woman who was strong enough to stand up for herself no matter what and would speak out when she was unhappy in a relationship. We all decided to try and live up to the title. Today, I'm declaring myself a Pomegranate Warrior. I'm battling infertility with the help of all the other people out there fighting the same fight. Sometimes it gets me down, but I always manage to keep slogging through. Who's with me?

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Plan

We met with the RE last night. I was jittery all day. I have this almost inherent distrust of doctors. I don't know where this comes from, but I always feel that I'm not going to be taken seriously. I knew he wasn't going to say "It's only been 16 months - let's wait another year!" but I was still apprehensive.

The doctor was a little younger than I thought he'd be after seeing his picture online. He was extremely polite and explained every term in a way that was informative but not condescending. He was also very honest, telling us that my husband's test results border on severe but aren't quite there. He wants him to repeat the test at least once more, probably twice. We were told that if they continue to come back like this one, there's not a lot that can be done to increase the count since we've ruled out varicoceles and other blood-flow issues.

Our current plan is to try an IUI this cycle. This will apparently give us a 20% chance, about what we would get if we had no issues. I like that he said we could try it for 2 or 3 months depending on how fast we want to proceed. Plus, IUI is covered by our insurance! It would be wonderful to skip the whole money draining black hole of IVF. Speaking of IVF, he said that we are excellent candidates for it if it comes down to that because of our age and health. It also helps that my tests (so far) have all come back normal.

I get to have repeat CD3 bloodwork on Monday. I'm scheduled for an ultrasound a week from Monday and at that point we'll talk about setting up the date for the IUI. They sometimes do them two consecutive days, so we'll see if they think that's best for us.

Right now, I'm battling two conflicting emotions, something that I've become an expert at since entering this struggle with infertility. On one hand, I feel elated that we're moving forward and doing something. I despise the whole "wait a year and call us" attitude we take towards people dealing with IF. I love the idea that we're going to have the same odds as a "regular" couple for this next cycle. On the other hand, I'm impatient. I don't like the idea of waiting another 2-3 months to try and get pregnant. I understand that it's the best way to go, but I've had my fill of waiting.

I'm going to focus on making this a positive experience. I plan on getting back to the gym, trying meditation, and eating healthy food. I'm not sure how much of a connection exists between mind and body, but I'm going to do everything I can to make this upbeat. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Random Humorous Moment

So I had to go to my OBGYN's office today to get a copy of my medical file to bring to the RE tomorrow. I'm sure he could get a copy on his own, but I thought it would be good to have a copy for my records. I'm short on stuff to overanalyze right now anyway. The results of my bloodwork and cultures were all there, but nothing for my HSG. The people working in the office needed to call the hospital to find out why they didn't send a copy. The test was all the way back in May!

They weren't sure which department to call, so I told them it was radiology. They didn't really seem to know what an HSG was. One of them told me "Your HCG urine test was negative when you were here in April." Really? That's a shock! Can you tell that they don't see a lot of people dealing with infertility? I was my usual helpful, patient self. But then one of the women asked me:

"Are you sure you had this test done?"

Ummm...did I dream about being on a cold table in a cold room in a very undignified position while a catheter was inserted in my cervix and my tubes filled with cramp-inducing dye? For some reason, I wanted to laugh hysterically. But I kept my composure. To be fair, my doctor is awesome and I appreciated her kindness and understanding.

It turned into a two hour visit, but I have my test results. Everything is normal so far. I hope whatever tests the RE orders will keep showing that I'm normal. It would be nice to "only" have to deal with MFI.

I can't wait until tomorrow when I see the RE! I hope he's understanding, compassionate, and aggressive. Let's get this show on the road already!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Flashback: Prenatal Vitamins

As much as I'd like my journey with IF to progress quickly and smoothly until it reaches the logical end - a baby - most of my time is spent waiting. Waiting for appointments to come and go. Waiting for lab results. Waiting for test results based on lab results. Blah blah blah. I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the moments along this journey as I wait for something to happen. This week, that would be my first RE appointment on Thursday.

Everyone knows that prenatal vitamins are important when you're TTC. So when I decided to stop taking BCP's, I thought it was time to make the switch from my Flintstone chewable to a more "adult" vitamin. For some reason, this made me feel more grown up than ever before. I was declaring my intent to have a baby! I was making a responsible first step!

I stood in Target trying to decide between all the brands. Unlike my previous visits to Target for birth control or feminine hygiene products, I didn't feel like I had to skulk through the aisle and make a strategic grab for an "embarrassing" product. I studied all the bottles with pride. When I finally chose one, I noticed it had 100 pills. Enough for about three months. And I actually thought "I might be pregnant when I run out of these and have to get more!"

Now I buy my prenatals at Costco in bottles containing 300 pills. I try not to think about what will happen when I get to the end of the bottle still facing infertility. I feel a little twinge when I think about the optimistic girl standing in Target. I know I'm much more jaded now. But...still...I feel the faintest whisper of hope. And I guess that's what keeps me going through all the waiting, worrying, and longing. Is there anything positive about infertility? Nothing that I wouldn't give up in a heartbeat to make it go away. But I have learned so much about reaching down into myself for just a little more hope, a little more patience, a little more strength. I've never come up empty handed. I plan on beating infertility into a bloody pulp one day...but when that time comes, I hope I'll be able to hold on to the lessons I've learned along the way.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Introductions are in order!

I've found myself in a place I never thought I'd be - the land of infertility. I always believed my sex-ed teachers in high school when they told us that the only safe sex was no sex. When I became sexually active, I spent each month in agony waiting for my period. And when my husband and I decided it was time to start trying, I thought it would take a few months. Six months at most. Never more than a year. Ha.

It's been sixteen months now and I've never seen anything but stark white pregnancy tests. We recently found out we're dealing with MFI - my husband's urologist bluntly stated we need to think about IVF. Now we're working on finishing up my tests and meeting with an RE to discuss our options.

Dealing with infertility has changed me in many ways. I've learned to be more patient and appreciate the kindness of my friends and family. But I 've also developed this almost primal rage and anger that seems to always be just below the surface. I hope to use this blog as a pressure relief valve for these feelings. I know that reading other infertility blogs really helps me deal with this mess, and I hope that I can return the favor to other people.

Thanks for reading this - I look forward to discussing my thoughts and feelings in the time ahead!